Cancun Airport Arrival Tips That Travelers Need To Know
It’s no doubt that one of North America’s biggest tourist airports will come with a hectic arrival experience. So far in 2022, Cancun International Airport has welcomed a new record of over 20 million international tourists.
The airport is also the most popular gateway to Mexico for U.S. and Canadian travelers; we recently reported that almost 60% of all international arrivals at the Cancun Airport this year were travelers from the U.S.
But with so much activity all day every day, you’re bound to come across some roadblocks. If you have plans to visit the Mexican Caribbean anytime soon, here are some expert tips for travelers arriving at Cancun International Airport.
All About Cancun International Airport
Let’s start with the basics. After arriving at Cancun International Airport, you’ll be at the tip of the Mayan Riviera and easily connected to top destinations in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula.
Playa del Carmen is less than an hour’s drive away, Tulum 1.5 hours, and that’s not to mention Merida, Valladolid, and smaller destinations along the coast like Bacalar and Akumal that are all accessible from Cancun Airport by public or private ground transportation.
According to the Airports Council International, Cancun Airport ranked as the 10th busiest airport in the world for international passengers in 2021, up from 28th place in 2020 and 61st in 2019.
So when arriving, you have to be prepared, and this means knowing the basics about the airport and how you’ll be headed to your destination.
Cancun Airport Terminals
Most major airlines coming from the U.S. and Canada will arrive at Terminal 3 or Terminal 4.
Terminal 1 and Terminal 2 of Cancun Airport mainly host domestic airlines. Here’s a breakdown in a little more detail:
- Terminal 1: VivaAerobus
- Terminal 2: Aeromexico, Air Transat, Alaska Airlines, Southwest, Sunwing, Volaris.
- Terminal 3: American Airlines, Air Canada, Delta, JetBlue, Spirit, United, Frontier, WestJet.
- Terminal 4: Southwest, Frontier, Air Transat, WestJet.
You can see the full list on the Cancun Airport website.
Checklist For Arrivals At Cancun International Airport
You filled out the immigration form on the plane, right? Once landed, there are, of course, a few barriers that you have to cross before you’re outside and in paradise.
First, you’ll have to go through immigration. With the new digital kiosks that have been set up at the airport just this year, the wait times for travelers have been reduced. But once it’s the busy holiday season, travelers’ waiting times at immigration typically rise throughout the day, so best to be patient and plan for a long-ish wait.
After you’ve been cleared, it’s time to pass over to baggage claim to claim any checked baggage. If your baggage arrives intact, you can then head over to customs.
Customs at the Cancun Airport has a red light/green light system, where you’ll have to press a button that will turn either red or green – green means you can pass, and red means that the customs agent will then go to inspect your luggage. If this happens to you, it’s a good idea to have prepared beforehand and have your stuff packed in a way that will make it simple to pack back up if you do have to go through your luggage.
Once past customs, you’ll go through a slew of distractions like kiosks and things being sold to you until you can exit the airport. Here are some of the things travelers should keep in mind:
- Money exchange kiosks: Airports are notoriously one of the worst places to change your money. If you want to change some money to Mexican pesos, know that you can get cheaper rates in town.
- Timeshare sellers: En route to the exit, you’ll also probably notice some people dressed in an official-looking uniform offering to sell you a timeshare or attend a timeshare presentation. Many fellow travelers advise to just walk past these guys and don’t engage with them. Some may say that they are actually your transportation but know that all pre-booked transportation will only wait for you outside the airport. There are videos and articles about how it’s not a good idea to sign up for a timeshare presentation at the Cancun Airport if you’d like some more info on this.
- Pre-arranged and on-arrival transportation: If you’ve pre-booked your transportation from Cancun Airport to your hotel, your driver should be waiting for you outside the terminal near the front. In this area, you’ll find a slew of drivers waiting for pick-ups, metered taxis, ADO buses, and more.
Getting To Your Hotel From Cancun Airport
A pre-booked car or minivan can take you into Cancun for around $50 round-trip. If you’re looking for public transportation options, ADO coach buses are available throughout the day and can take you to downtown Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and Tulum. Tickets for ADO can be purchased at the official kiosk on the right side when you walk out of the terminal.
If you’re staying in the Cancun Hotel Zone, it’s best to take a cab directly or use your pre-booked transportation because the bus heads to downtown Cancun which is this far away from the Hotel Zone.