Cancun to Merida Mexico: How to Make the Journey in 2024

Getting from Cancun to Merida during your time in Mexico is relatively easy to do. There are several different methods of transport available to you for making the journey and all of them are pretty affordable. 

Arguably the only downside is that the 303km journey does take several hours when you are travelling by road. As of December 2023, the Maya train is now officially up and running and will shave hours off your travel time when it is functioning at 100% capacity.

You are in good hands here because I have been living in Merida, Mexico since the beginning of January 2022. I have made the journey from Cancun to Merida and back again numerous times because if I want to visit my friends and family in the UK (I am British), I have to fly out of Cancun International Airport. So I usually take this journey a couple of times a year at least, most recently I did it in October 2023. 

In this post, we will take a look at the different options available for travelling from Cancun to Merida and back from Merida to Cancun and their pros and cons, so you can choose the best option that works for you.

Woman in a pink and purple dress walking down a colourful street in central Merida, Yucatan
Walking down a colourful street in central Merida, Yucatan

How to Get from Cancun to Merida in 2024 

As I mentioned, there are several different transportation options available for getting from Cancun to Merida. All of them are overland because there are not currently any direct flights between the two cities. (Unless you charter a private plane). 

Although it is the most expensive choice, arguably the most convenient and comfortable way to make the journey is to prebook a transfer between the two cities. This is likely to cost you around $250 USD which, while on the pricier side, actually doesnt work out too expensive if there are a group of you.

Not to mention, it saves you the hassle of having to take buses and wait around in the heat after a long flight. If you aren’t sure about the cost of a private transfer, my second recommendation would be to pick up a rental car at Cancun International Airport.

Renting a car in Mexico gives you a lot more freedom and flexibility than having to depend on public transport and it is not as daunting as it may sound as the roads in the Yucatan peninsula are pretty good. Depending on the season you are travelling in, you can expect to pay between $30 to $50 a day for a car rental here, including full coverage insurance. 

My final recommendation would be to take the bus, which is still a comfortable and budget-friendly choice even if it sounds like it is coming in last place. The ADO buses that run between Cancun, Merida and other cities around the peninsula are air-conditioned and comfy, with reclining seats, USB charging ports, and onboard bathrooms.

The Monument a la Patria on the Paseo de Montejo, Merida
The Monument a la Patria on the Paseo de Montejo, Merida

Private Transfer from Cancun to Merida 

Organising a private transfer through a company in Cancun means that you can enjoy air-conditioned door-to-door service from your pickup location to your hotel in Merida in a luxury vehicle and not have to worry about waiting for buses or filling in tons of paperwork for a rental car. 

Assuming that you are arriving in Cancun and heading straight from the airport to Merida, your driver will be waiting for you in arrivals with a card displaying your name. Alternatively, if you want to spend a few days in Cancun, you can also organise a transfer from your Cancun/hotel resort.  

The $250 price covers up to 3-4 passengers and their luggage. If there are more of you, you can also look at hiring a private shuttle, which will cost around $345 for a one-way journey, and can accommodate up to 8 people.

Considering the fact that a bus from Cancun to Merida is around $25-$30 per person, this price really isnt bad. Your friendly driver will be bilingual and you are usually provided with complimentary bottles of water. 

At the time of booking, you will provide the transfer company with your flight number and information so you don’t need to worry about communicating with them if your flight is delayed for any reason. They will have the information to track your flight and will plan their arrival time at the airport accordingly. 

Rent a car in Cancun and drive independently 

Renting a car from Cancun International Airport is another great option for making the journey to Merida and it is also pretty painless and economical. Despite the huge popularity of the Mexican Yucatan, public transport in the area leaves a lot to be desired and there are many Yucatan pueblo magicos and Mayan ruins in the peninsula that are very awkward to get to if you do not have access to a vehicle.

The good news is that the road conditions in the Yucatan are pretty good and you might be pleasantly surprised by how similar driving here is to driving in the US and Canada. 

You can expect to pay around $20-$40 per day for a small, economy-sized car such as a Volkswagen Polo, a Kia Rio or a Chevrolet Onix including full coverage insurance. A number of reputable international rental companies operate in Cancun, including the likes of Avis, Budget, Europcar, Hertz, etc. 

Many have branches at the airport, so you can easily pick up your vehicle right after landing. Discover Cars is a great car rental aggregator platform that allows you to compare and contrast the prices between different providers so that you can find the best deal. (You can also read my Discover Cars Mexico review here).  

