Cancun was the #2 most visited city in the world throughout the pandemic. Despite the rest of the world shutting down, not only has Cancun airport stayed wide open the entire time, but they’ve actually surpassed passenger numbers from 2019, breaking arrival records for incoming tourists. To put it plainly, Cancun airport is a busy gong-show.
While the Cancun airport has some of the best direct flight connectivity in the world, there is a price to pay for such easy access to paradise. Throughout 2022 all tourists flying to Cancun airport should be aware of delays, crowds, and a list of ‘covid-era’ travel requirements. This article breaks down simply what you’ll need to know about arriving at the Cancun International Airport in 2022, no matter if you’re a first-time visitor or a seasoned pro.
No negative test or proof of vaccination required
Tourists arriving at Cancun airport never have to show any proof of negative tests or vaccination, simply because Mexico does not have any entry requirements. Throughout the entire pandemic, Mexico has always remained wide open with no testing, no quarantines, and no proof of vaccination requirements.
The only thing ‘covid related’ is a digital form, called the Vuela Seguro form, which needs to be filled out by any arriving or departing passenger.
*Update: As of January 2022, the VuelaSeguro form is no longer required.
The flow of arrivals
When you land, you will disembark the plane, go through the immigration lineup, then the baggage carousel, potentially through customs if you have something to declare or if you are selected, then out to the transportation pickup area.
Have your paperwork and passport in hand as you disembark the plane so you can get into the immigration lineup prepared. If you don’t have everything ready, you’ll have to step aside to fill out papers and the line will fill up very fast ahead of you.
Prepare for immigration to be swamped
Since Cancun has smashed its arrivals records in 2021, customs and immigration are experiencing some serious backups. Depending on how many flights are landing at once, you might be through immigration in as little as 10 minutes, but we’ve seen lineups of over 3 hours. Be prepared for the worst and hope for the best.
To expedite your time through immigration and to ensure you don’t have to leave the line and re-enter, there are things you’re going to want to have ALREADY filled out by the time you reach the line.
Your FMM paper/card, either the paper copy handed out to you on the plane, or a digital copy you did beforehand on the computer and printed out yourself.
Cancun airport has 4 terminals
The Cancun Airport has 4 different terminals, but you will likely be flying into either 2, 3, or 4. This is handy to know when booking your airport transfer, but many of the companies will just ask you for your flight number, as they are professionals at knowing what terminal to pick you up from.
Terminal 2 services many domestic low-cost Mexican airlines like VivaAerobus and Volaris, but they also have international flights coming in from Latin America on airlines like Avianca and Copa and LATAM, along with USA’s Alaska Airlines and Canada’s Swoop and Sunwing.
Terminal 3 is the busiest terminal for welcoming flights from the U.S., as American, Delta, JetBlue, and United all arrive here. Canada’s Air Canada and Europe’s British Airways and Iberia also land at Terminal 3.
Terminal 4 is a mix of domestic and international, being the hub for Mexico’s Aeromexico flights along with many from the U.S., Canada, and Europe. From the States, Sun Country, Southwest, and Frontier come into Terminal 4. Canada’s WestJet and Air Transat flights also arrive here, with European carriers like Air France, Eurowings, and Lufthansa.
The terminals that the flights come into are not set in stone and can change, so be sure to check your boarding pass or your airline’s app to ensure the most up-to-date information.
Please, pre-book your transportation
Regardless if this is your first visit to the Cancun Airport or you’ve come many times before, you’re going to want to pre-book your transportation from the airport to the hotel before your arrival.
When you clear customs, you’re going to want to have your driver waiting in the pick-up area with your name on a signboard, trust me on this. After a long flight and long lineups in the airport, the last thing you’re going to feel like doing is negotiating with a cab driver who is going to try and either quote you an inflated price or is going to try and sell you a timeshare presentation in exchange for a ride. It’s stressful and will end up costing you more time or money. Just pre-book a ride.
I personally fly into Cancun airport 2x’s a month and I still pre-book every single time. The company I use is Van Travel and I am so incredibly happy with their service. They have budget and luxury options, from private shuttle vans to Escalades. 3 passengers in a van costs $55 USD roundtrip, which is a great price for the level of service and professionalism they provide.
So what if you totally forgot to pre-arrange a ride? Well, you CAN get one at the airport but don’t say I didn’t warn you. A million people will pounce on you once they realize you haven’t pre-arranged and it can be quite overwhelming. Get ready to barter and don’t commit to any meetings or stops along the way.
