Cancun, Mexico

A- Overview:
Cancún has 200-plus days of sun a year and a temperature that averages 80F. With these statistics, it isn’t hard to understand why it is Mexico’s top tourist destination. Located on the tip of the Yucatan peninsula, its beaches are unparalleled, broad expanses of gleaming white sand stretched out beside the clear blue-green waters of the Caribbean.

Over 700 years ago, Cancún was home to the great Mayan civilization. Today, this exotic paradise joins the ancient past to the present as one of the world’s most modern and exciting resort areas.

A wide range of restaurants, vivacious night life, a variety of shopping opportunities, and the overall tropical atmosphere draw over two million visitors a year.

The hotel zone, which is what most tourists think of as Cancún, is a fourteen mile long, thin island shaped like a “7.” To the North is the Caribbean Sea with wide open beaches and strong waves. To the west the shore is buffeted by Isla Mujeres (Isle of Women), causing calmer waters. To the south, between the island and the mainland is the Nichupte Lagoon which is perfect for all water sports. It is this island that was created specifically for its present purpose, as the ideal vacation destination in a totally natural tropical setting accompanied by all the amenities of life in the 21st century.

Mainland Cancún has a much different ambience than the hotel zone, because it is an area of permanent residence for some 450,000 people. It offers markets instead of malls, and street vendors and outdoor cafes rather than air-conditioned restaurants. Downtown Cancún has little of the glamor of the hotel zone, but is a fast growing and interesting city to visit.

Visitors who are nostalgic for their home cities will be comforted to know that the developers of Cancún included businesses such as Outback Steakhouse, Dunkin’ Donuts, Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, McDonalds, WalMart and Blockbuster.

The whole family is welcome and appreciated in Cancún. Much thought and preparation has gone into developing attractions that will be of interest to family members of all ages. AquaWorld is one such facility. It offers wave runners, water skiing, windsurfing, catamarans, paddle boats, sailboats, kayaks, floats and boogie boards. There is even a sub sea explorer craft with large glass windows built into the sides for underwater viewing of fish, coral formations, turtles, and other marine life. There is no excuse not to have fun! Children will also enjoy time spent at Xcaret, the waterside theme park.

The Cancún Convention Center is the site of a variety of performing arts events, as well as displays of paintings and sculpture. Cancún has a wide choice of nighttime entertainment. Most of the hotels on the island have discos where dancing continues through the night into the early morning hours. Ballet Folklórico de Mexico performs nightly at the Continental Villas Plaza Hotel. Latin music is performed live at several clubs and attracts people of all ages. Rock ‘n roll oldies bring crowds of dancers to Planet Hollywood and the Hard Rock Café. Comedy acts and romantic dinner cruises round out the nighttime offerings.

Holidays and fiestas provide additional reasons to celebrate the beauty and joy of time spent in Cancún. In the church plaza, intricate dances passed down from family to family since ancient times, continue for hours. Dancers dress in symbolic costumes of vivid colors. Some villages even offer a bullfight as part of the festivities. However, in the Yucatan, both the bull and the matador are required to end the contest unharmed. Live music accompanies the performance. In the end, the bull is untied and returns to his rural home.

There is never a season of the year that isn’t just the right time to step back from life’s hectic pace and visit Cancún. A world apart awaits the visitor to this majestic land of incomparable beauty.

B- City Information:
Population:
400,000

Location:
In the State of Quintana Roo, off the northeastern end of the Yucatan peninsula, directly south of New Orleans. Approximately 1.5 hours flying time from Miami.

Elevation:
16 feet

Area:
Cancún city is located on the northeastern coast of the Yucatán Peninsula and is essentially a service town for the resort area of Cancún situated on L-shaped Cancún Island (13 miles [21 km] long by 0.25 mile [400 m] across). The resort area of Cancún (also called the Zona Hotelera [“Hotel Zone”]) is linked by a causeway to Cancún city.

