Cancun has distinct areas
- The hotel zone is along the beach. It’s the main area where most of Cancun’s hotels and resorts are gathered. Within the hotel zone are restaurants, shops, and nightclubs. You could never leave the hotel zone and still have a great vacation.
- The second area is the more traditional downtown area. It has shops, nightclubs and restaurants. In addition, it has open-air markets and food stalls. Be prepared to bargain in the markets and use common sense about food. Go here to experience the “real Mexico.” Downtown Cancun is a lot of fun.
- The area outside the city has spectacular Mayan ruins such as Chichen Itza. These day trips are well worth the time. There are plenty of tours available if you are not the adventurous type.
Related: Must Do Activities in Cancun Mexico
No matter when you go, or where you go in Cancun, you need to drink water
- Bottled water is available everywhere, but it can get a little pricey in some places. Buy it if you forgot to bring it or run out. Dehydration will ruin your vacation faster than drinking contaminated water.
- Cancun is humid so you will feel the water loss. If you’re not in air conditioning and feel yourself sweating, you need to drink more water.
- Headaches are another common symptom of dehydration. Do not reach for an aspirin. Reach for water.
Getting around is easy, but be careful that it doesn’t get expensive
- There are city buses that run from the hotel zone to the downtown area. They are extremely cheap – only about 16 pesos roundtrip (or about $1 USD). They are not always air conditioned, however. They take pesos, but if you don’t have any you can overpay with dollars – they won’t give change. Hold on when standing on these buses because they travel and stop fast.
- You can catch a bus from downtown to sites outside the city. These buses are air conditioned and comfortable. Keep your receipt if you pay for the return fare upfront.
- If you take a taxi, negotiate the fare in pesos with the driver before you get in. Taxi drivers do not expect to be tipped.
Related: 6 Ultimate Discount Travel Tips
Cancun is safe, but don’t be stupid
- There are pickpockets. The local police crack down when the problem gets bad, but you don’t want to be the only incident for that month.
- Your worst case scenario is being kidnapped. It is extremely unlikely, but do not drink anything offered to you by a stranger. Stay with your group.
- Do not get drunk downtown by yourself and stay out until the wee hours of the morning. This is good advice for any location but in any foreign country this is just asking for trouble.
A few additional rules to remember
- If trouble happens, go to your consulate. Do not take advice from anyone. Do not listen to anyone who tells you they can help you with the situation or that they know a lawyer.
- Mexico has strict laws about defacing currency, so if someone gives you a torn bill with your change politely ask for a different one. If you accept the torn bill you have just lost money.
- Beaches in front of hotels are private property and reserved for guests of the hotel. If you are staying downtown, there are 10 public access sites you can use.
There are a few health considerations other than drinking the water
- It is recommended that you are current on your typhoid, tetanus, and Hepatitis A and B shots. Check with your doctor before you visit Cancun. There is some debate on this topic so make an informed decision.
- Sea lice season runs from April to August, but they can appear at any time of the year. They are not actually lice but they can leave a painful burn like a jellyfish if trapped beneath a bathing suit or in a crevice on your skin. There are products such as Sea Safe to protect against being stung.
- Be careful about lettuce or fruit that may have been washed or ice that’s been added to your drink. If you are unsure about the water, watch out for foods that may have been washed in that water.