Looking for tips on getting through customs quickly in Cancun in 2023? This article has you covered!
If you land at Cancun International airport after having to deal with the chaos and stress of a long flight (screaming children, armrest hogs, people that stand up as soon as the plane lands for no rhyme or reason…), the idea of waiting in line at customs probably sounds like a nightmare. Cancun airport is one of the busiest airports in Mexico.
It is the primary entry point into the country for people traveling to Quintana Roo. So, it would make sense that there would be queues and crowds to deal with.
However, there are a few tricks for getting through customs quickly in Cancun. These are worth a try so that you could minimize your time spent waiting in line. In turn, they will help you get to your hotel or resort more quickly.
12 Tips for Getting Through Customs Quickly in Cancun in 2023
This article has been written by an expat in Merida Mexico. I have passed through Cancun Airport numerous times on flights from Europe, South America, and North America. I am well versed in the procedure for getting through customs quickly in Cancun.
Have your passport and any applicable visas in hand
International travelers need to present their passports when arriving in Cancun. Your passport should have a minimum of 6 months’ validity before traveling to Mexico. If you are going to be in Mexico for an extended period, you should make sure that you have plenty of time left on your passport.
The Cancun airport immigration lines are divided into separate sections for Mexicans and non-Mexicans. follow the signs to help you identify the correct line. There are always plenty of airport staff on hand to assist if you don’t know where to go or if you have any questions.
Although not everybody speaks English, the staff will point you to someone who does.
When you get in line make sure that you have your passport and any applicable visas in hand. That way, you don’t have to scramble around looking for your passport at the bottom of your bag when you reach the immigration desk.
Remove your passport from its holder if you are using one to make things faster. The immigration officer will scan your passport before handing it back to you.
Do check and confirm whether you need a visa before traveling to Mexico. Travelers from most countries including the US, Canadian, British, European, Australian, and New Zealand passport holders do not need to get a visa in advance of traveling to Mexico if they are visiting as a tourist.
Do check your country’s government travel advice before traveling to Mexico to check what the situation is for you.
The FMM form is no longer needed
Until August 2022, you had to fill in a short Immigration Form known as an FMM form before passing through immigration in Mexico. You could pick up this form at the airport, complete it online before your trip, or request one on your flight.
While this form is still being used at other Mexican airports, it is no longer in use in Cancun. This is great because it means that there is less paperwork for you to fill in before passing through immigration.
It also means time is saved because the immigration officer will not be spending time reviewing all the details on the form.
While this may be subject to change in the future, currently all tourists entering Cancun International Airport have their passports stamped automatically on arrival. Each tourist is granted a stay in Mexico for up to a maximum period of 180 days.
You need to have at least one clean page in your passport so that the Cancun Immigration Officer has space to stamp it. (Ideally, you shouldn’t wait until you have only a page or two left in your passport before you renew it, especially if you are a frequent traveler).
Be prepared to show proof of your stay and funds
When you approach the immigration officer at Cancun International Airport, they will likely ask you some simple questions. This is standard in international airports all over the world.
For example, they may ask what you plan on doing in Mexico, where you plan on traveling in Mexico, where you are staying, and when you will be leaving. This is nothing to be concerned about or alarmed about.
If you are in any Mexico travel Facebook groups and forums, you may have read some alarming stories about people not being given their 180-day tourist visa or being asked extra questions. Truthfully, passing through Cancun International Airport is fine most of the time.
All of the questions that you are asked are just in the interest of border security. However, a lot of it depends on the specific immigration officer that you deal with.
It is worth carrying any extra information about your trip with you, just in case you are asked. You don’t need to print this out.
You can just have it stored as a screenshot on your phone. For example, be prepared to show your hotel bookings or Airbnb information, particularly if you are going to be in Mexico for several months.
It is also useful to be able to demonstrate your bank balance via online banking or an online app, even if it is unlikely that you will be asked for this. It is just better to be safe than sorry and have everything in order.
People entering Mexico from Colombia, Argentina, Cuba, and Venezuela as well as other South American countries are more likely to be asked for additional information.
Speak a little Spanish if you can
If you can speak any Spanish, even if it is just basic greetings, your efforts will always be appreciated. Of course, nobody expects you to become fluent in a new language prior to a vacation.
Because Cancun is an area that is so popular with tourists, English is very widely spoken here. The Immigration Officers at Cancun Airport speak English.
But if for instance, you greet them with a Buenos Dias, it will be appreciated!
