Cancun Travel Tips: A Helpful Guide To Exploring Cancun. Mexico

Cancun Travel Tips

Are you ‘wooed’ by the thought of travelling to Mexico for great food, friendly people and generally a great time? By all means get excited about your trip, but there are many aspects you need to check out, so here are some helpful tips for your vacation.

"Have Ticket Will Travel​"

If you plan to backpack or sleep under the stars, the only thing you need to consider is accommodation, but ‘have ticket will travel’ is a very popular way of traveling to Cancun.

Cheap Accommodation Scarce During Fiesta Times

But be careful, as economical accommodation in Cancun is scarce during fiesta times, so you would be best to book something before departure.

‘Package’ deals to Cancun including hotels and transfers are plentiful, so check out your options when considering this delightful Mexican town before booking anything.

cancun panorama

​Image Credit:  Ian C

Cancun is a tropical paradise with a large barrier reef ideal for snorkeling and underwater exploration. It has a vibrant nightlife, a huge amount of restaurants and bars and a glorious beach life.

There are so many things to pack into a two week vacation, you will probably need a holiday to recover when you get back! But there are things to be aware of before traveling to this idyllic destination.

Visas

As a US citizen, you do not require a visa, but you may need a tourist card. Regulations in Mexico are pretty relaxed, but also subject to change, so always check with the Mexican Tourist Board or any travel agent to find out current travel requirements.

It is advisable to have at least 6 months validity on your passport if you want to travel around Mexico once you have experienced the delights of Cancun.

Travel

cancun local buses

Image Credit: Ralph Peter Relman

There are economical flights available from the US to Cancun and every category of accommodation.

Once in Cancun, take advantage of the local bus transport – it is so much cheaper than taxi rides. It is amazing how far you can go for under USD1.00.

Take adavantage of the local bus transport - it is amazing how far you can for under $1

Bus drivers tend to be helpful, if you are not sure when to get off the bus for your chosen activity or shopping!

For longer trips from Cancun, the buses are notoriously slow, so make sure that you leave plenty of time if you are on a tight schedule.

For longer trips consider plane hopping

Even consider plane-hopping – internal flights are really not expensive.

Whatever you plan to do, always ‘double’ the time you think it is going to take – the residents of Cancun are laid back to say the least.

Money

The unit of currency is the peso, which is prone to fluctuation.

Always change enough to see you through the first couple of days in Cancun, until you find your bearings and can locate the nearest ATM’s or banks.

Be careful using ATMs

If you are using ‘the hole in the wall’, try to take someone with you – unfortunately there is a relatively high robbery rate, but don’t be deterred – overall Cancun is a delightful place to visit, it’s simply about awareness and being just a little cautious in order not to ruin your vacation.

Learn a bit of the language

The residents of Cancun are friendly and love to chat, particularly those in a working environment such as restaurants and bars.

Take the time to converse with locals - they are friendly and love to chat!

A few words here and there goes a long way to getting all the help you need and certainly, if you frequent the same places during your stay, you are likely to get some special treatment – free drinks and appetizers can often be on the cards, just because you have taken the time to converse.

Be prepared!

As it can be scorching hot in Cancun, you will need protection from the beating rays of the sun.

Take sunscreen with you – it is ridiculously expensive in town and is one of the things that you cannot do without.

Take sunscreen - it is ridiculously expensive in Town.

The heat of the sun is very apparent early in the day, so ‘slick up’ and avoid spending some miserable days as you have burned yourself to death!

If in doubt, put on a slightly damp t-shirt before venturing out into the sun and certainly cover up on the beach – you can burn in less than 30 minutes in the relentless sunshine.

Shopping

There is great shopping in Cancun. Also, if you are staying in self-catering accommodation there are many grocery stores and a large Walmart to hand.

There's a Walmart​

walmart in cancun

​Image Credit: Kirt Edblom

There are even special buses to Walmart that run regularly, and you can see the store name emblazoned on the front of the bus. It will take you almost to the door, you only need to cross the street.

In terms of leisure shopping, you are spoiled for choice with a myriad of shopping centers, malls and luxury complexes.

Cancun is a duty free zone​

Cancun is a duty free zone, so you can avail yourself of high quality liquor, perfumes, cigarettes and many other goods.

Some of the shopping complexes are ‘state of the art’ both in design and quality shopping, particularly for fashionistas.

