Did you know that Mexico City has a “Little Venice”? Boating on the canal of Xochimilco is a fun day trip and great cultural emersion. Even better? Xochimilco is quite accessible. We’ll show you how to visit Xochimilco with a wheelchair.
Where is Xochimilco?
Xochimilco is a district in southern Mexico City. The word Xochimilco refers to both the town and the canals that run through the town.
Nevertheless, when you hear people talk about Xochimilco, they’re almost always referring to the canals. We found the town to be worth a stroll-through too, so we’ll talk about how to do so towards the end of this post.
Fun fact: The boats in Xochimilco are called trajineras, so you’ll sound like a local if you use that word.
How to get to Xochimilco
Driving is the most straight forward way to arrive to Xochimilco. Cabify Access has specially designed vehicles for wheelchair users. Keep in mind that the Cabify app is in Spanish and booking in advance is recommended.
The drive from downtown Mexico City to Xochimilco will take roughly one hour.
Alternatively, if you enjoy the excitement and challenge of public transportation, it’s possible to arrive in Xochimilco by a combination of metro and the light rail…in theory.
Why in theory?
Because not all metro stops in Mexico City are wheelchair accessible.
Wheelchair accessibility on the Mexico City Metro
You can view a map of the Mexico City metro system here. However, the map doesn’t show wheelchair accessible stations, so you’ll need to check with a local to find out where the nearest accessible station is in relation to where you’ll be staying.
In order to get to Xochimilco by metro, you’ll need to take the blue Metro 2 line to Tasqueña. From there, board the Tren Ligero (an above-ground light rail) to the Xochimilco stop.
Both Tasqueña and Xochimilco have wheelchair accessible entries. However, as with the metro, not all stops between Tasqueña and Xochimilco on the Tren Ligero are accessible.
The metro is free for people with ID showing proof of a disability.
Best port at Xochimilco
Regardless of how you arrive to Xochimilco, you’re going to be faced with an important conundrum when you get there- which of the many ports to take a boat ride from.
You’ll get plenty of people coming up to you, telling you that their port is the best port.
We’ll make it easy for you- choose Embarcadero Nuevo Nativitas.
Not only is the Embarcadero Nuevo Nativitas Port accessible, but it’s the most popular place to embark. And when in Xochimilco, crowds matter. We’ll get into the why behind this next.
Benefits of the Embarcadero Nuevo Nativitas Port
When talking tourism, people usually want to avoid hoards of crowds. But in Xochimilco, crowds are what make Xochimilco so fun.
For starters, the more people that take boat rides at Xochimilco, the more mariachi bands you’ll be surrounded by. Sure, you could pay for a band to play on your boat, and this is a fun option if you’re a large group or are looking to give your partner a romantic gesture.
However, the more tourist boats you’re surrounded by, the higher the chance of you getting to enjoy the music for free from nearby boaters paying for a song.
Furthermore, by taking a boat from Embarcadero Nuevo Nativitas, there will be a greater number of locals paddling on boats trying to sell you grilled corn, candy apples, drinks, flower headbands, and toys. This is a fun experience and the vendors aren’t pushy.
Even if you’re not planning on making a purchase, watching these “floating market” boats pull up to your boat is an iconic part of the Xochimilco experience.
Since Embarcadero Nuevo Nativitas is the port where most tourists flock to, you’re going to get the most well-rounded and lively Xochimilco experience by going there.
Best time to visit Xochimilco
Since crowds are key at Xochimilco, aim to visit on the weekend. Xochimilco, and Mexico City as a whole, is still a place that draws in more local tourists than international ones. Therefore, you’re going to encounter the most lively activity when people are off of work.
Late afternoons are also a great time to visit Xochimilco, particularly towards the end of the week.
The boats at Xochimilco run rain or shine since many locals live on houses along the canal that aren’t connected to roads. However, if it’s a rainy day when you planned to visit Xochimilco, the vibe of the area will be hampered.
In that case, you may be better off considering other things to do in Mexico City, as described in our post, 16 Wheelchair Accessible Things to do in Mexico City. You may also want to consider taking a day trip to Teotihuacan.
Wheelchair accessibility at Xochimilco
As mentioned earlier, Embarcadero Nuevo Nativitas offers wheelchair accessible entry in Xochimilco. Let’s break this down into four parts.
