Thinking of visiting Playa del Carmen, Mexico? What was once a fishing port just across from Cozumel has transformed over the past two decades into one of the biggest tourist destinations in Mexico. No matter the time of year, people are flocking for some of that Playa sun.
Whether you’re planning a trip there for a short vacation or looking to stay longer as a digital nomad, we’ve got all the deets that you need to know to make your trip fun and stress-free.
In this travel guide you’ll learn things beyond just ‘how to get there’ and ‘where to stay’, including insider tips on things like:
- Average costs and budget
- Current safety situation
- What the WiFi is like
- and other local cultural tips for your trip
Here are the top 10 things travelers need to know before visiting Playa del Carmen.
1. How Long Can I Stay?
Mexico is famously visa-free for visitors coming from the US, Canada, countries in the EU, and Australia. Mexico’s visa-free program for tourists even extends to passport holders of 67 nations, including those from Argentina, Chile, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam. Check out the official government visa page for more information.
Typically, incoming tourists will get a total of 180 days in Mexico which will be written on their FMM (immigration) card that they have to fill out and get stamped upon arrival. If there’s one big travel tip for Mexico we can give you, it’s to NOT LOSE that card! Keep it safely with your passport (a trusty passport holder can go a long way) because you’ll be asked for it when you leave.
2. How Hard Is It On The Wallet?
Despite an influx of long-term vacationers and tourists, Playa del Carmen is still more affordable than major cities in the US, Canada, Europe, Tokyo, and Sydney, (I could go on and on) in 2022. According to the website Nomadlist, Airbnb listings are currently averaging $67/night.
Monthly vacation rentals are priced anywhere from 8,000 pesos ($400 USD) a month to 30,000 pesos or more. You can sometimes find lower and you can definitely find higher, depending on your comfort level.
The income gap is real in Playa, as the average cost of living for a local being $400 and around $1,100 for an expat.
As for your food budget, it depends on whether you want to live it up every day and eat at fancy restaurants on the busy Avenida 5 or head to your local taco stand every night. At a trendy restaurant, plan to spend about 500 pesos ($25) for dinner and a drink or two. While some tacos or a torta at a local joint will set you back about 75 pesos.
We give Playa del Carmen a 2.5 out of 5 for the overall budget.
3. Are Locals Friendly?
Playa del Carmen has its roots in tourism and the number of visitors per year exponentially increases. So yes, Playa is very open to tourism – it’s the lifeblood of the city.
That being said, restaurant workers and hotel workers in Playa del Carmen are just like anywhere else in the world, so a genuine smile (and even a little Spanish) goes a long way. Locals and long-time visitors appreciate others that respect the chill vibes which have made Playa del Carmen so unique and attractive to travelers from around the world for years.
Because Playa is an international city, the more traditional mindset that still exists in some other parts of Mexico isn’t as present here. Popular destinations like Cancun, Puerto Vallarta, and yes, Playa del Carmen, are welcoming to LGBTQ+ travelers. Playa del Carmen even has its very own Pride Parade, which is set for June 22 of this year. Just to be extra safe though, we do recommend checking if a hotel is LGBTQ friendly or not before booking your stay.
4. Playa del Carmen Customs & Culture
It’s live and let live in a chill beach destination like Playa, so you can pretty much enjoy yourself and make your own schedule and lifestyle. This is one of the reasons people love it so much!
There’s no judgment if you have breakfast at 12, and dinner can start at early as happy hour, which can be pretty much anywhere in the tourist areas of Playa del Carmen. Just be nice and Playa will love you right back.
5. Top Trending Thing to Do This Year In Playa del Carmen
One of the biggest events happening in Playa del Carmen in 2022 is Closer to the Sun, which is a 4-day long event of live music all day and into the night at the Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya. Want tickets? Check out the event’s homepage here to join the Waitlist. Yes, it’s so hot that tickets are currently sold out.
Closer to the Sun is happening from December 8-12, perfect time to kick off the winter vacation season.
