Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. At no cost to you, I might earn a small commission if you make a purchase through the links in this article.
Renting a car in Cancun Airport is a perfect way to get on the road quickly and with no hassle, as you don’t have to get expensive taxis or wait for a private shuttle to pick you up.
✅ Read my complete guide to the best guided tours from Cancun
Cancun is a major destination in Mexico, accounting for nearly 50 percent of tourism in the country. Located in the Rivera Maya, it’s known for its fantastic beaches, all-inclusive hotels, and extensive entertainment options.
Cancun is also located a few hours from some of the best places in the Yucatan Peninsula, like the colonial city of Merida, hidden Mayan ruins like Ek Balam, and the spectacular lagoon of Bacalar. Renting a car is a great option, if you want to get out of the tourist bubble and take a road trip around Yucatan.
In this article, I will walk you through the process, so you can avoid common mistakes and have the best experience.
Where is Cancun Airport located?
Cancun International Airport (CUN) is located in Quintana Roo, a Mexican state along the Caribbean Sea.
How far is Cancun Airport from Cancun Hotel Zone?
The Cancun Airport is about 14 miles (22.5 km) from the Hotel Zone. You can get to Cancun Hotel Zone from the Airport by taxi, public transportation, or car rental.
Is it easy to rent a car in Cancun Airport?
Renting a car in Cancun Airport is easy. You can find dozens of vehicles on discovercars, a popular car rental platform that works with major car rental companies in Mexico and has some of the most competitive rates. You can also add full Mexican insurance for your car rental for $7 per day when booking your car with DiscoverCars.
Where are car rental companies at Cancun Airport?
Most car rental companies are located at Terminal 2 and 3, but some car rental companies are located in the airport area. While they might list their location as Cancun Airport, they are outside main terminals, and will typically send a driver to pick you up.
➡️ Read my complete guide to the best cenote tours from Cancun
Why you should rent a car in Cancun Airport
While you can rent a car in other cities in Rivera Maya, renting a car is the best way to save on taxis and public transportation. Taking a taxi from Cancun Airport to your hotel is expensive, and can be as much as the price of a car rental for a day! Same goes private shuttles that pick you up at the airport at the time of your arrival.
It’s much easier to square everything away by renting a car and hitting the road.
How much does it cost to rent a car in Cancun Airport?
It costs an average of per day $40 to rent a car. Note that the price for a car rental could differ depending on the timing of your trip. If you are traveling to Cancun during the high season (December through late March), you will pay a higher rate than during the low season (June through October), when Cancun often has rains and hurricanes.
What kind of cars can I rent at Cancun Airport?
Car rental companies offer many types of vehicles, but the most common models are Nissan, Toyota, and Kia.
Do I need a car rental in Cancun?
Not everyone needs a car rental. While rental cars could be great for one traveler, they might not make a whole lot of sense for another.
When you don’t need a car in Cancun:
- You are staying in an all-inclusive resort and don’t plan to out much, except for checking out some restaurants and cultural attractions in the area.
- You would rather take guided tours, instead of renting a car and having to navigate an unfamiliar place.
- You have limited knowledge of Spanish and are not comfortable driving a car in a foreign country.
- A car rental doesn’t fit into your budget and you would rather use public transportation.
When you need a car in Cancun:
- You are not staying in an all-inclusive resort and need a reliable transportation to get around.
- You like exploring and would like to see more of the region beyond Cancun.
- You are not a fan of guided tours and want to the hidden gems of Yucatan which are not covered by most guided tours.
- You want to explore some of the best beaches in Mexico located in Rivera Maya and the Golf Coast of Mexico.
So, if are looking to see more of Yucatan and skip guided tours, then renting a car is your best option. Keep reading to find more information on the topic.
What documents do I need for renting a car in Mexico?
Renting a car in Cancun Airport is no different than renting a car at any other destination in Mexico. You will need a valid driver’s license, a passport, a credit or debit card, and Mexican car insurance.
➡️ A passport
You will need your passport to rent a car in Mexico. A representative of the car rental company will make copies of your passport before giving it back to you.
➡️ A driver’s license
A valid driver’s license is required to rent a car. If you are traveling to Mexico from countries that don’t use the Roman language alphabet, you will need an international driver’s permit (IDP).
