Your Complete Travel Guide to Cancun

On this page, I am sharing the most useful Cancun travel tips and everything you need to know before traveling to Cancun.

It is packed with practical travel information on the most common places to visit in Cancun as well as off-the-beaten-path places to visit in the Yucatan peninsula.

With endless white-sand beaches, a turquoise sea, spectacular hotels, exciting nightlife, and amazing cuisine,  Cancun is the perfect destination for all sorts of vacations, and for any budget from family or friends reunions, to couples’ romantic getaways, and solo travelers and watersport lovers.

Cancun beach

And also those who prefer less touristic places and are keener on road trips, a couple of nights in Cancun will certainly make it a great start to a wonderful journey through Mexico.

A Cancun vacation won’t certainly disappoint you. Especially if you read this guide. 🙂

I have lived in Cancun for 9 years now and I have put together this epic guide to Cancun where I will share everything I know about this so-renowned destination, one of the most popular in the Mexican Caribbean.

Here I will give you all the practical tips that you need to know to make the best of your stay and organize your vacation in Cancun.


      


Cancun FAQ

Do and Don’ts in Cancun

DO NOT:

  • drink tap water
  • get drunk when you are out alone
  • stay all day in your hotel without visiting the surrounding
  • swim when the flag is red
  • pay in the US

DO:

  • Try the local restaurants
  • Go out and explore
  • rent a car or book a tour
  • hop on a bus and explore the real city
  • take a kayak tour on the lagoon
  • watch the sunrise on the sea
  • watch the sunset on the lagoon

How should I prepare for a trip to Cancun?

Read this guide 🙂

Is it safe to travel to Cancun in 2022?

Well, the short answer is yes, it’s safe to travel to Cancun. However, you still need to be aware of your surroundings and avoid getting into trouble. In my thorough guide like above, you can read how to do that and have a blast in Cancun.

Should I get Mexican Pesos?

Yes indeed, you should. It’s much cheaper to pay in pesos and you will avoid getting scammed.

What is the best month to visit Cancun?

Definitely, April and May because it’s low season and prices are lower but it’s not as hot as in summer and there is less risk of rain. You can read my complete guide to the best time to visit Cancun, for more detailed information.

Can you brush your teeth with tap water in Cancun?

Yes, you can, but it’s advisable to use a water bottle if you are particularly sensitive. However, you should not drink tap water in Cancun. You can find bottled water everywhere or water dispensers where you can fill your cute water bottle. Why risk getting a stomach bug?

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Can you drink tap water in Cancun?

No. Use bottled water or buy a water bottle to refill?

How Many days do you need in Cancun?

It really depends on what kind of vacation you are looking for. If you just want to relax on the beach in your hotel, 4 or 5 days are more than enough.

If you love to explore, 1 to 2 weeks, depending on how much time you have. There are so many things you can do in Cancun and the surrounding that you will never get bored, I promise.

In this Cancun Itinerary, you can find my top suggestions on how to spend 3 to 7 days in Cancun

Punta Lagoon Aerial view

CANCUN PRACTICAL INFORMATION

Currency in Cancun

Mexican Pesos 1 USD = 19 MXN (approx)

Where to exchange money in Cancun

Avoid exchanging your currency at the airport or in your hotel. The best place to do it is a bank or an exchange bureau. There are many commercial plazas in the Zona Hotelera.

Electric Socket in Cancun (and all of Mexico)

In Mexico, there are two associated plug types, types A and B. Plug type A is the plug that has two flat parallel pins and plug type B is the plug that has two flat parallel pins and a grounding pin. Mexico operates on a 127V supply voltage and 60Hz. 

Make sure to pack a universal travel adaptor so you can still use all your electronic devices.

Mexico Visa

You need to apply for a visa if your passport is from the country listed on this page. If your country is not on the list you can enter  Mexico with your valid passport and get a 3 to 6 months tourist permit. If you want to stay longer than 6 months you will need to go out and then go back in.

However if a few months ago it was very easy to do it now they are a little more strict on letting you back in such a short time. 

Working in Mexico is more complicated and you should put yourself in the hands of a good lawyer that can look after all the paperwork for you and spare you all the hustle and headaches.

If your intention is to move to and work in Mexico, you can check this interview with a lawyer for more detailed information.

Punta Cancun nichupte lagoon beach
Punta Cancun Nichupte’

Language Spoken in Cancun

The official language is Spanish, or better said, “Castellano”. Most people, especially those who work in tour activities and hotels will speak good English.

If you are like me and love to explore rural areas, there are chances that you will encounter people who don’t speak English at all. Worry not!

Mexican people are very hospitable and warm and with a smile and gestures you will be able to get along very well with locals and it’s the best way to get to know them.

Smiles and a fun game of charades is a great way to get to know the locals. In any case, it’s always good to know a few words.

