Getting through the airport in Cancun can be a challenge for the uninitiated. Getting through passport control is quick and getting your luggage is quick. Passing through customs depends on the number of people arriving at the same time, in December 2013 it only took a minute. Press the button, if it's green you are free to go through, red and they are going to have a look through your luggage.
The fun part starts as you make your way through the gauntlet of taxi drivers, time share sellers, etc. that you encounter right after customs. If you are on a package tour with Apple, FunJet, Expedia, etc. or have prearranged a transfer with your hotel or shuttle service, ignore everyone inside the airport and make your way to the area outside that is just past the fence, this is where you will find the tour representatives or someone holding a sign with your name on it.
On your way to Mexico, they give you a two part immigration form to fill out. One part of it is retained at immigration on the way in, the 2nd part they usually put inside your passport. I take my passport, with the form inside, and deposit it into the room safe where it stays until I'm ready to go home.
On our most recent trip, two people got stopped getting back on the plane where they collect the form, seems like they should check it at security but at least on this trip they checked it just before boarding. I believe they were told that they had to go back to customs and I'm not sure if they even made the flight since we left early.
It's a shame because I have family in Mexico city and The last time I went to Mexico was in Cancun about 8 years ago. We went in Sept. 2013 and I felt very awkward at times. their were 7 of us and when we went down one of the main streets in Playa Del Carmen, I kind of stood back from the rest of the group because I wasn't feeling very good vibes. At first they always want to make a deal and promise you the best deal in town, then when you say no thanks, they make rude comments about you. They think Americans are all rich so that is always on their mind when they see us. At one place that my sisters went to the guy even threatened to kill them. At first he seen that my sisters weren't buying so he made this rude comment that only skinny people shop at his store. Then my sister tried to kill him with kindness and his response was I'll punch you in the face and as they were walking out he said that he would kill them. Now I know that their are a lot of bad things going on in Mexico with the Cartel and so on but It peeves me that they can be so rude, especially when a lot of companies are now giving them our jobs, let alone supporting them in many other ways by us buying from them. They promise real silver when it isn't, they even charged us $16.00 for 4 shrimp on a bed of lettuce. The security at the airport going home was terrible to me. This guy acts like he is a very nice person to me and then scribbles on my ticket and said, go with Maria that lady but I didn't hear him very well and then he yelled go with that security lady as if he was going to arrest me and he was making a big scene. I was checked by security twice because of that scribble mark he put on my ticket. We get in the area where we can get something to eat and find out that at JOHNEY ROCKET'S WHICH WE HAVE ONE IN DOWNTOWN DENVER IS CHARGING 20.00 AMERICAN DOLLARS FOR A HAMBURGER, FRIES AND A DRINK. Refills on the drink, $4.00 american dollars. I never felt so unappreciated in Mexico in my life. What a drastic change from the last time I wen't their. Also, the WALMART that we went to go shop at in Playa is the most filthiest, disgusting place... I def wouldn't buy the meat their and the workers moved so slow. I think it's sad that an AMERICAN company such as WALMART can be such a disgusting place to go shop. You always need to double check your receipts because they will try to rob you blind any way they can. I use to work for Dish Network in Littleton CO and Echo star and I know they employ people in mexico and only pay them $4.00 per hour compared to our $11.00 per hour and I think that's a shame. It's hard to get a genuine smile from someone over their anymore. It saddens me to say the least. Especially because I am mexican my self.
With the exception of liquid souvenirs like hot sauces, vanilla and tequila which you can't carry on a plane anymore, you'll want to buy your souvenirs in town where they are 2-3 times cheaper than at the airport plus you can sometimes barter in town if you are buying several things from the same store.
It pains me to write anything bad about Mexico because I am a frequent traveler to Mexico, mostly to the non-touristy areas, and have always considered myself a savvy traveler. In May, 2012, my sister and I went into an upscale store in downtown Playa del Carmen named Mayan Passion. All our credit card purchases were later billed under the name Mayan Legacy. The salesmen said their brothers own five silver stores in Playa so this warning should extend to any store that sells silver. The store's outside sign, business card, and all receipts say .925 silver. Additionally, each piece we bought is stamped .925.
