My family moved to Playa del Carmen with the expectation of being here for a few months, and we're still here over a year later. Here are a few tips from an expat family that made Playa del Carmen a place to call home.
Weather-wise, you can visit Playa del Carmen any time of the year and will have a good time. Regardless of the season, you'll enjoy sunny days in Playa del Carmen - even hurricane season provides ample sunshine to explore. Playa del Carmen is typically spared the harsh effects of hurricanes, unlike many other coastal cities.
While Playa del Carmen is a great base for your trip, some of your most memorable moments will probably be outside of 5th avenue, the tourist hotspot in the city. There are many interesting places to visit within a few hours of Playa del Carmen. It's also the perfect base to launch your explorations of the ancient Mayan ruins in Akumal, Tulum, Cozumel, Sian Ka’an, and Valladolid.
When many people think of Mexico, they think of the Mexican culture, but the true culture here is Mayan. There are many elements of the Mayan culture sprinkled throughout the city, and locals put a lot of emphasis on their Mayan roots. The most popular tourist attractions showcase the city's ancient Mayan heritage, which is interesting to learn about, especially given the lengths Spanish conquerors went to eradicate the Mayan people.
An interesting dynamic is the complex relationship that the locals have with their Spanish heritage. Although the official language is Spanish, the method in which the Spanish conquered the Mexican territory is still a hot topic today, over 500 years later. The relationship between the past and present is still contentious in the eyes of locals, who still have deep-seated anger towards the Spanish for the atrocities committed against their ancestors - and with no reparations or apologies to date.
Locals interact with a number of rude tourists throughout the year, so a simple greeting can make a huge difference to your interactions here. Greetings are important here, so don't forget to speak as you make your way around town. A few Spanish words - even just a quick "Buenos días" - can go a long way with locals, especially if you need help.
Prices are cheap in Mexico because wages are low, so if you plan to haggle, do so within reason. Many locals work several jobs, with only one day off per week. Keep in mind, 20 pesos is only $1, which isn't much to most people but makes a difference to the local community. A few pesos go further than you think.
A fact not known by many people is that the first evidence of gum in North America was from the Mayan people over 4,000 years ago in Playa del Carmen. They chewed on chicle, which is a substance that they believed quenched their thirst and suppressed hunger. How cool is that?