Is Cancun safe? That is the million-dollar question as Cancun is the top destination for many U.S. travelers, but violent crime is soaring in certain areas because American tourists are buying drugs from Mexican drug dealers.
Cancún and the 81-mile stretch south of the resort to Tulum, known as the Riviera Maya, draw 13 million visitors a year to their lush beaches, golf courses, and all-inclusive luxury resorts.
The area accounts for nearly half of Mexico’s tourism revenue. It’s also the scene of an alarming rise in murders, mostly fueled by the demand for drugs from the vacationers themselves.
Once an American tourist is murdered travelers begin questioning whether Cancun is safe. The stories go on and on about one murder after the other and here recently there has been an uptick in carbon monoxide poisoning in Mexico.
The U.S. State Department recently issued an updated Mexico travel warning about U.S. Tourists traveling to Mexico due to the uptick in violence.
“Violent crime—such as homicide, kidnapping, carjacking, and robbery—is widespread and common in Mexico,” warns the State Department.
For years I wouldn’t travel to Mexico because the U.S. media painted this horrific picture of Mexico and I always wondered if it was safe to travel to Mexico.
I believed Mexico was dangerous, I would be killed, kidnapped, and held for ransom by the cartel because of the Cancun travel warning issued by the U.S. Government.
As my readers are planning their Spring break 2023 travels I have been receiving more questions than ever on is Mexico safe and more specific questions about the crime in Cancun and Tulum.
I will discuss the following when it comes to safety in Cancun:
- Is Cancun Safe to Visit?
- Solo Travel
- Beach Safety
- Carbon Monoxide Safety
- Frequently Asked Questions
Is Cancun Safe?
Yes, traveling to Mexico can be dangerous. While many people worry about cartels or criminals preying on tourists in areas like Cancun or Mazatlan, there are much more common risks for travelers like not using your common sense and buying drugs in a foreign country.
If you can’t spend the weekend in another country without smoking weed you should probably be checking yourself into rehab instead of traveling to Cancun.
Almost all of the American tourists that have been killed in Mexico are due to them buying drugs from the cartel because they were too afraid to fly with weed so someone thought it was a good idea to buy drugs in a foreign country. 😩😩😩😩
When my readers ask me “is Mexico safe”, my response is a resounding yes if you do not go looking for trouble!
For the life of Gawd and I can not stress this enough do not go to a foreign country buying drugs and then play the victim when something bad happens.
Scammers, pickpockets, price gougers, and taxi drivers trying to take advantage of tourists are probably the most you will be to be aware of while traveling to Mexico.
So, if you’re wondering if Cancun is safe to visit, this article will break down all you need to know before you go.
Is Cancun Safe to Visit in 2023?
As a first step in planning any trip abroad, check the Travel Advisories for your intended destination.
The State Department has issued a new “Increased Caution” advisory for U.S. citizens traveling to Cancun.
Quintana Roo state – Exercise Increased Caution
Exercise increased caution due to crime and kidnapping.
Criminal activity and violence may occur in any location, at any time, including in popular tourist destinations.
Travelers should maintain a high level of situational awareness, avoid areas where illicit activities occur, and promptly depart from potentially dangerous situations. U.S. citizens and LPRs have been victims of kidnapping.
While not directed at tourists, shootings between rival gangs have injured innocent bystanders. Additionally, U.S. citizens have been the victims of both non-violent and violent crimes in tourist and non-tourist areas.
But before you go off the deep end and start imagining things that will likely not occur cancel a trip to Mexico please find out what is real vs fake about the Mexico travel warnings. , here’s what you need to know.
Click here to read the current Mexico Travel Advisory from the U.S. Department of State website.
While Cancun isn’t located in any of the State Department’s level 4 warnings you should still be cautious while traveling to Cancun.
It also warns people to “exercise increased caution when visiting local bars, nightclubs, and casinos.”
Furthermore, tourists should steer clear of displaying signs of wealth, “such as wearing expensive watches or jewelry” and exercise extreme caution at banks and ATMs.
In addition, the State Department asks tourists to enroll in its Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive Alerts and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.
Cancun Travel Advisory Fact vs. Fiction
Because Cancun is one of Mexico’s most popular tourist destinations, there are more than 40,000 police officers stationed throughout all of Quintana Roo which means Cancun safety is important to the country.
That makes it far safer than any other Mexican state. Not only are there more police, but they’re also better trained and better paid.
Most officers have attended at least some college and often have a few years on their beat. Part of what keeps them motivated? They make a minimum salary of $600 USD per month—double that of other departments in Mexico.
