Frequently Asked Questions About Cozumel, Mexico
The following is a list of questions that are frequently asked by folks who hang out on the Discussion Groups. If you don't see the answer you're looking for on this page, post your question on the appropriate Discussion Forum and we'll all try to help you out over that-a-way.
How Safe Is Cozumel? I mean, will I get my pocket picked? Will I get sick?
Cozumel is a remarkably safe vacation destination.This is one of its greatest charms both for people who visit and for those of us who live here full-time. You may lose your purse if you leave it on the beach and forget it. But no one is going to grab it off your arm.
As for becoming ill? It is unlikely you will have any problems if you follow the recommendations on our Health and Safety Page.
What's the Best Time of Year to Visit? And is it going to be mobbed like Cancun during Spring Break?
When to visit depends on what you like to do as well as the kind of weather you desire. The winter which runs from early December through March is many people's favorite time to visit hence the higher prices and busier conditions at this time of the year The temperatures in high season are moderate (70 degrees at night to around 85 during the day). It rarely rains if ever rains..
By April things are warming up smartly but it will still tend to be dry. May through August is summer here with temps ranging from lows of 80 at night to highs of 95 during the day. But there is almost always a stiff breeze and, of course, the ocean, to cool you off.
Sometimes during this period there is rain if a front moves in. But it tends to be fairly dry. Advantages of this time of the year? Cheaper rates on everything from vacation rentals to airfares. Less people. And divers say that the visiblity in the summer is the best it is all year.
September-November is the rainy season. Expect high humidity and the chance of rain any day -- although weeks at a time will go by without a drop of rain so you really can't predict this. (In fact this fall of 2004 has been remarkably rain-free.)
Fall is also the prime hurricane season for this part of the caribbean so travel insurance is suggested unless you can afford to take the chance on getting stormed out of your vacation. On the plus side, this is the cheapest time of year to visit the island and conditions will be so uncrowded that you can wait until the last minute to book car rentals, dive ops, etc.
Spring Break isn't an issue on Cozumel. The college crowds seem to prefer easier-to-reach, wilder Cancun and, to a lesser extent, Playa del Carmen.
Is Cozumel good for a person who needs Handicap access?
Wheel chair access can be a problem downtown. Although because of the number of locals who ride bicycles, there are many curb ramps that go from the sidewalk into the street, the sidewalks tend to be very uneven with many breaks and obstructions of one sort or the other. We have seen several folks in wheelchairs wheeling happily down the edge of the street itself instead of on the sidewalk.
As far as getting in and out of taxis, diving and snorkeling, labor is very cheap here and the people are extremely sweet and accommodating. If you require a special taxi van that can accommodate wheelchairs, Contact Us and we'll help get you set up. Wheelchair rentals are also available at several of the island's pharmacies.
What can you do at Night on Cozumel?
Like all of Latin-America, Cozumel is a town that lights up late at night when locals, who take siestas during the heat of the day if their schedule allows, come out in the cool of the evening to shop, eat and socialize.
Shops typically stay open and busy until around 9 PM. Retaurants often don't even get really rolling until at least that time. And its not at all unusual to see large groups eating a big restaurant meal at 1 AM in the morning. Or later. For more info on what to do at night, check Cozumel Nightlife.
What Time Zone is Cozumel in and does it adhere to Daylight Savings Time?
Cozumel is on Central Standard Time and, yes, we do observe daylight savings time on the island.
I'm bringing my kids along. What kind of entertainment can I expect to find for them?
We've put together an in-depth essay on Kids and Cozumel which addresses the interests of different age groups and types of activities.
How do I deal with the money situation? What should I bring? How should I pay for things?
Currency is pesos, of course. Check the conversion rate before you leave so you'll have a general idea of what things cost. For a long time the rule of thumb was that one US dollar equaled approximately 10 pesos. As of this writing in October of 2004, a dollar is worth about 11.3 pesos. Read our Money Essay for lots of advice on what to bring and how to manage your funds while you're on the island.
What shall I pack?
We believe in traveling light. Cozumel is a tropical environment and informality is the rule. So you don't need much in the way of clothes. Most items you need -- like sun screens, coolers, disposable diapers, etc -- can now be bought locally. Usually the price will be higher than you'll pay in the states. But particularly for heavy or bulky items, you might be better off purchasing them locally. Here's Our Packing List.
Do I need to bring baby gear?
