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How to travel the Riviera Maya on a Shoestring

Posted by Oliver Weickardt on 2015-11-26
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Road transportation can be expensive in Mexico, considering petrol is as indigenous as corn tortillas. On the plus side, most coaches can be labelled as first class: comfort and service are top of the league, with Wifi available in premium services. Good news is the Riviera Maya may just be the exception to this rule. Frequent and good quality transportation links are available along this 80-mile strip of the Caribbean, and you won´t need more than $15USD to visit the secluded beaches and the Mayan sites that have made a legend of the Yucatan peninsula.

We all know the feeling: we book our flights to a tropical paradise, we choose an all-inclusive hotel for a few days of carefree hedonism by the pool, and we get excited about the sights and the beaches that await us. It’s here where a dose of organization and planning can go a long way to make our trip more memorable and, incidentally, save us some cash.

Tourism is the trade par excellence here and most Mexicans make a living at one of its many branches: catering, transportation, accommodation and travel services employ over half of the population. And from the point of view of the visitor, wherever there is more competition, you can always expect better services.
My trip took aoff from Cancun International Airport. The ADO bus to the Central Bus Station was $52MXN ($4USD). Then I took a taxi to get to my hotel: city taxi fees start at $25MXN ($2USD). Radio Taxi is, in my experience, the best company to hire if you want to move about safely.

I just wanted to take the whole Riviera Maya in easy bites, and was pleasantly surprised at the options. While ADO buses charge $48MXN ($4USD) to go from Cancun to Playa del Carmen, the Mercedes-Benz vans in front of the station make it for just $34MXN ($3USD). This is a popular alternative option and you can’t miss them in front of the ADO Bus Terminal. Same deal once I arrived in Playa del Carmen: you can board the van to Akumal for $35MXN ($3USD), and to Tulum town for $40MXN (though there is a MAYAB bus making it for $38MXN). From Tulum to Playa Paraiso, the taxi ride fare was $70MXN. On the way back, I hop on the van from Playa del Carmen to Puerto Morelos for just $22MXN.

Ferries to Isla Mujeres are widely advertised in the Hotel Zone for $17USD return. While booking my ticket in October, they offered me a day tour of the island on a catamaran with free catering, bar and snorkeling in Playa Norte for $30USD extra. Prices vary with the seasons, and you can expect a rise during holiday periods. Later on I found out the ferry leaving from Puerto Juarez costs only $6USD each way -maybe next time! From the Isla Mujeres marina, the best way to get around this 10-mile long island is a motorbike that you can hire for $25USD/day. I enjoyed the best snorkeling in Playa Norte, wandered about town and returned to Playa at night.
It is definitely easier to enjoy your time in Mexico when you know it won’t empty your pockets. Saving some cash during your sight-seeing may go a long way and grant you quite a few extra Margaritas.

Villa Experience founder is German born but loves all thing Mexico! He has lived in the country since 2003 and has experienced Mexico´s premier destinations at first hand. His favorite destinations are the Yucatan Peninsula, Baja California Sur, and Puerto Vallarta.