Tips for arriving at Cancun Airport that travelers should know

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There’s no doubt that one of North America’s largest tourist airports will make for a hectic arrival experience. In 2022, Cancun International Airport received a new record of more than 20 million international tourists.

The airport is also the most popular gateway to Mexico for travelers from the US and Canada; We recently reported that nearly 60% of all international arrivals at Cancun Airport this year were travelers from the US

But with so much activity every day, you’re bound to run into obstacles. If you’re planning to visit the Mexican Caribbean in the near future, here are some expert tips for travelers arriving at Cancun International Airport.

Passengers arriving at Cancun airport

Everything about Cancun International Airport

Let’s start with the basics. Upon arrival at Cancun International Airport, you’ll find yourself at the top of the Riviera Maya, with easy access to the most popular destinations in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula.

Playa del Carmen is less than an hour away, Tulum is 1.5 hours, and that’s not to mention Mérida, Valladolid and smaller coastal spots like Bacalar and Akumal, all of which can be reached from Cancun airport by public or private by land transport.

Silhouette of an airplane landing in Cancun, Mexico (Cancun).  Arrival in the city with an international airport direction sign and a blue sky in the background.

According to the Airports Council International, Cancun Airport ranked 10th busiest airport in the world for international passengers in 2021, up from 28th in 2020 and 61st in 2019.

So when you arrive, you need to be prepared, which means knowing the basics about the airport and how you’ll get to your destination.

Transportation workers hold signs to pick up passengers outside the arrivals terminal at Cancun International Airport

Cancun airport terminals

Most major airlines arriving from the US and Canada arrive at Terminal 3 or Terminal 4.

Terminals 1 and 2 of the Cancun airport receive mainly domestic airlines. Here’s a slightly more detailed breakdown:

  • 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 view the full list on the Cancun Airport website.

Travelers walking through Cancun International Airport

Checklist for arriving at Cancun International Airport

You filled out the immigration form on the plane, right? After landing, there are, of course, a few hurdles you must overcome before you can step outside into paradise.

First, you will have to go through the immigration process. Thanks to the new digital kiosks that were installed at the airport just this year, waiting times for travelers have been reduced. But once the busy holiday season hits, travelers’ wait times at immigration usually increase throughout the day, so it’s best to be patient and plan for long waits.

Unidentified people with a sign with the names of tourists arriving at the airport in Cancun at the entrance of Cancun International Airport, Mexico

Once you’ve gone through clearance, it’s time to go to baggage claim to claim any checked baggage. If your luggage has arrived intact, you can go to customs.

Customs at Cancun airport has a red/green light system where you will need to press a button that will turn either red or green – green means you can go through and red means a customs agent will go check your luggage. If this happens to you, it’s a good idea to prepare ahead of time and pack your belongings so that they can be easily packed back if you have to go through baggage.

Once you clear customs, you will pass through a series of distractions such as stalls and things being sold to you until you can exit the airport. Here are some things travelers should keep in mind:

A young woman is about to leave her hotel in Cancun
  • Money exchange kiosks: Airports are known to be some of the worst places to exchange money. If you want to exchange money for Mexican pesos, know that you can get cheaper rates in the city.
  • Timeshare sellers: On the way out, you’re also likely to see people in formal uniforms offering to sell you a timeshare or attend a timeshare presentation. Many fellow travelers advise to just walk past these guys and not talk to them. Some may say that they are actually your transport, but be aware that all pre-booked transport will be waiting for you outside the airport only. There are videos and articles on what not to sign up for at the Cancun airport timeshare presentation if you want more information on this.
  • Transportation by prior arrangement and upon arrival: If you have pre-booked transportation from Cancun airport to the hotel, your driver should be waiting for you at the terminal near the entrance. In this area, you will find loads of ride hailing drivers, metered taxis, ADO buses and more.
a bird's-eye night view of Cancun's hotel zone

How to get to the hotel from Cancun airport

A pre-booked car or minibus can take you to Cancun for around $50 round trip. If you are looking for public transportation options, ADO tourist 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 hand side as you exit the terminal.

If you are staying in the hotel zone of Cancun, it is best to take a taxi or use pre-booked transportation, as the bus goes to downtown Cancun, which is so far from the hotel zone.

Exterior view of Cancun International Airport

More details:

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Disclaimer: Applicable travel rules and restrictions are subject to change without notice. The decision to travel is ultimately your responsibility. Before traveling, contact your consulate and/or local authorities to confirm entry of your nationality and/or any changes in travel requirements. Travel Off Path does not endorse travel against government advice

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