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  • _aDifferentSimon_ 88 posts

    I quite fancy taking the family (kids are 8 and 11) to Mexico. Cancun / Yucatan Peninsula and around. Normally I’m a diy traveller, but the (perceived?) safety angle does worry me. So my question is do people suggest a self drive and hiring a car or something like https://www.familiesworldwide.co.uk/holidays/mayan-mexico ?

    If a tour, does anyone recommended a specific tour operators?

    Many thanks.

    JDB 4,663 posts

    As you say, safety is often an issue of perception. I would personally be more concerned about safety in and around Cancún than in the the rest of the Yucatán peninsula. Campeche for instance is a much nicer place to stay with good beaches nearby and Mérida is quite an attractive town. Both are much more ‘real’ places that might give you the impression of being in Mexico. For Chichén Itzá, it gets too crowded incredibly quickly in the day as people arrive from Cancún and cruise ships so it’s best to stay onsite or very nearby and get there first thing. Whether a guided tour or DIY is better is very much a personal choice, but specifically for the big archaeological sites having a good guide is transformational and will be particularly good for the children who otherwise risk being bored titless.

    Some people seem to like the place, but personally, we find Cancún to have become a very overcrowded overpriced khazi catering to the worst sort of mass market tourism. There’s nothing remotely Mexican about it and on top of that there is the crime and algae. Looking at Google Earth will give you a clue. It’s a shame that it is a gateway to the rest of the peninsula which is a fantastic place to visit.

    JDB 4,663 posts

    @_aDifferentSimon_ if you do go down the DIY route and hire a car, you should be prepared for a big fight about not taking the insurances they want to sell you if you are relying on a UK hire car excess policy. You may win eventually or they might not give you the car! It’s the same all over the country and I have heard the rows at all the firm’s counters. A lot of offices are sub-franchisees so they don’t give a monkey’s about the brand, but rely on commissions to get paid.

    Karl 46 posts

    From a safety point of view, Yucatan is probably the seafest region in Central America. It isn’t recommended driving overnight in some rural/mountain areas of Chiapas or Tabasco but it sounds like you’re not going that far east. There’s a huge amount of security around the touristy areas and you’ll likely feel as safe as any of the resorts on the Med.

    As JDB mentions, Riveira Maya is pricey. Everything costs about 3 times as much as most other parts of Mexico, on par with UK prices. It looks like there’s quite a few excursions included on that tour. Most of those will cost around $100 per person. For example Chichén Itzá, admission is about $30 so you’re paying $70 for a 3-hour transfer but that’s what things seem to cost in a tourist hotspot. Driving is possible. The toll roads are pretty good, however there are some confusing junctions in Mexico so it depends if you’re comfortable about driving abroad. There’s actually a train line being built that will take people around the main tourist spots in Yucatan. It’s supposed to open next year but as leas than 1/4 of the track has been laid, I’ll believe that when I see it!

    NorthernLass 8,274 posts

    Further down the coast from Cancun, e.g. Tulum (or Cozumel Island) are supposed to be quieter, I don’t know how it is exactly as not visited for many years. But you could have an entirely trouble free stay or you could be on the beach when a gun fight breaks out between rival gangs – which is something which could happen in numerous locations!
    If your focus is sightseeing, Merida has a lot to offer (as noted by @JDB, who also knows how to find accents on his keyboard, lol). Years ago we stayed at a lovely place called Hacienda Chichen set in jungle landscaping near Chichen Itza so we could visit early, and also stay for the sound and light show in the evening. I don’t think I could be bothered with the complications associated with driving there, but there are plenty of coach tours to be had.
    If you wanted to add on a beach stay you could connect to the Pacific coast, or if that’s too far, plan a stay in Florida into your return journey. Being a huge country, Mexico is very well-served with both domestic and international flights.

    _aDifferentSimon_ 88 posts

    Wow, thanks so much all – I think I might go for a DIY option and definitely just fly to Cancun and not stay there.

