If this is your first trip to Cozumel you naturally have a lot of questions. Even if you stopped here for a day while on a cruise, you'll find it's a little different when you stay here for several days. That's why we put together this Cozumel FAQ or "frequently asked questions about Cozumel" page. It covers questions about Cozumel in general, your trip, and about staying at our houses. If you still have questions, send us an email.
U.S. Phone: 843-272-8150
Email: rentalscozumel ( at ) himmcomm dot com
What is Cozumel like?
Cozumel is Mexico's largest island. It is flat and the rural areas are covered in a low jungle. There is one town - San Miguel, which faces the mainland. The side facing the mainland is the most developed. Cozumel is NOT like Cancun. It is much more laid back, although there is plenty to do. There is no big conglomeration of glitzy hotels. The big hotels are spaced out along the coast. The "other side" of the island is undeveloped - just miles of deserted beaches with small beachfront bars strategically located every few kilometers. One road starts in San Miguel, cuts straight across the island to the beach on the other side, then circles the island and returns to San Miguel.
How is the scuba diving?
Cozumel is a world famous dive destination. The water is crystal clear and about 80 degrees F. Diving is done not far off the coast between town and the southern end of the island. Palancar Reef is the most well-known name, but Palancar is so large that it consists of several dive sites. All boat dives are drift dives where the divers drift along with the current while the boat follows your bubbles and picks you up at the end of the dive. There is some shore diving, but it is no where near as spectacular as the boat dives.
Do I need to be able to speak Spanish?
You can get by without knowing any Spanish, although the more you know the more you will get from your trip. Waiters, taxi drivers, and shop clerks all know enough English to do their jobs, but not all can carry on a conversation in English. If you had some Spanish in high school or you spent some time reading a Spanish phrase-book you'll be ahead. Be prepared to do some serious sign language, pointing, and acting-out what you want. The people of Cozumel have a good attitude toward your attempts at their language - if you TRY to speak Spanish, they TRY to understand.
What type of documentation do I need?
A current passport is required. If you are traveling with children and both parents are not traveling together, you'll need a signed and notarized letter from the parent who is not traveling with the child. If you're not sure about your documents, ask your airline or call the Mexican embassy or consulate before you go. On your flight to Mexico, the stewardess will give you an immigration form to fill out. On your arrival, when you go through customs and immigration, the immigration official will stamp your form and give it back to you. Keep it - you will have to turn it in at the airport on your way out.
How do I get from the Cozumel Airport to the rental property?
You can't hop in a taxi and go to the house. That would be way too easy. All transportation from the airport to hotels or rental houses is by way of large GMC Suburbans that act like large taxis or small busses. After you have gone through customs and immigration and you're on your way out of the terminal you'll run into a bunch of time share people who will offer transportation and all kinds of things. Smile and keep moving. At the doorway out of the airport, there is a small glass booth. Tell the person there where you are going or show them your town map with the address marked on it. They will assume you are going to a hotel, so be ready to emphasize that you are going to "un casa" ("oon kah-sah" , a house) You'll buy a ticket for each person in your group, about $5.00 USD. Take all your stuff out to the curb, where you'll find another person who is directing the action. Tell him where you're going or show him your map. He will also will assume you are going to a hotel, so be ready to emphasize again that you are going to "un casa". He will direct you to the proper vehicle. There will probably be some other passengers with you who are not in your group. The driver will take your tickets. The ride will be hot and cramped, but you will probably be the first stop since they come to our houses before they go on to the hotels. It's good form to tip the driver.
Good news! Getting back to the airport when you leave is easy. Grab a taxi - they can take you right to the front door. Taxis can take you TO the airport, they just can't take you FROM the airport.
How do I get from the Cancun Airport to the rental property?
The easiest and cheapest way is to take the bus from the airport to a town called Playa del Carmen, then take the ferry across to Cozumel. There is no ferry directly from Cancun to Cozumel. After you have gone through customs and immigration and you're on your way out of the terminal you'll run into a bunch of time share people who will offer transportation and all kinds of things. Smile and keep moving. One of the last counters you'll pass before the exit is the Riviera or ADO Bus Service. The ticket is about $10.00 one way to the terminal in Playa del Carmen. The modern busses are airconditioned, with a restroom, and sometimes they even play a movie on the built-in TV system. The ride is about 45 minutes.
