10 Things Not To Do in Playa Del Carmen
Every tourist does not want to fall into a tourist trap, do something illegal, or make a fool of themselves on vacation. Some things people do on vacation are considered normal, but sometimes these can get you into trouble in another country. So here are some things not to do in Playa Del Carmen when visiting.
# 1. Do Not Drink on the Street
It is a beautiful sunny day and you want to stroll down the pedestrian street of 5th Avenue in Playa Del Carmen. You are also in Mexico, where the beer flows freely and also home to many liquors. However, don’t take that drink to go and walk around with it. This is illegal to walk around town with an open drink.
In the past this was something much more tolerated and tourists would stroll around enjoying a beer or something. Nowadays, you still might see some tourists doing this and it is not cracked down upon strictly, but don’t tempt fate. There are many great bars on 5th Avenue to sit and people watch. When it is New Years or other holiday in Playa Del Carmen you might think to yourself, “there is a rule about drinking on the street?”
The beach however is a totally other story. Locals and tourists will bring copious amounts of beer and drinks to the beach, especially on Sundays.
#2 Biking on 5th Avneue
5th Avenue is the pedestrian street that parallels the beach in the center of town. It is a great place to take a walk and see the sites. You might think it is a good place to ride a bike also. This, however, is a big no no. It is strictly a pedestrian street only and bikes are not allowed. The reason is there just is not enough space for bikers and walkers. Even parking a bike on 5th can get it taken by the police. We have seen them come through and cut the locks and pile bikes on the back of trucks from time to time.
With the new bike share program in Playa Del Carmen it is easier to ride around town. Just be sure to use the streets with bike lanes like many segments of 10th Avenue. Always use a good lock also because bikes get stolen a lot in town.
# 3 ATM’s and Keeping Your Cards Safe
Like any popular tourist destination, where credit cards and ATM machines are used a lot, criminals target these. Card skimming is all but too common in the world today. You don’t want to end up with your card being cloned and used to make a bunch of purchases or just your credit card info taken. Here are some tips to keep your cards safe while on holiday.
Using your credit card in Playa Del Carmen
Credit cards are great for vacations because you can charge a lot and pay later for your fun. They are also good for the exchange rate (especially credit cards with no foreign transaction fees), and you don’t have to worry about carrying a lot of cash with you. Where most people get into trouble is paying where you give your card to someone and you don’t see them use it. This happens a lot at restaurants if the waiter takes your card to the register while you stay at the table. Some restaurants have a terminal they can bring to the table, otherwise you can always go to the register to pay.
Another place many tourists have problems is at the gas stations in Mexico. Attendants will try your card and say it is not working. They try it and it appears the charge did not go through. These can either be skimmers or the charge went through and you just paid in cash also. To solve this, pay in cash only at gas stations. Be sure to see our guide on gas station scams if you are going to be driving on vacation.
ATM machines in Playa Del Carmen
Using a bank ATM machine is always more secure since there are cameras and are serviced by professionals. Independent ATM machines are more likely to have skimmers installed, where your card information can be copied. Also, banks have more standard fees and it can be unclear what the exact fees are when using some random ATM on the street. We have included a map of several banks that are just off 5th Avenue, where you can use the ATMs.
#4 Don’t Pollute the Beach
The beaches really make Playa Del Carmen special. Our oceans already have a great amount of trash in them. Washing ashore in Mexico we find plastics and other trash. Large resorts clean the beaches daily, so it is not as noticeable. So how can we all help keep the beaches clean? Here are several tips:
- If you stay at a resort, be sure to return your plastic cups and don’t leave them on the beach. We see this a lot in Playacar.
- Don’t use straws. If eating at a beachside restaurant or a resort, wind often blows this out of your cup and they end up on our beaches or in the ocean.
- Don’t smoke at the beach and if you do, take a container to put the butts in. The chemicals in the cigarettes contaminate gallons of water.
- Use biodegradable sunscreen. Not only in cenotes but also the ocean. The chemicals in sunscreens harm the reefs and marine animals.
- Don’t take glass bottles to the beach. If they break, this is very dangerous.
- No dogs please. All beaches in Playa Del Carmen are off limits to dogs. The reason is the feces of dogs can spread worms to human feet.
#5 Don’t Book Last Minute for Your Hotel
We know you are always busy before your vacation. Getting all the last minute work things done and packing. Just don’t leave the hotel reservations until the last minute. For those booking a resort, you probably won’t do this, but this applies more to people booking a hotel, or multilple hotels especially if visiting a couple of locations.
Here are some of the reasons you should not book last minute:
- Some popular travel times can see many hotels booked up and very few options left.
- The best hotels are always booked first, sometimes 6 months in advance.
- You won’t save any money trying to book at reception. Most of the time the “official” prices are much higher than online prices. Also people working at the reception often do not have the ability to offer different prices.
- Last minute bookings can actually be more expensive and prices can go up. Or sometimes the price may seem the same, but it is for a lower quality room at the same hotel.
See our tips for booking hotels in Mexico here. We also have a very helpful guide on where to stay in Playa Del Carmen here.
#6 Don’t Limit Your Tour Options
Just like booking a hotel, tours are important to book the right one for you. There are tons of tours available in the Riviera Maya and you can find something for everyone! But, don’t limit your options. If you wait to book or research what is available, you might severely limit your options. For example, most resorts rent out the lobbies to tour companies that only sell specific tours. This means you are only seeing what they want to sell you and this means you might miss some independent tours that might be just what you would like.
