Xochimilco was a last minute addition to my itinerary after a friend recommended it to me. However, it easily became one of the highlights of my trip! Nestled in the southern part of the bustling metropolis, Xochimilco offers a unique and enchanting experience of CDMX. Known for its mesmerizing network of canals and floating gardens, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is a testament to the city's rich cultural heritage.
The Canals of Xochimilco is commonly frequented by locals but it is also gradually becoming popular among tourists. Whether you're a history enthusiast, a nature lover, or simply seeking an escape from the city chaos, Xochimilco has something for everyone. I’ve noticed that I tend to enjoy last minutes additions to my itinerary as I got to see the vibrant trajineras (traditional Mexican boats) along the picturesque canals.
To make the most of your visit and be prepared in advance, here are 8 valuable tips to keep in mind:
8 Things To Know Before Visiting Xochimilco
1. Get there early to beat the crowds
Are you someone who prefers to avoid the hustle and bustle of touristy areas? If yes, arriving early is key. I made it a point to be at the canal right when it opened at 9 AM, and I had the entire place to myself. However, if you want to catch the mesmerizing mariachi band in action, aim to arrive after 9:30 AM.
2. Be a savvy negotiator
To ensure a fair price for your boat ride, it's important to know the expected cost beforehand, especially if you're a tourist. Without this knowledge, you might end up paying more than necessary. Before I visited, I discovered that the going rate was $500 pesos for a ride. Armed with this information, I confidently offered that amount on arrival with the intention of moving on to the next boat if needed. Surprisingly, I encountered minimal resistance, and was able o hop on board immediately. If you suspect you're being overcharged, don't hesitate to negotiate or walk away.
3. Cash is king
Keep in mind that having cash on hand is essential for various expenses, including boat rides, tips, and local purchases. While some stores accept credit and debit cards, it's still wise to carry some cash - trust me. It saved me time when I ran out of cash and had to search for a store that accepted cards.
4. Wear slip-resistant footwear
The boats in Xochimilco are not overly slippery, thanks to their wooden construction, but it's always better to be safe than sorry. Opt for comfortable shoes with good grip to prevent any potential slips when boarding or disembarking from the boats.
5. Dress the part
When visiting Xochimilco, it's essential to dress appropriately for the weather and season. I went in late August during the rainy season, so I brought along a light jacket for the slightly chilly weather. Interestingly enough, I ended up not needing it because, well, I'm Canadian and used to cooler temperatures.
6. Pack some snacks & water
If you plan to spend a considerable amount of time in the Xochimilco area, it's wise to bring along some snacks or food and water. During my 1.5-hour visit, I had an apple and a bottle of water. Alternatively, you can also purchase food and drinks in the area if that's more convenient for you.
7. Download a translator app
Unless you're fluent in Spanish, having a translator app on your phone can be a game-changer. It'll come in handy, especially when interacting with boat drivers and others who may not speak English. I found my translator app to be incredibly helpful, whether it was understanding that I had arrived too early or requesting a longer boat ride for the full mariachi band experience.
8. Request a serenade by the mariachi band
One of the highlights of my visit was fulfilling a lifelong dream of being serenaded by a mariachi band. Inspired by my days of watching telenovelas (#CuandoSeasMia), I couldn't miss this opportunity.
The mariachi band, consisting of 8-10 men dressed in traditional suits, and armed with an array of musical instruments. It's important to know that each song costs $150 pesos, and they'll charge you accordingly if you agree to their offer to hear another song. They delivered an unforgettable performance and their passion and exuberance truly created a #softlife moment worth treasuring.