Getting Around in Playa del Carmen

Our roving retirement lifestyle typically involves some day trips to interesting places along with lots of venturing to local bars and restaurants, regardless of what continent we are on. Of course, trips to the beach are always on the agenda if we are close enough. Since we are in Playa del Carmen Mexico, we thought we would tell you how to get to the beaches, bars, and restaurants in this part of Mexico.

Airport transfers

Before you even set foot on the busy pedestrian tourist hub of 5th Avenue in Playa del Carmen Mexico, you have to get there from the Cancun airport. The Mexican state where Cancun and Playa Del Carmen are, Quintana Roo, prohibits rideshare companies, i.e. Uber et al. In fact, on a prior visit to Cancun, our private, non-Uber driver got shaken down by the local cops for $40 when they saw us in the back seat of her car. 🙁

Your choices for the 45 min trip from the airport to Playa Del Carmen are an inexpensive bus, an expensive taxi or one of the many, many transport companies that operate in the region. I suggest you arrange for transfer prior to departing on your trip to avoid getting mobbed by sales agents at the airport exit. Diana selected one by searching for recommendations in the local Playa del Carmen Ex-pat Facebook group. We easily connected with our driver from Paradise Experiences through WhatsApp when we exited the customs area. Our roundtrip cost of roughly $85 seemed like a good price. She even stopped at an ATM for us along the way so we could load up on pesos.

Another option if you are staying in downtown Playa Del Carmen is fly into Cozumel and hop on a 30-minute high-speed ferry. Many fewer international flights arrive in Cozumel than Cancun, so passing through immigration is less susceptible to long delays. If you are considering this method, keep in mind, bad weather can delay the ferry or make the ride miserable, but that is a rare occurrence.

Ferry pier Playa del Carmen

Human powered

The main tourist section of Playa Del Carmen centers on the pedestrian street of 5th Avenue. Centro is about 1/2 mile wide by 1.5 miles long. Hotels and beaches continue north from there for another 1.5 miles, but there aren’t many shops and restaurants to speak of in that section of town. Given the size of the tourist area, most destinations are within a 30-min walk and we usually hoof it from place to place. Our promenades down 5th Avenue entertain us with shops, greeters, buskers, and the occasional Mayan Racoon while we check out new restaurants.

Bike rentals via an app have arrived in Playa Del Carmen as well. They are inexpensive and easily available in case you want to venture to a faraway beach (or beach bar).

Bikes, ready to ride

Cabs and Colectivos

With no Uber allowed, taxis rule the trade for longer in-town trips. Tourist rates are about 100 pesos ($5.30 today) each way for anywhere in downtown. We can often negotiate the rate down to 60 pesos but I’m told the natives usually pay 30-40 pesos. Taking a cab is helpful when you are toting a lot of groceries (read beer) back to your room.

Taxi stands all over town

Many locals get around on a Colectivo, a hop-on/hop-off minivan with bus-like seating and standing room inside. The Routes are painted on the front of each bus and the fares are posted inside. I decided to try one out one day for journalistic purposes (really, I wanted to experience them first hand). First, I flagged one down, got in and we started barreling down the street, but I couldn’t figure out where it was going from the window markings. I figured it was an adventure so what the hell.

After taking a left turn I knew I didn’t want, I hurriedly shouted “Salida!” (Spanish for exit) from the back of the van. The driver stopped and asked me for 2 pesos after taking me about half a mile. After that, I got on another Colectivo to complete my journey and paid 10 pesos to go another half mile, which I assume was the tourist rate. You can take them all the way to Tulum, about an hour away, and beyond for not much money.

Rental cars

We decided to rent a car one day to check out the nearby towns of Playacar, Puerto Aventuras, Akumal, and Tulum for possible future stays on the Riviera Maya. The base rate was about $10 for the day, but taxes and insurance brought the total to about $50. I took the full insurance because I don’t know enough about my coverage from my credit card and auto insurance to be comfortable with it.

The car was a Chevy with automatic transmission, power windows and AC from Hertz. Unfortunately, the Hertz office was on the other side of town, so I had to walk 30 minutes just to pick up the car. I chose to take the Collectivo back when I dropped the car off, just for fun. Gasoline is running about $4.20/gal here these days. I drove about 100 miles and used 5 gallons. In total, my day of driving around fully insured ran about $75. Next time, I will investigate options closer by and see if I can safely save on insurance.

Street parking is metered daily from 10 am to Midnight in Playa del Carmen and the enforcement looks aggressive. I have seen several booted vehicles and a couple of parking cops riding on bikes towing carts full of boots. Parking near beaches fills up quickly on weekends as the locals come out in force for fun in the sun. Thankfully for us, our condo includes free, secure parking so we could stow our rental car overnight before I had to return it in the morning.

Is there anything else about transportation around Playa that you want to know?

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