Languages:
Spanish and Mayan, but English is spoken in most areas. The original inhabitants of this part of Mexico were Mayan and although Spanish is the official language, most of the indigenous population still speaks their native tongue. In the past few years, people from all parts of the world have settled here, giving this region a cosmopolitan atmosphere. It is fairly easy to encounter English, German, Italian and French- speaking people, especially in hotels and in larger towns.

Time Zone:
Central Standard year round. The time is one hour behind that of New York City. When it is 11:00am in New York City; it is 10:00am in Cancún.

Weather:
Cancún is warm year round, but the steady sea breeze tempers the heat. There is outdoor swimming all year. Rainfall is evenly distributed over the twelve months. The chance of hurricanes is greater in September and October. The sun reflected from the water is intense, so it is important to come prepared with sunblock. Most visitors wear shorts and T-shirts. A sweater is useful for air conditioned places and for the occasional cool winter day.

Average Temperatures (In Fahrenheit):
High Low
January – March 84F 67F
April – June 89F 73F
July – September 90F 76F
October – December 87F 69F

Tourist Assistance:
Secretariat of Tourism
91-800-90392

Consulates:
United States Of America 830272
Plaza Caracol II # 2 3rd Floor 832296
Canada 833360
Plaza Caracol II 3rd Floor #L330 833361

Currency:
New Peso, Old Peso, U.S.Dollar

Banks and Currency Exchange Facilities:
US Dollars are easily exchanged into pesos in banks, major hotels, airports and exchange houses. Mexican banks are open from 9 am to 2:30 pm weekdays only. Most credit cards are accepted in shops, hotels and travel agencies. Major purchases are best made with a credit card. You automatically receive the bank rate of exchange, which is higher than the rates given in town or at the hotels.

US Dollars and Mexican Pesos: In Cancún,. The US dollar is widely accepted, however, most prices are quoted in Mexican pesos. Usually, any price that has a decimal sign is in pesos. Pesos can also be indicated by a price like “N$35”. The N stands for “new pesos”. If you see a bill with a high value, in the thousands or millions, that is “old pesos” and you have to drop three zeros from the number to get the true value.

Exchange Rates:
If no exchange rate is posted, the usual rate is 8 pesos to the US dollar. Any posted rate will be lower than this.

Credit and Bank Cards:
Before you go, check with your credit card company to get their exchange rate for Mexican pesos. You may find that plastic is more economical than cash for some purchases. However, small stores might charge an extra 10% for credit card sales, so you will need some cash. Cash advances and ATM withdrawals typically come in pesos. Major ATM cards work at ATMs at the big banks such as Banamex .Banks advertise their closing hour as 5 PM during the week.

Documentation:
Visitors to Mexico need a valid passport or must present an original birth certificate and photo ID. Minors traveling alone; with one parent; or with a relative or friend who is not their parent need notarized consent from parent(s). In addition, visitors must carry a Mexican Tourist Permit, which is issued free of charge after proof of citizenship upon arrival. This permit must be given to officials upon departure. If you lose your Tourist Permit while in Cancún, you can obtain a copy or permission to leave the country from the Immigration office located downtown.

Departure Tax:
is approximately US $17. Be prepared with US cash for this. Change may not be available. Children under 2 years are exempt.

Customs Regulations:
After passing through immigration, you must claim your luggage and pass through Customs. You must present a Customs form, which will be given to you at check-in before you leave the US or during your flight. You will be asked to press a button at a sort of traffic light: Green means go, red means your baggage will be briefly searched. Questions can be directed to the Customs office at the Cancún Airport at (52-98) 86-00-73.

Church Services:
Roman Catholic
Cristo Ray Church,15 Margaritas Street, Downtown Cancún
Daily Messes: 7A.M. and 7 P.M. Saturday: 7P.M.
Sundays: 8A.M., 11 A.M., 5P.M., 6:30 P.M., and 8 P.M.
840513.

