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Cancún Travel Tips – A Guide for First-time Visitors

Mandala Beach Club Cancun
Cancun Travel Tips: Soak up the sun at ‘Mandala Beach Club’

If you’re planning on going to Cancún anytime soon, but you aren’t really sure what to expect, this guide full of Cancún travel tips is for you.

White sandy beaches, crystal clear blue water, fine dining and a thrilling nightlife scene – Cancún has it all! It’s known as Mexico’s Mecca of beautiful beaches, many great spa-offers and pumping nightclubs.

And on top of that, Cancún is the perfect starting point for your Maya expedition! This sounds perfect, right?

It gets even better: This Mexican tourist hotspot attracts many travellers because of the low airfares. As of August 2018, airfares from the US start as low as 122 USD and from Europe from 500 Euro.

So, here are some tips for travelling to Cancun. As well as what you can see and do while there.

Mandala Beach Club
Handstands never get old, do they?

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Tips for Anyone Wanting to Travel to Cancún

Some simple tips for a Cancún vacation, great for anyone heading on their first ever trip to this amazing beach holiday spot:

  • Brush up on your Spanish
    • Most people working in tourism will speak English, but it won’t hurt to make sure you can say some basic phrases. It’ll help when dealing with the locals, as well gain you their respect.
  • Pack LOTS of Sunscreen
    • The Mexican sun can be ruthless, especially to those not used to it. You don’t want to spend your holiday feeling sick and sore with burnt skin, so lather on the SPF and stay hydrated in the shade!

Cancún Sightseeing Tips

When sightseeing in Cancún, these are the top tips to help you get the most out of your trip:

  1. Take your time

Don’t try to fit too much into one day. Time in Cancún moves ‘slower’, and it’s going to take you longer to do something than you think. So rather pick a few things to do and see, and spend any spare time soaking up the sun on the beach. That’s what Cancún is for.

  1. Lookout for private property

Most, if not all, beachfront hotels are private property and prefer for non-guests to use the public beaches. You can access one of the public access points, just ask a local if you’re not sure.

Cancún Honeymoon Tips

The most important tip, if you’re in Cancún for your honeymoon, is to go easy on the spicy Mexican meals, especially if you’re not used to spicy foods! They may be too delicious to pass up altogether, so eat them in moderation. You don’t want to be suffering from stomach cramps (or worse) while trying to enjoy a romantic holiday.

Cancun travel tips: Married Couple in the ocean
You can either do what this couple did or follow our Cancun travel tips and this itinerary below

Most Important Things To Know When Traveling To Cancún

You’ll no doubt learn a whole lot about Cancún during your stay, but here are some important things to know before you go.

Many people ask the question, is Cancún safe? While the city is relatively safe, it is still advised to be cautious and to keep valuables safe. Just as you would in most new and foreign countries.

The cost of food in Cancún will vary, but prices are quite average when compared to anywhere else. Tipping in Cancún is usually at 10%, so it’s a good idea to add that into your Cancún budget.

Best Cancún Advice

Another great Cancún trip tip: make sure you have the Mexican currency, Pesos on you. Cancún traders will accept dollars, but you’ll have to use your brain power to make sure you get the correct change back, according to the exchange rate. So it’s easier for everyone if you exchange some cash when you arrive.

Things To Know About Cancún

Here are some amazing and interesting facts that should be known by anyone travelling to Cancún:

  1. The beach sand is cool – in more ways than one

Not only can you take advantage of the stunning white coastline, but your bare feet are welcomed by the crushed-coral sand which stays cool constantly. So even though the temperatures soar, you won’t have to worry about burnt feet.

  1. In 1970, just three people lived in Cancún

A massive difference from the large crowds of locals that mingle with the even larger crowd of tourists along the streets and beaches today.

  1. The second largest Coral reef in the world is just off Cancún shores

The Maya Barrier Reef, second only to Australia’s famous Great Barrier Reef, draws many people to Cancún’s shores every year.

Things To Avoid In Cancún

While you are relatively safe in Cancun, there are of course things to be wary of, just like any other place.

  • Walking about alone, especially at night

It’s hardly safe to be in a deserted street wherever you are in the world these days. So it should come as no surprise that tourists are not encouraged to walk the streets at night alone. Be sure to stay in a group and be aware of your surroundings.

  • Timeshare presentations

There seems to be a large group of people specifically trying to sell timeshares. Try not to fall for their charms, and avoid them at the airports and information stands.

  • Tap water

Unless filtered, the water in Cancún is most likely not going to agree with your body. Hotels and restaurants will have filters to serve water to their guests, but while out exploring it is advised to carry bottled water.

Cancún, Mexico Travel Guide

In addition to the above Cancún tips, here’s a rough guide on how to get the best out of your vacation.

Accommodation: Where To Stay In Cancún?

No list of Cancún Mexico travel tips would be complete without tips on where to stay.

Depending on your budget and the type of travel you are planning, Cancún offers two options: the centre/downtown area or the Hotel Zone (“Zona Hotelera”). For me as a nomad/ long-term traveller, I am always chasing the most economic and convenient options. At the moment I am house sitting in Merida, for example, in order to lower my budget…but that’s a different story.

If you want to save money on accommodation in Cancún you’re better off staying in the city centre. We chose a wonderful hostel called Mezcal Hostel, close to the ADO bus terminal in Cancún. For one month we formed part of their team and supported the hostel in the area of marketing and guest relations. It was a great way to save money and put some action into our daily travel-life.

We found this place on a website called Worldpackers which is an organisation that helps travellers and hostels around the world to connect. You don’t work for money but volunteer and receive free accommodation in exchange. On top of that, we got some free tours to some of the attractions in and around Cancún! Not bad for 4 hours of Social Media Marketing.

