Street Photography In or Near Cancún
August 24, 2017 2:00 PM   Subscribe

My wife and I (Americans) have been invited to join relatives who own a timeshare in Cancún for about five days in October. The further away I can (safely) get away from tourist culture while I'm there (at least for a day or two), the better. Difficulty: I will have no car, and I'm not wealthy.

My main objective, as with all the countries to which I travel, is to take photographs on the street or in a natural setting, of people who live outside of the local tourist industry (i.e., everyday people going about their daily lives).

I'm fine with getting way out of town if I need to, but I won't have a car and I'm guessing taxis will be expensive for long rides. A bus ride or another less expensive way to travel while I'm there is OK, but I'm not sure where to go. TBH, the ideal would be to pay a local to walk around with me as I shoot photos, help me navigate the local streets (I speak very little Spanish, and am horrible at listening comprehension), etc.—but again, that might get expensive.

I'll be consulting the usual travel books/websites in preparation for my trip, but AskMe has always given excellent advice, so I thought I'd start here. What's the optimal combination of local people, affordability, and safety in and around Cancún?
posted by Rykey to Travel & Transportation (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
ADO buses are extreamly cheap. For example a bus ticket from Cancun to Playa Del Carmen is around 80 pesos (or US$4). These are very large, comfertable buses.

Try to find someone on CouchSurfing. Even though technically the site is avaialbe for another purpose, you might be able to find someone who will join you for lunch and show you around their hometown.
posted by WizKid at 2:17 PM on August 24, 2017 [1 favorite]

If you're willing to take a 4 hour bus ride, Merida.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 2:17 PM on August 24, 2017

I was stuck in downtown Cancún for a few days a while ago and I was startled by what a normal city it is outside the hotel zone. There's still a lot of people there whose work is connected to the tourism sector, but that might be, like, "accountant who's on his way to do an audit for a plumbing company that does maintenance work at some big hotels" or "college student who's getting a degree in hospitality management," you know? Regular people living their lives, not a Manufactured Tourist Experience put on for your benefit.

Anyway, I can't offer much concrete advice, but do take a look at the city itself before assuming you have to go elsewhere.
posted by nebulawindphone at 3:29 PM on August 24, 2017 [4 favorites]

Valladolid is a few hours by ADO express bus from Cancun. It is smaller than Merida and very walkable.
posted by ALeaflikeStructure at 3:51 PM on August 24, 2017

Agreeing that if you go into the city (as opposed to away from it) you would find what you're looking for. There's a local bus that runs between the city centre and the hotel area that is really easy to take although I don't remember how much it cost (it was cheap).

There's a great local market not far from the main ADO bus station, called Mercado 28 I believe.
posted by scrute at 4:14 PM on August 24, 2017

Great responses so far. I definitely agree that there are plenty of non-touristy parts of every city, so I'll be checking those out for sure in El Centro in Cancún. Keep the suggestions coming, though!
posted by Rykey at 4:47 PM on August 24, 2017

I always like to see the non-touristy parts of cities, and an almost sure way of finding one is to go to the grocery store. You could also go to where the local center of government is, basically whatever the equivalent of the city offices and county courthouse would be.
posted by yohko at 6:06 PM on August 24, 2017

I love photography. Last fall I looked at Cancun as my next 'base camp', that is, a town in another country to take an apartment for a few months to absorb and photograph the culture and the places, and as a home between travels. Yes, I'm retired.

I ruled out Cancun after learning from both expat forums and email exchanges with local expat bloggers that walking around outside with a smartphone, let alone several thousand dollars worth of camera equipment, was a good way to be robbed.
posted by Homer42 at 6:43 PM on August 24, 2017 [1 favorite]

Merida, as suggested by Mr.Know-it-some, was non-touristy and a pleasant place to be when we stayed there a few years ago. But having no Spanish might make anywhere non-touristy slightly difficult.
posted by anadem at 8:24 PM on August 24, 2017

Cancun (or any Caribbean tourist spot) has loads of non-touristy areas -- just head away from the beach and you'll find it.

Cool places nearby: Isla Mujeres (ferry from Cancun), Playa del Carmen (ADO bus), Tulum (ADO bus), Cozumel (ferry from Playa del Carmen)

Every single one of these places has hostels you can stay in for ~$12 a night. Don't wander around with your gear at night. Use the lockers in the hostel and bring your own padlock.

Have fun!
posted by ananci at 10:58 AM on August 28, 2017

« Older Resources for transition away from...   |   Books about dragons for a precocious 11-year-old Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.