Hotel Zone Masses
Cancún Baptist Fellowship, Hyatt Hotel each Sunday 10:00am
Hotel Camino Real , 10 P.M.
Continental Villas Plaza, Sunday 12 P.M.
Fiesta Americana Coral Beach, Sunday 10:30 A.M.
Presidente-Intercontinental, Saturday 6:30 P.M.
Sheraton, Sunday 10: A.M.
Chapel next to Plaza Nautilus, Sunday 10 A.M.

Presbyterian
Puerto del Cielo Church, 15 Crisantemos St. Downtown Cancún.
Sunday services: 10:45 A.M., 6:30 P.M.
842362

Episcopal
Marriott Casa Magna, Hotel Zone
Sunday services: 10 A.M. in English
852000

Electricity: The standard current in the hotels in Mexico is 110 volts AC. European travelers should bring a converter or check their electric devices in advance.

Telephones & Fax:
For local directory inquiries dial 847612.

From North America to Cancún:
Dial 011 (int’l access code) + 52 (Mexico’s country code) + 98 (Cancún’s area code) + the local number.

From Cancún, calling within North America:
Dial 00+1+area code+local number. Many US long-distance phone companies have access numbers that you must dial in order to use your phone card, usually through the Mexican telephone company public phones, Ladatel. Calls may be less expensive than direct-dialed calls from your hotel room. (Check your hotel surcharges before calling.)

Using Tel/Mex public telephones:
If you are calling within Mexico, you can pay for the call in cash or call collect. International calls are collect only at some casetas. The service charges may apply whether or not you connect and there might be an extra charge for information or any other service involving the international operator. Only use official TelMex phone booths for long distance calls, as all others charge very high fees, so high that the government is now removing the phones. The non TelMex phones usually have a little ad on them urging you to call collect, decorated with an American flag. Don’t be misled by the ad.. use Telmex.

Ladatel
The least expensive way of paying for an international call is to buy a Ladatel card at one of the locations that sell them, such as the newsstand in front of the post office. These come in amounts from 30 pesos up. You put the card into a slot in a Ladatel public phone and direct-dial the number. The amount of credit you have left will appear on the display and be updated when you connect. The charges are automatically deducted from the card.

Credit Card Calls:
– Some credit cards will also work in Ladatel phones, including Master Charge and Visa International.

Fax:
You can send faxes from the post office or from any Caseta de Larga Distancia. The two most convenient locations are:
[1] Downtown next to Lavandería Alborada on Nader.
[2] Mercado 28, near Farmacia YZA.

Computel:
Downtown – Av. Tulum just past main bus terminal.
Hotel Zone – Coral Negro Market, Plaza Kukulcán, 2nd level. Fast, efficient fax service.
A one-page fax to the United States will cost about $3.35 in this computerized telephone and fax service.

Internet:
Public internet service is available in all major hotels at rates of about $10 an hour. There are also many Internet cafés in the Hotel Zone and Downtown. Hotel Zone malls with Internet service include Plaza Caracol, Plaza Kukulcán and Maya Fair, but there are many other locations.. Service in downtown Cancún ranges from $1.50 to $5 an hour.

National Holidays:
Jan 1 – New Year’s Day (Año Nuevo)
Feb 5 – Constitution Day
Mar 21 – Birthday of Benito Juárez, Mexican president and national hero
Holy Week – (Semana Santa) Good Friday through Easter Sunday
May 1 – Labor Day (Día del Trabajo) with workers’ parades
May 5 – Battle of Puebla commemorates the Mexican victory over the French at Puebla in 1862
Sept 1 – The president of Mexico delivers the annual State of the Nation address
Sept 16 – Independence Day
Oct 12 – Day of the Race (Dia de la Raza) Columbus Day
Nov 1-2 – The Day of the Dead
Nov 20 – Revolution Day: Anniversary of the 1910 Mexican Revolution
Dec 12 – Feast Day of the Virgin of Guadelupe
Dec 25 – Christmas Day

Emergency:
Local Police 841913/ 842342
Fire Department 841202
Highway Police (Federal) 841542/ 841107
State Police 841171
Federal Police 887291

Business Hours:
Most stores are open from 10 am to 10 pm daily in the Hotel Zone. Stores downtown may close between 2 pm and 4 pm for the traditional “siesta” and on Sundays.

