Mexico Cancun International Airport. PHOTO:         
Photo credit: Avodrocc via Visualhunt /  CC BY

Published on September 17th, 2017 | by Mark Chesnut

Cancun International Airport. PHOTO: Photo credit: Avodrocc via Visualhunt / CC BY

How To Make the Cancun Airport Arrival Experience Go Smoothly

As the largest tourism destination in all of Mexico, Cancun naturally receives millions of visitors every year. It’s no wonder that Cancun International Airport is one of the two busiest airports in Mexico — people fly here to reach Mexico vacation hotspots including Cancun itself as well as the Riviera Maya, Tulum, Playa del Carmen, Isla Mujeres and even Mayan ruins like Chichen Itza.

So how do you make the arrival experience go smoothly when you’re flying into such a busy airport? These travel tips can serve as guidelines.

Research Ground Transportation Options Before You Travel
Since so many people transit through this destination every day, efficient ground transportation between the Cancun airport and your hotel is crucial to starting your Mexico vacation or Mexico business trip on the right foot. So it’s a good idea to research before you go: Does your hotel offer ground transportation? If so, is it included in the room rate, or how much does it cost? There are also several ground transfer companies — as well as taxi operators — that can deliver you to your hotel.

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Factor in the Airport Transfer Time into Your Travel Time
Unless you’re staying super close to the airport and don’t have to wait for ground transfer, don’t expect a quick arrival at your hotel. You can look up or ask about the estimated travel time between the Cancun airport and your hotel — some Mexico beach hotels far south in the Riviera Maya and Tulum, for example, can be a full hour away.

Be Sure About the Name of Your Transfer Service
If you reserve an airport transfer, be sure to remember the name. Print out your receipt or save it on your phone. There are an awful lot of transportation companies at the Cancun airport, so knowing the name of yours is crucial — don’t depend on them finding you.

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Fill Out Your Arrival Forms Before You Land
If the airline gives you the necessary paperwork while you’re in the air, read through and fill out all the paperwork while still flying. It can save you time and complications later.

Follow Directions After You Land
Upon disembarking the aircraft, you’ll usually see a uniformed airport official at the end of the jetway, who will point you in the direction of the baggage claim, customs and immigration. Follow the signs and have your passport and paperwork in hand (the walk can sometimes be rather long, so if you have trouble walking distances, request assistance before your flight).

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You’ll pass through immigration first, where you’ll show your tourist card and show your identification (be sure to hold on to the small tourist card that they give back to you; they’ll fine you if you don’t have it when you leave Mexico). After picking up your luggage, you then proceed to customs, where you’ll likely participate in what feels kind of like a game show: push a button, and if the light is green you proceed outside; if it’s red, then you stop to have your bags opened and reviewed.

Go Outside & Look For Your Transfer
Depending on when you land, you may be a bit overwhelmed by the number of people standing outside the arrival area. You’ll see a bunch of people from taxi and transport companies indoors, and they may call to you. You can stop if you don’t already have transportation, but if you do already have something reserved, go outside.

Outside, travel company representatives wearing every imaginable color of uniform swarm around the door, holding up signs with names of travelers and hotels.

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Be ready to study those placards — but don’t be worried if you don’t see your name or hotel right away. Keep walking through the crowd into the Cancun heat and you’ll see even more transportation company representatives. Take your time (it’s probably hot out). And if you still don’t see the name of your transfer company, hotel or your own name. don’t be afraid to ask any random uniformed person. Generally, it’s best to simply tell them that you’re looking for someone from XXX transportation company. People are generally very helpful and I’ve had people from competing companies go out of their way to point me in the right direction of the company I’m looking for.

Above all, don’t freak out. You will get to your destination. Sometimes even after finding your transfer, you may have to wait a few minutes. Get a drink at the open-air bar or from one of the vendors who’s likely stationed near the arrivals exit. The better transfer companies will likely have bottled water for you onboard their vehicles as well.

Relax. You’re in Mexico!

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About the Author

The founder and editor of, Mark has more than 15 years of experience as a writer, editor and manager. He's worked with some of the biggest consumer, in-flight and travel trade publishers that cover Latin America.

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