My recommendation for getting the best exchange rate in Cancun is to use the ATM machines just like you would at home.
ATM Machines in Cancun
Just be sure the ATM you are using is owned by a bank. You’ll find these in the street, outside the banks, and at large supermarkets in Cancun such as Walmart. Many private ATM machines charge ridiculous commissions and offer poor exchange rates. Steer clear of those! You’ll often find those inside hotel lobbies, convenience stores or outside Cancun tour departure points.
When I lived in the UK I was always pleasantly surprised when I returned home. I found that the rate I got through a bank ATM was far better than I could have got anywhere else in Cancun. Now that I live in Cancun but still partially bank in England I still use the ATMs in Cancun.
ATM Charges in Cancun
ATM’s usually do have a charge for using them. Even if you use an ATM to withdraw Pesos from a Mexican account there is a charge. Because of this, it is best to withdraw a larger sum of money once than smaller amounts several times.
Some machines also ask if you wish to donate a small amount to charity, 5 Pesos for example. Of course, it is up to you but don’t the banks make enough money already?
In addition, the machine may offer you an optional exchange rate. Decline it, it will be a worse rate than the default rate you will then receive. The tricks they try!
One more tip, many of the ATM machines will only dispense 5,000 pesos at a time. If you need more than this then simply put your card in again and, providing your home bank daily withdrawal amount is not reached, then you will be able to get more cash. In the Hotel Zone some (but not all) ATMs will offer an option to withdraw your money in US Dollars.
Don’t Bother With Travelers Checks in Cancun
If you do decide to use travelers checks in Cancun then bear in mind you will normally be asked for photo ID so you will need to take your drivers license or passport with you, they can often be awkward about signatures not being 100% identical too.
Remember, that having already paid commission to obtain the travelers checks in the first place you will then have to pay commission again to change them.
As long as you have somewhere safe to keep your money, like a hotel safe, I think it’s better to change a large amount infrequently rather than little and often, you can then avoid the time and cost going to the places that offer the best rate.
The best place to change travelers checks (does anyone still use those?) is at a money exchange place or ‘Cambio’ in downtown Cancun. The Cambio’s in the hotel zone normally offer an inferior rate but may be more convenient. There are many of these in the main shopping areas.
Your hotel probably offers the worst rate going, however, they are convenient and you may not feel it worth the effort of a bus ride in to town to make a few extra dollars as you may have better things to do!
Exchanging At Cancun Airport
It has often been said that Cancun airport, surprisingly, offers a good rate. The problem here is that until you’ve had chance to check out the alternatives you have nothing to compare against. I’d tend to steer clear of changing money at the airport unless you are well aware of the rates in Cancun.