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Car Rental in Cancun and the Riviera Maya

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Last update: Jun 20, 2021

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Car Rental in Cancun and the Riviera Maya

This is a legitimate question that many tourists has had to ask themselves while preparing for their vacation: is car rental really useful?

Is it really necessary? Will you really need it or will it be superfluous? It's not easty to answer this question before knowing a bit more about the destination you're going to visit.

As a fine connoisseur of Cancun and the Riviera Maya, Odigoo's parrot will guide you in this decision process!

Ready? Let's go!

Table of contents

Do not hesitate any longer and follow the parrot! 🐩 👀

Cancun is the oldest city in the Mexican State of Quintana Roo, the first to be created in Riviera Maya. Despite having a short history (its origin goes back barely to the 1970s), this tourist hub in the Mexican Caribbean has been growing fast with an impressive infrastructure development through the ground, the sea and even the air. Therefore, it has a full road and highway network that covers and connects all Riviera Maya. This network is sufficient to allow efficient and constant flow of cars and other vehicles between the different locations in Riviera Maya: Cancun, Puerto Morelos, Playa del Carmen, Tulum and even towns in further areas like Akumal, Bacalar and Mahahual. Renting a car or another motor vehicle is a good idea to enjoy all of these destinations.

Regarding the conditions to drive in the city of Cancun, most of the time they are optimal for an easy drive. Cancun is a small city having a population of about 800,000. So, car traffic is neither large nor overwhelming. Of course, there are rush hours, mostly because of commuters going from home to the tourist areas as well as all the transportation used by the tour service providers. These periods of time are usually between 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. However, the busiest areas are quite defined: hotel zone (Kukulkan Boulevard) and the road to Cancun airport. The rest of the city is mostly where the local people live, so traffic is more restricted to the inhabitants from each neighborhood.

Is it a good idea to rent a car in Cancun and Riviera Maya?

Now, let's focus on answering the question that most probably brought you to this post. Renting a car in Cancun or the rest of the destinations in Riviera Maya will be convenient as long as it benefits the plans you have for your trip or vacation. Let us explain in the next paragraphs this past sentence.

How to evaluate the benefits of renting a car in Cancun?

The decision should be focused on the following:

  • Number and age of the people in the travel group. Usually, when you are traveling with a large group of people (family, friends), the need for comfortable spaces increases. The need of comfort is even more if within the group are kids under the age of 10. In the car rental in Cancun and Riviera Maya it is common to find vehicle models (cars, van, SUV’s) for six or even eight passengers.
  • Number of travel destinations. It is important to consider the number of destinations you are planning to visit in Riviera Maya. If your vacation plan is to stay at the hotel or resort most of the time, renting a car in Cancun or Riviera Maya will be probably unnecessary. However, if you plan to move around all the different destinations in Riviera Maya (move from Cancun to Playa del Carmen, from Playa del Carmen to Puerto Morelos, etc) for one or several days, then the alternative of renting a car makes total sense.
  • Purpose of your trip. It is worth considering if the purpose of your trip to Riviera Maya is totally focused on resting and relaxing. If so, the idea of renting a car may not be the best plan. On the other hand, if the purpose of your trip is related to adventure and the wish to visit multiple places or cities, renting a car is a perfect idea for your trip.
  • Car rental vs. Taxi Cab service. Comparing the benefits of renting a car against the benefits of using taxi cab services it’s also a good idea to know if you are making the right decision. In the case of Cancun and Riviera Maya, taxi cabs have a service fare list (try to always ask them to show it) and they will charge you depending on the distance you have to travel to get to your destination. However, the rates are far from being tourist friendly (to say the least), especially if you plan to ride a taxi frequently during your trip.

Now, let’s suppose you have already made up your mind about renting a car in Cancun and Riviera Maya, which are the key factors you have to consider to make the most of your decision?

  • Rental location. If you are arriving to Cancun by plane, at the airport you will find modules from all the different car rental companies (international and domestic). There, you can easily rent a car showing an ID, your driver license and a credit card. On the other hand, if you make the decision of renting a car until you arrive to your hotel, it is very likely that the receptionist or the front desk will also help you to rent the car, or, in the hotel zone of Cancun, you will also find agencies or modules of the car rental companies.
  • Parking lots or parking facilities in your hotel. For Cancun, if you are planning to stay in the Hotel Zone and you are renting a car, then you will have to make sure that your hotel has proper facilities to park it. In the Hotel Zone, parking is not allowed in most of the streets or if it is, it will take you ages to find a place to park your car.
    In case you are staying in other locations in Riviera Maya (Puerto Morelos, Playa del Carmen, Tulum) the parking conditions are a bit different. It is more likely you will find more parking spaces available because, unlike Cancun, in the other towns the hotels are more dispersed and not concentrated in one area.
  • Police and Traffic Laws. Renting a car in Cancun means that you will comply with local driving and traffic laws. In Quintana Roo and, especially in tourist zones, the police department is an important ally, but many officers are also often on the “lookout” for tourists that are not paying attention to the local laws. That is why it is very important to be aware of speed limits, for example. On the roads that connect the airport with the city and hotel zone of Cancun, as well as with Playa del Carmen, Puerto Morelos and Tulum, the speed limit is 40 miles per hour (70 km per hour). Inside the cities or towns, the limit is usually 30 miles per hour (50 km per hour).
    Obviously, driving after you have been drinking is not allowed in Cancun or the rest of Riviera Maya. The police department (Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Tulum) have checkpoints in different areas of the city and towns (especially by night) to make sure there are no drivers under the influence of alcohol. If a driver is caught under the influence, he / she will be arrested and the vehicle will be towed, which will cause a ticket that will considerably increase the cost of renting the car.
  • Road and highway tolls. The highway that connects the airport with the city / hotel zone of Cancun, as well as with Puerto Morelos, Playa del Carmen and Tulum is free. So, on that regard, it is quite easy to drive around Riviera Maya. However, if you are planning to drive to archaeological sites in Yucatan (Chichen Itza, Coba, etc) or other further destinations, it is very likely that you will have to pay road tolls.
  • Gas stations. There are a large number of gas stations on the roads that connect Cancun and Riviera Maya as well as inside the towns and cities

Some car rental companies that you will find in Cancun are:

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