YUCATAN FAQ

These FAQ are geared towards the vacationer and quickly answers many questions. Links to more in-depth information also accompany some answers. This list is always growing based on questions we receive.

There is good shopping in Playa del Carmen, Cozumel, Tulum ruins and Tulum Pueblo.

Chitzen Itza is definitely the Mayan ruin site to visit if you are only going to visit one site during your stay.

All-inclusive means that you have already pre-paid all expenses including gratuities. However, if a maid, bartender, waiter, etc. goes out of their way to do something special for you, than yes, a tip should be given.

However…

If people insist upon routinely tipping, than why not offer to pay again for your meals, room, drinks, transfers, etc.? That wouldn’t make any sense either because you’ve already pre-paid those expenses.

In the majority of restaurants tips are shared between the entire staff. If you feel that you have received exceptional service from somebody then you can palm him or her a tip.

However…

The waiter cannot provide the great service without the help of a great team behind the scenes….. Shared tipping is common practice at many restaurants everywhere.

How much you tip is up to you. You can set a standard like this if you wish:

One dollar per person in your group (i.e. 3 people eating at the buffet = $3 tip, 2 people drinking at a bar = $2 tip).
One dollar per day per person for the maid. Five – twenty dollars on last day if service is exceptional.
One – five dollars for the taxi driver.
Five dollars for a tour operator/guide.
Pesos or US dollars are the currency used.

DO NOT TIP WITH RIPPED OR TORN PESOS!

The general consensus among travelers is that vacationers generally buy travels insurance while backpackers do not.

When you should have travel insurance:

During hurricane season.
Traveling with children or elderly.
If you have a close sick relative.
Reasons to have travel insurance:

If the price lowers you can get a refund [on some plans*].
Trip assurance.
Unexpected disasters.
Reimbursements for medical costs.
Peace of mind.
Some credit cards offer travel insurance for a nominal fee that can cover you up to a year and some cards cover any person’s trip if it is purchased on the card.

*Some insurance plans will reimburse you the difference in price if you find the same vacation for less.

Playa del Carmen is located on the Caribbean coast of Mexico in the Yucatan Peninsula. The “Yucatan” consists of three states. Playa del Carmen is in the state of Quintana Roo.

Playa del Carmen is about an hour south of Cancun by car or bus. The ferry to Cozumel is located in Playa del Carmen. Playacar is just south of Playa del Carmen.

Sol
Negra Modelo
Modelo Especial
Tecate
Tecate Light
Superior
Dos Equis Special Lager
Dos Equis Draft
Dos Equis Amber
Leon
Montejo
Victoria
Corona

**Now there are a variety of all types of international beers as well

The tourist zone in Playa del Carmen jostles with tourists of all ages right up until the shops and then restaurants close. After that things start to thin out quickly, after 1:00ish things simmer down considerably and only a few late night after hour clubs and cafes remain open. Even then police are present as well as local workers on late shifts and hotel security. With that being said, Playa del Carmen is typically very safe. We have not heard of any problems with tourists having issues with this.

Yes and the taxi driver will wait for you at each destination while you visit. Arrange cost upfront before you leave.

No it is not necessary but it does help solidify an itinerary and usually saves money. There are lots of tour companies in Playa and every hotel will have one or more tour companies operating out of their lobby or for smaller hotels they can “recommend” a company for you and make arrangements.

Most do now… see:Playa del Carmen Vacations

Yes, they are everywhere now. When we say “everywhere” we mean that there are ATMs conveniently located throughout the tourist zones, all major grocery/department stores and banks.

Playa del Carmen is okay for beginners and children but the snorkeling is not good around any of Playa’s beaches. For great snorkeling you need to go up the highway a little or cross to Cozumel.

For more info see: Mayan Riviera Snorkeling Info

It is typically best to use Mexican pesos. Nearly all facilities will accept dollars but typically do not give a favorable exchange rate. If you do not bring pesos their are ATM’s, banks, and money exchange places everywhere. ATM’s typically provide the best rate.

Colectivos are full size transportation vans. They drive up and down the highway between Playa and Tulum and Playa and Cancun. The vans have air-conditioning [always on full] and are usually in good shape.

For more info see: What is a Colectivo

The main ferry doc that goes to Cozumel is located on the south end of town at Juarez and the ocean.

No. According to some published guides there is allegedly a clothing optional beach at Punta Bete. This is not quite accurate and the police can arrest a woman for going topless on the beach if they wish. It is not common but it can occur. Even all-inclusive resort beaches are patrolled by federal military and police.

You can get contact lens fluid and stuff at the drugstore and there are many eyeglass stores in both the tourist zone and outside the zone.

Yes, many are scattered throughout Playa and many of the pharmacists speak some English.

