If you are staying at a Riviera Maya resort, they’ll do their level best to book you onto a bus tour. As those fall, for me, into the same category as a tot with a very runny nose (to be avoided at all costs) we got there the way many of the locals do: on a colectivo. These little vans scoot up and down Highway 307 between Cancun and Playa del Carmen and Playa and Tulum from about 5:00 AM - 10:00 PM every day, are ridiculously cheap, air-conditioned and comfortable.
Getting yourself onto one is very easy: go stand by the highway - on the side of the direction you want to go - and wait a few minutes. The drivers will be looking for passengers, and if they have room for more they’ll flash their lights to signal that they’ve seen you. Wave your arms to let ‘em know you want to get on. The van will pull over, and you tell them where you want to go; in this case, Ruinas Tulum.
Get in and enjoy the ride. Sometimes they’ll ask for payment at the same time you climb on and sometimes when you get off.
We paid about 30 pesos pp (about $2.27 U.S.) from our Riviera Maya hotel to Tulum, and about 35 ($2.60) to Playa del Carmen. The rates could obviously change or be more/less depending on distance between locations but whatever; a cab is going to cost you a LOT more.
Some good stuff to know:
• If you see one coming but lights aren’t flashing and it doesn’t slow, it’s full. This is not uncommon during rush hours when a lot of locals are going/coming from work. Just be patient and wait for the next one, and/or try not to travel around 7-8:00 in the morning and 5:00 in the afternoon.
• You should keep an eye out for the stop you want and alert the driver when you see it coming. Tulum is pretty easy, though, as there are very likely going to be others on the van who want to get off there. Just be sure to get off at the ruins (Ruinas Tulum) as there’s another stop in the town of Tulum. To head back after your visit, just return to the same stop; chances are that there will be multiple vans lined up and ready to take on passengers.
• Yes, other tourists DO use them: there were only a couple of locals on our ride into Playa. Other trips, though, we were the only tourists - which was actually more fun. Chattiness is to be avoided but people are friendly, and smiles are welcome.
• They like to pack these things full so you may end up on a narrow perch beside the driver or a small jump seat in back. At major loading points - like Tulum - they’ll wait until they have a full load before departing the stop so if you’re first in, you could sit there a bit.
• There will be multiple stops - either scheduled, or to pick up highway riders - but they move it along pretty fast
• DO pay in pesos, and try to use coins/small bills. They may not be able to make change for large bills.
• Tipping the driver isn’t necessary but it’s a nice thing to add a little extra if you appreciate the service. We did, either in pesos or U.S. dollars.
• DON'T use the colectivos if carrying large items- if it won’t fit on your lap, don’t bring it - and don’t get in wearing wet clothes or swimsuits
• If coming to Tulum from Cancun, you’ll need to change colectivos at the stop in Playa del Carmen
You can find more info on the colectivos and ADO buses (another inexpensive option for certain trips) via the links below.
- Budget Travel
- Family Travel
Getting there and around by bus
There are plenty of buses that head to Valladolid, Playa del Carmen, Cancun, Coba, and many other places in the Yucatan peninsula. There are two bus stations: one for immediate cities/towns around the Mayan Riviera coast, and the other for inland destinations such as Valladolid.
- Family Travel
Cheap and fun
To reach Tulum it's easy. You can take a bus or a taxi from Cancun or Playa del Carmen. Otherwise you can easily find a lift waiting on the main road. There are many buses that run through the Riviera Maya from Cancun to Tulum. Surely they'll stop when see you make a wave. This can be cheap and fun!
Bus to Tulum
To reach Tulum, you will have to take the ferry from Cozumel or a bus from Cancun, to Playa del Carmen. The bus terminal is easy to find within a couple short blocks from the municipal pier. Check the schedule, if you can, ahead of time, because there are only a few buses each day. Fare is cheap. Bus is definitely the preferred way to go. If you should find yourself short on time and opt to rent a car, stick with the major rental companies and if possible drive the type of car you're familiar with. Car rentals are relatively expensive, and may not prove to be reliable.