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What To Do If You Get Sick in Cancún: The Complete Guide

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Oh no! You’ve planned an exciting fun trip to the fantastic Cancún, and upon your arrival, you have found yourself undeniably ill. Way to rain on the party parade. You felt it coming on at the airport, and the plane ride was rather unpleasant for you.

You promised yourself you weren’t going to have that margarita at dinner. Now here we are, pounding headache, sore limbs, you have a fever and are miserable.

So, what do you do if you get sick in Cancún? If you get sick in Cancún, follow these steps depending on the severity of your symptoms:

  1. Immediately when you feel slightly ill, return to your hotel or hostel and rest. 
  2. Take a warm shower or bath, if able.
  3. Drink bottled water and eat simple, packaged carbs. 
  4. If needed, find a doctor using the hotel or at a local pharmacy
  5. Go to a local private or public doctors office if more care is needed.
  6. Stay in Cancún until you have regained your health. Enjoy!

It can be upsetting having to postpone or cancel all the fun experiences you had planned for your trip. Cancún is a brilliantly beautiful place with adventure at every corner. And feeling too ill even to leave the hotel room is rough and entirely depressing.

It’s okay; we’re going to get through this together. Travel illness is a widespread occurrence amongst tourists. Especially in places south of the border, such as the one and only Mexico! Let’s walk through exactly what may get you sick in Cancún and how to take care of yourself if it does.

Sick in Cancún: What’s Really Going On?

There’s a widespread misconception regarding Mexico warning tourists that you’re sure to get sick upon vacationing there. It’s so common the term for it is called Montezuma’s Revenge.

Believe it or not, but most people get sick upon their first few days in Mexico simply because of the stress of traveling. People with stronger immune systems and digestive tracts are off to a head start because they’re usually better off. However, those with sensitive stomachs are more known to experience travel illness as well.

Let’s walk through the major things to look out for when traveling in Cancún.

Tap Water

When in a foreign country, our bodies tend to react differently to the water, drinks, or casual foods are eaten there. For example, in Mexico, while the tap water is safe to drink, regulated by local health and safety laws. Yet, the tap water in Mexico still may not agree with our stomachs, so it may be best to try to steer away from drinking tap water while visiting Cancún.

Ice Cubes

Keep in mind that while out getting drinks to ask the restaurant if they use tap water or filtered water to make their ice cubes. It doesn’t hurt to be a little extra cautious and save yourself a whirlwind of agony.


Our bodies may also start to react poorly to the heat in Mexico. It’s essential to compensate for the extra heat with lots of hydration. Dehydration, Heat exhaustion, and Sunstroke are the top most common ailments amongst visiting tourists.

Salty Treats

While the sun has a major key in dehydration amongst tourists, it’s important to remember that the many salty and spicy foods found all around Mexico (and not to mention the alcohol), is also going to dehydrate you significantly. Drinking water and avoiding alcohol will enhance your immune system to heal quicker so you can get us there and have fun.

Street Food

As Street food is the essence of visiting Mexico, it may not always agree with our tummies. You’ll find it’s hard to be sure which stands are using tap water, and many of them don’t leave their sauces refrigerated. Try asking locals which stands are the best, and be sure to squeeze lemon on your taco!

High-Quality Meats

With that, finding great meat in Mexico is a task worth taking. It’s highly recommended to scout out fine dining restaurants in Cancún, and even if you prefer rare meat- medium to well-done should always be a safe bet.

Don’t Deny the Feeling

It’s rather common for tourists to deny that they’re beginning to feel an illness coming on when they’re first arriving at their destination. Don’t try to blame your abnormally sore legs on all the walking around you’ve been doing. Headaches, stomach aches, muscle aches, coughs, and runny noses are all signs of an incoming illness.

By paying attention right when you feel the side effects approach can save you a lot of stress and time. No more alcohol, take a nap, or get to bed early tonight because you are not about to let this sickness ruin your entire two weeks.

Pharmacy and Prescriptions

In Mexico, it is illegal to buy pain killers, flu relief, anything without a prescription. This is because Medicines are labeled as regulated when they pose a high risk of abuse. It’s best to try and bring some back-up flu relief with you whenever you are to be doing any travel. Along with any necessary prescriptions that support your well being.