Hospitals: Mexico has a nationalized healthcare system and almost every town and city has either a national hospital or medical clinic. Most hotel have a 24-hour doctor on call. No vaccinations are need to enter Mexico from the US or Canada. Below is a list of local hospitals and clinics.

Hospital Americano
84-61333/84-6068 (24-hours)
15 Viento Street, SM4

Red Cross
84-1616 (24-hours)
Yaxchilan Avenue, SM21

Total Assist
84-1092, 84-8116 (24-hours)
5 Claveles Street, SM22

Social Security Hospital
887274 /887354

General Hospital
842967/ 842666

Public rest rooms:
Restrooms are difficult to find in most places. You are expected to supply your own toilet paper.

Children:
Many resorts, hotels, and beachfront villas have many activities especially for families with children.

How to get around:
A counter at the airport exit sells tickets for buses (called colectivos), which cost about $8. The buses are air-conditioned and sell soft drinks and beer on board. You can also take a government-subsidized cab. The driver will accept the taxi vouchers sold at stands inside or just outside the airport.
Car Rentals:
Major rental car companies operate from the airport and some hotels. You must be 25 years old, hold a driver’s license and major credit card. Road signs are in Spanish.

Public Transportation:

Tips and Taxes
In cases where the gratuity is not included or provided for, 15% is the accepted amount. Most items sold in Mexico have a “value added tax” or sales tax of 10% that is additional to the posted price. In Spanish, it is called IVA. You will see it itemized separately on your receipt. City buses and taxi vans run through the hotel zone and downtown. Localurban bus companies service the hotel zone. They stop by all hotels during the day.

Taxis
Taxi Union 886992

Local Bus Service:
The bus system in Cancún is very convenient and inexpensive. The fare is 3 pesos. It is much better to pay in pesos because, according to some travelers, if you pay with US money the fare is $1, and no change is given.

Ferries and Boats
The ferry for foot passengers runs to Isla Mujeres departs Puerto Juarez, just north of downtown Cancún, eight times a day in both directions.
The Caribbean Express and the Caribbean Miss (tel. 987/70254 or 987/70253), both air-conditioned cruisers with bar service, make several 30-minute crossings daily from Puerto Juárez, just north of Cancún, to Isla Mujeres, a small island resort offshore. Boats run from 7:30am – 7:30pm at approximately 30-minute intervals; the fare is under $4 per person.
There are three passenger ferries that leave at 7:30, 8:30, 9:30, 10, 10:30, and 11:30 AM, and on the half hour from 12:30 to 7:30 PM; the schedule varies depending on the season, so check the times posted at the dock. The one-way fare is only about $1.50 and the trip takes 45 minutes.

Airports:
Cancún International Airport – Phone 870088 Airport is 9 miles southwest of the heart of Cancún City, 10 kilometers (6 miles) from the southernmost point of the hotel zone.
Shuttle (tel. 98/83448), runs directly from the Playa Tortugas dock in Cancún’s hotel zone to the airport at least four times a day and costs about $15 round-trip.

Marriage while in Cancún:
Due to Cancún’s popularity as a honeymoon destination, most major hotels are happy to arrange a wedding for a visitng couple, and will likely have a wedding coordinator on-site, or be able to refer you to a local company that provides those services. The legal requirements for marriage in Cancún are as follows:
(1) Certified copies of both parties’ birth certificates or valid passport
(2) Blood tests from their doctors taken within 15 days of their wedding date; tests for sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV
(3) A copy of their tourist permits or visas if required for entry
(4) Four witnesses
(5) If previously married, the parties will need to show the divorce decree or a certified copy of spouse’s death certificate, if widowed.

C- Attractions/Things To Do:
D- Family Fun Attractions:
E- Events & Entertainment: