Digital Nomad North America Travel

Tips and Advice on Visiting Tulum, Mexico

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Tulum, Mexico is on everyone’s radar as tourists and celebrities alike are flocking to this small, cozy jungle-like town. Just two hours away from Cancun, Tulum is almost the polar opposite of the party-obsessed, tourist trap that Cancun can be. And personally, I visit Tulum a few times per year!

Tulum is a small town, with two main zones: the hotel zone, and Tulum “pueblo”. Each zone could be done in a day, or even walked through from end to end in a day (if you really wanted) as well. Of course, if you visit you can be kept busy for a while, with all the town and it’s surrounding areas have to offer. In general, Tulum is sunny, hot and sometimes jungle-like, with a down to earth chilled-out vibe.

Getting to Tulum from Cancun Airport

The best way to arrive in Tulum is by flying directly into Cancun, and from the airport terminal you should hop on the next ADO bus. Its a comfortable, 2-hour air conditioned ride – and the cheapest way to get to Tulum from Cancun. Generally you shouldn’t wait more than 15 or 20 minutes for a bus. Don’t bother buying tickets in advance online, since you don’t know how long the line at immigration may be.

Each ticket is about 250 pesos or $13.50. You can buy your bus tickets with Pesos or Dollars. You can buy your ticket directly outside of the airport terminal, like as soon as you step into the sunlight, you’ll want to walk past the people trying to sell you stuff and towards the ADO stand. It’s red, and it should be directly in front of large buses that say “ADO”.  No worries if you can’t get a direct bus, just take the next bus to Playa del Carmen — you shouldn’t have to wait more than 10 or 15 minutes for a bus. Once you’re in Playa, just walk to the ticket counter and buy another ticket to Tulum from there. 

I suggest checking online to see what the direct bus schedule is, just in case!

Staying in Tulum

  • Make sure to have sunscreen, and bug spray on you at all times! It will be sunny all the time, and there will be bugs around, all the time.
  • Make sure to bring Mexican Pesos. This is super important, as using dollars will make it very obvious that you’re a tourist, and local workers prefer tips in pesos as well. The best way to get pesos is by withdrawing them at an ATM. Personally, I use the ones at the Cancun airport, or inside bank branches. Do your research, as banks most likely will charge you a fee, so it’s best to take out as much as you can to only incur the fee once. Another method I use, is to transfer money to myself in Mexico and pick it up locally at Chedraui or a bank, with services like Remitly or Xoom. Most of the time, these transfers can be done in a matter of minutes.
  • If you are a tourist, do your best to be mindful and respect the country and culture you are in. Do not assume everyone will speak English. Do not assume everyone will accept your dollars.
  • If you know some Spanish, don’t be afraid to use it. A little Spanish shows respect and people will be nicer to you. Don’t expect that everyone is going to understand English. 
  • Don’t drink the water. The only water you can drink is bottled or comes from a large gallon.
  • DON’T FLUSH TOILET PAPER, trust me on this.
  • Anything you need like Shampoo, Conditioner, Soap, Toothpaste can be bought easily at Chedraui or the pharmacies in town.

Getting Around Tulum

There are three options for getting around in Tulum. Bike, taxi, or renting a car. Unfortunately, I can’t recommend walking as a main transportation option, as the town is a bit spread out, and it can get really hot and uncomfortable if you’re walking all day.

  • Taxi’s in Tulum are safe to take, they are easy to hail in the street. If you find a taxi driver that you trust or that speaks English, feel free to ask them for their Whatsapp number – most of the time they will be happy to pick you up wherever you are if you text them. Rides within town should be around 30-50 MXN pesos, and rides to/from the beach zone should be around 150 MXN pesos. If you feel that you are not being quoted a correct price, you can ask the taxi driver to show you the price list, which they are obligated to carry with them.
  • There are a few bike rental shops in Tulum, and they should cost about 100 MXN per day to rent. Just make sure to keep your biked locked at all times! They are easy to get stolen.
  • Car rentals are ideal if you are a larger group, or if you plan on doing excursions and visits that are farther out of town.
  • If you want to go to Playa del Carmen or surrounding towns, you can take an ADO bus or take a collectivo. The collectivo are small vans that go up and down the highway. Just let the driver know where you want to go and hop in.

Money in Tulum

You need mexican pesos! Using US dollars will make you look like an extra super tourist, and you’ll get a bad exchange rate. Bring at least $40 USD just in case as backup. 
  • ATM: Do research on if your bank has sister banks that offer less of a fee or no fee. ATMS are the best way to get pesos easily, you’ll get the best exchange rate but there may be fees of $5-10 per transaction
  • Credit cards can be used, make sure you don’t get charged a foreign transaction fee. You still need cash as there are lots of times where you are buying small things and there’s no way for the vendor to take a CC.
  • Cash exchange should be one of the last options you go for, unless its an emergency or you’re in a bind. I would bring maximum $100 in US dollars for this. They give you a bad exchange rate.
  • Cash pickup: this is also a good option, with a great exchange rate and less fees ($4). You can do it online a few days before you arrive, it depends on how you are sending money. I use Remitly and Xoom. Bodega Aurrera is probably the best pickup location in Tulum if it’s the weekend. On a weekday, I’d send to a bank branch like  CI Banco, HSBC, Scotiabank. You need your passport to pick money up. KEEP IN MIND if you are arriving late, you may not be able to pick up cash until the next day. 

Nearby Trips and Things to Do

If you are around for more than a few days, do yourself a favor and check out some of the nearby towns! Check with ADO to see if you can get there by bus, if not then renting a car is your next best option. Some great side trips you can take from Tulum are: Bacalar, Isla Mujeres, Holbox, Cozumel, Valladolid, Merida, and Playa Del Carmen.

  • Bacalar, also known as the “pueblo magico”, is a really adorable and quaint town a few hours drive from Tulum. There are a variety of activities you can do there, including snorkeling, kayaking, paddle boarding, boat trips, cenote visits, diving, etc. If you decide to visit Bacalar, invest time into doing your research as some activities can only be done early morning – like paddle boarding. Personally, I think the best way to get to Bacalar is to rent a car, which means you’ll have the chance to explore the town a bit on your own.
  • Playa del Carmen is a super easy and cheap 1 hour collectivo ride away! Playa is more touristy than Tulum, but still worth the day trip. You’ll find beautiful beaches, nightclubs, and Americanized name brand shopping. There’s also stores like Walmart, Starbucks, Haagen Dazs, McDonalds, an Apple reseller, movie theaters, malls, etc. From Playa del Carmen, you can take another 45 minute trip to the island of Cozumel.
  • Coba ruins are a great day trip to take from Tulum. The best way to do it is by hiring a taxi for the day (they will have a set price for this), and starting early off to Coba ruins. Plan to spend an hour or two there, roaming the grounds and exploring the jungle and ruins. Once inside, you can climb the pyramid and bike around the grounds. Entrance is 70 MXN pesos. Your taxi driver will also take you to a nearby cenote, which is an underground cavern that you can swim in. It’s a great experience! The fare should also include a stop over for lunch on the way into town.
  • The beach in Tulum is a good way to spend the day. You can visit a beach club, which will allow usages of their beach chairs and umbrellas for either a fee or minimum spend at their bar/restaurant.

What to Eat in Tulum

My favorite bars and restaurants in Tulum are as follows, but this is not an exhaustive list:

Need a place to stay in Tulum? Check out the sweet hacienda that I help run on Airbnb. We would love to have you!

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