A colectivo is a form of transportation in Mexico that is generally geared towards moving the population around Mexico’s vast labyrinth of roads and highways. Quite often the colectivo is a mini-van.
In tourist zones such as the Mayan Riviera the colectivos are new vans with air-conditioning. Get out of the tourist zones and some of the vans are pretty reggae-muffin.
In some places they are called “combis”. In the Chiapas on many roads in Zapatista territory the colectivoes are blue pick-up trucks with a tarp on the back. The “old-style” colectivos are still in use in Chiapas, Campeche and Chetumal but not in the Mayan Riviera.
The colectivos runs from Cancun to Playa del Carmen then from Playa del Carmen to Tulum, and back, all-day, every day.
Ranges from $20 pesos – $34 pesos depending on distance.
Running Times: 24/7 every 15 minutes
Ranges from $20 pesos – $40 pesos depending on distance.
Running Times: 4:30AM – 11:30PM every 10 minutes
NOTE: The rate is fixed so if you only go 1 km you still pay the full fee.
You get the colectivo in downtown Cancun in the parking lot of “La Comercial Mexicana” on Tulum Ave.
La Comercial Mexicana is open daily from 8 AM to 10 PM.
You get the colectivo in Playa del Carmen at Calle 2 Norte between Av. 15 and 20. A five minute walk from 5th Av.
You can catch a colectivo anywhere on Hwy 307 from Cancun to Tulum.
If you stand on Hwy 307 just outside Playa you can also catch the colectivo there [or anywhere else on the highway see “On the Highway” below].
At the Colectivo Stand
You walk over and see the vans parked along the curb. Most of them will be running and you will wonder why they do not save gas and shut them off when the vans are idling, especially in that heat.
As you approach the vans a man, always a man, will ask you, “Tulum?” If you are going in that direction [south] then nod yes, and get in the van he points to. When the van is filled to capacity he will leave. Sometimes he will leave with seats open and immediately start to pick new passengers up on the highway or even before.
You can tell the driver where you are going BUT do NOT expect him to remember, so keep a sharp eye out for your stop and when you get to it just shout out anything. STOP will work. You then hand your 20 pesos to the driver before you get out of the van or you get out and he will also get out and close the door. You pay him then.
On the Highway
You stand on the edge of the highway. First you try to find a spot with shade. Then you wait. When a colectivo approaches he will flash his headlights if he has space in his van. If you want a ride wave your arm and he will stop. If the driver sees that you are a tourist he will probably stop anyway and pick you up.
Q: Can I take my dog on the colectivo?
A: No. But you can ask.
Q: Can you take luggage on a colectivo?
A: Yes, so long as you are not moving your house.
Q: Is there air-conditioning on the colectivo?
A: Yes, and it is usually on full-blast making it freezing.
Q: Are colectivos safe?
A: Along Hwy 307 the road conditions are good. The highway is relatively new and in good shape [but always under construction]. The highways are visibly marked and Mexican police monitors speed. The drivers are basically driving up and down a straight road at a moderate speed. Accidents are no more frequent than the public transit system in any city anywhere. Yes the colectivos are safe.
What to do if your colectivo gets a flat tire.
Do not assume:
– The van having a spare tire or tools.
– Any help being sent to change the wheel.
– Any help to get you into a new colectivo and on your way.
If you are in a colectivo that gets a flat tire [or breaks down] our experience has been that you are on your own.
Going South out of Playa del Carmen, the further from Playa you get the better it is for you in the advent of a colectivo problem. The reason for this is that the colectivos generally leave Playa packed with no room to pick any more passengers up until they start letting people off. If you are close to Playa the colectivos will drive by you not picking you up as they are full. Same with the taxis.
Don’t sit and wait in the van for help to arrive. It may, it may not. The probability is that eventually the matter will be sorted out. However if you are timing your return to your resort to catch the afternoon buffet or simply need to get back to your hotel at a certain time then you need to get going.
Exit the van and start waving down any taxi or colectivo. Take the first ride. Others on the colectivo will see what you have done and will proceed to try to get a ride. The more people the harder it gets.
NOTE: Highway 307 is relatively new and kept in great condition. We use colectivos without giving it a second thought. They are a reliable inexpensive way to get up and down 307.
If you are staying at a resort on the Mayan Riviera then you should realize that at certain times of the day there are shift changes for hotel employees and the colectivos can get quite crowded [especially around 5:00 pm]. So if you are at a resort close to Tulum and you want to go north then the more resorts that are between you and Tulum increases the number of other tourists and hotel employees getting a ride. This is the same if you are staying in Playacar or on the Riviera closer to Playa del Carmen and you want to go south.
What this means is that travel times can change depending on the time of the day but generally you never have to wait longer than 20 minutes for a seat on a colectivo.
Do not be surprised if a big Mayab bus stops for you. The line runs buses from Cancun to Tulum and the bus will stop for people at the side of the highway. The cost is the same as the colectivo. The bus stops at the 5th Ave. terminal in Playa del Carmen and turns around at the south end of Tulum.
There are also “no-name” busses that run up and down 307. These are old rickety busses generally in service to transport workers up and down the coast. Traveling on one of these busses can be an interesting experience. Cost is the same. They drop you off in Playa del Carmen, usually on the south-east side of town.
Also try to avoid a fight if there are a lot of people trying to get on a colectivo from the same hotel/resort. Be prepared for some extremely rude people, hopefully you will not encounter them but you may. What they will do is this… you will be sitting on the highway waiting for the colectivo, say, going north to Playa del Carmen. Other tourists will walk over and stand a little ways up the highway, closer to the colectivo so when it comes “they” jump on and you do not get a seat. We have seen this happen a few times to people.
Please try to avoid getting in the colectivo wet.
All in all…traveling by colectivo is fun, cheap, and safe.
The English version of the word appears to have two Ls; collectivo. This would be a slang version of the word as it does not appear in the English dictionary.