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If you are traveling to Playa del Carmen, you will likely land at Cancun International Airport (airport code: CUN). Passengers first clear Immigration then collect luggage for Customs and a possible inspection. Wait for instructions to press the red or green light that will determine whether you have been chosen for a search.
Exit into the terminal and AVOID OFFERS FOR TRANSPORTATION INSIDE THE AIRPORT as it is most likely involves a timeshare presentation. Only speak with employees of the company you hired, an official taxi booth employee or an ADO Bus employee with the logo on his/her shirt. Best to look like you know where you are going and walk down the middle of the aisle and exit the airport. Do not stop and get information from anyone on either side of the airport while exiting, as there is ALWAYS a catch. (Seemingly free advice, transportation and breakfast can turn into a morning suffering an intensive time-share presentation.)
Several options for ground transportation to Playa del Carmen, which is approximately 35 km south of the Cancun airport and about a 45 minute to one hour ride. Private transfers require reservations and may require full pre-payment by credit card or Paypal but options are available for ADO Bus, private and shared vans upon arrival.
Vacation packages often include pre-arranged ground transportation to your resort. As you exit the baggage claim area, walk outside and look for an employee of the company carrying a sign with the name of your travel company on it (ie Expedia, Apple Vacations, Lomas Travel, Liberty Travel, etc.). That person will have your name on a list. If you decide to use alternate transportation, it is a good idea to tell this person of your intent as they may hold a bus for you. Most companies use small vans, not large tour buses, so you won't be subjected to many stops along the way.
To Playa del Carmen by ADO Bus:
The most economical way (146 pesos per person) from the airport to Playa del Carmen is to take the air-conditioned ADO Bus. Luggage can be stored underneath and they run almost every 30 minutes. It’s a very nice and easy ride that takes you right to the Playa bus station located on 5th Ave and Juarez.
It's possible to reach near-by 5th Avenue and beach hotels on foot. For Playacar or hotels out of walking distance, many taxis line up around the bus station (cost of taxi to most nearby resorts: approx. $6.00, near bus terminal rides are 25 pesos).
From Terminal 3: Walk out of the airport and veer right towards the large buses. Only speak with employees wearing an ADO logo on their shirt. Tickets may be purchased from a booth outside the terminal. Last bus leaves at 10:45 p.m.
From Terminal 2: Walk 3 minutes outside to get to Terminal 3
Most rides are direct to PDC. There is a chance of a brief stop on the highway in Puerto Morelos. Last bus leaves at 11pm.
To Cancun Airport from PDC:
Tickets can be purchased at the ADO Bus Station on 5th Avenue and Benito Juarez up to 24 hours in advance of a specified departure time. The bus lets off all passengers at Terminal 2. A shuttle bus is available to Terminal 3 and there is a walkway.
Vouchers for taxis rides to PDC are on sale inside the main terminal. Taxis are private rides (quoted prices vary from $60-$90). Returning to the airport in a taxi is often less than the trip upon arrival.
Shared Vans (no reservations needed):
Some find it best to arrange a ride on arrival than trying to find someone on arrival. No need to find a specific employee from a company or someone holding your name on a sign. Exit the terminal and veer right, look for an employee with a transportation logo on their shirt organizing a direct ride to Playa Del Carmen and buy a ticket right at the shuttle van for around $25 per person, no reservations needed.
For returning to the airport, ask your resort to call a taxi when you are ready to leave. No waiting and often the cost is less than pre-arranged transfers. Or return by ADO Bus.
Private Transportation: If you prefer, you may book ground transportation in advance from companies such as:
Their representative greets passengers upon exiting the airport, holding a sign with your name on it or wearing a pre-described uniform and take you directly to your transport or, ask your hotel when making a reservation. The majority of hotels can arrange transportation for you, leaving you more free time to decide what to pack on your trip!
Tipping your Transfer Driver: 1st, please tip your greeter at the airport parking lot (20 - 50 pesos depending on your number in your group). As for the driver. Tip for good service with 15-20% (USD or pesos). Remember you may have a different driver on your return , so tip per leg
Rental Cars: May be reserved in advance or upon arrival (either to be picked up at the Cancun airport or in Playa del Carmen) from well known companies such as Hertz, Avis, Dollar, Thrifty, and Alamo. This may be a good option for those who wish to tour areas such as Tulum, Cobá, etc. Many car companies have branches in Playa del Carmen (all the big name companies and smaller local companies such as Happy Car, CP Rentals and Veloz). Some local companies will drop off the car at your hotel and even pick it back up there once you're finished. Most vendors stay open till 10pm.
If you are going to rent a car, be sure to fully understand how insurance works in Mexico. The best thing to do is contact your own car insurance company and credit card company if depending on that coverage ask whether you have rental car insurance and whether that insurance will cover you driving a car rented in Mexico. Liability insurance, which is required is Mexico, will be sold to you whether you ask for it or not, as it is required by law in Mexico. The cost is minimal, and most quoted prices include both tax and insurance.
New Requirements for Travelers Between the United States and Mexico: Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI):
Effective January 8, 2007, all U.S. citizens traveling by air to and from Mexico are required to have a valid passport to enter the United States. As early as January 1, 2008, U.S. citizens traveling between the United States and Mexico by land or sea (including ferries), may be required to present a valid U.S. passport or other documents as determined by the Department of Homeland Security.
For more information on travel requirements, contact the U.S. embassies of the countries you're visiting. A complete list of U.S. embassies worldwide can be found at the Department of State Web site.
Here is also more useful information about Playa del Carmen transportatoin, weather, safety and more.