Make a beeline straight for Immigration
When you disembark from your flight after it lands at Cancun International Airport, grab your hand luggage and go straight to immigration. There are a couple of stages that you need to pass through before you can exit the airport here.
First of all, you pass through immigration. Then, you pick up your luggage.
Finally, you pass through customs before continuing onwards to your accommodation.
There can be a relatively long walk from where your aircraft lands to the immigration gate. Even if it seems like you were the first one off your flight and there are not that many people around, it pays to walk quickly and go directly to immigration.
It is crude, and you cannot help it when nature calls. But if you can, try and go to the bathroom either before you get off the plane or wait until after you have passed through customs and immigration.
Chances are, multiple flights will arrive at Cancun airport at the same time. So, when you arrive at the immigration lines, you will see hundreds of other people getting in line from various different aircraft.
Collect your checked bags
If you have any checked baggage, you can collect it from the luggage belts which are directly behind immigration. The overhead boards will tell you what luggage belt you need to go to.
The airline staff will also give you this information before your flight lands. Collecting your luggage at Cancun can often feel more chaotic than it needs to be. (Like in a lot of major airports!)
With so many flights arriving, sometimes multiple cities arrive on one luggage belt. All of the bags for the earlier flight will be loaded and collected first.
When they have all been collected, the bags for the following flights will be added to the conveyor belt. There are always plenty of English-speaking staff here too.
If you should be so unfortunate as to lose your luggage, one of these members of staff will help you fill out a form so that it can be traced and returned to you.
Travel light where possible
Of course, one way to save time is to travel light and only take hand luggage to Mexico. Many international and Mexican airlines that travel to Mexico have relatively generous hand luggage allowances.
They generally allow you to carry between 10 and 15L of luggage on board the aircraft. This is in addition to your personal item (e.g. a handbag.)
Traveling with hand luggage only may or may not be suitable for you depending on how long you are traveling for and what you need to take with you. However, if you are only going to Cancun for four or five days, it isn’t a terrible idea.
Your Mexico packing list is likely to only consist of light things like swimsuits and shorts anyway. Just remember that the maximum liquid container size that you can take in your non-checked baggage is 100 ml.
Make sure that you are not traveling with prohibited items
When traveling to Mexico, you can help yourself to get through customs quickly and Cancun by ensuring that you are not traveling with any prohibited items. This means not exceeding the duty-free allowance on things like cigarettes and alcohol, not exceeding $10,000 US dollars in cash, and not bringing prohibited items into the country
Things like narcotics, weapons, and inappropriate images are perhaps obvious items that you cannot bring into Mexico. However, there are some other items such as fresh cheeses, chestnuts, and meats that you may not realize are prohibited.
So for example, if you have traveled somewhere before Mexico and you thought that deli or charcuterie items would be a nice gift for someone, you cannot bring them into the country.
If you decide to purchase any duty-free items on your flight into Mexico, the airline staff can tell you what the maximum limits of the various items are.
Complete the customs declaration form
After you have collected your luggage at Cancun Airport, you will see that there are many tables around with Customs forms on them. You need to complete and hand in one of these forms before you can exit the airport.
Check the form carefully because some are in English and some are in Spanish. If you cannot speak or read Spanish, you don’t want to make your life harder by having to try and translate this form!
It pays to carry your own pen so that you can quickly complete the form and go on to the next stage. There are usually a ton of tourists scrambling around trying to use one of the pens on the table.
The Customs form is a very simple checklist where you select yes or no on whether you are carrying certain items in your luggage or a large amount of cash. You need to sign it and provide a small amount of personal information.
Pass through the luggage scanners and metal detectors
With your customs form in hand, continue onwards to the luggage scanners and metal detectors. There are multiple lines of luggage scanners so, even though sometimes there can be a bit of a queue, people usually move through pretty quickly.
The luggage scanners here are similar to the ones that you pass through when you go through security before boarding a flight. However, you do not have to take anything out of your bag, for instance, liquids, electronics, etc.
Instead, you just need to put your bags in any large coats on the conveyor belt and then pass through the metal detector.
Press the button and wait for a light to flash
After you have passed through the luggage scanners, you’ll see several Customs agents waiting. Now, all that you need to do, is pass the form to one of the agents. They will tear it in half and you keep half while they keep the other half.
You will be asked to press a button. A light above the button will flash in either red or green.
This is apparently random. If it flashes green, you are free to exit.
