Cancun International (CUN) can be a nightmare in the high season, spring break in particular. But during the low season, it’s one of the easiest and, daresay one of the most pleasant international airport experiences. Each year my friends and I go to Tulum, which is a gem of the Riviera Maya on the Yucatan Peninsula. It’s always nice when a friend of the family owns two beautiful casitas right on the beach and a quick, easy and drama-free airport experience is a sure way to start your vacation off right. The customs lines move rather quickly in the low season and you may be afforded certain ‘perks’ not available when the airport is teeming with tourists and Mexican nationals who live in the Yucatan interior.
During my last trip I packed as lightly as possible, only bringing a valise containing the essentials: speedo, book, toiletries, change of clothes. As I waited to exit, an airport attendant made eye contact with me and motioned suggestively with his head toward a stack of wheelchairs against the wall, “sit, sit, I take you,” he said in Spanish implying that if I were in a wheelchair I could cut the long line. In my mind I played out the ethical and moral implications. I looked at my smiling co-conspirator and reluctantly took a seat in the wheelchair. I rolled up to the last security checkpoint and put the valise through the x-ray machine. The custom’s agent asked the standard question: how long will you be here? Two weeks.
Here’s a quick tip: traveling with only one item of luggage is suspicious and suspicion increases when you’re wearing a white linen suit,looking like Paul Bowles in a wheelchair. The valise was emptied and searched, the cute Mayan girl who monitors the x-ray screen smiled her eyes at me and a crowd began to build behind me with hopes of seeing a drug bust or some such spectacle. The customs agent handed me the valise, a green light came on and my new friend pushed me outside to the Grab n’ Go Bar directly outside the terminal.
The Grab n’ Go is the best part of CUN, wheelchairs notwithstanding. It’s outdoors, right next to the taxi stands and there’s nothing like an ice cold beer and tequila shot after a long flight. CUN is about 2 hours north of Tulum and if you don’t have a car stashed in the bushes near the beach, or don’t want to rent a car, your best bet is a taxi or shuttle service. It runs about 50 to 75 at the driver’s discretion. They’ll even stop off at the Supermercado San Francisco so you can stock up on the rum, beer, sunblock and food you’ll need for the first few days. You can take a shuttle to Play del Carmen and then a bus to Cancun, possibly saving some cash but it’s hot and slow. Another important tip when traveling: establish a sensible system of worth. Adam Smith once wrote, “the real price of everything, what everything really costs to the man who wants to acquire it, is the toil and trouble of acquiring it.” In the low season CUN is an absolute breeze, just don’t expect this ease and speed all year round, your toil and trouble may just multiply.