The salesmen were wonderful and friendly and my sister and I bought what they said were .925 silver rings with Alexandrite stones for $300 US each. There were banners in the store with pictures of the Alexandrite stones this store specialized in. The salesmen then showed me earrings and a pendant to match my ring, which I then bought for an additional $350. On my recommendation, other of my family members later bought a ring and a pendant, also with Alexandrite stones.
On the plane ride home, the silver on my sister's ring rubbed off, exposing a different metal underneath. She took the ring to her jeweler, who said this was not .925 silver, but a cheap plating and all the plating was gone. My jeweler confirmed that my ring, pendant and earrings were not .925 silver either. My other family member took her jewelry to their jewelry store and were told the only part of their jewelry that was silver was the clasp on the pendant. To our surprise, that jewelry store said the stone was glass and not Alexandrite.
We submitted three separate reports to our three separate Visa accounts from our jewelry stores with documentation and photos that none of our jewelry has Alexandrite, but glass, and that the silver was only a cheap plating and not .925 sterling silver.
I waited this long to submit this warning to all travelers to Plays del Carmen until all of our credit card companies have investigated this matter and credited all charges back to our account, which they now have done. All calls and emails to the store went unaswered.
Be very careful to check your visa slips or use cash. At Tanzanite Solidaridad Av 5 Sur Lt 2L1 agent Macario. While being distracted by attempt at another sale, added a zero to the pesos on the slip which we missed and so allowed the transaction. Visa was sympathetic but is reporting this sort of dishonesty a lot. Don't shop this store but do enjoy the atmosphere of Playa del Carmen and see this sort of thing an expensive adventure to your trip.
OK I am a stupid gringo who should have read some travel tips before I went, but I am putting my ego aside and telling this story in hopes it helps someone. Knowledge is power:
I pulled into the PEMEX in our VW Jetta rental car with half a tank of gas. I don’t have the exact address of this station, but it was in the Xelha area and there was a scuba shop with the sign “Mares Scuba System” in front of it. The station is on the west side of the highway.We were going to be driving a lot that day and did not want to get close to empty. Immediately 3 men and 1 woman attendant came up to the vehicle, and I simply asked them to fill the tank. My wife and two kids got out of the car and went to the “Extra” mini-mart to get some snacks and I stepped out of the car to stretch my legs. The female attendant was very friendly and began asking me if I spoke any Spanish and joked with me, etc. Then one of the men asked me to open the hood of the car, so I did. He then checked the oil and showed me that it was about ¾ of a quart low. I would normally not worry about that, but since I was going to be driving my family on unfamiliar roads in an unfamiliar car all day I agreed to purchasing a quart of oil. He put about half the oil into the engine and handed me the half empty bottle.
Then the female attendant came over and said the total was 670 pesos. That seemed extremely high to me, but being the first time I had purchased gas in that area I was not sure how much to expect so I gave her the cash.
To make matters worse, I then joined my family inside the Extra mini-mart and was charged 275 pesos for one six pack of “Barroletos” beer along with two small bags of potato chips.
We left and began driving south on Federal Highway 307 and I began to convert the amounts in my head and realized that we had been overcharged for both the gasoline and the items in the store. By my estimation we should have paid no more than 200 pesos for the gas (including the oil) and no more than 130 pesos for the beer and potato chips. This means they overcharged me approximately 615 pesos, or almost $50 U.S!
I have travelled to Mexico on five previous vacations with my family and never had this happen at any other time in any other location. If I have any problems in the future, I will simply lock my car and leave it in front of the gas pump and call the local police. This is not nickle-and-dime it's robbery plain and simple.
