over 30 years old, Cancun is one of Mexico’s most popular
tourist destinations. Situated at the tip of the Yucatan
Peninsula, the area is equally famous for both the modern
and the ancient. All of the tourist related areas on
the beaches are brand new. The Yucatan, however, has
been known for many years as the site for ancient Mayan
Shaped in the form of the number seven, the area’s Hotel
Zone, is lined with deluxe hotels, restuarants and nightclubs,
and the downtown area, offers shopping, a theater and
convention center. Over 2 million people flock to the
shores of Cancun annually, and there is good reason
for this. The local environment is stunning; the beaches
are pristine and the sea here is perfect for swimming
and water activities; added to this, within a short
traveling distance visitors can find themselves at the
heart of some of the most amazing and breathtaking archaeological
wonders of the world.
Just outside of Cancun, you can tour the Mayan Riviera
and check out Playa del Carmen, Xcaret and Xel-Ha, ancient
Mayan ports that have been converted into modern-day
paradises. Also nearby is Tulum, a fascinating archaeological
site perched on the shores of the Caribbean. It was
the only walled city built by the Mayans. Also nearby
and easily enjoyed as a one day trip are Isla Mujeres
and Cozumel where you can enjoy the experience of snorkeling
and scuba diving along the coral reefs.
international airport is the countrys second busiest
airport after Mexico City. There are direct flights
to practically all the worlds major cities and
connections to other cities in Southeast Mexico and
Cancun occupies a strategic geographical position on
the continent and, being the premier Caribbean tourism
destination, Cancuns airport has become very important
to the region. Twenty-one airlines arrive and depart
from Cancun for domestic and international flights and
four airlines have formed a regional flight network
linking cities in the Maya World.
Located just eight kilometers (5 miles) from the city,
five kilometers (3 miles) from the Hotel Zone and 379
kilometers (235.5 miles) from state capital, Chetumal,
the airport covers an 800-hectare area (1977 acres).
Airlines Servicing Cancun
that fly to Cancun from Mexico City include: Aero
from the USA: American
and from Europe: AirBerlin,
Europa and Aeroflot.
No brief account of the complex Mexican Passport/Visa
regulations is likely to be fully successful and visitors
are advised to use the following for general guidance.
Non-compliance with visa regulations will result in
fines and transportation (at the carrier's expense)
to the visitor's country of origin.
PASSPORTS: Passport valid for at least 1 year after
date of entry is required by all
Tourist cards: Available only to people entering Mexico
on vacation, for reasons of health, or to engage in
scientific, artistic or sporting activities which are
neither remunerative nor lucrative. Valid for the holder
only. Other persons (including minors) travelling on
the same passport must have their own card. The card
is a single-entry document and is issued free of charge.
The Consular office retains the right to request further
evidence of the applicant's intention to visit Mexico
as a tourist whenever such intention has not been established
to the Consul's satisfaction. The same right applies
with regard to evidence of the applicant's financial
means to sustain him/herself while in Mexico.
Note: (a) Visitors eligible for Tourist Cards (see below)
can be issued with Tourist Cards by any Mexican Consulate,
on board the plane or at the point of entry in Mexico.
(b) Tourist Cards must be kept by the visitor during
the entire length of stay as they will have to be presented
and stamped on leaving.
Nationals of the following countries are eligible for
a Tourist card: (a) 1. EU countries for stays of up
to 180 days (except nationals of Austria, France, Greece
and Luxembourg who can stay for up to 90 days);
(b) 2. Australia, Canada, Japan and the USA for stays
of up to 180 days;
(c) Andorra, Argentina, Bermuda, Chile, Costa Rica,
Hungary, Iceland, Liechtenstein, New Zealand, Norway,
San Marino, Singapore, Slovenia, Switzerland and Uruguay
for stays of up to 180 days;
(d) Czech Republic, Israel, Monaco and Poland for up
to 90 days;
(e) Korea (Rep. of) for up to 60 days;
(f) Brazil and Venezuela for up to 30 days.
For requirements and regulations relevant to other nationalities,
contact the Mexican Embassy.
