Uber in Cancun: Does it work? Your 2023 guide by a local

Uber in Cancun: Does it work? There is a lot of conflicting advice on the internet regarding whether Uber does or does not work in Cancun. 

It does. However, there are some caveats that you need to be aware of when using it

Taking Uber in Cancun

Using Uber in Cancun
Using Uber in Cancun

Taking Uber in Cancun is a good way to get around. Even solo travelers and solo female travelers can feel comfortable using the app.

If you are not familiar with Uber, it is an independent ride app that acts as a substitute for taking taxis. Once you have downloaded the app, you can input your location and where you want to go. 

Then, the app will connect you with a local driver. It will display your waiting time, the price of the journey, the route to your destination, and your expected arrival time at your destination 

It is a good idea to download the Uber app and set up a profile on your phone before you head to Mexico. That way, you are not fiddling around setting up an account and registering payment details when you are in a hurry to get a cab somewhere. 

It is a good idea to purchase a Mexico sim card when you arrive in Mexico. That way, you will always have data available, won’t run up an expensive phone bill overseas, and don’t have to worry about wandering around looking for wifi. 

Does Uber in Cancun work?

Uber in Cancun
Uber in Cancun

At the time of writing (December 2022), Uber in Cancun does still exist and works. 

I ordered and used one just a couple of days ago. But there is a lot of controversy around its existence and the local taxi companies are far from thrilled that it continues to operate. 

Cancun is one of the most popular travel destinations in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo. It is the only city in Quintana Roo where Uber is legal. 

There is no Uber in Tulum, Playa Del Carmen, or other parts of the state. This may change going forward but it is a sensitive topic.

There are several forums and websites online that state that Uber in Cancun is illegal. That is NOT the case, though it does pay to be mindful of the controversy around the app while using it. 

Uber first started operating in Cancun in 2016. However, after a year of conflict between taxi drivers and Uber drivers, it was forced to temporarily suspend its operations in 2017. 

In 2019, Uber started up again, following a ruling from a federal judge. Uber is perfectly legal in Cancun.

You will notice that Uber’s own website has a guide to taking cabs from the app in the city. The Mexican market is big business for Uber so they are working to try and resolve the current issues they face in Cancun. 

Tips for finding an Uber in Cancun 

Uber is available in Downtown Cancun and on the outskirts of town. When you open up the app on your phone, you should see little car icons roaming around the map. There are usually sufficient drivers nearby.

Be patient

Be aware that it can take quite a while for someone to accept your ride. You can sometimes be waiting as long as 15-20 minutes for a driver to pick you up, even if you are not traveling at peak times.

As such, it is a good idea to make a reservation a little time before you plan on heading out so that you are not standing around. This may well be because there are fewer Uber drivers in Cancun than in other parts of Mexico due to all of the controversy. As a comparison, if you take an Uber in Mexico City or in Merida, you are usually waiting 5-8 minutes max.

Don’t order from major transport hubs 

Uber drivers may not be willing to accept your ride if you are ordering from a major tourist attraction or transport hub (e.g. the ADO bus station). This is because there are so many taxi drivers that wait at the ranks there.

Drivers literally stand outside their vehicles on the street, trying to usher people into their cabs. If they see you getting into an Uber, an argument may ensue. This isn’t a pleasant experience for you, nor is it in the Uber driver’s best interest.

Instead, simply cross the road and walk a block or two. You don’t have to go venturing off into random parts of town or down shady side streets to call an Uber, just be out of sight of the cab drivers.

The same applies if you are trying to call a driver to pick you up from your hotel, particularly if you are staying within the hotel zone. As mentioned, it is a good idea to order your car a little before you need it.

When you open the app, it will give you an estimation of how long you have to wait before someone picks you up from that area. You can then move the pickup location pin little ways out from where you are and drop it a block away to experiment with where the driver will pick you up from. It sounds a bit much to consider but you shouldn’t have any problems finding a driver that accepts your fare.

If the app comes up with the notification that Uber is not available in your area, restart the app or your phone and try again. This might pop up if you have just been in another part of Quintana Roo and Uber has not updated your information yet. 

You cannot take an Uber from Cancun airport 

Uber drivers cannot pick you up from Cancun airport and if you try to order one here, you may get a notification on the app saying that Uber is not available in your area. Some online forums and articles advise you that you can get an Uber from Cancun airport by simply walking a little down the street.

However, not only is this dangerous, because you will be navigating your way down an incredibly busy road, it is illegal. If you try and break the rules by getting an Uber a little distance from the airport, you are putting yourself and your driver at risk of fines.

So it isn’t worth the risk. You can take an Uber from Cancun airport hotels that are located a ways away from the terminals.

You can take an Uber from downtown Cancun to the airport. However, when arriving at the airport, it is better to take public transport (e.g. the ADO buses to Cancun and beyond) or organize a private transfer.

Cancun airport taxis are notorious for ripping off tourists and they are better avoided where possible. When you order a private airport transfer, you have the assurance that someone is going to be waiting for you when you land, and it generally doesn’t work out any more expensive. 

Is Uber in Cancun Safe?

Uber in Cancun is generally safe to use. It is understandable that you may be apprehensive about getting into a stranger’s car and indeed, in some parts of the world, Uber is not as associated with safety as cabs are.

However, in Mexico, Uber is considered safer than getting into street taxis. Mexico is actually the third-largest market for Uber in the world and the ride-hailing app’s presence in the country is continually growing.

