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By Tony & Cheri, Live from the Luna Blue in Playa del Carmen, Mexico

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–FAQs about PDC

As expatriated Americans now living in Mexico, as well as being owners of the Luna Blue Hotel & Garden, the most popular small hotel in Playa Del Carmen, we get a lot of questions from people planning to visit, vacation or even move here. Since a lot of people have many of the same questions, we decided to offer some answers to the ones that get asked most frequently. We hope it gives you the information you need to plan your time in beautiful Playa Del Carmen. And if you think there is a question that should be added to this list, e-mail us at info@lunabluehotel.com.

1. What is the weather going to be like when I get there?

This is probably the single most repeated question of first time travelers to Playa Del Carmen. The answer is simple: We don’t know. Weather is as variable here as it is wherever you live. We have seasons (rainy, hot, hurricane, etc.) but on any given day it might rain, the temperatures might rise or fall, and the sea may be rough from wind, or not. There is no way to guarantee that the dates you plan for your vacation will have perfect weather 100% of the time. The experienced traveler will plan according to season but be prepared for the unexpected. Is the temperature a little chilly? Go down to El Pirata beach club in Playa del Carmen and have a bowl of the best steaming Azteca soup. Rainy today? Find a Fifth Avenue café and sip a cup of Chiapas grown coffee as you relax and do nothing. Too windy for sailing? Go to Hidden Worlds and snorkel in underground cenotes. Roll with the punches, and your vacation will still be great fun regardless of the weather.

As far as seasons go, the winter months of December, January, and February tend to have sunny days (although the occasional rainstorm does happen) with strong breezes and cooler temperatures. Temperatures are generally in the low 80s during the day and high 70s at night. The spring months of March, April and May have warming temperatures. Summer can bring very hot weather in June, July and August (temperatures in the 90s or higher) and occasional storms. Temperatures start to drop a little in September, but it is also the month for the most rain. Late October and November are good weather months with even temperatures and generally sunny days.

The final word is this: Playa Del Carmen is in the tropics on the edge of the Caribbean Sea. Like any tropical seaside location we sometimes get rain and storms, however the vast majority of the time we have sunny weather with a yearly average temperature of 85 degrees.

2. When is the hurricane season?

The hurricane/storm season runs from June 1 until Dec 1. This does not mean that there will be a hurricane or tropical storm every week, every month or even every year. It means this is the time of year in which hurricanes and tropical storms develop in the Caribbean Sea. Many don’t reach land. Of those that do, most do not make landfall in Mexico and few if any strike Playa del Carmen. Statistics show that over 90% of all hurricanes happen in September or early October. However they can happen any time during the season. The good news is that hurricanes develop slowly and you will have plenty of time to change your vacation plans if one is threatening. Anyone traveling anywhere in the Caribbean during hurricane season should always purchase travel insurance for exactly this reason.

3. If I cancel my trip because of a hurricane will I get my money back for airline tickets and hotel reservations?

Probably not. Most businesses in the travel industry do not usually give refunds based upon weather related cancellations or delays. It is generally considered a fact of life in travel and the customer is expected to know of and plan for such circumstances. However it never hurts to ask, and some airlines and hotels may occasionally offer credits or discounts. The best guarantee of not losing your deposit money is to purchase travelers’ insurance whenever you travel in tropical locations like Playa Del Carmen during the hurricane season (June 1 to December 1).

4. Is the water safe to drink?

This is probably the second most frequently asked question. The answer is no. The local water available from the tap is not suitable for drinking. Unless you are staying at a resort which specifically tells you they purify their water system, you should drink only bottled water. However a minimum exposure to local water will not make you sick. Brushing your teeth with local tap water, for example, is perfectly safe.

5. What about the water used to wash fruits and vegetables in restaurants? And what about ice cubes in drinks? Is that purified water?

Yes, the local restaurants wash their fruits and vegetables with purified water. Ice cubes, whether bought by the bag at a store or in an individual drink in a restaurant or bar, will also be made with purified water.

6. What if I need medical care in Playa Del Carmen? Is there a hospital nearby?

Playa Del Carmen has an excellent medical care system to assist its’ visitors. There are a number of hospitals including the Red Cross facility on Juarez, the new, very modern Hospiten hospital on Highway 307, along with several smaller urgent care facilities including the Hyperbaric Chamber and Emergency Treatment facility on 10th Ave. near Calle 26th. The managing physician at this last facility is Dr. Eduardo Rovirosa. Dr. Rovirosa trained in the U.S., Mexico, and Cuba. He speaks perfect English and is on call 24 hours each day to provide medical treatment to guests of the Luna Blue Hotel and Garden.

