Cancun to Merida Mexico: How to Make the Journey in 2023

Getting from Cancun to Merida Mexico is easy to do. This is a popular route for tourists embarking on their Yucatan itineraries.

As such, there are a number of public transportation options for traveling along the route. If you are planning on renting a car yourself and driving from Cancun to Merida, that is also easy to do. 

Visiting Merida, Mexico   

Merida Mexico is without hesitation, one of the best places to visit in the Yucatan. This is the Yucatan’s cultural capital and is worthy of a 2-3 day Merida itinerary in itself.

It was recently nominated as being one of Lonely Planet’s recommended travel destinations for 2022. Merida is also a very safe city. 

Despite being the capital of the state of the Yucatan and boasting a population of close to 900,000 residents, Merida has something of a small-town feel about it. The city is characterized by its opulent, grand colonial mansions and ornate, colorful houses.

Many of these stunning buildings have been converted into luxury hotels, exquisite Merida restaurants and coffee shops, or boutique stores. During the henequen boom, Merida was one of the richest cities in the world. 

Today, it is the safest city in Mexico and the second safest in all of the Americas! Merida makes a great base for a wider exploration of the Yucatan. 

From here, you can take a bus out to the beach town of Progreso and explore gorgeous Yucatan beaches. Sometimes it can seem as though the Caribbean beaches in Quintana Roo get all the attention but the beaches here are just as spectacular. 

When choosing where to stay in Merida, opt to stay in Centro or on the Paseo Montejo to be within walking distance of the city’s main museums, sites, and attractions. There are plenty of day trips that you can do from Merida too.

From here, you can reach Celestun in under three hours, and get from Merida to the ruins at Uxmal or Mayapan in just over an hour. Merida is perhaps best explored as part of a wider Yucatan itinerary.

Getting from Cancun to Merida Mexico 

You have a couple of options available for getting from Cancun to Merida. Namely, you can take a private transfer or a cab, you can travel by bus, or you can rent a car and drive. 

Here, we will explore the various options and their cost so that you can determine which is the most suitable for you. We will also look at the differences when traveling from Cancun city center to Merida and from Cancun airport to Merida. 

Private Transfer from Cancun to Merida 

Organizing a private shuttle to take you from Cancun to Merida can be a nice choice. Doing so takes a lot of stress out of having to figure out where and when to catch buses. 

If there are several of you traveling together, this actually works out pretty economical and is not that much more expensive than buying multiple bus tickets. If you are traveling to Mexico as a family, this might be preferable to you rather than loading your kids onto a bus, especially after a long flight! 

Benefits of organizing a private transfer 

When you organize a private transfer from Cancun to Merida, you have the comfort of knowing that your driver will be waiting for you as soon as you arrive. You will communicate your flight details with the company beforehand so if there are any delays, your driver will be aware and waiting. 

Most Cancun to Merida transfer companies offers luxury air-conditioned vehicles. The drivers speak English and Spanish and complimentary bottles of water and hand sanitizer are provided in the car. 

Obviously, when you travel by bus, getting to Merida is only one part of the journey. You then have to get from the Merida bus station to your accommodation which adds extra time to your journey. Meanwhile, private transfers offer door-to-door comfort.

You are looking at about $250 each way for a private transfer from Cancun to Merida, including luggage. When you consider the fact that a bus ticket to Merida from Cancun costs around $30-$50 per person, this isn’t that expensive if there is a group of you.

Take the bus from Cancun to Merida

Taking the ADO bus from Cancun to Merida
Taking the ADO bus from Cancun to Merida

ADO buses operate on the route from Cancun airport to Merida and from Cancun city to Merida. It is important to note that there are multiple bus stations in both Cancun and Merida. 

In Cancun, buses depart from the ADO Centro bus station (Calle Pino, SM23, MZ56, Lt 1 y 2, Centro, 23), and the Hotel Zone (ADO Plaza Kukulcan Zona Hotelera, Blvd. Kukulcan s/n, Zona Hotelera, 77500 Cancún). There is also a third bus station just north of the city. 

Purchasing ADO bus tickets 

You can purchase ADO bus tickets online in advance via the ADO app or website. This is worth doing if you are not planning on spending any time in Cancun and you will be traveling straight from the airport to Merida. 

However, the ADO website and app are sometimes temperamental and do not accept all foreign bank cards (including many US cards). You can also purchase tickets online via Busbud. 

However, keep in mind that they do charge you a small additional extra booking fee. If you do use the ADO app/website, both are easiest enough to use. However they are only available in Spanish. 

That being said, even if you don’t speak a word of Spanish, it is pretty self-explanatory. Once you have purchased your ticket, you will be allocated a seat number and sent the QR ticket by email. You can simply show the code to the driver when you board the bus. 

ADO buses from Cancun Center 

Cancun to Merida ADO Platino bus
Cancun to Merida ADO Platino bus

ADO buses from Cancun to Merida depart much more frequently than from the airport to Merida. Although it’s a bit of a hassle, if you have a long wait for a bus at the airport, you may actually find it easier to head into Cancun and take a bus from there, rather than wait around for a long time. 