Can I drive in Mexico with a US license?
Yes, you can drive in Mexico with a valid US driver’s license as well as driver’s licenses from Canada, the EU, and the UK. If your driver’s license is not in English, you might need to buy an International Driving Permit that is typically valid for two years.
➡️ A credit or debit card
You can use a debit or credit card to rent a car in Mexico. A car rental company will put a hold on your credit card ranging between a few hundred dollars to over a thousand dollars. If you return your car rental with no damages, the hold on your credit card will go away.
➡️ A Mexican car insurance
To rent a car at Cancun Airport, you will need Mexican car insurance, also known as Third-Party Liability (TPL).
Note that car rental companies in Mexico will not accept US car insurance. A Mexican car rental insurance is mandatory when renting a car in any destination in Mexico. When you book your car with DiscoverCars, you can get insurance through their platform, so when you arrive at the car rental office, all you need to do is show your reservation.
✅ Have more questions? Check my guide to renting a car in Mexico
What to know about Mexico car insurance?
Car rental insurance is mandatory in Mexico, and you can choose from basic, medium, and full coverage when filling out your paperwork. Read my article about renting a car in Mexico to find out more about Mexico car insurance, since it’s a pretty big topic.
You can choose from three types of car insurance: basic, medium, and full coverage, with basic insurance offering only minimal protection and full coverage protecting you if your car is damaged, totaled or stolen.
Regardless of how experienced you are as a driver, I suggest full coverage with zero deductible that will provide full protection, so you don’t have to pay anything out of pocket.
How much is Mexico car insurance?
The price of a Mexican car insurance depends on your car rental company. Personal Liability Insurance is the basic minimum that’s included in your daily rate typically costs no more than $10 per day and offers a $2,000 deductible – or what you will have to pay out of pocket before the insurance kicks in in the event of an accident.
Some companies also include collusion damage waiver (CDW).
Full coverage insurance typically costs between $10-20, and offers $0 deductible, which means you don’t need to pay anything out of pocket.
Always ask your agent whether windows and tires are covered, as well as the critical parts. Make sure to clarify what’s considered minor damager and major damages, and whether they are covered by whatever type of insurance you want to get.
Getting your Mexican car insurance through DiscoverCars
It’s best to get your car rental insurance through DiscoverCars when booking your car.
DiscoverCars allows you to add Mexican car insurance (which is mandatory) for just under $10, which is super cheap compared to many other car rental companies.
Can I use US car insurance when renting a car in Mexico?
No, you can’t use your car insurance when renting a car in Mexico. You need Mexico car insurance when renting a car in Cancun. Some U.S. credit cards offer car insurance, but it’s not the best option given the fact that if anything were to happen, you would still need to pay money out of pocket before getting a reimbursement.
The easiest way is to get car insurance from your car rental company. It will save you a lot of time and money, and you will be able to ask any questions about how it works while you are at a car rental agency.
Does Mexican car insurance cover me in the event of an accident?
Mexican car insurance covers a vehicle, but it’s not going to cover your hospital bills if you get injured in a car accident. I recommend SafetyWing, a popular travel insurance that will cover your hospital bills if anything were to happen on the road while you are traveling in Mexico.
Racking up thousands of dollars in hospital bills is the last you want to happen when going on a road trip, and this insurance will protect you from any unforeseen expenses.
Common car rental scams in Mexico
Talk about how Mexico has some common car rental scams that you can come across when renting a car in many destinations including Cancun.
✅ Extremely low rates
If you find extremely low rates (usually under $15), it should raise a red flag as these low prices are designed “to get you” and don’t include many other fees, taxes and mandatory insurance. Once you arrive at the office, your car rental rate could go from just under $10 to well over $100 per day very quickly.
✅ Additional insurance
You are legally required to have a car insurance while driving in Mexico, but the only required minimum is the basic liability. Anybody who is trying to tell you that you are required to purchase more than that is lying to you. Any additional coverage is up to your discretion.
✅ A tank that’s not filled up
After you sign the paperwork, your car rental agent will walk with you toward the car where you will look at the vehicle inside and outside. When you get inside the vehicle, check how much gas there’s in the tank.
