How to Get to Merida, Mexico (from Cancún, Tulum, and the USA)
Mérida is one of México's best cities. It's full of culture, delicious food, and kind people that welcome you in to share in their city's history and traditions. Getting to Mérida isn't too complicated no matter where you're coming from, but we're going to walk you through all of your different options including planes, taxis, and buses.
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Mérida is a city in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. It is located about 310 miles (500 km) east of Mexico City, the capital of Mexico and about a four hours drive from Cancun. Its close proximity to the Caribbean Sea and equator give it consistently warm (and often very hot!) weather year around.
Is Mérida worth the drive?
Absolutely! Mérida is one of the most vibrant and culturally-rich cities in Mexico. It's home to stunning colonial architecture, fantastic cuisine, cenotes, and lots of Mayan heritage sites. With its lively atmosphere and warm hospitality, it's easy to see why travelers from all over the world come to experience Mérida.
The drive to Mérida from other popular destinations in the Yucatan (Cancun, Tulum, etc.) might be longer than you'd like to make on a beach vacation, but the toll roads in this area of Mexico are well maintained, safe, and very easy to drive, even for tourists, making Mérida an easy stop if you can afford a few extra hours of driving.
Why should I visit Mérida?
Visitors come to Mérida for many reasons. From its fascinating cultural attractions, incredible Mayan ruins and archaeological sites, delicious food, beautiful beaches, and more, there's something for everyone in Mérida. Whether you're looking for a relaxing getaway or an exciting adventure, Mérida has it all.
How to get from the USA to Mérida
The best way to get from the USA to Merida is by air. There are several airlines that offer direct flights from various US cities, including New York City and Miami, to Mérida International Airport (MID). Some of these flights are seasonal, so plan in advance if you're looking for a particular route or time frame. Once you arrive at the airport in Mérida, there are plenty of transportation options to get you into the city center. You can take a taxi or shuttle service, rent a car, or even hop on one of the local buses. Regardless of your choice of transportation, it's easy to get around Merida and explore all that it has to offer.
Since Mérida wasn't our only stop in the Yucatan, we decided to save a good bit of money and fly into Cancun, then rent a car and drive to Mérida from there. The tickets into Cancun were less than half the cost of flying Mérida into Mérida, and we were able to get a non-stop flight from where we were in Austin, Texas.
How to get from Cancun to Mérida
Getting from Cancun to Mérida is a relatively easy journey and can be done in four hours, depending on traffic. The road is in good condition with construction along a significant portion of the road (as of spring 2023) so expect commute times to be a bit longer than what Google anticipates.
On the way to Mérida we were driving the route on a Sunday and experienced no construction along the way, which saved us a lot of time. When we left Mérida and drove the same route again the construction crews were on the job and it took much longer. Sunday is typically rest day for Mexicans, so if you're looking for quieter roads and (hopefully) less construction, try and travel on a Sunday.
Driving from Cancun to Mérida
The easiest way to get there is by car – you can rent a car at the airport in Cancun. We rented our car through Enterprise because their price was the same as all of the other rental car companies, and we're generally pretty loyal to them both stateside and internationally when we have to rent a car. They were also the most professional car rental company at the Cancun airport which instantly made us realize we chose the right one. We're not big fans of rental companies hanging out of their booths trying to get us to rent from them for "half the price" (yeah right...).
Enterprise has a booth right after you exit baggage claim and right before you walk outside. Like the other car rental companies, there is a quick shuttle (maybe 3-5 minutes tops) to pick up the car, but the whole process was seamless. The desk agent escorted us out to the shuttle pickup spot and waited until they arrived to get us (which took 2 minutes) to save us any confusion. Super easy!
If you decide to rent a car in Mexico drive yourself to Mérida, it’s important to note that there are toll roads along the route, but we'll get to that later in this article.
Once you arrive in Mérida, there are plenty of transportation options available including taxis, shuttles and local buses if you don't want to deal with parking in the city.
Taking a bus from Cancun to Mérida
Taking a bus from Cancun to Mérida is an easy and cost-effective way to get there. Buses run frequently between the two cities, with departures every half hour or so during peak times. The journey takes around 4-6 hours, depending on traffic and road conditions. I know that's a big variation, but there's currently a lot of construction on the route as Mexico significantly improves the infrastructure in the area with new roads and even new trains.
If you're hoping to depart for Mérida directly from the Cancun airport, you'll want to take the Ado bus. This is the most popular and reputable passenger bus company in Mexico. Their buses offer comfortable seating and air conditioning for travelers’ convenience. Tickets can be purchased online in advance or at the station in Cancun prior to departure.
The Ado bus has Cancun International Airport departures from terminals 2, 3, and 4. It appears terminals 3 and 4 offer a less expensive rate for some reason, so we'd recommend checking your options before purchasing. It also appears that weekend tickets are less expensive by about $200 Mexican Pesos (about $11 USD). You can expect to pay between $700-1000 Mexican Pesos (about $39-56 USD) each way between Cancun and Mérida.
How to get to Mérida from Tulum
Driving from Tulum to Mérida
Driving from Tulum to Mérida is a great way to explore the Yucatán Peninsula. Depending on where you start in Tulum, it's about a 3-4 hour drive. The route will take you inland through areas fewer tourists visit. While most of the drive is pretty remote, you will go right past the town of Valladolid. If you have the time, you should definitely stop here! Not only is this town quaint and charming, but some of the most famous cenotes in Mexico are nearby, plus Chichén Itzá is just 30 minutes away!