Without them, you will have to find a doctor in Cancún and explain your situation and try to get a prescription. Which is surprisingly not too hard, given you find a proper clinic that supports your specific situation.

Pharmacies in Mexico fall into two main categories: Primera Clase pharmacies, which can be somewhat tricky to find but hold just about any drug you have a prescription for. As well as the Segunda Clase pharmacy, which is incredibly common, both in small towns and big cities, unfortunately, these pharmacies are not able to sell regulated medicines.

Time to Rest at the Hotel

Rest should be your top priority when healing. Preventing overexertion should help you when your cold or flu symptoms start approaching. While it may be challenging to clear your schedule and snuggle up with some movie rentals and tea, it’s essential for a couple of days for your wellbeing.

Take advantage of that free hot water, try running yourself a nice warm bath or shower to assist in the clearing of your sinuses. Take lots of naps and gargle warm salt water to soothe and cleanse your throat.

It may also be of benefit to you if you politely ask the concierge of your hotel to assist you with any needs you may have. Whether that be making an appointment with a local doctor, bringing you electrolytes to help keep you hydrated or any other items you may need to help keep you well.

Eating While You’re Sick

Being sick in a foreign place can be upsetting because all you really crave is the comfort of your own home and bed. Also, not to mention the comfort of your kitchen and microwave so we can make whatever it is that makes us feel good when we’re not feeling well.

When it comes to eating in Mexico when you’re sick, try to avoid eating any raw foods or dairy. Instead, try ordering just plain rice, broth, or pasta. You can decide to see if any local grocery stores can deliver to you if your hotel room service doesn’t have the best options.

What if I Need to See a Doctor?

If all your exciting hotel time still isn’t making you feel any more alive, help is still easily attainable. Call up the front desk of your hotel and ask them if they have a hotel doctor that can come to your room, these doctors are good for dealing with minor issues, and they may even be able to give you a prescription to get medicines to feel better.

Given a hotel doctor will usually speak English, you may find it to be much more expensive than your alternative options of going to a pharmacy doctor or public clinic.

Pharmacy Doctors are found attached to many pharmacies in Mexico. You’ll find this option to be much more inexpensive at typical payments of ($5-$30 USD). However, it may be more of a challenge to find an English speaking doctor and necessary diagnostic equipment (MRI, X-Ray).

Although if you’re feeling more severe, you should try to go to urgent care or the emergency room. Again, act quickly because medicines may be prescribed to patients early on in the flu. Which will significantly help shorten the time you’re sick while lessening the severity of your illness.

You will find you will have a choice amongst private and public clinics. The main difference would be in the pricing. Yet, you’ll find both public and private hospitals vary significantly in technology, expertise and service as well.

While public clinics are inexpensive and you don’t need a membership to get service, you’ll find that many of the staff do not speak English and you’ll have to wait a significant amount of time longer for care.

Whereas private clinics are the most expensive option, with that, you’ll see a major difference in your experience. You can expect short wait times, excellent care, well equipped, and usually a staff with English speaking doctors and personnel.

Emergencies in Cancún: What Should You Do?

If you are experiencing an emergency you need to dial 911 and send an ambulance right your way. Foreign countries are not the place to be acting like that overly sprained ankle isn’t hurting you that bad.

Also, since there is such a vast variety of private ambulance services in Mexico, depending on your location, you may expect to have multiple ambulances arriving to try to win your business. Although, know that private ambulances are a service and will expect payment. However, the price is reasonable, and they’ll come prepared with a fully equipped ambulance and medical team.

Billing and Insurance: How to Prepare

Know that your medical insurance may not cover you when you’re traveling abroad. Even when it does, don’t be surprised if the coverage may not be enough to cover all the costs for your care. It may be wise to think about medical travel insurance. Usually, your plans are rather inexpensive and most vacation websites offer a lot of different insurance deals during your booking.

Average ER visits in Mexico widely vary, depending on the doctor, hospital, or magnitude of your specific situation. You can expect to pay a basic sum of about $18-$25 for a visit to a basic ER room doctor.

If you’re going to visit Mexico as a foreigner, you can expect to incur a few more charges than that, understandably of the locals. Typically at a public clinic, a regular doctor visit would cost $32-$43. Although it also varies on the specialty service and doctor you need.

