12 Tips for Getting Through Customs Quickly in Cancun in 2024

If you are looking for tips on getting through customs quickly in Cancun in 2024, this article has you covered!

I am a British Travel Writer who has been living in the Yucatan for several years and I pass through Cancun International Airport (CUN) multiple times a year when coming back from visiting my family in the UK, or when flying to/from other destinations. Rest assured, I have my share of experience with using this airport and trying to get through customs quickly.

In this article, I will share my tips and trips with you too so you can spend less time stuck in a line, and more time enjoying the beaches, restaurants and archeological sites of the Mexican Yucatan

12 Tips for Getting Through Customs Quickly in Cancun in 2024

Cancun airport is one of the busiest airports in Mexico and it makes the primary entry point into the country for people traveling to Quintana Roo. With millions of people passing through here every year, it makes sense that the airport would be crowded but honestly, passing through here is usually relatively painless.

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 sounds like a nightmare. Buy you really don’t need to stress too much and there are a couple of ways that you can minimize your time spent waiting in line and get to your resort more quickly.

Getting through customs quickly in Cancun
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 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.

However, if you are traveling from elsewhere, you may need a visa. Check your country’s government travel advice before traveling to Mexico to clarify 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 and land border crossings when driving from the US to Mexico, 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. This happened more frequently during the pandemic because a lot of Americans were coming here to work remotely, leaving the country to reset their visa, and then returning again.

Honestly, asking extra questions or being stingy with the 180 days seems less of a thing here, and passing through Cancun International Airport is fine most of the time. I have passed through dozens of times with no suspicion or issues.

Any questions that you are asked are just in the interest of border security. Sure, you may sometimes get an overzealous Immigration Officer but that could happen anywhere – just make sure that you have all the info about your trip ready and to hand in case you are asked anything.

Don’t stress about printing things out. Just make sure that you have your hotel bookings/Airbnb info saved in your emails or as a screenshot on your phone, 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 so you don’t get stuck at the back of a long line.

Unless you are landing super late at night, multiple flights often 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. If you are late to get to baggage claim and the suitcases from your flight have been removed from the belt, they will be placed all together in a certain area and guarded by a member of staff.

There are always plenty of English-speaking staff here and they are always pretty nice and happy to help if you cant find your luggage or you are not sure of which belt you need to go to. (In the unlikely and unfortunate event that your luggage is missing, they 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 15 liters of luggage on board the aircraft in addition to your personal item (e.g. a handbag, backpack or laptop case)

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 

Getting through customs quickly in Cancun
Getting through customs quickly in Cancun

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 electronic cigarettes and vapes, 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 tons 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. (Name, address, email, flight number, etc).

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. You don’t have to take liquids, electronics, or anything else out of your bag and can just shove everything onto the conveyor belt as you walk 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 and then a light above it will flash in either red or green. Apparently, this is done at random, although I have fortunately never experienced a red light.

If the light flashes green, you are free to exit and be on your merry way. If it flashes red, you have been selected for random security checks and the customs agents will lead you to a table and take a quick look 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. The only times I have really been ripped off in Mexico have been by these taxi drivers and sometimes their prices are exorbitantly more than what you would pay if you book online via a licensed Cancun airport transfer company.

For this reason, if your hotel or resort does not offer an airport pickup, I would strongly advise you to book a Cancun airport transfer online in advance. That way, you have peace of mind knowing that you have someone waiting for you when you land and that everything is paid for and organized before you even set off on your trip.

Even if your flight is delayed or getting through customs in Cancun takes a while, they will time their arrival at the airport accordingly. Unfortunately, although Uber exists in Cancun, it is prohibited at the airport and only licensed cabs can operate here.

There are additional perks to taking a private transfer too. For instance, traveling in a more luxurious, clean, air-conditioned vehicle with a bi-lingual driver and complimentary bottles of water rather than a dingy cab.

If you are not going to be staying locally in Cancun, you can also organize transfers to other destinations in Mexico. For instance, 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 which are both pretty self-explanatory and easy to navigate even if they are only available in Spanish. The only problem is that sometimes the website and app glitch and do not accept international bank cards.

Busbud is another platform I often use for booking bus tickets and it is a lot more user-friendly, although they do charge a small administrative fee as an intermediary. (But it is literally only around $1 USD).

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 at 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, passing through a metal detector, scan your bags, and hand 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 

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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