    JenT 159 posts

    Just back from a similar trip, although part of a much bigger holiday including Mexico City, Puebla and Oaxaca too.

    There is a safety angle to consider but no worse than parts of big British cities. As it has been said, Yucatan is one of the safest states and Mérida is the safest city in Mexico.

    Car hire – we’ve always hired from local firms (not the big names and just accept you won’t get points or stats from this one trip). We used to use America Car Rental but the reviews in the last year are dramatically different, so went with Avant this month. Booked direct, all insurance included, no issues at all at pick up or drop off. Everything is above board and they email you copies of all the photos of the car so there is no quibble about damage etc. Those who run into trouble are those who book on a third party comparison site where prices are artificially low to get high on search order, then are shocked when everything is added on at the office. Credit card insurance or policies bought elsewhere aren’t accepted in Mexico, so just accept that, pay the price from the supplier and move on.

    Driving is a little chaotic but no worse than other overseas driving. I wouldn’t recommend it if it’s your first time ever though! We drove on the toll road from Cancun Airport to Mérida late in the evening (dark) and it was pretty tricky with lots of roadworks, no signage and strange layouts. I wouldn’t recommend that but never felt unsafe.

    Chichen Itza can get busy first thing (we stayed in Valladolid to be a bit closer) but if you get there about 11am onwards, all the tours have moved on somewhere else. It isn’t crowded unless you go at a weekend.

    There is a wonderful long holiday to be had based out of Mérida with a car – flamingos, pink salt lakes, amazing ruins (Uxmal is a real highlight for me), cheap food and a very safe city. Coach travel is also safe if you’d prefer to do longer journeys that way.

    For Cancun/Playa del Carmen, it’s not my thing but some people love it. As a treat, La Zebra in Tulum is a wonderful family friendly independent hotel which is a little further out and truly relaxing. Food etc still much more expensive than elsewhere in Mexico, but that’s just how it is.

    Happy to answer more specific questions if you have them. DIY is perfectly possible and absolutely wonderful. Mexico’s dangerous reputation is generally unfounded.

    redlilly 117 posts

    Spent 5 weeks travelling around these parts of North America before Covid. Concur with all of the comments on Mérida. A lovely city. There is also a lot to be said for Isla Holbox and also Bacalar, the latter being down near the border with Belize. Both really lovely chilled waterside towns, with a different vibe in each.

    Personally, I didn’t like Tulum at all, it was over run and felt like it would soon turn in to a Playa del Carman, which itself is turning in to a Cancún. I also really didn’t like Chichén Itzá, sadly because like Machu Picchu it is overrun by tourism and in the case of Chichén Itzá is increidbly costly to get in to and unlike Machu Picchu is full of stalls selling rubbish. Futhermore, you can’t climb the ruins like you can at some of the other more peaceful Mayan sites in the rest of the Yucatán Peninsula (e.g. the Nohoch Mul pyramid – which was stunning). However, that’s part of life and on balance with the freedoms we all have to explore these incredible places!

    If heading to the Pacific side, I really rate Puerto Escondido and the surrounding beach side towns. Stunning. Cannot wait to go back there!

    JDB 4,663 posts

    Spent 5 weeks travelling around these parts of North America before Covid. Concur with all of the comments on Mérida. A lovely city. There is also a lot to be said for Isla Holbox and also Bacalar, the latter being down near the border with Belize. Both really lovely chilled waterside towns, with a different vibe in each.

    Personally, I didn’t like Tulum at all, it was over run and felt like it would soon turn in to a Playa del Carman, which itself is turning in to a Cancún. I also really didn’t like Chichén Itzá, sadly because like Machu Picchu it is overrun by tourism and in the case of Chichén Itzá is increidbly costly to get in to and unlike Machu Picchu is full of stalls selling rubbish. Futhermore, you can’t climb the ruins like you can at some of the other more peaceful Mayan sites in the rest of the Yucatán Peninsula (e.g. the Nohoch Mul pyramid – which was stunning). However, that’s part of life and on balance with the freedoms we all have to explore these incredible places!

