It’s always good to know a little Spanish if you plan to eat away from the beaten track! Bring a phrasebook along with you or download a language app on your smartphone so you won’t be confused by the menu. Staff at most restaurants do know some English, though, and are very eager to help you enjoy your dining experience!
Fruits and vegetables are always rinsed and disinfected before being prepared. This is standard practice in any tourist zone in the area, since the economy depends largely on tourism. Spicy chili peppers are found in many dishes, so be careful if your stomach is a little sensitive! Papaya seeds, horchata water, lime juice and tortillas are some local remedies that cut the heat!
Unlike restaurants in the US or Canada, a glass of water isn’t usually complementary with your meal, as restaurants here serve bottled water instead. The ice in your drink is also made from purified water.
Service can be slow in Mexico, especially outside Cancun’s Hotel Zone. Mexican culture values non-hurried meals with no pressure. So when you’re ready, you’ll have to ask for your bill (“la cuenta, por favor”), as it probably won’t be brought to until then!
Lunch is the biggest and heaviest meal for locals, and dinner/supper is usually served late (after 8pm). Typical American breakfasts with eggs, hash browns, hot cakes, etc., are hard to find at hole-in-the-wall restaurants, but plentiful on the strip.
A federal tax of 16% is incorporated into menu prices (called IVA). You probably won’t even notice it. A service charge for large parties (8 or more), may be added to your bill at some establishments, but if not, a standard tip for good service varies between 10 and 15%. Servers really appreciate your tips, whether in American or Mexican currency.
Transportation is not difficult in Cancun; although you’ll need time to get around, as it is a big city. Taxis and buses frequent the hotel zone at all hours and have standard rates. If you’re heading into the city from the hotel strip, it’s best to agree on a price with your cabbie before you get in. Or have your hotel concierge call you a taxi.
Some of the best vacation memories are created during meal times! Dig in and enjoy the feast of flavors that Mexico offers to you, no matter what your taste or budget may be!