Plaza Las Americas has a large Chedraui supermarket, a Cinema complex, a Sears department store and a lot of small speciality shops for clothing, jewellery, makeup and electrical goods.
There is quite a good food mall.
Centro Maya is about a mile away and can be easily reached for 5 pesos by bus along 30th Ave, look for one that says Soriana. Once there, Soriana is a large supermarket but also has a small great value cafe at the back. A huge slice of pizza is 22 pesos, capucchino and donut 16 pesos, they do hot dogs, hamburgers, sandwiches, BBQ chicken.
There are a lot of small specialty shops - footwear, beachwear, jewellery. There is a small food mall at one end, and a McDonalds at the other. At the Maccas end you will find an Office Works, a restaurant and the Cinema complex - showing films in original languages for 40 pesos (2 for 1 on Wednesdays). It's a great diversion for a hot sticky day, even better when it's raining.
At the other end there is a City Club, a huge store offering everything from whitegoods to clothes to food and wine, but you can't buy anything unless you are a member - it's like Sams Club.
On the outside are several banks, usually with shorter queues than in town, and also ATMs.
These shops sell nothing but cigars. They are called cigar shops or factorys and on 5th Ave there must be around 5 or 6. They have a man at the front of the shop making up cigars there and then.
What to buy: You can buy cigars, every size and flavour you can think off. They make them in the shop plus they have all the named ones. They have small to really big ones which i don't believe you can smoke but there is every thing. I got some chocholate ones and vanilla flavour ones plus natural ones. Very good choice off cigars. Also they sell anything to do with cigars like cutters , storage boxes and lighters.
What to pay: You can pay $0.60 upwards, some off the really good cigars are expensive. It all depends on what you want. I paid around $2 each for a 140mm long.
This isn't a tip for just one shop its a street of shopping. Its 5th Ave and its around 3km long. It has all named shops on like your big clothing makes and big named jewelry shops. It also has all gift, local crafts, Cigar and other shops with various items. It has abit of everything inlcuding pubs and resturants also as well. Also on the street theres painters and musical people and dancers etc. Really colourful, busy street full of mexicans and tourist a like. Just be aware some of the shop owners can get on your nerves asking you into there shops all the time. Its normally the smaller gift shops they do this on. Just walk bye and say no thank up.
What to buy: You can get everything from gifts, clothes, food, drink , Cigars, sports equipment and loads more.
What to pay: You can pick cheap gifts and i found the named shops slightly cheaper than back in England.
The shops in Playa Del Carmen were lovely. There were the usual Mexican things to buy such as sombreros, bags, t-shirts and ponchos. Some of the shops had wooden lights that were very decorative and unusual.
What to buy: Sombreros, ponchos and of course Tequila.
What to pay: Sombreros were about £10
I realize there are a ton of places to buy Tequila in Mexico but what really stood out about this place was that the sales lady was very knowledgeable about her tequila! She explained the different ways they're made and why the prices vary so much.
It was really nice chatting with her but I can't remember anything she said.
What to pay: Anywhere from $4.00 a bottle and up.
There is a tent sign on 5th Ave near Calle 6 that reads "25 hour Doctor" English spoken.
We went there to get a refill for a prescription. A dingy little unclean room. I sowed him my empty vial of Tylenol 3 and asked for a refill. He asked to see some identification so I showed him my driver's licence. He took it, wrote out a prescription for 30 Tylex CD, the Mexican equivalent, and demanded $150 US dollars. I said that was outrageous and asked for my licence back. He refused. He said (with a straight face) he had to pay $40 tax for every prescription he wrote. I said: How does thge government know how many prescriptionsw you write, these are not numbered. At that point his poor English started to fail him, but as I could not get my licence back without paying him something (not wanting to spend my vacation dealing with the police, et al) I "bargained" him down to $100 (which would have been less than the cost and hassle of getting my licence reissued) and walked away. The pharmacist told me I had been screwed (duh!).
So if you need a doctor when in Playa del Carmen, stay away from this criminal. Go to a pharmacist and tell them what you want and ask for a doctor. Then ask what it will cost for a scrip. Confirm this with the doctor and above all, do not do something as stupid as I did and hand over some ID of value.
In Playa del Carmen, all of the shops have the same touristy crap. Silver jewelry, carved wooden jaguar heads, turtle ashtrays, plastic pyramids, marachas, sombreros. They're all there in every shop on 5th Ave and the gift shops in our hotel. My favorite touristy souvenir is the carved wooden skeleton. Got mine at Chichen Itza. All of the paths there are lined with vendors selling the same stuff as in Playa del Carmen, only much cheaper and you can bargain much easier too. There are local vendors at all of the tourist attractions with much better prices than in town.
