CANCUN INFO & TIPS

MEXICAN MONEY

Mexican MoneyDo not accept torn or damaged pesos bills. Mexican currency that is damaged in any way will not be accepted by any merchants. You will have to go to a bank to get it exchanged which is a real pain. As a general rule, if somebody offers you a damaged bill, refuse to accept it.

ATM machines are all over Cancun hotel zone and there are a few in the downtown area of Cancun. It is safest to use ATMs in banks rather than free-standing machines in order to avoid scammers (the transaction fees are also lower in the banks).

ATMs dispense pesos and receipts are in pesos. There are a few that may offer the option of US Dollars, but these are rare and often have higher fees.
If you plan to explore Cancun beyond the Hotel Zone, it is advisable to carry lots of small bills and change because local merchants rarely have change. (Don’t count on the little pottery shop or market to break your 500 peso bill! This isn’t a concern at the high-end shopping malls and stores, however.)

For more information see: Mexican Money

WATER AND ICE

You can purchase bottled water everywhere you go in the Yucatan (except on some of the long, barren stretches of highway). Any road to any attraction, park, or ruin site will have plenty of stores along the way–especially OXXO, Mexico’s favorite convenience store.

Every resort typically uses a water purifier, but you are still safer not to drink that water. Rule of thumb: if you’re only staying for a short period, you can find bottled water everywhere, so drink that. Your hotel tap water is fine for taking showers and for brushing your teeth if you wish, but drink only bottled water everywhere you go. Almost every resort and hotel offers 1 or 2 bottles of water per room per day. If not, you can purchase it in the resort/hotel store or at a nearby store.

Yes, the ice in your drink is safe. The ice that is provided to restaurants, bars and convenience stores is produced in ice factories using purified water. Hotels and restaurants that use ice machines also use purified water. Even the local guys downtown selling home-made popsicles use purified water! Bottled water is standard in the region, both for locals and tourists alike.

WATER TEMPERATURE

In the ocean: approximately 80-82 F (April – November), approximately 78-79 F (December – March).

The majority of swimming pools in Cancun and the Mayan Riviera are not heated. We do not know why because from late December to February pool water
temperature can be cold and EVERYBODY complains about this!

In the summer months at certain locations, the opposite is true. The pools turn into bath tubs; not refreshingly cool at all! You may want to make an inquiry where you’re staying.

TIPPING

The same general rules for tipping in the US or Canada apply in Mexico. You don’t need to overthink it, just tip as you normally would back home. The average tip for servers is between 10% to 15%; depending on the service.

In All-Inclusive hotel/resorts, rooms are actually assigned to staff, thus you will probably have the same housekeeper for your entire stay except for their day off. You can either tip every day or at the end of your stay. If you bring gifts, then you can leave a present on the bed every day and a cash tip on the last day. You can either leave your tip on a table or hand it directly to the person.

Tipping rates for housekeeping staff:

  • 1 day stay: $5.00 USD
  • 2 – 4 day stay: $2.00 USD per day
  • 1 week stay: $20.00 USD
Restaurant staff tends to be assigned tables or sections but are moved around a lot so you may have the same delightful waiter for two days then you never see him again. Tip according to the service they provide.

Bellboys and skycaps at the airport can expect anywhere from $.50 to $1.00 U.S. per bag.

For more information see: Taking Gifts And Tipping

SALES TAX

There is a value-added tax of 16%. The tax applies to the purchase of most items and is paid by residents and visitors alike. Often this tax is included in the total cost of restaurant bills, store purchases, and tours, so you probably won’t even notice it.

ELECTRICITY

Standard electrical service in Mexico is 110 volts [same as USA & Canada]. Hotels usually offer voltage converters for 220 volt devices. Some electrical sockets do not accept three-prong or polarized plugs. It is recommended that you bring your own adapter [you can often buy them in the hotel store].

TIME ZONE

Cancun is located at: Longitude, West 86.8475° Latitude, North 21.1606°

On February 1, 2015, Cancun and the rest of the state of Quinta Roo, which is home to Playa del Carmen and Cozumel, switched from Central Standard Time to Eastern Standard Time in the US. One notable difference–Quintana Roo does not change for daylight savings.

The reasoning was that it would make for longer days of sunshine, which would help with tourism. Also, being on the same time with major feeder markets like New York, Atlanta, and Miami could also improve airline connectivity.

PHONE CALLS

Phone calls from hotels can be very expensive due to Mexican taxes and surcharges. Before you call, make sure you know exactly what the cost per minute is.

The country code for Mexico is 52. The area code for Cancun is 998 and all phone numbers in Cancun are 7 digits. So, if you are calling Cancun from the United States or Canada you would dial: 011 [International code] 52 [country code] 998 [area code] and the 7 digit phone number.

From Cancun calling the U.S. or Canada, dial 001 + area code + local number.

CELL PHONES

All of the major carriers will allow your cell phone to work, but international roaming rates will most likely apply. And it isn’t cheap! These days, your provider will often notify you of SMS and outgoing call rates when you arrive in the country. If you don’t know the fees associated, definitely find out before making any lengthy calls. If you know you’ll be needing to use your phone on your trip, it is a good idea to check on an international plan before you take off.

When calling out from Mexico, you must dial 001, area code, then phone number, or you may not get a connection to the number you are calling.