In this post on safety in Mexicoyou will find some words and phrases to help you out.

Knowing a few words and having a basic understanding of the language is always helpful, especially in unwanted circumstances.

Do I need Travel Insurance in Mexico?

I have recently discovered also Safetywing as it’s been specifically recommended by different travel companies and professional travelers, especially for its user-friendly website and fast response.

Safetywing has many advantages, especially for nomads, one of which is being able to pay on a monthly basis and cancel at any time. 

You can check out their site as well and compare the two companies to choose what works best for you.

Cancun beach Chaac Mol
Cancun Beach

Is It Safe to Travel to Cancun

There is a lot to say about Cancun and safety. I cannot hide the dreadful episodes that have recently been in the news about Cancun.

They are certainly not encouraging people to travel here, and with a reason. However, you should know that tourists and travelers are not targets for an organized crime unless they are personally involved in drugs and related matters.

I would always use lots of common sense and a vigilant eye but wouldn’t let the facts prevent me from traveling.

I put together a very detailed guide on how Cancun safety which will offer great guidelines on being smart when you travel to Cancun.

The Best Time to Travel to Cancun

In Cancun you have 2 seasons, winter and summer, the climate is very similar, warm and sunny most of the time all year round. However, there are a couple of things to consider:

  •  Summers are much hotter and more humid
  • In August through October, you are more likely to find a rainy day and a better chance to see a hurricane
  • December through March is the high season for the milder temperature and lower humidity and less chance of rain
  • The above information cannot be 100% reliable because it can rain a lot in February and not one drop of rain in September

Having said that I wouldn’t really bother and I would travel in the season that is most convenient for you.

nichupte' lagoon cancun- cancun travel tips

How to get to Cancun

Cancun International Airport is one of the most important international hubs in Mexico with flights connecting from all over the world making it easy and much cheaper to travel to Cancun and the entire Yucatan Peninsula, including the Riviera Maya.

It’s very easy to find cheap flights to take you there, what’s tricky is coming out of the airport, which can become a hassle if you are not prepared. I wrote a detailed guide on all the steps you will go through.

It’s nothing to worry about but it’s better to know before you get there.

The above-linked post includes all the necessary tips to get through Cancun AIrport without stress, and includes the best way to get from Cancun airport to the hotel zone.

👉 Check out the best package deals on Expedia


How to Move Around Cancun

Moving around in Cancun is very simple. Here below I am going to list all your options.

Local Urban Buses in Cancun

Along the Hotel Zone, local buses run all day and night long, and you can’t go wrong.

At the cost of a few cents of a dollar, you can get from one side to the other of the Hotel Zone, useful to explore the beaches. Please bear in mind that every time you get off a bus, your ticket expires, and you will have to pay again if you get on another one, even right away.

It will happen if you want to go downtown, to Mercado 28 for example, some of the busses will take you straight from the hotel zone others will end their trip at the end of the Avenida Kukulcan and then you will need to change. Ask the driver for directions.

Taxi in Cancun

If you need to get to more remote areas, such as Isla Blanca or El Meco, for example, I would suggest you should get a car instead of a taxi, as they are insanely expensive, especially from the Hotel Zone.

However, you cannot call a taxi from somewhere else as they have control of the area and the hotels are bound to refer to them. Kind of insane, but it is what it is.

Also if you want to get a taxi from the airport it is not convenient at all and you should definitely organize your transportation ahead of time or get an ADO.

Uber didn’t survive in Cancun, because taxis would beat them away, literally and that tells a lot.

cancun beach

Car Rental in Cancun

You can rent a car, and you will find a lot of car rental agencies around, but you should be careful of the very low rates that are advertised but will inflate significantly when you need to add insurance and all the extras, which you will need. 

Unfortunately, your credit card insurance is not valid when you rent a car in Mexico. More on Driving in Mexico in this post.

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Also, I may be biased because I love driving and being independent, but I need to point out that driving in Cancun although it may feel overwhelming at the beginning, it will make your life easier once you get the hang of it.

You will not have to depend on taxis anymore or on tours. And you can just drive around wherever you want at your own pace and explore the spectacular surroundings.

From Cancun to anywhere by bus

If you wish to travel around Mexico from Cancun by bus, it’s super easy as Cancun is connected to the most important city and tourist locations in the Yucatan Peninsula and outside. 

At the ADO bus terminal, you will find buses anywhere including  Tulum, Valladolid, Merida, Playa del Carmen, and Chiquila’ (Holbox), Chicheniza, Uxmal. You can even get to San Cristobal de las Casas or Mexico city by bus. It is a little long way but certainly an experience.

Read also :
How to get from Cancun to Tulum and vice versa
How to get from Cancun to Playa del Carmen

cancun beach

Cancun International Airport: know before you go!

