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Drive Cancun to Tulum – Safety Tips + Stops

Drive Cancun to Tulum – Safety Tips + Stops

Are you planning on driving from Cancun to Tulum but unsure how or if it’s safe? We’ve got you covered.

Let us walk you through everything you need to know. We’ve rented a car at the Cancun airport and driven to Tulum 20+ times!

We fell in love with Mexico years ago and once called Playa del Carmen “home.” When we lived in Playa del Carmen, we rented a car from Playa del Carmen and the Cancun International Airport all the time and have made this exact drive numerous times.

Driving from Cancun to Tulum is way easier than you think. Once you are out of the Cancun airport, you are on the main road that goes straight into Tulum. But before you hit the road, there are a few crucial driving in Mexico tips you should know.

Driving in a foreign country can be intimidating, but the freedom of having a car is amazing. Here is everything you need to know about driving Cancun to Tulum!

woman standing next to a rental car in Cancun after picking it up from the airport

Drive Cancun to Tulum – Best Car Rentals in Cancun

First things first when it comes to driving is a car. You’ll need to book a rental car. We always book online here with Discover Cars.

It is crucial that you book online in advance to get the best prices. If you try to rent a car in person without a reservation, they most likely won’t have a car, but if they do, most car rental companies will want $100+ a day.

You can read our in-depth guide about renting a car in Cancun here. It is super easy to reserve with your credit card.

We always suggest having travel insurance. We use Safety Wing for all our travels.

map drive from Cancun to Tulum

Must Know Info – Driving Cancun to Tulum

Is it easy to drive from Cancun to Tulum?

I think it is a super easy drive. Once you leave the airport, you are on the main highway all the way to Tulum.

The main highway goes right through the city of Tulum. If you are staying at Tulum Beach resort, the beach road (Highway 15) is at a stop-and-go light one turn.

Drive Cancun to Tulum: Distance

It is about 72 miles from the Cancun airport to Tulum.

How long is the car ride from Cancun to Tulum?

Without traffic, the travel time is 1.5 hours to drive Cancun to Tulum. The exact time varies from day to day, the time of day, etc.

I would plan on something more like 2 hours, to be realistic, but it could take 3 hours+ if there is traffic. Allow plenty of time. If you are heading back to the airport, make sure to check Google Maps several hours before your flight.

Where is the best place to rent a car?

We always rent online in advance here with Discover Cars and pick up our car at the Cancun airport. That way, you can jump in the car and drive straight to Tulum.

I will start by saying that it is a very frustrating process actually getting a rental car at the Cancun airport. There are always long lines. They rarely have the car you rented, etc. You can read our complete guide in this article.

What is the Closest Airport to Tulum?

There is no airport in Tulum. The cheapest option for flights is to fly into Cancun. Cancun International Airport is where most tourists fly into.

Tulum Packing List – Pack This & Not That

Highway Cancun to Tulum Drive

Driving in Mexico Safety Tips

Before you jump in the car, there are a few things you should know about when driving in Mexico that are most likely different than at home.

How are the roads driving to Tulum from Cancun?

For 99% of the drive from Cancun to Tulum, you will be on the main highway, highway 307, like in the above photo. Overall, road conditions are good. There are tons of roads where we live that are much worse!

The highway is your typical two-lane highway with a median in the middle for most of the drive. There are a few different things, though, and we’ll go over them.

Drive Cancun to Tulum Mexican Traffic Checkpoints

You will come across several traffic checkpoints between Cancun and Tulum. There will be signs in advance warning you they are coming up. There will also most likely be a slight backup, as cars are slowing down and sometimes stopping for them.

If the cars are slowing down and going through them without stopping. Do the same. If you get flagged to stop, stop.

Car driving through a police check point in Mexico- Renting a car in Cancun

Watch out for Speed Bumps

Yes, there are speed bumps in the middle of the highway. There are even more speed bumps once you enter towns.

Not all two speed bumps are the same. Some are much more aggressive than others. Some have warnings they are coming up. Some have very little warning to no warning. Most are painted yellow, but some of the paint has worn off.

Speed bumps in Spanish are called Tope. The sign may have two bumps and say Tope.

One-Way Streets in Tulum

When driving in Tulum or anywhere really in Mexico, watch out for one-way streets. You will not always see a one-way sign like at home.

When looking at a street sign, there will be arrows, and they will be pointing in the direction the street goes. This will indicate it is a one-way street going in that direction.

Can you drive to Tulum from Cancun with a US driver’s license?

Yes, you do not need any special driver’s license to rent a car in Mexico or drive a car in Mexico.

Is it Safe to Drive in Tulum?

We think so, yes. We have never had any issues driving in Tulum or in Quintana Roo. We are confident drivers, though, and have driven in 30+ countries.

If you are a nervous driver in your home country, you probably shouldn’t drive in Mexico.

No Cell Phone Use

Do not use your cell phone while driving. If you do, use your phone hands-free.

The one time we got stopped at a traffic checkpoint was because Adam was on his phone. They let him go with a warning.

