Top Picks For You
Cancún Travel Guide

Cancun’s Airport Has Lots of Scammers. Here’s the Complete Guide to Breezing Through

And everything else you'd want to know about logistics.

Cancún International Airport (CUN) is Mexico’s second busiest airport by passenger traffic after Mexico City International (MEX). In 2021, it became the tenth busiest airport in the world for the number of international passengers (13.2 million) that enplaned and deplaned, according to Airports Council International (ACI) data.

The airport is operated by Aeropuertos del Sureste (ASUR) and it serves Cancún and all of Riviera Maya (the next closest international airport is on the island of Cozumel) with three sprawling terminals and one smaller, lesser-known terminal (FBO) for private aviation and Tropic Air commercial planes to and from Belize.

While not nearly as busy as Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International or London’s Heathrow Airport, Cancun’s airport can certainly feel frenetic. Here is a survival guide to navigating Cancún International Airport.

The Location

Cancún International is located just outside the hotel zone, which can be reached within 20 to 30 minutes depending on traffic and the specific hotel. The resorts of Playa del Carmen are 50 to 60 minutes away, and Puerto Aventuras and Akumal (“the place of the turtles”) are an hour away. Driving to Tulum takes 90 minutes to two hours.

The Terminals

Knowing your arrival or departure terminal will come in handy when making any transportation arrangements.

Continue Reading Article After Our Video

Recommended Fodor’s Video

Reserved for charters and private aviation, very few commercial flights leave from Terminal 1 (FBO). Tropic Air, the airline of Belize, can be found here.

Terminal 2 is where all domestic flights arrive. Airlines operating here include Alaska Airlines, Avianca, Copa, LATAM, Neos, Sunwing, TAG, VivaAerobus, Volaris, and Wingo.

Most of Cancún’s international flights land at Terminal 4 or 3, where Air Canada, American Airlines, British Airways, Delta, Iberia, Spirit, United, and World2fly fly from.

Terminal 4 is the newest of the bunch and it is the home of Aeromexico, Air Europa, Air Portugal, Air Transat, AirFrance, Condor, Edelweiss Air, Frontier, Jetblue, KLM, Lufthansa, Southwest, Sun Country Airlines, and Westjet.

If you have a connecting flight at a different terminal, getting around with the complimentary inter-terminal shuttles is easy. If you can’t locate the stop, ask an airport official (wearing an ID badge) for assistance. Most of these individuals will speak English.

Be aware that this free shuttle does not follow a schedule and runs according to demand. Also, stopping at the FBO terminal is by request only. Privacy is a top consideration for this terminal, so you may need to show a confirmed flight and/or boarding pass for the shuttle driver to drop you there.

INSIDER TIPDon’t believe anyone that tells you that “there is no inter-terminal shuttle,” “it’s not free of charge,” or that “there’s been a car accident, so it won’t arrive for an hour” as they are likely trying to sell you an exorbitant transfer.

Going Through Immigration and Customs

As of late 2022, passengers flying into CUN no longer need to fill out the Forma Migratoria Multiple (FMM) tourist card, which has massively sped up the immigration process. The exemption to this rule is for people from countries requiring entry visas when visiting Mexico. All passengers will still need to fill out customs forms before clearing security. Fill these out on the plane, if they are handed out during your flight, for a speedier exit. Otherwise, they are available at the airport (bring your own pen).

INSIDER TIPThe maximum stay for tourists is 180 days.

Upon Arrival

This is the part of Cancún International Airport that might overwhelm you. From the moment you exit baggage claim and customs, you’re exposed to a chorus of sales pitches, pushy taxi offers, and charlatans pretending to work with the long-distance bus company (ADO) while loud music might be blasting from the arrivals bar. Be particularly weary of timeshare presentation invitations (these are never worth your precious vacation time, and even if you get a free meal out of it, the forceful sales tactics may dampen your appetite).

