Unlike Cancun, Playa has retained a warm, free-spirited charm despite massive growth. Buildings are restricted to three storeys, so although the city has sprawled out somewhat (especially across the highway), it has kept is quaintness.
English is widely spoken in downtown Playa. Some European languages are spoken as well, such as German, Italian, French and Dutch. A huge part of Playa’s appeal is its international flavor!
In the tourist zone (centering around 5th Ave), you’ll be able to use American currency as easily as Mexican pesos. Tipping is not customary in much of the country, but it is very much appreciated in this touristy city.
TIP: Avoid using stand-alone ATMs positioned on 5th Ave. They have exorbitant fees and may sometimes eat your card. Choose instead to use bank machines. There are several around the main bus depot, along Benito Juarez before it intersects 5th Ave, and along 10th Ave.
Tourist Police are visible and readily available to help, 24/7. Contrary to rumors, public drinking of alcohol is not permitted on the streets.
The majority of streets are one-way. Drivers traveling on streets must yield at intersections, as avenues have the right-of-way. If you venture past 5th Avenue as a pedestrian, be wary, as traffic laws here may differ greatly from your home country.
There are two bus stations in Playa. The most well-known [and oldest] depot is located on the corner of 5th Avenue and Benito Juarez. This is where you’ll be dropped off if you’re coming from Cancun or the Cancun Airport. The other station is located at the corner of Avenida 20 and Calle 12. Passengers wishing to travel to Belize, Chetumal, or other parts of interior Mexico must go to this station. Both are open-air buildings, with convenience stores, snack stands, pay-bathrooms and coffee shops.
TIP: When shopping on 5th Ave, you might find shopkeepers to be somewhat aggressive in vying for your dollars and your attention. Keeping a lighthearted, laid-back attitude is key to dealing with these guys. Don’t sweat it! Expect some haggling before you make a purchase (if you’re at a local shop with no marked prices).