Living in Mexico without a car has been relatively easy thanks to the public transportation in Playa del Carmen. For me, I walk or bike almost everywhere downtown and take a colectivo (shared van) if I need to go towards Cancun or Tulum. In this post, I’m sharing a complete guide to getting around Playa del Carmen including the most common Playa del Carmen transportation options.
Everything in the downtown area outlined below is known as Centro and is pretty walkable. You can easily walk within a few blocks to 5th Avenue, the beach, a shopping mall, or a grocery store. The downtown area is pretty easy to navigate and there are usually a lot of other tourists and locals on the street. I would recommend walking down 5th Avenue or 10th Avenue as those are the busiest and most pedestrian friendly. Be sure to be cautious when walking around downtown Playa as pedestrians do not have the right of way.
Biking is extremely popular in Playa del Carmen for both tourists and locals. Lucky for me, my friend lent me her hot pink bike to use to get around town. Hellooo Barbie! But this has honestly made it so much easier for me to explore, run errands, or hit the beach.
If you’re biking in downtown Playa del Carmen, I would recommend biking down 10th Avenue, which has a dedicated bike lane for a good distance of the downtown area. If there are no bike paths, be sure to be very mindful of traffic as the drivers in Playa can be a little crazy.
Biciplaya is a relatively new bike rental service that can be used for short trips around Playa del Carmen. There are bike stations all over Playa where you can pick up a bike for 30 minute periods. Bikes must then be returned to a station via the app. You can download the Biciplaya app to manage rentals and sign up for a plan. It’s a very inexpensive way to get around Playa del Carmen especially if you don’t own or rent a car.
Colectivo (Shared Van Service)
If you want to go north of Playa del Carmen towards Cancun or south towards Tulum, you can easily take a colectivo (shared van). This is basically a taxi style van that runs continuously up and down the highway. Once you get the hang of it, colectivos are an easy and inexpensive way to get to beaches, cenotes, and towns just outside of Playa del Carmen.
How to Get From Playa del Carmen to Cancun
To get from Playa del Carmen to Cancun, you can either take a colectivo or the Playa Express. I would recommend taking the Playa Express, which is basically the same thing as a colectivo, but the vans are larger, newer, and more comfortable. You can get on the Playa Express at the main bus depot at 2nd Street and 20th Avenue. If you take the Playa Express all the way to Cancun, it will drop you off at the ADO bus station in Cancun. The cost should be less than $50 pesos (~$2.50 USD) and you will pay upon exiting. It’s best to have exact change or small bills as most drivers do not have much change.
If you’re going somewhere in between Playa del Carmen and Cancun, note the vans do not have specific stops so you have to tell the bus driver where you would like to get off. Simply say “Bajan” (Stop) or “En (Name of Destination)”. If you’re not sure of exactly where you need to get off, you can always try to tell the driver as soon as you get on and they’ll be able to assist. It’s very helpful if you know some Spanish phrases as most of the drivers don’t speak English.
How to Get From Playa del Carmen to Tulum
On the contrary, to get from Playa del Carmen to Tulum, you can take a colectivo from the main bus depot at 2nd Street and 20th Avenue. Note the Playa Express does not go to Tulum so look for the vans lined on the side of the street that say Tulum on the front and side. You can follow the same steps outlined above for getting off and paying. If you take the colectivo all the way to Tulum, it takes about an hour in total.
Every once in a while I will take a city bus to visit a friend that lives further away from downtown. These buses are much more crowded and are not as comfortable as a colectivo. When taking these, you pay upon entering (usually around $10 pesos) and again have to tell the bus driver where you would like to get off. The majority of the buses run down 30th Avenue and have their destinations painted on the windshield.
You can also take a taxi to get anywhere in Playa del Carmen. They are so abundant that you can find them all over the city. Note Uber does not yet exist in Playa del Carmen. Instead, I usually prefer to use a Taxi app, where I can request a taxi via Whatsapp and send them my location. This is usually safer and more reliable, especially for solo travelers, as they provide you with the taxi number.
Tips for Taking A Taxi in Playa del Carmen
- Before getting in the taxi, always tell the driver where you’re going and ask for the price. It is common for taxi drivers to overcharge especially if you look like a tourist. Downtown fares usually range from $30-$60 pesos ($1.50 – $3 USD).
- If you can avoid it, never take a taxi from 5th Avenue as the prices are generally double or triple the normal price. If you walk one block up to 10th Avenue, it will generally be much cheaper.
- If you’re traveling alone, it’s a good idea to remember the taxi number and text it to a friend as an added precaution.
ADO Airport Bus
The ADO is the airport bus that runs directly to and from the airport with a quick stop in Puerto Morelos. Upon exiting baggage claim, you will find the red ADO counter right before exiting the airport, where you can purchase your ticket and wait for the next available bus. The fare is $208 pesos (~$11 USD) each way and they typically run every 20-30 minutes.
The bus is a large charter type bus, which is very comfortable and the trip takes about an hour. Once you arrive to Playa, the station is downtown right on 5th Avenue and Juarez. Tickets can be booked online in advance here. Note the ADO can also be taken to other nearby towns including Bacalar, Cancun, Coba, Holbox, Merida, and Tulum.
Insider Tip: There’s another less well-known ADO bus station (referred to as ADO Terminal Alterna) in downtown Playa del Carmen at 12th Street and 20th Avenue. If you’re staying closer to this location, I would definitely recommend taking the ADO from here as it will be way less crowded.