Many car rental companies in Mexico will give you at least half a tank of gas, and you will need to return your vehicle with the same amount. Make sure you check how much gas is in your car vehicle before leaving.
✅ Add-ons like GPS, or any other accessories
Carefully read your contract to ensure that your car rental company isn’t charging you for things like GPS, or other accessories that you don’t need. While it’s not common, it’s better to check for these things than not.
✅ Any damages that already exist
Before driving off, carefully examine the inside and outside of your car and take photos of any visible damages like scratches and bumps. It’s not uncommon for rental cars in Mexico to charge customers for damages that haven’t been done by them. To avoid this situation, take photos and videos of everything and make sure to show them to your agent.
✅ Hidden costs
In addition to fancy devices, GPS systems or anything else that you didn’t ask for, make sure to check for any additional fees or hidden costs. For example, some companies have surcharges for going over allowed mileage, road side assistance or dropping off your car at a different car rental office.
TIPS FOR DRIVING IN CANCUN
Whether you rent a car in Mexico Caribbean, or any other major destination like Guadalajara, Puerto Vallarta, or Cabo San Lucas, there are some things you should know before getting on the road. While driving in Mexico is very straightforward, it comes with some caveats, and it’s best to be prepared before you begin your trip.
Driving in Cancun is not much different from other places in Mexico, but once you leave the airport, you need to know the rules for driving in Mexico to stay safe on the road.
Being able to speak Spanish is highly beneficial if you plan to explore the country on your own. When you drive around Yucatan, you will need to communicate with people at gas stations and stores. If you get stopped by police, you should be ready to show your documents, and answer questions.
✔️Don’t pump your gas
All Mexican gas stations have attendants who put gas in your car when you get to the pump. Specify the amount of gas that you need and ask the price before they begin doing it. Many people who work at gas stations make only minimum wage, so leave a little tip before driving off.
✅ Check my guide to tipping in Mexico to know how much to leave for your gas station attendant
PRO TIP: Pay close attention to how much money you are giving to a gas pump attendant. A gas pump scam is one of the most common petty scams in Mexico, and if you are not paying attention, you could easily get ripped off.
How do you pump gas in Mexico?
You do not pump your gas in Mexico. All gas stations in Mexico have attendants who will pump your gas for you, and also wash your windshield and check your tire pressure if you ask for it. If they do, you are expected to leave a small tip of 15-20 Pesos.
How to avoid gas station scams in Mexico?
Before you tell your gas station attendant how much gas you need, make sure to check that the pump is set to zero. This is one of the most common scams in Mexico aimed at people who might not pay a whole lot of attention to the gas pump.
Do you tip gas pumpers in Mexico?
It’s common to tip gas station attendants in Mexico. Most people leave 10-15 Pesos regardless of the amount go gas purchased. If you feel like you received excellent service, leave more.
✔️Always carry cash
Speaking of tipping gas station attendants in Mexico brings me to my next point, which is always carrying cash when driving in Mexico. You can give tips to gas pumpers, buy road snacks from local vendors, and pay people who might come up to wash your windshield while you are sitting in traffic.
Mexico uses kilometers
Mexico uses kilometers, not miles. A mile is about 1.6 kilometers, but when it comes to driving, your best bet is to follow the posted speed limit to avoid trouble.
✔️Use toll roads (cuotas) to save time
The Yucatan Peninsula is one of the safest places to visit in Mexico, so you can drive on secondary roads without having to worry for your safety. The only toll in the region is located along the highway from Cancun to Merida, and you can take it to save time on the road, if you are traveling between these two cities.
The highway from Cancun to Merida has two tolls. One is along the stretch between Merida and Valladolid and another one is between Valladolid and Cancun. Make sure to bring cash, because these tolls do not accept credit cards.
✔️Be prepared to pay the bribe. Or not
Mexican police do take bribes, and as a foreign tourist, you are not immune to this. If you get stopped for speeding or any other reason, you might encounter police who are offering you to pay a bribe to avoid the ticket.
Whether you want to do it or not, depends on the situation. You can take a ticket and pay it later, or give in and just pay it off. My advice is to follow your instincts and do what looks to be the best way to avoid trouble.
✔️Follow the posted signs
Your best bet to avoid trouble is to follow the rules. Wear a seat belt, respect the signs, follow a posted speed limit, and put down your phone. It will help to avoid any unwanted attention and not get pulled over by police in the first place.