The ‘Shark Tank’ or ‘Running the Gauntlet’
Since we are on the topic of transportation, this is really key information to know, especially for first-timers. After you clear customs, and before you’re outside to meet your driver at the pickup location, you’re first going to have to walk through the ‘Shark Tank’ or ‘Gauntlet’ as it’s commonly called.
This is an area with taxi stands and counters, specifically time-share counters under the guise of transportation providers, filled with people in uniforms who will shout, stand in your way, and try and get your attention. They will say things like “Sir! I am your shuttle driver! Please come with me!”, but he is not your shuttle driver. He doesn’t even know who you are. He’s just trying to get you to come over and sign up for a timeshare presentation in which he will offer you a free or discounted ride.
The best thing to do when walking through the Shark Tank is just to keep your head forward and NOT engage with anyone who is yelling, snapping their fingers, or trying to get your attention. Keep walking until you see a big red sign on the ceiling that points to the ‘exit to all ground transportation services and taxis’, which is where the ride that you pre-arranged will be waiting for you.
Tourists may not automatically receive 180 Days on their visa
Nomads and long-stay travelers need to listen up: You might not get the standard 180-day tourist visa you were expecting.
For many years coming into Mexico and automatically receiving 180 days on a tourist visa was extremely standard practice. Before I became a resident of Mexico, I probably came in more than 50+ times over 20 years and always got 180 days without blinking an eye. However, a record number of reports have been coming out of Mexico throughout 2021 that Mexican Immigration Authorities are no longer handing out 180 days like candy and they are cracking down on tourists abusing longer stays. We’ve seen this first-hand throughout our circle of friends, readers, and peers who’ve sent in their FMM cards to us showing as little as 7 days received.
The reason behind this crackdown is Mexico wants long-stay tourists to properly apply for temporary residency instead of constantly renewing their tourist visa, and it makes sense for people who have been doing border runs for years, but the issue is it’s also affecting first-time tourists. We’ve had first-time European readers fly into Cancun, expecting to stay 2 months, but only receiving 21 days on their FMM card.
If you are coming for a 1 or 2-week vacation at an all-inclusive in Cancun, you likely won’t have an issue at all – even if they issued you a few weeks tourist visa you’ll be back home by the time it expires anyway. However, if you’re planning to stay for 2-6 months, you’re going to want to slow the agent down at the immigration counter and explain your trip. Any longer-stay tourist should have proof of vacation rental bookings, proof of onward travel once their trip is over, and anything else to show you actually need the 180 days with the receipts to back it up.
What you should know about departing from the Cancun airport
Once your vacation is done and it’s time to go back home, here is what you need to know about departing the Cancun Airport
Check your terminal
Ensure you know where your flight is departing from so your transportation or taxi takes you to the correct terminal.
Fill out and pay Visitax
A very new, and quite frankly odd, process of paying a tourism tax is now in effect for all departing tourists. All international tourists are supposed to visit the Visitax site prior to arriving at the airport and pay the 224 pesos tax per person online. Once paid, it will generate a QR code and proof of payment which you will show agents just before you go through security.
Once again, MANY people have said things like “They never checked, so I never do it” but we can assure you they are stopping people and forcing them to do it on the spot before entering the security lineup, which can be super stressful if you’re already late for your flight. If you want to gamble, be my guest, but if you want a smooth departure, just fill it out and pay it online before you get to the airport.
Another word of warning, there are many scam sites out there pretending to be the government’s official Visitax site, so please be careful and ensure you’re only using the correct link. In 2022 airport authorities are working to allow payments to be made in person with cash, but for now, the site is the only method.
Give yourself extra time
Since your airline at the Cancun airport is responsible for checking your negative covid test to return home, the lineups are taking much longer than normal. If you are not flying business class, give yourself at least 3 total hours from your flight’s departure time, as even if you’re not checking a bag you’ll still have to lineup in the general check-in line to verify your test results and/or vaccination status.
If you’re flying business class you can give yourself less time because you have a shorter line at the check-in gate to verify documents.
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Disclaimer: Current travel rules and restrictions can change without notice. The decision to travel is ultimately your responsibility. Contact your consulate and/or local authorities to confirm your nationality’s entry and/or any changes to travel requirements before traveling. Travel Off Path does not endorse traveling against government advisories