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Mexico now has
a seat-belt law.
MAYAN RIVIERA VACATIONS
Vacationers to the Mayan Riviera generally stay in the lavish resorts along the coast because many of these hotels are offered in package deals with flight included.
Back-packers, couples, people looking for action generally stay in Playa del Carmen.
Americans and Canadians tend to stay for one week Mayan Riviera vacations with four day vacations quite common for Americans [not practical for Canadians] and Europeans generally stay two weeks or longer.
For one week travel packages you generally fly in late in the day for your first day and fly out early on your departure date. This way you are really only getting a five day vacation because the day you arrive is a right-off and the day you leave is also a right-off. Is this a planned thing by the travel agencies? Yes and no. Some companies do use this tactic but some agencies are simply at the mercy of the flight schedules of the airline they are utilizing for their packages.
THINGS TO KNOWIf you are flying in [no travel package] take an airport transfer to hotel or:
If you are coming in on a package deal you go through customs, get your luggage and exit the terminal to the busses. There will be a travel agent rep standing at the exit of the terminal with a sign. They also tend to shout out the name of the travel company as well. Here a sky-porter will offer to carry your bags [for a tip] or you can use those trolley things.
Then your luggage is thrown into the baggage compartment of the bus. There is lots of hustle and bustle, everyone is excited! Its hot, you begin speaking to your new amigos.
Now you have to wait for everyone who is traveling to your hotel as part of the "charter" to board the bus. Hopefully nobody gets suckered into talking to the time-share guys because they can hold up the bus for up to an hour.
The bus ride to your hotel can be as long as 1 1/2 hrs and even two if there are a number of drop-offs at other hotels or there is some problem with traffic. Usually the drivers try to get you to your hotel as fast as they can.
The bus will have drinks for sale but many do not have washrooms and the air-conditioning is always on high making it freezing.
It's best to sit at the front of the bus. This way you are first off and can run to the reception desk and check-in while your partner gets the luggage. If you are traveling in a large charter and the majority of people are staying at the same hotel it can sometimes take anywhere from half an hour to an hour by the time the last person is checked in.
At this point you are given a wrist-band for identification purposes. Most hotels provide wrist-bands for minors so they cannot access alcohol at any of the bars. Some resorts have "special" rooms or complete sections they usually call the VIP suites and a special wrist-band is provided to guests who pay the extra for these rooms. Our experience talking to people who have payed for VIP say it is not worth the extra money.
For more info on towels and safes see: Mayan Riviera All Inclusive
The Towel Game
What people do is they walk out to a prime spot on the beach or at a swimming pool and put a towel on the beach chair [chez-lounge] they want, then disappear, sometimes for hours. By doing so they presume that they have placed a "reservation" on the chair. Some people do this as early as 6:00 in the morning.
First off, there are NO RULES for this game and the hotel does not support this nor will they usually respond to any infractions caused by problems as a result of this charade. There are no numbers or identifiable marks on towels proving it is indeed your towel.
Some people find the chair they want. If there is a towel saving it and nothing else there showing that the person is utilizing that particular chair, they throw the towel on the ground. Of course when the "saver" returns to find you have taken the chair an argument can ensue.
You can avoid confrontation by not doing this but at the same time realize that you do not have to put up with this nonsense. It's your call [best to avoid confrontation while on vacation].
NOTE: Hotels could avoid this by simply placing signs stating "No Chair Saving".
Every resort has paths connecting the various buildings, pools etc.. The mega-resorts are like little cities with paths trailing everywhere. Some are quite scenic.
What you will find is that some people walk the paths as if they own them. By this I mean that as you and your partner or families approach them on a path, they will not move one iota of an inch out of the way. This inevitably causes you to have to walk off the path onto the grass or simply just get out of their way.
This starts to become quite annoying after a while. Children are used to having to move out of the way, women are polite about it but guys don't take this violation of "their" space to well.
Hopefully there will not be any path-hoggers at your hotel but if there are then use common sense and avoid confrontation.
What is it about buffets that turn normally civil people into animals? The food isn't going anywhere.
No where else at a resort will you encounter rudeness more than the buffets, especially when they get crowded. Some people act as if it's their last meal.
You have to ignore the rude people and not let them get you upset, especially when you are eating. We find the biggest offenses are people butting into lines or making stupid comments if you take too long to make a decision on something thus making them have to wait an extra few seconds before they get there plate of all you can eat shrimp.