There are LOTS of babies and young children here. You can purchase anything you need. Formula could be a problem as they only carry a few brands. But there are plenty of toys, strollers, clothing, hats and disposable diapers available at the big grocery stores here. Bring your own carseats if you plan to rent a car, however.
What can I bring special for the maids and the kids--don't bring candy.
If you are staying in a hotel, leaving $1/day per person on the bed for the maid is a nice tip. The better rental villas recommend a tip at the end of the week of around $10 US/person. If you dive or take other types of tours a tip is always much appreciated. Usually a $5/person tip to someone like the divemaster is considered generous and will be split with the captain and crew.
Taxi drivers don't need to be tipped unless they give you excellent and special service. Good waiters should be tipped what you would in your home country. We tip 15-20% depending on the level of service we receive. (And nothing if we get lousy service. But that very seldom happens here.)
People ask about bringing something special for the maids instead of money. Money is most appreciated in a country where cash is king and there's not a lot extra. If you want to give something to the children on the plaza on Sunday night, please don't make it candy (!) Go for little plastic toys instead -- like those bags of plastic figurines you can pick up at Wal Mart, balloons, those party favor things you can blow and they unroll, neon twisters. Those kinds of things are hard to come by here and the kids love them. Plus it won't rot their teeth.
Most hotels still don't have it but there are places all over downtown with prices ranging from $1-$5/hour depending on the season and how far you're willing to go off the beaten track. Quite a few private rental villas and condos now have fast dsl connections that allow you to bring your laptop.
Same as in the US--plugs and everything. So if you've got to lug down that hairdryer you may never use, you can crank it right up wherever you are on the island. How safe is it to drive here?
Driving on the Island
First of all, it's impossible to get lost. There is only one road that goes to the south end of the island, curves around the end, meanders along the east coast and then cuts back across the center of the island to downtown. So if you are heading to the beaches or the wild side from either town or one of the cruiseship piers, you can breeze right through on roads that are in quite good shape.
Be prepared for some congestion right in the heart of the downtown shopping district/waterfront area with bicycles and mopeds sharing the street with you and lots of taxis.. Just go slowly, use common sense and you'll be fine. No one is driving fast in town. Be aware of mopeds which will often try to come up on the "wrong side". Just keep your eyes open and drive and don't take the car above second gear in town and you'll be fine.
We suggest avoiding the waterfront drag in town and using one of the parallel streets. Not much traffic just a few blocks back from the water and it makes things a little easier for new drivers here until you get your bearings.
Alto means stop. And if you are going cross island in town, be prepared to stop at virtually every intersection. If you are going north to south (parallel to the ocean) you will generally have the right of way unless you see a stop sign or stop light.
Rule of thumb in town is to take your half out of the middle so that taxis can't pass you. Parking downtown is a problem. If you're staying in town, this is not a worry. However, if you're coming in from the beaches, be prepared to park 3 blocks or more back from the ocean and walk from there.
You may turn right on red lights after a stop as long as you see a sign with a little arrow pointing to the right on the right side of the road at the intersection in question.
If you must rent a moped -- a practice we would like to STRONGLY discourage because we've seen so many wrecks on them -- there are traffic checks going out of town on both the crossisland road and the south beach road. So wear the helmets. Ditto for seat belts. Including the back seat.
If you rent a car, be sure to take a look at what you're getting before you sign up. Your credit card company back home may cover you for collision insurance. But be sure you take the personal liability insurance that is sometimes extra, sometimes included in the rate. If you happen to injure a third party, US insurance and credit cards won't cut it and you will find yourself in the police station trying to figure out how to pay cash for the other person's hospital bills (!)
There are several good laundromats in town. At Margaritas on Calle 11 two blocks in from the waterfront you can drop off a load of clothes in the AM and it will be washed, dried, folded, bagged and ready for you around 2 and at a cost of $7-9 US. Or you can do it yourself. There's another landromat in downtown San Miguel on Rosada Salas between Ave 5 and Ave 10 (near the restaurant La Choza).
Calling Home --
Internet Cafes are going to be your cheapest option with rates starting at around . 49/minute to sit in a private booth. Cellphones sometimes work down here and sometimes they don't. It's a real toss up and we wouldn't advise you lugging one down. Roaming charges outside Mexico are going to be high for one thing and, for another, it may not work.
Where to Stay -- Check out our Accommodations Guide for an overview. Personally we think you'll have the most fun and get the most bounce for your vacation dollar staying downtown and using the extra money on a rental car. But read this article to get a better idea of what's right for YOU.