It’s time for a handful of practical information about Mexico, enriched with a few examples of how Mexican companies try to rip off travelers’ cash – as a warning. If you are planning a trip to the Yucatan peninsula on your own then this post is for you :)
Were you surprised by the title of the entry? Unfortunately, it is often tourists from other countries who are lost and unfamiliar with the language and customs who become easy prey for scammers and swindlers. Everywhere you go, you need to keep your eyes open, be vigilant and double-check everything.
In the age of the Internet, booking and shopping online, we have the ability to book accommodations, transfers and tours at the proverbial click of a mouse. But is it worth it to buy the cheapest deals in the dark? Even more so with intermediaries from other continents that we know nothing about?
Perhaps the above is a rhetorical question, but in the rest of the post you will read about how we almost just got nicked by a typical scam and how not to overpay on the spot. We are writing as a warning and by no means want to advise you against traveling on your own. However, it is worth being aware of the various dangers :)
Table of contents
When to go to Mexico?
However, let’s start with basic practical information, i.e. when it’s worth going to Mexico, and more specifically to the Yucatán Peninsula (the distinction between the southern and northern parts of Mexico in terms of climate is most legitimate).
Let’s first consider why travel agencies do not offer tours to Mexico during the holiday season. When in our country the heat gives a hard time, in Mexico there is a so called “hot weather”. The rainy season (May-October). This does not mean, however, that it is non-stop pouring and the sun is scarce there. The fact is that it rains, and more than in the dry season , but you can still count on sunshine and a beach-friendly aura, after all, the annual temperature amplitude hovers around 5 degrees Celsius. Celsius. This season is characterized by rains that can last up to several days and very high humidity, which can be quite tiring and oppressive, hence a trip at another time is recommended.
The peak season, and the best time to travel, is between December and March. We flew at the end of the season, ie. early March. It was the last call to catch direct flights to Cancun, which we write about below.
The temperature during our stay oscillated between 25st and 30st. There were days that it was impossible to stand in full sun, and there were days that were more cloudy, a little windy, even with transient rain, which provided the perfect cool down.
How to fly to Cancun?
The easiest, fastest and cheapest way is to fly by charter. During the season, travel agents offer direct flights to Cancun aboard a chartered Dreamliner. Unlike regular charters, here we even get meals and have an entertainment system on board.
What does it look like in terms of price? Our tickets cost PLN 1,500 per adult (Olive flew for free), but we bought them in a last-minute offer. Currently, the cheapest flights start at around PLN 4,300 per person by charter from Warsaw to Cancun (flights start in November).
Admittedly, these days, it’s cheaper to buy tickets with cruise lines. You can find tickets on comparison sites for about £3,500 per person in December, but these are flights with connecting flights, and the entire trip takes up to 20-30 hours. More interesting is the offer for £3,700 per person, when the trip takes only 17 hours.
So why did we write that charter comes out the cheapest? Because in the case of charter, you can count on last-minute price reductions, and in the case of traditional airlines, you can only hunt for some promotions, because the closer you get to the date, the prices will rise.
Although we prefer to travel on our own terms, with our own itinerary, you may find that for you the best option is to go with a travel agency. Looking at current offers for approx. PLN 6,500 per person you can have a 9-day trip with breakfasts.
Our trip was definitely less, and it was in the all-inclusive option, but almost to the very end we did not know when and if we would fly ;)
See also our other posts about Mexico:
Traveling in the Yucatan
It is since we have already arrived and decided, however, to organize everything on our own that we need to consider how to get to our accommodation and then move around the area.
You can take a cab to the hotel, an air transfer, sometimes you can buy the transfer itself from a travel agency or take local transportation. It’s also worth figuring out if the hotel has a transfer option – you may find it’s free ;) Ours was. in theory. Unfortunately, we booked the hotel too late and were late in booking the transfer itself (that’s how it is when you buy a hotel 48 hours before departure ;-)).
So how did we travel locally? By buses and coaches. We took a pre-booked cab from the airport, which turned out to be a mini-bus. But one step at a time…, the airport transfer was cosmically expensive, so we decided to look for something on our own.
We wanted to book something in Poland, because we were afraid of swindlers on the spot. And unfortunately, but we almost fell for the scammers operating online. We found a website that offered reasonably priced transfers and already wanted to pay (oh, horror!) by credit card, when we were nudged to still look for reviews of the company. Well, and unfortunately, this company turned out to be a shell company. Online forums complained that no one came, zero contact, and no refund.
So we decided not to take any chances and ordered the transfer through a slightly more expensive company, but recommended. In addition, we were charged for a car seat, which unfortunately left much to be desired (as did the entire bus, by the way). The most important thing, however, is that we managed to get to the hotel quite efficiently and safely.
As you may know from other posts, we’ve been thinking about renting a car for a long time. We did not need it for the entire trip and decided to check and compare prices on the spot. Unfortunately, in the meantime we had read quite a lot about traveling by car in Mexico and decided to let it go ;) Although many bloggers choose to drive a rented car in Mexico, we preferred to give this responsible task to people who are local and know what and how.