What is the speed limit in Mexico?
Speed limits vary in different areas in Mexico. For example, two-lane highways in Mexico usually have a speed limit of 90 km per hour (56 miles per hour), while highways connecting bigger cities have a speed limit of 90–100 km per hour (56–62 miles per hour). Rural roads in Mexico have a speed limit of about 70-90 km per hour (43-56 miles per hour).
That being said, different jurisdictions might have their speed limits, so do follow the posted speed limit, when you travel around the country.
Can you turn right on red in Mexico?
It’s illegal to turn right at a red light in Mexico unless there’s a sign that allows you to do so.
✔️Put down your phone
Speaking on the phone while driving is illegal in Mexico, and if police catch you doing so, you will get a fine.
✔️Drive during the day
Limit your driving to the daytime. While the Yucatan Peninsula is generally safe for driving, some secondary roads have bumps and potholes, and once it gets dark, many animals begin to roam around. Skip driving at night to avoid accidents.
✔️Watch out for topes (speed bumps)
The speed bumps in Mexico are called topes (toe-pe’s) and you can find them in many places. Speed bumps around Yucatan are usually concrete and can be pretty high, so if you hit them at full speed, you could damage your car. Always watch out for topes when driving around small towns along the highway, where they are common.
Is it better to rent a car at Cancun Airport?
The best place to rent a car in town is Cancun International Airport. It’s the most convenient option since it’s going to be your entry point into the country, and it also has many car rental companies with a good selection of vehicles.
Is it easy to rent a car at Cancun Airport?
Renting a car at the airport is convenient because many car rental companies are located within the airport, and you don’t have to spend money on taxis.
Can I drive in Cancun with a US license?
A valid U.S. driver’s license from any U.S. allows you to rent a car in many places in Mexico. Just make sure to check that your driver’s license is valid for at least another six months from the date you want to rent a car.
What are the best car rentals at Cancun International Airport?
According to reviews, the best car rental companies in Cancun are Avis, Hertz, Budget, National and Sixt. If you prefer a local platform you can rent your car with Mex Rent A Car or City Car Rental, my favorite Mexican car rental company.
Is it cheaper to rent a car in Cancun or Tulum?
It’s typically cheaper to rent a car in Cancun than in Tulum. Cancun has a better selection of car rental companies, and better rates than Tulum.
✅ Check my complete guide to renting a car in Tulum
How to save money on car rentals
- Stay away from super low rates – When you look for car rentals, you will find many good deals that look reasonable. But these deals do not always include mandatory car insurance.
- Book early – The best way to say money on your car rental is to book it ahead of time. The earlier you book your vehicle, the less money you will pay. This is especially true for a high season in Cancun as well as major holidays, when many people travel.
- Learn to drive a stick shift – While most rental cars in Mexico have an automatic transmission, some still have a stick shift. During the high season when many rental car companies have a shortage of vehicles, they may only have cars with a stick shift left. This happened to me several times, because not only I was able to get a car, but I also paid less for it, as cars with a manual transmission are often priced lower than cars with an automatic transmission.
- Rent an economy car with good mileage – If you want to save money on a car rental in Tulum, rent a small economy car that will not need a lot of gas. Many car rental companies have compact cars, and the best part is that they also cost less money than standard sedan vehicles.
- Split cost with your friends and family – See if any of your friends and family want to join you on your adventure.
- Rent at a small company – Bigger car rentals companies like Budget, Hertz, and Avis charge higher prices. If you can rent a car with a Mexican car rental company, you are likely to pay less.
- Take photos of your car – When you sign all the paperwork and go outside to pick up your car, take photos and videos of the interior and exterior. This is especially true if a car has scratches, dings, or any other visible damage, so you don’t get charged for them when you return the car.
- Read your contract carefully to avoid scams – It’s not uncommon to come across car rental scams in Mexico. Carefully read your car rental contract before signing it. Look out for add-ons and extra charges on top of your regular rate.
- Avoid major holidays – When planning your trip, it’s best to avoid major holidays like Christmas, New Year’s Eve, and Spring Break. Cancun also gets busy during traditional Mexican holidays, when many domestic travelers make their way there to enjoy the Caribbean beaches.