ADDRESSES

You really start to notice you are in a developing country when you are trying to find an address! This can be very problematic, so your best option is to get a street name and specific land marks. The way the addresses work in Mexico are SM (Super Manzana) meaning basically a neighborhood or cluster of blocks, MZ (Manzana) meaning block, Lote (Lot) meaning house number, and Calle (street) or Avenida (avenue).

INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT

Cancun AirportThe airport is pretty straight forward to navigate, but is almost always undergoing some renovations and expansion. There are 3 terminals at the Cancun International Airport. Terminal 1 is for domestic flights, Terminal 2 takes care of Canadian and European airlines, and Terminal 3 is generally all American based flights.

Once you clear immigration and customs, you will be great by MANY taxi and shuttle services eager to get your business. Hopefully you’ve already arranged your transportation and then all you need to do is to look for your name being held up on a sign.

No hotel shuttle for you? Don’t worry, there are plenty of transportation options. Comfortable and air-conditioned, the ADO bus line will take you to a hub in most major cities (Cancun, Puerto Morelos, Playa del Carmen, Tulum and Chetumal, with stops at smaller towns in between). This is a great option if you arrive during daylight hours (the buses run until about 11pm).

There are also shuttle vans and taxies available at all hours, for a bit more money per person. The drivers generally have a rate but are open to some negotiating and appreciate your tips.

For more information see: Cancun Airport

BABY FOOD

Baby food and formula is sold in Cancun supermarkets and convenience stores. However, they may not carry your baby’s particular brand. Also, baby foods found in the area tend to be “fruit”.

DIVING

It’s an understatement to say that there are lots of dive shops, dive tour operators and hyperbaric chambers in Cancun and Playa del Carmen! Diving is one of the best-loved local sports!

On the Cancun coast, there are three 1940 Navy shipwrecks at a depth of about 85-90 feet; available to advanced open-water divers. Nearby Isla Mujeres is encircled by some impressive reef, for divers and snorkelers alike. The Underwater Museum in Cancun has nearly 500 submerged statues and is very unique! The healthiest reef around is probably in Puerto Morelos or Cozumel. Divers of all levels will love exploring here!

INTERNET CAFES

Most, if not all, 4-5 star hotels/resorts have an Internet room which is a room of computers with Internet access. You may want to check and make sure your hotel or resort has wifi included or you may be surprised on your arrival to find them charging a lot for internet use.

In Cancun you can find dozens of Internet Cafes. Wherever your hotel or hostel is located, there will be at least one Internet Cafe within a short walk. All you have to do is ask somebody at the front desk of your hotel or hostel.

Prices can change dramatically from one cyber cafe to another. There are also Internet Laundromats, Internet Delis, Internet Pool-Halls and many small hotels and even hostels have a single computer with Internet access now. Several parks and other public areas offer free wifi for Infinitum Movil cell users as well.

MILK

Skim, 1%, 2% and homogenized milk is available. Most of which is available comes in smaller cardboard boxes that are NOT in refrigerated off the shelf. These are fine to consume and do require refrigeration after opening.

CIGARETTES

Cancun stocks some American brands [Marlboro and Camels], but not many Canadian cigarette brands. OXXO convenience stores offer a wide variety of brands.

A good Mexican brand is Montana White or Montana Red. In fact you may prefer these. You can’t buy Montana cigarettes at Duty Free but you can buy cartons in the Charter Airport upstairs at a store in the food court.

You can buy American cigarettes and some Canadian brands [ie: Players] at Duty Free in any of Cancun’s airport terminals.

CUBIN CIGARS

Cancun Cigar RollerCancun has a large variety of cigars–Cubans and beyond. If any get brought back to the US, *currently* they will be taken by US customs if found. (This may change in the near future with the U.S. / Cuba relationship)

For Canadians, you can bring back 50 cigars BUT you must have a sales receipt for boxes of 25. No receipt is necessary for boxes containing 23 cigars or less.

Cuban cigar boxes now come with holograms for added security however “in Cuba” the black-market guys are providing authentic looking counterfeit boxes with holograms as well as fake sales receipts.

For more information see: Cigars & Tequila In Mexico

BOAT AND FERRY TO ISLA MUJERES

The passenger ferry for Isla Mujeres departs from Puerto Juarez every thirty minutes between the hours of 5am and 9:30pm. There’s also a ferry at 10:30pm and 11:30pm. (An extra ferry departs at 12:30am on Saturdays and Sundays.)

The adult fare is currently $78 MXN one way and $146 MXN round trip (that’s roughly $4 and $8 USD with the current exchange rate). A child’s fare is $46 MXN and $84 MXN respectively.

To get to the ferry terminal, take a taxi or a bus marked “Ruta 13” heading north from the stop on Tulum Avenue, opposite the bus station (about a 20-minute ride).

The car ferry ($13 USD per car, plus $2 per passenger), leaves from Punta Sam, which is a few kilometers north of Puerto Juarez. There are five departures daily between 8am and 8:15pm. The last ferry back from Isla Mujeres is at 7:15pm.

UltraMar also has 3 other ferries servicing the Hotel Zone that will transport you to the island. Fares are currently $14 USD one way and $19 USD round trip for adults and $8 USD and $12 USD respectively for children.

For more information on Isla Mujeres see: Isla Mujeres Travel Information

DRINKING AGE

The legal drinking age in Cancun is 18.