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Tulum

An 1 hour and 30 minutes away from Cancun lies Tulum. I’d seen Tulum on the ‘gram and I would say it’s the ‘IT’ girl. Tulum has a rustic and chill vibe to it, but the time to turn up is still very much there.

Like most places there is a main ‘strip’ where all the action happens; in Tulum it’s also the Zona Hotelera. There are countless hotels, beach clubs and restaurants – not to forget the signs along the road that give you a dose of self love. I think Tulum is going for ‘eat, pray, love’ vibes and I’m not mad at it.

You get adequate doses of beach, food and views – one of the servers from a hotel on the strip told us their minimum spend was so high because you are getting the views. I appreciated the honesty, but it still didn’t justify spending so much for me.

Photo op on the beach

Where to stay:

  • Zona Hotelera
  • Centro
  • You don’t have to stay at a super expensive hotel, as everything is quite close to each other. Save your coin friends!
  • I stayed at the Mayan Monkey, as I am really glad I did. It’s a hostel with private rooms, they have a range of activities and its a great way to meet other travellers.

Getting around:

Regardless of how close your destination is in Tulum, you will pay $20 for the ride. So, getting around Tulum you will see people on bikes, quads, walking or driving – I’m a strong advocate for hiring a car as you have more freedom to do things. Something to note: parking on the main strip isn’t the easiest feat, so here are a few tips:

  • You may have to (or be better off parking) park further down and walking down.
  • You will have to pay for a parking spot each time you move, so find a central(ish) location to park and move from there.
  • The road to Zona Hotelera is small, there are many construction projects going on. So you can get caught up in some serious traffic as the day goes on.
  • Park by Coco Beach Tulum – it’s free parking!
  • The roads in Tulum are not the smoothest – so slow down.
Tulum sign (there’s a massage parlour right by this sign)
Beach views
Restaurant views

Places to visit:

  1. RAW LOVE – the open arm sculpture you are bound to have seen.
  2. Mia Restaurant – a chill vibe and a lovely photo op that makes you feel like you’re in Bali.
  3. IK LAB – an art gallery in the heart of Tulum (entry fee)
  4. The beach itself! – Go early to almost have it to yourself.
  5. Bagatelle – if you’d like something super boujie to do.
  6. La Eufemia – for a cheap and delicious eat on the strip. It’s a walk from the main sites
  7. Mistico – Restaurant and Shisha bar
  8. Chichen Itza – not exactly in Tulum, but close? enough.
  9. Tulum Ruins
  10. Countless cenotes, Tulum is located perfectly for exploration.
Tacos in central Tulum
Tacos from La Eufemia
Mia restaurant

There are supermarkets all around or if you are willing, you could go into the local community and buy some of their produce – an amazing way to give back! So whether you’re in an airbnb or hotel, you are covered.

I had amazing time in Tulum, and to think I was almost put off going! (Crazy)

Check our IG highlights to see some of these things live: @trippinwithsj // @sarahambitous

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Chichen Itza

We are avid World Wonder searchers, we’ve got a few under our belt – but still a fair few to go. So visiting Mexico, it was impossible to not visit the Chichen Itza. After reading so much about the Mayan civilisation, it was a dream come true to visit.

The Chichen Itza is a 2 hour drive from Tulum, and I highly recommend driving as opposed to getting on a tour with others. If you aim to get there for 9am, you’ll have the ruins to yourself for nearly and hour!

If you can go by yourself, DO NOT buy tickets online. They are inflated in price and it’s straightforward enough to do it yourself.

Price for the Chichen Itza on arrival

You have to pay 2 charges; one goes to the local government, the other is the actual admission fee. It comes up to roughly only £20!

Whilst it’s a good to save some money – I do recommend hiring a guide. There are many at the gate of the park and they wear an ID card so you can guarantee they’re official. If/when I do go back I will take the walk around alone and go at my own pace.

Remember to take a water bottle, hat and a waterproof jacket – it’s a lot of walking and there is no shade.

The most popular part of the Chichen Itza is no doubt El Castillo (pictured below)

However the Chichen Itza is much more than El Castillo. There is a cenote (you can’t swim in it), legend and science have it that it was used for disposing of human sacrifices.

Over the years human bones have been found inside. Another fun fact is that visitors were allowed to climb up the steps of the pyramid until a few years ago. It became forbidden after a woman fell to her death (!)

If you are not tired after a long day of exploring the park, I would recommend a stop in Valladolid. It’s a 45 minute drive from the ruins. It’s a quaint and colourful town; there are local jewelleries available to buy and an opportunity to try local food.

Every type of souvenir you could think of is also sold inside the park. Keychains, sculptures, bottle openers etc. As with everything – haggle, haggle, haggle.

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Cenotes

Cenotes are natural swimming holes formed by the collapse of the limestone bedrock. The term cenote is used in the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico where cenotes were commonly used for water supplies by the ancient Maya, and occasionally for sacrificial offerings.