When you arrive in Playa del Carmen, go over half a block, down a block, and presto you're at the ferry to Cozumel. There are two ferry companies. Just get a ticket on the next one that leaves. Resist the temptation to buy a round trip ticket. You'll be leaving at least a week later, and who knows exactly when you'll be at the ferry dock. It could be that the other company is ready to go when you get to the dock. If you just missed the ferry to Cozumel you can pass the time waiting for the next one at Senor Frog's bar with a beer or margarita. Senor Frog's is literally at the entrance to the ferry dock.
What happens when we arrive on the Cozumel side of the ferry trip?
The ferry attendants will collect all of the checked luggage from storage, put it on a big cart, and bring it over to a luggage carousel like they have at airports. Before they put it on the carousel a machine-gun toting soldier will let his drug-sniffing dog take a quick whiff. So...leave the recreational drugs at home. Grab your stuff from the carousel and leave the pier.
How do I get from the Ferry to the rental property?
It's close enough to walk, but if you're carrying all your suitcases it's much easier to take a taxi. Tell him the address or show him your map. He may start off heading in what you think is the wrong direction. Because of the one-way streets, he has to circle around a bit to get on our street at the right place so he can drive past the house. You could also hire one of the tricycle delivery guys. They have converted a bicycle into a 3-wheel peddle cart vehicle that can easily handle quite a load. He will peddle along beside you as you walk to the house.
What about the house keys, the towels, the drinking water, etc.?
Chipita or Ilyana, our caretakers, will meet you at the house and show you everything. They know very little English but they can get their message across. With that in mind, we need to know when your plane lands or approximately when you expect to expect to catch the ferry from the mainland. Please call or email our US office when your plans are finalized.
What about the electricity?
It is the same as in the U.S., 110v, 60cycle, with US style outlet plugs
What is the weather like?
Hot. In the summer it's hot and humid. In the winter it's not as hot. Because you're on an island in the ocean there is usually a nice breeze blowing. Sometimes in the winter, "El Norte" blows and it will be cool for a day or two. You can swim, snorkel, and dive year 'round. Occasionally it will rain all day long, but usually any rain comes and goes in 20 minutes. That's life in a tropical paradise.
What clothes should I bring?
About half of what you think you need. The native costume on Cozumel is shorts and a T-shirt. For formal occasions, you'll wear clean shorts and a golf shirt. Bring flip-flops, sandals, a hat if you're sun-sensitive, and bathing suits of course. In the winter, bring a sweater or light jacket in case of cool evenings. It's bad form to wear bathing suits (and nothing else) around town. Men should wear a shirt and women should wear a cover-up when not on the beach. Bring one of those cheap vinyl rain ponchos. There is a washing machine at Casa Grande and a clothesline.
What about food at the house?
There are three convenient places to stock up: San Francisco Asis, Chedruai, and Mega. These are like a Wal-Mart, with half devoted to household articles and half set up like a supermarket back home. San Francisco is located at 30th Ave straight back from the town square on Avenida Benito Juarez. Chedraui and Mega are located at the south end of town within a few blocks of each other. They are even bigger than San Francisco with slightly better prices. Take a taxi the first time - you'll be carrying back a lot of stuff. They all take pesos, dollars, and credit cards.
Should I use Mexican pesos or American dollars?
Dollars are accepted everywhere, but the prices of things will be mentally converted to pesos by rounding UP to the nearest convenient peso amount. Sometimes a business will post the exchange rate they use. It almost always a better deal if you pay in pesos. It's best to change to pesos at the banks or ATM's around town. The exchange rate changes a little each day. When you pay for something with dollars, your change will probably be in pesos. Towards the end of the day the business may have collected enough dollars to give change in dollars if you ask for it.
How many pesos are in a dollar?
For the current exchange rate, use our Currency Converter. It will convert any currency into any other currency. The rate you get in Cozumel will not be quite this good, although it will be close.
Banks and currency exchange businesses make their money by giving you slightly less than the current rate and keeping the difference. The places that advertise "No Commission" use this system also. It's not a rip-off; it's business. Some banks in the US will gladly convert US dollars to pesos so you can arrive on the island with the correct currency. Your bank won't have pesos on hand - it may take them a few days to get the pesos sent to your bank branch.