Taking a taxi in Playa is safe and heavily regulated by the government. Taxis that leave Playa have to drive through a checkpoint that is monitored by police. This is to ensure the safety of passengers.

Yes, many laundromats exist throughout Playa del Carmen. 

Yes you can get bottled water at most stores, restaurants, cafes and bars.

Yes, many jewelry stores exist on 5th ave and scattered throughout the town.

For more info see: Jewelry

Yes there are many dive-shops and sporting goods stores throughout. Visitors can also find this type of gear at Sam’s Club, Walmart and other similar stores.

Yes, all forms of clothing and shoes are sold, from cheap junk to expensive fashion. Playa del Carmen is growing and now has ultra high-end fashion throughout. Visitors will find some of the finest and most fashionable swim-wear in the world.

The tourist zone is 5th avenue [which runs parallel to the beach] to the beach, with Playacar to the south end.

See: Interactive Tourist Map

Playa is a small city that stretches from the Atlantic Ocean to Highway 307 (the highway to Cancun to the North). It is approximately one km wide [running parallel to the coast] and approximately 4km long [running north and south].

There is the Iglesia Presbyteriana on 20th Ave and 1st Street. The service begins at 11:30 am and lasts until about 1pm. They are in the process of building a new sanctuary. The service is in Spanish but the pastor does speak a little Spenglish. All are welcome!

Nuestra Senora del Carmen is on the corner of 15th Ave and Street 12. They tend to change the mass times but they are usually at 9am, 11am, and 8pm on Sundays.

Yes. Fishing poles are allowed as carry on as long as there are no flys or hooks attached. Ski poles and golf clubs are not allowed to be carried on an airplane and must be checked as baggage.

In Playa del Carmen you can find dozens of Internet Cafes. There are quite a few right on 5th Avenue and many along the side streets.

Prices can change dramatically from one computer place 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.

Shark sightings are rare and shark attacks even rarer. You see much of the coral along the coast at Playa del Carmen has died off which does not attract reef fish, which the sharks feed on. Also fishing is permitted along the coast here so big fish that sharks prey on are not in abundance here either.

Due to the lack of prey and the large number of boats that cruise the waters sharks stay away from Playa del Carmen.

Most if not all 4-5 star hotels/resorts have an Internet room which is a room of computers with Internet access. Internet is usually NOT included in the hotel package and you must pay separate. Internet rooms at hotels are the most expensive access points.

In Cancun City you can find dozens of Internet Cafes. Where ever your hotel or hostel is 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 the hotel or hostel.

Prices can change dramatically from one computer place 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.

According to our resources the best place to buy guaranteed good quality cigars in Merida is Sanborn’s. There are two in Merida… one at the Fiesta Americana hotel and one in the Gran Plaza shopping center.

There are numerous excellent places to snorkel however the single beach we recommend is the beach along Hotel El Dorado on the Maya Riviera. Due to its proximity to numerous resorts and Cabanas this is a quick place to get to and the beach is almost all coral. It takes 2 days to fully explore this beach.

If it is your first experience then the place to visit is either:

  • Chichen Itza or
  • Uxmal or
  • Tulum/Coba

Chichen Itza is recommended as it has a large pyramid temple and the biggest ballcourt in Mesoamerica. Every resort will have a tour operator or be able to recommend one that can get you to Chichen Itza. There is a great bookstore there and a number of restaurants. Of all the Maya ruin sites Chichen Itza is the one that is the most touristry and popular.

Usually when people get sick in Mexico it is not from the water but from something they ate – quite often a salad. The most likely items are cilantro (the curly herb like parsley) or lettuce. The Yucatan and Riviera Maya are exceptional at providing clean food and water compared to many other locations in Mexico. Even if you ask for “free” water most restaurants serve bottled water out of the large 5 gallon containers. If you are concerned just request a bottled water “botella de agua”.

The only legal gambling in Mexico is sports betting, which has been growing. There are no legal casinos in Mexico. Some resorts do have Casino Nights, but you don’t play for money, you play for prizes. Some resorts have slot machines, but the prize is not cash. Your winnings are in the form of vouchers that are good only for stuff at “that” resort. Check the resort for details.

Tips and taxes are included in your all-inclusive vacation package. The staff will never hesitate,
or gesture for a tip. However, tipping is still a personal thing. If you are accustomed to tipping, and you receive exceptional service and want to tip, then by all means do so. If you are staying at an all-inclusive for any length of time it is a good idea to tip the egg-lady at the buffet on your first day. She will remember you. In many resorts the egg-lady is in charge of the breakfast.

Beach towels are available at every all-inclusive resort/hotel. Most will give you a towel card, which they take from you in exchange for the towel. When you return the towel, they return your towel card. If you don’t return the towel, you will not have your towel card when you check out, and you will be charged for the towel(s), usually $20 or more per towel. At check out you can either hand in your towel or towel-card.