Parents who let their children treat the buffet room like a playground are also quite common. Please keep your children in check.
All hotels have some loud rooms. These are rooms located next to the swimming pools or very close to the entertainment facility. Some people don't mind the noise which generally winds down at 11:00 but if you are given a noisy room and can't put up with it you can ask to be moved to another room.
All the major 4-5 star hotels/resorts have a "Kid's Zone" and most have children's swimming pools with lifeguards on duty.
For more info see: Traveling With Children
Do not accept torn or damaged pesos bills. Mexican currency, damaged in any way will not be accepted by any merchants, money exchanges or banks. If somebody offers you a damaged bill, refuse to accept it.
ATM machines are all over Cancun hotel zone and there are a few in downtown Cancun City.
ATMs dispense pesos and receipts are in pesos.
It is advisable to carry lots of small bills and change because merchants never have change.
For more info see: Mexican Money
Water & Ice
You can purchase bottled water everywhere you go in the Yucatan except some of the long barren highways. Any road to any attraction, or ruin site will have stores along the way.
Every resort uses a water purifier. Some say that this water is okay to drink, some say it is not. We have drank it many times and have never become ill. This does not mean we have not picked up a parasite. Rule of thumb is if you're only staying for a short period you can find bottled water everywhere, so drink that. Use your hotel water for brushing your teeth if you wish and taking showers but drink only bottled water everywhere you go. Almost every resort and hotel offer 1 or 2 bottles of water per room per day. If not you can purchase it in the resort/hotel store or in a nearby store.
Ice is safe in the drinks. The ice that is provided to most restaurants and bars is produced in ice factories using purified water. Hotels and restaurants that use ice machines also use purified water. Even the guy's downtown selling home-made popsicles use purified water.
In the ocean:
April till November 80-82 F approx.
The majority of swimming pools in Playa and the Mayan Riviera are not heated. We do not know why because from late December to February pool water temperature can be cold and EVERYBODY complains about this.
Mexicans by and large, are generous people. Tipping, regardless of the amount, is another means of "acclimatizing" yourself to the Mexican environment.
Who doesn't love a present? Money, neat stuff and practical items are all excellent things to give as gifts to anybody, regardless of the person's stature.
When tipping for service the average tip for servers is between 10%-15%, depending on the service.
In All Inclusive hotel/resorts rooms are assigned to staff thus you will probably have the same housekeeper for your entire stay except for their day off. You can either tip every day or at the end of your stay. If you bring gifts then you can leave a present on the bed every day and a cash tip on the last day.
You can either leave your tip on a table or hand it directly to the person.
Tipping rates for housekeeping staff:
2 - 4 day stay: $2.00 USD per day
1 week stay: $20.00 USD
Bellboys and skycaps at the airport can expect anywhere from $.50 to $1.00 U.S. per bag.
For more info see: Taking Gifts And Tipping
There is a sales tax of 15%. The tax applies to the purchase of most items and is paid by residents and visitors alike. Often this tax is hidden in the total cost of restaurant bills, store purchases, and tours.
Standard electrical service in Mexico is 110 volts [same as USA & Canada]. Hotels usually offer voltage converters for 220 volt devices. Some electrical sockets do not accept three-prong or polarized plugs. It is recommended that you bring your own adapter [you can often buy them in the hotel store].
Playa del Carmen's time is six hours earlier than Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). Daylight Savings Time begins on the first Sunday in April and ends on the last Sunday in October.
Phone calls from hotels can be very expensive due to Mexican taxes and surcharges. Before you call, make sure you know exactly what the cost per minute is.
It is advisable to go to a phone booth outside the hotel and make the call. You will need a phone-card to use the phone. You can buy the cards all over the place. Check your hotel lobby store.
Lower rates can be had by using LADATEL phone cards available in 30, 50, and 100 peso amounts. LADATEL phones are located along sidewalks and in malls.
The country code for Mexico is 52. The area code for Playa del Carmen is 984 and all phone numbers are 7 digits. So, if you are calling Playa del Carmen from the United States or Canada you would dial: 011 [International code] 52 [country code] 984 [area code] and the 7 digit phone number.
From Cancun calling the U.S. or Canada, dial 001 + area code + local number.
In order to use your cellular phone in Playa del Carmen you must first contact your cell phone company and tell them you are going to Mexico and that you will require International Calling. You can purchase one month's worth. Depending on your service you will be charged a set-up fee. The per-minute cost generally runs $1.00 +.
