Cancun and the Riviera Maya are at the top of the list of most visited destinations in Mexico in particular and the Caribbean in general. However, As with many destinations in Latin America, to enjoy your trip, you have to be aware of the potential pitfalls that are totally avoidable.
Quintana Roo is the Mexican tourist state par excellence, with Cancun being the prime jewel in its crown. The quality of service and beaches make Cancun, one of the most visited destinations in the Caribbean, as well as in Mexico. It is closely followed by the Riviera Maya, which consists of Puerto Morelos, Playa del Carmen, Puerto Aventuras, Akumal, and Tulum.
The state of Quintana Roo is divided into two regions. Southern Region: Felipe Carrillo Puerto, José María Morelos, Bacalar and Othón P. Blanco. Northern Region: Tulum, Solidaridad (Akumal, Playa del Carmen, Puerto Aventuras), Cozumel, Puerto Morelos, Benito Juárez (Cancún), Lázaro Cárdenas and Isla Mujeres.
There are currently 3 international airports in Quintana Roo: Cancun, Chetumal, and Cozumel. The South Region corresponds to Chetumal (capital) and the North Region corresponds to Cancun, and in the same region but insular in Cozumel.
If your intention is to travel to Cancun, you should choose Cancun International Airport (CUN or MMUN), do not choose other airports no matter how cheap they are, since transfers or trips are long and expensive.
If your intention is to travel to the Riviera Maya (Playa del Carmen or Tulum), you should also choose Cancun International Airport (CUN or MMUN), but if for some strange reason you found a cheaper flight to Cozumel, Cozumel International Airport (CZM or MMCZ) is a good option, since the island is located 35 minutes by ferry from Playa del Carmen and the trip costs $10 dollars, if you consider a transfer from the airport to the maritime terminal it will be much cheaper, between $15 and $25 dollars than from Cancun to Playa del Carmen which costs between $35 and 55 dollars.
For example, if you want to go to Tulum, it is obvious that you should use Cozumel as airport and not Cancun, since Tulum is 130 kms from Cancun and a transfer can reach or exceed 100 dollars. On the other hand, if you do it from Cozumel, considering transfer from the airport to the maritime terminal, ferry and transfer to Tulum from Playa del Carmen, it can be half the price.
Others, more stingy, look for flights to Merida in Yucatan or Chetumal, do not do this, it is more than 4 hours of travel and do not even think that a transfer will be cheap, much less arriving at the bus terminal, because you can make many hours of waiting plus the journey, your time is not worth that expense.
Taking a bus transfer is much cheaper, but it will only stop at the bus terminal, from there, you will have to look for a cab or other public shared service to take you to the hotel, and you will lose time and money. In Quintana Roo, there is no app transportation service like Uber, Didi, Beat, or Cabify, they are blocked.
At the airports, cab drivers are not federal agents, much less those who sell (yellow shirt); they are service providers and lie to sell a cab transfer, even if a friend or family member picks you up at the terminal in a personal vehicle, do not ask them for help or let them ask you questions about your trip, they are very cunning.
If you live outside of Mexico, we recommend that you choose everything from the Internet or your local agency of choice with interest-free monthly payments, as it happens in any massive worldwide tourist destination such as Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Tulum, New York, Tokyo, Rome, etc. There are many ghost agencies that will always have much cheaper prices for flights and hotels on social networks. Save yourself that scam and the bitter pill.
Regarding tours, we also recommend that you do it with your trusted local operator, it is highly likely to handle competitive prices, and you pass it to comfortable payments with your local currency. If you do it in hot money, your bank will charge you in dollars with interest, you will not have competitive prices, and you may find yourself with ghost operators.
Now, if you are Mexican, you can do it either on the Internet or local, but make sure it is a recognized agency and if it is in cash with street vendors, never do it if they do not have an office or address labeled with the name of the agency, as many street vendors just steal and give you a fake ticket. As a Mexican negotiating, you may receive some discount on tours and public transportation but never on airplanes or hotels. Anyway, you can grab some discounts on seasonal offers for vacation rentals at Karta. Just check their website.