- Visit during the low season – Although visiting Cancun during the low season can be a hit or miss because of the rainy weather, it has a big advantage – lower prices on car rentals, accommodations, and tours. The low season lasts from May through late October and brings plenty of rain and seaweed to local beaches. Not every day is rainy, but if you plan to visit during this time, check whether the forecast calls for hurricanes.
PLACES TO VISIT NEAR CANCUN
Renting a car gives you an incredible opportunity to visit the entire Yucatan Peninsula – and possibly beyond (that depends on your agreement with a car rental company).
1. Playa Del Carmen
Distance from Playa Del Carmen to Cancun: 62 km (42 miles)
Where to stay in Playa Del Carmen: Cielo y Mar
Playa Del Carmen is the closest city to Cancun that makes for a perfect mini getaway. It boasts great beaches, vibrant nightlife, and great shopping. It also boasts proximity to several cenotes like Cenote El Jardin Del Eden, Cenote Dos Ojos and Cenote Cristalino.
✅ Check my complete guide to the best snorkeling tours from Playa Del Carmen
The city boasts a convenient base for your adventures in Mexico’s Rivera Maya, as you can access most places in the region in a few hours from Playa Del Carmen.
2. Chichen Itza
Distance from Cancun to Chichen Itza: 197 km (122 miles)
Where to stay near Chichen Itza: TecnoHotel Valladolid
Chichen Itza is one of the most popular places to visit in Yucatan thanks to its status as one of the Wonders of the World and a UNESCO Heritage Site.
Chichen Itza is a perfect day trip, but unless you arrive early, be ready for big crowds. When you have a car rental, you can arrive the day before, spend the night in one of the hotels in the area, and be the first to enter the site before the crowds arrive.
Distance from Cancun to Tulum: 131 km (81 miles)
Where to stay in Tulum: Azucar Hotel Tulum
Tulum is one of the most popular destinations in Mexico Caribbean famous for its white sand beaches, spectacular Mayan ruins, and wonderful food scene. Tulum offers proximity to some of the best places in Rivera Maya like Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, Coba ruins, and Xcaret Park.
✅ Read my complete guide to the best cenotes near Tulum
4. Laguna Ka’an Luum
Distance from Cancun to Laguna Ka’an Luum: 147 km (91 miles)
Where to stay near Laguna Ka’an Luum: Encantada Tulum
Located just 15 minutes from Tulum, Laguna Kaa’n Luum is a big open-air cenote that’s perfect if you want to get a break from the beach and enjoy a picnic. Kaan Luum is the Mayan language for “tierra amarilla” (“yellow land”)
The swimmable side of the lagoon which is the area marked by cords is only 2 to 3 mt deep and very safe. The cenote area is 85 mt deep, and its access is only allowed to certified divers with their instructor or guide.
Distance from Cancun to Bacalar: 346 km (215 miles)
Where to stay in Bacalar: La Galuna Bacalar
Bacalar is a pueblo magico in southern part of Yucatan not far from Belize border. Famous for its Lagoon of Seven Colors, Bacalar is a must. You can jump in the lagoon from one of the wooden piers, swim in Los Rapidos, take a kayak tour, or join a guided boat tour of the lagoon.
Although Bacalar is a small town, time will fly once you get here, because there’s so much to do! The area is home to cenotes, Mayan ruins, and great restaurants, so you will likely want to extend your stay in Bacalar.
➡️ Check my complete guide to the best hotels in Bacalar
Distance from Cancun to Merida: 312 km (194 miles)
Where to stay in Merida: Gran Real Yucatan
Merida is the capital of the Yucatan State and is the largest city in the Yucatan Peninsula by population. Merida is the center of Mexico’s Mayan culture and boasts a great colonial heritage.
Merida is a worthy stop on your Yucatan itinerary because of its culture, proximity to Mayan ruins, cenotes, and delicious Yucatec cuisine, which you can try in many Merida restaurants.
Distance from Cancun to Valladolid: 156 km (97 miles)
Where to stay in Valladolid: Hotel El Meson del Marques
Valladolid is a UNESCO-designated town in the heart of the Yucatan Peninsula famous for its pastel-colored architecture, cenotes, and friendly atmosphere. Valladolid is also one of the cheapest places to visit in the region which is great for budget travelers and backpackers.
