Since I went to Tulum three different times in 2017, I’m pretty sure it’s my second home. Have I invested in property yet? Man, I probably should! Anyway, each time I’ve visited I’ve learned something new about navigating the area. Here are the top ten things I think you should know if you’re planning a trip to this area of Mexico:
- There are some AMAZING Airbnb options and hotels that are beautiful but not beach front. If you have the budget the city options are usually less expensive but that doesn’t mean you’re compromising any amenities (other than ocean front of course). If you have a budget but don’t mind moving around I would encourage you to do at least a few days on the beach. If you choose to stay near the city center like I’ve done each time I’ve been to Tulum, getting to the beach is easy. A lot of Airbnb’s come with bikes or you can rent them in town for a day or two. This time around I took the colectivos. The collectivos (shuttle busses) that run through the Main Street in town only charge 20 pesos per person to the Tulum Ruins. The Ruins connect to a strip of public beach so you can also use this stop to get to the Public Beach.
- Change your money in town! The exchange rates fluctuate but on my most recent trip the Detroit Airport exchange rate was roughly 16.70 pesos to one US dollar. The rate at Cancun airport was even lower, 15.70 pesos to one dollar. The rates in Tulum town ranged from 17.00 to 18.35 to one dollar which are all much better than the airport. It may not look like much but it adds up. You’ll probably need some cash when you land but I would plan to change the bulk of your money in town. The place I usually go to is across the street from the HSBC bank right along the Main Street in Tulum. The place I went to is called Money Exchange St. George. Remember, you’ll need your passport every time you exchange money.
- Collectivos are a LIFE saver. They go between Playa del Carmen and Tulum with continuous stops along the way. If you aren’t going to bike and don’t want walk between the town and attractions along this route it’s definitely helpful. I took it to the Ruins and the beach throughout my trip and it was much cheaper/quicker than a cab which was roughly 80-100 pesos. If you want to do a day in Playa del Carmen the fare one way is only about 40 Pesos.
- Use Yelp. You’d be surprised by the finds! My favorite spot Burrito Amor is listed but it’s a nice way to weed out the good spots amongst many options. We found some great places to try on this trip just by looking at the Yelp options in the area.
- Don’t be scared of rain in the forecast. Each time I’ve come to Tulum I check the weather about a week before and it usually calls for clouds and rain. Each time I’ve actually gone to Tulum it’s mostly sunny. The icons in Apple’s weather app don’t list the perfect chance of rain which is usually 30-40%. In my experience if it actually rains it’s not for long or not during the day. The rain has also been more light so not terrible to walk around in. I’ve visited in January, June, and December so I’ve experienced some different times of the year. Also, 80-85 degrees feels pretty hot, hotter than I expected coming from 9 degree NYC. You can definitely still get a tan! The nights during my recent trip were in the high 70s, cool but still very pleasant.
- If you can speak Spanish, it’s super helpful. If you can’t, make an effort to learn! People really seem to appreciate the effort. I speak Spanish conversationally so I always use my trips to Tulum to practice. Sounds silly but Please and Thank you (in any language) make a big difference.
- Haggle. Shopping is an experience and a piece of the fun is making sure you get the best price. Haggling is expected and encouraged so don’t be afraid to get low! While haggling do keep in mind the conversion and be reasonable, I generally start with half the price I’m initially offered and work my way up from there. Most items you’ll see in multiple shops so don’t be afraid to walk away and explore to see who will give you the best deal.
- Think about taking the bus to and from Cancun if you fly into Cancun’s Airport. A private transfer is about 2000 MXP each way which equates to roughly 120 USD. The bus leaves a few times a day from Cancun airport and the center of Tulum’s town area for 242 MXP. Nice little savings especially on the way back. I took the bus from Tulum back to the airport and it took roughly 2.5 hours making just two stops along the way in Playa del Carmen. They go through all of the terminals so they’ll drop you off right where you need to go!
- Luggage with an easy lock (like the Away bags) makes storing valuables a little easier if you’re safe challenged like I am. For whatever reason the safe at the hotel just wasn’t working for me so I stored my MacBook, wallet and other valuables in my suitcase! I used packing cubes so I just took one out and used the space for my personal bag/laptop.
- Always check to see if the tip is included in your bill. Often times they’ll add in a suggested tip but you can always adjust. If not 10-20% is acceptable.
If you’re located in NYC, Tulum can be a great and inexpensive vacation option! I was surprised by the fares I found to and from Cancun that made it possible for me to visit not once but three times this year. With the above tips you’ll be able to get even more out of the trip.