What Happens When You Arrive at Cancun Airport – A Step-By-Step Guide

In this complete guide to Cancun Airport, I share everything that happens from when you land in Cancun until you get to your accommodation.

The post is packed with practical tips and useful info to go through Cancun Arrival Terminal in a breeze.

Passing through the Cancun airport arrival terminal can be quite a trip in itself, no matter which terminal.

It looks like the authorities decided that you have to earn your vacation in some way and have thought about creating this kind of riddle for you to resolve before getting out of the airport!

Worry not! because in this post I will guide you through every step that you will encounter when arriving at Cancun airport so that your experience will be smooth and easy.

The view you get when you fly into Cancun Airport at Sunset
Drone View of Cancun at Sunset

Especially if you are traveling alone for the first time, please do not get traumatized by this airport. It’s only in Cancun. Airports in Mexico are usually much less complicated, even in Mexico City.  

Prebook your transfer from Cancun airport for a smooth and worry-free arrival!

► Save 13$ by booking your round-trip transfer in advance! BOOK NOW

Cancun airport transfer

Pre-departure Checklist

First thing first, let’s go quickly through a checklist of the things you have to do before getting to Cancun

  • Check if your passport is expired or will be expiring soon. It needs to have a validity of a minimum of 6 months from the day you depart. In case you realize last minute that your passport has expired, check out this site to see if you qualify for an emergency passport.
  • In planes or at the airport it can be cold, so bring something warm to cover up, like a sweater or a pareo.
  • Make sure you know your airline baggage policy so that you don’t risk being charged for extra weight at the airport.
  • Bring your prescription medicine and the prescription itself, just in case Mexican Immigration asks you.
  • Take some cash with you.
  • Get a photocopy of your passport to carry around so that you can keep the original in a safe place.
  • Bring a tablet or ebook to keep you entertained on the flight
  • Remember headphones. Your neighbor is probably not interested in what you are listening to.
  • Double-check on the TSA website what’s approved or not in order to avoid tedious lines or worse

OK, now that we know everything we should take to Mexico we jump on our flight and we can’t wait to get to Cancun. The beach the archeological sites, the Mexican food, and whatnot are waiting for you…but there is one more step to go through before landing.

Filling out the forms on the plane

GREAT NEWS: Since Thursday, August 18th, 2022, Cancun Airport travelers will no longer be required to fill out Immigration (FMM) forms upon arrival. This initiative is part of a project that will include all the major international airports in Mexico with the purpose to speed up the process of arriving in the country.

Being Cancun the Mexican airport with the biggest number of tourist arrivals it was also the airport where this great initiative has been implemented, according to Reportour.mx.

The idea is to speed up the immigration process and reduce lines so that you will be able to get to your hotel faster.

This is valid only for tourists, which will receive a simple stamp on the passport and an electronic entry permit of a maximum of 180 days. The only exception will be for tourists coming from Haití, Honduras, El Salvador, Venezuela y Brasil, who will receive an entry permit of 30 days only.

Mexico immigration form that you will no longer need!!!!

Immigration photo source

Mexico customs form

Please note the forms are just samples, you cannot download and use them. They will give you the original to fill out.

Tourists will still need to fill out the customs form.

Two important things to remember

  1. Fill out the custom form on the plane before landing to get out faster.
  1. Keep your passport handy so when it’s your turn you show them to the immigration officer and they’ll do the rest.

Going through immigration at Cancun Airport Arrivals Terminal

How long The first thing that happens at Cancun Arrival Terminal is the Immigration line. This step is very simple although sometimes tedious as lines can be long and boring.

Here you are not supposed to use your phone.

At immigration check, you can approach the counter with all the family members you are traveling with. But if you are only friends or colleagues you must go separately.

At this point, you will only show your passport and the immigration form that hopefully, you had previously filled out on the plane. (Always travel with a good old pen in your bag).

You have gone through immigration and saved the second part of the immigration form somewhere where you cannot lose it.

Collect your checked bags before Cancun Aiport Customs and after Cancun Immigration

Now it’s time to collect your checked bags.

You can grab one of those carts to carry your bags, but you cannot take them out of the airport.

Cancun beach Chaac Mol
Cancun beach

Going through Cancun Airport Customs

How long does it take to get through customs in Cancun?

Going through customs in Cancun could be a nightmare or a breeze. It’s very difficult to give you an estimated time, because, just like immigration it all depends on how many planes arrive at the same time, how fast immigration is, how fast they will deliver your bags, and how many agents are working.

But also it depends on what light will you get! What?

You see, this is how many factors can determine how fast you can lay your butt on the sunbeds on the spectacular Cancun Beach!

Let me explain!

Once you have collected your checked bags it’s time to play “red or green”.. just kidding. I need to prepare you with this one because it can seem the weirdest thing on earth. And yet it’s real.

There are 1 to 3 lines at customs, where a (sometimes) smiling agent will be waiting for you at a sort of stand with a big red button. You are invited to press the button which is connected to a green and a red light on top of it.