Buses from Cancun city center leave every 30-60 minutes depending on the time of day. If you have not purchased your ticket online in advance, you can buy one from the ticket office at the station.

ADO buses from Cancun airport 

Buses from Cancun airport to Merida do not leave all that frequently. Check the times in advance to see if there is a departure close to after your flight gets in.

If not, there are a couple of bars and cafes where you can sample some Mexican drinks while you wait. There is no ticket office here. 

Follow the signs for “buses” out of the airport. There will be someone standing behind a little pop-up kiosk. Make sure to bring some small notes as this is cash-only and they often do not have enough change if you are paying with large, 500 peso bills. 

ADO buses and amenities 

The ADO first class lounge in Cancun
The ADO first class lounge in Cancun

When you are traveling around Mexico, you will generally find that most intercity buses are fairly decent. Some may be a little dated, but they are air-conditioned with bathrooms onboard and spacious, reclining seats. 

ADO buses are arguably the best quality. Their fleet is fairly new and could certainly give US greyhound or British National Express buses a run for their money! 

ADO buses boast complimentary wifi, reclining seats, USB charging points, and aircon. There are different “tiers” of ADO buses. 

The standard ADO buses are just fine. If you purchase a ticket on the ADO + bus which is usually only marginally more, you get complimentary teas, coffees, and water on board. 

ADO Platino is the First Class ADO bus service. These have individual televisions on the backs of each chair, and you will be served a meal, as well as free drinks and snacks on board. 

It is sometimes worth paying a little more for additional comfort. Although the journey from Cancun to Merida isn’t long, traveling in First Class does make a difference. 

It’s worth paying a little more if your schedule coincides with a First Class service. But equally, don’t wait around specifically for a First Class bus. The standard services are also just fine. 

There are several stores, and cafes located in and around the ADO Centro bus station in Cancun. If you pay to travel in ADOs first-class bus, you can also enjoy access to the air-conditioned ADO lounge.

Arriving in Merida, Mexico 

There are three different bus stations in Merida, Mexico. Check which one you will be traveling to when you purchase your bus ticket. 

Usually, Merida Centro Historico TAME ADO bus station ( C. 69 554, Centro, 97000 Mérida, Yuc.)  is the most convenient choice. From here, you are a short walk or taxi ride away from most central hotels.

Buses also run to Altabrisa station (C. 26 202-Local D, Col. Altabrisa, 97130 Mérida, Yuc.) which is northeast of the city center. You can get a cab from here to the city center in just 10-15 minutes but it isn’t the most convenient place to disembark.

It takes approximately 4.5 hours to get from Cancun to Merida by bus. The journey is longer than by car due to the various stops that the bus makes en route. 

Buses to Merida usually stop at a number of places on the outskirts/southern part of town. You will know when you reach the Merida bus station as this is where the bus terminates. 

Taking a taxi from Cancun to Merida 

First things first: you absolutely should not take a taxi from the rank outside of Cancun International. They are not at all economical and are very expensive.

Worst still, the drivers are not always that trustworthy. Taxi drivers are often a law unto themselves the world over and it is no different in Cancun. 

It is far from uncommon for someone to simply make up an extortionate rate on the spot because they assume that you are a tourist with no clue of the correct prices. This is perhaps even more likely when traveling a relative distance. 

You should expect to be charged between $250-$300 for the journey to Merida, depending on the time of day and your ability to haggle! This is actually more than a private transfer which is why this isn’t the best method of getting to Merida. 

However, it is perhaps worth knowing in the case for some reason you find that you have no other options available. If you do take a cab, make sure that you get in a licensed vehicle. 

Toots wait around outside of Cancun airport harassing tourists to get into their cars. Never get in a private vehicle/unlicensed cab. 

Taking an Uber from Cancun to Merida 

Merida, Mexico
Merida, Mexico

Uber is actually banned in most of the state of Quintana Roo. However, it is legal in Cancun, so you could use Uber in Cancun to make your journeys from Cancun to Tulum and Cancun to Merida. 

However, a lot of Uber drivers may simply not be willing to make the long journey from Cancun to Merida (and vice versa). Accepting this fare means a round trip of more than 8 hours for them, and they are unlikely to get a return fare.

Add to that, the fact that although Uber is legal in Cancun, there really aren’t that many drivers on the app compared to say, Uber in Merida, or Uber in Guadalajara. There are often many clashes between Uber drivers and cab drivers in Cancun, so, local Uber drivers try to fly under the radar.

If you do hope to take an Uber from Cancun to Merida, your best option is to try and order your cab in advance, rather than at the time you need it. Do keep in mind that although Uber operates in the hotel zone and the center, it is banned at the airport. 

If you try to use Uber at Cancun airport, you will note a message on your app that says that Uber is not available in your area yet. Be prepared to pay at least $250 for the journey to Merida. Keep in mind that sometimes fares fluctuate wildly depending on the current demand for a car. 

If you see a note saying that the “fares are higher than usual due to increased demand”, it is typically worth grabbing a coffee somewhere and waiting for a little. You will probably note that that fare is as much as double or triple the usual rate (!) 

