15 Things To Know Before You Visit The Yucatan

After staying on the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico for 5 weeks, we learned some great travel tips. The Yucatan consists of 3 Mexican states, Quintana Roo, Yucatan, and Campeche. We visited Quintana and the Yucatan. We wanted to pass on our 15 Things To Know Before You Visit The Yucatan tips in case you are considering a trip to this wonderful part of the country.

First, we want to make sure our readers know that we truly put ourselves out there when visiting the Yucatan peninsula. We met and spoke with as many locals as possible during our stay. We wanted to immerse ourselves in their lifestyle and culture. We met some people during our visit, that gave us great advice on things to do and see which in turn makes our “15 Things To Know Before You Visit The Yucatan” a pretty impressive list (hopefully you agree). 🙂

1. The Yucatan is incredibly safe. Drive the back roads, enjoy all the small towns, venture out, be brave and immerse yourself in the experience. As long as you’re not doing anything illegal you’re going to be okay. Just like anywhere in the world if you decide to go out at night be aware of your surroundings. For the record, after driving all through the Yucatan and Quintana Roo, we never felt unsafe once. If decide to rent a car, be aware there are toll roads on many of the highways so make sure you have pesos.

2. Use Uber whenever you can. It’s crazy how inexpensive Uber is in the Yucatan. For example, when we stayed in Merida, we took an Uber for 30 minutes to Costco, to Walmart and then back home again and it cost us $8 total, and that included the tip. I honestly don’t know how they do it because gas is pretty expensive.

3. Stay in Merida if you are looking for culture. If you are looking for culture stay in Merida, if you like the beach lifestyle and don’t like the heat, stay and Progresso. Both of these places have a lot to offer, but they are very different. Merida will be hotter with less English speaking people but the center of town has tons of great restaurants, beautiful architecture, fun nightlife and it’s very safe.

Progresso is the typical beach town, laid back, lots of Expats and much easier to communicate, as more people speak English. If we had it to do it over again, we would have stayed in Progreso and taken a couple of day trips into Merida. We took the city bus a few times, and it only cost 38 pesos or $2 round trip and it was a comfortable air-conditioned bus.  To watch a video of our day in Progreso along with our visit to El Corchito Ecological Reserve click here.

3. Join the Facebook Group “Expats in the Yucatan”. Every question gets answered multiple times with a variety of opinions. Bus schedules, happy hours, expats meet-up groups. If you have a question about the Yucatan, they most likely will have an answer.

4. Sunday’s in Merida is fun and busy. They have a street fair in the center of town with great food, local crafts, entertainment, and jewelry for excellent prices. If you’re on the outskirts of Merida, don’t be afraid to take the bus. All of the buses seem to end up in Centro. Once we figured out that we could take the bus to the center of town for 8 pesos from north Merida, that was pretty much our go-to for that trip. Here is our video on a Sunday at the fair. Joel ate grasshopers in the video. lol

“In life, it’s not where you go, It’s who you travel with” – Charles Schulz


Day Trips, Walking Tour & Pesos

5. We did a ton of day trips in our five weeks in the Yucatan. If we had to pick our favorite and one thing everybody should do it would be the flamingo tour in Celestun. We have a video and blog post on the day click here.

6. Check out the FREE walking tour in Merida.  If you have an interest in Merida history there is a free walking tour in the middle of town, click here for more information. Joel is not big on museums or history, but even he enjoyed the tour. Some of the things you will learn about the Yucatan, and more specifically Merida is fascinating. Here is our video on the free walking tour.

7. Convert your dollars to pesos. Although many places will accept dollars, we found you won’t get the most for your money. Also, many of the ruins do not accept credit cards or dollars and only accept pesos. So if you are venturing out on your own without a tour guided excursion make sure you bring enough pesos. They may have an ATM at the attraction; however, the fees are higher. We found this out firsthand.

“Happiness is planning a trip to somewhere new, with someone you love.”

More Tips…

8. Know some basics of Spanish. Most people speak Spanish, and many don’t know any English at all. This can be both frustrating and challenging when trying to accomplish the smallest tasks. If you learn a few common phrases along with downloading the Google Translate app, it will help alleviate some of the language barrier issues.

9. As you probably already know do NOT drink the tap water. We did use it to brush our teeth. We are traveling the world and most places we still use the tap water to brush our teeth. We’ve heard this acclimates your system somewhat to the area you are staying in. Who knows it could be a load of crap, but we haven’t had a problem yet.

10. The best time to visit the Yucatan is between November to March. Merida and inland areas can reach temperatures of 115 degrees in the summer. Not fun. The beach areas can reach the low 90’s during the summer months.

11. Where should you stay? We had a long-term Airbnb rental in Merida for much of our stay. If you are here for an extended period and you find cheap rental accommodations on the outskirts of Merida make sure there is a Walmart or grocery store near you. Especially if you don’t have a car the whole time. We stayed on the outskirts of Merida, and our place was away from standard amenities which was a pain without a car. 


Final Tips…

12. Stay in the little town of Valladolid for a few days if you can. Not only will you get the sense of an authentic small village in Mexico, but it’s central to many other attractions and towns. If you are driving from Merida to Valladolid or vice versa, make sure you stop in the little town called Izamal.  It’s known as the Yellow City (most buildings are painted bright yellow) and the City of Hills. Here are a few videos of things we did while staying in Valladolid.

The Ultimate Day in Valladolid, Restaurants, Bars & fun!

Best Cenote in the Yucatan

13. Make your home base away from the touristy town, especially if you are staying for an extended period. We are all about finding the hiding gems, living the local culture away from the touristy areas. We typically take day trips or overnight trips to the more touristy cities rather than make the touristy town our home base. We visited Tulum, and Playa del Carmen to check out all things to do in those areas. We spent two or three days driving up and down the coast. It was beautiful, and we did enjoy it, but make sure you have your wallet handy at all times.

14. Spend time at the fantastic cenotes throughout the Yucatan. Of course, if you’re vacationing in the Yucatan, you’re already thinking you’re going to visit some cenotes. We went to a lot of them. Here’s our honest opinion:

Cenotes in caves or without sunlight got old quick for us. I know everyone has their own opinion, but we almost got depressed (mostly Joel) after 30 minutes in these cenotes. Lol. We love the sun and would take our time when we would visit cenotes with open air. We have a ton of videos and blog posts on different cenotes all over the Yucatan. Watching the videos will give you a sense of what you might like. We also give excellent directions so you won’t get lost as sometimes GPS does not work in all areas.  Video of Xcanche cenote.

15. Visit a few Mayan ruins. They were amazing to see, and the history is pretty mind-blowing. We went to seven or eight different ruins. The ones run by the government or going to be triple the expense. Government run ruins are all around 428 pesos ($22). We really enjoyed Uxmal, Chichen Itza, the Mayan ruins in Tulum, and the Dzibilchaltun ruins, to name a few. We have a 4-Day Itinerary blog post and video (click here) which includes information about many of these ruins and another separate post and video on the Dzibilchaltun ruins (click here). When visiting the Dzibilchaltun ruins, the ticket also consists of a cenote and museum. You could spend a 1/2 day or full-day at that one. Click here for blog post and video.

Closing Words

We hope you are excited to visit the Yucatan and you benefited from our post “15 Things To Know Before You Visit The Yucatan” blog post. 

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