Hammock_Mezcal-Hostel
‘Working’ on some Social Media projects for Mezcal Hostel… this is the kind of office that I like!

NEED MORE TRAVEL TIPS FOR CANCÚN AND SURROUNDING?

Check out my other post if you want to know which day trips you can do from Cancún

Or perhaps you are looking to stay in Playa del Carmen – here is my hostel review from our stay.


Beaches: Best Beaches In Cancún

I could stand there all day and take pictures of all that BLUE!!

If you chose to stay in the “Hotel Zone” you’ll be surrounded by restaurants, bars, clubs and also Cancún’s beaches. And there are many of them on the 18 km long strip that divides Cancún’s centre and the beach area. Most of the important hotels have their beaches in front of them.

Playa Delfines
I could stand there all day and take pictures of that BLUE!!

Cancún’s top public beaches:

  • Playa Tortugas
  • Playa Marlín
  • Playa Ballenas
  • Playa Delfines (*my favourite beach, all photos in this section!)

If you stay in the city centre as we did, you can get to all the above beaches with the local bus R1. It takes about 15-25 minutes, depending on which one you choose (Playa Delfines is the furthest away, Playa Tortugas is the closest). The bus costs 10.50 Mexican Pesos no matter where you get off (as of Oct. 2015).

Playa Delfines, Cancun
Playa Delfines: Plenty of umbrellas to stay in the shade…free of charge!

My favourite beach is definitely “Playa Delfines”, where you can find the very colourful Cancún sign. Out of all my Cancún travel tips, here is one of my favourite one: If you intend on taking a picture with the sign, bring some time and patience: people line-up for it!

Cancun Sign
Bring some time to stand in line…this is a popular photo spot!!!

Shopping: What Else To Do In Cancún?

Along with all of the other tips for vacationing in Cancún, we suggest doing some serious shopping!

Apart from the beaches, shops and restaurants, there is a very popular market among tourists where you will find all sorts of Mexican souvenirs: Mercado 28. You can buy everything from Sombreros, Ponchos, Ceramics, Pottery, Jewellery to Tequila, Sweets, Spices and more.

A fun way to spend a couple of hours! Make sure to hang out until lunchtime, some of the restaurants sell great food. Look out for the “Menú del Día” options, where you can taste some delicious local food for a good price!

Mercado 28
Colourful, spices and yum!!!

Not into local shopping? Why not search for your souvenirs on Amazon and let them send directly to your friends and family:


Nightlife: Where To Shake Your Booty In Cancún?

Cancún attracts many club lovers for its vibrant nightlife scene, and this is a must-do for all the party animals out there. People come to party in Mexico’s tourist hotspot in order to see the “Cirque de Soleil” of Cancún at various clubs such as Coco Bongo, Palazzo and Co.

Palazzo
One of the main reasons people come to Cancun: it’s pumping nightlife!

Most clubs offer ‘open bar’ for their pricy entry fees, so you really have a mission to complete by the end of the night: get as many drinks as possible so your 80 USD is well spent. Luckily we are not passionate about clubs, so we didn’t spend money on it.

However, as part of our hostel volunteer program, we went once, for free, and watched the spectacle. I prefer smaller places, like Señor Frog, for example, even though they are sometimes not really less crazy.

Cancun travel tips: Enjoy a night out at Senor Frog
A night out at Señor Frog’s crazy restaurant and club…

How To Get Around In Cancún

If you’re not sure how to travel in Cancún, taking the bus is the easiest and most cost-effective way to get around. Bus drivers in Cancún are used to transporting tourists through the streets. You’ll be met by friendly and helpful answers to any questions you may have.

For those wanting a bit more of a structured trip, why not book a guided tour. Going through Cancún, with someone who knows where they are going, will help you familiarise yourself with the place. You’ll also get to hear the best bits of history, news and interesting facts about the place you pass.

For organised tours, check out these great deals:


Itinerary: Cancún Travel Tips For One Day

Last on our list of travel tips for Cancún is an itinerary for the best day you could spend in the city. Don’t be lost as to what to do while in Cancún, just use these ideas.

  • Have breakfast at your hotel or hostel (most places offer breakfast included or for a small additional fee they will prepare something for you)
  • Stroll through the stalls at Mercado 28 and find some nice Mexican souvenirs!
  • Eat lunch at one of the local restaurants close to the ‘Ayuntamiento’ before you hop on the bus R1 to the Hotel Zone.
  • Relax at one of Cancún’s many beautiful beaches like “Playa Delfines”, “Playa Marlin” or “Playa Tortugas”
  • Sip a Margarita and watch the sunset at JC Capitan and stay for dinner!
  • Dance the night away in one of the many bars and nightclubs on the hotel strip

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But the best part starts now: From Cancún, you can make a ton of day trips…So, make sure to check out my other blog post with travel tips on where to go and what to see in one day. This post includes a trip to Isla Mujeres, Chichen Itza, Cozumel, Playa del Carmen and Holbox Island!!

DID YOU LIKE THESE Cancún TRAVEL TIPS? Feel free to like, share and comment below!!! Happy travels, Y’all!

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What to do in CANCUN? Travel tips

By Julia

Julia is the founder and chief editor of Jey Jetter, a site that showcases the option of working remotely and travel as much as you like. Julia is a former PR/marketing consultant who turned into a remote working social media manager, travel writer and public speaker living location independently since 2011. She has been to 86 countries on all 6 continents and lived in several different countries for more than six months. Her laptop is her office and the label 'digital nomad' fits best to describe her lifestyle. On this site, she writes about personal freedom, remote work and her passion for travelling.

2 replies on “Cancún Travel Tips – A Guide for First-time Visitors”

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