The Ultimate Playa del Carmen ADO Guide for 2023
Are you trying to make sense of the ADO in Playa del Carmen? I’ve got you covered!
I’m a travel blogger that lives in Playa del Carmen and I’ve taken the ADO bus countless times from the Cancun Airport and to other nearby destinations.
So I know just how confusing it can be, especially if you don’t speak Spanish!
In this Playa del Carmen ADO Guide, I’m sharing everything you need to know about the ADO bus system in Playa del Carmen, including where it is, how to use it, and step-by-step guides for booking tickets.
About ADO in Playa del Carmen
Let’s start with a little background info on the ADO bus.
What is the ADO?
ADO is the name of one of the largest bus systems in Mexico. The ADO bus line serves the southern part of Mexico and the Yucatan peninsula.
It offers a safe, comfortable, and economical way to travel between many cities and airports.
How do you pronounce ADO?
In Spanish, ADO is pronounced as “Ah-Day-Oh”. Remember this pronunciation in case you need assistance and need to communicate with non-English speakers.
Where can you take the ADO?
In Playa del Carmen, the ADO bus is most commonly known as the airport bus, as it’s the most economical mode of transportation between Playa del Carmen and the Cancun Airport.
However, the Playa del Carmen ADO also serves as a Riviera Maya transportation hub to reach other nearby destinations like Tulum, Cancun, Puerto Morelos, Bacalar, Holbox, Merida, and Valladolid.
Travelista Tip: The ADO bus can also be taken from Playa del Carmen to some of the most popular Xcaret parks like Xcaret and Xel-Ha.
What are the ADO buses like?
The ADO Mexico buses are large, comfortable charter-style buses. They are usually bright red and white in color which makes them easy to spot.
On the bus, you’ll find comfortable seats, restrooms, and television screens.
How much does the ADO cost?
The ADO bus is the most economical mode of longer distance travel. Prices depend on the destination but can range from $5-$35 USD one way.
Here are the ADO prices for some of the most common routes from Playa del Carmen:
- Bus from Cancun Airport to Playa del Carmen: $230 pesos (~$12 USD) one way
- Bus from Playa del Carmen to Cancun Airport: $230 pesos (~$12 USD) one way
- Bus from Playa del Carmen to Tulum: $114 pesos (~$6 USD) one way
- Bus from Playa del Carmen to Cancun (downtown): $104 pesos (~$5 USD) one way
- Bus from Playa del Carmen to Merida: $640 pesos (~$33 USD) one way
- Bus from Playa del Carmen to Bacalar: $478 pesos (~$25 USD) one way
- Bus from Playa del Carmen to Chiquila (Holbox): $352 (~$18 USD) pesos one way
Is the ADO safe?
The ADO is a safe and reliable form of transportation in Mexico. I have taken the ADO countless times as a solo female traveler and have never felt unsafe.
As in many places in Mexico, petty theft can occur on board so it’s best to keep your valuables on your lap or under the seat in front of you.
What payment methods are accepted?
If you book at the ADO bus station, cash or credit cards are accepted. However, as in many places in Mexico, credit card machines are not always working, so it’s usually safest just to pay in cash. Cash payments can be made in pesos or USD.
ADO Stations in Playa del Carmen
In Playa del Carmen, there are two different ADO bus stations:
5th Avenue ADO Playa del Carmen Station
The 5th Avenue ADO Playa del Carmen Station (“Playa del Carmen Turistica” in Spanish) is the most popular ADO station in Playa del Carmen and the one that most tourists will use.
Conveniently located on the corner of 5th Avenue and Avenida Juarez, the 5th Avenue station places you in the heart of Playa del Carmen’s tourist zone, just one block from the Playa del Carmen beaches and a short walk away from the ferry to Cozumel.
Playa del Carmen Alternative ADO Station
Located at Calle 12 and Avenida 20, the Playa del Carmen ADO Alternative Station (“Playa del Carmen Alterna” in Spanish) is a less well known ADO station in Playa del Carmen.
This station is much less crowded, however it does not always serve the same routes as the 5th Avenue Station so you’ll want to double check this when booking your tickets.
If you’re staying closer to the Alternative Station, then I would definitely recommend this option for airport transportation.
How to take the ADO from Cancun Airport to Playa del Carmen
Follow these steps to take the ADO bus from the Cancun Airport to Playa del Carmen:
1. Check the ADO bus schedules
Check the schedules on the ADO website in advance just to be sure there are buses running after your arrival time. ADO buses from the Cancun Airport to Playa del Carmen typically run every 30 minutes from 8:00 am-11:30 pm.
I would recommend not booking your ticket in advance because customs and immigration can take an insanely long time and you might miss your bus.
Alternatively, you might arrive earlier and have to wait for your scheduled bus even if there are other ones leaving earlier.
2. Purchase your ADO tickets at the ADO Counter
Once you clear customs and immigration at the airport, look for the red ADO counter at the airport. The ticket counters will be BEFORE you exit the airport.
