Mexico Guide to Tulum and Playa del Carmen!

After months of traveling round trip from the (BDR) Bedroom to (LVR) Livingroom and a layover in KTC (Kitchen), I decided I needed a beach vacation. I booked a ticket to Cancun, Mexico. Initially, I was afraid to travel during a pandemic, but my mental health needed a change of scenery. This was one of the best solo vacations and I felt at peace while in Mexico.  

Purchasing a Ticket

Before purchasing a ticket, complete extensive research on websites such as Google Flights, Orbitz, Hopper, Sky Scanner, and Expedia.  These apps allow the consumer to view multiple airlines while comparing prices. For my first trip, I purchased a ticket using Orbitz and selected American Airlines.

During my second trip, I flew on Spirit Airlines.  At the Los Angeles Airport (LAX), I purchased a one-way ticket for $100. Online the ticket was $150, I avoided the $50 taxes and fees by buying a ticket in person. It is to be noted that it is cheaper to pay for baggage fees online instead of at the airport. It cost $50 to check in a 40-pound piece of luggage.

Airlines

Arrive at the airport  2-3 hours before your international flight to Mexico. I attempted to fly out of LAX but missed my baggage check-in time by 5 minutes. The flight agent offered me a trash bag in order to avoid the baggage policy flight, but I politely declined. A week later, I made sure to arrive on time so that I could get on the airplane.

As you enter the airplane, the stewardess provides each passenger with a bag filled with water, hand sanitizer, and a packaged snack. You must wear your mask at all times unless you are eating or drinking.

Unfortunately, they are no longer blocking the middle seat but I got lucky and had the entire row to myself flying back home. 

During my trips to Mexico, I’ve flown on American, United, Spirit, and Aero Mexico. These airlines have similar safety protocols.

Insurance

The benefits of the Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card include various types of travel insurance. Trip insurance can be purchased for each individual vacation or you can pay for a yearly plan. It is recommended that travelers obtain additional medical insurance in case of an emergency. After completing a survey via Facebook, the majority of travelers utilized Allianz Insurance. Research which insurance best fits your travel needs.

COVID 19 Requirements

Although Covid testing is not required to enter Mexico, it is suggested to take as a safety precaution. As of 1/26/21, you will need to have a negative COVID 19 test within 72 hours of your flight to re-enter the USA and quarantine depending on individual state requirements. 

The Cancun airport has recently begun offering Covid 19 test. There are also other places to test but due to ever-changing rules and various reports, it is recommended to research before your trip to Mexico.

When entering establishments such as restaurants and stores, masks are required, temperatures will be taken and a feet sanitation mat is at the entrance. It is not unusual to see people without masks while at the beach or walking down the street.

Official language

The official language is Spanish. Some of the locals and staff speak English but many don’t. If you do not know Spanish, download the offline version of google translate.

Growing up in Los Angeles, I have been around Spanish speakers in school and have family members who speak the language. Due to my background, I can understand small phrases and words but can not fluently speak Spanish.

Common Phrases

  • Hello. – Hola.
  • Money. – Dinero.
  • Thank you. – Gracias.
  • My name is – Me llamo.
  • How are you? – Coma Esta?
  • I need to go to. – Necesito ir a.
  • I need help. – Necesito ayuda. 
  • I don’t understand. – No entiendo.
  • How much is this? -Cuanto Cuesta?

Currency

The official currency is Pesos. The exchange rate changes daily but I have seen it at 18.50-19.20. Every 100 pesos is approximately $5. Credit and debit cards are widely accepted but most vendors prefer cash. Remember that some cards charge a fee from your USA bank.

Carry cash. Trade $20-30 at the airport and the remaining amount of money at an exchange building or bank.  If you run out of cash you can utilize the ATM machine, money will be dispensed in pesos.

Don’t forget to bring it!

  • Wash Towel- Most hotels and hostels will not provide a hand cloth.
  • Pepto Bismol – or other medicines that prevent upset stomach or diarrhea.
  • Straws – Best to bring a reusable straw as there were not readily available plastic straws.
  • Camera – Use a cell phone or professional camera. Go Pros are great for underwater activities.
  • Water Shoes – Wear to avoid rocks in the water or walking barefoot on the ground at water parks.
  • Mosquito repellent (Avon Skin So Soft) – Lotion prevents mosquito bites and it also has sunscreen protection.

Transportation

ADO Bus: This is a cheap but comfortable way to travel around Mexico. Purchase tickets in advance by visiting the website. An assigned seat will be given and masks must be worn at all times.  Arrive at the bus station at least 30 minutes before the scheduled departure. If you have a backpack, bring it aboard and store it above or below under your seat. Luggage is placed at the bottom of the bus. 

After arriving at the Cancun airport, I went to the ADO counter and purchased a one-way ticket for $15 to Playa Del Carmen. I’ve also used it to travel from Tulum to Bacalar for $20.

Rent a Car: This is a great way to explore the city at your leisure. Check on the internet for rental prices and reserve online. Vehicles can be rented for less than $200 per week. Unfortunately, due to lack of knowledge, my sisters were ripped off and made the mistake of renting a car for 5 days and paid over $400. 

