Arriving in Cancun
Once your plane stops on the tarmac, it will be a few minutes before you can depart. A Mexican customs official will board the plane, check some papers from the flight crew, then it's off you go.
You'll typically walk down stairs onto the tarmac, instead of using the elevated ramps. If your plane is close to the terminal door, you'll walk across the tarmac. If not, buses will pick you up and shuttle you to the terminal are parked out on the pavement and over to the terminal.
Your first steps into the main terminal.
If you walk, or are bussed, to the terminal, you'll enter directly into the immigration room. If they bring an elevated ramp to your plane, you'll enter the terminal on the second floor. This is the area where people are waiting for their flight home. You follow a roped path along the outside of the building, until you come to stairs leading down to immigration (there is also an elevator avaiable).
Immigration (detailed instructions and document information)
Once inside the terminal you'll see lines for immigration. You can tell immigration by the constant pounding noise, as officials stamp an endless line of tourists cards..
If you are arriving on a Saturday in the late morning, or early afternoon, you'll find the longest lines. Weekdays have the shortest lines. No matter how long your line is, it's time to relax and change to Mexican time. Even if you get through quickly, you'll still have to wait for your luggage.
You won't find much automation involved in this process. They do have baggage carousels, but they are way too small to handle the amount of luggage coming through. Airport employees clear the carousel after luggage has gone around a couple of times to make room for more, so look for your bag, not only on the carousel, but also in the center of it, and on the floor surrounding the carousel.
Also, make sure to look out the window at the poor guys loading bags onto the carousel. They pull giant carts, by hand, from the plane to the terminal, then throw everything on the carousel in the midday sun.
If you've got your bags, it's time to head over to customs. You can see it on the other side of a glass wall, so there is no way to get lost.
Customs (detailed instructions and document information)
Your almost done. The line at customs moves quickly. You step up to an agent, hand over you declaration form, and press a button that will randomly light a red or green light. Green light, go on through. Red light, stop for a quick luggage search.
your luggage is being unloaded and carted by hand. It is, as they say...on Mexican Time. The faster you get through immigration, the longer you¹ll get to wait for your luggage.
One tip: look for a desk with only one line, but two immigration officers. This one will almost always move quickly.
Your next step is getting to your hotel