Tips to get to the Cancun airport that travelers should know

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There is no doubt that one of the largest tourist airports in North America will come with a hectic arrival experience. So far in 2022, the Cancun International Airport has received a new record of more than 20 million international tourists.

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

But with so much going on all day every day, you’re bound to run into some roadblocks. If you have plans to visit the Mexican Caribbean anytime soon, here are some insider tips for travelers arriving at Cancun International Airport.

Passengers getting off the plane in Cancun

All about Cancun International Airport

Let’s start with the basics. After arriving at the Cancun International Airport, you will be at the tip of the Riviera Maya and easily connected to the main destinations in the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico.

Playa del Carmen is less than an hour’s drive away, Tulum 1.5 hours away, and that’s not to mention Merida, Valladolid, and smaller destinations along the coast like Bacalar and Akumal, all of which can be accessed from the airport. from Cancun by public or private ground transportation.

Airplane silhouette landing in Cancun, Mexico (Cancún).  Arrival in the city with international airport direction sign and blue sky in the background.

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

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

Transportation workers holding signs to pick up passengers outside the arrivals hall at Cancun International Airport

Cancun Airport Terminals

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

Terminal 1 and Terminal 2 of the Cancun Airport host mainly domestic airlines. Here’s a breakdown in a bit more detail:

  • Terminal 1: VivaAerobus
  • Terminal 2: Aeroméxico, 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.

Travelers walking in Cancun International Airport

Checklist for arrivals at Cancun International Airport

You filled out the immigration form on the plane, right? Once you land, there are, of course, some barriers you need to cross before you’re out and about in paradise.

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

Unidentified people with sign with names of tourists who arrived at Cancun airport at the entrance of Cancun International Airport, Mexico

Once you’ve been cleared, it’s time to proceed to baggage claim to claim any checked baggage. If your luggage arrives intact, you can proceed to customs.

Customs at the Cancun Airport has a red light/green light system, in which you will have to press a button that will turn red or green: green means that you can go through and red means that the customs agent will go to inspect your luggage . If this happens to you, it’s a good idea to prepare ahead of time and pack your things in a way that makes it easy to repack if you have to check your luggage.

Once you clear customs, you will pass through a myriad of distractions like kiosks and things that they will sell to you until you can exit the airport. Here are some of the things travelers should keep in mind:

Young woman about to leave her hotel in Cancun.
  • Currency exchange kiosks: Airports are notoriously one of the worst places to change money. If you want to change some money into Mexican pesos, know that you can get cheaper rates in the city.
  • timeshare sellers: On the way out, you’ll probably also notice some people dressed in an official-looking uniform offering to sell you a timeshare or attend a timeshare presentation. Many fellow travelers advise just walking past these guys and not interacting with them. Some may say that they are actually their means of transportation, but know that all transportation booked in advance will only wait for you outside the airport. There are videos and articles on how it is not a good idea to sign up for a Cancun airport timeshare presentation if you want to learn more about it.
  • Pre-arranged transport and on arrival.: If you have pre-booked your transportation from the Cancun airport to your hotel, your driver should be waiting for you outside the terminal near the front. In this area, you’ll find plenty of drivers waiting to pick you up, metered taxis, ADO buses, and more.
cancun hotel zone night shot aerial view

How to get to your hotel from the Cancun airport

A pre-booked car or minivan can get you to Cancun for around $50 round trip. If you are looking for public transportation options, ADO buses are available throughout the day and can take you to downtown Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and Tulum. ADO tickets can be purchased at the official kiosk on the right hand side as you exit the terminal.

If you are staying in the Cancun Hotel Zone, it is best to take a taxi directly or use your pre-booked transportation because the bus goes to downtown Cancun, which is a long way from the Hotel Zone.

Exterior of Cancun International Airport

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