Cancun is a tried-and-true Spring break destination and has been for decades. However, there are some things you should know before you go, and some factors to consider before you book your accommodation.
- Bring U.S. cash and a foreign-transaction-fee-free card
Though Mexico’s official currency is the Mexican Peso, a lot of things in Cancun (and around the Riviera Maya in general) can be purchased with U.S. Check the rates– sometimes you’ll get a better deal paying in pesos, sometimes you’ll get a much better deal paying in dollars.
I always recommend getting a Charles Schwab checking account– with Schwab, any ATM in the world is yours, you’ll never have to pay a foreign transaction fee again! Many travel credit cards also cover foreign transaction fees. Visa card is the way to pay in Mexico as it is the most accepted.
However, you should still bring a fair amount of cash, because you’ll need it; sometimes ATMs are down, and you don’t want to be stuck not able to buy a bottle of water when you need it (happened to me, not fun)
Note: Mexican Pesos also use the $, don’t be alarmed when you see $160 tacos on the menu!
2. Visit during the week, not just the weekends
Most people associate parties with weekends, however in Cancun, the best parties take place during the week. Weekends are hit-or-miss transitional periods, as Spring Breakers are coming or going and may not be going out. So, if you want to experience beach parties, foam parties, pool parties, and live DJs, all of this takes place during the week.
3. Expect high taxi prices
Uber is banned in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo, and not available in the next state of Yucatan so you won’t be able to use it. Therefore, expect high taxi prices. Getting to and from the airport isn’t cheap, but many hotels offer a discounted or complimentary shuttle service.
Shared taxis are roughly $20 USD to the Hotel Zone, and private taxis can be anything from $40+, so bargain hard.
4. Expect high club covers
Most clubs charge a cover of $35, while bigger/fancier clubs charge $60+. At some places, such as Congo and La Vaquita, this $35 comes with open bar, well worth your money. At other places such as The City, $60 might only get you in the door. Check and see what kind of music or DJ is playing that night and make sure you’re interested before you splurge, because otherwise, you’ll be shelling out another $35-80 to get into a different club on the same night!
The clubs are generally all EDM, except Congo is top 40, and La Vaquita is hip-hop and reggaeton. Special nights are various clubs are Latin, Hip-hop, or have special guests, so just check in advance so you aren’t shocked when they try to charge you $80 USD entry to see DJ Pauly D or Paris Hilton.
5. Get a promoter, buy the party package
If you’re going to Cancun to party, and chances are that you are, you may as well buy a ‘Party Package’ through your promoter. Promoters hang out at a lot of hotel bars, you don’t have to go looking for them, because chances are, they’ll find you before you know it.
Party packages aren’t much of a deal price wise; you may only save $5 per club entry, however, the real perk is the fact that you’ll get a table everywhere you go, and complimentary transportation, which can be really great.
6. Stay close to the club area
The club area is in the northern tip of the Hotel Zone (Zone Hotelera). Most of the big resorts and things are further down but have their own parties.
Decide before you book your accommodation; do I want to only party at my resort, or do I want to be able to walk to the big clubs? If you get the party package, it doesn’t matter; transportation is included. If not, it may be a little bit of a shlep to get out at night.
While there are hostels, they aren’t anywhere close to the Spring Break part of Cancun, they’re in the modern urban city, 20-30 minutes away by bus or taxi— not the move. You don’t want to pregame with hostel people and then cram into a taxi or bus for that long before getting to the club; completely kills the mood. Hotel rooms are cheap if you split them, and there are non-resort hotels as well in the Hotel Zone.
7. It’s not all young people
The reason you may want to stay closer to the club area is that Cancun isn’t actually all young people; resorts are expensive and easy, which means by nature, families and older couples come here for a relaxing vacation. Certain hotels are more conducive to partying, etc., while others are more laid-back.
If you want to party, you probably don’t want to be at an all-inclusive enclave full of children. Do your research!