7. Should I bring traveler’s checks, cash or just credit cards?

Bring credit cards and just enough cash to get you settled in for the first couple of days. Traveler’s checks are not needed. Traveler’s checks were once considered required for any international travel since there was no easy way to get money in some countries and it offered more security than carrying large amounts of cash. That is no longer the case at least in this part of Mexico. Playa Del Carmen has a number of modern ATM machines, so you will be able to readily access cash with your card and PIN number as needed. You will also want to bring your credit cards as many (but not all) businesses accept them, and most hotels and car rental facilities require them for deposits. A word of caution: tell your credit card company you are going to Mexico. We have seen folks have their card account suspended (and the card rendered useless) because the card company suddenly started seeing charges in a foreign country with no prior notice.

8. Should I use pesos or dollars (Euros/Canadian/etc.)?

Pesos. This is after all Mexico, and the currency of choice here is the peso. In addition the peso offers a good exchange rate, at least as against the US dollar. And although most businesses will accept dollars, you will receive change in pesos, and the ATM will give you your money in pesos. For more detailed information on this subject, including a description of the bills and coins used in Mexico, check out Dollars or Pesos?

9. Should I bring pesos or exchange my money there? What is the exchange rate?

Check out the blog entry on this topic: Dollars or Pesos?

10. Do people speak English?

The official language of the country of Mexico is Spanish. However most people working in the resort/hotel zone of Playa Del Carmen speak some English and many are fluent. In fact most locals who work in the travel industry can speak Spanish, Mayan, some English, Italian, and probably a little French or German. Of course since it is Mexico it is not only polite but also fun to try and speak a little of the local language. Saying “Hola” (Hello), “Por Favor” (Please) or “Gracias” (Thank You) will usually get you a smile in return.

11. Who should I tip, and how much?

CHECK BACK SHORTLY FOR THE ANSWER TO THIS QUESTION.

12. Is Playa Del Carmen safe to walk around?

Playa Del Carmen’s resort/hotel zone is very safe. The main pedestrian mall of Fifth Avenue and the adjacent side streets are generally filled with people until midnight or later. The entire resort zone is regularly patrolled by Tourist Police (a special division of the police department aimed at helping visitors), the Muncipal City Police and Traffic police. Of course as with any popular tourist area, petty theft is a concern, so watch where you place your handbags and cameras. However, violent crime is practically unheard of in the hotel zone. Playa Del Carmen is appreciative of the visitors who come here and makes every effort to assist and protect them while they are in Mexico. We would caution about walking on the beach at night. There are no lights in most places, and boat lines, holes dug by the waves and the occasionally unpleasant drunk tourist make walking here at night a bad idea. However, visiting the all night beach club parties where it is well lit and well populated is perfectly safe.

13. How do I get around Playa Del Carmen? Are taxis available and how much do they cost?

CHECK BACK SHORTLY FOR THE ANSWER TO THIS QUESTION.

14. Do I need a car for day trips or can I take the bus?

CHECK BACK SHORTLY FOR THE ANSWER TO THIS QUESTION.

15. Where are the best beaches?

Playa Del Carmen’s main beaches are divided between south and north of Constituyentes. Heading south (between Constituyentes and the Ferry building) the beach is lined with hotels and beach clubs. The beach tends to be a little smaller than its northern counterpart and is often crowded with dive and fishing boats. The beach on the northern end of Playa (Constituyentes north to Calle 38th) has much wider areas of sand and tends to be free of boat lines. The northern beach also has two of Playas most popular beach clubs, Mamita’s and Kool. (at the foot of Calle 28). There are also open spots where you can just spread a towel. For the wider areas of sand and the better swimming conditions, we say that Playa’s north beach is the best. Outside of Playa Del Carmen you will find great uncluttered beaches at Xpu-Ha and south of the Tulum ruins. Check out our Beach Club page for more details.

16. Is topless or nude acceptable on the beach?
Public nudity—partial or complete—is prohibited in most of Mexico. However topless sunbathing is allowed on the beaches of Playa Del Carmen probably because of the many European visitors who come here. It is common but not prevalent. Some women are comfortable with taking off their top on the beach, others are not. You can choose for yourself. However please remember Playa Del Carmen is still part of a very conservative Catholic country and locals may not approve. As a general rule, being topless should be avoided on the beaches used primarily by locals, especially those nearest the Ferry Dock where families gather on Sundays. Complete nudity is prohibited in Playa Del Carmen and might get you arrested or at the very least kicked off the beach. And don’t forget the sun block!

17. What Mayan Ruins are near to Playa Del Carmen?

There are three major archeological sites near to Playa Del Carmen, each offering a different view of the ancient Mayan World. Chichen Itza is perhaps the most famous of the ruins in the Yucatan. Once a major Mayan City, it has been turned into a beautiful park. The buildings have all been restored and the surrounding grounds cleared and well kept. The site is approximately 3 to 3 ½ hours from Playa Del Carmen, so if you are going here, plan on the entire day. Tulum is probably the most photographed of the Mayan Ruins. It was not a city but a walled encampment and temple which possibly acted as a light house. Perched on a cliff overlooking the Caribbean Sea, Tulum offers incredible vistas. It is about a 50 minute drive from Playa Del Carmen. Finally there is Cobá. More recently discovered than the other two sites, Cobá has only been partially restored. Its’ ruined temples still sit surrounded by the the jungle. It is the only archeological site near Playa Del Carmen where visitors can still climb to the top of a pyramid. It takes about 1 1/5 to 2 hours to drive to Cobá.