Can I use my credit cards?
Most of the restaurants and larger stores will accept VISA, Mastercard, or American Express. Some will only accept American Express. Be sure to ask BEFORE you order in a restaurant. Be ready to use cash or a traveler's check. The smaller restaurants and shops only accept cash (pesos or dollars).
What about my medical needs?
If you're bringing in prescription drugs, keep them in the original bottles from the drug store with the official prescription info on them. Mystery pills in plain bottles may raise some eyebrows at Customs. If you have a medical emergency, La Clinica San Miguel, an excellent modern clinic is directly across the street from our "Casa Pequena" on Calle 6. We've used them several times for minor emergencies and have always been impressed. There are several pharmacies in town for over-the-counter drugs and prescription drugs.
Who are these friendly guys who are offering me the free scooters, rental cars, and snorkeling trips?
Time share salesmen. If you want to spend a couple of hours of your vacation looking at their offerings, go ahead.
If I'm strolling along the sidewalk and I twist my ankle on a loose piece of cement, or bash my head on a protruding air conditioner, or fall into an open manhole... who do I sue?
Nobody. The prevailing idea is this: 1,000 people walk by and they don't fall into the hole. You walk by and fall into the hole. Obviously, you're a troublemaker. Watch where you're going. The walkways can change height, width, quality, finish, color, texture, shape, and materials every ten feet. Pay attention. The occasional open hole or bump in the sidewalk is right there plain as day, so step over it.
Is Cozumel safe?
My wife and I have walked around town in all kinds of neighborhoods at all hours of the night and never had a problem or felt like we were going to. Don't ask for trouble - leave your gold jewelry and the Rolex at home. Use the same caution that you use in everyday life. Remember, you earn more money in a month than the average Cozumel citizen earns in a year. Even so, I can tell two stories of wallets being lost, found by a Cozumeleno, then reclaimed hours or days later by the owner with all money and credit cards intact.
Can I drink the water?
No. It won't kill you, but it has different microbes in it than you are used to, and may cause problems. Drink the purified bottled water that is available everywhere. Even the Mexicans use the bottled water. The ice in the restaurants is made of purified water. Carry a small water bottle with you. The weather is hotter and more humid than you are used to so you need to drink more water all day long.
How is the food?
Good to very good. The typical cuisine is not the spicy Tex-Mex style of "Mexican food" that you may expect. This is an island so seafood is common. There is much more Mayan influence than Spanish influence. You can find Italian, steaks, pizza, hamburgers, "health food", even sushi. Be sure to write and tell me about the Mexican sushi. Almost every restaurant starts you off with chips and salsa. The salsa is usually handmade right there. It can range from mild to spicy so start off with a small bite to see what kind of mood the cook was in that day.
How do we get around?
You don't need a car to get around town. Our houses are close to the downtown area so it's easy to walk. Taxis are everywhere and cheap, plus you don't have to park them. The rates are pre-set from everywhere to everywhere. Just ask before you get in. Tipping the driver is good form. The drivers don't assume you will tip - they always make a show of digging in their coin cup for your change. If you ask a driver about a good restaurant or shop, he might take you to his cousin's business or to a business that pays him a bounty for bringing you there. Hey, everybody has to make a living.
What kind of rental vehicles are available?
VW beetles, jeeps, and GEO trackers are typical autos. Scooters are very common, also. Scooter accidents are very common. BE CAREFUL! Most of the streets are one way streets and it's easy to end up going the wrong way. If you rent a scooter, spend some time practicing before you set off around the island. You don't need a car to get around town. Taxis are everywhere and cheap, plus you don't have to park them. Traffic accidents are usually settled by taking everyone to jail, where you stay until blame can be assigned, damages settled on, payments made, etc. If you must rent a car, buy the insurance also.
The nearest car and scooter rental place to our houses is Rentadora Isis. Margarite has a nice selection of convertible VW's, small sedans, and scooters. When you turn the car in it's only a 5 minute walk back to the house.
While in Cozumel, how can I be reached in the event of an emergency?
People can call our United States office at: 843-272-8150 We will get a message to you. Or they can e-mail us.