On top of that, they receive consistent bonuses to further increase their salaries. These incentives help make officers dedicated to cracking down on crime in their city—instead of extorting money from tourists like so many other officers do throughout Mexico.
If you get up and go to the grocery store every day, go running at your local park, or even go to a concert you should always take precautions no matter the destination.
Are you worried about traveling to Chattanooga, Houston, Chicago, New Orleans, or Memphis? All of these cities have a higher crime rate than Cancun.
The Mexican Tourism authority and the government want you safe because tourism is Mexico’s number 1 revenue generator and they have pointed to the low number of victims of crime compared to the 28 million American tourists who travel to Mexico each year.
Know that Cancun is safe and keep these numbers in mind when planning your vacation for Spring Break 2023.
Cancun is safer than most of America’s biggest cities and if you are not worried about traveling within the U.S., especially with the current racial tensions you should be asking if Cancun is safe.
You take road trips with the family to cities like St. Louis, New Orleans, and Kansas City without giving it a second thought so do not allow the media to make you believe Mexico is unsafe.
Let me be clear the majority of the criminal activity in Cancun, Quintana Roo, and Tulum is from Americans seeking to buy drugs and then cry foul or play the victim when something bad happens.
Why would anyone be looking to buy drugs in Mexico and think nothing is going to happen? If you do not go looking for drugs or drug dealers you will be fine but if you decide you must have drugs while on vacation don’t cry later when someone in your party ends up dead.
Cancun Crime vs. United States Crime
Mexico is statistically much safer than the United States.
So why is the U.S. State Dept. sending out Travel Alerts, calling Mexico “A Failed State”, and saying that ALL parts of the country (including popular tourist resorts like Puerto Vallarta and Cancun) are now unsafe for travel?
There has been a lot of news coverage about violence in Mexico. But very little of it notes that Mexico is a HUGE country with thirty-one states (+ the Distrito Federal).
They also fail to mention that most of that violence is drug traffic-related, or that you could count the number of tourists who are affected by it on one hand.
Did you know that, according to the FBI, an estimated 15,241 persons were murdered in the U.S. in 2009 111 U.S. citizens were killed in Mexico last year, and almost all of them were involved in illicit drug trafficking, gun-running, or smuggling people across the border to/from the U.S?
Imagine 111 people out of the nearly 8 million visitors (about 1 million of whom make Mexico their full-time home). Do you know who else had 111 murders in one year?
Well, Boston for starters. Then there was Las Vegas. And Orlando. And Indianapolis. Is the State Dept. advising tourists to stay away from those places?
Meanwhile, nearly 1,000 U.S. citizens died in Puerto Rico, but did anybody raise a red flag about that? The State Department can’t issue a Travel Warning, because it is not a foreign country
How big is your own city when compared to Mexico? Here are the annual numbers of MURDERS, given by MSA (or Metropolitan Statistical Area)
- Atlanta – 325
- Baltimore – 298
- Boston – 111
- Dallas/Ft. Worth – 310
- Detroit – 447
- Houston – 462
- Indianapolis – 111
- Jacksonville, FL – 120
- Kansas City – 163
- Las Vegas – 133
- Los Angeles – 68
- Miami-Boca Raton – 377
- New Orleans – 252
- New York City – 778
- Orlando – 111
- Philadelphia – 436
- Phoenix – 302
- San Francisco – 392
- St. Louis – 210
- Washington, DC – 325
To put things in perspective, consider that the murder rate in Mexico’s Yucatan State is 2 per 100,000.
That is about the same as Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. Or Evansville, Indiana. Mexico City’s murder rate is 8 per 100,000, despite being the second-largest city on the planet. That is on par with Albuquerque.
As I stated in my previous article Is Mexico safe the countries below have the same Cancun travel advisory and most people don’t think twice about visiting these destinations so why are you asking is Mexico safe?
Safety Tips for Traveling to Cancun
Getting around Cancun can be done safely and easily on foot or by cab, but not everyone enjoys walking. If you’re in a group, hiring a bus to take you between locations might be a good option as well.
You may want to avoid taking public transportation while you’re in Mexico, especially if you’ve had too much to drink. Be wary of strangers who offer rides in their cars – they are often involved in scams that target tourists.
Taxis are generally safe and reliable; if possible, get one with a working meter rather than an agreed-upon price so that no one tries to con you out of more money at your destination.
No matter the destination it is a good idea to always follow these basic travel safety tips. Follow these tips while traveling to Cancun along with the following Cancun travel warning:
- Steer clear of spots with a bad reputation, known gang activity, or places that give you bad vibes. Stick to well-traveled places.