13 Responses to “–FAQs about PDC”

  1. Shane Fradella said

    Tony, in your opinion, what are the top 3 or 4 eateries for authentic Yucatan cuisine (not just sit down restaurants, but roadside stands are ok as well)?

    Authentic Yucatan cuisine is a tough one, because there are so many cultures in the Yucatan. If you mean Mayan food, we don’t have four, but we have one. Yax-che, and upscale restaurant on Calle 8 between 5th Avenue and 10th Avenue gets consistently rave reviews from us and others. For traditional Mexican food (not the Tex-Mex that you eat in the States), try the molcajete at La Quinta Pasion, the arrachera nacional at HC de Monterrey, or the tacos el pastor at El Fogon. Hope this helps.

    Tony & Cheri

  2. armand paquette said

    been to playa del carmen many times. love it. 5th avenue is great. check out a coffee shop at 7am on 5th ave. just sit back have a coffee and pastry and watch the town come to life. i did that twice last time i stayed downtown just off 5th ave.

    • Stephen Bond said

      Its called Sasta coffee and you do exactly what Armand says…watch Playa wake up. Me and my wife have been to Playa many times and if we had the chance, would give up England’s wonderful weather and settle in Playa. Now back to working on that chance and turning it into reality.

  3. Pat R said

    We were just in PDC last week and loved Yax-che. Enjoyed the Mayan coffee…quite an experience to watch it made and also great to drink.

    We used Cheri & Tony’s list of restaurants. We also ate frequently at “Cave of the Monkey”…forget the correct name. Their food was great and reasonable.

    La Quinta Pasion was closed last week probably for holiday. We’ll try it next time.

    We’re looking forward to being back their in January. We were lucky enough to catch Cheri on Sunday to say Hi and tell her how much we enjoyed their BLOG.

    We’re hoping to get in on living the dream within a year or so.

    PatR & Mick

    It was great meeting you guys!!
    Cheri

  4. Travel Guy said

    I’m wondering if there are any good escorted tours of the walking or bicycling type in PDC? I am planning a vacation soon and like traveling through destinations by bike with a guide. Any ideas? Thanks for the other info!

    We’ve never seen a guided walking or bicycling tour of PDC. But you don’t really need one. Playa is quite easily explored on your own. Your best bet is to pick up one of Laura the Map Chick’s Can-Do Playa del Carmen maps at http://www.cancunmap.com and start there. They are very detailed and fun and will get you started on your own mini-tour.

    Tony & Cheri

  5. NATALIE said

    I have been reading on trip advisor about hotels and it seems that the majority of people who get sick are staying in the all inclusive hotels and not by eating at the resturants in town..is this true?

  6. We really can’t comment on how many people get sick at AIs versus at non-AIs, since we really don’t know. Generally people get sick down here by 1) eating a lot of rich food that they aren’t used to eating; 2) drinking too much alcohol and not enough water and 3) eating foods that have been sitting out in the heat. Because AIs tend to have buffets, and food generally sits out at a buffet, there’s a chance that some food may be sitting out long enough to spawn bacteria. That can happen with any food that is exposed to heat for too long (and in this heat, that’s not a very long time). Our attitude is whether you’re eating at an AI, a local restaurant or a taco cart, just use common sense and you’ll probably be okay.

  7. dave said

    guys, you can open a bank account here in playa with just a turist visa and passport with bancomer preferred customer unit at centro maya in front of playacar crossing the highway.
    they are great as they speak english, give you a card to skip the long lines and free internet banking
    take it easy
    dave

  8. Mark & Toby said

    Is there a Walmart or Walgreens in PDC?

  9. COOKIE said

    AS FAR AS GETTING AROUND PDC, TAXI’S ARE PLENTIFUL AND CHEAP. MOST DRIVERS SPEAK ENGLISH. FOR DAY TRIPS USE THE COLECTIVO (SHUTTLE) AND OF COURSE THE VERY NICE TOUR BUSES FOR THAT. AS FOR WHAT I’VE SEEN, I DON’T HAVE THE NERVE TO DRIVE IN TOWN. CRAZY DRIVERS.

  10. COOKIE said

    THERE IS A SUPER WAL MART IN PDC. DON’T KNOW ABOUT WALGREENS.

  11. Al & Berta said

    We recently arrived back in Playa for the second time. Have followed your recommendations and have not been disappointed. We have discovered a wonderful new restuarant called Origenes. It is on the corner of Calle 38 and Flamingos (across from the Shangrila). Great food and beautiful presentations. I would recommend checking it out. Also had a terrible experience at Pummorla, food was very salty, first and only time I will go there. Did not know they do not take credit cards until the bill came.

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