When you travel in an Uber, you have the driver’s name, profile, and license plate details. You don’t have that when you get in a regular cab. 

It is also easier to share the details of who you are with and where you got collected from in the unlikely event of an incident. Additional safety features have been added to Uber in recent months/years including the ability to audio record your journey via the app. If you are stationary at a certain place for any amount of time, Uber will pop up with a notification asking if you are okay.

Cancun on the whole is relatively safe for tourists, provided that you take the same common sense precautions that you would elsewhere.

Risks of getting into random street cabs in Mexico

In Mexico, there are often safety concerns associated with getting into street cabs. This is not restricted to Cancun.

On the minor level, Cancun cab drivers are notorious for charging tourists whatever they feel like – be it 4 or 5 times the going rate. They heavily inflate the prices and charge whatever they want because they feel that tourists will not know the correct price. Until Uber appeared on the scene, they had the monopoly to do that as tourists had few options to organize a ride elsewhere. 

On a more serious level, fake cabs do exist in Mexico. Although it is still quite uncommon in Cancun, “express kidnappings” do happen.

This takes place when a tourist gets into a taxi and agrees on a destination. The cab driver then drives a short distance before his friends/accomplices enter the vehicle.

The tourist is then threatened and held at gun/knife point and made to hand over all valuables, phones, cameras, etc. Usually, the thugs have no intention of inflicting actual harm on tourists but you should not try to resist. 

They will drive the tourist around to different ATMs and make them withdraw the maximum amount of money at each, before finally letting them go. That is a traumatic experience for anyone to go through while traveling and just one of the risks of getting into random street cabs.

How to stay safe when using Uber in Cancun

It is a good idea to always check the driver’s profile when you call an Uber. This is true of ordering one everywhere, not just in Cancun. 

If a driver has been on the app for years, has completed thousands of trips, and has a rating of 4.9 or higher, you are likely in good hands. You will also be able to read short reviews and testimonials about the driver’s service and professionality.

If the driver is brand new on the app, has a low rating, or has only completed a few journeys, you can cancel the ride and look for another driver. Don’t feel bad about doing this as your safety in Cancun is paramount. Usually Uber will let you cancel and search for another driver without charging you a fee, as long as you didn’t wait until the driver was already well on their way to you.

You should also keep an eye out for a driver that seems to be moving slowly towards you or being stationary too long in one place. When the driver arrives, check that the license plate corresponds with what you see on the app and the driver looks the same. If the vehicle doesn’t have a license plate, don’t get in the car and make sure you report it to Uber. 

Uber in Cancun FAQs

Do you have any additional questions or concerns about using Uber in Cancun? Hopefully, you will find the answers that you are looking for below.

Is Uber illegal in Cancun?

Uber is not illegal in Cancun. Sources that state otherwise are false. 

Is Uber in Cancun safe?

Uber in Cancun is safe, as long as you use common sense and take precautions. Unfortunately, there is always the risk of anomalies but most Uber drivers in Cancun take their work seriously. This is their livelihood after all. 

Can I get an Uber from Cancun to other Mexican towns and cities? 

You can get an Uber from Cancun to other parts of Mexico. However, this is not necessarily the most economical option.

Yes, Ubers are cheaper than taxis. But you may actually find that organizing a private transfer also works out cheaper than Uber.

For instance, if you want to go from Cancun to Merida or from Cancun to Tulum, yes some drivers may take you there. But you will probably save money organizing a transfer in advance.

You may find that a lot of drivers are not willing to make long journeys as they cannot then secure a fare on the way back. (This is particularly true if you are traveling from Cancun to another destination in Quintana Roo, as the app is banned elsewhere in the state).

If you do want to travel a relatively long distance by Uber, it is a good idea to prebook your vehicle. Alternatively, public transport between cities in Mexico is pretty good and the ADO bus is always a viable option for long-distance journeys. 

Do other ride apps exist?

Other taxi ride apps exist in Mexico. Didi and Indrive are two popular alternatives that a lot of Mexicans like to use. However, they do not function in Cancun.

If you want to try them out in other parts of Mexico, do note that you may have to change your phone/apple ID (if applicable) location to Mexico. Didi cabs are usually cheaper than Uber but there is often less availability. 

Can I use Uber from Cancun airport to hotel?

It is illegal for Uber to pick up passengers from Cancun airport. Only licensed airport cabs are permitted to operate here.

Uber is legal elsewhere in Cancun though. You will have no problem taking an Uber from one side of Cancun to another, or from Cancun to other destinations and Mayan ruins in the area.

Is Uber cheaper than taxi in Cancun?

Uber is generally cheaper than taking taxis in Cancun. This rings true all over Mexico.

The other advantage of taking an Uber rather than a cab is that you can see the price and route displayed via the app before you enter the vehicle. This means there is no chance of someone trying to overcharge or lie about the price unlike with street cabs.

How much do you tip a cab driver in Cancun?

Tipping is not required when taking taxis in Mexico. If you have good service and you would like to leave a tip, you can always round up the fare or tip 20 pesos or so.

(20 pesos is approximately $1).

Final thoughts on using Uber in Cancun

Do you have any experience with taking Uber in Cancun or elsewhere in Mexico? What were your thoughts?

If you are traveling to Mexico for the first time, you might also be interested in reading these facts about Mexico, or this post on what you need to know before you go. Have a wonderful trip!

Buen Viaje! xo

Melissa Douglas

Melissa Douglas is a British Travel Writer based in Merida, Mexico. 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.