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Why Go to Playa del Carmen

Playa del Carmen has carved its own Euro-chic niche along the Yucatán Peninsula. Sophisticated expats and vacationing Europeans relax at the beachside lounges, upholding this small enclave's budding reputation as the place in Quintana Roo to see and be seen. The area's nerve center is El Zócalo, and similar to Mediterranean beachfront towns like Nice, the funky little public square is within walking distance of the beach.

Just off the square and running parallel with the shore, La Quinta Avenida features several blocks worth of delicious eateries and quirky shops. And with proximity to the ancient ruins of Tulum and ample natural landscapes to explore (like Rio SecretoXel-Ha and the underwater depths of the Caribbean Sea), Playa del Carmen caters to history buffs and outdoor enthusiasts alike. And of course, Playa's swaths of white sand and brilliantly turquoise water impress even the most selective beach bums. Cancún is Mexico's vacation of the past – today's savvy beachgoers choose the cosmopolitan "Playa."

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Playa del Carmen Travel Tips

Best Months to Visit

The best time to visit Playa del Carmen is between April and May, when there are fewer people along the shore. Day temperatures hover between 70 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit, dropping slightly in the evenings. From October to March, the climate is generally dry and slightly warm. Summer days and nights tend to offer high temperatures and humidity. Hurricane season lasts from June to September, so check weather forecasts and hurricane warnings before booking your trip.

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What You Need to Know

  • Watch where you step Native animals, including lizards and coatis (raccoon-like creatures), run wild throughout the tourist areas looking for food.
  • Do as the locals do Playa residents take pride in the cleanliness of their city. Be sure to take care of the beach and surrounding areas. You should especially remember to dispose of trash properly when on the beach.
  • Keep your guard up Persuasive timeshare salespeople are crawling all over Playa, so avoid viewing apartments at all costs. The free gifts really aren't worth all the time and effort you'll spend trying to get away.

How to Save Money in Playa del Carmen

  • Beachfront resorts aren't cheap Beach hotels and all-inclusive resorts have higher price tags as well as nonstop nightlife. Look for cheaper lodging in town or try a vacation rental to get a price break.
  • Stick to the streets Picking up a taxi at the stands called sitios will cost you more than hailing a cab on the street.
  • Go it on your own Most organized excursions to Tulum and Xcaret tend to be rip-offs designed to get you to the souvenir shops. To save yourself the trouble, catch a shared van (colectivo) for a more reasonable price.

Culture & Customs

Playa del Carmen is largely a beachy tourist destination as opposed to an authentic Mexican town, but there are certain sensibilities and customs that could make your stay there more pleasant. Many tourist industry workers speak English, but you should try to learn a few Spanish words. Saying "hello" (hola), "goodbye" (adios), "please" (por favor) and "thank you" (gracias) could go a long way in quality service at hotels and restaurants.

The dress code in Playa del Carmen is more lax than other parts of Mexico. Resort wear is common on the beach and around town, and "dressy casual" attire is typical for nightlife.

Playa del Carmen's official currency is the Mexican peso. Since the Mexican peso to U.S. dollar exchange rate fluctuates, plan to check the conversion before you go. American dollars are, however, widely accepted in Playa del Carmen, though you may get change back in pesos.

What to Eat

Chances are, you'll eat most of your meals at your hotel, especially if you're staying in an all-inclusive resort. But you should plan to venture off the property for a few meals to sample a few of Playa del Carmen's offerings around town. Playa offers a wide range of eateries, from simple local fare to sophisticated fine dining establishments. You'll likely encounter menus full of seafood, Mexican fare and even some American eats.

Quality traditional Mexican fare is not as easy to find as one might think, but there are a few popular spots experts and travelers recommend. La Coronela is known for its tasty staples (think: tacos, enchiladas, guacamole, margaritas and more) at affordable prices. For succulent and fresh tacos al pastor, head to El Fogón; for shrimp tacos and ceviche, check out La Laguna in the Fairmont Mayakoba. If you're looking to splurge on dinner, Oh Lala comes highly recommended as an upscale restaurant with creative dishes and an intimate atmosphere. The town is also known for having a significant expatriate European population, evidenced by many European-style restaurants serving everything from tapas to Italian cuisine.

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Getting Around Playa del Carmen

The best way to get around Playa del Carmen is on foot, as most of the best things to do are located right off the beach. There's no bus service around town, but if necessary, you can hail a taxi to escape the main resort area. Ferries to Cozumel are also available.

To get to Playa del Carmen, most travelers fly into Cancún International Airport (CUN), which is about 45 minutes north. To reach Playa, you can rent a car, take a bus or hop in a taxi. Your hotel or resort may offer airport transportation within its all-inclusive package – check to see what's available before reserving airport transportation. There is a shuttle that offers service from the Cancún airport to one of Playa del Carmen's bus stations. It runs approximately every 30 minutes from 8:30 a.m. to 7:45 p.m.; tickets cost $15 one-way. To guarantee a seat, book online in advance. From the bus station, you'll likely have to take a taxi to your hotel. To avoid having to transfer, many travelers choose to take a taxi from the Cancún airport directly to their accommodations in Playa. You can reserve a taxi online; fares for private transfers start at around $45.

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Entry & Exit Requirements

A passport is required for entry into Mexico. Travelers must also carry a Mexican Tourist Permit, which is usually issued free of charge upon arrival. If there is a cost, it is usually absorbed in your airfare. Be sure to hold on to the tourist card, as you will need to present the card upon departing the country. For more information on entry and exit requirements, visit the U.S. State Department's  website .

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