Cancun airport rentals can work out slightly more expensive than renting in downtown Cancun, but the cost difference isnt so substantial that it is worth the hassle to go downtown

Tips for renting a car at Cancun International Airport 

  • One-way rentals are often phenomenally more expensive than rentals where your pick-up and drop-off locations are the same. It makes sense to do your Yucatan itinerary in a loop and collect and return your vehicle to Cancun

  • Mexican car insurance is mandatory

  • It is generally better to purchase car insurance through the company you rent a car with as even if you buy third-party insurance, Mexican rental companies will often insist on you having theirs. (Sometimes to the extent that they don’t let you drive away with their car without their insurance!)

  • Check the car thoroughly before driving off with it. Take photos of the interior and exterior so that you have time-stamped evidence of the vehicle’s condition when you picked it up and when you dropped it off

  • Note any nicks, scratches or bumps on the inventory checklist for the car when you collect it

  • Make sure you meet the requirements for renting a car here. You need a full driving license and most companies only rent vehicles to drivers aged 25+. (Some companies may rent cars to drivers aged 21 and above but you will typically have to pay a young driver’s premium. 

Tips for driving from Cancun to Merida 

While there are a couple of different routes available, the easiest road to take from Cancun to Merida is Highway 180D (Carretera Cancún – Kantunil). This is a toll road, and the total toll from Cancun to Merida is $609 pesos (circa $30 USD). 

  • Do not drive at night in rural Yucatan. This is not because driving in Mexico is dangerous, but because there are no street lights on the roads between cities and there are a lot of wild animals, stray cats and dogs that may wander into the road  

  • In Mexico, you drive on the right-hand side of the road and overtake on the left, just like in the US, Canada and most of the world

  • Look out for topes (speedbumps). They are often not marked well (or at all) and some are ridiculously steep

  • Speed limits in the Yucatan are as follows: 110km/h on highways, 70km/h on main roads, 40km/ in towns and 20km/h near schools and hospitals

  • Keep your driver’s license, along with your rental paperwork handy and in the glove compartment at all times

  • Police checkpoints do exist in the Yucatan and there is usually one at the Quintana Roo/Yucatan state line, and another on the entrance to Merida. You are usually waved on through 
Taking the ADO bus from Cancun to Merida
Taking the ADO bus from Cancun to Merida

Take the ADO bus from Cancun to Merida

Buses from Cancun to Merida depart from multiple ADO bus stations around Cancun including downtown Cancun (Calle Pino, SM23, MZ56, Lt 1 y 2, Centro, 23), the Cancun hotel zone (ADO Plaza Kukulcan Zona Hotelera, Blvd. Kukulcan s/n, Zona Hotelera, 77500 Cancún) and Cancun International Airport. If you are already hanging out in Cancun, you will usually find more buses if you take a bus or an Uber to the ADO Centro downtown.

Cancun Centro ADO bus station waiting room
Cancun Centro ADO bus station waiting room

Taking the bus to Merida from Cancun Airport

If you are flying into Cancun and heading straight for Merida, there are buses that run directly from terminals 2, 3 and 4 of the airport. However, unfortunately, they operate on a very limited schedule and there are only a couple of departures per day. 

Currently, the Cancun airport to Merida bus departs at 14:30, 14:45, 15:00, 15:40, 15:55 and 16:10 only. This means that if you are arriving outside this short time window, your best bet is to take the bus from Cancun airport to Cancun Centro (it takes about 30 minutes) and get a connection to Merida from there. 

If you arrive just an hour or so before the bus, there are a couple of bars and cafes right outside the airport where you can kill time with a margarita or seven. There is an ADO ticket office right inside the terminal after baggage claim where you can purchase a bus ticket, as well as a little kiosk near where the buses come to park. 

It is important to carry pesos in cash, and ideally have some small bills as I have found that they often can’t break larger 500 peso notes.

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

Purchasing ADO bus tickets

You can purchase your ADO bus tickets from Cancun to Merida online via the ADO website or app, in person at the ticket office, or via a third-party booking site like Busbud. Since the ADO website is so glitchy and often does not accept foreign bank cards, I usually use Busbud because it’s easier, even though it does charge me a small admin fee of about $1.

