These Tulum travel tips will help you enjoy your vacation
I have visited a dozen cities in Mexico and Tulum is different than all of them. It’s a special part of Mexico and unlike anywhere else I’ve visited. This is why I am doing a post specific to Tulum travel tips. While some of these tips will also apply to other cities in Mexico, I have chosen to focus on Tulum.
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Tulum Travel Tips
1. WiFi and Internet in Tulum
- This one is for my digital nomads and those who often mix business with pleasure. Be aware that you could lose electricity during the day, resulting in no WiFi. This happened at my Airbnb several times because they were doing construction in the area. If you’re going to be working, I suggest taking the time to get to know local, quiet cafes with a reliable Internet connection for any zoom calls you may have.
- When the Internet cut out at my Airbnb, I headed to a cafe on the beach. Five minutes before my call, a live singer arrived. I had to quickly scramble to find a suitable place to take my zoom call. I couldn’t find one so I ended up standing next to the kitchen behind the bar where the music was quieter. Don’t add that kind of stress to your day. Learn from my mistake and plan ahead or purchase a portable WiFi router.
2. Driving Tulum’s roads & the beach road
- Getting around Tulum takes some serious time. Aside from the main highway, the majority of the roads are not paved. Many of them, including the beach roads, have giant craters in them that fill with water when it rains, pictured below. The best time to visit Tulum is during the dry season, but you may still experience rain showers. Carefully navigating around these adds a lot of driving time.
- Much to my surprise, there are only two roads that lead down to the beach. If you are staying in town, it could take you an hour or longer to get to the beach. The beach road itself is very narrow and incredibly busy. Parking is limited and often difficult to find on the beach road. If you plan on spending a lot of time on the beach, plan your accommodations as close to the beach as possible, if not right on the beach. You’ll save yourself tons of driving time.
- Driving in Tulum requires assertiveness when in town, but a lot of patience once you’re on the beach road. It is narrow and very busy. Take your time, don’t rush, and always allow for extra time when you’re heading out somewhere. This Tulum travel tip will help you a lot if you rent a car.
- Be a vigilant pedestrian and do what your mother taught you, look both ways before you cross the street. They drive like absolute maniacs in Mexico. Take caution whenever you’re crossing the street because they don’t stop for pedestrians and they rarely signal. I rented a Jeep and embraced the madness by driving the way the locals do. If you are a very passive driver, you won’t get very far. Drive assertively, but defensively. If you wait for someone to let you in, you’ll never move.
3. Paying in Tulum, cash is King
- These Tulum travel tips will save you money! Cash is King, but bring pesos instead of USD. In the past, I didn’t find that it mattered that much, but now the exchange rate you’ll get in stores and restaurants is terrible. The exchange rate is not standardized. Every establishment has a different exchange rate they offer if you pay in USD instead of Pesos. And I can assure you, it’s in their favour and not yours. Save yourself a lot of money by paying in pesos.
- You can pay using a Credit Card in most restaurants, but not all, some only accept cash. Those that do accept credit cards will add an additional charge for this service. Your bank typically does the same, meaning you are charged not one, but two fees when you use your Credit Card.
- Plan ahead and bring pesos with you as there aren’t very many bank machines in town. I don’t believe there are any along the beach road, at least I didn’t come across any. The one I found in town had quite a long lineup. If you do use an ATM to take out cash, be sure to decline the exchange rate offered by the machine. You will get a better exchange rate from your bank at home.
4. Tulum’s chill vibe
- Contrary to what you see on Instagram, the vibe in Tulum is super chill and very casual. Think jungle architecture and restaurants with your toes in the sand. You are in the jungle and the ground is either rocks, dirt or sand. Leave the heels at home, you’re likely to break an ankle wearing them on the uneven surfaces in Tulum. Leave your white runners at home too or they’ll be brown by the time you leave.
- I absolutely love restaurants on sandy beaches so I was more than happy to spend half my time barefoot. Pro tip: bring slip-on sandals so you don’t have to constantly buckle and unbuckle as I did. I wish I had brought my favourite UGG sandals with me instead.
4 more Tulum travel tips
5. What to wear in Tulum
- As mentioned above, Tulum has a very chill vibe. I wore bikinis and cover-ups with flip-flops most days and flowy sundresses most evenings. Daytime attire is super casual with most people wearing not much more than their swimsuits. This is one place you can pack very little and be fine. I suggest packing several bathing suits and a few cover-ups with a handful of dresses.
- The ocean breeze picks up at night so be cautious of which dresses you wear or you could accidentally give passerbys quite a show. This is especially true if you are dining on the beach. I opted for longer flowy dresses over shorter ones for this reason. And I did choose to wear pants one evening when it was particularly windy.
- Update: I’ve added an entirely new post just on this subject. Check out this comprehensive list of what to wear in Tulum. I’ve got you covered from day to night and every activity in between.
