Cancun’s white sand and turquoise waters are what primarily attracts visitors to the famous Mexico beach town. Enjoy your Caribbean vacation to the fullest by doing proper research on Cancun, as travel mishaps often lead to wasted money and missed opportunities. 

    A little planning goes a long way when it comes to the basics, such as exchanging money, booking tours, buying food, and even necessities you should include in your luggage. Travel smarter by checking out this list of common travel mistakes to avoid in Cancun, Mexico.


    Exchanging money at the airport

    Get a better rate for your money outside of the airport

    Cash is a necessity in Cancun, given that many restaurants and gift shops don’t accept credit cards. Like many other airports around the world, the Cancun airport is jam-packed with money exchange kiosks looking to convert your money into Mexican pesos. Do yourself (and your wallet) a favour by not exchanging money as soon as you arrive at the airport.

    The rates offered are always less than favourable. Hold on to your vacation money and exchange it at smaller kiosks in town, which will provide you a bigger bang for your buck. 


    Choosing your hotel by price alone

    Avoid booking a hotel that’s far away

    When planning a vacation to Cancun, it’s often a good idea to check a hotel’s location before making your reservation. Many hotels are located over 1 hour away from the city centre and far away from all the action in Cancun. A great way to ensure your hotel is within a reasonable distance is to use the map feature. 

    Not only can you filter hotels according to budget, you can also see the precise location of where a specific property is located – whether that’s in Downtown Cancun, the Hotel Zone, or right on the beach.


    Taking a taxi at the airport

    Most hotels offer free shuttles

    After passing baggage claim and through the exit doors of Cancun International Airport, you’ll come face to face with an enormous crowd of taxi drivers. The experience can sometimes be a bit harrowing, as you’ll likely to find yourself surrounded by drivers shouting out different prices. 

    Avoid starting out your vacation with a hefty taxi bill by calling ahead and booking a shuttle with your resort. Almost all hotels in Cancun offer a free ride to and from the airport, provided you contact them the day before with your travel details.


    photo by Shinya Suzuki (CC BY 2.0) modified


    Buying everything at the listed price

    Haggle for a better price on food and souvenirs

    Haggling is a common practice throughout Mexico, especially at places like street fairs, food stands, and beach huts. Whether you’re looking for a few authentic trinkets to bring home or purchasing a kilo of fresh figs, the locals are used to a bit of back and forth when it comes settling on a price. 

    Always allow the seller to give you a price first before offering about 40% lower. Many times, the seller will come back with a 2nd price that falls in the middle. Paying in cash will also help you get a better rate.

    photo by David Stanley (CC BY 2.0) modified


    Drinking water from the faucet

    Stick to bottled water

    A common mistake many people make while traveling is drinking unfiltered water and ending up with an upset stomach. Although the tap water in Cancun does in fact meet the standards of safety, it is always a good idea to stick with bottled water. 

    Head to the nearest supermarket and stock up on your favourite brand. It might set you back a bit (about $4.50 per bottle), but spending money on clean water could spare you from feeling sickly during your Cancun holiday. 


    Booking tours from stand-alone tour guides

    Most one-person tour agencies are scams

    Whether you’re looking to visit Mayan ruins, island-hop on a yacht, or dive with whales, Cancun’s got a tour for it. There are several options to choose from when booking a daytrip, which also means there are many opportunities to get scammed if you’re not careful. 

    Avoid booking tours with ‘representatives’ who stop you on the street, usually offering a price that’s too good to be true. Stick to brick-and-mortar stores that have plenty of pictures, brochures, and reviews to back up what they’re offering. For a better price, find a private tour agency in the city instead of booking through your resort.


    Visiting during Spring Break

    Plan your vacation for April through July

    The best time to visit Cancun is usually between May through November, when hotel prices are low and crowds are manageable. Not only is the city much more enjoyable, but it’ll make a huge difference on your travel budget. 

    Tours are about half the price of rates offered during Spring Break, and food in general is also much more affordable. Avoid visiting during Christmas, New Year’s, and especially Spring Break as these are the most hectic travel periods for Cancun. If possible, avoid Mexico’s hurricane season, which stretches from late-July to late-October.


    Only packing beachwear

    Bring a light jumper for night time

    When visiting a tropical destination, many travellers often forget to pack for night-time activities. Instead of loading your luggage with swimsuits for the beach, remember to bring a light sweater or jumper for outdoor dinners or late-night walks on the beach. 

    It’s a good idea to pack a few warm clothes and a small umbrella, as nights in Cancun can be rather chilly and rains are common from August through February. Keep daytime clothing casual – shorts, tank tops, and flip flops are perfect for most days in Cancun.


    Thinking that all of Cancun’s surrounding areas are safe

    Stick to downtown Cancun and the Hotel Beach Zone

    Cancun is a safe town to visit – locals are friendly and crime rates are very low compared to other cities in Mexico. While most people never run into any trouble, there are several troublesome areas close to Cancun. 

    Unless you’re travelling with an authorized tour or knowledgeable local, stick to well-populated areas like Downtown Cancun and the Hotel Zone. The latter has a 13-mile arc of beautiful white-sand beaches lined with resorts and hotels, and considered the safest part of Cancun.


    Only touring Chichen Itza

    Include other daytrips in your itinerary

    Chichen Itza is one of the most famous Mayan ruins in Mexico. While the site is definitely worth the visit, but you should also include Cancun’s many landmarks into your itinerary. Book a daytrip to Playa del Carmen and Tulum for pristine beaches, or Cenote Zacil-ha if you want to swim in crystal clear waters surrounded by a lush jungle. 

    Scuba diving and snorkelling at Isla de las Mujeres are also popular excursions in Cancun, so book with a reputable tour company to make the most out of your trip.

    Fiorella Bertola | Contributing Writer

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