There’s a wheelchair accessible parking sign at the entrance to Embarcadero Nuevo Nativitas in Xochimilco. However, this sign only points to a sidewalk with a drop-curb, not accessible parking itself.
Nonetheless, there aren’t any marked parking spaces at Xochimilco. Therefore, if you’ll be driving your own car, you can try to create an accessible space that gives you room to get out of the vehicle.
Accessible boat ramp at Xochimilco
There are two accessible ramps at Embarcadero Nuevo Nativitas. One is located directly in front of the main entrance and the other is located further down to the right when facing the canal.
Both ramps are painted bright red, which helps them to stand out against the large, yellow staircases for able-bodied passengers running along the canal.
The ramps are wide and cement, making it easy for both manual and power wheelchair users to navigate.
Once you get down to the canal, the boat staff will assist you with getting your chair onto the boat. Since the boats themselves don’t have a ramp and the edge doesn’t come up perfectly flush to the shore, they’ll have to do a bit of lifting to get you in.
Have no fear, they’re experienced with getting all kinds of wheelchairs into the boat.
Wheelchair accessibility on the Xochimilco boats
Once you’re on the boat, the rest of your journey will be a breeze. The boats at Xochimilco are ideally made for wheelchair users with a flat, wide, wooden floor.
Many of the boats have a table that runs down the center of it, but this can be removed to make more room for your chair. Removable wooden benches or individual chairs line the perimeter of the boat so there’ll be plenty of seating for any able-bodied companions you may be traveling with.
If you’ll be traveling with a handful of wheelchair users, you’ll easily be able to fit all of you on the same boat.
Travel Tip: Lifejackets are required to be carried on each boat, but it’s a good idea to have them show you the lifejackets before boarding, for good measure.
A note on boat sharing
Renting out a boat for your party only is the traditional way to visit the Xochimilco canals. However, to the far left of the Embarcadero Nuevo Nativitas Port, there’s an area for strangers to share a boat.
Unfortunately, the boat sharing section is not accessible, so you’ll need to plan on renting a full boat, which takes us to our next point.
Cost of the Xochimilco boat ride
The cost of a boat ride at Xochimilco is clearly displayed at the port entrance to protect tourists from being taken advantage of. As of October 2019, the cost to rent out a boat was 500 pesos per hour.
Note that this price is for the boat, not per person. That means that the more people you’ll be traveling with, the cheaper the cost per person will be.
Wheelchair accessible restrooms at Xochimilco
We encountered one wheelchair accessible restroom at Embarcadero Nuevo Nativitas in Xochimilco. It’s located to the left when entering through the main gate, near some of the shops.
This is what you’re looking for:
The cost to enter is 5 pesos and they’ll give you a wad of toilet paper. The accessible stall isn’t marked, but it’s the stall nearest to the bathroom entrance.
How many hours to spend on Xochimilco
The minimum amount of time for a boat ride at Xochimilco is one hour. This is what we paid for, but we found ourselves wishing we had tacked on another hour.
Therefore, since you’re making the effort to go all that way, we recommend a 2 – 3 hour ride. Just keep in mind that there aren’t any accessible restrooms on the canal.
Visiting the town of Xochimilco
While you’re by the canals of Xochimilco, we recommend taking a side trip into the town. As expected from a Mexican town, there’s a main plaza, cathedral, and market.
The plaza is accessible with drop-down curbs and a wide, pedestrian path leading up to it. The indoor market is also accessible, with entrance via a cement ramp.
Because there are so many more photos we want to share with you, below is a photo essay of our day at Xochimilco.
Boating through the Xochimilco canals is something that every Mexico City go-er should strive to do, and it’s a fairly easy activity for wheelchair users. Mariachi bands, colorful trajineras, and delicious food will await you.
Have you traveled to Xochimilco as a wheelchair user? Share your experience with us in the comments section. Alternatively, if you have questions about accessibility in Xochimilco that we didn’t cover here, feel free to leave us a comment and we’ll do our best to help.
Calling All Animal Lovers!
If it breaks your heart to see homeless dogs and cats, volunteering or donating to an animal shelter in Mexico City is an excellent way to help.
Laura has been wandering the globe for over a decade. She’s an early bird and backpacker at heart and can often be spotted with a dog or ten that she’s befriended along the way. Much of the content Laura writes on A Piece of Travel includes details on wheelchair accessibility, with the support of her brother-in-law and sister. You can learn about their accessibility endeavors here.