VISAS: Required by all except holders of a Tourist Card
or visa-replacing document. Nationals of the following
countries require a special authorisation from the Ministry
of the Interior in Mexico: Afghanistan, Albania, Bangladesh,
Bosnia-Herzegovina, Cambodia, China (PR), Croatia, Eritrea,
Iraq, Iran, India, Jordan, Korea (DPR), Lebanon, Libya,
Macedonia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Syria, Taiwan,
Turkey (unless permanent residents of UK), Vietnam and
Western Sahara region. Authorisation takes approximately
3 to 4 weeks.
Application requirements: Tourist Visa: (a) Passport
with minimum of 6 months' validity. (b) Application
form. (c) 1 passport-size photo. (d) Original return
ticket. (e) Fee (payable in cash only). (f) Proof of
sufficient funds (US$50 per day) to cover length of
stay. (g) Postal applications must be accompanied by
a covering letter specifying the purpose of the trip
and the dates of entry and departure. Applications should
be made in a stamped, self-addressed envelope with recorded
or registered delivery.
Business Visitors Card: (a)-(b) and, (c) 2 passport-size
photos. (d) Letter from applicant's employer accepting
financial responsibility to cover the applicant's stay,
which also states the nature of business to be undertaken
and the name and address of the business contact(s)
in Mexico. For visits of more than 30 days, a multiple-entry
card is needed, as well as a letter from the local Chamber
of Commerce (or Department of Trade and Industry) confirming
the sponsoring company is a member of either body. (e)
Fee (payable in cash, postal order or company cheque).
(f) Postal applications must be accompanied by a stamped,
self-addressed envelope with recorded delivery.
Note: 3. If intending to undertake business or work
of a technical or scientific nature, normal visa regulations
do not apply, and it is necessary to obtain a Visitors
Card. It is vital to contact the local Mexican consular
representative well in advance of the intended date
of departure in order to secure the necessary authorisation
(see address section). Non-British Nationals seeking
to visit Mexico on business are advised to check with
the Consulate regarding visa requirements and fees.
Tourist information is available at most of the resort
hotels. You'll also find the tourism office in Cancun
City on the east side of Avenida Tulum between Avenidas
Coba and Uxmal. It's open daily 9 am-9 pm.
You can explore the Hotel Zone on your own by taking
a public bus or taxi along Paseo Kukulkan, the main
thoroughfare (and almost the only street). The distances
between resort hotels can be long, however, so walking
may not be practical. You'll definitely need transportation
to get from the Hotel Zone to Cancun City.
Both the Hotel Zone and Cancun City are considered safe
to walk around,
While it isn't necessary to rent a car while in the
Cancun Downtown / Hotel Zone area, you may decide to
venture further south to the Mayan Riviera, Playa Del
Carmen, Chichén Itzá, etc. Rental cars,
primarily standard-shift sub compacts and four-wheel-drive
vehicles, are available at the airport and throughout
Cancun. The standard rate is about $50 USD per day for
the car, tax, and insurance. You can also rent an automatic
car with air-conditioning at a much higher price. You
can also hire a big, late-model car with air-conditioning
and an English- speaking chauffeur at many hotel travel
desks. You must have a license and be at least 21 years
old. Driving in the Yucatan is on the right. Streets
and roads outside Cancun are not always up to the standards
you may be used to. If you drive on the mainland, keep
your tank filled-gas stations are scarce.
- Rental Car and Driving Tips
- Look over the rental car and have the rental agent
write down anything that is wrong with it, no matter
how small. When you return the car you may be charged
for even the most minor scratches (even on the bumper)
if they aren't noted on the paperwork. Also, make sure
the lights and wipers work. You can't be too careful
with this process - they will get you for anything not
- Buy the Mexican insurance. Yes, sometimes rental car
insurance comes with your credit card, but this doesn't
work the same way in Mexico. Although your own insurance
says it covers you in Mexico, they generally mean they
will reimburse you for damages. If there are problems
and you do not have the Mexican insurance you may be
required to pay the damages before you are allowed to
leave the country, and can be held in jail until the
money arrives. Even with Mexican insurance, there is
often a $1000 deductible you have to pay if the car
- Pass with caution. Passing is a major cause of car
accidents around here. Other drivers are probably going
much faster than you realize - so don't pass unless
you have more than enough room. Oncoming traffic will
sometimes pass when they are heading straight at you
- and they are expecting YOU to move onto the shoulder
to give them room to pass! If you pass without enough
room, the driver in your lane and the one coming the
other direction will not make it easy for you to pull
- Avoid driving at night whenever possible. Things appear
in the road without warning (cattle, people, etc.);
some highways are poorly lit; some drivers don't even
turn their lights on.
