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Shopping in CancúnIf you're looking for fun things to do in Ciudad Cancún, a variety of shops and open-air craft markets line Avenida Tulum (Mex. 307). Mercado Ki-Huic , near the intersection of Avenida Tulum (Mex. 307) and Avenida Labná (about six blocks south of Avenida Coba/Boulevard Kukulcán), is a flea market a block long with more than 100 vendors offering handicrafts, knickknacks, marble chess sets, men's guayabera shirts, huipil (ee-PEEL) dresses and Panama hats.

Another downtown crafts market that's worth a trip is Mercado 28 , off Avenida Xel-Ha. In addition to vendors selling every imaginable type of trinket and souvenir, this open-air market has lots of local restaurants and places to eat. It all adds up to a colorful hodgepodge that's fun to visit. Bargaining is expected, and some sellers can be aggressive, especially if there aren't that many potential customers wandering around.

As a duty-free zone Cancún offers potential bargains on international merchandise. High-quality tequila and cigars are two of the most popular purchases. Ultrafemme , Av. Tulum #111 (about 4 blocks north of Avenida Cobá), has good buys on cosmetics, jewelry and imported perfume; there also are Ultrafemme locations in several malls and at the airport.

Ciudad Cancún's major mall is Plaza las Americas , several blocks south of Avenida Cobá/Boulevard Kukulcán between Avenida Tulum and Avenida Bonampak. In addition to department stores Liverpool and Sears and a Chedraui grocery store, it has more than 200 other stores and boutiques that are a mix of local businesses and mall favorites like Benetton. There's also a Sanborns restaurant, a food court and the Cinépolis movie multiplex.

If you feel the need to shop for basics while on vacation, branches of three familiar stateside retailers also are in Ciudad Cancún. Costco is at the corner of avenidas Rojo Gomez and Yaxchilán, while Sam's Club and Walmart are adjacent to each other near the intersection of avenidas Xcaret and Yaxchilán. Pick up convenience items at an Oxxo store (similar to 7-11); there are numerous branches downtown and a couple in the Hotel Zone.

Shopping in the Hotel Zone usually focuses on two things: pricey specialty items, or T-shirts and beach supplies. Window-shopping is a popular pastime, but don't expect a lot of bargains. For garden-variety souvenirs it pays to look around, as merchants compete vigorously for tourist dollars and prices can be on the steep side. Inspect carefully before buying; quality can vary greatly.

Plaza Caracol is at Boulevard Kukulcán Km 8.5 (next to the Cancún Center). This mall's marble walls and floors provide an elegant-looking setting for shops and boutiques offering jewelry, designer clothing, resort wear, silver and decorative art. Pharmacies, art galleries, cafés and nearby restaurants are also on the premises.

Forum-by-the-Sea , Km 9.5 near the Cancún Center, is a three-level entertainment complex. There are specialty boutiques like Nike Store and Zingara Swimwear, as well as retailers selling the ubiquitous sunglasses, jewelry and souvenirs. The emphasis, however, is on restaurants, bars and nightspots, including a branch of popular chain Carlos 'n Charlie's.

Flamingo Plaza , Km 11.5 on Kukulcán (lagoon side), is a one-level shopping center with boutiques selling resort fashions, jewelry and arts and crafts, along with a currency exchange office, an internet café and restaurants like Bubba Gump Shrimp Company and Outback Steakhouse.

The Hotel Zone's hottest mall destination is La Isla Shopping Village , Km 12.5 on Kukulcán (lagoon side). La Isla is as bright and shiny as anything you'll find back home. The stores and shops are linked by bridges and walkways crisscrossing small canals. Among the familiar stateside eateries are Johnny Rockets and Chili's. There also is a movie multiplex, the Interactive Aquarium Cancún and other family-friendly features and things to do. It's upscale and expensive but one of the fun places to go to spend a few hours, especially on a rainy day.

At Km marker 13 is Kukulcán Plaza , which caters to tourists with stores and boutiques offering gifts, handicrafts, perfume, leather goods, jewelry and silver. It also contains a parking garage, bank, currency exchange offices, drugstores and a food court that includes U.S. fast-food franchises. The mall's “Luxury Avenue” features such high-end retailers as Burberry, Cartier, Fendi, Montblanc and Salvatore Ferragamo.

The Mercado de Artesanías Coral Negro , a peach-colored building just south of the Cancún Center (at the point where Boulevard Kukulcán splits), is the only flea market in the Hotel Zone. The selection of items encompasses everything from sombreros and painted pottery to toys and T-shirts. You can also get a temporary tattoo or have your hair braided. Unlike at shops where prices are fixed, haggling with the vendors is expected here.

Most of the mall stores are open daily 10-8 or 10 p.m. Outside the Hotel Zone some stores observe the traditional siesta and close for a few hours in the afternoon. Hours for craft and souvenir markets may vary seasonally. The sales tax is 16 percent, which may be waived at some shops if you pay in cash. Paying with cash instead of a credit card may also lower the price when bargaining with vendors. Almost all stores will accept U.S. dollars, and at some establishments prices are quoted in dollars rather than pesos.

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Travel Information

City Population

661,176

Elevation

7 meters (23 feet)

Police (emergency)

To contact the local police, dial 911.

Hospitals

Most major local hotels have their own in-house or on-call doctor. A list of physicians can also be obtained from the U.S. Consular Agency, in the Torre la Europea building, Boulevard Kukulcán Km marker 13; phone (999) 316-7168 in Mexico or (844) 528-6611 in the U.S. Local clinics do not accept U.S. health insurance, often charge fees well above U.S. rates and have been known to charge for services not rendered. The Red Cross (Cruz Roja) is in Ciudad Cancún on Avenida Yaxchilán, between avenidas Xcaret and Labná. It is open 24 hours; phone (998) 884-1616. In an emergency, dial 911 and request an English-speaking operator.

Newspapers

The Miami Herald and USA Today are available in the bigger local hotels.

Publications

Cancún Tips magazine has easy-to-read maps and information about local restaurants, shopping, entertainment and other things to do in Cancún. Pick up free tourist-oriented brochures at the airport, hotel lobbies, shopping centers and sidewalk booths.

Currency Exchange

Casas de cambio (currency exchange houses) and banks are along Avenida Tulum in downtown Ciudad Cancún. Most banks are open Mon.-Fri. 9-5; currency exchange normally is confined to the morning hours. Currency exchange houses also are at the airport and in the Hotel Zone shopping areas around Cancún Point.

Staying Safe

Crime directed at tourists is not prevalent, but do use common sense. Keep jewelry and other valuables in the hotel safe, or don't bring them at all. Guard against petty theft or purse-snatching incidents in crowded public places or when using public transportation. If leaving a vehicle in Hotel Zone shopping areas, don't invite a break-in by leaving valuables in plain view.

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