Recent data has shown Cancun is home to the busiest airport terminal in Mexico, a surprising title considering Cancun has a relatively small population of just 900,000.
Meanwhile, the capital Mexico City is close to breaking the 22 million mark.
But Cancun has something Mexico City doesn’t. The title of the most popular beach vacation destination in the world. A title hard won by decades of serving travelers and ensuring they have an outstanding vacation.
Of course, having the United States on their doorstep full of fun-loving Americans itching for a vacation has also played a starring role.
Unfortunately, busy airports can be a drag for travelers. At a time when stress and the complexities of life are meant to be left at the boarding gate back in America, the last thing travelers want is to land and face one last bout of airport gauntlet running.
This is how travelers can ensure a smooth trip through the Cancun International Airport.
The first hurdle travelers need to jump upon arriving in Cancun is immigration.
This is one of the most unpredictable phases of getting through the airport. While the process of getting your passport checked and admitted into the country is normally fast, the length of the lines for each immigration booth can be a lottery depending on how many flights have arrived around the same time.
Taking late night or early morning flights can make a huge difference to this, although don’t always guarantee short queues.
Luckily, Cancun has installed e-gates that will automatically screen you and allow you into the country without the need to speak with an immigration officer.
If you do need to speak with an immigration officer, their questions can vary, but their most likely question will be about how long you plan to stay in Mexico.
For some, a valid passport and a quick answer to the question “Where are you staying?” is enough for a 6-month stamp.
Some officers will want to see hotel confirmation and return flight proof and may even stamp travelers only the exact number of days of their stay.
For this reason, it can speed up the process to have a printed copy of the hotel confirmation, as well as the return flight confirmation on hand and ready to hand over.
The last thing travelers need is an over-zealous immigration officer turning what should be a quick “welcome to Mexico” into a 30-minute interrogation.
Baggage Claim And Customs
Once travelers pass through immigration, they immediately come to baggage claim. The handlers in Cancun airport tend to work fast, and this is usually a fast part of the airport process.
What comes next can be a little less speedy.
Before passing through to the customs check, travelers will need to fill out a small customs declaration form. It asks for basic information, mostly about declarations of cash or weapons, and is available in both Spanish and English.
After filling it out, travelers then will have it checked by a Guardia Nacional (National Guard) officer before passing through a baggage X-ray checkpoint.
Next comes the famous Cancun airport game of chance.
Travelers will press a small button manned by another Guardia Nacional officer that will either give a green or red light. This Vegas-like game of chance will determine whether or not a traveler’s bag will be opened up and intimately searched.
This is where some travelers can catch an easily avoidable fine. No weapons, no matter their legality in America, are allowed to be imported into Mexico by travelers. And large amounts of U.S. currency will also sound the alarm.
But one of the most common faux-pas travelers make at this point is trying to bring their vape with them from home.
Vapes and all forms of e-cigarettes are banned in Mexico, and despite what some online message boards and social media posts say, being found in possession of one at the airport will earn travelers a very unwelcome fine.
After passing through customs, travelers will meet the famous gauntlet. A suspiciously long corridor from customs to the exit is home to more car rental company salespersons and timeshare touts than what can probably be found in every other Mexican airport combined.
This part of the airport has practically become a meme at this point, and the advice is simple.
- Keep walking.
- Don’t make eye contact.
- Don’t engage in conversation will the salespeople.
- If confronted by one, say “No, gracias” and keep walking.
The salespeople aren’t aggressive, but like sharks in the water if they sense an opening to talk they’ll squeeze into like Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson into a plain khaki tee.
The Final Stretch
After navigating the gauntlet, travelers then just need to link up with their airport transfer.
This is always best planned in advance; although there is no shortage of options available on-demand at the airport, this is another sales person heavy part of the journey.
Cabs are the most expensive option but without doubt the most straightforward, these often charge from $50-$80 to the hotel zone.
Travelers on a budget can easily catch a combi (minivan) or ADO bus to Cancun center for $10-$15. From here another combi can be taken to the hotel zone.
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