I must-ache you a question… Have you ever been to Mexico? Playa del Carmen is a town on the Yucatan Peninsula, in the state of Quintana Roo. It’s situated an hour south of Cancun (you will likely fly into the airport here) and is a popular tourist destination in Mexico. Here are 7 tips for Playa del Carmen that I’ve learned from living here.
- Do I need to know Spanish to go to Mexico?
- What is the main street in Playa del Carmen?
- What is there to drink if I don’t like tequila?
Watch the video or read on to find out the answer to these questions and more tips for visiting Playa del Carmen
Tip #1: Ignore the Weather App
Playa del Carmen can get hot. And humid. You may need a sweatshirt or light jacket at night in the months of December to February. But unless you are coming then, you will likely only need shorts, t-shirts, and of course a swimsuit. And your weather app might show that its going to rain everyday, but then you’ll have a full day of sun. Or maybe you just lathered up with some SFP 50 suncreen and it starts to rain. The weather is hard to predict and can change fast. So if you do find yourself in a rainstorm, chances are it will be over fast. So ignore your weather app, and have a great time.
Tip #2: Politely Decline Street Vendors
The main strip in Playa del Carmen is 5th Ave (Quinta Avenida). This is where most stores, restaurants, and tourists are. You’ll walk a lot. And you will get offered drugs and people will holler out at you try and get you into their stores. One of my favorite lines is:
“I got crap for sale. Want to buy some crap?”
“Hey, you remember me from the hotel? I was your waiter!”
These are just ploys to try and get you to engage them so they can try to sell you something. It can get annoying. Actually… super annoying. But just say “no gracias” and keep walking. They are just trying to make a living like we all are.
Tip #3: Get of 5th Avenue
Speaking of 5th Ave brings me to my next tip for Playa del Carmen… get the fuck off 5th Ave. I know I said 5th Ave has many shops and restaurants, BUT…
You’re going to be walking down 5th Ave, and you’re going to see colorful restaurants filled with tourists. Some will even have live music. And you’re going to think “hey, this place looks great!” And you’re going to stop. I get it. They look fun. And they might be. And yes, a Dos Equis here will be the same as a Dos Equis elsewhere. Bu once you get the overpriced tacos you ordered, you’re going to ask yourself “These are what tacos are like in Mexico?” They will look like microwaved chicken on a tortilla.
Now I’m not saying not to stop at these places. But I am saying that they cater to tourists, charge high prices, and often the businesses turn over quickly. There are some great restaurants on 5th Ave if you know where to go, but I have found that most of my favorite restaurants in Playa del Carmen are not on the main strip. Street carts on 30th Ave will have better tacos for 1/3 the price.
Tip #4: The Salsa Might be Spicy
Most meals at Playa del Carmen restaurants will come with free tortilla chips a variety of salsas. Some may give you an aioli or a chipotle sauce but the most common are a red salsa and a green salsa. And the GREEN one is usually the spicy salsa. I’m sure there are exceptions, but I suggest you start with a small dab on your tortilla chip to test it first. Otherwise, your tongue may go numb before you get your tacos.
Tip #5: Burritos Are Not Very Common
You might get lunch at Chipotle when you are home in the U.S. You order your chicken burrito and think to yourself “I can’t wait to try a real Mexican burrito when I head down there on vacation.” Well guess what? This burrito that means “Little Donkey” in Spanish isn’t really that Mexican. It’s a sort of American-Mexican item that can be found in the north on either side of the US-Mexico border. Although they do exist in Playa, I’ve only seen them on a handful of menu’s. It’s not really an item you will get here. Tacos however, are a different story. These you can get everywhere. And you should.
Tip #6: There are Things to Drink other than Tequila
Yes, tequila is everywhere. There are tequila stores all along 5th Ave. But if you’re one of those people that doesn’t like tequila since you drank too much of it that one time on college spring break, you can easily find other things. Other spirits, Mexican craft beer, cocktails such as mojitos, or even Mexican wine are everywhere. You’ll be fine. But if you do decide to wade back into the waters and confront your demon from years past, much of the tequila is much better than the Jose Cuervo you typically find in the U.S.
Mezcal might be a great thing to try. But also, Mexican wine is finally starting to make a name for itself. Most of the wine you find by the glass will be the cheap stuff, but if you go to Chedraui or a wine store such as Off the Vine on 38th St, you can find some great Mexican wine. In fact, Casa Madero began planting thier vineyards in 1597, and is the oldest winery on the entire Americas.
Tip #7: You Don't Need to Know Spanish, but Learn a Few Words and Phrases
You don’t need to know Spanish to get by, as most people here know English pretty well. And there’s typically and English menu too. In fact, when they see you look like a tourist, they are likely to bring you the English menu without you even asking for it. I prefer when the menus have both English and Spanish on the same menu so that I can learn.
Because although you don’t need to know Spanish, you should try to learn some anyway. At the very least, say phrases like “gracias” or “Buenos dias” when you greet someone. Or of course the very important phrase “uno cerveza mas por favor”.
Learn some basic phrases
Buenos días, buenos tardes, buenos noches: Good morning, good afternoon, good evening
Por favor: please
Lo siento: I’m sorry
Cómo está?: How are you?
¿Cuánto cuesta?: How much does this cost?
Dónde está el baño: Where is the bathroom