8. Go with friends
Cancun is a group-oriented place. You’ll get group discounts everywhere you go, people at the club are in groups, hotel rooms are huge. Come with friends, you don’t want to be in your room or at the open bar drinking alone.
Obviously, it’s single-friendly, and there are hostels and things, but I’d definitely recommend having a regular group that can watch your back.
9. It’s not as hyped as its reputation may suggest
Cancun’s heyday was, according to our promoters, 5-10 years ago, when there were fewer regulations. After a fair amount of student deaths, and changing safety laws, Cancun’s party scene became a little more subdued. It’s still great fun, but it’s not Barcelona. Most of the clubs are inside, not on the beach, and only certain places are allowed to have a beach, pool, and foam parties on certain days in order to keep things safe.
This is obviously a good thing, no one wants to die on Spring Break. But if you’re like me and you were expecting to be dancing in your bathing suit on the beach every single day from dusk till dawn, think again.
10. Visit cultural sites
Mexico is full of culture, and it would be a shame to fly all the way there and not experience some of what Mexico has to offer.
There is a Museum of Mayan artifacts in the Hotel Zone, and there are regular excursions to Mayan ruins in Tulum, Coba, and of course, Chichen Itza. Go!
Many hotels also have cultural nights, traditional dinners and dancing as part of boat cruise packages, etc. Why not skip the partying one night, and have an authentic dinner on a Spanish galleon, listen to live band and learn some basic salsa?
In Playa del Carmen, for example, it is common to see street performers in traditional Mayan wear performing ceremonial dances and rituals, which are free to watch in the park. Definitely something worth witnessing!
11. Get out of Cancun
Instead of just making half day-trips from Cancun, why not get out and explore more of the Yucatan? Playa del Carmen and Tulum are similar but quieter beach towns, while colonial cities such as Valladolid and Merida are home to regional cuisine and picturesque architecture. Any of these places are worth staying a night or two!
12. Rent a car, visit a cenote
Excursions are expensive; one trip to Chichen Itza from Cancun may be $100 USD. Renting a car if you’re over 25 is $2/day, if you’re underage, $10/day. I rented a car for 10 days for $70, and drove all over the place. Yes, it’s completely safe. In fact, you’re more likely to get robbed in Cancun than anywhere else.
If you rent a car, you’ll have the freedom to leave when you want and visit all the stops along the way.
Cenotes are limestone sinkholes filled with beautiful crystal clear water; excursions to them are $50+, but if you go on your own, it’s only $3-5 to enter, and you can stay as long as you’d like.
13. Don’t trust the police
People are going to ask you in Mexico is safe. Yes, Mexico is safe. However, there is some petty crime and corruption in Cancun, because there are so many drunk tourists and people are opportunistic. Especially police.
My friend was robbed by the police. Be careful walking home at night, don’t go alone, and don’t ask for directions.
14. Don’t be stupid
You know you’re going to be drunk, so don’t bring your phone if you don’t have to. My phone was stolen at a pool party, I was extremely lucky to get it back. I lost all my Cancun photos, which is why there aren’t more in this blog post!
This is another reason to go with friends, so people are there to look out for you. You don’t want to get pickpocketed, so don’t bring your wallet to the club unless you need to. If you get the party package or pre-pay for open bar, you won’t need anything except your ID (which they never check anyway, but it’s good to have.)
Just be safe, and alert, and you’ll be fine!
Tips, or Propina are custom in Mexico, regularly 10-15%. 20% is the U.S. custom, and because of this many places in Cancun may ask or expect 20%, or even include 10% gratuity already in hopes you’ll give them 20% in total.
Just check your bill, be polite, and give what you feel comfortable giving. If you aren’t sure, ask if the tip is included.
I hope that these travel tips help you plan your next Mexican adventure to Cancun! I had an incredible time in Riviera Maya, spent 5 days in Cancun with friends and then did a solo road trip around Yucatan for 6 days. I highly recommend it!
Have a great Spring Break!