Travelling Through the Cancún Airport

Virtually every major North American airline flies into Cancun. Because of that competition, many travelers with final destinations ranging form Merida to Cozumel to Xcalak on the border with Belize will fly into Cancun and find their way to final destination over land or by commuter flight.

While not overly large, transfers in the Cancun airport can be confusing for any traveler, especially on the first visit. When you arrive in Cancun, an agent will meet your plane and lead everyone to the “Immigration” room. This is where you will present your passport (or other proof of citizenship) and the immigration form you should have received at your home airport or on the plane. You need to fill out both the top and bottom sections of the form and sign in two places on the back. The immigration agent will give you back the bottom portion of the form, which you will need to present at the airline ticket counter upon your departure from Mexico.

After you go through immigration, turn left and you will come to the baggage claim area. Carousels aren’t marked too well but there are only three of them so it shouldn’t be too hard to find your luggage. Baggage handlers are not allowed in the baggage claim area but rental carts are available for US $1.

Once you get your bags, you have to go through “customs”. If you didn’t receive a “customs declaration” form on the plane, there is usually someone near to the carousels giving them out. As a tourist, you are allowed to bring in all of your own personal articles plus $300 worth of gifts duty free. Unless you’re bringing in more than $300 in gifts, find the section of the form that says “Nothing to declare” and simply sign that. As long as your total is less than $300, you don’t have to list the items you are bringing in.

When you get to the customs desk, an agent will take your form and ask you to push a button at the bottom of a green and red stop light. If the light turns green, just walk on through. If it turns red, agents will want to look in your bags. If it does turn red, it doesn’t mean they think you have more than $300 worth of gifts. It’s a random sampling. In all likelihood, the search will be minimal. If it turns out you are bringing in more than $300 worth of gifts and did not declare it, you are subject to a fine.

If you are flying on to another destination, note that there used to be a check-in desk for the Mexicana commuter in the same building on the left just before the exit from the arrival terminal. However, the last time we went through the Cancun airport, the check-in desk for the commuter was in a different building. However, it won’t hurt to take a quick look along the left wall as you are walking out of the arrival terminal for an AeroCaribe desk. You never know in Mexico when they might decide to put it back.

If you are being met by a hotel or travel agent representative for local transfer, just follow the flow towards the door and you will encounter a mass of people and signs looking for you.If you are staying in Cancun but have not made transfer arragnements, again, it is a very easy matter. You can hire a cab, book a seat in a shared collectivo, which will make stops at most major hotels or take a bus. The bus will be the slowest but least expensive option.

If you’re traveling on to other points in Mexico via the commuter and you have a lot of luggage, you’ll probably want to hire a porter. He’ll be glad to lead you to the check-in counter in the other terminal but if you’re going it alone, walk out of the building and turn right. The departure gates are in the first building you reach. Walk past the long line of ticket counters, turn right and you should see the counter. If you can’t find it, look for Aero (pronounce “arrow”) Cozumel (also known as “AeroCaribe” or “MexicanaIntra”). You should go right to this desk and even if there is no agent there when you arrive, wait, as there are at least eight flights per day and the schedules are a little irregular. If they have room and you are there in time, they may put you on an earlier flight than the one you are booked on. Make sure you tell the gate agent you are in transit and the flight number of your international flight because otherwise, he will try to charge you a domestic departure tax.

Travelers that are just passing through Cancun on their way to other Mexican destinations do not have to pay the tax. If you are in transit and the agent insists on charging you the departure tax, tell him you want a receipt. You can then get a refund from Mexicana with the receipt and proof that you were in transit.Once through security, you enter a room looking out over the tarmac.The sound system in this room is pretty horrible but listen to announcements for the word “Cozumel” or wherever you are traveling. Don’t worry if you don’t know exactly what is going on because no one else (not even the Mexicans) does either. Somehow, you will hear the announcement and board your plane for your next flght. Food and drink services in the AeroCaribe departure room are minimal so if you have the time and desire, you will find a better selection and quality in the main terminal area before you pass through the departure gate security.