I personally prefer to book my tickets online in advance so I know that I have a seat – even if I just buy it on my phone an hour or so before while going through customs in Cancun. During the peak season (December to March), some buses do sell out, especially from the airport.

Bus tickets tend to start from around $450 MXN on a standard class ADO bus from Cancun Centro, and from around $990 MXN from the airport.

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

Different classes of ADO buses 

There are four different classes of ADO buses that run between Cancun to Merida and from Merida to Cancun. These are as follows:

  • ADO Primera – Basic class of ADO – Still has comfy reclining seats and a toilet on board

  • ADO Gran Lujo – The “deluxe” ADO bus. Slightly more comfortable than ADO Primera with an individual reading light and air-con (like on a plane), and USB charging ports

  • ADO Platino – The “First Class” of the ADO world with individual seatback teas, complimentary drinks, snacks and headphones

  • ADO Conecta – A smaller shuttle bus that runs between Cancun and Merida

I have personally travelled on all of the above services except the ADO Conecta which is a relatively new addition. I would generally say that it is worth paying a little extra to travel on ADO Platino where you can and the price differences between the different tickets are usually marginal. 

On the ADO Platino service, you have a lot more space. There are some solo seats on the right-hand side of the aisle and only two seats per aisle on the left. 

While the ADO Primera is not terrible, you often feel quite cramped. There are several stores, and cafes located in and around the ADO Centro bus station in Cancun. If you pay to travel in ADO’s first-class bus, you can also enjoy access to the air-conditioned ADO lounge.

A colourful street filled with colonial architecture in central Merida, Yucatan
A colourful street filled with colonial architecture in central Merida, Yucatan

Which Merida bus terminal should you go to?

There are also several different bus stations in Merida so it is important to check where in Merida the bus terminates. Most buses run to the TAME ADO Merida ( C. 69 554, Centro, 97000 Mérida, Yuc.) which is the main central bus station.

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 centre. 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 go.

A couple of services terminate at the new ADO Terminal Alterna Paseo 60 (formerly known as Fiesta Americana station) which is also very central and conveniently located close to the Paseo Montejo. Some of the more luxury ADO services run to Altabrisa in North Merida. 

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

Trinkets and Mayan sculptures for sale at a Mercado in Merida, Yucatan
Trinkets and Mayan sculptures for sale at a Mercado in Merida, Yucatan

Take the Maya train from Cancun to Merida 

After much anticipation and years of construction, the Mexican government have announced that President AMLO’s Maya train that will run from Cancun to Campeche City via Merida will be officially up and running from the 15th of December 2023. The train, which will also eventually run to Palenque in Chiapas State, connects tourists with over 29 Mayan ruins across the Yucatan peninsula, as well as charming Yucatecan pueblo magicos, towns and cities in the region.

Although the official Tren Maya website is not up and running yet, it will be in the coming weeks. (I will update this post accordingly when it is).

So if you are planning to travel to the Yucatan over the peak winter season, you may be able to make the journey by rail. The journey to Merida is expected to take just over 2 hours, which will substantially cut down on your travel time compared to when travelling by rail. 

A church in the Itzimna district of Merida, Mexico
A church in the Itzimna district of Merida, Mexico

Taking an Uber from Cancun to Merida 

Uber is banned in most of the state of Quintana Roo, although the app is available in Cancun You might be thinking that it is a good idea to take an Uber from Cancun to Merida but it is not something that I would personally recommend. 

To start, travelling by Uber is not going to be any less expensive than travelling via a private transfer or shuttle. You are generally better off reserving a private transfer online in advance of your trip so that you know that everything is set and organised before you even fly to Cancun. 

Although Uber does exist in Cancun, it is banned at the airport, and on the whole there are far fewer drivers in the city than there are when you use Uber in Merida or other cities. In the past, there have been occasions where I have been waiting over 30 minutes for a ride and I was only going from one part of Cancun to another. 

The roundtrip drive time from Cancun to Merida and back is around 9 hours so it is unlikely that you will find many willing Uber drivers, especially considering that they are not likely to find a return fare. If you really want to use Uber, your best bet is to try and reserve your journey in advance. 

This is not completely foolproof either though as I have done that in the past, had a confirmed driver for two days and then they went ahead and cancelled on the morning of my journey, ten minutes before the pickup time. 