Playa Del Carmen is perfect for the adventurous shopper. As you walk along checking out the various shops. Look around. You'll see neat little mexican statutes & interesting people. An individual walking their iguana or maybe a 3 foot mastiff. You just never know what you might see. A giant frog floating above a building maybe? Then comes the real adventure as you wander through the shops. You get to negotiate on all those Pareos, t-shirts, mayan jewlery, brightly covered sundresses, silver jewlery, cigars, brightly decorated pottery, silver mayan statutes, mexican rugs, baskets, handmade hammocks, crocheted tableclothe's and yes, various pipes crafted to look like mayan gods. You can even negotiate for the finer jewlery made of gold, tanzinite, ruby, emerald, etc. If you don't like the response or price given back...keep negotiating. If you still don't like the price and can't get them lower...just turn & walk out. 9 times out of 10 they'll come running after you accepting your offer or just walk to the next vendor, he'll have the same items & might accept your offer. Btw, in Playa Del Carmen you can get a better deal on items than you can in Cancun by at least 25%. If you never negotiated before, have no fear, by the 4th or 5th shop, you should be an old pro. Watch the other purchaser's & you'll soon pick up all the tips & tricks & realize this is a common practice...so go ahead & have some fun with it. If you get called loco or a cheap jew, then you know you've gone too far & hit the price too low, but it sure is fun to see how low you can go before they get mad, lol. So go ahead & splurge. It's well worth your American Dollar, not only do you get a break on prices but our dollar down there is generally worth $1.25. Worried about carrying around a bunch of cash? Then fear no more, most of the stores & vendors accept Visa & Mastercard and American Express. But stick to these 2 as not everyone accepts American Express or Discover.
What to buy: For you women, this is the perfect place to pick up some really quality jewlery....especially mayan, since it in fashion, but it be can picked it up here for 1/4 the cost you'll pay in the states & you'll be able to afford those pieces inlaid with Malici, Lapis & the like. Even the finer jewlery stores are a bargain & those items are guaranteed. They'll repair or replace if your piece breaks or needs repaired. They have websites w/locations & instructions. Some of these finer jewlery stores even offer trade-in's or should I say trade-up's. The Mexican Rugs, Pareo's, colorful sundresses and the silver mayan gods. Leather is also a good buy there. Go ahead & pick up those leather purses, backpacks & the kind. You could sell all of these items back in the states for twice what you paid for them. The handcrafted crocheted tableclothes are also a bargain, look elegant & are a conversational piece. So unique!
What to pay: Prices vary depending on your purchases. Crocheted tableclothes - $10 to 15. Pareao's - $5 to $15. Hammocks - $25 to $40. Mayan Jewlery - $20 for a simple bracelet or earrings on up to $250 for the intricate & more precious stone inlaid necklaces. Gold or finer jewlery - $50 for a pair of simple gold earrings on up to $600 + for your gemstone rings, necklaces & earrings. T-Shirts - the more you buy, the bigger the break you get - $10 - $25.
We bought 4 litre jugs of water here (about 1 gallon) for less than a one litre bottle from a pharmacia one block away on Fifth Ave. I don't remeber the exact location of this one, but there are many shops like it, away from the tourist area.
What to buy: Basic necessities
Mexican souvenir shopping has changed a lot in the last few yrs with typical mexican art becoming harder and harder to find. It is easier to find indonesian art?!
We went back to our lil Playa Del Carmen this year and I found it very hard to find anything worth buying besides clothing. The clothes I bought were the same prices I would find in Montreal or any North American or European city and sometimes even more.
I talked to a few locals about where I could find some traditional iron artifacts and paintings and I was told that today it was only in Huatulco and Mexico city that this was possible. Now instead of paying $1 for junk, they are tryng to charge you $20 USD!!! So forget the little items and look for one particular item that has quality attached to it.
There are still a few shops available offering some colorful modern interpretations of animals and dolls but again you really have to look around before buying b/s the qualities do vary.
Here I bought a nice pair of mexican boots and a typical 'sun and moon' made of baked clay.
What to buy: In other shops I bought a carpet, a paperknife made of obsidian, a picture of Maya Calendar, some t-shirts... then my husband stopped me!!
They're EVERYWHERE! The only tip I have is, don't expect it to be cheap.
And don't bother haggling if you DO find a good deal.
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