Tips for Tulum

ALTO! Read these tips before you go.

ALTO! Read these tips before you go.

Planning a trip to Tulum but feeling like you’re forgetting something? Make sure you consider these factors.

ONE BAG IS FINE

Forget checking in a bag for this destination. You can definitely make it work with just a carry on! Osprey has created some fantastic bags that are designed to max out the allowable dimensions of a carry on bag. We packed them so well that we actually found we’d overpacked. If you’re going for 10 days, you can easily make it through without having to wash anything but if you’re going for longer there are inexpensive laundromats around town to keep you fresh. 

Ditch the stress of checked baggage and embrace the one bag lifestyle!

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DON'T DRINK THE TAP WATER

Unless you enjoy tempting fate, drink bottled water. They’re are crazy cheap at 7/11 so you can easily stop by throughout the day or stock up at the beginning of your trip. It’s a small price to pay to avoid spending your vacation in the washroom. 

That said, don’t stress about the ice — it’s made with purified water so you can enjoy those mojitos worry free. 

YOU DON'T NEED A SIM CARD

There is free WIFI everywhere in Tulum. Most restaurants or cafes that you visit will offer free access when you dine in or you can hang out at the ADO bus station and use theirs with no strings attached. 

By the end of our trip, we could almost walk from one end of the downtown strip to the other without losing signal because we were connected to so many places. 

TIPS ARE A THING

Most restaurants will include a footer on their receipt with examples of appropriate tips. But I find that they’re generally exaggerated. We found 10% to be a standard, appropriate tip and based on the service, you may want to give more. 

Much like other North American countries, tips are only necessary at bars and restaurants. 

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LEARN SOME SPANISH

Many residents in Tulum are familiar with English and you won’t have a difficult time getting what you need if you don’t know any Spanish. But not only do they appreciate when you try to speak their language, it does speed things up a little bit too. 

Although there will be times when they don’t speak any English and that’s when your broken Spanish will come in handy. Common phrases like hello, thank you and how much are good words to start with.

Other key words would be spicy, drink, bill, change or any other word you might use when ordering food. 

Our favourite phrase was “sin popote, por favor!” (no straw, please!)

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HAGGLING

Most commonly at souvenir stands and similar shops, items will be priced with haggling in mind. On average, we found you could get it down about 20% from the original offer but it really depends how comfortable you are with the concept. 

But keep in mind that Mexico is a third world country and if you’re on a vacation, chances are you have far more to give than they do. Try to remember that this is their income and what might be a fun game for you, is food on their table. 

Please haggle responsibly and respectfully.

WHAT ELSE TO PACK

Don’t get caught without these essential Tulum items:

  • Travel towel. There are so many opportunities to take a dip in this area but towels aren’t always available. You can buy lightweight microfibre towels on Amazon that pack up really nicely. 
  • Poncho or water proof jacket. The rain comes and goes in this tropical paradise and you don’t want it to ruin your day. It can come in any form: a light drizzle to a downpour. The week we were there happened to be very gloomy and there were so many times we wished we had something quick to throw on. 
  • Sunscreen. This is super important. The sun down here is strong and will burn your skin quickly if it has the opportunity. Apply often!
  • Good shoes. There is plenty of walking to be done here if you choose to skip the taxi. I’d recommend swapping your flip flops for a comfortable, breathable pair of running shoes. Save the sandals for the beach and your feet will thank you.
  • Bug spray. Even with some on hand, we came home with at least 15 bites each. The mosquitos here are vicious and will take any opportunity they can get to leave their mark. And when they get you, the bites are so itchy! This is especially important the further you venture into the jungle. Sian Ka’an was mosquito city.
  • Sweater or jacket. The nights can get a bit cold, despite the intense daytime heat. Nearly all of the bars and restaurants in Tulum are open-air so be prepared for a chilly night out. 

Just remember to only bring what you need and you can utilize the laundry services day to day as needed. The laundromat that we found offered bike rentals so we could drop off our laundry, rent a bike, and come back at the end of the day to do the opposite. 

Now you’re ready to take on Tulum!