Driving to Chichen Itza
Visiting the Mayan Ruins of Chichen Itza is an easy day trip from either Merida or Cancun. Chichen Itza is the largest of the Mayan Cities and believed to have been settled in 400 A.D. in 2007 it was voted by over 1 million people to be added to the list of the New Seven Wonders of the World. You can see why it is worth the 2-3 hour car ride from your hotel.
Road trips are actually our preferred travel method, of course, depending on the distance. Renting a vehicle and creating new experiences down unfamiliar roads, eating food in small
towns, and taking in the new sites are the best!!
While living in Merida, this was one road trip we didn’t want to miss.
Renting a car in Mexico
I recommend renting your car online. With so many great online services there is no need to deal with the hassle that can occur in an in-person. We rented a car from Hertz at Fiesta Americana in Merida the day before we left for Chichen Itza, and it was not easy, took 2 hours, and ended up being more expensive than the online deals I had found. Keep in mind some prices don’t include insurance. We always recommend opting for full-coverage insurance.
I don't recommend doing this, and for our next car rental, I am going to go through an online source such as Expedia, Kayak or Priceline. We ended up having to pay a lot for insurance and online you can see which cars quotes come with insurance and do a better comparison. I believe National had the best overall rate once insurance was included.
Getting Gas in Mexico
Get gas before you leave the city, and I recommend you don't let the tank get below half full. Gas stations can be very far apart. All gas stations are full service in Mexico. When pulling up to the gas pump, someone will come to your car and ask how much you want it filled with. You can tell them an amount or to fill it up. You can say (200 pesos worth for example) I find that to be the easiest or have them fill it up. You can pay with cash or a debit/credit card. Lastly, don't forget to tip, an average tip can range from 4-10 pesos depending on what they do for you. They might check your oil, clean your windshield, or check your tires. You will want to tip accordingly. Also, don’t forget the snacks here!! The Oxxo’s (convenience stores) is a great place to stock up on water, chips, and sweet bread out favorite.
Getting Around in Mexico with no GPS
Things can go wrong on a road trip, like losing your signal, the car rental location not having a GPS unit, or you drive through a dead zone.
When collecting our car at Hertz, there was NO GPS. Even though we vowed to never drive internationally without a GPS after getting lost severely in Kuala Lumpur, here we were again with NO GPS!!! Argh!
E-mail yourself a screenshot of your Google Map and open it before leaving the wifi area. Your smartphone can re-open it after you have NO internet service. Another trick is to begin your trip via Google Maps, and once you are out of service range, it will continue to track your location along the route. It won't redirect you if you take a wrong turn, so you will have to rely on your old school map abilities. I normally do both. This way, you always have a back-up.
Chichen Itza is a 2 hour and 16-minute drive from Cancun on the "Quota" (toll) road, and 3 hours on the "Por la Libre" (non-toll road). The Quota (toll road) is what you can expect, a long, broad highway with beautiful vegetation. The Por La Libre (non-toll road) takes you through tons of towns, with lots of topes (speed-bumps). From Merida, it is a 1.5-hour car drive and from Playa del Carmen a 2 hour and 11-minute drive.
We left Merida around 9 am in the morning and decided to take the Por La Libre (non-toll road). We were all super happy that we decided to take the longer, bumpier, and more interesting route. We saw culture, babies, lizards, fresh fruit, and traditional Mayan homes that have not changed over the last 400 years. Families in hammocks, cooking outside. The people in these small towns are happy to welcome strangers along with their way of living.
The roofs are thatch called "palapa," the walls are made up of varying supporting wood posts. Here is an excellent article if you are interested in the construction and reasoning of the Mayan home.
Driving through the small towns, you see Mayan home after Mayan home. Chickens are running around the yard, possibly a pig or cow further away from the house. People lounging in hammocks watching soccer on t.v., or women are forming maza for this evenings tortillas. It is a part of Mexico that you don’t see on a pamphlet. You almost feel as if you have gone back in time to a more straightforward and more pleasant way of living.
The vegetation is lush and almost looks fake for this Wisconsin native.
Here is Zeek looking very serious as we drive past another Mayan home, there could be a dog in the road.
Along the way, we passed several signs for cenotes. I believe we passed seven signs that would lead you to a beautiful Mexican cenote. There are so many cenotes in the Yucatan that it can be hard to pick which one to stop at.
This trip did not include a dip in a cenote as we focused on arriving at Chichen Itza in time. We all concluded that road trips are a great family adventure in Mexico, and sometimes taking the slower road is worth it.
Spanish Travel Phrases:
Fill it up: llénalo