Chichen Itza Visitor Guide
Planning your visit
The easiest and most convenient way to get to Maya Yucatan is by air. The consistently cheapest way is to fly into Cancun. Another option is to fly into Merida, the capital of the state of Yucatan. There are dozens of airlines that serve Cancun, but very few to Merida.
I have never met anyone who drove to Yucatan, except for those who were moving there or who live there. It can be done, and should you wish to attempt it, I recommend heading over to Yolisto, a Web site devoted to the expatriate community in Yucatan. Search the discussion forums to read about the experiences of those who have done it.
There are numerous cruise ship lines that include Yucatan. Contact your travel professional for more information.
As of 2007, all US citizens traveling to Mexico require a passport. It can take several weeks to get a passport, so it is advisable to start that process as early as possible. For more information, consult the US State Department Web site here.
If you already have a passport, check to make sure it has not expired.
Check with your doctor or a medical professional. The northern Yucatan peninsula is not considered within a malaria zone, for example, but your doctor may still recommend inoculations or preventative medicines.
Consult the US Center for Disease Control (CDC) Web site for information specific to the countries and areas where you are traveling.
Things to do before you leave
Fill prescriptions before you leave. Leave them in their original bottles, as some visitors report that Mexican customs will confiscate medications in unmarked bottles.
Acquire a few pesos. While credit cards are widely accepted, Mexico is still a cash economy. In tourist zones such as Cancun and Cozumel, you can pay in US currency (usually at inflated exchange rates). Outside those zones, Mexican cash becomes the norm. It's a good idea to bring with you a couple hundred dollars in pesos. Contact your local bank to find out how to obtain Mexican currency.
Contact your credit card company and banks. Call your credit card company (don't forget the one that services your debit card) to let them know the dates you will be in Mexico. If you don't, you may get to Mexico and find that your card is declined. At the same time, you might want to check what insurance your credit card company offers on car rentals (if you plan to do that, of course) and if it includes coverage in Mexico.
What to pack
Below are some items to include that you may not have considered:
Sweater or light jacket. Yucatan has a tropical climate, but every so often there can be a chill in the air. Bring something to keep you warm.
Protection from sun. The sun can be brutal, so bring plenty of effective sunscreen.
Bug repellent. Mosquitoes can be a nuisance, and in the cities, dangerous, as they can carry dengue fever. Bring strong repellent. I prefer a solution that includes Deet.
Convenient way to carry water. A daypack with a pocket or sleeve for water bottles is handy. I like to bring a hiking bladder that holds a liter or so.
Tummy medicine. I bring medicines to stop diarrhea and stomach aches. Mexico is better than it used to be, and if you are careful about what you eat, you should be fine. But it doesn't hurt to be prepared, just in case.
A hat. My personal choice now is the Tilley hat, but I've gotten by with ball caps and kerchiefs. A broad-brimmed hat is better for protection from the sun.
A flashlight. You never know when you might find yourself in a dark room or cave. When coming in from the bright sun, a flashlight helps a lot.
Personally, I like The Rough Guide Map to the Yucatan because it's rip-proof and waterproof.
When it comes to Chichen Itza specifically, I can't say enough about the Can-Do map for Chichen Itza Inland Adventure. Somehow they manage to pack an entire guidebook's worth of information onto a map. It's great regardless of whether you're driving to Chichen, taking a public bus or traveling with a tour group. If you are flying into Cancun and spending time in the area, you also might consider purchasing the Can-Do map to Cancun.