- Remember... Distance and speed limits are posted in
kilometers instead of miles. To convert kilometers to
miles, multiply kilometers by .62. (Something 100 kilometers
away is 62 miles away; 100 kilometers per hour is 62
miles per hour, etc...)
Military Check Points. There are military check points
at all state borders and sometimes just South of the
Cancun airport and in Tulum, often looking for illegal
drugs. The soldiers working there are generally very
polite. They ask where you are coming from and going
and what you did there. Tell the truth. If you are at
a state border, they will also ask about agricultural
products like fruit or chickens.
- Speed Traps. Around Cancun there are several speed
traps where local police wait for rental cars to come
speeding by so they can stop them and try for a bribe.
Here is your best defense - do not speed in and around
Cancun, particularly in the hotel zone and between Cancun
and the airport.
If you run out of gas or break down, don't leave the
vehicle; Mexico's "Green Angels," part of
the Tourism Department, patrol the main roads and will
lend you assistance.
- Gasoline is sold in liters (3.78 liter=l gallon).
Nova (blue pump) is leaded; Magna Sin (green pump) is
unleaded. Only cash is accepted. Most stations close
by 10 PM. There is no self-service, and it is customary
to tip your attendant with a few coins.
Scooters and mopeds can be rented for about US$25-$30
a day anywhere in the Hotel Zone. But be aware that
speeding traffic, particularly along Avenida Kukulkan,
makes this a dangerous way to travel. Helmets are required
by Mexican law.
Taxis are available at all of the resorts. Expect to
pay US$4-$6 for a ride along Paseo Kukulkan. Be prepared
to bargain, and settle on the fare before entering the
Public buses run along Paseo Kukulkan in the Hotel Zone
and stop at paradas (bus stops), which are marked with
kilometer posts. Buses also connect to the commercial
area along Avenida Tulum in Cancun City. You can take
the bus anywhere along Kukulkan for less than US$1
Banks are open Monday to Friday from 9 am to 3 pm, some
until 5 pm. A few open on Saturdays from 10 am to 1:30
pm, and there are banks and ATMs in the Riviera Maya.
Duty free shops can be found at the forum by the Sea
Plaza, La Isla Plaza, Cancun International Airport and
If you want bargains, head to the mainland to Cancun
City's outdoor markets lining the east side of Avenida
Tulum-but note that while prices may be lower there,
the quality can be, too. Market vendors may not accept
credit cards; even if they do, you can often get a better
price if you offer cash instead of credit cards. Almost
all stores take U.S. dollars as well as pesos-often
you'll find prices marked in both currencies-or even
just U.S. dollars! Bargaining is expected in the markets
in Cancun City, but plan to pay the marked price in
shops in the Hotel Zone. Almost all the shops in the
Hotel Zone take major credit cards. Shopping is a popular
pastime in the Hotel Zone, but don't expect many bargains
in the shopping malls. In fact, you can expect prices
to be higher than in other parts of Mexico. The shopping
malls contain everything from souvenir shops to internationally
known boutiques-resort wear and handicrafts are among
the best buys. Handicrafts include handwoven fabrics,
blown glass and jewelry. The largest shopping malls
are Plaza Caracol, Plaza Kukulkan (midway along Paseo
Kukulkan) and Plaza Flamingo.
During the day Cancun is pretty laid back. That changes
at night when both the Hotel Zone and downtown start
rocking with music. Its all here: salsa, meringue,
flamenco, reggae, jazz, classical, disco, rock and roll,
hip-hop and techno. Many restaurants do double duty
as party centers with all you can drink
specials and waiters who dont hesitate to get
up on stage and dance in between serving drinks. Cancun
Discos and dance bars usually have taped music accompanied
to high tech laser light shows with the occasional live
band thrown in for good measure. The Cancun nightclubs,
especially the Latin Clubs, all have live music and
import some of the hottest bands from Latin America.
Barhopping during happy hour (4 PM 7 PM) is a
great way to check out the different hotels and evening
cruises have a high-energy, party atmosphere. For a
taste of how the locals like to party head to one of
the Salsa clubs or check out the clubs in the downtown
area. There is usually a free evening concert in the
downtown Parque de las Palapas and close by are some
excellent jazz clubs featuring local musicians. Just
choose your spot and you can dance until the wee hours
of the morning.
