Traveling to Tulum: 7 Things To Know Before You Go

Yep, That's Shan!
Tulum Beach Road

Tulum is quickly becoming the go-to spot in Mexico for those looking for a fun beach getaway with the option to turn up or turn down.  Whether you are trying to decide if Tulum is the perfect destination for you or if you’ve already booked those airline tickets and want to complete your checklist, here are 7 things you should know about the bohemian-chic Tulum. If you’re looking for my guide to Tulum, you can find that here. I also shot a video giving you a sneek peek into what to expect!

Since Tulum is visited by many, I won’t bore you with all the travel basics, like the best time to travel, best hotels, and where to stay, etc. In this series, I will highlight the seven things you need to know before you go…the things you may not find easily in a travel guide.

Stick to Bottled or Purified Water.

No one wants to deal with “stomach issues” while on vacation and the best way to decrease the chances of getting sick or coming down with the dreadful “Montezuma’s revenge” is to stick to drinking only bottled water or using the purified water provided by your hotel. Even the locals don’t drink the tap water so that should be the first sign. Well, what about ice and how would I brush my teeth? Great question. Ice is typically made from purified water so you are safe there and when you brush your teeth you should use the same (or of course, bottled water). It was tricky turning on the faucet in my hotel and trying to remember to not stick my hand under the running water to rinse my mouth. Even when you’re taking a shower you’ll have to be careful not to swallow any water. You’ve been warned.

Toilet Paper in the Waistbasket Um Kay.

Being told that I could not flush my toilet paper after using the bathroom was an interesting nasty notion (you have to put your used toilet paper in a wastebasket), but I understood the reason behind it. Only approximately 10 percent of Tulum is connected to the municipal sewer system so that means the other 90 percent is left for the individual properties, restaurants, etc. to manage. Because of this, our hotel property had to ensure their system did not get backed up. Other properties that don’t have an adequate system are ultimately adding to the demise of the coral reefs and the contamination of the area’s sacred cenotes. Doing our part can help reduce the footprint the best we can.

You May Not Have a TV In Your Room (or A/C).

You will be lucky if you find a hotel on Tulum Beach with a TV in the room. I just never thought of inquiring about this before booking my travel. Ultimately, I was too busy out and about, hanging with friends, and enjoying the beach to feel the difference, but if that is important to you — you may want to stay elsewhere. Tulum Beach Road is generally an anti-TV destination so you won’t find them really anywhere. Maybe because the area relies largely on diesel generators to power everything and there is no electricity on most of the beach properties? Yep! These generators are working tirelessly 24 hours a day in order to operate the A/C in the rooms (some hotels do not have A/C) and for us to use our personal appliances so be mindful of this as well when deciding to travel to Tulum. My advice? Keep it low maintenance and take advantage of the beach breeze if possible.

Beware of the Exchange Rate.

For the most part, every business accepts dollars. But you’ll find they either can’t provide change back in dollars (this includes ATM’s) or they won’t be able to accept your dollars because the money is not in decent condition (like a torn edge). When using taxis, I could use dollars as long as I had the exact amount required for the ride. Otherwise, you better pull out those pesos. In addition, the peso conversion at local restaurants and shops seemed to be much higher so I preferred to use my credit card (instead of dollars) when I could. Note: When you use your credit card the bank conversion is applied which is lower than the local “transactional” exchange rate. To play it safe, if you choose to carry dollars, have the currency broken down into smaller denominations and always have some pesos on hand.

Bring Biodegradable Mosquito Spray and Sunblock.

When you visit a cenote, plan to dive into any body of water, or when exploring the jungles and ruins make sure you are using natural mosquito spray and sunblock. At the cenotes, in particular, you’ll be asked to take a shower before jumping in. The chemicals in certain sunblock and sprays place the marine life at risk. My hotel provided a bottle of natural mosquito spray which I thought was a nice touch. If they require you to take a shower beforehand, you will live. Just re-apply before heading on to your next adventure.

The Seaweed is Really Bad (Right Now).

When I arrived on Saturday I was excited to find a pristine beach with zero seaweed in sight. The next morning you would have thought someone visited our beach and intentionally dumped seaweed along the shore. And as the days progressed, it got worse. I will say that our hotel had workers cleaning seaweed literally all day but sometimes you felt their efforts were in vain — as they just couldn’t keep up. According to BBC, many researchers have attributed the seaweed issues to climate change. Whatever the issue is right now it is bad and I hope it is a temporary thing. I did enjoy the beach nonetheless and would just hop over the foot of sargassum if I wanted to get my feet wet.

WiFi is spotty AF.

Yeah, I know I’m supposed to be giving my phone a break, but ya girl still likes to know I am connected to my family back home. The wi-fi worked fairly well while at the resort, but once you left it was all downhill from there. My phone service is Verizon and if you recall their infamous commercials consistently asking the person on the other end of the line “Can you hear me now?”, I would answer with an “absolutely not!”. It was spotty and would work one minute and a few steps later it would be gone. I don’t really have an answer on how to resolve this particular concern. I guess just know it exists and plan to get any family check-ins, ad hoc work, or social media updates done before leaving your hotel.

Have any other questions about traveling to Tulum? Drop them in the comments below!

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Yep, That's Shan!