Things I Wish I Knew Before Visiting Tulum, Mexico
If you’re thinking about traveling to Tulum, Mexico, you should know a few things before you go. While the beautiful beaches and turquoise waters are definitely a draw, there are also some interesting aspects of this beautiful destination. I’ll also provide some tips on how to deal with these issues if they arise during your trip. This blog post will talk about 13 things that you’ll wish you knew about Tulum before you go. Keep in mind that these are just the things that no one talks about – for the most part, Tulum is still a magical paradise! So, if you’re curious about what to expect in Tulum, keep reading!
Is Tulum Worth Visiting?
One of the first things to know about Tulum is that it’s located in an area known for drug cartels. While this doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll be in danger if you travel there, it’s something to be aware of. You should also know that the roads in Tulum are unpaved, which can make driving around a bit challenging. And, if you’re planning on staying in one of the beachside hotels, be prepared for construction noise – it’s pretty much constant! Another thing to consider is that there are power outages fairly regularly, so you’ll want to make sure you have a backup plan for charging your devices. Finally, the seaweed smell can be pretty overwhelming at times, especially if you’re staying near the beach. If you can get past all of these things, though, Tulum is a laid-back beach town and an absolutely stunning place to visit!
Here are 13 tips to help you make the most of your trip to Tulum:
- American Airlines was the most affordable airline that isn’t Frontier or Spirit. Personally, I don’t mind short flights on value airlines but for more than 2 hours, I like to be comfortable. Our American Airlines flight did not have any entertainment so I had to purchase internet access for about $12 to keep myself busy.
- Rent a car with four-wheel drive – it’s definitely worth it! Tulum is 2 hours away from the Cancun International Airport. Speed limits are hard to understand in Mexico because most drivers go at their own pace. If you don’t go at a constant speed, some drivers may even try to run you off the road. So if you are not a comfortable driver, consider taking a taxi or booking a shuttle service. If you are going to an all-inclusive, you can coordinate with your hotel for a shuttle. Personally, I used a friend of a friend that owns a car rental service. They don’t advertise so if you want their contact, feel free to email me! Uber and Lyft are pretty non-existent. Also, taxi drivers, there are can be pretty aggressive and usually use little to no English.
- Consider where you are staying, at the beach zone, Aldea Zama, or Tulum town. Here is my take on all three areas.
- The beach zone can be crazy expensive during certain times of the year. The same room at La Zebra Tulum Hotel can be $135/night during the slow season or $1170/night around Christmas/winter break. I’ve stayed in Tulum town at Zendero Tulum. I’ve stayed at Copal in Aldea Zama. And lastly, I’ve stayed at Kore Tulum, the only all-inclusive on the popular beach strip of Tulum beach. If you want to hear my honest review of all three and where I would consider during my next trip to Tulum (and yes, I WILL go back), click here for my “Where to Stay in Tulum” blog post.
- Bring cash with you – there are ATMs available, but they often run out of money.
- Stay in a hotel or VRBO/Airbnb that has a generator – power outages are pretty common due to the endless construction.
- Don’t drink the water – unless you want a terrible tummy ache, don’t drink the water. It can put a damper on your vacation time. Some hotels are known to use a water filtration system. So that could be safe. Otherwise, brushing your teeth, washing your toothbrush, drinking water, etc. should be with bottled water. If you’re staying in a great hotel, they would provide this complimentary.
- Make sure to keep an eye on your passport and government documents. Also, don’t throw away your entry permit (Forma Migratoria Multiple or FMM) issued by Instituto Nacional de Migración (INM). You fill out this paper on the airplane and get stamped at the Cancun International Airport. I lost mine and had to pay a fee to get a new one.
- If possible, consider Global Entry before flying internationally. It can take weeks or even months before getting conditionally approved. But it’ll be well worth it. Be sure to check with your credit card company to see if Global Entry and TSA Pre-check are a benefit of being a cardmember.
- Make sure you book your appointment for a COVID-19 test 24 hours before your flight back home. You can ask the front desk of your hotel if they have any recommendations or if they are able to schedule one for you.
- Don’t be afraid to haggle – it’s expected when you’re shopping for souvenirs.
- Bring bug spray – the mosquitoes can be pretty bad!
- Make sure you have a good map of the area, the phone service can be spotty and it can be easy to get lost on unpaved roads. Better yet, make sure to download an offline map of Tulum on the Google Maps app. I believe ATT and T-mobile both offer free roaming data charges although, I would double-check with your cellphone providers.
If you keep all of these things in mind, you’re sure to have a wonderful time in Tulum. Just remember that it’s not always as perfect as it looks in the pictures – but that’s part of its charm! Thanks for reading, and we hope this was helpful. Safe travels!
Have you been to Tulum? What tips would you add to this list? Let us know in the comments below!