The THUMP Guide to Surviving in Playa del Carmen
Lessons to help you party in the party capital of the Caribbean.
Over the past few years, Playa del Carmen has become synonymous with party time. Hosting world-famous events like Circo Loco, Flying Circus, and Cocoon, this resort town on the Yucatán peninsula has become a paradise, often discussed in breathless tones usually reserved for institutions like Ibiza. During our latest visit to Playa del Carmen, we learned some lessons that every traveler to la Rivera Maya should hold dear, especially during ten days of partying at BPM Festival.
1. Save, save, save
Even for a few days, living in paradise isn't cheap. Before you take your flight, make sure that you bring enough money—the party doesn't pay for itself. Many of the establishments post their prices in US dollars, so it may be useful to change your money over if you're travelling from outside of the United States.
2. Make friends on the bus
Yes, just like when you were in school. The bus from Cancún to Playa del Carmen will be full of others nightlife lovers like you, so talk with them. You're all headed to the same place anyway.
3. Practice your Spanish
Playa del Carmen is a tourist town, which means a lot of the people there speak English. But don't limit yourself. Learning some basic phrases in Spanish could help you navigate the town, especially if you're hoping to immerse yourself in the vibrant culture beyond BPM.
4. Talk with your cab driver
If anybody knows the place, it's your cabdriver. Talk with them about your plans, ask if they have suggestions to improve them. They are the best person to recommend cheaper places to eat. At the very least, ask for their telephone number and don't lose it. You never know when you're going to need a taxi to take you out of the party in the middle of the jungle.
5. The Internet is your friend
If you're a Wi-Fi chaser, you won't have any problems in Playa del Carmen. There are open networks almost everywhere.
6. The party starts in the street
If you don't have plans to go out, it's not a problem—the party always begins in the street. You'll always find someone who wants to clink glasses and celebrate for no reason.
7. Bring cash
The nearest ATMs to the party zone are foreign currency-friendly and have only dollars. To get pesos, you should go to your bank so that you don't have to pay unnecessary fees.
8. Buy a cooler
Drinking on the beach is one of life's most basic pleasures. Consequently, you should invest in a cooler early on. You'll save your money instead of wasting it on alcohol in the nearby bars, and you'll enjoy it more on the beach anyway. There are places open 24/7 that sell disposable coolers, so you won't feel responsible to bring it with you on your return trip.
9. Act like a local
There are still a few Playa del Carmen locals that keep shops, even if the place is largely overrun of international companies. Spend your money in these places, and talk with them, they always have good stories.
10. Get a map
Playa del Carmen is a small place—too small, some might say, to accommodate the throngs of people that descend on the major thoroughfares during BPM. Try to find alternate routes, so you won't spend ten minutes trying to travel ten feet.
Las tarifas de los taxis, en temporada alta, suelen ser elevadas. La ciudad no es tan grande como parece, ahórrate el taxi y camina.Además, siempre hay transeúntes que te harán reír con alguna escena nocturna, Playa tiene mucho material para contar historias.
12. Familiarize yourself with the terrain
Many of the parties happening during BPM week take place in or around nature reserves. Try to get to the party early, so you can see the venue in the light of day; you don't want to get lost when you're stumbling home at the end of the night.
13. Stay up until sunrise
In the morning, the beaches of Playa del Carmen look like a desert. Don't miss out on watching the sun come up over the horizon at least once. You will thank us later.
Val is the editor of THUMP México. She's on Twitter.