Although the roads appear to be good to drive on, we almost caught our heads when we passed military and police vehicles with soldiers and policemen loaded with weapons repeatedly. The guides said it was normal and did not impress them at all. However, having in our minds the stories we had read before the trip about special blockades, robbery actions, or policemen taking advantage of tourists, we were nevertheless glad to be on the bus.
What is the price of renting a car? Through the Rentalcars website, it comes out to about £380 for seven days, with basic insurance. On site, at the hotel, the cost of a car for one day is about PLN 100 also with basic insurance only. Seemingly more expensive, but on Rentalcars also when you want to take a car for a day the price is about 100 zloty. Simply put, the longer it is, the cheaper it is. Important note, you need a credit card to rent.
You can read more about car rental for vacation in our post: How to rent a car for vacation?
So locally, we bought tours locally and traveled mostly by bus. We were able to quickly get to the most important places, and at the same time listen to interesting facts about Mexico and the Mayan civilization.
However, many people praise the local buses, which run very frequently. There are several carriers, and comfortable travel is also followed by higher ticket prices.
Where to stay overnight in Mexico?
Or rather, how and where to book accommodation ;) Everyone likes something different, so we will not recommend any particular hotel. The accommodation base is so developed that there is something for everyone: both five-star luxury hotels; apartments and cottages; and single beds in hostels. We focused on relaxation, convenience and a good location. We spent the night near Tulum, away from crowded Cancun.
What may be surprising, however, is that we booked our hotel through a Polish broker who sells tours and hotels of German travel agencies! It was, of course, a company we had checked beforehand, which showed a very short response time and great flexibility (ah this last-minute buying :)). Such an option, came out cheaper than Booking.com and even booking directly on the hotel’s website.
But if you prefer the traditional way of booking hotels, then of course Booking.com offers a multitude of hotels, guesthouses and hostels from which to pick and choose. Also the Airbnb offer is very rich and varied, remember here about our discount (£100 for the first night) when you use THIS link:)
Security in Mexico
Yucatán is a typical tourist destination hence tourists should feel safe here (we even found a cool expression somewhere that Yucatán is a white spot on Mexico’s crime map). Tourists are taken care of here, they are provided with the best transportation (when package tours are used), because for many this is the main source of income.
And we generally felt safe.
Unfortunately, from behind the car windows we saw military and police vehicles, soldiers with guns, crossing controls, etc. more than once. Entering the hotel itself, each driver had to enter all his data several times at each successive barrier. These increased precautions made us think that either they were exaggerating security concerns or something was actually up. Something that is an ongoing problem in Mexico, but nevertheless has its epicenter in other parts of the country. Because not once have we even flashed before our eyes snapshots from movies about drug bosses, cartels, corrupt police, etc.
Still, we felt safe, especially in spite of our friends’ announcements and questions about whether we were afraid to go (especially with a small child) to Mexico.
Unfortunately, when we returned to Poland, we found that one of our payment cards had been scanned and used in various strange places around the world. Fortunately, our bank immediately started blocking payments and everything was saved. A lesson for the future – always, but always, check your transaction history when you return to the country.
Some practical tips
Finally, some additional practical tips:
- Visa – for tourist stays of less than 180 days, there is no visa requirement for Polish citizens (a passport is necessary, of course).
- Even the MFA recommends taking mosquito repellent specs. We took it and never once used it, but it’s good to have it on standby.
- The currency in Mexico is the Mexican Peso (MXN), but you can also pay in dollars and even euros at hotels and tourist sites. We only had USD with us and paid with it (or the aforementioned card).
- In hotels, restaurants, tourist attractions you can pay with credit cards, which we generally recommend, but keep an eye on your transaction history later :)
- Check prices of local tours in cliques. The price breakthrough can be very large. For example, we paid $30 at a local office for a trip to Tulum, where others demanded as much as $100 for themselves :)
- There is no such thing as an official language in Mexico (according to the constitution), but Spanish is the ruling language here. In addition to it, residents speak numerous “national languages” (there are 63 of them!). In English we had no problem getting along in restaurants or typical tourist places.
- Electric sockets and voltage in Mexico are typically American (as in Cuba and the Dominican Republic), so be sure to bring an adapter with you.
- No vaccinations are mandatory before traveling, but vaccinations against hepatitis A and B, tetanus, diphtheria and typhoid are recommended. We emphasize that recommended, not mandatory :)
- As always, for every trip, we recommend that you purchase
. In case of illness, unfortunate accidents, it is always better to have additional security. Here, unfortunately, the EHIC won’t help us ;)
We hope we didn’t scare you, on the contrary, because Mexico and Yucatan is a beautiful piece of our planet :) We wanted to show you that, although far away, it is possible to organize such a trip on your own.
You may have to do a little nagging in the process, but there’s a good chance you’ll save some money, which can be spent on various attractions on the spot, and there are not few of them, as we wrote about in the entry What to do on the Yucatan Peninsula?