If you are using a Nokia or Bell Mobility you need GSM and TDMA capability or your phone will not work in Mexico [Blackberries have the GSM card].
Don't forget to update your roaming software [where applicable].
AT&T, Nextel, Telus and Verizon all work in Playa del Carmen [Mexico].
You must set up international calling with your cell phone provider. When calling out from Mexico you must dial "001 area code and phone" or you may not get a connection to the number you are calling.
Upon arrival in Mexico "update" your cell to locate tower *228.
If you are using Verizon you can add I-Dial to your number, which allows calls from Mexico to the U.S. for .99 per minute roaming charge. There is no charge for the I-Dial service. [Rate may change. Check before leaving.]
With AT&T when you get out of the airport turn your phone on and let it find that you are in Mexico. To call home press and hold the 0 (Zero) until you get the + than dial your number.
In Playa del Carmen addresses, "Sm" stands for Super Manzana [a group of houses]. Neighborhoods are classified with a Sm number [Sm 23, Sm 25, etc.]. Each has its own park or square, with calles [streets] fashioned around it.
Airport - City Bus
If you arrive at the International Airport then exit the front of the airport and walk to your right. There is usually a bus there but if not either ask a porter or just walk over to the bus stand which is right at the end of the front of the terminal. NOTE: Sometimes non-charters fly into the International Airport.
Just like the International Airport, International flights do sometimes fly into the Charter Airport. The Charter Airport has a shuttle service right out the front exit/entrance of the airport. You can also take a shuttle between the airports if you want to take the bus from the International Airport instead.
For more info see: Cancun Airport
Baby food is sold in Cancun supermarkets and convenience stores however they may not carry your baby's particular brand. Also baby foods found in the area tend to be "fruit".
Most if not all 4-5 star hotels/resorts have an Internet room which is a room of computers with Internet access. Internet is usually NOT included in the hotel package and you must pay separate. Internet rooms at hotels are the most expensive access points.
In Playa del Carmen you can find dozens of Internet Cafes. Where ever your hotel or hostel is there will be at least one Internet Cafe within a short walk. All you have to do is ask somebody at the front desk of the hotel or hostel.
Prices can change dramatically from one computer place to another. There are also Internet Laundromats, Internet Delis, Internet Pool-Halls and many small hotels and even hostels have a single computer with Internet access now.
Skim, 1%, 2%, and homogenized milk are available in Mexico.
Playa del Carmen stocks some American brands [Marlboro and Camels], NO Canadian cigarettes.
A good Mexican brand is Montana White or Montana Red. If fact you may prefer these. You can't buy Montana cigarettes at Duty Free but you can buy cartons in the Charter Airport upstairs at a store in the food court.
You can buy American cigarettes and some Canadian brands [Players] at Duty Free in any of Cancun's airport terminals.
Cancun cigar stores carry a large variety of top Cuban Cigars. These cigars will be confiscated by returning Americans if customs find them.
For Canadians, you can bring back 50 cigars BUT you must have a sales receipt for boxes of 25. No receipt is necessary for boxes containing 23 cigars or less.
Cuban cigar boxes now come with holograms for added security however "in Cuba" the black-market guys are providing authentic looking counterfeit boxes with holograms as well as fake sales receipts.
For more info see: Cigars & Tequila In Mexico
MAYAN RIVIERA VACATION ITINERARIESWe have always found that traveling with an itinerary is a useful thing to do.
Here is an example of a family itinerary:
Family One Week Vacation
Day 1: Arrival. Get to hotel, unpack, go to buffet-eat, check out hotel, swim, relax in room.
NOTES: It is important to know that at a hotel, even though there is entertainment every night there will usually be one "big" night with a professional Vegas style show. If this show is on the night of your arrival you will not know about it unless you check the "Animations Board". Animation is what the hotel entertainment crew is called. The board is where the week's shows are listed. Most shows start after 9:00.
Day 2: Breakfast, conduct hotel recognizance [walk the grounds and learn where everything is], swimming pool or beach, walk around hotel, lunch, long walk along beach, swimming pool, room - get ready for dinner, eat dinner, use Internet cafe for e-mail, lounge, entertainment, bed or late movie [all hotels have satellite TV].