Although coming through Cancun International Airport should be less of a hassle now that they have waived the immigration forms and everybody should be guaranteed a 180 tourist visa, still can be confusing when you land, especially if it’s your first time in Cancun.

Once you pass immigration, remember to go and get your bags and then go through customs. After that, you will be walking along a corridor where you will be harassed by a group of well-dressed guys that want to talk you into buying a time-share property maybe even promising to take you to your place for free.

Please ignore them and look for your transfer. Ah! you didn’t book your transfer!? not good!

Enter my first advice! Buy your transfer to your hotel in advance so that you will save yourself the hassle of negotiating the rate with annoying and overcharging taxi drivers.

Where do you pre-book your transfer? Worry not! I’ve got you covered! If you need to go to Cancun Hotel Zone click on the related link and read my tips!

If you need to transfer from Cancun airport to Playa del carmen read this article instead.

And no, if you are wondering, there is no Uber in Cancun Airport.

What to pack for traveling to Cancun

I have written a complete guide on what to pack for your trip to Cancun. However, as a quick overview, a few of my must-bring items when you travel to Cancun are a travel water bottlesand-free beach blanket (you will get beach towels in your all-inclusive hotel, but it’s useful if you go visit other beaches, and you should), RFID travel wallet, a plug adaptor (if you are coming from US you won’t need it as the sockets are the same) and a good pair of travel sandals that are fancy and comfortable at the same time depending on the kind of trip you want to have.

Beach wear Ideas

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Things to do in Cancun

Although Cancun is mainly renowned for its spectacular beaches and the party life, there is a surprising amount of things to do in Cancun, some of with you might have never heard of.

👉 Check out Isla Blanca, and all the other spectacular beaches in Cancun

👉 Watch the sunset from Plaza La Isla and while you are there try one of the best restaurants in Cancun Thai restaurant, located on platforms over the Lagoon.

👉 Visit Isla Mujeres on a day trip on your own or on an organized tour.

👉 Check out the best cenotes near Cancun

👉 Make sure you wake up early one morning and watch the sunrise from the beach

👉 Go scuba diving in Cancun

👉 Visit Chichen Itza, one of the most incredible Mayan Ruins in Mexico.

👉 Get a day pass in one of Cancun luxury resorts and enjoy their comfortable facilities and delicious food. This is a great option if you choose to stay in Downtown Cancun and want to spend one day at the beach.

To learn more check out my full guide to The unmissable things to do in Cancun.

Boat anchored in Isla Mujeres
Isla Mujeres

TOP-RATED TOURS FROM CANCUN

Cancun offers a wealth of day tours to absolutely anywhere you want to go. If you like to plan ahead I would suggest you check out my Cancun itinerary which I have created based on a 3 to 7-day stay in Cancun where each day you have a plan.

Here below I am going to include the top-rated tours for your convenience.

Here I am including some of the top-rated tours from Cancun that you might want to consider. If you are traveling in a party of 3 or more or if you have the budget you can also consider booking a private tour for better comfort.

👉 Luxury Catamaran and Snorkel. Lunch & Open Bar Onboard and Visit to Isla Mujeres

Duration: 4 hours
Ratings:
1827 Reviews
Includes:

✔️ Half-day sailing adventure to Islas Mujeres
✔️snorkeling stop
✔️gourmet lunch on board
✔️ free time on the island of Isla Mujeres
✔️complimentary beverages on the way back to port.

👉 Book your Isla Mujeres Catamaran tour on VIATOR

Catamaran at sunset
Catamaran at Sunset

👉 Viator Exclusive Combo Tour: Tulum Ruins, Reef Snorkeling Plus Cenote and Caves

Duration: 8 hours
Ratings:
2501 Reviews
Includes:

✔️ Tulum Ruins
✔️ Snorkeling in the Caribbean Sea
✔️ Swimming in the crystal clear water of a cenote
✔️ Hotel pickup and drop-off
✔️ Local guide

👉 Book your Viator Exclusive Combo tour on VIATOR

👉 Chichen Itza, Cenote and Valladolid All-Inclusive Tour

Duration: 8 hours
Ratings:
8413 Reviews
Includes:

✔️ Chichen Itza guided tour (entrance fee not included)
✔️ Valladolid free time to visit the colonial city
✔️ swimming in a cenote
✔️ Hotel Pick up

👉 Book your Chichen Itza, Cenote and Valladolid All-Inclusive Tour on VIATOR

Festival and Celebrations in Cancun

 I don’t normally like to travel during celebrations period because crowds tend to freak me out. However, there are a few celebrations in Mexico that are really worth a visit even if you are like me.  

The most important is the day of the dead, celebrate all around the country in a very special way.

It’s a feast with special candies, colorful dresses, and makes up, and creative altars to welcome the already gone family members whose souls will return these days to pay a visit.

