Cancun, Mexico: what you should know before the trip & things to do

Looking for a Carribean destination for your next vacation? Try considering Mexico, and for sure you will not regret your choice. Located on Mexico`s Gulf coast, Cancun was the perfect place to start our long-term journey throughout Central and Latin America and we could recommend it if you are looking for a relaxed, slow-paced vacation destination.

We decided to spend 4 full days here, and depending on what you aim to do this might be more than enough. Is it a safe place? We found it very safe, both during day/night, in  central/remote areas. Below you can find a few practical info that might help in organizing your own trip:

Mexico entry requirements

As of mid June 2021, the following requirements are in place for entering Mexico:

  • Covid-wise requirements: none:)
  • passport (no visa needed for Romanian nationals)
  • exit/onward ticket: the travel forums are full of discussions about whether or not you are asked to show this ticket, and while some say it is ok without, our personal experience showed that you DO need one
  • confirmation of hotel bookings for the duration of your stay
  • bank account statement: they asked this from us at the immigration point

We were lucky enough to be strongly questioned at the immigration point before we got our 180 days visa (almost 1 hour later). We bought a Ticabus bus ticket to Guatemala in advance to be able to show something at the border (the cheapest way to have an exit ticket, 25 $/person) and for sure we would not have been allowed to enter Mexico without it. However, the officer was quite sceptic regarding our ticket and even made me show her on their website how I booked it and that it only departs from one city in Mexico (they were suspicious and insisted on why do we have an exit ticket from the Mexican city of Tapachula). Furtheron, we were asked to show our bank accounts and the officer even transformed our RON and EUR into MXN to see how much there is.

Lastly, they had two more requests: the hotel booking confirmations for the duration of our stay and a strong suspicion coupled wit lots of questions regarding my new passport. They got their piece of mind only when my husband showed them his with all of our previous visas from previous travels abroad (not Mexico).

Transportation

Mexico is in general very well serviced in terms of public transportation, thus using this method instead of renting a car might be a good call (for us it was for sure) if you want to stay on budget and worry less.

Taxis: these tend to be quite expensive if taken from a taxi station (up to 3 times the correct price of the trip). However, if you stop a taxi from the street (not the case of the airport though) you have high chances to pay the correct price of the trip, but make sure you check the price with the driver before getting into the car (and why not try to negotiate in case it seems too much). We used this method only twice in Cancun, both times we paid the correct price.

ADO bus (https://www.ado.com.mx): up until now this was one of the best deals we did in terms of transportation, since landing in Mexico. ADO has sparkling clean and new big busses with AC, with wide coverage in terms of destinations inside Mexico. This is our frequent choice for moving from city to city, and the best part is that if you buy the ticket online in advance you have 50ish% discount on the price. Download the mobile app for easier access and storage of your tickets in a single place (for IOS or  for Android).

Colectivo: a little bit cheaper than ADO, but not that comfortable and good looking, these local minibuses (used mostly by locals) are useful if you want to have some flexibility in terms of stops (you can talk to the driver to stop anywhere on his scheduled route). This was our pick when going to cenotes up until now.

City bus: this is the best option in terms of availability/price for moving around Cancun. These easily take you to and from the hotel zone to downtown, and a trip costs around 12 MXN.

Uber: although not officially present in Riviera Maya, we found it working in Cancun. Expect to have a very long wait for getting your drive confirmed due to the low availability of drivers, but the fare will be a good one (comparable to the taxis you stop on the road).

Our choice, and what we would recommend:

– from the airport to downtown: ADO;

– inside Cancun: local buses;

– from Cancun to other locations in Mexico: ADO, colectivo;

Eating around

When in Mexico eat where the locals eat, this it a must! We cannot recommend any of the fancy international restaurants because we did not try any of them, but instead tried the local taquerias and street food and did not regret.

One of the nice places randomly found on the streets is Quesadillas Tierra del Sol, where a lunch for 2 costs around 120-150 MXN.

If searching for a more crowded place for you to feel the Mexican vibe, go for lunch at the local restaurants in the heart of Mercado 28. It is a bit more pricy than the above reference, but the cultural experience makes it worth.

Restaurant inside Mercado 28

Lastly, the supermarket chains Chedraui and Walmart (found them in many Mexican cities) offer a good budget alternative for your meals. You can find there both pastry (a big variety), cooked meals and dine-in areas.

Accommodation

When booking for your stay be careful: Cancun is divided into the downtown area, where locals live, and the hotel zone, with only hotels and resorts as expected.

I believe it depends a lot on your interests and way of traveling, but we will always recommend to blend in with locals, wherever you are. Travel is all about culture, people and places, so we recommend you to search for accommodation in the downtown area.

We rented a room in an Airbnb house, 5 minutes away from Chedraui (big plus), but unfortunately cannot recommend the place.

What to expect in terms of prices

ItemPrice in MXNEquivalent price in EUR
Lunch for 2 at local restaurant (where locals eat)1506
Water 2L (supermarket)11-130.4-0.5
¼ watermellon (supermarket)401.6
1 ticket local bus120.5
4 tacos on the street401.6
4 tacos at a taqueria (dine-in)803.2
Cooked entire chicken (supermarket)1255
SIM card (Telcel)1506
Pastry(supermarket)Starting with 5Starting with 0.2

What to do in Cancun?

1. Get to know the city and its wildlife: immerse yourself into the day to day life of Cancun’s residents by simply walking through the city and head to blvd. Kukulcan (towards the beaches). Pay attention to the special residents of the city and spot them throughout the green area: the beautiful iguanas.

Get used to them, they will be your companions almost everywhere

2. Mercado 28: if looking for choosing souvenirs from a large variety, try searching for them at Mercado 28. You will find here lots of stores selling traditional embroidery clothes and household items, Maya masks, magnets and so on, and in case you get tired you will find also a few open-air restaurants where locals also eat at the heart of the market.

3. Tour the beautiful white-sand beaches of Cancun: hop on a public bus going to the Hotel Zone to easily get to the beautiful beaches Cancun has to offer. We tried Playa Delfines (more touristic) and Playa las Perlas (more intimate) and loved them. Just a tip: take a walk on the beach from Playa las Perlas to the resorts area to admire the beauty of the place.

Playa Delfines

4. Water adventures in crystal clear waters: for all the snorkeling lovers out there, you will find your paradise in the Yucatan Peninsula. Although we tried only snorkeling in Cozumel Island, there are several options for you here, among which the Cancun Underwater Museum, snorkeling with whale-sharks in Holbox Island, swimming with sea turtles in Akumal, etc.

5. Trip to Holbox Island: this white-sand beach paradise is the perfect place if you want to experience the island life, only 3 hours by public transportation from Cancun. Make sure you either catch a morning bus from Cancun (for a one day trip) or book at least 1 night of accommodation on the island. You can find more info on prices and how to get there in here .

6. Trip to Isla Mujeres: we decided to spend 1 night on the island and I think it was a good call, enough to explore the island by foot and public transportation. While the island offers plenty of scuba diving and snorkeling opportunities, there are also several other activities to choose from. You can easily get to Isla Mujeres by Ultramar Ferry from Cancun, the trip lasting for around 20 minutes. You can find more info on prices and how to get there in here .

On a more personal note, for us Cancun was a good place to start getting used, at a slower pace, with the Mexican culture. However, if you are looking to visit natural landmarks, discover the authentic Mexico or go on adventurous day trips, then we suggest you to keep looking for another less commercial Mexican city as a base camp. But if looking for water activities, then you should look no further.

Looking forward to get info on other parts of Mexico too? Follow us for more, coming soon:)

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