In terminal 4, there are 2 ADO counters–one just around the corner on the right side after you collect your luggage and another just past the sliding doors.
Approach the counter to purchase your ticket to Playa del Carmen. If the attendant doesn’t speak English, you can simply say “Uno para Playa del Carmen”. The cost will be $230 pesos (~$12 USD) pesos and you can pay with pesos or USD.
Credit cards are also accepted at the ADO airport counter but I wouldn’t recommend paying with a credit card.
The only reason I say this is because I did this once and the next day I had tons of fraudulent charges to my credit card.
I don’t know for sure but I suspect it was from the ADO purchase. To be safe, have some cash on hand.
3. Head to the ADO bus parking area
Once you complete your purchase, you’ll receive a printed ticket with your departure time and the number of the bus parking slot.
Exit the airport and walk past the large crowds of salespeople that will likely be harassing you until you reach the bus parking. You’ll see the slot numbers posted above each parking spot.
You’ll also see a small red ADO stand with attendants outside of the parking area. You can always check with them to make sure you’re in the right place.
When the buses arrive, you’ll see the destination name on the electronic scroll board above the dashboard. Be on the lookout for one that says Playa del Carmen.
4. Board the ADO bus
Once your bus arrives, boarding will begin and they’ll likely be a small line of people waiting to board.
If you have suitcases you’ll be able to store them in the cargo hold underneath the bus. An ADO attendant will take care of this so be sure to have a few pesos on hand for a tip.
I wouldn’t recommend leaving any valuable items in your checked luggage. It’s best to keep everything of value with you on the bus.
In addition, don’t use the overhead bins and keep your backpack or personal items in your lap or under the seat in front of you.
Unfortunately, theft has been known to happen on ADO buses and it normally occurs from the overhead bins.
5. Take your seat
Once your luggage is stored, the driver will scan your ticket as you board the bus.
Seats are assigned and you’ll find your seat number listed on your ticket. However, from my experience most people just sit wherever they want.
6. Enjoy the ride
Once you’re seated, get comfortable as the ride will be a little over an hour to Playa del Carmen.
There is usually a brief stop in Puerto Morelos, which is a halfway point to drop off passengers.
7. Collect your luggage
Once you arrive, the ADO terminal in Playa del Carmen can be very crowded and hectic.
I would recommend grabbing your luggage as soon as you can to avoid any theft or luggage mixup.
8. Head to your final destination
After exiting the Playa del Carmen ADO station, you’ll be able to walk or take a taxi to your Playa del Carmen hotel, vacation rental, or final destination.
There will be a line of taxis waiting on Avenida Juarez but keep in mind these taxis will be priced at a surcharge for the convenience.
Travelista Tip: If you don’t have a ton of luggage and want to save money on a taxi, head up to 10th Avenue (just one block away) and hail a taxi there. It will likely be about half the price.
How to take the ADO from Playa del Carmen to the Cancun Airport
Booking the ADO bus from Playa del Carmen to the Cancun Airport is a little more straightforward.
I would definitely recommend booking these in advance because ticket lines can be long at the ADO station and the seats can fill up quickly.
1. Check the ADO bus schedules
Visit the ADO website and plug in your travel date to double check the airport schedules (see the step-by-step instructions in the next section).
The ADO bus schedule from Playa del Carmen to Cancun Airport typically runs every 30 minutes starting around 3:00 am and with the last departure around 9:45 pm.
2. Lookup your terminal
Next, you’ll want to find out which terminal you’re flying out of at Cancun Airport. This is an important step as the ADO bus will drop off at each of the terminals so you need to know which one to get off at.
Check your flight reservation or usually a quick Google search of your flight number will tell you the terminal.
3. Book your tickets head of time
ADO tickets can be purchased on the ADO website, through Busbud, or directly at the ADO station.
The ADO website is only in Spanish but it’s pretty straight forward and I’ve outlined step-by-step instructions in the next section. However, sometimes there are issues with the website not accepting international credit cards.
If you don’t speak Spanish or you run into any issues with your credit card, then I would recommend booking your ADO tickets on Busbud.
This is a third-party online booking tool and the website is in English but it usually costs a tiny bit more for the convenience.
Alternatively, you can always buy your tickets at the ADO station. However, I would recommend arriving at least 30 minutes early as the line will likely be very long.
👉 Book ADO tickets on Busbud by clicking here!
4. Arrive early and board
If you’ve already purchased your tickets online, then you’ll need to arrive around 15-20 minutes before your scheduled departure time.
Once the bus arrives, you’ll load your luggage and take your seat on the bus.
Online tickets will be scanned via a QR code so you’ll want to make sure your ticket is saved to your phone and easily accessible.
5. Arrive at Cancun Airport
The ride from Playa del Carmen to Cancun Airport takes a little over an hour. Once you arrive at the Cancun Airport, the ADO bus will make drop-offs at each of the terminals.