It’s also a popular pueblo magico that’s perfect for day trips to many places in the region like the pink lakes Las Coloradas, Chichen Itza and Izamal.
Distance from Cancun to Coba: 133 km (83 miles)
Where to stay in Coba: Kaan Coba
One of the most popular Mayan ruins in Mexico, Coba is an archaeological area 40 minutes away from Tulum.
Located near the namesake town, Coba is famous for the largest network of sac-be’s (which means white road in the Mayan language). Archaeologists have discovered about 50 roads in the area, but only 16 are open to the public. They connect various parts of Coba to the main Pyramid Nohoch Mul and the nearby lake.
After exploring the Mayan ruins, head to Coba cenotes, where you can take a swim in the crystal waters.
All Coba cenotes are open from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m.
Distance from Cancun to Campeche: 477 km (296 miles)
Where to stay in Campeche: Hacienda Puerto Campeche
A hidden gem of the Yucatan Peninsula, Campeche is a charming colonial town and is the capital of the Campeche State that boasts a UNESCO-designated Old Town. Campeche is still off the radar, and few travelers know about it. The city also offers access to some of the best beaches in Campeche state like Isla Aguada and Sabancuy, where you can enjoy the incredible emerald waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
Renting a car in Cancun Airport: FAQs
How are the roads in Cancun, Mexico?
Most roads in Cancun are well-maintained, but you might still encounter some potholes and bumps, especially on secondary roads away from the Cancun Hotel Zone. Always pay close attention to road conditions when driving around Cancun.
Is it safe to drive in Cancun?
Yes, driving in Cancun is safe, but it takes adjustment as the city has a lot of traffic. If you have never rented a car in Mexico before and plan on driving in Cancun, get full insurance coverage that will protect you in the event of accidents.
Is there Uber in Cancun?
As of 2023, there’s no Uber in Cancun. While the company made an attempt to legalize its services in Cancun, local taxi drivers have created a very strong opposition, which resulted in several protests. If you don’t have a car rental, your options are taxis, public buses and guided tours.
What side of the road do they drive on in Mexico?
Cars drive on the right side of the road in Mexico just like in the United States, Canada and most countries in Europe.
How far are the pyramids from Cancun?
Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula is home to hundreds of Mayan pyramids. The most famous of them, Chichen Itza is 197 km or 122 miles away from Cancun, and it takes about 2,5 hours to get from Cancun to Chichen Itza by car.
Is it safe to drive in Cancun at night?
While you are relatively safe driving through the area at night, it’s best to limit your driving to daytime, especially if you don’t have a lot of experience driving in Mexico.
Is it safe to drive from Cancun to Tulum at night?
While the road to Cancun is well-traveled, it’s best to avoid driving at night for safety reasons, especially if you don’t have a lot of experience driving in Mexico.
What’s the best place to rent a car in Cancun?
The best place to rent a car in Cancun is the airport. You will avoid surcharges unlike at airports in other major destinations and will be able to save on taxis and shuttles and start your road trip right away.
I recommend booking your car with DiscoverCars, which allows you to compare rates from all car rental companies at Cancun Airport. Use the widget below to get a free quote.
Renting a car is a perfect option to explore the Yucatan on your term and skip guided tours and public buses. The best way to do so is by renting a car, so you can avoid expensive taxis to get to your car rental office.
More resources for planning your trip to Cancun
- Agoda.com – a great website for budget hotels in Cancun and other parts of Mexico.
- WorldNomads – Great service for insurance coverage that will keep you safe on the road.
- Safety Wing – Excellent insurance plan for long-term travelers offers competitive rates if you plan to stay on the road several weeks in a row.
- iVisa – the best website for getting help with your Mexico visa.
- DiscoverCars – Rent a car at DiscoverCars if you want more freedom exploring Cancun and surrounding areas.
- GetYourGuide – This is one of the best platforms for finding the best tours. Get Your Guide is my favorite platform that offers awesome tours and top-notch guides in many destinations in Mexico.
- CheapoAir – One of the best platforms for saving money on flights within Mexico.
- Booking – a popular website with many options for accommodations of all sorts.