When packing for a big trip, the worst mistake you can make is not researching your destination. On our Recent trip to Tulum, Mexico, my fiancé and I learned a few things that we wish we would have known ahead of time. Poor planning for a vacation can end up hurting your wallet and effecting the time spent at your destination. These tips will help you prepare for your trip to Tulum and save you some frustration and money.
The people in Tulum, Mexico are beyond friendly and helpful, but there’s usually a catch. MONEY! We realized when we landed in Cancun, we didn’t have any small dollar bills. This quickly became a problem, mostly because we wanted to tip the friendly porter at the airport, the shuttle driver from the airport, and the oh-so-helpful agent for the rental car company, who gave us an “amazing” deal on a car. Having single dollar bills for tipping is highly recommended.
The USD is widely accepted in Tulum, but, unless you know the exchange rate, it’s easy to get deceived. There is a money exchange at the airport, as we found, it is a good idea to exchange money as soon as possible. Watch out for transaction fees, every time you exchange currency there’s a fee, so the more times you exchange your money the more you will pay. Also, you will get a better exchange rate in Mexico than you will in the US, so wait until you get to Mexico to exchange your money. You can find several websites to help you know the current exchange rates, x-rates.com is a great site to find the most current exchange rates. I downloaded an exchange rate calculator App on my phone that we used everyday.
2. Don’t Fall for the Sales Pitch
As I mentioned earlier, the people in Mexico are friendly, so friendly that you might end up in a sales pitch and not even realize it. While we were waiting for our car at the rental agency, a very nice man started talking to us about our drive to Tulum from Cancun, offering up several interesting spots we should check out on our drive to Tulum. We didn’t realize what was going on until it was too late. He pulled out a map and circled a new resort that was not to be missed, and offered us two tickets for the Circ Du Soleil show that night. Not only that, but if we went to the show he would give us $200 just for showing up! It was a time share sales trap.
It was awfully tempting to take the offer but we didn’t go to Mexico to get stuck spending hours of our beach time inside a conference room to listen to a time share spiel that we would never buy. It’s hard to say no to someone who’s not only extremely friendly, but also offering payment for your time. Even though it was an amazing deal, we went to Tulum to get away from work and the conference rooms.
Transportation from the Cancun Airport is quite limited if you are going to Tulum. Plus, the drive from the Cancun Airport to Tulum is about two hours, our hotel, Papaya Playa, did offer us a shuttle for $200 USD roundtrip, per person. Which seemed ridiculously expense for a shuttle. I started looking into renting a car, and was shocked at how cheap it was. The rental car only cost us $98 USD for our four day trip. The rental agency does hold a large security deposit on your credit card, so be sure to ask about their policies when making your reservation. Renting a car was a last minute decision, but it was one we decided was well worth it.
Driving in a foreign land can be intimidating, and traffic laws are different in every country. The agent where we rented our car provided us with some helpful tips to follow, just like in the US, go the speed limit, wear your seatbelt, and stay off your cellphone. Tulum is a straight shot south of Cancun on a two lane highway. Road signs were easy to follow, even if you don’t speak Spanish, everything was clearly marked. Speed limits were sporadic, so pay attention to the posted signs, the speed limit changes every few miles.
Renting a car was a great choice for us, it allowed us to do what we wanted on our schedule, plus, it saved us money on cab fare and the exorbitant shuttle fee from the airport.
4. What To Pack
We were in Tulum in late January, the days were 80 degrees, but the evening temperatures were much cooler. Traveling to a tropical climate in the winter months, the weather can be unpredictable, especially when the sun goes down. Our hotel was located on the beach and sitting on the porch of our cabana in the evenings were chilly. Wearing long pants or a light jacket was preferable. I ended up having to buy a sweater for the evenings, fortunately, Tulum has many amazing boutiques, which gave me a good excuse to buy myself something.
Many of the conveniences I am accustom to, for instance, having a few Diet Cokes a day aren’t as readily available in Tulum. We decided to buy a collapsable cooler from the local market to keep in our room and use at the beach. The collapsible cooler turned out to have a few uses, we packed it with the souvenirs we purchased while in Tulum but didn’t have room for in our suitcases. This is a great item to bring along on any trip, it folds up to fit in your suitcase and can be used as luggage as well.
5. Have a Plan
Tulum is brimming with activity, with only four days to see it all, a little planning went a long way. Here are a few things you must do while you are in Tulum, swim in one of the stunning Cenotes, tour the Mayan Ruins, sink your toes in the white sand beach, and walk along the jungle road of miles of great restaurants, bars, and boutiques.
There are an abundance of Cenotes in Tulum, deciding which one to visit is the hardest part. You can scuba dive in some or just snorkel and swim in others. A few Cenotes are inside caves, while others look like a beautiful, turquoise lake. I don’t think you can go wrong with whichever one you choose. The Tulum Ruins are an amazing glimpse into the Mayan culture. They are the only ruins located on the coast, and have a gorgeous view overlooking the white sandy beach and turquoise water. Lastly, the jungle road offers it all, great food, entertainment, drinks and shopping.
I hope my tips help make your trip more enjoyable. Tulum is a wonderful destination, I’m sure you will enjoy as much as I did! Please follow me to get more information about Tulum and many other great destinations.