The highway from Cancun- (45 min) Playa Del Carmen- (45 min)  Tulum is a very easy drive. It is to be noted that the roads in Tulum are rough and have many potholes. Be aware as I have heard stories of people being innocently pulled over by authorities but I did not have this experience. 

Taxi: Flag a taxi by waving your hand on the side of the road. Inform the driver of the intended destination but feel free to negotiate. Do not take the first suggested amount, counteroffer until you are comfortable with the price.

Collectivo: a less expensive method of transportation that is often used by locals in a shared van. Collectivos will usually say the destination on the side of the van. For example, it may read Playa Del Carmen-Tulum. Make sure to signal when you arrive at your destination as there are no marked stops.

Mexican Cuisine

Mexico is best known for the delicious tacos. Tacos consist of tortillas, meat, seafood, pico de gallo, cilantro, and onions. It is unusual to find ingredients such as shredded cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, and sour cream on top of your taco, which is typical in the USA.

Playa Del Carmen Restaurant

  • Patanegra
  • El Parata
  • Salento
  • Don Sirlon
  • Rockas Jamaican Kitchen

Tulum Restaurant

  • Taboo
  • Pasha
  • Lolito
  • Mistico
  • Mezzanine
  • Don Cafeto
  • Chez Cocco
  • Rosa Negra
  • Good Burger
  • Burrito Amor
  • Loco Tulum
  • Food Trucks
  • BAK by Harry’s
  • Las Hijas de la Tostada

You never know, you may get lucky and see a celebrity at one of the popular restaurants

If you don’t want to eat at a restaurant, use delivery apps such as Tomato.mx or UBER eats.

Personal Chefs are also available for hire: breakfast, lunch, dinner, or brunch.

Places to Stay

There are 4 main areas for housing in Tulum: Centro, Hotel Zone, La Veleta, and Aldea Zama.

I usually stay at an Airbnb in Centro Tulum. The room had 1 bedroom, kitchen, living room, and bathroom. The pool and jacuzzi were located downstairs. Centro Tulum is great because it’s within walking distance of restaurants and local shops. If you are a first-time user, please use this link for $35 off of your stay.

Check out my Review on the Mayan Monkey Hostel Tulum

Tulum Hotels

  • Hotel Bardo
  • Hotel Blanco
  • Nomade Tulum
  • Copal Tulum Hotel,
  • Esmerelda Boutique Hotel
  • Kore Tulum Retreat and Spa
  • Dreams Tulum Resort and Spa

Playa Del Carmen Hotels

  • Hilton Playa Del Carmen
  • The Fives Hotel
  • Xcaret Hotel
  • RIU Playa Car

Lodging prices vary and depends on type and location.

  • Hostel $10 – $60
  • Airbnb $30 – $500
  • Midrange $100 – $200
  • Luxury $200 and above

Things to Do and See

Playa Del Carmen

If you enjoy unique museums, this is fun place to visit.

Visit Xcaret by Mexico.

I have visited 2/8 parks. Xcaret is a water park, that has animal sightings, and a spectacular nighttime show that tours different cities in Mexico by exploring unique traditions.

Xplor Park is great for those people that love adventure and seek thrills. Activities such as ziplining, extreme water activities, and buggy riding are offered. All the parks include an all you can eat buffet with each entry ticket.

Tulum

Black in Tulum – A Facebook group with resources for Tulum.

Monkey Sanctuary – The monkey sanctuary offers the opportunity to see animals, swim in a cenote and ride ATV’s. Use code TIFFANY for 10% off.

Photo Shoot – Mexico has awesome location and backdrops for pictures.

Yacht Party – Book your group or private Charter with Black Travel Gram

Azulik Museum– This free museum is great for photos. Visit the restaurant for drinks and stay at the beautiful hotel next door.

Relax on the Beach -There are several popular Beach Clubs such as La Zebra, Ziggy, Taboo, Papaya, Kanana, and Selina. Some of them have entrance fees which usually go towards food, drinks, and lounge beds.

ATV Riding – Yax Muul location includes cenotes and ATV riding.

Cultural Tour – I used Avelino Cach from Mayan Traveler to visit the Coba Ruins, Cenote, and Tortilla making class.

Chichen Itza – Make sure you visit this world wonder.

Massages – Relax and get a soothing massage. I went to Cacao Spa (tell them Tiffany sent you for a discount). Mayan Clay Spa also comes highly recommend.

Cenotes – Are a great way to dip your body in a refreshing pool of water.

Wifi

Wifi – usually works pretty well in lodging areas, found in most restaurants, bring a wifi device if needed or use cellular data.

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6 Comments

  1. I didn’t know the Cancun airport is offering COVID testing. I really need to get to Tulum and Playa del Carmen; only been to Cabo so far.

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  2. Thanks for the informative article. I have been researching Tulum for a few weeks but found all the information I was looking for in your article! It confirmed my reserve and provided additional info I’m going to look into. Thanks! -KLA

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