However, if it flashes red, you have been selected for random checks. The customs agents will quickly glance inside your luggage.
Prebook your airport transfer from Cancun
Once you are through customs, there are a few stores and cafes as well as car rental offices, tourist information desks, and ATMs in the arrival section of Cancun Airport. That will be many people both inside and outside of the airport trying to encourage you to take a taxi with them.
These people can be quite pushy and they definitely do not offer competitive rates. Uber exists in Cancun. However unfortunately it is prohibited at Cancun Airport.
From here you have a couple of options. for your comfort, convenience, and safety, It is well worth booking a Cancun Airport transfer to your hotel online and in advance. that way, you know that somebody will be waiting for you on arrival in Cancun and you will have already paid for the transfer in advance.
Cancun Airport transfers booked online a competitively priced and work out either cheaper than or at least the same price as taxi companies. Uou will provide the transfer company with your flight number and they will wait for you on arrival.
You don’t need to worry if your flight is delayed. They will be following its route and planning their arrival at Cancun International Airport accordingly.
Organizing a private transfer means that you travel to your accommodation in a sanitized, air-conditioned vehicle. Complimentary bottles of water are usually provided.
The drivers are bilingual and speak both English and Spanish. You can organize transfers to other cities in Mexico if, for instance, you are not staying in Cancun but you plan on traveling straight from Cancun to Merida, Tulum, Playa del Carmen, Mahahual, or elsewhere.
Take the bus from Cancun airport if you are on a budget
If you are on a budget, you can also take the ADO bus that runs from Cancun airport to downtown Cancun every 30 minutes. Tickets cost around $4 USD per person on average.
You can purchase your tickets online in advance or in person from the little ADO kiosk where the buses depart. It pays to reserve your seat online in advance if you can, particularly if you are traveling to Mexico in January or spending February in Cancun as sometimes it can be a little busy.
You can purchase your bus ticket from the ADO website or app. Both are displayed in Spanish only.
However, it is fairly self-explanatory and easy to navigate even if you cannot speak a word of Spanish.
The only problem is, sometimes the ADO website glitches and doesn’t accept international bank cards. If you have an issue with this, you can use another website called Busbud.
However, Busbud does charge a small administrative fee.
If you need to get to the Cancun Hotel Zone or somewhere other than downtown, you can transfer buses when you reach the ADO Central Station.
FAQs about Getting through Customs Quickly in Cancun
Do you have any further questions or concerns about getting through customs quickly in Cancun? The answers to several frequently asked questions on the topic a detailed below.
Hopefully, you will find the information that you are looking for there. If not, please do not hesitate to reach out.
How long does it take to get through customs in Cancun airport?
The amount of time it can take to get through customs at Cancun can vary significantly depending on the time of day and time of year that you travel. December through March is the high season for traveling in this part of Mexico and things can be particularly chaotic over Christmas.
It would be reasonable to say that an hour is about average. Unfortunately, if the lines are very long, it can take up to 2-3 hours.
Be patient and remember that your travel is almost over, and you will soon be enjoying your time on Yucatan beaches!
How do you get through customs fast in Mexico?
You can get through customs faster in Mexico by making sure that you have everything in order before you get off the plane. Ensure that you have your passport in hand and you have information on where you are staying and what you are doing.
Never carry any prohibited items and ensure that you do not have over the maximum allowance of duty-free items. Go straight to the immigration desk, pick up your bag, carry your own pen so that you can complete the customs form quickly, and then go through the luggage scanner.
How do you get through customs at Cancun airport?
There are a couple of stages in the Cancun airport customs process for international arrivals. First, you need to pass through immigration.
Then, after baggage claim, you need to complete a short customs form, between passing through a metal detector and scanning your bags and handing in your form to a Customs Officer.
Is Cancun airport always busy?
Cancun airport is one of the busiest flights in Mexico. In 2022, an average of 500 flights arrived here per day!
Do you pre-clear customs in Cancun?
No. No Mexican airports have border pre-clearance.
Final thoughts on getting through customs quickly in Cancun
A little mindfulness can make getting through customs quickly in Cancun a lot easier. However, patience and a positive attitude can go a long way.
You are on the final leg of your journey after all! If you plan on staying close to the airport before traveling onwards, there are some great hotels close to Cancun airport. If you are traveling to Mexico for the first time, you might also be interested in reading this post on things to know before you go.
Safe travels! Buen Viaje! xo