- Check in with friends and family back home as often as you can. Make sure someone knows where you’re at and when you expect to check in next.
- Be aware of your surroundings. This is a good rule of thumb in general, but it’s especially important when traveling alone.
- Don’t drink too much. Make sure you know your limits. Don’t put yourself in a vulnerable position.
- Only use ATM machines that are found at reputable local banks or those at your resort.
- Do not wear expensive jewelry or watches that might attract unwanted attention.
- Avoid taking excessive amounts of cash out and about with you.
Stick together with your travel companions rather than splitting up, especially when out late at night. If you plan to drive, make it a point to travel during daylight hours.
Choosing to take a taxi at night is always a great idea, just to be on the safe side and know which areas to avoid in Cancun.
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
The recent deaths of six Americans from carbon monoxide poisoning in two separate incidents are putting a spotlight on the risks of staying in an Airbnb or hotel that might not have the appropriate safety measures in place.
Three guests staying at an apartment in Mexico City booked through Airbnb are believed to have died from carbon monoxide poisoning last month, Bloomberg reported.
Families of three Americans who died from carbon monoxide poisoning in a rented residence in Mexico City ahead of Dia de Los Muertos – or Day of the Dead – celebrations identified them as two New Orleans teachers and the owner of a Virginia Beach-based candle business.
Another group of American tourists in Mayat a Sandals Resort in the Bahamas.
Symptoms of CO poisoning include headache, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, weakness, chest pain, and confusion, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
More than 400 people die in the U.S. from accidental CO poisoning each year, and another 50,000 people visit the emergency department with carbon monoxide poisoning.
What to Know Before you Travel
Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless gas that is produced any time a fossil fuel is burned. Accidental poisoning can occur when home appliances and systems like furnaces, kerosene heaters, stoves, lanterns, and generators produce fumes that people breathe in.
I suggest purchasing a carbon monoxide detector and taking it with you just to be on the safe side.
Safest Areas for Tourists in Cancun
If you do not go to crime-ridden areas in your own city do not go into crime-ridden areas when you travel. While the crime rate is increasing in Mexico so is the crime in the United States!
The Mexican government wants to keep tourists safe by providing extra security in touristy areas to ensure travelers are safe and you will not have to ask if the Cancun Travel Advisory is necessary.
The safest area to stay in Cancun is still the Hotel Zone which is a 13-mile stretch of beautiful white-sand beaches with boutique hotels and resorts for both families and couples alike.
Tourism authorities in Mexico and Cancun have pointed out that there is rarely violence in Cancun and the numbers are so low that it barely makes a dent in the 28 million American tourists who travel to Mexico and Cancun annually.
Be aware that there has not been any violence within the Hotel Zone – Violence has occurred outside the Hotel Zone and along with other popular vacation spots which have caused many hotels and resorts to tighten their security.
I don’t think you have anything to worry about when traveling to Cancun because Mexico is safe as long you are not buying drugs from the cartel. (Seems like common sense)
Where to be Cautious in Cancun
Now that we have discussed the safest areas in Cancun for tourists here is a list of areas you should avoid when traveling to Cancun or at a minimum be mindful of your surroundings:
- Downtown Cancun – Cancun is extremely safe and downtown Cancun is no different so there is no reason to be afraid but be extra diligent and precautious if you are traveling outside of Cancun at night and always notify someone of your location if you are traveling alone.
- Shopping in Cancun – If you are like me you love shopping and exploring the local markets but please take proper precautions do not flash money, wear expensive jewelry and keep your purse closed because pickpocketers will be watching and waiting to make their move.
- Surrounding Towns– There are plenty of surrounding neighborhoods and towns that are extremely safe and perfect for day trips including Guanajuato, San Cristóbal de las Casas and Oaxaca City.
- Driving or renting a car in Cancun – While you should always take precautions while driving in a foreign country, there’s no need to be fearful of driving in Cancun or renting a car.
- I rented a car on my last trip and felt extremely safe so no need to worry at all but the U.S. State Department advises using toll roads when possible and avoiding driving alone or at night.
Keeping Cash Safe in Mexico
Withdrawing cash: Use ATMs in daylight hours and choose ATMs located in areas where there are plenty of other people around or use ATMs situated inside shopping malls.
Carrying cash: Don’t carry large amounts of cash on your person. If you see something you want to buy and you don’t have the cash, a small deposit will always secure the item. Leave excess cash credit/debit cards you don’t expect to need at the hotel.
