GETTING AROUND PLAYA DEL CARMEN
There aren’t many things more frustrating than wanting to do something or go somewhere and being stuck, possibly because you don’t know how to get there, or simply don’t have the means! When you are vacationing in Playa del Carmen, that doesn’t have to be the case for you.
There are many ways to get around and see the city itself. Want to explore a little? It isn’t hard to tour around and enjoy many of the other sights and sounds in this beautiful Mexican state.
When visiting Mexico, the first concern for many travelers is safety. Regardless of where you live or travel, it’s important to be cautious and aware of your surroundings. With that being said, don’t let the “Debbie Downers” of the world scare you from visiting this part of Mexico. Playa del Carmen is a safe destination for tourists and it draws hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. English is widely spoken, and you can feel free and confident to venture out of your hotel and enjoy Playa!
Good Ol’ Fashioned Walking Power
Playa is quickly growing in population and sprawling out on both sides of the highway, but the real tourist hub is close to the water. 5th Avenue and its surrounding side streets are easily accessible by walking. In fact, most of 5th Ave is purely for pedestrians, though vehicles can cross it at a few intersections (ie: Constituyentes, 38th Street, and CTM). Very likely your hotel or vacation condo is located near 5th Ave.
In our modern age, we often feel lazy on vacation; but with a little effort and maybe a drop of sweat or two, you can easily make your way around much of the downtown core. There is no better way to enjoy Playa’s beauty than walking! Don’t miss the chance to amble around town at a leisurely pace…maybe first thing in the morning before it gets hot or in the early evening when the sea breezes cool things down.
You can always stop in at a friendly tienda (store) for a refreshing beverage. What’s the rush–you’re in Mexico!
Many of the condos and vacation rentals in Playa include bicycles for guests to use during their stay. If not, there are many locations where you can rent bikes. It’s an easy way to get yourself back and forth from the beach or grocery store or wherever you may need to go.
The city has provided several new bike paths so you can safely get around. The community of Playacar is encircled with a paved path that takes you past some beautiful scenery: Mayan ruins, groomed jungle, the golf course and more. Along much of 10th Ave the bike path continues along the east side of the roadway. Going north on 5th past CTM (also called calle 46), the pavement goes for miles and traffic is virtually nil. (Great for rollerblading or long-boarding too!)
TIP: Bicycles are discouraged on 5th Ave between Juarez and CTM. It’s purely for pedestrians!
If you get tired of walking, at any time you can use the other most popular form of transportation in Playa! Taxis are EVERYWHERE. The city cabs are all part of a union and are easily identifiable. In Playa they are white with a turquoise stripe; in Tulum white with a red stripe; in Puerto Morelos white with a gold stripe, and so on.
As a general rule of thumb, if you hail a cab it should cost you roughly $30 pesos to get you and your friends anywhere you want to go within the main part of town. If you jump in a cab that is sitting and waiting for a fare (at a taxi stand, called a sitio), the charge will be around $80 pesos. The fares are extremely reasonable in comparison with taxi fares in large cities in the United States.
Taxis will also transport you along the highway to your resort, to the airport, to eco-parks, beaches and other tourist destinations. If you choose to do this, it is best to agree on a fare before you get in the vehicle.
TIP: Taxis in Playa use a zone system to determine the fare. The base rate to enter Playacar community or to go to the other side of the highway, for example, starts at 80 pesos. If you feel you are being ripped off, ask to check the zone guide which is clipped to the visor in every taxi. Also, have small bills on you, as many cab drivers will not be able to break a 200 or 500 peso bill. American dollars (but not coins), are generally accepted also.
This is a good option if you really want to see more of the city, beyond 5th Ave. The shopping on 30th Ave is getting more popular with tourists lately, and a colectivo or bus is the perfect way to get around.
A colectivo is a van that is also a part of the Taxi Union with a route running up and down 30th Ave, Colosio, 115 Ave, and Juarez. Also known colloquially as “combis”, these are white with a turquoise stripe. The various stops are written on the windshield in shoe polish so you will know where you’re going. No matter where your stop is, the cost is always the same: 5 pesos. Children under 3 years of age ride for free.
The city bus (marked Tucsa), run similar routes as the colectivos but they are just larger and slower. They also cost 5 pesos and have the various stops written on the windshield as is the custom with public transportation here.
TIP: There are a few designated bus stops in town. But you can hail a bus or colectivo virtually anywhere along its route just by waving your arm. To disembark somewhere that isn’t a specified stop, just yell out to the driver you want off. (“Baja aquí, por favor” = getting off here please. Pronounced “BAH-ha a-KEY por fah-VOR”)
If you’ve been here several times before, or you just want to really scout out the area and get the most of your vacation, renting a car would be the simplest and most comfortable option. You can come and go at your leisure and in the comfort of your own air-conditioned vehicle. There are many rental companies to choose from; either by the airport or in Playa del Carmen itself.
You may be trepidatious to rent a car in Mexico because it’s unfamiliar territory, or you fear something going wrong and have visions of being in a Mexican prison. You need not fear such things!
Remember, this is a part of the world that is a huge draw to millions of travelers annually. There are many foreigners that own property and live here either year round or parts of the year. The local authorities are accustomed to many rentals being on the road, and the tourist police especially are willing to help in the case of any incidents.
Be aware though, that the driving is a bit chaotic at times! As long as you drive defensively, you will be just fine. Be aware that most streets are one-way in downtown Playa, and they yield to the avenues. At intersections, traffic is controlled one direction at a time, so you’ll never have to turn left into oncoming traffic. Often there are traffic police controlling intersections at rush hour to keep things moving smoothly.
It is easy to traverse the area beyond the city as well. There is one main highway [Federal Highway 307] that runs north and south along the peninsula coast. The road is well-maintained and well-marked with exits to popular beaches, parks, cenotes, and various other attractions.
TIP: Certain rental companies will make you buy Mexican insurance whereas others will not. Check their website before you book. This can mean significant savings.
Would you like to visit other parts of the region around Playa del Carmen? If you want to do a day trip or perhaps a few days away from town to explore the area, you’ll probably want to take the ADO. This is the primary luxury bus line in this part of Mexico.
There are two open-air bus stations in Playa del Carmen that will take you to many locations throughout Mexico. These buses are very nice and clean, as well as super comfortable. The other nice thing is they are very affordable. You can easily travel throughout the Yucatan or visit places such as Chichen Itza or Merida using the ADO bus line.
There are three ferry services between Playa del Carmen and the nearby island of Cozumel: UltraMar, Barcos Caribe, and Mexico Waterjets. If you are interested in visiting the island (perhaps to do a little scuba diving or snorkeling), you can easily grab a ticket and head over to Cozumel via a 30 minute ferry ride. Ferries run generally between 6am and 11pm daily.
Regardless of the method you may prefer, there are many ways to get around and visit as many of the wonders of Mexico that you choose! This is a stunning part of the world, so break out of your comfort zone and go explore!