Beat the bombardment and overwhelm by pre-booking an airport collection and perhaps walking through the exit with sunglasses on and earphones in to drown out the noise. If traveling alone, stare deep into your phone (or at the ground) and ignore anyone that speaks to you unless they have a sign with your name on it. If they insist on whatever is being offered, simply say, “No, gracias.” Repeat yourself if necessary.

Transportation From Cancún International Airport

Options include authorized taxis, private transfers, shared shuttles, public transport, and car rentals. Regular city taxis are not allowed to operate at the airport.

The easiest and fastest way to get from the airport is with a pre-booked private transfer to your hotel. This can cost anywhere from 24 USD to 40 USD one-way to the hotel zone or Downtown Cancún (Centro). There are savings to be made by booking a round trip. These companies (like Cancun Airport Transportation) will have uniformed drivers waiting for you with a sign at arrivals or at a specified meeting point (this differs per terminal). Many Cancún hotels and resorts have airport pickups included in the guest rate.

Shared shuttles are slightly cheaper (from around 18 USD per person) and will make stops at various hotels along the way, potentially extending your journey. You might also have to wait for the van to fill up with other passengers before it departs.

Taxis are the most expensive way to get from point A to B. They aren’t metered and can cost up to 60 USD one-way to the Cancún hotels or downtown. Prices are even steeper if you arrive late at night.

After a lengthy battle, Uber has become legal in Cancún though using one to get to or from the airport or around the hotel zone is not recommended. There have been blockades, protests, and attacks on Uber drivers. Don’t get caught between the rumbles.

Car Rental Companies

There is a huge selection of car rental companies across the three commercial terminals, including household name services like Avis, Dollar, Europcar, SIXT, and Thrifty. Roads are safe in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo, where Cancún is located.

If you aren’t staying at an all-inclusive, hiring a car and liberating yourself to explore Cancún is a great idea. You can also head further afield to ruins, cenotes, hidden beaches, water parks, and Magic Towns in the Yucatán Peninsula.

Related: What to Do If You’re Pulled Over by the Police While Driving in Mexico


ADO (Autobuses de Oriente) is a fantastic way to get from the airport to Downtown Cancún or anywhere in Riviera Maya comfortably and affordably—this is the cheapest option for less than 10 USD to Centro. These air-conditioned buses have USB cables for phone charging, and some have working Wi-Fi.

There are booths to buy ADO tickets inside or outside the commercial terminals. With this being Cancún airport, you will have unscrupulous individuals telling you that there is no ADO bus or, even worse, that they are the ADO bus (they can be compelling).

Look for the red and white ADO branding and only buy your ticket—which will be printed on a long pink piece of paper—from an official vendor. Some of the stalls are cash only (in Mexican pesos). Purchasing your ADO ticket online beforehand may also be wise if you know your arrival terminal.

Can You Sleep at Cancún International Airport?

If you have an overnight layover or an extremely early flight, it is possible to sleep at the airport, as it doesn’t close. Bring warm clothing and watch out for scammers pretending to be airport staff who might advise you that dozing off on the grounds isn’t permitted. They might state that their job is to help you find a late-night taxi or last-minute accommodation.

If you are looking for an airport hotel, check availability at the Hilton Garden Inn Cancun Airport, Courtyard by Marriott Cancun Airport, or Fairfield Inn & Suites Cancun Airport.

There aren’t dedicated public relaxation or sleep zones within the airport, but you will find some padded seats. Though speeds vary, there is no cut-off for Wi-Fi connectivity, so you can keep yourself busy streaming all night if you please. Bring earplugs or noise-canceling headphones if you plan to get some shut-eye. For snacking, note that most restaurants will be closed at night. The Lounge In Partnership With Air Transat in Terminal 4 (near Gate 54), is open 24 hours if you need a warm shower and refreshments.

Airport Lounges

Terminals 2, 3, and 4 all have pay-at-the-door and membership airport lounges. The Mera Business Lounges close between 6 PM and 10 PM. Aeromexico Salon Premier in Terminal 2 has now closed.