⚠️ Important: Make sure you know which terminal you’re flying out of as the driver will announce the terminal stops on the bus speaker. A lot of times this announcement will be done in Spanish and broken English so really try to listen to make sure you’re getting off in the right place.
Normally the stops are made in the order below but this isn’t a guarantee as the airlines are constantly changing terminals:
- First Stop: Terminal 4 (International)
- Second Stop: Terminal 2 (Domestic)
- Third Stop: Terminal 3 (International)
6. Collect your luggage and head to the airport entrance
Once you get off the bus, the luggage attendant will help you collect your luggage and then you’ll head to the airport entrance.
Depending on the terminal, the ADO bus drop-off point is sometimes a little ways from the departing flights entrance so expect a bit of walking.
How to book ADO tickets online
Follow this step-by-step guide to book ADO tickets on the ADO website.
1. Open the ADO website
Open the ADO website to begin your search for ADO tickets. The ADO website is only available in Spanish but it’s pretty straightforward.
If you don’t know Spanish, you can always use the Google translate plugin to translate the entire page.
Here are the basic translations needed to search for tickets:
- Ida = One-Way
- Ida y Vuelta = Round Trip
- Origen = Origin
- Destino = Destination
- Fecha y Hora de Ida = Date and Time of Departure
- Fecha y Hora de Vuelta = Date and Time of Return
- Buscar Viaje = Search
2. Enter the search details
Enter your search details with your destination and travel dates. Here’s an example of what you would enter when booking tickets from Playa del Carmen to the Cancun Airport:
- Origen: Playa del Carmen Turistica
- Destino: Aeropuerto Cancun (Choose T2, T3, or T4 depending on your terminal)
- Fecha y Hora de Ida: Enter your travel date and preferred departure time
3. Choose a desired departure time
The search will return a list of available departure times. Note times will be in military time (24h) so be sure to select the correct time.
If you’re going to the Cancun Airport, it’s recommended to leave Playa del Carmen 3 hours before your flight.
Click on the “$230 MXN” button next to your desired departure time to proceed to the next page.
4. Select your seat
On this page, select your desired seats from the seat map. “Ocupado” (gray) means taken and “Disponible” (white) means available.
Once you’ve selected your seat, click “Continuar” to proceed to the next page.
5. Enter passenger details
Enter your passenger details by entering your First Name (Nombre) and Last Name (Apellido) exactly as it appears on your government-issued ID or passport.
You’ll also enter the email address where you want to receive the tickets and check the box to accept the terms and conditions. Click “Continuar” to proceed to the next page.
6. Confirm details
On this page you’ll confirm the details you’ve entered are correct. Careful here as they will automatically add $12 pesos for “Asistencia Total”, which is an optional insurance.
Decline this if you wish and click “Continuar” to proceed to the next page.
7. Enter payment details
Enter your payment details. Payments can be made with credit cards (Visa, Mastercard, or AMEX), Paypal, bank transfer, or in cash at an Oxxo or convenience store. Click “Pagar $230.00 MXN” to complete your purchase.
8. Save the ticket to your phone
Once your purchase is confirmed, you’ll receive an email with a PDF attachment of your ticket.
Be sure to save this to your phone as you’ll need to present the QR code to be scanned when boarding the bus.
Tips for taking the ADO
Follow these tips for a safer and more stress-free ADO experience:
- Don’t be nervous: I know trying to figure out transportation in a different country can be overwhelming, especially if you don’t speak Spanish. If you follow the steps outlined in this guide, you’ll find that taking the ADO bus is actually pretty easy. I gave these same instructions to my mom when she came to visit me and she was able to figure it out without any problems.
- Pay in cash at the airport: As I mentioned, I would recommend paying in cash at the airport just because I suspect my credit card information was compromised after using it there. However, I’ve never had issues paying with a card on the ADO website.
- Don’t use the overhead bins: Petty theft is an unfortunate reality in Mexico so it’s always best to keep your valuables in your lap or underneath the seat in front of you where you can keep an eye on it at all times. I personally love traveling with this cute belt bag, which allows me to keep my passport and valuables strapped to my chest yet hands free to handle my luggage.
- Have some cash on hand for tips: It’s best to have some change or small bills on hand to tip the luggage attendant for assisting with your luggage.
- Look up your terminal: When going from Playa del Carmen to the Cancun Airport, don’t forget to check which terminal you’re flying out of as you’ll need to know which stop to get off at at the airport.
Other places to take the ADO
Once you get the hang of the ADO, you’ll open a world of other nearby destinations. Some of the closest you can visit are Tulum, Cancun, Bacalar, Holbox, Merida, and Valladolid.
Once you reach these destinations, you’ll also be able to connect to other bus systems to reach even further destinations in Mexico.
Conclusion: Playa del Carmen ADO Guide
I hope this Playa del Carmen ADO guide was helpful if you’re traveling to Playa del Carmen and throughout the Riviera Maya region.
Once you get the hang out of it, it’s an easy and economical mode of transportation. Where will the ADO take you next?!