Navigating Good Eats And The Playa Del Carmen Taxi Cartel

Believe it or not, we have even more to tell you about Playa del Carmen, especially related to transportation. Getting from the airport in Cancun to Playa, using taxis, or renting a car can be a challenge. We hope this article relieves some of the tension we all feel around getting around. In addition, we wouldn’t want to disappoint you by not putting in a fair amount of food p*rn. Enjoy!

Getting Around Playa

If you plan to visit Playa del Carmen (Playa), it is helpful to understand how it is laid out and some ways to get around town. The streets are arranged in a grid pattern, where long north/south roads are avenidas. 1 Avenida Norte (aka 1 Av. N.) is close to the beach, and the numbers grow as you get further from the coast. Major avenidas are 5 (pedestrian only), 10, 30 (local buses run here), and 50 (the coastal highway running from Cancun to Tulum).

Perpendicular to the avenidas are the numbered calles. These main east/west streets are numbered on either side of the main southern, beach access road, Av. Benito Juarez. Calles 1,3,5… Sur, go south from Benito Juarez to a community called Playacar and Calles 2,4,6… Norte, go, well, north. Once you internalize that avenidas run parallel to the beach and calles are perpendicular, it is fairly easy to get oriented.

Centro Playa Del Carmen

Getting to Playa

If you plan to stay at one of the all-inclusive resorts nearby along the coast, and you want to visit the town of Playa Del Carmen, I recommend arranging for a ride to Parque Los Fundadores (at Calle 1 Sur and the beach) and exploring, on foot, north from there on 5th Avenue. That area is where you find the highest concentration of shops and restaurants and other distractions.

If you wind up staying at one of the hotels or an Airbnb in town, know that street parking is aggressively policed every day. I’ve seen plenty of cars around town with boots on them. So, unless your digs include parking, consider getting a ride to Playa from the airport, walking, or taking cabs around town instead of renting a car.

Everybody Has A Guy/Gal

I suggest you arrange for your ride from the airport before you depart on your vacation. If not, you will be accosted by a sea of taxi vendors when you emerge from baggage claim. It is impossible to distinguish good and bad actors in this crowd. As such, it’s best to use a company you find on the internet or recommended by your hotel. Most of the drivers rely heavily on WhatsApp and Facebook for their online presence. Prices can vary a bit, so it is worth it to shop around. Every local has a couple of folks they have used and are generally reliable. Hit me on Instagram if you want mine.

Someone in a local Facebook group told of a time when the driver charged her credit card $1000 USD instead of the expected $1000 MXP, which is about $48 USD. It’s easy to do this unnoticed on the credit readers these drivers have. Her card company says there is nothing that can be done about it since the service was provided.

Uber Is Out

Like some other locales in the world, Playa del Carmen and the rest of the Riviera Maya is an Uber-free zone. A law passed in 2016 requires Uber to get an operating license, but they have been unable to do so. Uber has made recent headway fighting the law in court, but no change is imminent.

Moreover, since 2016 and earlier Uber drivers have faced persecution, death threats, and beatings by taxi drivers. Even the Cancun cops are in on it. When we were in town in 2018, our private driver was shaken down to the tune of $200 because they accused her of operating an illegal Uber operation since we were in her back seat. Even if the law is changed, it will take time for Uber to safely integrate, if ever.

About The Taxi Cartel

There are many taxis and taxi stands in Centro, the downtown area bordered by 30 Av. away from the beach and roughly up to our street, Av. CTM (aka Calle 46). The official rate for a taxi in this area is 55-60 pesos ($3.50 US), but only real locals seem to be able to get it. I’m usually quoted 150-200 pesos when I ask for a lift at one of these stations.

Usually, if I walk away from the beach, I can find a taxi willing to take 100 pesos. Always agree on the fare before you get into the taxi.