If you decided to stroll around on 5th Avenue you will find many booths selling tours. These might have flashy photos and quick talking sales people. These people work off of commissions and will learn toward the tours that give them the best commissions. This means that you are probably not going to have the best honest recommendations for tours. Also, these people often never go on the tours to know just what they are like and will say things to get you to book the tours. There are often misleading signs for 2×1 tours or statements made just to sell a tour that are not in your best interest. You work hard for your vacations, don’t spoil it with a lackluster tour.
Do a little research for what tours are good for you. We have this helpful article on the most popular tours from Playa Del Carmen here. We also have articles and videos about the best Mayan ruins tours, cenotes to visit and much more. You can always use the search box on our website to search through the hundreds of articles we have.
#7 Don’t just stay on the resort property
Resorts are paradisiac places built to entertain you and make you feel like you are somewhere wonderful. The Riviera Maya has some of the best resorts in the world and offers great value to visitors. However, don’t think that just because you are at a resort in Mexico, you have seen Mexico. Resorts in the Caribbean look pretty much like all over resorts. Get out to explore a little. Many resorts offer a shuttle or paid transfer to 5th Avenue in Playa Del Carmen. Here you can walk around and see a lot more shops and options than those at your resort. You can also try some more authentic local food places.
Some people rent a car and go to nearby cenotes, beaches or colonial towns. These all give you a unique experience while on vacation in the Riviera Maya. Best of all, you can meet some of the locals and this is one of the most special things when visiting a place.
#8 Don’t Overpack or Overdress
Playa Del Carmen has year round warm weather and you only need bring a bathing suit and summer clothes. This means you don’t need to pack a ton of stuff. Overpacking means carrying a heavy suitcase with you and sometimes even paying more just to bring it on the airline. See our guide on what to pack for your trip to Playa Del Carmen or the Riviera Maya.
For those of you who don’t like dressing up, you are in luck. The Riviera Maya area including, Playa Del Carmen is very casual. Even at nice resorts, most dining halls only have restrictions on wearing tank tops, swimwear and flip flops. Men never have to wear a tie or jacket here and women never need a super fancy dress or jewels. Since the climate is warm, there is a simple elegance to dressing. Here is an article showing you what is the style of dress for Playa Del Carmen and tips.
#9 Don’t Fall For All the Sales Pitches On 5th Avenue
There are a lot tourists walking 5th Avenue every day. This means that sellers have honed their skills and have an opportunity to try it all the time. Vendors have even learned the color of the bracelets that hotels put on their guest. This gives them a chance to tell you “they are a waiter from your hotel (insert name here)”. They do this to try to stop you and create a repour with you. This will give them a better chance to sell you something.
When walking 5th you will hear a lot of things from sellers. Don’t let it bother you and you don’t need to respond. Some are “vacation” sales people, Aka timeshare sales people. All we will say is, we hardly ever hear anyone saying how much they love their timeshare.
#10 Don’t Get Inebriated and Walk Around
Having some drinks on vacation is great, but getting drunk can bring about problems. In our article about safety in Playa Del Carmen, we mention that about 80% of the problems comes when you mix alcohol or drugs with your vacation. So you can avoid a lot of problems if you control yourself.
Walking around drunk on the street, especially at night, makes you a target for unsavory people. This can include robbery. Many of the unfavorable stories that circulate start with people that were out partying. If you are in a bar and drunk you are more likely to be involved in a fight or get dehydrated. In both of these cases, you might find yourself being taken to the drunk tank by the police or going to the hospital for an expensive treatment.
The moral of the story is have fun, but do it responsibly. Like all the things mentioned above, not doing some things in Playa Del Carmen can lead to a more satisfying vacation and you can really enjoy yourself.
Thank you for reading our article about things not to do in Playa Del Carmen. Now you might like to read our article about the best things to do in Playa Del Carmen. Let us know your comments and thoughts below.
Do not encourage or promote drugs use buying it
Don’t wear bikinies at the supermarket .
That means you, French people.
Don’t do anything illegal because it will give the police a pretext to stop you, search you and rob you. Police robbery is common in Mexico.
DON’T EXPECT EVERYONE TO SPEAK ENGLISH .YOUR NOT IN KANSAS.
It is true about the police! They robbed me of $1200. Never carry that much cash with you! I was stupid! I have learned my lesson!
I was also travelling with a friend who is from Mexico and we were stopped while driving under the speed limit on cruise control and we were taxed by the tourist police of all people who are supposed to be there to help. We were dead sober at noon going to the airport to pick up a friend. He wanted 400 USD and after arguing with the nice cop face in Spanish we ended up giving him 110 USD.
Who wrote this piece. I’ve been to playa 4 times and never had a problem. One cool thing is buying a beer and drinking it while walking down 5th ave. This idiot is trying to scare people away. Playa is totally safe and the police don’t give shit about tourists having a good time unless they’re stupid. Ignore this moron and have fun but avoid cancun if possible.
We wrote this after seeing tourists like you get stopped. You might not have seen or been affected in the 4 whole times you have been to Playa Del Carmen, but it does happen. It is nice to drink on vacation and go for a stroll, if everyone did it responsibly, then it would not be an issue. There are laws though and that gives the police the right to stop you if you are drinking while walking around on the street.