It looks like a Mexican Halloween, but although it falls on the same date and it might recall it, it has a totally different meaning, more spiritual I would say, and its own unique origin.

Unfortunately in Cancun, it’s not one of the best places to celebrate it. The city of Oaxaca or Patzcuaro is the most popular for its spectacular organization.

However, if you are in Cancun on the Riviera Maya, you might want to celebrate the day of the death in Xcaret an amusement park that for that occasion offers a remake of the ancient celebrations.  

cancun beach at night on cloudy sky - cancun weather on February

Nightlife in Cancun

I have to say it is not really my thing to go out at night as I am a morning person and I don’t drink, or very rarely I can have a glass of wine. But I thought  I would have added a few iconic places that I know about and are worth mentioning.

Hotel Zone Nightlife

COCO BONGO – talking about iconic places, this is one indeed. Their shows are incredible. They have different performances representing music celebrities of all times, such as Madonna, Freddy Mercury, Michel Jackson, and many more. For sure it’s worth going at least once. I love the music of the 80s as well. GET YOUR GOLDEN PASS HERE

MANDALA – I’ve never been there, to be honest. But I am just including the place for the sake of information because I know it is one of the top-ranked places to go. I would suggest that just a week before you check their page about their different nights and rates. They have different kinds of passes and rates. BOOK YOUR GOLDEN PASS HERE

Night tours in Cancun

🎊Jolly Roger Pirate Night Show and Dinner in Cancun 🎊

For party lovers to spend a few hours dancing the night away on the jolly roger pirate-themed boat.

This activity lasts about 3.3 hrs and includes dinner and an open bar while you cruise along the Cancun Coast.

🎊Cirque du Soleil® JOYÀ Admission Tickets 🎊

Experience world-class dining while watching the Cirque du Soleil® show ‘JOYÁ’ at the Vidanta Riviera Maya resort.

The show draws on the heritage and history of Mexico to weave the story, presented in an intimate dinner theatre in the jungle of the Riviera Maya for a very unique experience.

Down Town Nightlife

MORA MORA I have mentioned it in my post on the best restaurants in Cancun but I just found out they are also very active with night entertainment, Offering alternative music and a dance floor. They have different events and guests DJ playing.

On the other end, you also have the possibility to book daily tours that will take you to wherever you want to go but you will be “free” again at the end of the day.

This is the ideal solution if you really don’t feel like renting a car, or you have limited time and want to visit many places, and/or you wish to have a professional guide that gives you information on the area.


Where to eat in Cancun

In gastronomy, Cancun is second to none. Although there is not exactly a traditional regional cuisine here, you can find a variety of restaurants of all kinds and budgets.

From Yucatecan cuisine, or Mexican in general, to Thai, Indian, Peru, Italian, and much more. Fish and meat lovers and vegans alike will find their happy food place in Cancun.

In my 8 years in Cancun, I have tried quite a few places and I have collected my reviews in a thorough post, which is actually a guide to the restaurants in Cancun and it’s actualized with the newest restaurants


Where to stay in Cancun

 I am not sure how many resorts there are in Cancun but according to the official visitors’ bureau site, there are over 32,000 Cancun hotel rooms catering to everyone. From couples looking for a romantic luxury getaway to family all-inclusive resorts, from high-end to budget hostels. hotel to the downtown hotels for the budget traveler. 

It is indeed a destination for anyone. The only thing is you have to know where you are going.

Although I am not a big fan of all-inclusive, I need to give credit to the spectacular all-inclusive resort choice that we have in Cancun. I have selected my favorite brands for you in a separate post for you, while here below you can find my pick for each category.

The so-called hotel zone, right on the beautiful beach, is where you find the most upscale hotels, although they have now opened a couple of hostels as well, for budget-conscious travelers who want to enjoy the beach.

In downtown Cancun, far from the beach, you can find any sorts of accommodation from business hotels to hostels or apartments.

You can find the best deals on the booking.com site, where I also book my hotels.

I have written a thorough post on the best Airbnb in Cancun where I have selected the best apartment for location and design, and an article on the top Luxury Hotels in Cancun that I have personally visited (almost all of them). And lastly, you can check on my new site a selection of hotels for different budgets.

QUICK HOTEL TIPS – TOP CHOICE 

BEST LUXURY BEACH HOTEL IN CANCUN  – NIZUC Resort & Spa 
CANCUN BEST FAMILY RESORT –  HYATT ZIVA
TRENDIEST HOSTEL IN CANCUN IN 2019 – SELINA DOWNTOWN 
BEST ALL INCLUSIVE ADULT ONLY IN CANCUN –  HYATT ZILARA CANCUN
TOP LUXURY ALL-INCLUSIVE ADULT-ONLY
– LE BLANC SPA RESORT
BEST PARTY HOTEL IN CANCUN – HARD ROCK CANCUN