During my time in Tulum I was able to visit Gran Cenote:

  • Price: 300MXN/£11
  • Location: 15 minutes give or take drive from central Tulum or a 20 min cycle (perfect day trip from Tulum)
  • Remember: Bring your own towels
  • Pros: Location, TURTLES, good for unconfident swimmers 
  • Cons: Quite pricey as far as cenotes go

Cenotes are regarded as special waters, so you must act accordingly when you visit them. On arrival at Gran Cenote your temperature is checked and you pay the entry fee. You walk towards the cenote and there is a shower, so don’t bother with creams or sunscreen – washing yourself from head to toe is meant to protect the water pH balance.

If you would like to snorkel you can also hire snorkelling gear and lifejackets – the guarantee is a piece of ID and you’ll get it back on return of the equipment.

Cenotes get quote busy so I’d advise going as soon as they open or right before they close. The timings on Google are quite accurate. Gran Cenote opening hours: 8 am to 4.45 pm (the final entry is at 4.15 pm)

Some other cennotes I wasn’t able to visit but definitely would are:

  • Dos Ojos Cenote
  • Cenote Nicte-Ha
  • Gran Cenote
  • Carwash Cenote
  • Suytun 

For more information about cenotes in Mexico, visit: https://cenotesmexico.org 

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Mexico 101

This is by no means a conclusive post that includes everything you need to know before tripping’ but it will list some things that we think will be useful to know before going.

Staying connected:

  • Telcel data sim – £7 for 1GB, unlimited social media usage. They are the strongest data provider in Mexico, so don’t bother with any other network. You will need to activate the SIM card so I wouldn’t bother buying one at the airport, wait until you’re closer to your hotel and find a Telcel store/outlet.
  • Download Google Maps when you are connected to the internet. You can access Google Maps offline, so getting around is so much easier.
  • Most restaurants have WiFi, like most places you’d visit. So there’s an opportunity to preserve your data.

Getting around:

  • Hire a car – car hire is really cost effective in Mexico. The majority of the roads follow a straight route, so it’s a really easy drive. (£50 for a week inclusive of standard insurance)
  • ADO buses – if you are not a driver or a confident driver, the ADO bus system is the perfect option. The buses are air conditioned and amazing value for money.
  • Hire a driver – the hotel you are staying with may know someone willing to be your driver for your time, or if you meet a taxi driver and build a rapport they may be willing.
  • Learn basic phrases – don’t be that person only trying to speak English and not at least trying. Just don’t please.

Money:

  • If you have a travel money card or Monzo – great! Just withdraw your money in destination.
  • If you have cash, avoid changing all your money at the airport – the rate is never the best.
  • Remember: to change money at the forex, you’ll need to take your passport with you.

Shopping:

  • You only get VAT back at the airport for luxury items bought at the airport, don’t get sucked in by the market vendors who tell you you’ll get it back. Just haggle for a lower price.
  • Find a supermarket if you have a sensitive stomach, the food is heavy on meat and it’s worth having some fruit on hand in case you want something different.

For more highlights check out our IG: @trippinwithsj // @sarahambitious

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Cancun

This is the point you’ll probably start your trip. Flying into Cancun International, the airport is pretty easy to navigate and if you have or haven’t booked car hire it is easy enough to find your pick-up or hire a car.

The flight from London to Cancun is just under 11 hours, so I think you want to keep it simple. Pre-book your arrival plans.

The main area to stay in is called ‘Zona Hotelera’ which just means hotel zone, this is where all the main tourist attractions are located. Cancun offers you the perfect stop if you are looking to chill, eat, drink and drink some more.

Getting around Cancun can be cheap too! Get the bus (85p a ride); it’ll take you to all your desired locations and they run on a regular schedule.

If you are after more, I would recommend visiting Holbox and Isla Mujeres. They are two beautiful locations that are easily accessible from Cancun.

Things to do:

Take a touristy picture (if you don’t it obviously didn’t happen)

Chill on the beach

Grab a bite to eat, one thing you won’t run out of is options.

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Activities

Aside from all the nature activities there are to do in Mexico, I’m sure you are aware of the turn-up!

So, we would be doing you a disservice if we didn’t show you some of the spots we hit up for a good time and good food.

Cancun

  • El Fish Fritanga – awesome service and delicouso seafood!
  • Playa Delfines – chill and catch the sun and some waves.

Tulum

  • Teetotum – for some awesome food and a welcome happy hour. This place provides a lovely vibe and doubles up as a hotel, if you choose to stay.
  • Mistico@blackintulum hold ‘Welcome’ parties here each and every Wednesday. A good chance to meet some friendly faces, go into the local community and spend some coin.
  • El Eufemia – for cheap and delicious food on the beach front.

Playa del Carmen

  • YACHT! YACHT! YACHT! with more as many shots as is responsible. @blacktravelgram have you sorted for your yacht and snorkelling experiences. They host parties fully inclusive of an open bar, food and serious vibes.
  • El Gran Taco – a no frills, cheap eat but heavy on the flavour.