If after you press the button, the green light turns on you are free! you can now exit the airport.

If the red light will be on, you will be inspected, meaning that you are asked to open all your bags on a table so that the agents will go through all your belongings. Fun!

I really hate it. Not that I have anything to hide, but I just feel somebody just broke into my home and touched my stuff.

Even worse when I travel with my backpack and they ask me to pull everything out.

It takes forever to put everything back.


There have been several cases, also reported in the comments about officers with unethical and abusive behavior. The best way to avoid it is by not giving them any reasons to do so.

Therefore, read the sample form I have shared with you here and follow the rules about what you can take to Mexico or not and you’ll be just fine.

After Cancun Airport Customs – scams to avoid

You haven’t left the airport yet. You will need to go through another test!

You thought it was that easy, uh!

In this area, it’s like purgatory, the last step before paradise.

A couple of things:

  1. Don’t get tempted to change your US in the money exchange office that you find there. They have ridiculous exchange rates, and anywhere else will give you a better deal.
  2. You will see some guys dressed in a beige uniform, don’t even bother chatting with them. They approach you with the intention to help you and will try to sell you a timeshare apartment. Waste of time.

Just proceed to the exit to find your transfer to your hotel. (see below)

How to get to your hotel from Cancun airport

Prebook your transfer from Cancun airport for a smooth and worry-free arrival!

► Save 13$ by booking your round-trip transfer in advance! BOOK NOW

Cancun airport transfer
This is me with Miguel the driver and the shuttle that took me to my hotel.
This is me with Miguel the driver from Cancun Transportations and the shuttle that took me to my hotel.

1. Transfer from Cancun Airport By ADO bus

It’s quite convenient, as the buses are comfortable and with A/C.

ADO Bus Prices: Cancun airport to Cancun town 5 USD –  Cancun airport to Playa del Carmen 10 USD – Cancun airport to Tulum 13 USD approx.

You can check the schedule on their site.

Now, if you are staying in one of the hotels in the Hotel Zone, this is not recommended to get the bus, because the bus will take you to Down Town and from there you will need a taxi. You will waste a lot of time and save a little money. I would rather go for option 2.

ADO at the airport
ADO Ticket Counter at Cancun Airport

2. Pre-book a transfer from Cancun Airport to your hotel

You can book your transfer with an authorized company or with the same hotel where you are staying. Some of them offer the service.

There are two options, shared transfer and private.

With the share transfer, you might need to wait longer if your hotel happens to be the last in the bus itinerary, depending on where other passengers go.

But you will be in any case on a comfortable seat that will take you straight to your hotel without having to change transport

If you purchase a transfer, you need to pay attention to the signs when you exit the airport, right after the automatic doors you will need to have your voucher in your hand and look for the service provider’s name and/ or your name on one of those signs.

In case you don’t find it just ask one of the other companies’ representatives. They all know each other and will help you.

Get a taxi

Another option is just to get a taxi. There is a taxi company right after you come out of customs. I believe they charge around 50 USD to any of the hotels in Cancun, probably double to Playa and around 150 to Tulum, but this is an approx rate. Remember to ask before boarding.

Rent a car

At the airport, you can also find many different car rentals that you can book in advance if you planned to drive around the Yucatan peninsula. That’s actually my favorite option because you have the freedom to move around and find the best places where local buses won’t go.

INSIDER TIP – Keep in mind that renting a car from the airport it will cost slightly more than renting it from an office located in town, because of Airport taxes, but it’s not always the case.

Welcome to Cancun!

Now it’s time to have fun! Click on this link for the complete Cancun guide to know more information about the city and surroundings. I have written tons of posts to help you have a blast!!


Here below some options!

If you are staying in Cancun though, you will want to learn about all the amazing things to do in Cancun!

Hotels in Cancun Airport

If you are just passing through and need a nice comfortable hotel for the night, here a few interesting options of nice Hotels by Cancun Airport.

Villa Oasis BnB Cancun Airport – Lovely budget hotel with spacious rooms and nicely decorates – transfer to airport NOT included Check price and availability

Comfort Inn – Impeccable business hotel at only 5 minute’s drive from the Airport – shuttle bus included – Check Price and Availability

Cancun Blue Airport – At about 15 minutes drive from the Airport, this cozy cute place is like a home away from home. They offer fully furnished apartments in a tranquil area just outside Cancun Airport. Check out price and availability.

Also, you can read about the best vacation rentals and Airbnb in Cancun personally selected for you! Or pick one in your favorite location following the map below.

Before you go

If you are looking for the optimal accommodation in Cancun for your vacation here are some useful articles

Or you can check out all the posts on this site on this site map.

About the Author

Hey there! This is Isabella, the owner, and writer of this site. I have been living in Cancun for the past 12 years and although I have been roaming around Mexico, Cancun’s spectacular turquoise waters and pristine beach draw me back to this popular Mexican beach destination. That is why I decided to start this blog, to show you all the beauty you can find in Cancun and share helpful travel tips to help you plan a fabulous vacation in Cancun!

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