6. Beware of seaweed on Tulum’s beaches
- The beach is full of Sargassum seaweed combined with garbage at certain times of the year. Be sure to research when you want to go so you aren’t surprised and have to step over it. They are working on managing it because it’s ruining the beaches, but they don’t have a solution yet.
- The seaweed is generally bad from May until October; however, the seaweed was showing up on the beach in early December right before I left. Typically, October and November are the best months for Tulum beaches.
- However, don’t let the seaweed scare you from visiting Mexico. In my experience, the resorts are great at clearing the beaches. On a day that is particularly bad, you can chill poolside at the resort, or visit one of the magical cenotes that Mexico has to offer. Check out my tips for visiting cenotes to ensure you have an amazing day.
7. Plumbing in Tulum
- Don’t flush your toilet paper. This one isn’t just a Tulum travel tip, it applies to most places in Mexico. You cannot flush your toilet paper here. Their plumbing can’t handle anything extra so please don’t flush anything extra or you risk plugging the toilet.
- You will find trash cans next to the toilet and these are for toilet paper, feminine hygiene products etc. Place everything in these trash cans.
8. Water in Tulum
- Don’t drink the tap water! This is one very important Tulum travel tip that also applies to most other cities in Mexico. Airbnbs will have a purified water jug so bring your own reusable water bottle to fill up.
- Brush your teeth with bottled or filtered water as well. Even brushing your teeth with tap water in Mexico can be problematic unless you stay at a resort with purified water. I forgot and brushed my teeth with tap water one night in Tulum. Sadly, I paid for it the next day and had to skip out on my morning yoga class.
Tulum Travel FAQ
What are Mexico’s entry requirements?
Mexico does not require you to be vaxed or show a negative Covid test for entry. There is no quarantine period upon arrival, but you will need to fill out their health declaration form. Having an easy entry process makes this country very appealing. Having said this, the rules and regulations change rapidly so be sure to double-check travel requirements before you book your trip and again a week before you depart. It is challenging to stay on top of travel requirements right now as they change often.
My post about what it’s like to travel outside Canada was written a while ago and the rules have changed several times since then. I have updated this post so check it out if you’re going to travel outside the country. It still contains a lot of valuable information regarding returning to Canada, including details about downloading and completing the Arrive Can app before heading home.
Is Tulum safe?
Mexico is often in the news and since I was recently there, I frequently get asked if it’s safe. You, too, might be wondering if it’s safe to travel to Tulum, Mexico right now. And yes it sure is! I recently spent 10 days in Tulum and the surrounding areas and I felt extremely safe. In fact, the police presence there was very impressive!
Having said this, when travelling around a foreign country always remain vigilant. Don’t be flashy by wearing expensive jewellery or carrying large amounts of money on you. Always keep an eye on your belongings. A great accessory that helps keep your belongings safely hidden is a pocket infinity scarf.
How do you get around Tulum?
You have several options on how to get around Tulum. It will largely depend on where you are staying and what you plan on doing. Unlike all-inclusive resorts where excursions and transportation are arranged for you, this likely won’t be the case in Tulum.
If you are staying in town and not on the beach, I highly recommend renting a vehicle. The drive to the beach can take an hour depending on where you are headed. You could take a taxi everywhere, but that will get expensive. If you are staying on the beach, you could get away with renting a scooter, ATV, or taking the odd taxi if necessary. There are tour companies that will take you on excursions, such as swimming in the cenotes.
If you plan on doing a lot of activities in Tulum, then I would recommend renting a vehicle. Be aware that there is mandatory insurance you will be required to pay so take that into consideration when selecting your vehicle and the associated costs with upgrades. However, if you plan to get to your beach resort and stay there for most of the time, then arrange transportation from the airport, sit back and relax.
Is Tulum worth it?
I’ll be honest with you, it depends. It depends on what kind of vacation you are looking for. If you are looking for a relaxing beach vacation, or an all-inclusive style vacation, then I suggest that you stick with one of the other touristy spots such as Cabo, Cancun or Playa del Carmen. Tulum probably isn’t your place. If you aren’t sure if an all-inclusive style of vacation is right for you, check out this informative post to help you decide all-inclusives, yah or nah.
Tulum is not nearly as developed as other touristy places in Mexico. I know, Instagram would have you thinking otherwise. Tulum is an adventure and you need to know that going in. If you can afford it, stay on the beach and you’ll save yourself tons of time driving to and from the beach.
If you’re planning a longer trip, I would suggest splitting your time between staying in the city and on the beach. Do your cenote visits and other excursions while staying in town, and enjoy the beach once you’re there. This is what I did, although I wish I had spent more time staying on the beach. You really can waste a lot of time getting to and from the beach.
I hope you enjoyed these Tulum travel tips and learned a thing or two. Have you been to Tulum? Tell me in the comments below! And if you want an epic hammock beach shot like the featured image I used for this post, head to Habitas. That’s where I snapped this pic. The vibe, the music, the food, and the people were fantastic.