If you are planning on going to a private facility prepare to have a typical $800-$2500 hold on your card before they even take a peek at your injured wrist. Also, full payment for treatment is due before you leave.

Ask for a factura sheet from the hospital if you’re not using insurance and would like to get reimbursements later. Typically you’ll receive an RFC form, which is a tax number in Mexico. The generic RFC used by foreigners who are not in the system is XEXX010101000.

Before You Go: How to Prepare for Cancún

Okay, okay, even if you do happen to be that lucky one who has a robust immune system and feel confident in your abilities to defeat travel illness. When you’re in a new unfamiliar environment, your body is naturally going to react. Everyone reacts in different ways.

Extra Medical Insurance Card

Be sure to pack along a copy and an extra copy (just to be safe) of your medical insurance card. Before you go also take a couple of minutes to flag your important emergency numbers; reliant urgent care nearby along with the top-rated hospitals that meet all of your expectations. Your future self will thank you.

Emergency Kit

Consider packing a small emergency kit in your day pack. You’ll find something like this, filled with gauze, bandages, ointment, rash cream, and pain, and flu relief will be of excellent service to you in many possible circumstances. As these items may be harder to find in foreign countries. You can also pack small daily use objects like Vitamin C supplements, hand sanitizer, antibacterial wipes, and Pepto Bismol.

The Power of Pepto

Pepto-Bismal may also be of major benefit to you if you do have a sensitive stomach, or would just like the extra caution before traveling to Mexico.

Buy some chewable Pepto-Bismol tablets, and two days before you go on your trip along with every morning you’re in Mexico, chew up 6 Pepto-Bismal tablets. This will coat your stomach and significantly help in the formation of any harmful bacteria in the lining of your stomach.

Gold Status

Try starting to take a daily probiotic to strengthen your immune system naturally, so that way you’re always a step ahead of the game. Think about it like a wellness shot to help boost your frequent flier miles.

Stay in Mexico

As badly as you want to try and catch the first flight home and get to your own bed and doctor, it’s imperative for your health and everyone else that comes into contact with you, that you stay put. If you have any congestion, you can count on the air pressure from that plane ride to make you feel 20x’s worse.

Also, you can expect to have to pay a typical rebooking fee for your flight. That fee should not be worth extending your illness even longer than you need to. Not to mention you’re putting other travelers at an infectious risk. 

It may be difficult, but staying put will really help progress your healing progress so you can hopefully still enjoy some fun vacation time. Hunker down, cozy up, and rest it out for a couple of days. You’ll be on your feet in no time.

Enjoy The Beauty That Is Cancún!

When planning your trip to the lovely experience that is Mexico, you never really plan for a couple of days to be miserable in the hotel room. Although it happens way more often than you would assume.

Understanding the major possibility of injury or illness occurring is just smart travel knowledge to start practicing. Although, also understanding that a few days of typical travel illness is most certainly not the end to your fun vacation in all that in Cancún. Don’t let Montezumas Revenge make you a victim and run away. Stay put, enjoy the hotel room and the glorious views from outside.

Rest for as long as your body can sustain, and when you can’t take it anymore and are feeling well enough, get yourself a huge bottle of water and go lay out in the sun for a while. The sun’s rays are warming, and the vitamin D they give will help bring some life back into your body. Just be sure to keep yourself exceptionally hydrated during this. The sun is dangerously dehydrating, especially when you’re not feeling on top of your game.

Go layout in the sun only if you’ve spent a couple of days in bed, and the worst days are gone. You don’t need to be out on the beach or at the pool when you’re barely able to walk, spreading illness to other travelers. 

And as hard as it may be, stay away from the alcohol. Not just until the day you’re finally starting to feel normal again. Drinking alcohol right after you recover from an illness is sure to rock your immune system right back down the drain and send you back to bed, wishing you never even knew what tequila was.

Remember, take care of your digestive track ahead of time with a daily probiotic and defeat common travel illness flying around everywhere with a regular Vitamin C package! By following these tips, you’re promised to be back on your feet, defeating Montezumas Revenge and having the most wonderful time experiencing all that is Cancún.

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