Booking Tours, Cancún
I've booked many tours in Cancun. The best advise I can give is to book your tours face to face. Avoid booking online. There is little recourse if things don't measure up.
I always leave my hotel to book with one of the independant shops. It is cheaper. The shops in the hotel are always more expensive because they have to pay a concession to the hotel to be there. I'm also not fond of the scare tactics they use.
I personally use Isabel at Carribean Magic tours across the road from the Riu Palace. But there are many other quality shops in Cancun.
We booked an online reservation for Xcaret. When we got to Cancun there it became obvious that you could go there for quite a bit less than we paid. So DO NOT BOOK ONLINE TOURS, wait till you get there .
It is also very far from the hotel strip and one has to take a bus into the city - then another bus to Playa del Carmen then a taxi to Xcaret. It just WAS NOT WORTH IT. It took a long time to get there and it was certainly overrated.
Unique Suggestions: Get your ticket through your hotel if you must go . Do not book online or you will pay much more.
This is a fake company that steals your money and if you get rooms, tours, car rentals, weddings, airport transfers at all, they are BAD Look at the website carefully for this company name. BEWARE
Unique Suggestions: Do not use this Company
Fun Alternatives: Anything is better
Don't book ANYTHING through the folks at the hotel for any tours, fishing, or diving activities. If anyone gives you a brochure listing prices for these things, you can "wheel and deal" and get the same or comparable package for at least 30-50% off!! They will gouge you if they can - so don't be afraid to haggle. It will save you tons of money I promise!!! PS - not me in pic! ;-)
Unique Suggestions: Ask the bartenders - they aren't as "biased" as the hotel concierges.
Fun Alternatives: Check out local docks and more "out of the way" places - they usually are better price wise and they will definitely work with you if you know how to haggle!
There are a lot of tour guides in Cancun selling trips to places such as Chichen Itza, Tulum, XCaret etc. Many of them use unusually cheap prices to lure people in which is when you get the timeshare spiele.
Normally this consists of the person making smalltalk - where are you from, how old are you, are you married etc. followed by them offering to give you your tour for free if you "let my brother show you around his hotel and tell your friends back in home all about it" or something equally lame.
Naturally it's a timeshare, and the tout will even offer to pick you up at the door of your hotel so you can't escape out of it if you agree.
Unique Suggestions: Just pay the amount advertised for the trip and don't be tempted to take it for free.
Politely refuse, say you are not interested. If necessary lie and say you're going home the day after the tour or some other excuse that makes it impossible for them to pursue the matter any further.
Once you pay for your trip voucher you should be okay. Most of the travel agents / timeshare touts use the same tour companies anyway so aside from that awkwardness of refusing the timeshare you end up with a cheaper tour than if you had gone elsewhere.
Fun Alternatives: Go to a travel agent with a "no timeshare" sign on the front. The reputable agents are obviously sick of the timeshare crowd and many advertise that they don't sell it. You might end up paying a bit more for a tour, but the person is more likely to care what they're selling you and without the hassle.
It takes about 3 hours to get to Chichen Itza so naturally there is a toilet / rest break on the way. In our case (and probably all cases), the bus pulled up to a rotunda building with a flea market (and the toilets) inside.
We were given just under 30 minutes to look around before the coach left. I have never seen such ridiculous prices in my life! To give you an idea, they were selling bottles of El Jimador for $45 when they're $10 in the Hotel Zone, and $5 in the Walmart! In other words nine times as expensive! It would have been cheaper to buy it in any US or European supermarket without the bother of getting it home.
The tequila was just one example. Everything was marked up 5 or 10 times higher. It wasn't like the quality or choice of items was any better because it wasn't. You'd have to be insane to buy stuff here but people were.
The tour guide helpfully suggested that we should haggle. Even the best haggler in the world couldn't knock these prices down to even quadruple what it cost elsewhere.
My wife & I saw one woman carrying a pot she had just paid $60 for that we *knew* was selling for $9 all over the place in Cancun! And that wasn't all - she had rugs and other stuff and must have wasted hundreds of dollars on it all.
It took us five minutes to realise that it was a scam but we had t another twenty minutes to kill before the bus doors opened. So we wandered around aimlessly trying to dodge various t-shirted sales people and eventually preferred to stand out in the heat than stay in the place any longer.
Unique Suggestions: Use the toilet, wait for the coach doors to re-open, and leave.
Watch with incredulity as people actually buy stuff at the exhorbitant prices.
Chichen Itza is well worth it despite this. You have to visit, so just be prepared for this. Our tour included a hotel buffet dinner later on which was another money making venture (drinks cost extra), but the hotel itself was beautiful and right next to the ruins. It also had several very reasonably priced gift shops of its own.
Also take plenty of bottled water / soft drinks with you. You'll need them on this kind of tour so you might as well get them beforehand.
Fun Alternatives: Shop around before going on tour.
Figure out how much you saved and treat yourself to a steak dinner.
You can go here(XEL-HA) by yourself(not with a package trip)and it only costs about 19$ to get in and 45$all inclusive.A much better deal than i got.Do shop around for trips and dont book through a holiday rep-they wack huge commission on the prices.You can find companies who do trips along Cancun beach who do not add cammission on.
Also take your own snorkeling gear here.We did and i was glad i did too.We saw people queing up to hire snorkeling gear and there was a huge que.Avoid queing and paying out more money and take your own.I hired mine from my hotel(it was free as i was all-inclusive)and took it to Xel-Ha.
Here is Xel-Has web site..................http://www.xelha.com.mx/
Watch out where you order your tours. Most people think they are the cheapest to book a tour in their hotel. Well, do not believe that. The best way to order a tour is downtown on the organized tour operators you find a lot in the centre. I can understand that most people do not trust those small travel offices. Only, check out their identity on their blouse or shirt, so you can see they are official operators. Nevertheless, they are most of the time cheaper then the ones in your hotel. The reason is that they pay less commission. Another profit is that huge hotels give promotions to them who can convince their clients to visit one of their hotels. Only thing you have to do is go with the travel agent to the hotel and they offer you a drink, show you the hotel and then they try to convince you to take a special plan of using their facilities. This all cost you one hour and even you say yes or no, you always get a discount on your trip of 50 %… On those way we paid less on our trip to Xcaret then the normal entrance was. In addition, it was with a tour bus! Finally, yet importantly, on this way we won even a week accommodation in the Sunshine Hotel (see slide show). On this way, Elsa (Marylin on VT) and me have to go back before February 2003. And believe me, we are not angry about that ;-)
Dolphins at Xel-Ha waterworld.I booked this trip with our holiday rep at our hotel.I must warm you that we paid 72$ for it.I saw it alot cheaper 45$ at one of the boat docks along the sea front.Fat Tuesdays beach club on the beach dock done it for this price too(45$).The price we payed did not include lunch or drinks,so i must say shop around for your trips and you will find them alot cheaper.
Tour Ticket Prices - Don't use the first group that offers you 'discounted' tickets for area attractions. Shop around. Your hotel will always have discount agents on site. They aren't always the best price. For piece of mind, even if you miss a 'one time offer discout', it's rare that you'll pay more than 5% more at another discounter. So the moral here is, shop at your leisure. Don't rush to buy your attraction tickets.