An old archway just outside the Kabah ruins, Yucatan
An old archway just outside the Kabah ruins, Yucatan

Taking a taxi from Cancun to Merida 

The taxi drivers that wait around outside of Cancun International Airport are known hustlers who constantly overcharge passengers. As a foreign tourist, you are extremely likely to be overcharged on this journey because the driver will assume that you don’t know the price of things here. 

I wouldn’t even recommend someone to take a Cancun airport taxi from the airport to downtown Cancun because of how much I have been ripped off in the past, let alone when travelling hundreds of miles between cities. 

You could ask for recommendations of reputable local taxi firms and email/call around to get a transfer quote which is essentially the same as booking a private airport transfer and likely to weigh in at a similar price. But never expect to land at the airport and hop into a taxi right outside because negotiating and arguing with the drivers is not worth it. 

Taking a luxury private transfer from Cancun Airport
Taking a luxury private transfer from Cancun Airport

FAQs About Travelling from Cancun to Merida in 2023 

Do you have any further questions, queries or concerns about travelling from Cancun to Merida or from Merida to Cancun? The answers to some frequently asked questions on the topic are detailed below.

Hopefully, you will find the information you are looking for there. If not, please do not hesitate to reach out to me. 

What is the cheapest way to get from Cancun to Merida Mexico?

The cheapest way to get to Merida from Cancun is to take the bus. Buses in the region are operated by the ADO bus company and ticket prices start from as little as 450 Mexican pesos for the economy class of ADO. (ADO Primera)  

Can I fly from Cancun to Merida? (And Merida to Cancun?)

No. There are not currently any flight routes that operate between Cancun International Airport and Merida Manuel Crescencio Rejón International Airport (MID). An airline called MAYair did operate on this route in the past, but this was stopped during the global pandemic.

Considering the short distance (303km) between the two cities, it isnt really worthwhile or environmentally friendly to fly from Cancun to Merida anyway. Maybe this reroute will open again in the future but it appears that no Mexican airlines have immediate plans on the horizon. 

Is Merida worth visiting?

The Yucatan capital of Merida is well worth visiting. While this gorgeous colonial settlement has largely flown under the radar until recently, Merida is slowly starting to get the attention it deserves.

The city is characterised by its opulent, grand colonial mansions, cobbled streets and passageways and ornate, colourful houses. Many of these old buildings have been converted into stylish Merida restaurants and bars, while still retaining their original charm.

You could easily dedicated a week to your Merida itinerary, exploring the city’s various parks and plazas and barely feel that you have scratched the surface. The city makes a great base for travelling out to archeological sites like the Uxmal ruins, Dzibilchaltun and Mayapan, as well as Northern Yucatan beach towns like Progreso.

Artwork exhibit showcasing notable indigenous women in Merida
Artwork exhibit showcasing notable indigenous women in Merida

Getting from Merida to Cancun 

After travelling from Cancun to Merida, you may need to make the reverse journey from Merida to Cancun for your international flight back out of the country. (Although Merida does have its own international airport (MID) and it is conveniently located within the heart of the city centre, it operates on a very limited number of international flight routes).

You can check the Merida to Cancun bus departure times via the ADO official website, BusBud and Rome to Rio. ADO TAME is the main terminal, but you will often find that there are more first-class ADO Platino buses from Altabrisa, which is worth looking into if you want to travel in the most comfortable way possible.

(Altabrisa is usually also a lot quieter as a lot of tourists don’t tend to know about it).

Final thoughts on travelling from Cancun to Merida

Do you have any plans for visiting the Yucatan in the near future? As I mentioned, I have been living in Merida for the last few years and I have made this journey dozens of times. 

To reiterate, I would recommend a private transfer if you are looking for the quickest, comfiest way to get from A to B, especially if you are travelling as a family or there is a group of you. 

Renting a car can be great if you plan on taking day trips from Merida and exploring off-the-beaten-path parts of the Yucatan like the Ruta Puuc, Oxkintok, gorgeous Yucatecan beaches, etc. (Again – I recommend using Discover Cars to compare and contrast and ideally, filter the results by companies with a rating of 7 and above so you don’t end up with a sketchy rental car company).

Do you need anything else? Please don’t hesitate to give me a shout.

Safe travels and enjoy Mexico! Melissa 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 over seven years worth of experience in working in travel media and has travelled to 57 countries, mostly solo. Throughout her career, Melissa has produced written content for several high-profile publications across the globe - including Forbes Travel Guide, the Huffington Post, Rough Guides, and Matador Network.

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