6. Should I Worry About Safety?
Overall, we give Playa del Carmen a 3 on our safety scale of 1-5. And despite reports of shootings and other crimes, Playa del Carmen is still a relatively safe place to visit. Considering all of the daily arrivals here from tourists year-round, most people go about their day-to-day lives without any interruptions.
According to the statistics website Numbeo, crime has increased in Playa del Carmen over the past three years. Playa is rated at a 50.65 in the safety index, which is moderate.
Most visitors that stay inside their hotel complex or stick to the busy tourist streets, like 5th Avenue, will find the entire experience very safe. Travelers that want to get into more local areas of town and explore off the beaten path should reserve a moderate amount of caution.
Remember: You’ll Want Travel Insurance
While Playa Del Carmen is pretty laid-back and safe in general, this doesn’t mean you should let down your guard when considering travel insurance.
Not only are you going to want coverage for things like if you caught covid right before your trip and couldn’t make it, but you’re going to want coverage while in Mexico as well. Having travel health insurance will cover you for things like getting food poisioning from some sketchy tacos, if you slipped and broke something walking on the beach, or even if the airline lost your luggage on the way to Mexico.
7. Local Food and Drink in Playa
It’s in the name. Playa is a beach destination, so if you really want to dive into the best dishes this city has to offer head out for some the popular local seafood dish of ceviche tostadas. And of course, tacos el pastor.
If you’re vegan or vegetarian, you’ll be happy that Playa Del Carmen has the most vegan restaurants in all of Latin America!
Insider tip: The best tacos in Playa del Carmen can’t be found at a sit-down restaurant. Instead, head towards the street food stalls behind the Mega supermarket on 30th Avenue which are famous for the best cheap, authentic eats in town.
Expat and traveler food crawls usually make a stop here, and locals are often here on their lunch breaks or after work. You can find tacos el pastor, mouthwatering tortas, and so much more here, so bring some smaller change in pesos (these places typically don’t take credit cards) and dive in!
And while Aperol Spritz’s are making their way to lots of the town’s hottest bars, nothing says a Mexican beach town like a margarita for 100 pesos. Perhaps enjoyed on a rooftop at sunset? That’s Playa perfection.
8. What Are the Best Apps To Use In Playa del Carmen?
Rappi and UberEats for food delivery, and WhatsApp for pretty much anything else – these are some of the most useful apps when visiting Playa del Carmen. Rappi is the food delivery app that’s local to Mexico, so it will definitely come in handy at some point during your travels.
Sometimes during the quiet hours, the only vehicles you’ll see on the road are the Rappi delivery motorbikes whizzing around the delivery people their late-night eats.
And as with most of Mexico at this time, WhatsApp is king. Regular Uber doesn’t currently operate in Playa del Carmen, so the best way to order a taxi is just to find a driver through the WhatsApp group “Taxi Playa del Carmen” and book your ride directly on there.
9. How’s The WiFi?
While not perfect, you can get by using the WiFi in Playa. Nomadlist says at the average speed is 6 Mbps (average being the operative word – the WiFi speed can definitely go much higher). It can be spotty at times if there’s weather issues or if there’s construction happening in your building and they have to cut the line for a bit, but in general the WiFi is good.
10. What Are Some Experiences Not To Be Missed?
The cenote route near Playa del Carmen is definitely one of the most sought-after experiences. Plan a day during the week when it’s not as busy and do a tour of the magical sinkholes that can be found throughout the Yucatan Peninsula.
Check out Cenote Chaak Tun just on the outskirts of town.
Playa Del Carmen in general is a very laid-back, chill, and casual destination. Come as you are, as PDC is the type of place that welcomes people of all cultures and styles.
If you are a budget traveler, there are plenty of hostels and other cheap accommodation that won’t eat up all your cash, but of course, if you’re looking for luxury, you’ll be able to find it on Playa’s high-end complex beach resorts.
With hundreds of flights each week going from the U.S, Canada, and Europe straight to Cancun Airport, you’ll find tons of cheap and direct flights heading to Playa Del Carmen all year round.
p.s. avoid the sargassum (seaweed) by visiting from November to March.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com