Bank-card cloning/skimming: Bank card (Debit or Credit Cards) cloning (or skimming) is an issue in Mexico. Never leave bank cards out of your sight.
If your card has a “chip and pin” ask waiters at bars and restaurants to bring the payment terminal to your table and cover your hand as you enter your PIN.
If the terminal is not portable, or your card does not have “chip and pin” technology, take your card to the cashier to pay: do not allow attendants to take it out of your sight.
If you are paying for fuel at gas stations with a card, we recommend you only use a credit card (not a debit card) and be extra vigilant as gasoline stations are rife with skimmers.
Valuable documents: Keep your valuable travel documents (especially your passport) safe; passport theft is on the rise worldwide, including in Mexico. Store cash and other valuables in your hotel room’s safe or in the hotel’s safety deposit box.
Dress down: avoid walking around dripping jewelry, showing-off expensive watches, and other expensive fashion items.
ATM refills: When stand-alone ATMs are being re-filled, you might see armed guards surrounding them.
We recommend you find another ATM instead of waiting around for it to be filled: it can take up to an hour for a machine to be re-filled and tested before it becomes operational again.
How to Deal with Police Extortion in Cancun
We’ve all heard the stories about the corrupt cops south of the border. With stories ranging from extortion to kidnapping, the police in Mexico and the rest of Latin America do not have the best reputation.
Police extortion of tourists detained for minor offenses is often a problem and there have been some grotesque incidents. The authorities cracked down hard, however, and dismissed hundreds of officers, including some top officials. They claim the problem is under control.
If you are stopped for a traffic violation in Mexico, you will be asked for your driver’s license, vehicle registration, and possibly proof of insurance. You will also be told what you did wrong.
Of course, in the U.S. we would then be issued a ticket that requires us to pay a fine or appear in court at a later date.
If it is a minor infraction don’t bribe them, even so, it is possible that they ask for some money, the amount depends on the seriousness of the infraction, if you passed a red light it is better if they only give you the traffic ticket
If you drive without a license, the car must be impounded and the fine is higher, in that case, I suggest you offer $ 200 pesos (if you look Mexican) if you are blond with blue eyes maybe about $500 pesos
If you are stopped drinking alcohol in the street, the fine is $ 1500 pesos or 24 hours of jail, you will probably have to pay your full fine
Those are the most common crimes for which a police officer can pull you over, obviously, if you steal or kill, the amount will be considerably higher
The key is to remain calm and accept your mistake and when it is inevitable that they take you to jail then subtly offer the bribe, it is like a negotiation, start with a low amount and they will go up to agree on an amount.
How NOT use to Deal with Corrupt Mexican Police
Don’t be a tough guy
This is the worst thing that you can do. If you act tough and get angry and make threats, the officer will simply arrest you for being disorderly or assaulting him or her, etc.
This is a very big no-no. Towing your car is technically something that the officer can’t do, even though they will threaten it, but if you give them enough of a desire to cause you to harm they will absolutely find a way to make it happen.
While most officers will not do anything illegal beyond soliciting bribes for traffic violations, they most certainly can act above the law when they really want to.
Don’t give them a reason to want to, because you will not win. Having your car towed (and potentially never seeing it again) is a lot more expensive than paying him one hundred bucks.
Book Tours through a Reputable Tour Company or Hotel
Booking excursions through resorts in Mexico takes away a lot of the stress of vacation planning. Travelers can land in Cancun or Tulum and float directly onto a beach next to the bright blue Caribbean Sea.
No need to worry about things to do in Puerto Vallarta; just wait to be swept into the ocean on a catamaran or jet ski. This is all possible with proper excursion planning. However, book the wrong excursion and those stress levels may just double.
- ¡Buenos días! – Good morning!
- ¡Buenas tardes! – Good afternoon!
- ¡Buenas noches! – Good evening!
- ¡Hola! – Hi!
- ¿Cómo estás? – How are you?
- ¡Bien, gracias! – Good, thank you!
- ¿Cómo te llamas? – What’s your name?
- Me llamo Sofía. – My name is Sofia.
- ¡Encantado (or encantada for women) de conocerte! – Nice to meet you!
- ¡Por favor! – Please!
- Gracias. – Thank you.
- Perdón. – Sorry.
- ¿Habla inglés? – Do you speak English?
- No hablo Español. – I don’t speak Spanish.
- ¿Tiene? – Do you have?
- Yo tengo/Yo no tengo – I have/I don’t have
- ¿Entiende? – Do you understand?
- No entiendo. – I don’t understand.
