You are all excited about your vacation in the “oh so famous!” Cancun, or the Riviera Maya, the entire region is a jewel, all ready for you to discover.
But first, you need to pass through the Cancun airport, which, if you don’t know what to expect can be quite a trip in itself!
It looks like the authorities decided that you have to earn your vacation in some way and have thought about creating this kind of a riddle for you to resolve before getting out of the airport!
Worry not! because in this post I will guide you through every step that you will encounter when you arrive at Cancun airport so that your experience will be smooth and easy.
I have also created a great guide on what to pack for Mexico if you wish. 🙂
PRE-DEPARTURE CHECK LIST
First thing first, let’s go quickly through a checklist of the things you have to do before getting to Cancun
- Check if your passport is expired or will be expiring soon. It needs to have the validity of a minimum of 6 months from the day you depart. In case your realize last minute that your passport has expired, check out this site to see if you qualify for an emergency passport.
- In planes or at the airport it can be cold, so bring something warm to cover up, like a sweater or a pareo.
- Make sure you know your airline baggage policy so that you don’ t risk to be charged for extra weight at the airport.
- Bring your prescription medicine and the prescription itself, just in case you are asked at immigration in Mexico.
- Take some small cash
- Get a photocopy of your passport to carry around
- Bring a tablet or ebook to keep you entertained on the flight
- Remember headphones. Your neighbor is probably not interested.
- Double-check on the TSA web site what’s approved or not in order to avoid tedious lines or worse
On this thorough guide on What to pack for Mexico I am explaining all about the above it in detail and much more. I promise you will love my outfit suggestions.
OK, now that we know everything we should take to Mexico we jump on our flight and we can’t wait to get to Cancun. The beach the archeological sites, the Mexican food, and what not are waiting for you…but there is one more step Cancun Airport!
Here is what happens when you arrive at Cancun Airport.
FILLING OUT THE FORMS ON THE PLANE
On the plane they will give you two forms, one is this one in the below picture. Mind that in this picture you see 2 forms, but it’s actually a long one.
You will need to fill out the parts that I have highlighted in red. They have the same information but it’s important to fill them both out for a reason.
Once you pass through immigration, they will keep the first part and leave you the second. VERY IMPORTANT: you must keep the remaining form in your passport, or wherever it’s safe, for when you leave. Otherwise, you will have to pay a fine to get a new one, not to mention the tedious lines at immigration and all those annoying procedures.
Here is the other form for customs
Please note the forms are just samples, you cannot download and use them. They will give you the original to fill out.
TWO IMPORTANT THINGS TO REMEMBER
- Fill all the forms on the plane before landing otherwise you will need to let those with the completed form pass and you will have a long wait on the line at immigration, and trust me, sometimes is never-ending.
- Keep passport and forms handy so when it’s your turn you show them to the immigration officer and they’ll do the rest.
HOW TO GO THROUGH CUSTOMS AT CANCUN AIRPORT
You have gone through immigration and saved somewhere safe in the second part of the immigration form.
Now it’s time to collect your checked bags.
You can grab one of those carts to carry your bags, but you cannot take them out of the airport.
Once you have collected your checked bags it’s time to play “red or green”.. just kidding. I need to prepare you with this one because it can seem the weirdest thing on earth. And yet it’s real.
There are 1 to 3 lines at customs, where a smiling agent will be waiting for you at a sort of stand with a big red bottom. You are invited to press the bottom which is connected to a green and a red light on top of it.
If after you press the bottom, the green light turns on you are free! you can now exit the airport.
If the red light will turn on, you will be inspected, meaning that you are asked to open all your bags on a table so that the agents will check all your belongings.
I really hate it. Not that I have anything to hide, but I just feel somebody just broke into my home or something like that.
Even worse when I travel with my backpack and they ask me to pull everything out.
It takes forever to put everything back.
There have been several cases, also reported in the comments where officers with unethical and abusive behavior. The best way to avoid it is by not giving them any reasons to do so. Therefore, read the example form I am sharing with you here and follow the rules and you’ll be just fine.
You haven’t left the airport yet. You will need to go through another test!
You thought it was that easy, uh!
In this area, it’s like purgatory, the last step before paradise.
Don’t get tempted to change your US in the money exchange office that you find there. They have ridiculous exchange rates, and anywhere else will give you a better deal.
Then you will see some guys dressed in beige, don’t even bother chatting with them. They approach you with the intention to help you and will try to sell you a timeshare apartment. Waste of time.
Just proceed to the exit to find your transfer to your hotel. (see #6)
HOW TO GET TO YOUR HOTEL FROM CANCUN AIRPORT
You have 3 options here:
Transfer from Cancun Airport By ADO bus
It’s quite convenient, as the busses are comfortable and with A/C.
Prices: Cancun airport to Cancun town 5 USD – Cancun airport to Playa del Carmen 10 USD – Cancun airport to Tulum 13 USD approx.
You can check the schedule on their site.
Now, if you are staying in one of the hotels in the Hotel Zone, this is not recommended to get the bus, because the bus will take you to Down Town and from there you will need a taxi. You will waste a lot of time and save a little money. I would rather go for option 2.
Pre-book a transfer from Cancun Airport to your hotel
You can book your transfer with an authorized company or with the same hotel where you are staying. Some of them offer the service.
There are two options, shared transfer and private.
With the share transfer, you might need to wait longer if your hotel happens to be the last in the bus itinerary, depending on where other passengers go.
But you will be in any case on a comfortable seat that will take you straight to your hotel without having to change transport
This company that I am partnering with charge only 10 USD for a shared shuttle, while this private transfer in SUV cost 79 USD at the time I checked. This is just to give you a couple of examples. But there are many companies that offer the service.
If you purchase a transfer, you need to pay attention to the signs when you exit the airport, right after the automatic doors you will need to have your voucher in your hand and look for the service provider name and/ or your name on one of those signs.
In case you don’t find it just ask one of the other companies’ representatives. They all know each other and will help you.
Another option is just to get a taxi. There is a taxi company right after you come out of customs. I believe they charge around 50 USD to any of the hotels in Cancun, probably double to Playa and around 150 to Tulum, but this is an approx rate. Remember to ask before boarding.
- CAR RENTAL
- At the airport, you can also find many different car rentals that you can book in advance if you planned to drive around the Yucatan peninsula. That’s actually my favorite option because you have the freedom to move around and find the best places where local busses won’t go.
If renting a car is your choice you should read these two posts first. They will be very helpful:
WELCOME TO CANCUN!
Now it’s time to have fun! Click on this link on the complete Cancun guide to know more information about the city and surroundings. I have written tons of posts to help you have a blast!!