Cancun is well known for its gorgeous white-sand beaches and turquoise water. It once was just a small fishing town on the northeast coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, but today, it is arguably the most popular tourist destination in Mexico.
In general, Cancun is safe to travel to but there are still precautions you should take and things you can do to make your journey smoother and your holiday in Cancun more enjoyable.
There are things we wish we knew before travelling to Cancun, but luckily for you, I listed what you need to know about this holiday destination in this post.
You can also read: Things to Know Before Visiting Tulum
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How to Get to Cancun
Most likely you will fly directly to Cancun International Airport since there are direct flights from almost all major cities in Europe, US and Canada. We flew directly from London to Cancun with British Airways and our flight took around 11 hours.
Cancun Airport is located about 18km from the city centre.
Mexico Tourist Card
Before entering Mexico, you need to fill out an immigration form, known as Mexico Tourist Card, and a customs form. If you want to save some time, you can fill out the tourist card online, otherwise, your airline will hand it to you on the flight, make sure to have a pen with you.
Once you go through the border, you will be given back the bottom part of the form, which is the exit part of your tourist card. It is important to keep it safe. You have to present it before boarding your flight back home. If you lose the form, you have to pay a fine.
Keep in mind that the tourist card is one per person including children, but as a family, you will only need to fill out one customs form.
Getting to your hotel
When you get out of the departure hall, you will be surprised by the number of people approaching you. They are from taxi and rental car companies. It can be overwhelming, especially if you have been on a long flight.
The taxi from the airport can be expensive, something between $25 to $45. Of course, you can always bargain the price, but I recommend booking a transfer with your hotel if you can or booking a private shuttle in advance.
If you are looking for a cheaper option, you can take a bus to Cancun city and then take a bus or a taxi to your hotel. ADO is one of the largest bus companies in Mexico, which also operates from Cancun airport to Cancun city centre, Tulum, Playa del Carmen and other main cities in Yucatan.
Now, let’s talk about money, one of the most important things you should be familiar with. The Mexican peso is the official currency of Mexico, but many places in Cancun and Yucatan accept American dollars. If you have Euros and British Pounds, you have to exchange them for pesos or withdraw Mexican pesos from ATMs.
You can even withdraw US dollars from some ATMs, but don’t do that. The exchange rate is high and you have to pay a lot of commission. For this reason, when you go to any ATM, read the sign carefully and make sure it will give you Mexican Pesos.
Where to stay
The best and safest place to stay in Cancun is the Hotel Zone, also known as Zona Hotelera. It is a long strip of beach lined up with hotels, luxury resorts, villas and restaurants. The most convenient way to go around the hotel zone is to take a bus.
The most popular routes are R1 and R2 which run between the city centre and the Hotel Zone. A one-way ticket costs $10.50 Pesos which is roughly 50 cents in USD.
Don’t drink Tap Water
Probably you know this already, but I will mention it again. Do not drink tap water in Cancun. There are many contaminants in Cancun’s tap water, which can upset your stomach and make you ill.
Most hotels and resorts provide free bottles of water for their guests. Plus, a bottle of water is quite cheap, so don’t risk it and avoid drinking tap water.
Renting a Car in Cancun
If you are visiting Cancun, should you rent a car? The short answer is no. If you plan to stay mostly in Cancun, you don’t need a car to go around. But, if you plan to explore the Yucatan Peninsula, renting a car is highly recommended because it gives you the opportunity to visit different beautiful places and cenotes in Yucatan during quieter times of the day.
There are several rental companies to choose from at Cancun airport, you can compare the prices on rentalcars.com and read the reviews there.
Since we stayed in Cancun for a few days, we didn’t rent a car at the airport. You can do the same, there are many rental companies in Cancun, which allow you to pick up the car in the centre and drop the car at the airport.
Since Cancun is a tourist destination, the income of many locals relies on the cash that tourism brings. This means almost everyone working in tourism and hospitality in Cancun expects tips. That includes waiters, drivers, housekeepers, tour guides and anyone who provides direct services.
But how much to tip totally depends on you and your generosity. To make it easier, we usually tip somewhere between 10 to 15 per cent of the bill. And if the service is above average, we will tip 20%.
Most hotels in the hotel zone have a designated area on the beach, where you can sunbathe and relax. But, try to go further and walk along the beach. For the best beaches in the area, you can go to Playa Delfines, Playa Chac Mool and Playa Forum.