Tips For Travel in the
Yucatan/Playa Del Carmen

A list of Tips from our 2003 experiences

Xel-Ha | Miscellaneous | Acceptable Tips | Cancun Airport | Fun-Jet (In my Opinion)

Xel-Ha Information
(eco-park with a large lagoon for snorkeling)

- very nice snorkeling - especially for beginners.
  1. In my opinion - it's best NOT to take their 'relaxing' river trip in the inner tubes
        It's anything BUT relaxing - it's 4,334 ft. down one section of the lagoon (not a real river), and the current does not pull you along.   You must really work at paddling your way down the entire length of the water, and keeping out of the brush on the sides of the water. You can't get out at any time and just walk the rest of the way!
  2. Also, in my opinion - Do NOT take the Xel-Ha/Tulum excursion...not nearly enough time at either one - - take a whole day at Xel-Ha and a half a day for Tulum - you'll be much happier and a lot less rushed.
  3. For lockers and towels - there is a deposit required - but you can either pay $10 (USD), or use either your hotel key or drivers license
  4. For snorkeling mask, tube, life-jacket and flippers, there is also a deposit required (see above) - I definitely recommend the life jacket, even if you are a very good swimmer - - it allows you to easily rest periodically, both safely and effortlessly, and therefore extends your 'in-water' time.
  5. For the inner tube for the 'river ride', there is also a deposit required - - but you can use your locker key! (but see #1 above)
  6. Swim with the Dolphins, Snuba, Sea Trek, and some others are available - but they cost extra - so beware! However, though we never had time to get over there, you can snorkel by yourself near the same area where the Sea Trek is done. There are much bigger fish there and from what we heard from others - it's well worth the time to go to that end of the park for snorkelling.
  7. You are not allowed to use sunscreen or tanning lotion UNLESS it's biodegradable - - and guess what - they have some there for you to purchase!
  8. Swim with the Dolphins is very expensive ($90 USD, over and above the park entrance price, when we went, though it's $25 cheaper than at XCaret), but is totally worth it, in my opinion. Keep in mind, they take pictures and they video tape the entire (45 minute to 1 hour) episode, both at an extra cost, of course. :)
  9. The Xel-Ha All Inclusive package includes all drinks and meals. There are several places to eat, of course, during their park hours (9-6:30), there is really only time for one meal - - but any drinks are still free.....all meal and drink services close at 5pm.
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  1. Do NOT change your currency into Pesos at your Hotel - - you can find much better exchange rates in town, or at the banks.
  2. If you have American Express Travelers Checks and want to use them, most places require that you have a drivers license or even a Passport, in order to cash them.
  3. Prices for excursions/trips to the Mayan Ruins (Chichen-Itza/Tulum) are much cheaper in town. Package tour prices from your vacation representative (Funjet, etc) are much more expensive.
        Also - public transportation to Tulum is only 20 pesos - - on Sundays, archaeological sites are free!
  4. Taxi prices from your hotel to downtown Playa Del Carmen are fixed prices - check with your hotel desk, then make sure you discuss the price with the driver before getting in the taxi
        Most all taxis have air conditioning, but it's cheaper to run without it, so most don't - - ask for it and they'll turn it on.
  5. There's a Ferry you can take (30-45 minute trip) to Cozumel, if you'd like, that leaves from Playa Del Carmen approx $7.50 (USD) for each way, and it leaves on the hour.
  6. Many of the shops have people jumping out at you as you pass - so be ready for it - - they'll have many lines, like, " It's almost free ", "I have what you need", "I can help you spend your money", or if you have a goatee or beard - - hey - "Mr. Whiskers...." will preface their lines. Also, since there is now a Wal-Mart in Cancun, there, they will also say "It's cheaper than Wal-Mart". (That last one is also a lie.) Everything there is EXTREMELY expensive, relatively speaking. Their silver prices are more than what we would have paid at Sears in the US.
  7. Time Share people come out of the wood work when you're there - even at the hotels where you advice is to be VERY firm and say " NO! ". They are EXTREMELY hard sell-types and you will spend hours there, with them trying to sell you a time share that you'll pay for, for a long, long time. All Inclusive vacations are the ONLY way to travel there - - trust me!
  8. Take the time to learn at least a little Spanish before you go - it will be much easier in the long run - - most places you go have people who speak English, but if you go 'off road', so to speak, this is true less and less.
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Acceptable Tips
  1. Bell-boy (for bringing luggage to room) - $2
  2. Tour Guide - $5
  3. Maid/Housekeeper - $1 per day - leave in an envelope, out in the open
    (Spanish - Para la criada/el ama de casa means 'for the maid/housekeeper')
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Flying into the Cancun Airport
  1. Coming In:
  2. Going Out:
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Fun-Jet - In my Opinion - all in all, our vacation and accomodations were very pleasant and went smoothly - - though
  1. Spend a day in town, or ask someone at the hotel (guest or desk person) for where to go to get the most reliable excursions - - very expensive through Fun-Jet representative
  2. Our trip to Chichen-Itza was nothing like we were promised and we got little or no compensation for the extreme difference. Chichen-Itza, itself, is more than worth it. However, it's a long ride there, and we got a tremendously bumpy ride in a van, with only one rest stop, even though we were promised a tour bus with facilities, snacks and drinks both ways.
  3. When we tried to cancel a follow up excursion, it took forever to get a credit card re-imbursement. Day after day, we were promised a meeting to get it done, which interrupted practically EVERY day we had on the vacation.
More To Come!
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