The Taxi Cartel works hard at keeping all the drivers and hotel staff in line. No one ever offers less than the posted tourist rate. I heard another story recently about how a scab driver tried to pick up a fare for an airport run. Local taxi toughs boxed in his car and forced the tourist to use one of them. I didn’t hear about how much she was charged or what happened to the scab later.

There is a Taxi App that can get you the official rate, but it only seems to work if you are at 30 Av. or further from the beach. Otherwise, it simply says no service. Even then, I had a case of a driver refusing to honor the agreed-upon 60p rate, saying I had to pay more because I wasn’t a local (untrue). I had already gotten out of the cab before paying him and I happened to have exact change, so I just threw it on his lap and left.

Renting A Car

If you do decide to rent a car in town, there are many places you can choose from. You may want to check out the greater Playa area or the nearby towns of Tulum and Puerto Morelos. The key thing to be clear on is ensuring you have proper insurance coverage. Most US domestic policies don’t cover car rental in Mexico and credit card insurance doesn’t include third-party liability, which is required. It is not uncommon to book a car at a good price only to watch the insurance greatly increase the price when you try to pick up the car.

Using a recommendation from an ex-pat Facebook group, I recently rented a car from America Car Rental. I chose it because the office was close to where I was staying (no taxi needed) and I got a compact car for $38/day including insurance. The car was worn, but it got us around and I didn’t worry about it getting boosted. The AC and auto windows and locks worked well. So, it was all good.

Ready to ride

Grocery Delivery

If you are staying in a place with a kitchen, you may want to grab some groceries so you can save a little dough and party by your own pool. There are several grocery stores in town, but most are along 20 Av. That can mean a fair walk with heavy liquids and other party items.

I recently strained my left wrist with such a haul, so I looked into getting delivery. Most stores require a Mexican phone number for contacting you, something I don’t have yet. SuperAki will let you order online with a US number and deliveries on purchases over 600p are free. So they can do your beer/tequila run while you get ready for those 12oz curls.

Flea Market

We did manage to do a few things during our stay other than buy a condo and get visas. One place/event new to us is a street market along Calle 56 from 10 Av. To 30 Av. With the stalls on either side, the street is quite narrow and often completely shaded by tarps over the stalls.

The market is a collection of cheap wares and food vendors. It’s not a bad distraction if you have to nurse your sunburn and wanna grab some cheap eats.

Flea market food stall

Portal Maya Statue

Due to injury on prior trips, Diana had never been to see the statue at Parque Los Fundadores. So we overpaid (damn cartel) for a cab ride from our condo since it is about a 2.5 km walk. It was cool to see many families out enjoying the early evening.

We chose to stroll back to our condo via 5 Av. We grabbed some food and drinks at Las Hijas de Tostada, a local seafood chain where I often get the ceviche. Thus fortified, the stroll was easier to take.

Good Eats in Playa

Some other places we enjoyed on this visit:

Salento, on CTM near the beach, had good pasta and pizza and was around the corner from our place, making it an easy choice. Rocka’s Jamaican Kitchen on Calle 38 near the beach makes a great jerk chicken pasta. Very tasty.

La Carboneria is also on 38th, between 1 Av. And 5 Av. It has very good upscale Mexican cuisine in a jungle setting and frequently features live music. A popular local chain, El Fogon, on Av. Constituyentes (Calle 20) and 30 Av. serves great al pastor and asada meats in tacos and tortas at a good price. Worth a trip.

For finer dining, we hit Fuego on our anniversary inside the Mahekal Beach Resort at the beach on Calle 38. Beachside dining with more refined options. Out past the highway (taxi required), Wine O’Clock at Av. Chemuyil (90 Av.) and Av. Constituyentes (Calle 20) has a nice selection of wines to choose from and tasty bites to go with.

Where have you used grocery delivery while traveling?

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1 comment

  1. We loved Mannes Biergarten – a small pub / restaurant near our hotel. It’s small, good atmosphere and good German Schnitzel!

    Calle 4 Nte S/N, entre Av.10 y Av.15, Centro, 77710 Playa del Carmen

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