Restaurants and Shops

All terminals except FBO have pharmacies, restaurants, and convenience stores.

Prohibited Items

You cannot bring more than 10,000 USD in cash into Mexico without declaring it, and only one laptop is permitted per traveler. Before your trip, consult the website of Mexico’s Tax Administration Service (Servicio de Administración Tributaria), more commonly known as SAT, for a detailed list of prohibited and permissible items.

derekwarren5568 July 16, 2023

In agreement of the comments that the article is extremely informative and also of being wary of renting a car at the airport. I had a similar experience with the "scratches" on the older VW bug that was rented to us but would like to add the fond memories of driving to the ruins, cenotes, and other places (small towns and Playa del Carmen) on our time and not having to look for travel groups outweighed the hassle. 

pammcl1 July 16, 2023

I agree with @paulseaone. If you're headed to Tulum, a rental car is likely needed, but be aware of rental car scams. I've traveled to Cancun about 50 times for work and the rental companies will ask for bribes, threaten to find damage unless paid off, and tell you unnecessary insurance is required. You likely will also be billed far more in the end than you agreed to. Big name companies, like Avis, will not intervene if you are scammed and claim the Mexican company is name only. From entering the car rental bus, to actually driving away in your car, you will likely have at minimum 4 to 5 employees hold out their hand asking for a tip. Be sure to video the entire car and comment on any damage on the paperwork before driving off.Also beware of cops positioned at the airport exit looking for minor infractions to pull you over. And lastly, although it's not the airport, note that gas stations like 7-11 will scam you claiming your credit card would not go through and asking for another. Lots of scams in the area, which is a huge turn-off to a beautiful area of the world. I've been hit with ATMs not outputting cash but registering it like it did, huge ATM fees (like $70 for a $200 withdrawal), being rufied by a resort waiter, rent-a-cop pullover scams looking for bribes. 

paulseaone July 13, 2023

The author says that renting a car is a great idea but I disagree strongly. Some of the biggest scams in Mexico in general involve rental cars, and Cancun is especially bad. All of the rental car companies use scare tactics to get visitors to buy lots of insurance that is probably unnecessary. I travel to Cancun every week and watch most tourists at the rental car counters get talked into lots of insurance. Most rental companies don't disclose the insurance requirements at the time of booking with some being worse than others. Once in Cancun at the rental car counter with your trip planned around the car, they tell you there are up to $100 per day in mandatory extra insurance charges that were not disclosed during the reservation process. My worst experience was at Europcar in Cancun and least bad at Hertz. But even at Hertz I was charged for fuel and an day I didn't use. They charge for every minuscule scuff and go over the car with a fine tooth comb every return. Driving in Cancun is very different from the USA and should intimidate all but seasoned international drivers. Finally, although the sign says "Hertz" or "Avis" or whatever, it is not those companies at all but a local licensee using that name. Forget about getting any relief from the brand when things go wrong.

denisebadger2190 July 12, 2023

My husband and I stayed at a Secrets Resort. So, we're dressed according upon leaving the resort to fly home. Upon entering, a young man, dressed officially, said come with me for complimentary VIP service. Ok, nice tip for him. He had us, and our bags wished away while following him to immigration. Yep, front of the line and quickly accomplished. When I arrived home and started unpacking, I noticed a lot of my clothes were missing. In hindsight, I do remember the youg man looking us up and down. We've traveled through the entire Caribbean on a boat, lived in Thailand and Costa Rica, and never experienced anything like this. Mexico is a corrupt mess. Shame

derekcastillo8864 July 11, 2023

Also beware of scams at the rental car facility. My buddy was asked to produce his credit card when we returned our vehicle to the Avis at the Cancun airport, even though he had pre-paid. We were in a hurry to catch our flight, so he handed over the card and even saw it swiped not at the register inside, but at some kind of side terminal. He was charged an additional $500! He went back and forth with Avis and they even admitted some shady behavior there, but initially refused to refund his money. Finally, after several months, he was refunded his money! Moral of the story, there are scammers everywhere.