So, you’re planning to travel to Mexico huh? But, you’re not entirely sure how you’d manage in a new country, with a different language and a different culture? Then you’ve come to the right place. This article will give you some of the best tips and tricks to help you have a stress free vacation in Cancun, Mexico.
In the Spring of 2017, we were craving for the perfect beach vacation, and what better place than Cancun – the place of white sand beaches and clear blue waters, making it nothing less than Heaven on Earth. We were extremely excited for this paradise of a vacation.
But, at the same time we were a little anxious as well, for pretty much the same reasons as you are right now. Not to worry though, we’ve got you covered!
So, let’s dive into the most important things you need to know before you travel to Cancun, Mexico.
1. Book an airport shuttle in advance
You see, some of the hotels do offer airport shuttles, but ours didn’t. And since we’re so used to Uber, we thought we’d just use it there as well. We had even tried entering our pickup and drop-off locations beforehand just to, you know, be on the safe side. And, we were all set, excited for our travels.
But, to our dismay when we landed at the Cancun International Airport and actually tried using the app, it showed us no Ubers, zilch, nada.
Our only option was to check if any shuttles were available, so we rushed to ground transportation. But, unfortunately most of the shuttle services in Cancun need to be booked beforehand, either online or via phone; we were so stranded!
After a lot of pleading and begging, we somehow managed to get on one of the shuttles that was dropping off people to the same area we were staying at – The Hotel Zone. But, this might not always be the case. So, make sure you book a roundtrip airport shuttle in advance!
You can book your airport shuttle from here for cheap.
2. Get a Local SIM Card
Getting a local SIM card directly from your travel destination is always the best option. One, it is a lot cheaper than what you pay your service provider in roaming charges. You can easily get one at a Telcel store. They have multiple locations all around Cancun. Flamingo Mall is one of the convenient locations in Hotel Zone. Our’s cost around 150 peso and included unlimited local calling & texting, along with 3 GB of data.
And two, we’ve experienced problems with roaming so many times where we had to spend hours and hours calling our service provider to get it fixed. Hence, wasting so much time on our trips that we could’ve spent doing something fun. Trust us guys, it’s just not worth it!
3. Buy Some Local Currency
Having some cash in local currency while traveling is always a good idea, especially in Mexico.
If you’re planning to step out of the comfortable all-resorts-hotel zone and explore the outskirts a little, then you’ll find that there are many local vendors that don’t accept cards. And if you’re planning to do some excursion tours, then you’d need cash to tip your guide. Even at places where cards are accepted, it’s always better to pay in cash since the conversion rate credit card companies charge is way higher.
You can buy local currency from any of the conveniently located OXXO stores or from any bank. We bought close to 300 pesos from CIBanco at a pretty good conversion rate.
Oh, and remember to take some change as well since you’ll need it if you plan to use public transportation.
4. Download a Translation App
Traveling to a country where English is not the first language can always be intimidating. Everybody goes through the fear of not being able to communicate. What if we’re in some trouble and need to call for help, how are we going to, will anybody understand? We get it, a lot of such questions were hovering in our minds as well. But we can’t stop our travels just because of some needless fear, right? The best we can do is be prepared. And in this case, we can be prepared by having a language translation app on your phone! Trust us, you’ll need it a lot!
There are many of them out there, some paid some unpaid. Personally, I find the Google Translate App to be very convenient and easy to use, but pick as per your liking.
5. Use Local Transportation Instead of Taxis
Forget about getting an Uber in Cancun, as I mentioned before there is no Uber whatsoever. So, getting a taxi is your best bet. However, the taxis are not metered so the drivers usually charge unreasonable amounts, which you might not want to pay unless really necessary. And, if you really want to save money on transportation then using public transportation is a good option.
Buses will take you to almost every place around downtown and there are bus stops in front of almost every hotel in the Hotel Zone. If you want to go to club Coco Bongo, Market 28, or Parque Las Palapas then you need to take the R2 bus. Just hop on one from a bus stop near your hotel and tell the driver your drop-off point, he will shout the stop’s name for you as it nears. They’re really helpful to the tourists, so make sure to tell the driver as you board the bus. The same bus will take you back to the hotel zone as well, just hop on the bus from the opposite side of the road and you’ll be back in no time.
Taking ferries is also a good option, say if you want to go to Isla Mujeres. You can easily get a ferry from Playa Tortugas.
But, remember to check the schedule beforehand and plan accordingly. (You can check the ferry schedule from here.)
6. Book Group Tours If Traveling Outside of Cancun
You see there are multiple sites worth visiting around Cancun like Chichen Itza, Tulum, Cozumel, Playa Del Carmen and many more. And if you’re the explorer kind like us, then you’d not want to miss those. Most of them require a day trip each. Now, you could either rent a car and drive yourself or opt for one of the group tours that multiple companies offer. Personally, I’d say taking a group tour is better because it ensures you’re not alone in case you need some help, plus you can enjoy the scenic ride hassle-free; clicking as many pictures as you want and also learn a little extra as the guides tell you about the history of each of the attractions.
If you do opt for the tours though, then stay away from the ones the hotels collaborate with. They are way overpriced and offer much less. Do your research online to find the best deal. We went with Cancun Discounts as they offered the best deal at that time.
But, if you’re the kind who likes to just soak under the sun and relax, then you don’t need to worry about this.
7. Carry Sunscreen and Mosquito Repellent
Many wonderful spots around Cancun like Tulum, Ik Kil Cenote and Coba are surrounded by forests and reserves. So, properly applying a mosquito repellant when traveling to those areas is a must. Well, as it turns out, mosquitoes love tropical weather as well!
And of course, carry a sunscreen (SPF 50 or higher) – duh! You don’t want to burn!
8. Carry your basic meds
Obviously you’ll be eating spicy food, obviously it is going to be very tasty.
But, what that very tasty spicy food could also do is distress your stomach. So, carrying Pepto-Bismol at the very least can be of use. You might not need it, but better safe than sorry!
And, you might already know this, drink only and only bottled water.
9. Keep all receipts
You might be using your travel credit card at places, yeah there are some places that do accept cards, and it’s always a good idea to keep all the receipts until your credit card company completes those transactions. You see, we’ve experienced it multiple times that a vendor charged our card some other value than what it was supposed to. Cases like these can happen a lot in Mexico, so do keep all your receipts as proof. Plus with the uncertainty of the currency conversion rate, it’s always good to have an idea about what you’re being charged exactly.
10. Relax and Have Fun
This is the most important point. I guess I should have made this point #1. The list of tips can go on, and there might be multiple people giving you advice about what you should and should not do, but the most important tip that we can give you is – have fun and get the most out of your vacation!
Now that you’re all set on tips, go and have the time of your life. You’re going to Mexico!