Do note that there are tolls along the route so be sure to get cash out of an ATM before leaving Tulum. The tolls are relatively inexpensive for how much time they save you driving the highways vs. backroads.
Taking a bus from Tulum to Mérida
Taking a bus from Tulum to Mérida is an easy and convenient way to get there. There are several bus companies offering regular departures between the two cities, with tickets costing around $39-56 USD each way. The journey takes about 3-4 hours depending on traffic and road conditions, so it's a great option for those who want to explore the Yucatán Peninsula without having to worry about driving or parking in Mérida.
How to get from Mexico City to Mérida
You can get from Mexico City to Mérida by car, bus, or plane. Due to the far distance from Mexico City, we'd highly recommend flying. The car ride will take somewhere between 17-19 hours and the bus ride from Mexico City to Mérida will take you about 22 hours.
The flight from Mexico City to Mérida is right around 2 hours long making it the much more efficient option. You can regularly snag roundtrip tickets from Mexico City to Mérida for around $100 USD on Aeromexico, VivaAerobus, and Volaris.
How to get around Mérida once you arrive
Once you arrive in Mérida, there are plenty of transportation options available including taxis, shuttles and local buses to get around. Parking in Centro (the main tourist area in Mérida) can be a bit tricky, so we'd recommend Ubering or taking a taxi. Some hotels will also offer free shuttle service which is a great option when you want to save some money.
Taking Ubers or taxis in Mérida
We usually gravitate towards Uber vs. taxis because it's so convenient just to be able to open the same app in most countries around the world vs. having to download a new taxi app each time. We've only ever had great Uber experiences in Mexico and it's known as being a safe way to get around Mexican cities.
We found ourselves driving around Mérida most of the time because we usually have our dog, Kramer, in tow, but in the instances we left him at the hotel, we took an Uber.
We also never like to drive ourselves at night in Mexico. While Mérida is known to be very safe, like any city, it's no perfect and we'd rather not try and navigate a foreign city on our own in the dark.
Most Uber rides will cost $4-10 USD to get around Mérida. We stayed about 15 minutes outside of Centro and each way from our hotel to Centro cost us about $6 USD. Super cost effective to save yourself the headache of driving those busy Mexico streets!
Parking and driving yourself around Mérida
If you rented a car to drive, parking is relatively easy to find in the city. Centro is certainly the most difficult place to find legal parking (unless you want to pay for a garage), so go in knowing that you will need to circle a bit to find the good spots. We recommend parking on any of the east-west streets off of C. 60 north of Parque Central and south of Paseo de Montejo. If you're planning to walk along Paseo de Montejo (which we highly recommend!), keep in mind that you won't be able to park on that specific street on Sundays between 8:00am and 1:00pm since they close part of the road for only pedestrians and cyclists.
If you're planning on visiting locations outside of the Centro area, more often than not you can snag free parking in a lot. It's much more suburban than Mexico City or even Tulum.
NOTE: Never park in front of yellow curbs. Some of the curbs colors are quite questionable since the paint is so faded, but when in doubt, park elsewhere. We've heard they'll ticket you pretty quickly in Mérida. We never tested this for ourselves, just know that's the reputation.
Is it safe to drive in the Yucatan?
Driving in the Yucatán Peninsula can be a great way to explore and get around Mexico. The Yucatán is generally considered safe for travelers, so if you're comfortable behind the wheel, there's no reason why you shouldn't take advantage of this convenient mode of transportation. However, it's always important to use caution when driving in an unfamiliar area and make sure that you are aware of your surroundings at all times.
We never recommend driving at night, especially in Mexico. The roads are remote and not well lit, and generally you won't have cell coverage outside of larger cities. It should also be noted that for the last year or so the Yucatán has experienced a significant amount of more crime, specifically in Cancun and Tulum.
Stops and attractions along the way
There's really only one stop between Mérida and Tulum and Canún and that's Valladolid. I say there's only one stop, but Valladolid is a wonderful small town with so much to do in the area. Many use Valladolid as their "base" for visiting Chichén Itzá and some of the Yucatan's best cenotes. We stopped into Valladolid twice (once on the way from Canún to Mérida and again on the way from Mérida to Tulum) and both times we wandered through town we found it charming! The city is very quaint with lots of beautiful buildings around the main square, plenty of accommodations for tourists, and lots of food options. We even saw multiple co-working space and laptop friendly cafés perfect for digital nomads who want to make Valladolid their home for a bit. Truthfully I wish we had planned a few days here while in the Yucatán, but maybe next time!
The only real downside I saw to visiting Valladolid is that the number of tourists to locals was very high. Granted, one of the new seven wonders of the world is 30 minutes outside of town, but still, the influx of tourists was distracting. Doesn't mean it's not worth visiting (heck, we're tourists, too!), just know that it might not be as authentic of a Mexican experience as you might be hoping for in a small town.
When we passed through Valladolid we grabbed lunch and coffee at Rúa Coffee which has a great dog friendly patio. For a complete travel guide to Valladolid from someone who know the town better than us, checkout this complete guide to Valladolid, Mexico.
Rúa Coffee: Calle 35, Entre 40 y 42, Candelaria, 97780 Valladolid, Yuc., Mexico | Google Maps
Final thoughts on getting to Mérida
Whether you're looking to plan a trip exclusively to Mérida, or are contemplating adding it to your itinerary for your vacation in the Yucatán, getting to Mérida isn't difficult and well worth the extra few hours on the road. Take your time, make roadside stops when you can, and have fun!
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We're Chris and Sara
A creative husband and wife duo from a small-town in Tennessee with passion for all things travel. Checkout the links below to join us on our past, present, and future adventures!