110 volts, same as in the U.S.
Most hotels and restaurants use purified water, but
you should be safe and drink bottled water whenever
possible - don't let yourself get dehydrated because
you're afraid to drink the water.
Dress in Cancun is very casual with the accent on comfort.
Remember to pack comfortable walking shoes. The activities
at the hotels and the area dictate sporting clothes.
In the evenings, you may want to dress up, but not too
much. Rubber soled shoes are recommended for tours to
archeological sites. Boots, long sleeve light cotton
shirts and long trousers are best for those interested
in jungle treks. A light jacket, shawl or sweater is
advisable for the evenings of November, December and
Tips in Mexico are generally 15%, tipping cab drivers
is not expected, and tipping the maid in the hotel a
couple of dollars a day (per room) is greatly appreciated.
Equal to U.S. Central Time
Chichén Itzá, arguably the most impressive
Maya site on the Yucatán peninsula, lies about
three hours from Playa del Carmen. Its famous pyramid
offers a challenging climb and a breathtaking view over
This grand Mayan site lies less than two hours from
Playa del Carmen, and is different from the other big
sites in the Yucatan. First of all, it's situated by
four natural lakes, which is a rare sight in the Yucatan.
These lakes are believed to have given the city its
name, which means Waters stirred by wind...
This little gem of a Mayan city is rarely visited and
you may very well end up strolling around all by yourself
among temples and jungle. It's a bit off the beaten
path since it's located about 20 minutes north of Valladolid.
Only a short drive south of Tulum, there's a nice little
site with very few visitors. This site goes under two
names, Muyil and Chanyaxche. It is not big, but there
are a few interesting buildings and the historical significance
The Mayan ruins of Tulum, only an hour from Playa del
Carmen, undoubtedly has one of the most breathtaking
settings of any city past or present. The only significant
large scale Mayan ruin on the coast, it is perched on
a cliff overlooking the Caribbean Sea.
For the Golf enthusiast Cancun is home to two beautiful
18 holes championship golf courses. One is the Pok-Ta-Pok
course which runs along the island, between the main
Boulevard and the Nichupté Lagoon. The second
one is located next to Ruinas del Rey.
The food in Cancun is similar to that of Yucatan, the
state neighbouring Quinatana Roo. The indigenous influence
on cuisine is perhaps greater than in many other parts
of the country. Corn is the staple food, and is made
into tortillas, tamales, and an infinite variety of
snacks. Tropical fruits are abundant, as are delicious
varieties of seafood like shrimp and lobster.
A fiery type of hot sauce is made from habanero peppers,
red onions, and vinegar, and a small amount goes a long
way. Tamales are different from the small variety wrapped
in corn husks that are served in most parts of the country;
this southern variety is larger, often a meal in itself,
and wrapped and steamed in banana leaves, with a filling
of pork or chicken.
A traditional dish is cochinita pibil, in which pork
is bathed in a mixture of bitter orange juice, achiote,
oregano, onions and spices and cooked wrapped in banana
leaves until the meat falls off the bone. The meat is
then shredded and served in tacos.
Another unusual dish is papadzules, a dish where a brilliant
green sauce is made from pumpkin seeds and other ingredients
and served over tortillas filled with chopped hard boiled
There are several kinds of sauces typical of the region,
which are bases for cooking meat of all sorts, and which
are made from some of the dozens of varieties of chilis,
nuts, seeds and spices available locally. Chirmole and
pipian are two of these.
There is a traditional kind of fish prepared with achiote
and other spices and cooked on a barbecue or in an earthen
pit, and called tikinxic in Maya.
Of course, Cancun is a modern city, and you can find
almost any kind of food there: bakeries selling fresh
bread, supermarkets selling a variety of fresh and packaged
goods, restaurants serving foods traditional in other
parts of the country; open air markets selling fruits,
vegetables and snacks; taco stands, tiny corner stores,
restaurants preparing top notch international cuisine.
Cancun is a happening place with a busy night life.
Some say the city comes to life after 10 p.m. There
are discos, bars, and places to dance or listen to anything
from rock to salsa to reggae.
