Whether you are traveling to Cancun during the pandemic or for a honey moon, its easy to get overwhelmed when trying to plan a trip to a foreign country. Mexico may be attached to the US but I can assure you it is very different in every way.
Cancun is actually one of our favorite places to visit, not only because of the warm weather and beautiful waters but because there is so much to learn and explore.
The ocean is almost bath water warm in Cancun and most of the locals are very nice and very hard working. The Mexican heritage is still strong and the Mayan culture is still alive. We truly love most things about this area, but we have some tips that we’d like to share with you so you can avoid some confusion, and be less surprised by the way things work in Mexico.
We have put together a quick list of things to avoid, look out for, enjoy and be aware of so that you can simply sit back and have the vacation of your dreams.
If You Have A Layover In Mexico City
One thing to be aware of in the Mexico City airport is no one there speaks English, the signage is in Spanish. Everything is worded very weird, if you ask for directions, you may not get an answer. I would like to say its an easy airport to navigate but its not. If you can avoid flying into this airport, I would.
The Cancun airport is pretty easy to navigate and is fairly small. Don’t feel bad if the attendants going through customs aren’t very friendly. Its not their job to be friendly.
Locals usually speak English pretty well, it wasn’t hard to find someone that spoke English fluently.
In the event that your luggage does get lost, find someone with in the airport and they will eventually track it down and send it to your resort. For us, it took 3 days. If this happens don’t worry, try to relax there is absolutely nothing you can do. Go to Walmart and purchase what you need to get by. Keep all your receipts and call the airline that you flew with to report the issue. They may reimburse you for the cost of your belongings that you had to repurchase. Try not to let this set back determine how your vacation is going to go!
If You Are Renting A Car:
Don’t EVER leave your car unattended at the gas pump while you run into the gas station. Why? Because every gas station has an attendant and they will NOT clear the pump and take it back to zero pesos which make it look like you have pumped more gas than you really have. Thus stealing your money.
Rental cars show as much cheaper online. Most of them are $10 and under, this does not include insurance. So be prepared the price to go up to anywhere between $35-$45 a day when you sign the paper work at the rental company.
You can get away with the cheapest rental car, we did on our first trip but it only went about 55 mph without guzzling gas and the defrost didn’t work. The humidity in Mexico is terrible, so you will most likely use the defrost every day. Also the AC wasn’t that great.
Almost all car rentals are a stick, enjoy it or pay more for an automatic.
If you are driving yourself around Mexico, there are a couple of things that are different.
The drivers there do not care.
There are really no rules, go fast, go slow… Turn where you want, its all good.
There are street performers that perform at the intersections of the freeway.
The freeway has intersections with lights, be prepared.
Locals will try to sell you something, most likely small trinkets while you are stopped at the light.
If you see car emergency lights up a head, its most likely not a car accident but a police check point or a speed bump/TOPOS. If you see a sign saying TOPOS, get ready to slow down because some of those are pretty bad.
Police do not really monitor the freeway, they have more important things to do. Hence the no rules.
Do not rely on your GPS, most of the time it works but there will be some areas where you have no cell service or the road you need to be on is actually under the road you are currently on.
Speed limits and stop signs are really just guidelines.
Keep your gas tank full.
Learn what the road signs mean before you go. We got stuck in a parking garage because we could read the word EXIT is Spanish to get out!
Always pay attention to how far you are driving and where there are bigger cities to stop for gas.
Some gas stations only take cash, or if you are in a remote area their card machines don’t work very well.
Most gas station and grocery store employees will show you the price of the items because they understand you most likely don’t speak Spanish. I would learn some common numbers before you go down as well.
If you plan on renting a car, I urge to explore Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula to the fullest. Stop in other cities, travel to islands or go see the Mayan ruins.
Down town Cancun
This area is a dump, like seriously but don’t be scared. Everyone we met was really nice and if you end up in a situation like we did with our luggage getting lost, you may need to venture into town.
Down town Cancun has a mall and a Walmart just in case you need it. We took a trip to Walmart to purchase snorkeling gear, sun block and of course the necessities that we were left without for several days while our luggage was located.
If you are looking to purchase food from the store, Walmart will be your best friend. Not only will buying your own snacks save you money but it also will save you a lot of time trying to find some where to eat for lunch. If you have a room with a fridge, this is very convenient!
You wont find very much fast food in the resort area, there is a McDonalds but I wouldn’t recommend going through the drive through as they don’t speak English. I feel like if we went inside we could at least point to what we wanted. Keep in mind, we know very little Spanish.