NOTES: If you are traveling on a package deal then there is an "orientation" meeting where your travel rep will tell you about the hotel and try to sell you tours. The only thing you really need to know from this person is: where can you find them as they should have a station and where is the board or book that has your flight departure time [it can and often does change].
Day 3: Family tour to Chichen Itza or Coba, etc., dinner, use Internet cafe for e-mail, lounge, entertainment or bed/movie.
NOTES: Depending on the tour you can have breakfast but if you do not have the time then pack a lunch from things in the breakfast buffet or ask the front desk for a carry-out lunch [some hotels charge for the lunch while some offer it free].
Day 4: Breakfast, reserve specialty restaurant, shopping, lunch, beach and/or swimming pool, room - get ready for dinner, dinner in specialty restaurant, use Internet cafe for e-mail, lounge, entertainment, bed.
Day 5: Family tour to Tulum ruins/beach - Xel Ha or Xel Ha alone or Xcaret or Coba ruins or Playa del Carmen [beach & shopping] or Cozumel [diving/snorkeling/shopping], dinner, use Internet cafe for e-mail, lounge, entertainment or bed/movie.
NOTES: These tours generally go out early and there is no time for a breakfast unless you really hurry. Pack a lunch if lunch is not included in your tour.
Day 6: Breakfast, reserve specialty restaurant, everybody does their own thing day. Mom shops, dad golf's or lies on the beach while the children, who by now have made many new friends, go nuts. room - get ready for dinner, dinner in specialty restaurant or buffet, pack, entertainment, bed.
NOTES: On day 6 do a preliminary packing of all your belongings before you go to bed. Leave out only what you essentially need for the next day. Make sure you have plastic bags to store wet bathing suites.
Day 7: Everything on this day depends on what time you leave to the airport from your hotel. Most hotels want you out of the rooms by 12:00. Your luggage is stored usually in a room next to reception or in the main lobby if you have a late flight. You are allowed to continue to use all facilities including restaurants and you generally change/shower in the hotel "spa" [which always has male and female change rooms] or a hospitality suite.
CHECK OUTCheck the travel agent board or book on the day before departure to confirm the departure time "from the hotel".
When you check out you will either still have time to wait for your ride to the airport or you still may have your room when the time arrives to check-out and depart to the airport.
Have your bags ready for check-out on the morning of your check-out regardless of the departure time. This is done for a number of reasons. First, peace of mind…you can relax on departure day. You do not want to forget anything and it is a lot easier to check the room if your bags are all packed.
Sometimes a flight can be rescheduled the night before you leave and the departure time changed on the day you leave. You would be notified, either by telephone or a rep at your door or a note left on your bed or night-table. If this is a last minute thing and you are not packed you will be scrambling.
A million different things can occur to change a flight time, none of which are the fault of the travel agency, hotel or Mexico in general so please do not be upset if this does happen to you. The chances are remote but it does happen from time to time.
You either leave your bags outside your door [we never do this] where a porter will pick them up and deliver them to the lobby or storage room or you take the bags to the lobby yourself.
Then you hand in your towel cards, room key/card, hotel safe key/card and pay any outstanding debts. Then you wait for the bus to take you to the airport. If the bus does not leave for some time you can use the hotels amenities including the restaurants and snack-bars.
Just before the bus is about to arrive porters will start taking the luggage out of storage and moving it to the curb outside the lobby to be loaded onto the bus. Everyone should be standing around waiting for the bus.
When the bus arrives a travel rep will makes sure everyone who should be going to the airport gets on the bus with their luggage [your name is checked off a list]. The bus will wait for stragglers but only up to a certain point. They are all too familiar with guys who cannot free themselves from the all-you-can-drink-bars who will sit there drunk and unaware that the bus is leaving. Usually somebody on the bus knows where the stragglers are and every attempt is made to find them. But rest assured you will not be delayed in getting to the airport on time because the bus will leave at a certain point if stragglers cannot be found or don't want to leave the bar [we have seen this happen].
Once you get to the airport you take your luggage off the bus and take a short walk into the terminal where you check in and get your boarding passes. After that you go through security and you are in duty-free zone. There is smoking in the duty-free zone, restaurants and more stores.
MAYAN RIVIERA HOTELSFor current Mayan Riviera - Riviera Maya hotel and resort information including rates, availability and secure on-line reservations please see:
Mayan Riviera Hotels & Resorts
Cancun Airport to Hotel Shuttle see:
Answers for many of your questions may possibly be found here: