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Cancun Insider Tips

We've got insider information on how Cancun really works.  Books and Cancun advice from friends is great- but this is information we wish we had before our first Spring Break in Cancun.  Here are a few Cancun insider tips to help you navigate this amazing place:

What to Take, What to Leave...

-Leave the expensive jewelry and toys (I-pods) at home- your hotel may not have in-room safes and why bother with the extra baggage- this is a vacation after all.

-Bring identification and a health insurance card with you.  There is an American Medical Care Center that will take your insurance and has clean modern facilities for any kind of accident or illness you may have.  If you have no insurance- expect to pay with cash or credit card up front.

Getting Around Cancun

-Take the bus when possible, it’s the cheapest and easiest way to get around.

Cancun Taxi sign-If you do take a taxi, set the rate before you get in.  If you have a problem, get the cab number and report it to your hotel.



-Addresses on Cancun Island (in the Hotel Zone) are given by the kilometer markers- the larger the number, the more south on the island you go, and the farther away you are from the action.  For reference, Km 20 is the southernmost point of the island.

-Buses only take pesos, no American coins!

-Pedestrians do not have the right-of-way on Cancun’s streets.  Heavy traffic and operators who think their vehicle (bus or taxi) is a speedster will make crossing a challenge.

$$ Money and Cancun $$

Mexican money-To get the best exchange rates, go to a bank or local exchange house (casa de cambio).  Your hotel will exchange money too, but they are not as competitive.  The worst place to change money is a Cancun store- the exchange rate will always favor the store. For example- pay for your meal in American dollars and get change in pesos! (You just got taken to the cleaners my friend…)

-To that end, keep some pesos in hand always.

-Also keep some American dollars on hand.  Tips can go a long way into getting you past some of the crowds and regular tourist hype.

-Tip your room maid a buck or two, daily.  It will pay back dividends.  

-Keep in mind that almost every non-tourist you come into contact with has a hidden agenda- they work for commissions.  They will try to change your mind about restaurants and clubs because they get a kick-back.  Don’t buy their hype.

Work the system

-Do use the daily happy hours (usually 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.) to visit popular bars and lounges in other hotels- it’s a great way to figure out where to stay next year!  Not to mention- the drinks are usually free!!

-Most ‘locals’ speak little English- even though they will look at your and smile or nod their heads (or worse yet, tell you, “I understand.”).  Speak slowly and use common words- don’t be surprised if there is still some communication barrier.  Most clerks or maids you come into contact with likely cannot read either.  If you have a problem, let your hotel know via the front desk or concierge.

-Remember, in Cancun you are closer to the equator- use sunscreen even on a cloudy day.

-Do not have sex on the beach- any romance you may have felt will be quickly forgotten when you get caught and see the fine you’ll have to pay.

-Avoid bar and club fights at all costs- you do not want to see the inside of a Mexican jail. 

Your Hotel

-Do not argue with hotel security or the police- again, you do not want to see the inside of a Mexican jail.

Telmex Calling Card-Collect phone calls to home are very expensive. Instead, purchase a Telmex calling card when you arrive. These cards are available at any convenience store or hotel shop; 30 pesos for 3 minutes; 50 pesos for 5 minutes; 100 pesos for 10 minutes. The cards can be used at the white Telmex pay phones by inserting the card. There is a language button on the phone that will allow you to receive instructions in English. If you are going to place a collect call, it is wise to check with the hotel operator before you call to verify what the charges will be. Calls made from the hotel can cost around $40 US for just a few minutes.  Or better yet, just e-mail your folks and friends- there are internet-enabled computers in most hotels and now in some cafes.

-One of our most requested Cancun Insider Tips- even though Cancun has a water filtration system and your hotel has another, don’t be surprised to find the water tastes funny.  Mexican bottled water is cheap and readily accessible almost everywhere.  Ice in drinks is okay.


-Cancun is on Central Standard Time, year-round.  No daylight-savings observed here.

-Electrical outlets in Cancun are the same as in the U.S. So bring the hairdryer on down, you’re not going to blow the circuits!

Do you have Cancun Insider Tips?

We're always looking for Cancun advice, stories, insider information and comments from our fellow Spring Breakers to enhance this site and keep our information as timely as possible.  If you have something to add to our advice, please submit Cancun Insider Tips here.