Getting Around

Bicyclists in back country Yucatan

Getting around the Yucatan is an unpredictable mixture of pure enjoyment and surprise frustration. The best advice I can give you is to steal a line from James Taylor: stop "running your States-side game."

This is Mexico, and your own culturally determined assumptions about efficiency, promptness, and dependability can turn out to be your biggest source of trouble.

Now in the spirit of full disclosure, I'll admit that this is a "do as I say, not as I do" kind of thing. I have been as bent out of shape as a person can be in my efforts to find reliable ways of getting around Mexico. But now I've put what I learned to use here.

On this page, you'll find a list of general recommendations—arranged in descending order from easiest to most challenging—that I've learned from experience will help you get started.

General Recommendations

When thinking about getting around the Yucatan one of the first decisions you'll need to make is how easy a trip do you want. There's always a trade-off, and this is no exception.

For example, you can choose a package tour which will effectively eliminate every troublesome issue right from the get-go, and for some vacations and under some circumstances, this maybe the best choice.

But a packaged tour does severely limit your chances to be spontaneous and head off on the spur of the moment to explore some hidden ruin in the rain forest, or spend the day "playing hooky" for an extra day on the beach.

The following list lays out your options for you. Choose the one that best matches what you are looking for then use this site and other resources (other sites, recommended books, guides, maps etc.) and plan the vacation of your dreams!

  • Just Stay in the Hotel   No kidding. You have permission! It's ok! In fact, this can be a great choice is all you really want is to escape to the perfect weather and pristine beaches of Cancun or the Mayan Riviera. Go and enjoy! So, instead of "getting around," stay put! And while you're at it, you can begin gathering information to help you plan a more ambitious trip the next time.

  • 100% Hassle-Free Touring Well, mas o menos. Traveling is never comepletly hassle-free. But the easiest option is to book an all-inclusive package and choose from a selection of preplanned touring or recreational options.Choose an all inclusive packages if:
    • this is your first trip to the Yucatan and you are not comfortable setting up your own itinerary and making your own plans.
    • you are feeling a little insecure about traveling on your own, getting lost, eating the food, etc.
    • you are pressed for time and want to keep things as simple as possible
  • Establish a Base Camp   Choose a location such as Cancun, or Playa del Carmen or Merida as your base of operations, then using the hotel concierge or local tour companies, set out to explore what the area has to offer.
  • Become an Indiana Jones    With a few precautions and a little planning, you can hit the road in the Yucatan and explore whatever comes your way. Here the premium is on spontaneity and the freedom to change your itinerary to discover something wonderful you hear about along the way. Just make sure that you are prepared.

    • Have a good road map and guidebook. And always, always over-estimate the about of time it takes to get anywhere.

      A modern fast road can deteriorate into a village main street with no warning at all. If you are generous with the time you have allowed for travel, the saint's day procession that entirely shuts down the road will bean unexpected treat, not an annoying headache.

    • Make sure your car is in good shape.

    • Don't let the fuel gauge dip below half.

    • Have cash for the toll roads and pocket money for smaller restaurants that don't take plastic.

    • Bring plenty of sunscreen and bottled water.

    • If you take medications, bring them with you or buy all you will need before leaving the larger towns (Cancun, Valladolid, Merida, Campeche, Chetumal).

    Here's the secret to it all: Think it through and design a trip that suits you and rewards you with whatever you want and need.

    There will be other times and opportunities to experience all the different ways of exploring this amazing corner of the world. You can do it, as we say: paso a paso.

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