12 Useful Cozumel Tips & Advice
Headed to Cozumel on your holiday and searching for tips on how to have the best time? First, recognize that you’re likely to have a lot of fun. But visiting a different country can lead to many questions about what to expect. Below, we’ve rounded up our top tips and recommendations for visiting Cozumel. Covering everything from money, getting around, and safety, these are pointers that you don’t want to go without.
Your Phone may perform in Cozumel
There’s an excellent chance that your cell phone will work on Cozumel with no added charge. Even if it doesn’t, you can usually include service in Mexico for as little as $10. Over the past several years, the fight for your cell phone business has forced many carriers to provide new advantages. One of those is service in Mexico and Canada. Many plans now have Mexico included in the plan for no extra charge. There’s no need to get a new SIM card or jump through hoops. And if it’s not included? Call your provider and tell them you’re headed to Mexico. They can advise you on the opportunities you have for service in Cozumel. Often you can obtain service extended to the country for about $10 per day.
No Need to Worry About Pesos
There are advantages of using pesos to acquire things in Mexico, but in the tourist hotspots like Cozumel, they accept US dollars. In fact, bills from restaurants will appear with a price that’s both in pesos and dollars and you can determine which way you want to pay. You will usually pay less using pesos because of the exchange rate levied by the establishment. Still, if you don’t choose to change money over, you don’t have to. Keep in mind you might get change for dollars back in pesos.
Sunscreen, you must wear it
Even if you come to Cozumel from a tropical place, like Florida, you nevertheless aren’t equipped for the sun at lower latitudes. Here the sun’s rays are more direct, meaning that you get their impact more than you would back home. Use sunscreen and reapply often. This isn’t so much for health reasons, but for your enjoyment of your vacation. You don’t want to be inside the room because you got burned on your first day at the beach.
Use the number 20 to Figure Exchange Rates
Need to know how much something is in dollars? Just take the price in pesos and divide it by 20 to get a rough estimate. Likewise, you can use 20 times the number of dollars to figure out how much it is in pesos. While the exchange rate will not be 20 pesos to the dollar, it’s close enough to give you an idea. Take something that costs 1000 pesos. Divide by 20, and you know it’s about $50 in U.S. currency. Likewise, if you want to know how much something is in pesos that cost $30 US, then multiply it by 20 to see that it would cost 600 pesos.
Know the Time to Travel
You can travel to Cozumel year-round, but you have choices. Summers are sultry, with frequent thunderstorms that can blow up seemingly out of nowhere. June through November is hurricane season, and yes, hurricanes can affect this area of the tropics. Many people prefer to visit in the winter, but this is the prime season where rates rise because of snowbirds looking for a warm place to visit. That’s why we don’t think there is a perfect time to visit Cozumel, but just be aware of the general outlook for the time you plan to visit. Our favorite time on the island is around April or May when it’s warm and prices are lower.
Bank ATMs get you the Best Exchange Rate
The two ways to get the most favorable exchange rate are to use a credit card, or to take cash out at a Bank’s ATM. We recognize that many people may not be comfortable using their cards abroad for the risk of identity theft or skimming. If you plan to use cash, you’re better off using a bank's ATM than trying to change money at another exchange booth. You’ll get a favorable rate that’s as close to the real exchange rate as you’ll find.
Prepare for Propinas
If you’re Spanish isn’t great, a propina is a tip. By the time you leave Cozumel, you’ll know the word. As a tourist destination, people’s incomes rely on the cash that tourism brings. That means just about everyone will expect a tip. That includes drivers, waiters, maids, and whoever else provides any direct service. How much to tip depends on you, but figure about 10% of the bill or a few bucks a day for things like housekeeping.
Be Ready to Negotiate With Vendors
Find a souvenir you like? In most shops, that price on the item is a launching point for negotiations. You’ll get a feel for where you can barter and where you can’t. Places that seem like the stores you’d find back home have set prices. But smaller vendors you can negotiate with. The rule of thumb is to offer about half of what they list the item at and then work yourself up from there. Don’t feel comfortable negotiating? You’re on vacation. You shouldn’t do anything you don’t want to do. It’s ok to pay full price, just know that it might not be the best deal.
Make Sure You’re Drinking Purified Water
Even today it’s an excellent idea to drink purified water when you are visiting Cozumel. Restaurants go out of their way to either serve you a bottle or let you know that they purify the water. Still, if you aren't sure, it doesn’t hurt to ask if they purify the drinking water. A little prevention by being vigilant and making sure can benefit you save a lot of stomachaches later on.
Prepare for the Hawks at the Airport
Maybe it’s a coarse description of people just seeking to make an income, but it can feel you’re a mouse walking out of the Cozumel airport with hawks circling you. That’s a nickname for all the people selling timeshares. The delightful news is that they will take no for an answer, but they will make you say no again and again. Let them know you aren’t interested in their services with a courteous “no, gracias” and they will move on to the next person.
You Might Win the Prize in the Airport
Ok, it’s not a real prize, so don’t get your hopes up. Passing through customs, each person will walk up to a red and green light. Hit a button and hope that you get green. If you get the green light, then you’ll pass right on through the sliding doors and leave the airport. They stop those who get the red light and inspect their bags. Don’t think you did anything wrong or look suspicious. It’s a random draw who gets green and who gets red.
Keep Your Wits About You While Having a Good Time
We know Cozumel for being laid back. Go out, have a splendid time, and make some friends. But it’s important to keep your wits about you. Remember, you are in a foreign country and while it might seem Americanized; it binds you to follow the rules and laws of Mexico. Don’t think it is a “Disney” experience where nothing bad can happen or that the laws don’t apply.