Did you know that you can’t fly directly into Tulum? You should know that Tulum is two hours away from Cancun. The closest airport to Tulum is 2 hours away, so you’ll need to fly into Cancun. Once you’ve flown into Cancun, you’ll need to find a way to get from the airport to Tulum. You have three options:
Private/group transfer Shuttle – You can book a private transfer shuttle as a group or you can join a shuttle as an individual. You can arrange this ahead of time and this might feel safer than jumping into a random taxi once you land.
Taxi – This is by far the most expensive option. Once you step outside of the Cancun airport, you’ll be swarmed by taxi drivers. If you take a taxi, you can expect to pay between $60-$100 to get to Tulum. You can attempt to negotiate the price, but you’ll likely be paying close to $100.
ADO bus – This is your cheapest option. You’ll pay about $10 for a ride to Tulum. You can either book a bus that stops in Playa Del Carmen and transfers to Tulum or you can book a direct bus to Tulum. You can find an ADO bus kiosk in the airport alongside the rental car kiosks as you exit the airport OR you can pay for your ticket outside near the bus stop. After riding the ADO bus for years across Mexico, I can say that they are clean and completely safe.
Rental Car – A rental car will offer you plenty of flexibility in Tulum and nearby towns. I advise booking your rental car ahead of time. During high season, you should book the rental car directly through the company(I.e. Hertz, Avis) website as opposed to a third-party site (Expedia, Skyscanner, etc.)
While many places in Tulum certainly accept US dollars, you’ll need to know how to exchange your money to the local currency – Pesos. Skip the currency exchange kiosk in the airport. You’ll get the best exchange rate by withdrawing money from a local ATM once you arrive in Mexico. You can withdraw cash from a local bank in the airport, in Cancun, or once you arrive in Tulum. Tulum Centro/pueblo is the best place to withdraw cash in Tulum as the ATMs in the hotel zone often run out of money.
Many businesses in Tulum accept credit cards, but you’ll need pesos for taxi rides, taco stands, excursions, etc. It’s also wise to carry cash in order to tip taxi drivers, servers, housekeepers, or anyone who provides a service/assistance during your trip. This goes a long way, especially now.
As a heads up, local businesses will charge you more if you do decide to use US dollars instead of Pesos.
There are two sides to Tulum: the Tulum hotel zone and Tulum Centro.
Tulum Hotel Zone is full of villas, treehouses, & boutique hotels with direct access to the beach. It’s expensive AF but you’ll have direct beach access. Many hotels in the hotel zone don’t offer A/C during the daytime and the internet is all but non-existent. If you find yourself in the hotel zone, you’ll need to use hotel and restaurant wifi to stay connected.
Tulum Centro is an affordable area to stay and it’s about 10-15 minutes driving distance from the beach. This is where the locals live and as a result, you’ll have a much more ‘local’ experience in the area.
Alternatively, Aldea Zama is a new development area in Tulum which is about a 5 minute drive from the beach. It’s directly between Tulum Centro and the Hotel Zone. You’ll find plenty of nice Airbnb’s to book in the area, which are great for large groups!
Unlike Cancun, Tulum is not a resort town. While the town changed tremendously, the original appeal of the town was it’s laid-back atmosphere and bungalow/boutique hotel vibe. There are plenty of boutique hotels, bungalow, and villas that have gone above & beyond to curate that bohemian vibe that Tulum is known for. Not to mention, the insane amount of resteraunts along the hotel zone with much better food than resort food. Trust me when I say, you won’t regret staying at a stunning bungalow in the hotel zone OR a sick airbnb in Tulum Centro. The options are endless.
There is only resort that is currently in Tulum is Kore Tulum. Other than that, you’ll need to drive 20-30 minutes outside of town to get to Dreams Tulum. Know that you’ll pay $50-$100 ONE WAY to get to the Tulum ruins, beach, and hotel zone if you decided to stay outside of town.
Ladies, leave your heels at home. The hotel zone is one long, rocky dirt road and you don’t want to twist an ankle or break a heel in that mud. I’ve seen it happen before.
The style in Tulum is very beachy, bohemian. Pack plenty of bikinis along with loose clothing for the daytime. Bring a few cute dresses to bar hop at night along with sandals.
The heat/humidity is on 100. Not too different than Houston, but it can be a lot of you’re not used to it, so be sure to pack plenty of sunscreen!
Do not forget the bugspray. The mosquitos in Tulum are from another planet. Better safe than sorry!
If you’re in need of anything, you can find anything you need at the Super-Aki(local supermarket) along with pharmacy’s in town. If you get sick, you should know that you don’t need a prescription to pick up medication in town.
Prior to leaving, you should decide how you plan to get around Tulum. If you choose not to rent a car, you should know that taxi costs can really add up. If you don’t plan to stay in the hotel zone, you will be paying for a taxi everytime you go to the beach or a restaurant in the area. While you don’t need a car in Tulum, it’s certainly more convenient to explore the town and surrounding areas. Traffic is pretty bad at nighttime and during holidays in the hotel zone, so you can expect to pay a lot for a taxi and/or wait up to an hour in traffic to get to your destination.
You’ll have the opportunity to eat your heart out in Tulum, but first you need to make reservations. If you plan to eat at the best restaurants in the hotel zone – particularly on a weekend trip – you’ll need to book a table ahead of time. I recommend downloading the opentable app to make reservations or emailing/calling the resteraunt to book directly.
When it comes to visiting ruins or cenotes, you’ll need to arrive close to open or closing time to have some peace without tour crowds. You can visit cenotes or ruins with a tour group, but it will be cheaper to pay directly at the door. If you’re curious about booking day trips in the area, you can book via viator or airbnb experiences.
While you can certainly do Tulum on a budget, the prices in the hotel zone rival New York and Las Vegas prices. If you plan to stay along the hotel zone, drink craft cocktails alongside hipsters, and party in Instagram-worthy beach clubs, be prepared to spend a pretty penny. The Tulum Hotel Zone is one of the most expensive areas in the entire country.
As I stated above, Tulum is a place where you can splurge OR save. It just depends on how you decide to travel. You can stay at a nice airbnb or hostel in Tulum centro on a for less than $30 a night. You can bike or take a collective bus to the beach for less than $10 a day. You can enjoy local street food for less than $5 a plate and enjoy cheap drinks at a variety of bars in Tulum Centro. You can get to and from Tulum using the ADO bus for less than $10 a day. If you go with a group, you can split a dope Airbnb for less than $50 a person. If you plan ahead, Tulum doesn’t have to be so expensive.
I visited Tulum for the first time 5 years and I’ll be the first to tell you that Tulum has changed. You need to know that Tulum is not the low-key, unknown beach destination that it once was. There’s a Starbucks, there’s plenty of traffic, and it can get extremely busy in the high season. Despite it’s rapid growth, I still adore the area. If you manage your expectations, you can have an great time.
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Things you need to know before visiting Tulum
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Things you need to know before visiting Tulum
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