Should I use Dollars or Pesos in Cancun

This is one of the most often asked questions on my Cancun message board and is still very much a personal choice. My advice is to use US dollars but only if it is your home currency.

For those who don't use US dollars regularly then why complicate matters by dealing with two unfamiliar currencies when you could just use pesos?

Pesos, being the national currency of Mexico, will be accepted absolutely anywhere. US dollars will be accepted throughout the Cancun Hotel Zone, but the further you venture into 'real Mexico' the more problems you may find in using them for everyday purchases.

Check out our Mexican currency page to see photos of the bank notes currently in circulation and familiarize yourself before you go.

Some travel agencies (particularly those in the UK) continue to tell their clients that Dollars are no longer accepted in Cancun. This is totally wrong! While it is true that recent banking restrictions mean that it is now harder to pay Dollars into a Mexican bank account, Dollars are still in widespread use throughout the tourist areas of Cancun and no one will refuse them...... except the travel operator who told you this in the first place.

Why would my UK travel operator tell me this if it isn't true?

Profit of course! As mentioned above, companies now have a hard time banking large amounts of Dollars in Mexico. By telling you Dollars aren't accepted they ensure that you bring a currency that they themselves can accept and bank easily with the least amount of inconvenience to them when you buy their overpriced tours. Last thing they want is for you to arrive in Mexico with only Dollars and they wind up not being able to sell you anything. So, they lie.

There are even cash machines in the hotel zone that dispense notes in Dollars and do you think US travel operators tell their clients they cant pay for tours in Dollars? Of course not!

I would strongly recommend all UK tourists to complain to their operators about this blatant misinformation, and to buy their tours and excursions from local operators or online. After all, often you'll end up on the very same bus as someone else who paid half the price you did and in whatever currency they chose to!

Beware $100 bills

When using US dollars be aware that many places will not accept a $100 USD bill -including the large supermarkets such as Walmart downtown. Don't fill your shopping trolley and then be disappointed at the checkout if all you have are 100's and no one will change them for you. For most purchases you will nearly always receive change in Pesos, regardless of if you pay in USD.

Winning the exchange rate

Undoubtedly, however, the real benefit in using Pesos is that you will avoid losing out on the varying exchange rates offered at the places where you spend your money. The exchange rate is not regulated in Quintana Roo and that means retail outlets can set their own rate. And of course they will always set it to suit their pocket, not yours!

Here's an example to illustrate the point:

You buy 5 beers in a bar advertised at 40 pesos each. This bar offers an exchange rate of 10 pesos to the dollar. So, you could either pay 200 Pesos or $20.00 USD, fair enough you may think. However, the true bank rate of exchange is 12 pesos to the dollar so your $20 USD is actually worth 240 pesos.

If you'd used a reputable exchange place and converted your $20 USD to Pesos and then used those Pesos to pay your bill, you'd actually still have 40 Pesos left and could stay for an extra beer!



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