If you are staying at a vacation rental most reputable properties include them as well but if this is a concern check with your facility before departure.

If the minor is traveling alone, he/she must also have a notarized letter signed by both parents or legal guardians, giving the minor permission to travel out of the country. If the minor is traveling with one parent, he/she must have a notarized letter signed by the parent or guardian not traveling, giving the minor permission to travel with the one parent or guardian. A custody document should be provided in the event a minor is in the custody of one parent. A death certificate should be provided if one parent is deceased.

The rules have changed over the past decade so check with each ruin for up-to-date information. If you are booking a tour they will also be able to answer this question.

There are snakes, tarantellas and scorpions. It is the black scorpion that is deadly and they are not found in the Yucatan. The tarantulas are not lethal unless you are allergic to its bite.

WARNING

Tarantulas move slowly unless provoked, then they can move lightening fast.

In the water you have to be careful not to step on a sea urchin or stingray tail. Also watch out for jellyfish which move about slowly.

There really is no star rating system. If you check enough travel catalogues, newspapers and brochures you will find numerous variations in ratings on the same properties. In some catalogues a resort is 3 stars while in another it is 5 stars. There are 5 star resorts side by side that have completely different beach property and different menus to the extent that there is a large difference that is NOT reflected in the rating system. Even pricing is inconsistent with the star rating system. Some 4 star resorts are more expensive than some 5 star resorts. Then there are the new 5 and 1/2 star resorts. What is a half star?

There is in fact no official standard body that sets the standards and rates every resort. The rating system is a marketing ploy. It is simply a quick reference that helps you to identify properties that fall within a certain category.

This all depends on the situation. In Cancun you can expect the flights to be on schedule unless there is a problem concerning the weather. If you miss your flight and it is your fault you may have to purchase a new ticket however if it the fault of a tour operator or airline then your chances of receiving a replacement ticket free of charge is greater.

Yes. In Playa, Chetumal, Merida, Cancun and any large town will have pharmacies, which will carry contact lens solutions and accessories. Some flea-market vendors carry cheap bulk items.

It is a stewed chicken dish in a spicy tomato sauce.

Yes. Diving is one of these most popular activities in this region and just about all dive shops offer certification classes.

Yes, however sightings are rare and shark attacks are rarer. The most common type are Whale Sharks but these are what bring many visitors to swim along with.

Barracudas are extremely curious fish. A large barracuda will not be afraid to approach you. Remain calm and do not antagonize the fish. He will not bite you unless provoked.

Think about a beach that is NOT nice white sand. If you are an avid snorkeler then this is the kind of beach you want. If you have children then this kind of beach is not recommended because of the coral.

Most of the Riviera Maya is maintained to promote daily beach visitors. These are the best options for lounging and swimming but may not be the best option for snorkeling and diving.

If your kids enjoy adventure and swimming then somewhere on the Mayan Riviera is best. You are close to Xel Ha, Xplor, Xcaret, Tulum, and Coba. There is also much more in this area for families to explore. Playa del Carmen can be a great choice as it is located close to many attractions and most of the town is easy to get around by foot. There are many hotel choices as well as vacation rentals that will provide ample room for families.

Hot and hotter…depending on the season you go. If you highly desire cold weather, traveling to the Yucatan is not for you. The winter season is much more pleasant than the summer when it comes to temperatures and for this reason the winter attracts many more travelers.

It depends on where you stay. If you stay on the Mayan Riviera you can take the collectivo [bus] from Tulum to Playa for $1.50, which means you can visit a number of attractions. You simply walk out to the highway and wait for the collectivo. Doing this alone will save you transportation prices if that is a concern.

We suggest starting with our search form throughout the website and on many tours we will post discounts that may be available. Most of the time our prices are competitive but shop around to find the best prices for sure. We do our best to provide great prices on everything we offer but sometimes we are beaten out by companies like Groupon.

Bottled water is readily available and sold almost everywhere throughout Mexico.

Most places accept U.S. Dollars so you can bring and use them. Most of the time you will get better prices if you pay in Peso’s though. You have the option to bring dollars and exchange them at a number of locations for Peso’s but you should shop around until you find a favorable exchange rate. We have found the best exchange rates by ATM withdrawal’s most of the time.

It is a hotel zone with beautiful beaches. The city has built up to service the hotel zone. Twenty-five years ago there was a fishing village there. It is touristy and well suited for the vacationer.

In fact, the Yucatan is officially a state. The landmass that juts out into the ocean is known as The Yucatan Peninsula. This peninsula is divided into the states of: Quintanna Roo, Yucatan, Campeche. At the bottom or southern most end you hit Belize and Guatemala. On the western edge of the southern border is the state of Chiapas.

If you are unsure of your status with a government issued permanent resident card we recommend visiting the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website for accurate answers.