- Habla más despacio, por favor. – Speak slower, please.
- Por favor repita. – Please repeat.
- ¿Cuánto cuesta? – How much does it cost?
- Me gustaría – I would like
- Yo quiero/Yo no quiero – I want/I don’t want
- ¿Me puedes ayudar? – Can you help me?
- ¿Dónde está? – Where is?
If you decide to travel to any part of Mexico please follow the rules below:
- DO NOT BUY DRUGS! 🚫🚫🚫🚫🚫🚫
- Use toll roads when possible and avoid driving alone or at night. In many states, police presence and emergency services are extremely limited outside the state capital or major cities.
- Exercise increased caution when visiting local bars, nightclubs, and casinos.
- Do not display signs of wealth, such as wearing expensive watches or jewelry.
- Be extra vigilant when visiting banks or ATMs.
- Carry a map
- Purchase a hotel lock
- Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive Alerts and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.
- Follow the Department of State on Facebook and Twitter.
- Review the Crime and Safety Reports for Mexico.
U.S. citizens who travel abroad should always have a contingency plan for emergency situations. Review the Traveler’s Checklist.
Safest Hotels in Cancun
The safest area to stay in Cancun is still the Hotel Zone, a 13-mile arc of beautiful white-sand beaches lined with resorts and hotels for every budget.
Many hotels are all-inclusive and discourage non-guests on the property, and high-end resorts tend to have robust security.
Avoid staying or partying in downtown Cancun, where most of the recent violence has taken place.
Follow These Simple Rules to Stay at the Beach in Cancun
1. Lifeguards are there to keep you safe.
2. Swim near a lifeguard tower; if there isn’t one near you, swim away from people or even better, from another person in a floating device such as an inner tube or raft.
3. Life jackets are available at many resorts and other shoreline areas – use them!
4. Have fun with your friends and don’t drink excessively;
5. Don’t participate in activities that require you to swim out too far like paddleboarding or parasailing;
6. Be aware of natural elements on beaches, like rip currents and rocks underwater that can be dangerous;
7. Make sure you have someone reliable who has agreed to watch over you while you’re partying;
8. Make sure you leave enough time between drinking and swimming;
9. Use common sense and be alert to your surroundings.
10.) Watch where others are going in case they have been swept up by a current, then go in the opposite direction immediately so that you do not get caught up in it yourself!
Best Time to Travel to Mexico
Because Mexico is a big country deciding when and where to travel totally depends on the weather and which area you are visiting and if you are going on a Girls’ Trip in Los Cabos or a family vacation in Cancun.
The southern part of Mexico has a rainy season which generally starts in May and until October. Not to worry it only rains for a short period of time and the sun will come right back out.
If you want to travel in the cooler season book your trip from December to February when it is cooler.
I suggest traveling to Mexico between December and April when the temperatures are more comfortable and the humidity is not at all at an all-time high.
If you go to Cancun in the shoulder season or in the less-popular months you will less likely to be a victim of pickpockets and scammers.
Mexico Travel Insurance
I think most people have questions about where to go for medical care in an emergency. First, I should note that if you’re on spring break, chances are slim that you’ll be needing emergency care.
Still, better safe than sorry! The good news is that some of the most beautiful cities in Mexico—like Cancun and Playa del Carmen—also happen to be home to some of the best hospitals and clinics in Latin America.
I can’t say this enough but please get insurance when traveling to Mexico! Even if you are only going on a short trip, you should always travel with insurance.
Have fun while visiting Mexico, but take it from someone who has racked up thousands of bucks on an insurance claim before, you need it.
Make sure to get your insurance before you head off on an adventure! I highly recommend Travelex Insurance.
The Conclusion: Is it Safe to Travel to Cancun Right Now
Yes, Cancun is safe!
There is no doubt that there has been horrible violence in Mexico due to drug wars between warring factions but that violence has, for the most part, been in isolated areas.
Of course, there are certain areas to avoid in Cancun but it is no different than you being in your own hometown where crime is restricted to certain areas.
DO NOT allow the U.S. media to shape your thoughts and views of Cancun because they are not only misleading but wrong!
One of Mexico’s most popular tourist regions plans began charging foreign visitors a new $10 tax in April of 2021.
Quintana Roo is located on Mexico’s eastern Yucatan Peninsula and is home to popular destinations including Cancun, Cozumel, Isla Mujeres, and the ancient Maya ruins in Tulum.
Must Know Numbers for Cancun Police
Assistance for U.S. Citizens
Mexico, D.F., Mexico C.P.
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