We rented a car through the Mayan Palace resort with Alamo Car Rental. We got about 5 km sounth of the resort on the main highway when we needed to slow down for the speed bumps on the highway and discovered the car had no brakes. My husband frantically tried to stop the car but it would not slow down. We rear-ended a taxi doing about 70 km per hour. We were all wearing seatbelts so there will be no long term injuries to anybody in either car, however, the experience was very traumatic, especially to my husband who was driving. It wasted a few days of our vacation while we recovered from our injuries and our now seeing a chiropractor to help get our backs straightened out after the impact.
It took several days to finally speak to the Cancun manager who was apologetic and said that our credit card would not be charged (I should hope not!!). Now 6 weeks later there is a charge on our credit card from the hotel for about $5,000. We have disputed that with the credit card company and it is flagged as fraudulent. So much for their attempts to lure tourists back!
A few weeks ago, a man with a US accent, on 30th av outside Walmart asked me if I spoke english. He then told me a long story about how he had visited Tulum and lost his wallet and could I give him some change to get back to Cancun. I didn't have much change but gave him about 50c. Yesterday he stopped me in Av Juarez with a similar story, but this time I said I'd already heard it and I was calling the police. He scampered fast, but please beware, this man is obviously not genuine. DO NOT give him any money and call the police if you possibly can.
If anything, reports of the war and affiliated terrorists acts in many parts of Mexico go unreported or under-reported in the international media. The situation is worse than you can probably imagine. The part of the country you're asking about, though, with the exception of some isolated incidents at Cancun, has been mostly spared. Playa del Carmen is an area, though, where reports of the rape of women tourists have been made and I believe the U.S. and maybe other governments have issued cautions or warnings about that.
If you go to Playa remember this place never ever to hire a car from there, AMERICA CAR RENTAL. I rented an All inclusive 0 deductible colision assured car in spanish "Covertura TOTAL, TODOS LOS SEGUROS" this means I am covered in anycase and I payed in advance for it, everything was OK until a mexicano crashed his car against mine from behind, when he was trying to overpass me in a forbidden place he marked the road with a 16-18 meters tire mark on the pavement. Anyway the police made a report and delivered I was guilty, nobody knows why, but of course the mexicano has no insurance at all. I lost the whole day dealing with the police and the rental company after four hours sent us a man that payed the mexicano as he resulted with no charges at all. I thought that was all caude I was fully covered for all. Once at home the rental company chargeg me 400$ for the damage. But now they do not answer to my enquiries. NEVER GO TO AMERICA CAR RENTAL.
The Riveria Maya is safe for those who use common sense. You can buy drugs on the streets of any city in the US and Mexico is no different. Pay attention to what you are doing. Don't be stupid and you'll be fine. Learn about the culture and enjoy the beauty of the country. Treat them right and remember that you are a guest in their country. Have fun!
When walking around the main shopping area on 5th Ave you will be hassled quite alot. I noticed guys just selling hammocks normally on the side of the path or road. Once you say no thank you for a hammock they offer you something for your nose or some stronger. They are offering you drugs. I got asked 3 times in one shopping trip out in around 3 hours. Some off these guys have a face full of tattoo's and some just look abit ruff which can make some people feel unconfortable. Just a warning to stay away from these people as you never no what they are really selling you. Plus i am not sure on the drug laws in Mexico but i am lead to believe its quite harsh.
We had been warned about this before going to mexico but got warned again by the travel company rep. Men in the airport will get a trolley and offer to carry your suit case to the bus or to the check in area, then you pay them around $5 or $10 which yes is great and worth it i believe. But now the men have started to say $50 or even $70 we got told which is stuiped money for moving your cases a few hundard meters. Our rep told us one asked for $70 a few days before and got it because they had done the work and the police said they had to pay it. My adivse is to say no thank you and walk on by with your cases in your hand. I wouldn't fall for this as i don't like people touching my suit cases in an airport unless its being checked in. Help this saves some one money.
There's been a ton of press rwcently about the drug lords in mexicozn and playa is no different. While I felt perfectly safe downtown, I was approached by tons of drug vendors and seedy characters. Just use common sense and don't get yourself into precarious situations, but still be on the lookout.