Cancun is a lively beach city on the Caribbean side of Mexico filled with white sandy beaches. The city is also known for its many tourist spots such as the El Meco Archaeological site, the Temple of Scorpion, El Castillo, and La Isla Shopping Village. Cancun is not as widely well-known as other international cities (unless you’re American and grew up watching MTV Spring Break – did I just date myself?) But there are a few logistics that you need to know before you go to this breathtaking city.
From the Airport
Cancun (CUN) has a relatively small airport. You’ll find about a dozen representatives all working for shuttle and taxi companies. It’s a bit of a monopoly and they only offer set rates for areas, not by mileage and time on the meter. They’ll wave their placards with rates to give the appearance of set offers, but this is negotiable. I’d recommend booking your transportation from inside the airport for the best rates which range anywhere from $35-$60. They’ll offer you a better deal if you get a roundtrip. There’s no Uber from the airport.
Once you leave the airport and are outside, there’s no re-entry so you’re limited to two taxi companies. I made this mistake and was offered a much higher price (they were trying to charge me downtown Cancun prices when I was staying at an Airbnb less than 2 miles away. I kept asking around, frustrated and then was able to finally negotiate a better rate despite what their laminated pricing cards said. My point is that you can negotiate if you really push them hard on it. They’ll say, “no”, and then when they see you walk away and start asking someone else, they’ll try to bargain with you. It took me about twenty minutes, but I did it and saved myself about $20.
You can exchange your dollar, euro, or pound for the Mexican peso at the airport. There’s a reliable money exchanger at Terminal 3 (open until 9 p.m.) and Terminal 2 (open until 10 p.m.). This isn’t completely necessary if you’re American though because Mexico takes both US currency and pesos.
You can buy Telcel, AT&T Unidos, and Movistar SIM cards at the airport for about $12. These only work if your phone is unlocked, but I can’t live without my GoogleMaps when I travel. MapsMe is another recommended app for getting around where you can use maps offline. You’ll need wifi to download the maps, so I’d recommend downloading these before you travel.
The Cancun Airport has a luggage locker service. You can leave your luggage there and pay $5.47 a day if you’re backpacking and want to travel light.
Getting Around Cancun
The best way to get around the photogenic city of Cancun is via the bus system. It would cost you around 45 cents (in USD) per ride. Taxis are also not that expensive once you get away from the airport. Here’s the estimated taxi fare per kilometer:
Cancun has a strong Mexican culture which is a mix of American and Spanish cultures. Spanish is spoken by around 90 percent of the residents in the area. People in Cancun have strong family values and most of them are Catholics. They put high value in structure and hierarchy and they love to host parties.
Places for Foodies and Adventure Seekers
Mexico is known for tequila and Cancun is not an exemption. You can get a good glass of tequila in various restaurants. You can also find great Mexican dishes such as sopes, tacos, and empanadas in the streets of downtown Cancun. The food is so cheap in Cancun that you can eat a sumptuous authentic Mexican meal for only $1 to $3.
There are a lot of adventurous things to do in one of the most newly raved about places near Cancun — Playa del Carmen. You can go diving or snorkeling at most cenotes (natural pit) in Playa del Carmen, namely the Cenote Azul, Cenote Dos Ojos, Gran Cenote, and Garden of Eden. You can also visit the Mayan Ruins in Tulum which is located south of Playa del Carmen.
My final advice: consider booking part of your stay in Playa del Carmen instead of Cancun if you can. It’s the most upcoming talked about beach city in Mexico with plenty of nightlife, shopping, and world-class restaurants.