This is really not uncommon, particularly at rush hour or on Friday or Saturday nights. Generally, though, you are better to avoid getting an Uber or a cab and stick to buses or private transfers. 

Driving from Cancun to Merida 

Driving in Mexico is really not as daunting as it might sound. This is especially the case in Quintana Roo and the Yucatan as the roads here are extremely well maintained. 

This area is very popular with tourists and safe. So, an extra effort is made to keep the roads in good condition. 

There are no potholes or cracks in the road as you may find in other parts of Mexico. There are two different roads that you can take from Cancun to Merida.

The best option is to drive along Highway 180D (Carretera Cancún – Kantunil). This is a toll road so you do have to pay a fee for using it, but Mexican toll roads are better maintained. Make sure that you have plenty of cash (small notes and change) for paying tolls as cards are not accepted. 

It is best not to drive at night. If your flight gets in late, consider spending one night in Cancun. You can have breakfast by the beach and check out the underwater art museum before traveling to Merida when it is light the next day. 

This is not just for safety reasons/because there may be sketchy people around. The roads are very poorly lit and it makes it difficult to see oncoming hazards. These could be anything from wildlife and people wandering into the road, and steep topes (speedbumps) that are not marked. 

Road Rules

In Mexico, people drive on the right-hand side, like most of the world. The same rules apply anywhere else. 

In other words, you can be fined for having your phone in your hand, you should not speed or drive under the influence, etc. People seem to assume that driving in Mexico is like being in the Wild West but if anything, people are more careful here as the police are ever-present and are very strict if they catch you driving dangerously. 

Renting a Car in Cancun

Various reputable international rental companies operate in Cancun. This includes the likes of Avis, Budget, Europcar, Hertz, etc. 

It is generally better to rent your car via a well-known global company rather than a small local firm. Discover Cars is a great platform that allows you to compare and contrast the deals offered by various different local companies.

You should expect to pay around $25 a day for a car rental. It is worth noting that rentals are often slightly more expensive if you pick your vehicle up from the airport rather than in downtown Cancun. 

Equally, a one-way rental costs more than a return rental. In other words, if you want to pick up your rental car in Cancun and then drop it off in another part of Mexico, it will be more expensive than picking it up in Cancun and then taking it back to the same place. 

Check your rental car thoroughly before you drive off with it. It is worth taking photos of the interior and exterior of the car on your phone too. 

Note any nicks, scratches, or bumps. Photos taken on your phone will be time-stamped so you can easily note when they were taken if there is any dispute. 

Do I Need a Car?

Renting a car in Mexico gives you a lot more freedom and flexibility during your trip. If you are heading from Cancun to Merida purely to visit the city and then return to Cancun, you don’t really need a car as Merida is very walkable. Public transport and cabs in the city are very cheap too. 

However, if you plan on using Merida as a base to explore the wider Yucatan area, or you are going to take trips out from Merida to Valladolid, Chichen Itza, and various cenotes, Izamal, etc, you are better off having a car. Having a car enables you to escape the crowds and get to lesser-known villages and cenotes that are not on bus routes. 

Getting from Merida to Cancun 

After traveling from Cancun to Merida, you may need to make the reverse journey from Merida to Cancun. This is particularly the case if you are catching an international flight out of the country.

Although Merida does have its own international airport (MID) and it is conveniently located within the heart of the city center, it operates on a very limited number of international flight routes. So, depending on where you are going, you will likely have to transfer to Mexico City. 

Generally, it often works out much easier to travel overland from Merida to Cancun and fly out from Cancun. 

Domestic Flights from Cancun to Merida 

Domestic flights have operated from Cancun to Merida in the past. Maya Air offered infrequent flights along this route a couple of times per week.

However, as of summer 2022, this route no longer operates. Perhaps it will resume again in the future if there is demand. Now your only way of flying from Cancun to Merida is to travel via Mexico City, adding hours to your journey.

Generally, though, it is just easier to travel overland. The flight from Cancun to Merida takes 45 minutes on a small propeller plane. When you factor in the amount of time spent waiting at the airport, going through security, etc, you may as well just travel overland.

Cancun to Merida: Parting Words

Have you traveled from Cancun to Merida Mexico recently? How did you make the journey?

In late 2023, a Maya train is due to open. The train will connect all major towns, cities, and Mayan ruins in the Yucatan peninsula making it easier for tourists to travel around independently. 

The train will run from Cancun to Merida and vice versa. The routes will extend all the way to Palenque in Chiapas. From there, it will be easy to travel onwards to San Cristobal de Las Casas, Tuxtla Gutierrez, Chiapa de Corzo, etc. 

Safe travels and enjoy Mexico! You may also enjoy reading this post on facts about Mexico.

Buen Viaje! xo

Melissa Douglas

Melissa Douglas is a British Travel Writer based in Merida, Mexico and the Editor-in-Chief of Mexico Travel Secrets. She has produced written content for several high-profile publications across the globe - including Forbes Travel Guide, the Huffington Post, Rough Guides, and Matador Network.