Cancun has drawn people from all over Mexico, and has
an eclectic variety of music to match its diverse population:
sones from Veracruz, rancheras from the northern states,
mariachis from central Mexico; as well as musical styles
from all over Latin America: cumbias, calypso, salsa,
The hotels in Cancun are arranged along several miles
of coastline in the Hotel Zone (zona hotelera.) Some
of these beaches are public, belonging to the Mexican
government, and some are resort beaches, for the guests
at a particular resort. All the public beaches are accessible
from the highway, though to get to some there will be
a short walk. Most people plan their stay in Cancun
according to what beach their hotel is on.
The best beaches for swimming are those along the north
coast, because the water is protected by the island
of Isla Mujeres. The beaches on the east coast are not
protected, and strong winds and currents make swimming
much more dangerous. The northern beaches are where
you can catch boats (cruises, shuttles, water taxis)
across to Isla Mujeres.
The sand on most beaches in Cancun is white powder,
which sticks to wet skin but has the advantage of being
less hot than coarse sand and easier to walk on – and
the white against the turquoise of the sea is very refreshing
to look at!
Water temperature is good for swimming all year round,
with the hottest temperatures being reached in August
and September when the water is decidedly warm.
Watersports and Outdoor Activities
Scuba Diving and Snorkeling
Diving from the mainland of the Yucatan penninsula offers
an array of choices. From the shallow and colorful reefs
off Cancun and Playa Del Carman to the miles of cenotes
that have made the Yucatan one of the top cave diver
destinations. Farther south is the newest destination,
the Chinchorro Banks, part of the second largest barrier
reef in the world.
Offshore, visibility is an average of 100 ft. (30 m),
inshore expect a little less. The cenotes offer crystal
clear visibility at all times.
If you'd like to try deep-sea fishing, contact Club
Lagoon, Wild Goat Marina (phone 83-0062) or Aqua Tours
(phone 83-0227). Catch includes swordfish, blue and
white marlin, dolphin (the fish, not the mammal), shark,
wahoo and barracuda, depending upon time of year. Expect
to pay about US$200-$300 for half a day and up to US$400-$500
for a full day.
Other Outdoor Avtivities
Reserva Natural Tres Rios, Cancun
This park, only 30 minutes away from the craziness of
Cancun, offers horseback rides along the coast.
Attraction type: Nature reserve; Park
Waterpark featuring waterslides, snorkeling, swimming
and scuba diving.
Playa Delfines, Cancun
Undeveloped beach provides a great view of Cancun's
Parque Nizuc, Cancun
Water park featuring slides, snorkeling and lots of
dolphins: perfect for families.
Barco Pirates Night, Cancun
Billing itself as a "floating disco," this
ship will take you on a dastardly and piratical night-time
Playa Tortugas, Cancun
This beach is lined with open-air cafes, restaurants
and bars, making it a perfect place to scope out the
Wet 'n Wild, Cancun
Cool off after a hot day of touring at this family-oriented
Playa Caracol, Cancun
The touristy center of the region, with prestigious
hotels, clusters of shopping plazas and the convention
Playa Langosta, Cancun
Take the ferry from this beach to Isla Mujeres.
Playa Las Perlas, Cancun
This beautiful beach has some of the safest waters in
the region for swimming.
Playa Linda, Cancun
A ferry runs from this pretty beach to Isla Mujeres.
Playa Gaviota Azul, Cancun
This scenic beach is pretty to look at, but watch out
in the water: the undercurrents can make it a dangerous
place to swim.
Playa Chac Mool, Cancun
Take a dip in the warm waters of this beach.
Playa Marlin, Cancun
Lounge on the smooth, white, broad stretch of sand of
this beach while gazing at the often rugged surf.
Playa Ballenas, Cancun
This pretty beach is conveniently located near some
major resort hotels.
San Miguelito Beach, Cancun
Throngs of tourists horde this pretty beach, located
near some popular hotels.
Playa Las Balinas, Cancun
Tourists flock to this beautiful beach.
A cruise ship with an underwater viewing deck to see
the beautiful Caribbean reef in dry, air-conditioned
Attraction type: Ship
Gran Marina de Cancun, Cancun
At this marina, you can hire your own yacht or simply
gaze at others owned by various celebrities.
View marine life without getting in the water from this
Crucero Cancun Queen, Cancun
A popular ship offering day cruises with dining and