Passing Cars in Mexico

When you are driving on the main highway to Tulum, you will notice cars getting over into the shoulder lane to let other cars pass. We actually really like how they “share” the road in Mexico. If someone is trying to pass, get over and let them pass.

What is different about cars passing in Mexico is that they will do this technique on a two-lane road with oncoming traffic. This will appear scary the first time you see it, but it is normal there, and all cars just move accordingly. Oncoming traffic will get over if a car is trying to pass that is on oncoming traffic. So you may need to get over for a car passing you, or you may need to get over for a car passing in oncoming traffic.

You will only run into this if you drive further onto Bacalar or possibly take a road trip to Holbox. Both of which are amazing places that you should check out.

Don’t forget your insurance! You never know when you’ll need it. We suggest getting travel insurance with Safety Wing. Which coverage includes medical, trip interruption, lost luggage, and more. Often rates are as low as $12 a week. 

Parking lot on Tulum Beach

Parking in Tulum

Parking in Tulum Town

Parking in Tulum town is relatively easy. We always find street parking within a few blocks of our destination. Some of the best breakfasts in Tulum are in town, so we find ourselves here often.

Just make sure to watch the street signs as you are driving through town. A lot of the streets are one-way.

Parking car in Tulum Beach on the road

Parking in Tulum Beach

If you are staying at a Tulum Beach Resort, most offer free parking to guests, but I would confirm this in advance. If you are driving in for the day, expect to pay 200 pesos for the day to park.

If you are driving towards Playa Paraiso, there is a good amount of parking on the road for free. You will see cars parked along the road; see if there is a spot you can fit into that isn’t blocking the road/driveway.

Some of the best Tulum beach restaurants also offer free parking. Ask in advance if you need parking validated or a receipt.

Is it easy to get around Tulum without a car?

No. Tulum is split up between Tulum Town and Tulum Beach. Make sure to read our Where to Stay in Tulum article to decide what is best for you. If you are staying at a hotel in town but want to go to the beach every day, you will either want a rental car or rent a bike.

Both a rental car and a bike have their own downsides. Parking on Tulum Beach is 200+ Mexican pesos a day, and the traffic is insane. If you rent a bike, be prepared for the ride to take 30 minutes/10 km from the town to most of the best beach clubs in Tulum. We rented a bike in Tulum once….it was hot, dusty, and uncomfortable.

Taxis in Tulum

The other option is a taxi, but a one-way taxi from Tulum to Tulum Beach is $25 USD one way. The taxi prices in Tulum are out of this world. Again, we avoid taxis at all costs.

Other Transportation from Cancun to Tulum

We have an in-depth travel guide on getting from Cancun to Tulum here. This covers all the different transport options and the pros and cons of each way.

We’ll quickly go over the highlights of that article here.

Cancun airport to Playa del Carmen priv

Best airport shuttle to Tulum

If you choose not to drive to Tulum, the next best way and quickest way to Tulum, is to book a private transportation shuttle service, that is, door-to-door service from your Tulum hotel direct to the airport.

If we don’t rent a car, this is the mode of transport we go with. Since we travel with kids, we need a private driver with a big enough car for us and all of our luggage. For an extra cost they can provide car seats, last time we didn’t pay for this and they brought car seats for us to use anyways (we had our own so we didn’t need them).

We always use this company, Cancun Airport Transportation, for a private transfer to Tulum. We book direct with them online here in advance. They are, in our opinion, the best option and the cheapest way to take a private car. If you book a round trip, the price is slightly discounted.

Once you have gone through immigration and have your luggage, you will go through the sliding glass doors and exit the airport. You will want to look for someone wearing the logo in the above photo. They will have a clipboard with your name and reservation. They will call your driver and bring you to meet the driver.

How much is a taxi from Cancun to Tulum?

This is all based on your Spanish and negotiating skills. It wouldn’t surprise me if it cost $120+ USD. Skip this headache and book the cheap shuttle.

We have had very few positive interactions with taxi drivers and would avoid taking a taxi to or from the airport at all costs.

Ado bus terminal in Tulum

Cancun Bus to Tulum

Solo travelers and budget travelers looking for the cheapest way to Tulum should consider taking public transportation and specifically the ADO bus. Click here for ticket prices and bus times.

The Ado buses are comfortable and have air conditioning, but they are not direct to Tulum. They make several stops before the Tulum bus station.

The Ado bus terminal is located in the center of Tulum town. The Ado buses arrive and depart from here. It is a convenient location if you are staying in Tulum town.

Can you take an Uber from Cancun to Tulum?

No, Uber is not in Mexico. The easiest way to get from Cancun to Tulum is by booking this direct private shuttle.

We prefer having our own car and having the freedom to take day trips around Tulum. We suggest visiting some of the best Mayan ruins right away in the morning, before the tourist buses, and before the afternoon heat.

If you want to take a day trip to some beautiful beaches or nearby Tulum cenotes, it is a good option to rent a car. Otherwise, taking tours and taxis to visit all the things to do in Tulum will really add up.

Have you driven from Cancun to Tulum? How was it?

Any tips you think we should add to our article?