The Getaway
Spring Break Better: Avoid These Mistakes in Cancun

Cancun's white sand beaches and around-the-clock parties make it one of the world's most popular Spring Break destinations, but do proper research before packing that sunscreen. International travelers flock to this Caribbean haven for an action-packed adventure, but not everyone has your best interests in mind. Without realizing it, common mistakes could put a dent in your travel plans, resulting in wasted dollars, wasted time, and missed opportunities. By avoiding a few pitfalls, you can live it up along the shoreline and experience the getaway of a lifetime.


01 Exchanging cash at the airport

boat and dock near Mexican resort Jonathan Ross / Getty Images

To experience Cancun to the fullest, you'll need plenty of cash. Even with thousands of tourists flooding in, many shops, eateries, and bars don't accept cards, making cash the only option if you want to live large. While exchanging dollars for pesos ASAP is straightforward, holding off provides much more bang for your buck. The airport abounds with money exchange kiosks, but these feature the highest exchange rates and longest lines. Save major coin by exchanging around town instead.


02 Unknowingly attending timeshare presentations

Crowded beautiful beach on in Cancun, Mexico e X p o s e /

Cancun is brimming with vacation club promoters from the moment you step off the plane, but they're not always obvious. Savvy staffers real you in with deals on local tours, events, and activities, advertising unbelievable rates on everything from swimming with the dolphins to bar crawls. However, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is, especially if promoters mention attending 60 to 90-minute presentations. These events frequently extend far past their time limit, providing hour after hour of high-pressure sales. Five hours in, you'll find staff begging you to buy before you can cash in that free gift. If the timeshare hustle isn't your thing, just keep moving.


03 Forgetting about the dress code

Young women vacationer relaxing in an infinity pool of a tropical beach resort hotel YinYang / Getty Images

Since your break involves plenty of party-hopping, always keep the dress code in mind. Every bar, restaurant, and club has a different code, and many require formal wear to get in. If you only pack swimwear or casual wear, you'll likely find yourself waiting outdoors. Don't miss any of the action and arrive prepared. Men should bring collared shirts and long pants, while women should always pack a dress and closed-toed shoes. Even during scorching summer nights, shorts and sandals just don't cut it at many of the city's most popular attractions.


04 Drinking from the tap

Margarita cocktail glasses on a beach bar table with people, sunset, sea and mountains background

To avoid possible stomach upset, stay away from the tap water while in Mexico. Expansive populations and older distribution systems mean that water can get contaminated en route to the tap, and most travelers don't want unexpected sickness bringing them down. Unfiltered water can be risky anywhere, so stock up on the bottled variety at your nearest shop.


05 Buying without bargaining

Day of the Dead: Mexican Calaveras, skulls pattern, Mexico City culture agustavop / Getty Images

Tourist rates and local rates are not the same, so know what to expect before you arrive. Bargaining is common practice in Cancun, so shop owners expect you to negotiate. From food stands to antique shops, if you discover something you like, don't hesitate to haggle. That traditional trinket might seem out of reach at first glance, but talk with the seller, and it might enter your home for up to 50% off. Contemplate, discuss, ask for that discount, and pay in cash to score even better deals.


06 Booking accommodations by price alone

Man on vacation, sunbathing and enjoying the view of the Caribbean Sea from the room balcony of a resort hotel in Cancun, Riviera Maya, Mexico. YinYang / Getty Images

While Spring Break deals abound all over Cancun, keep a keen eye on other factors before booking. That luxurious hotel room or Airbnb might seem like a steal, but it also might be located an hour outside of the city, on the opposite side of town, or in a seedier surrounding area. Not only will you be further away from the action, but you could find yourself making up those supposed savings in skyrocketing taxi or Uber fees throughout your vacation. When booking, narrow accommodations down to the precise location you're seeking before filtering by price.


07 Wandering outside of tourist areas

Half split underwater shot view of woman holding man's hand in pristine clear water beach in Mexico swissmediavision / Getty Images

Cancun is a safe place to visit, but that doesn't mean you should let your guard down. Stay aware of your surroundings at all times, and don't wander too far from well-lit and well-populated areas like downtown and the hotel beach zone. Since Cancun is such a trending tourist destination, it has lower crime rates than neighboring cities. The Mexican government polices the area closely and makes every effort to ensure it's a safe space for guests, including security cameras, lighting, and officers on rounds. Not so outside of this zone, however, where unlit roads, a lack of cameras, and a significant lack of people could get dangerous if you don't know where you're going.


08 Booking activities from sketchy guides

Woman alone in a cenote, Mexico © Marco Bottigelli / Getty Images

Whether you're a nature buff, a history aficionado, or an all-nighter, Cancun offers tours for every interest. Scammers will take advantage of this fact, however, exploiting travelers with nonexistent offers, hidden fees, and prices too good to be true. Instead of paying time to lone salespeople on the street, find a tour agency that specializes in your fav stops and visit them in person. Discuss your itinerary, compare prices, and flip through brochures, photos, and verified reviews from fellow travelers who've actually been there, done that.


09 Underestimating the weather conditions

Full Frame Shot Of Wet Window In Rainy Season Kevin Darza / EyeEm / Getty Images

You're traveling to the tropics, sure, but nights can get surprisingly chilly. Rain is a common occurrence during the spring vacation season, so pack an umbrella, long pants, and a sweater to stay warm during those late-night strolls along the shore. The more and the closer you plan to hang out near the ocean, the more warm clothing you should pack.


10 Slacking on day trips

Woman admiring the Temple of Kukulcan (El Castillo) in Chichen Itza, Yucatan, Mexico © Marco Bottigelli / Getty Images

It's not about the journey; it's the destination. We've heard it all before, but you'll be selling yourself short if you don't check out the intriguing day trips surrounding Cancun. First up is the legendary Chichen Itza, Mayan ruins that date back to 600 C.E. As one of the Seven Wonders of the World, it's an absolute can't-miss, giving you once-in-a-lifetime access to ancient life.

Experience more of Mexico in Playa del Carmen or Tulum, where you can trade in bustling Spring Break beaches for rejuvenating, aquamarine waters, swimming, scuba diving, fishing, and surfing without all the crowds. Both cities have a distinct vibe that enhances any vacation, opening your eyes to everything this vibrant country has to offer.


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