Finally, it doesn’t matter if you are Mexican or a foreigner, but if you are a resident of Quintana Roo, you can get discounts on tours of up to 50% to visit theme parks, archaeological sites, or personalized tours for being a local. Other residents of Yucatan may have the benefit, but it will depend on the establishment. You can prove your residency with your driver’s license or INE with an address in the state of Quintana Roo.
For flights, hotels, tours, and attractions, it is always best to buy in advance; in Quintana Roo, urgency or haste is expensive. Negotiating with hot sellers is almost impossible, and whoever agrees must be careful because all service providers have a centralized booking with different companies, and it is highly probable that there is no space for you if you pay the urgency.
Cancun and the Riviera Maya handle prices in Mexican pesos, euros and US dollars, but you will always win if you pay in Mexican pesos, because if you pay in euros or dollars, you will lose 10% of its value, because they will take into account the price of the currency for the benefit of trade, since they then must seek the best exchange price and lose liquidity.
If you are going to pay with bank cards, always try to do it in a fixed establishment, and never do it with terminals connected to smartphones, because as it happens in the world’s popular destinations, they can clone your card and spend an unpleasant time paying for what you did not consume.
Do not use any ATM in the streets; they do not have money, and you run the risk that they are manipulated, only use ATMs in bank branches.
If you want to exchange currencies in cash, we recommend you to check at least ten exchange houses, preferably near a bank branch, since you will gain important cents at the time of the conversion.
In conclusion, if you will handle cash, always do it in Mexican pesos and exchange it lots of 300 dollars because the Mexican currency is very volatile, and as it happens almost always, if you do it drop by drop, you will lose in commissions and exchange rates, there are exceptions, and you can benefit, but it is Russian roulette.
As expected, the most beautiful of Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and Tulum are in the hotel zone, in the three most popular destinations of the Mexican Caribbean, the beach is just a few steps away, and they have all-inclusive or all inclusive service in addition to the rate per night and per person.
The choice of your hotel should be considered from the beginning of the trip, you have 3 options: rest in the all-inclusive hotel, go out to explore the Riviera Maya and its surroundings, or hybrid.
If you choose the option of total disconnection from the world and rest at the resort or hotel, we recommend that you choose the all-inclusive package since you will not go out, and eating a la carte is very expensive in the hotel zone. With this option, you will be able to eat buffet meals and drink at the facilities all day long. You will not have to worry about going out or shopping.
If you choose the option to go out and explore, we do not recommend staying in the hotel zone, and you can rent an apartment with Airbnb, Booking, or Expedia. You can also choose smaller hotels that only include American breakfast in downtown Cancun, Playa del Carmen, or Tulum. With this option, you will save if you cook on your own or eat at inexpensive restaurants, as well as on the accommodation itself.
If you want both, choose the days you want to stay at an all-inclusive resort and other days in the explorer mode so you don’t lose money, since most tours start when the buffets are not yet open and end when they are already closed (collusion between hotels and tour operators).
When you arrive at any airport in Quintana Roo, you will be bombarded by the best bilingual salesmen (1 out of 10 manage to say no) to offer you a rented vehicle, but your choice will depend on your lodging.
If you choose an all-inclusive resort, do not rent a vehicle and wait for your transfer quietly, even if you have chosen the hybrid option, as you should save those days you will not use the vehicle.
In the hybrid mode, you can request a shared transfer to take you to the center and in a private car rental that you have already talked to by phone and obviously reserved a vehicle.
If you chose the explorer mode, we recommend you to book your vehicle from the Internet, either PriceTravel, Despegar, Best Day, which are the safest. This way, you arrive directly at the airport on your return and save the transfer.
If you decide to rent a vehicle and they do not have it available, learn to say no and demand a similar vehicle since they always offer models that later, for unknown reasons, they do not have in the establishment, and you end up accepting inferior models at the price of a superior one. The rental is with a credit card, if you do not have a credit card with a quota of at least 500 dollars, you will not be able to activate it, and you will lose the reservation.
If you choose public transportation from the airport to the city, always choose mass public transportation, you will save a lot of money. In Cancun, there are red buses that operate 20 hours a day and take you wherever you want. In Playa del Carmen and Tulum, cabs within the city are cheap, and public transportation is much cheaper but not as safe.
No matter where you are, do not take cabs from places. They are expensive; always look for those that are already in motion and are labeled as official. Forget about apps since none of them work in Quintana Roo.