    If heading to the Pacific side, I really rate Puerto Escondido and the surrounding beach side towns. Stunning. Cannot wait to go back there!

    So good to hear all these interesting Mexico ideas. It’s sad about Tulúm as it really was a magical place 20 odd years ago, but now of course they have a new airport. Interested re Puerto Escondido. Further up coast to Zihuatanejo and then even further to Manzanillo have many great places too. As always in Mexico, distances and time can be considerable, as sometimes slow roads or mountains in the way!

    yonasl 976 posts

    I in the Yucatán on 2021. Booked with Avios (BA holiday flight + car) and it included full insurance. Remember that for UK residents, if you rent through Expedia.co.uk or on the British website partial or full insurance is included. Americans have different deals and I never understand why their prices are higher than what I show them I was quoted and they also have to pay for insurance on top of that.

    Driving is easy enough. Just make sure you have enough fuel before going to more remote areas.

    Safety is relative. Mexicans in Valladolid were surprised we were staying in Tulum and were convinced it was very dangerous down there. We saw nothing of the sort. It may be different for the local Mexican that may be running a business and is exposed to having to deal with the local gang.

    _aDifferentSimon_ 88 posts

    Thanks again, I am reading and researching it all. Thumbs up smiley.

    Olly 248 posts

    We stayed as a family last year. My wife and daughter travelled separately to my other daughter and I and had some dodgy experiences with taxis who are apparently run by the drugs cartels, so I’d definitely advise on hiring a car. We rented through National and had no issues with them accepting our CDW waiver/excess insurance.

    If you’re happy driving somewhere a bit more remote, I can heartily recommend Isla Holbox – about a 2hr drive and ferry from Playa del Carmen, great for kids, and feels much more genuine than other places on the main coastal strip, which have suffered from overtourism as others have noted.

    Richie 1,040 posts

    …If heading to the Pacific side, I really rate Puerto Escondido and the surrounding beach side towns. Stunning. Cannot wait to go back there!

    BTW easily accessible from DFW,
    along with Oaxaca.

    JDB 4,663 posts

    …If heading to the Pacific side, I really rate Puerto Escondido and the surrounding beach side towns. Stunning. Cannot wait to go back there!

    BTW easily accessible from DFW,
    along with Oaxaca.

    You want to be a bit careful about places in Mexico easily accessible from the US! At a certain point, too many direct flights from the US mean that things become totally Americanised and anything unduly real life Mexican is driven out. That means US style prices for hotels, taxis, food & drink etc, Americanised restaurants and expectations of US style tipping and simply no local vibe. They think US tourists are quite stupid and rude and it rubs off on their attitude to other tourists until they realise one isn’t American and makes the effort to speak Spanish. Cancún and Baja are the worst examples, but there are others.

    Richie 1,040 posts

    Thanks JDB, my thoughts were HfPers would find it easy to search for the flights from DFW, others may not.

    _aDifferentSimon_ 88 posts

    Right, I successfully got the 4 avios seats home on the last Saturday of next Febs half term so we’re off to Mexico for 10 nights. You’ve all convinced me to DIY it with a car.
    Probably a triangle not stopping in Cancun and taking in Mérida, flamingos, Uxmal, Valladolid, Nohoch Mul, maybe a stop in Tulum/xcarat/Mayakoba and ending in Isla Holbox. Might need another holiday straight after to rest :D. The pacific coast will have to wait until next time.
    Thanks again.

    cin3 168 posts

    Cancun is great as long as you avoid the tourist areas. Holbox is massively overrated. Cozumel is okay if you are a nitro and rated diver. Mujeres and Tulum are hell on earth. Mérida is great if you speak Spanish so can avoid all the monoglot tourists.

    Self driving is fine but you really don’t need a car. And do anything to avoid any sort of tour in Mexico…

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