Cancun is very easy to navigate. To the South is the airport, to the North is the city and in between on the stretch of land between the sea and the Nichupte lagoon are all the hotels, beaches and bars, referred to as the hotel zone or Zona Hotelera. Downtown is where most residents live and it stretches in on the mainland behind the lagoon.
By bus – Bus is the preferred way of getting around. Buses are cheap and come frequently. Most bus drivers are very courteous and will stop for you even if you are not waiting at a bus stop. After paying the fare, which is on a per person basis, the driver will hand you a ticket/receipt which are usually printed with advertisements. Just so there are no surprises, do not expect buses to have amenities such as air conditioning and seat cushions. Also, most bus drivers speak enough English just to help visitors get around. A great resource for finding your way around Cancun are the Can-Do Cancun maps & Guides by Perry & Laura McFarlin.
Buses head up and down the main thoroughfare, Blvd Kukulcan, named after the feather serpent which is the main Mayan deity, from the Mayan words kukul (bird) and can (snake). Buses pass constantly but be prepared for a cramped and rough ride. The rules for the bus drivers seem to be “he who gets to the next passenger quickest, makes the most money”. Therefore, be prepared for a wild, but entertaining ride. Frequently, locals will get on with their instruments and “entertain”. Some are quite good.
When you are ready to get off, you can either push the button on top of the hand rail, or if you’re not sure of your destination, tell the driver where you would like to get off or point to the destination using a bus map. Most bus drivers speak enough English to understand non-Spanish speakers.
Companies serving the station include all attractions and towns along the coast: the Riviera Express for the Riviera Maya (Playa del Carmen, Tulum, Xel-Ha, etc.) and ADO for the major national destinations. For some Riviera Maya destinations, it’s possible to stop the buses on the Tulum Avenue without having to go all the way to the station, however if you are unsure about where to catch the bus then it’s best to go to the station.
By taxi – Taxis are plentiful, a bit expensive for the hotel zone and airport, but cheap in the downtown area. Fares for the hotel zone depend on how far along the Blvd Kukulcan you want to go (fares available at hotel receptions and shopping centres), while within the downtown there is a general fixed fare of about 20 pesos per trip, it is best to just ask the driver upon boarding to avoid misunderstandings. By far, the best mode of transportation for the hotel zone is by bus. The bus fare is cheap and getting from Point A to Point B doesn’t take very long.
Be careful and clear with your taxista. They have set rates on paper for how much they should charge for the trip per kilometer (no meter). You can also obtain a discount about 10% if you ask. If you are splitting a cab with friends, be clear on the number of services, people, and price he will charge to your destination. If your friends get out before you he can charge you twice the amount you negotiated for just a few more kilometers. A “service” is considered to be from start point to a requested stop point. If your taxista is non-cooperative there are about 10 more taxis around every corner.
By car – Be very careful if you choose to drive in Cancun. The police seem to pull tourists over at the drop of a hat during spring break. When you pick up a rental, check that all the lights work. Also when you are pulled over for a light violation, do not be surprised if the police holds out an open palmed hand, while holding your driver’s license hostage in the other. Most police officers are underpaid and will for the most part demand a small bribe to let you off the hook.
Accomodations – Cancun is in the state of Quintana Roo, at the north-eastern tip of the Yucatan peninsula. During the ‘70s it became an exclusive tourist destination, after the construction of the first hotels. Cancun is divided into two very distinct areas: the hotel area, an island separated from the mainland, connected by two bridges in the North and the South. In the interior is the lagoon called Nichupté. The second area is the centre of the modern city of Cancun, full of shops, restaurants and shows.
Cancún has a large range of 3-5 star hotels in the “hotel zone” and some more economical hotels in the city center.
The Kingdom of the Maya • Locations & Activities