How to Get Around Cancun & Riviera Maya on the Cheap

Boasting some of the beast beaches in the world Cancun in Mexico and the Riviera Maya receive hundreds of thousands of tourists every year.  Its airport has more international flights than that of Mexico City, and whether  traveling on a budget or have lots of money to spare there’s something that will suit your interests- guaranteed.

However, there is something most people always want to save money on and that is transporation. With so many options to choose from, and many of them unknown to the newly arrived, how do you get around Cancun, Playa del Carmen and pretty much anywhere in the Riviera Maya without spending more than necessary? How much do all these cost, and how can you know you’re not being scammed or ripped?

get around cancun

Bus R2 takes you to the hotel and tourist zone in Cancun

I’ve been spending quite some time in this tourism hub these past few months because of some online projets I have, and as an avid traveler it has taken me some time to learn the ins and outs of pricing and transportation in this part of Mexico. In this post I’m going to do a breakdown of the different options there are and prices for each- these  should be very handy too for all the travel bloggers coming here for the TBEX Cancun Conferences in September!

Cancun airport to Cancun

By bus:

When walking out of the arrival area on Terminal 3 head over to the parking lot to the small ADO (local bus company) stand you’ll find under the shelter. Tickets cost 68MXN and the trip will take around 25 minutes. Make sure you only speak with representatives that are wearing an ADO shirt or you will get scammed.

By taxi:

These are easy to find, and can cost you anything from 250-400 MXN depending on what hotel you’re going to. Generally speaking it should not cost more than 300 MXN, so make sure you bargain.

My recommendation:

Unless you’re spliting costs, the best way to get from the airport to your hotel is to hop on the bus to the city terminal and then get a taxi from there. These cost 25-70 MXN (read more tips below) which means that at most your trip to your hotel should cost less than 100 MXN.

 

Cancun airport to Playa del Carmen

By bus:

Again when walking out of the arrival area head over to the parking lot to the small ADO (local bus company) stand you’ll find under the shelter. Tickets cost 146MXN and the trip will take around one hour.

By taxi:

The trip will take around 45 minutes and will cost more than 700 MXN. I don’t know why you’d want to get one of these.

My recommendation:

Get to Playa del Carmen by bus and then hop on a taxi (70 MXN)to your hotel if you need one- make sure you know where your hotel is because many of them are on 5th Avenue, within walking distance of the bus terminal.

 

Getting around Cancun

While transportation in Cancun is not the most comfortable (most taxis and buses are quite old and lack  AC despite the intense heat), it is quite effective and much cheaper than what you’d expect, specially when compared with that of other cities. These tips  will help you get around town at minimum cost:

By taxi

Here’s some good news: taxis within the city of Cancun all cost a flat rate of 25 MXN regardless of your destination, unless you’re going a bit to the outskirts in which case it may cost 30 MXN. Note that 90% of the taxis don’t have AC . This said, if you happen to hop on one of the few that do have AC get the driver’s phone number to arange future transportation. It will cost you the same and your trip will be better.

If you’re walking out of a mall (Malecon Americas for example) you’ll find taxi stops right out the main door. Taxis waiting in taxi stops charge a flat rate of 40 MXN instead of 25, so I suggest you just walk a few meters to the closest street and flag the first one that drives by. There’s more than 1,500 taxis in Cancun so you’ll wait less than a minute.

Taxis to the hotel zone  on Bulevard Kukulcan cost 70 MXN, but there is a cheaper way to ge to any of the hotels along it. Simply find your way to the bus stop at the begining of Bulevard Kukulcan on its intersection with Avenida Bonampak. You’ll identify this place because there’s an unnamed roundabout with big seashells and starfish- just ask around or your taxi deriver for the bus stop to the hotels. Once there hop on bus R1 or R2 and ask the driver to let you know when you’re getting close to your hotel. The bus costs 9.5 MXN.

playa delfines

Make sure you stop by Playa Delfines during your stay; it is indeed nicer than those of the hotels.

By bus

Buses that travel only with the city (blue) cost 7 MXN, but they are kind of difficult to understand as there are no route maps. You’ll have to ask for a bus that goes from your place to wherever you want to go and there’s a good chance you’ll have to swap buses. These have no AC.

Buses to the hotel zone, Playa Delfines, La Isla mall, Coco Bongo and the club area or any of the other attraction in this strip cost 9.5 MXN and usually do have AC. These also go to other parts of the city and you can identify them by their numbers, R1 and R2.

 

Getting around Playa del Carmen

PdC is quite small and you’ll find yourself walking almost everywhere. Should you need a taxi these cost 70 MXN.

 

Cancun to Playa del Carmen, Tulum, Belize, in between or the other way around.

To get to and from any of these places you only have two options: busese and combis, the white vans you’ll see pretty much everywhere.

By bus

There are two bus companies you can use, the first class ADO and the simple Mayab. ADO buses are more comfortable and have AC, but they are also slightly more expensive. Seats in ADO buses can be booked in advanced, but Mayab doesn’t have a booking system and work on a first come/ first sirved basis; I have yet to see the first full Mayab bus though. For ticket prices visit ADO’s website http://ado.com.mx/ but for you to get an idea a bus from Cancun to PdC (Playa del Carmen) costs 58 MXN, from Cancun to Tulum around 120 MXN and from Cancun to Chetumal (the border town with Belize) between 290-450 MXN depending on the schedule.

By combi

If you’re traveling light (just a backpack or a small suitcase) this is by far the cheapest and quickest option. These vans also stop right outside the bus stations, and leave as they fill up which rarely takes more than 10 minutes. They have AC and as I said are faster than the buses, making them by prefered transportatioon option. Tickets from Cancun to Playa del Carmen (or the other way around) cost 35 MXN, and from PdC to Tulum cost 40 MXN. That’s an average of 270 MXN less than by bus!! Note that most vans require you get off at PdC and exchange when going to Cancun towards Belize and viceversa, but it is much cheaper and still quicker.

combi playa del carmen

A combi or colectivo followed by a bus in Playa del Carmen.

 

Conclusion

So this is it! I hope this breakdown of all the possibe options are helpful for you. Print this page if you think it may come in handy later on and enjoy your trip knowing you are saving some good money!

 

Was this post helpful for you? Have any other tips to add? Share them with us in the comments section below and this post too if you think others might find it useful!

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