What to Expect in Cancun, Mexico

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I recently got back from a family vacation in Cancún, Mexico. Cancún is beautiful, and most of the people we encountered were really kind and welcoming. It was definitely different than the U.S. in the way that you could turn to any stranger beside you and have a conversation, where here in the states most people usually ignore you. It didn’t hurt that my mom can speak fluent Spanish either.

If you’re preparing to go to Mexico soon, I’ve come up with some travel tips that should help.

Drinking the tap water is not a good idea. Water in Mexico is different, and you really shouldn’t drink the tap water at all. Bottled water only.

People will speak to you in Spanish. Okay, duh, you’re in Mexico and of course people will be speaking in Spanish. But, I know a lot of people in the U.S. might not like that too much. In which case, don’t go to Mexico if you can’t handle people speaking in other languages. You should learn some basic Spanish phrases before heading anywhere in Mexico, even a tourist destination like Cancún. Many people we came across could speak English, but there were a few who only spoke Spanish. Also, why not try and learn some Spanish?

They use pesos. You will have to convert money at the airport or hotel. The rate of exchange changes all the time, but while we were there, one U.S. dollar roughly equaled around 18 or 19 pesos.

Speaking of money, people in Mexico don’t get paid a whole lot. Which means you should tip, and don’t be afraid to tip generously. People working in Mexico do make hourly wages, but they’re not very high, and most of them live off tips.

Be prepared for a lot of people trying to sell you things. People everywhere will be trying to sell you stuff. It can get overwhelming (especially if you’re at the flea market in downtown Cancún), but keep in mind that this is how a lot of people make their money. Also, this is a great time to learn how to bargain.

Flags are used on beaches as a way to tell you how dangerous the water is. Certain colored flags will warn you if it’s safe to swim in the ocean. Depending on what side of Cancún you’re on (it’s kind of shaped like a 7), the water may be more rough. Resorts may have different colors for levels of caution – a red flag at ours meant no swimming, while an orange flag meant it was still rough but you could swim at your own risk – but I’ve heard that other resorts have used different colors as warnings too.

Use public transportation. We were advised not to use taxis, as they weren’t that safe, but taking the bus is perfectly fine. We took the bus quite a few times to get around. It’s a must if you’re looking to explore other places beside around the resort you’re staying at.

You don’t need a tour for every excursion. My family went to Isla Mujeres (which I definitely recommend going to!) and we didn’t do a tour. And I’m really glad we didn’t go on a tour, because you have so much more freedom to do what you want. And it’s not hard to plan your own excursion. For Isla Mujeres, we took a bus to the ferry, and then we took the ferry to the island, and just set off on our own to explore the island and relax on the beach.

You will need sunscreen. This one might seem obvious too, but you seriously need to wear sunscreen in Mexico. The sun is way stronger because you’re close to the equator, and if you’re not careful, you will get sunburned. Badly.

You will probably want Pepto-Bismol. Even if you have the strongest of stomachs, bring it anyway. Honestly, this applies for any country you travel to. Food is different everywhere, and you might not be used to it. Although from what I experienced in that area of Mexico, it doesn’t seem like there’s a lot of spicy food.

Well, hopefully this helps you as you prepare for your trip to Cancún. Have you been to Mexico? Let me know some of your travel tips or fave places in the comments!

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