Take a trip to the picturesque La Isla Shopping Village, a contemporary outlet ideally situated on the shores of the Nichupte Lagoon.

la isla shopping village

​Image Credit: PriceTravel pictures

Most of the shops are located outdoors in groups, which are divided up by pretty canals of water – more like Las Vegas!

With over 160 shops featuring famous international names, you will undoubtedly find just what you desire. A short list of featured shops - Zara, Coach, Lacoste, Benetton, Diesel, Nike, Nine West, Sunglass Island, iStore, Guess and Massimo Dutti, among others.

You can spend quite a while here as there are plenty of restaurants and cafes to eat and rest your feet.

Other excellent shopping malls are Plaza Kulkakan, Plaza Caracol (more traditional goods with an eclectic mix of international brands) and the fun Forum by the Sea, located over three floors right on the edge of the ocean.

Of course, a visit to Cancun would not be complete without a trip to the many traditional markets located in and around the town.

cancun market

​Image Credit: Kirt Edblom

Whilst not a traditional open air market, it is worth a visit to Market 28, with handicrafts, silver goods and much more – you just have to buy some Mexican silver!

Otherwise, there are many open air markets dotted around the town, most of which also provide delicious street food alongside hand made goods (don’t forget a sombrero!).

Whilst shopping, just be careful of the multitude of ‘hawkers’ that are at every tourist location. Fortunately, they are not threatening, and a polite ‘no gracias’ normally suffices to show that you are not interested, and they will leave you alone.

Things to do in Cancun

cancun beach

​Image Credit:  16:9clue

Cancun is paradise for sporty travelers and outdoor enthusiasts, with a raft of activities available throughout the city.

With 14 miles of beach there are plenty of opportunities to relax, but equally, watersports are high on the agenda for many visitors to this particular destination - whether that's snorkeling or scuba diving with sea turtles in the beautiful blue Caribbean sea, or something a little more tranquil such as catch-and-release sea fishing or sailing - there are a great many varieties of cruises available in Cancun.

If sightseeing is more your speed, then obviously the architectural marvel of Chichen Itza should be at the top of your list of landmarks to investigate.

chichen itza

Image Credit: Paul Simpson

This is location is a little out of the way though, so if you're willing to exchange wow factor for convenience head to the hotel district for the ruins of El Rey - home to a sizable population of wild iguanas that will be more than happy to pose for a photo.

el rey ruins

​Image Credit: David Stanley

If you're traveling with kids in tow that are demanding entertainment, there's no need to get snappy; they'll delight in visiting nearby Puerto Morelos for the Croco Cun Zoo, a crocodile-centric conservation site and petting zoo (it's safer than it sounds!), or the Cancun interactive aquarium that's found in the La Isla Shopping Mall - here you'll be invited to swim with dolphins, and even feed sharks.

croco cun zoo

Alternatively, slip on those swimsuits and head to the Ventura Adventure Park. Formerly named Wet 'n Wild, this destination is packed with water slides as well as dry amusements such as Go Karting and rollercoasters.

Things To Avoid and Potential Dangers

  • When walking out, pedestrians do not have the right of way - cars and vehicles take priority!
  • When shopping, if you are given a paper piece of currency that is torn, refuse to accept. They have no value in Mexico.
  • Beware of "timeshare-sellers" - they are everywhere!
  • Like any other major town or city throughout the world, don't travel alone at night and stick with at least one other person or a group.
  • Avoid tap water where possible. Good hotels do filter their water but they don't have the same efficient filtration mechanism as the US. Buy bottled water every time, although it is not cheap.
  • Don't think you can just wander onto any beach - the higher grade hotels are very strict about non-residents using their beachfront. You are likely to be marched off and in some cases fined by rather intimidating security guards!
  • Avoid using public phones, they are extortionately expensive. Try to take your mobile and make sure your provider is not charging you a roaming fee.
  • Dollars are accepted in most places, just beware of using your credit card where possible - theft is a risk.
  • Tipping - if using a taxi, make sure you get the cost up front - otherwise the drivers make it up when you reach your destination! However, they do not expect to be tipped. Bars and restaurants do expect gratuities.

Have a great time in Cancun, and enjoy the best of Mexican hospitality, just by following these few recommended tips. Have fun and make it a worry-free and memorable vacation.

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