We found a lot of good restaurants in the down town resort zone area. I would stay away from the resort restaurants as much as possible. I feel like most of them taste like all inclusive or cruise food. The quality just isn’t there.
We found a couple of really good taco places that were amazing and one really nice sit down restaurant.
This one was extremely expensive but it was really good. The only thing I didn’t like was the lobster. Apparently warm water lobster is not as as good as cold water lobster.
I would also steer clear of eating steak at the resorts, they don’t get that great of cuts and its really just not worth the money.
If you end up at a taco stand or something to that effect, don’t use the condiments. Mainly because they have a tendency to not refrigerate theme! I got sick from a sauce that was really good at the time, it was a siracha and maybe mayo sauce that they pulled out of a cooler. BIG MISTAKE! I took me only a day to recover, but just be aware!
Some restaurants are located in the front of their homes with lawn chairs. Don’t be afraid to stop into these some areas and support the locals. The food is delicious and home made. However, some areas again can be hard to order food and communicate because a lot of the locals do not speak English. You can usually point to the menu to show them what you want. Also, they might only take cash.
I cant really touch on this too much because we opted to stay in most nights or just went out to grab something to eat. There are a ton of fun night time stuff you can do if you are an adult but not so much if you just aren’t really a partier in a foreign country. When in doubt just stay at the resort.
We instead enjoyed dinner, walking the beaches at night and have wine while listening to the waves crash.
Our first time down, we were able to assist with rounding up baby sea turtles and helping them find their way to the ocean. There were also fun little sand crabs that came out at night that were interesting to watch.
We mostly walked the beach looking for sea shells to add to our collection. Night time on the beach is stunning with the waves crashing and just the resort lights. If you happen to be there during a thunderstorm, they are really fun to watch over the sea.
You may be offered drugs and keep in mind that their alcohol is very different from the US. It is much stronger and some are not even legal.
It rains…. A lot
And when I say a lot, I mean like every day or every other day. Don’t let the rain stop you from having fun because it usually goes just as fast as it came. Its also warm rain, but can turn into a seriously down pour very quickly. Pack some rain coats from when you are out exploring, and I do recommend you explore Cancun, its surrounding cities and the ruins. Mexico has a lot to offer, its beautiful beaches are only the tip of the ice berg.
Read the reviews carefully. If you see one that says it doubles as a time share I wouldn’t recommend staying there unless you like Pablo the water aerobics instructor waking you up every morning .
Also, if you are traveling with children i would recommend staying somewhere were children stay free. Or have them wait in the car with your spouse until after check in. We didn’t pay attention to this our last trip down and it ended up costing us an extra $50.00 a night. We could have stayed at a nicer resort where the kids stayed free had I paid attention
There are small shopping areas throughout the down town resort area. These places are great to haggle prices on. The only places you cant haggle with them are the shops that are indoor and look like souvenir shops, you’ll know them when you see them!
Something you will hear from everyone
These are handmade
One of a kind
For you my friend
21 pesos, or for just today $1.00 American
You smoke? Want anything stronger?
Excursions and Tours
You can buy your excursions or tours at the resort or from a vender there locally. However, they tend to be a huge rip off. We took a snorkeling tour while we were in Tulum and it was $40.00 a person for a 30 minute trip to the reef to use snorkeling gear from a cooler with dish soap and water. They basically handed you your gear and told you to jump out to explore the reef. Not much of a tour! We did however get some photos of the temple from the back side.
I would recommend doing some research and buy before you go, it will be cheaper and you’ll get to read reviews to see if its a good company and what to expect.
What to keep in mind everywhere you go
Don’t drink the water unless it is bottled and the seal hasn’t been broken
Ice is also a no go
Jewelry is almost always fake
Their Coke Cola is amazing, so much better than in the US
The chocolate in Mexico is different, we love it!
Their donuts and pastries from the gas station are a must
Again, you may be offered drugs even with your kids right next to you. Just politely decline and walk away.
Some folks can speak English but they don’t really understand it, try not to get frustrated
Take pesos with you to buy souvenirs and gas
Learn some common numbers and saying before you go. Most of the locals will help you pronounce things correct and in the resort zone, are super friendly.
Remember to not trust anyone, everyone are again very nice but when it comes to money they wont hesitate to rip you off.
The best thing about the Cancun area is it can be what ever you want it to be. A family vacation, a romantic get away, party central a work retreat. What ever you want, they have. You can stay in extravagant hotels, cheap motels, apartments or homes it has it all. Decide what kind of trip you want and go for it!