Many think of Cancun as merely a party destination and, while the nightlife scene in the city is one of the best to be found anywhere in the world, Cancun also has a great deal more to offer. It serves as the perfect base from which to do some independent exploration. The outskirts of the city are steeped in ancient Maya history, home to a few of the most famous archaeological complexes in the country. If archaeology doesn’t tickle your fancy, head to the beaches which are less than an hour away by road. Many car rental agencies located in the city would be happy to organise just the right vehicle for your trip.
Who to Book With
Renting a car in Cancun is simple with the large number of international and local rental agencies present. Some reputable names include Avis, Hertz and Budget. Online booking with all of these agencies is a viable option and could reduce a great deal of hassle upon arrival. The offices of all the rental companies can be found at the airport and the central railway station.
Best time to go
Cancun is at is best during the peak season in April, when hoards of American University students descend on the city for ‘Spring Break’. Prices of accommodation and rentals soar and rooms are packed to the rafters. Other popular times include Christmas and Easter. As a general rule, vacations in Cancun work best when bookings are made in advance.
Need to Know Essentials
Customers without the following documents will not be given a vehicle:
- An International Driver’s Permit or a valid Mexican driver’s licence
- A form of photo identification, like a valid passport
- Proof of deposit and the credit card used when making the booking
For more info read our FAQ's.
The quality of the roads in Cancun is of a reasonable condition but there is a larger problem that drivers, especially foreign drivers, should be careful of. Local police tend to be involved in less-than-above-board activities. There are frequent reports of tourists being pulled over by police and then being extorted for large sums of money. Travellers should thus make themselves familiar with the actual amounts of fines in order to avoid being tricked into a bribe.
Parking, especially in the tourist areas and the hotel zone, is very difficult to find. Driving is only advised if travellers are planning on embarking on frequent day trips and navigating areas where public transport is scarce. Otherwise, driving in Cancun can end up being more of a hassle than a convenience.
You can read more about general driving in our guide to Mexico.
Cancun is not a very large city and many of the sites, especially those of an historical nature, can be visited on foot. Landmarks further afield, however, can be reached by the small but reliable network of public transport in the city. While there is unfortunately no train service in the city, there are public buses and local taxis.
Buses are the most popular way of getting around Cancun, probably because they are by far the cheapest mode of transport. Designated bus stops are located all over the city, but most drivers do respond to being flagged down from the sidewalk as well. Tickets can be bought on the vehicle, but drivers often don’t have change so the exact amount is best. Single journeys come to about M$6. There are also a few buses servicing areas on the outskirts of the city including the Riviera Express which travels to the popular resort of Playa de Carmen.
A pleasant alternative to the public buses is the local taxi service. Taxis are difficult to miss as they are everywhere in the city. Taxis are not metred but fares are generally set. There is some room for negotiation so travellers can try their luck to see if they can get a lower price. In the central downtown area of the city, trips should be in the range of M$20, increasing the further outside of the city your destination is. Tipping the taxi driver is generally not expected.
Cancun is a remarkable city and loved by the millions of visitors who descend on its shores every year. It is, however, also a doorway to many fascinating Maya ruins and ancient archaeological sites. Some of the last remaining Mayan complexes in the country are located only a few hours away by road. Armed with a good map and a rental car, travellers could be re-enacting scenes from Tomb Raider in no time.
Chichen Itza - Traces of the great Maya civilisation can be seen in many parts of Mexico and luckily for visitors to Cancun, there is a site right nearby. Chichen Itza, an archaeological site dating back centuries, is located just outside of Cancun and is easily reached by road. Visitors can roam through the remaining ruins and imagine what life must have been like so long ago.
Playa del Carmen - There are many beach towns near Cancun but by far the most popular is Playa del Carmen. Located only 50 kilometres outside of the city, the resort makes for a great day trip. Here travellers will find a gorgeous stretch of beach, bustling seaside cafes and some of the best shopping opportunities in the region.
Xcaret - Families with children should definitely make a turn at Xcaret, one of the few ecological theme parks in the world. Located about 50 kilometres away from Cancun, near Playa del Carmen on the Riviera, Xcaret is home to archaeological sites, water parks and even a small jungle. This is a great place not only to learn about this fascinating region, but also to have a bit of fun.