Is Mexico Safe? 15 Crucial Playa/Tulum Safety Tips
If you’re thinking of coming to Playa or Tulum, you’ve probably wondered “Is Mexico safe? Please read these crucial Playa del Carmen/Cancun/Tulum safety tips before coming here! I would not feel right about posting travel tips and itineraries without you reading this first!
As someone who has traveled solo to over 100 countries, and has now lived abroad in three, I know very well that crime exists everywhere. In Spain, pick-pocketing was very common. In the United States, shootings are common.
Here in this area of Mexico, muggings and sometimes druggings and abductions are common. So you need to be vigilant at all times. By the way, this goes for guys too! In fact a local woman told me that guys are often drugged in order to mug!
Here’s my tips I’ve grown to learn and gathered from fellow expats as well as locals :
Keep An Eye On Your Drink At All Times
If you plan on going out in Tulum or Playa, you MUST keep an eye on your drink at all times! In the last week alone, I’ve heard of two foreigner girls getting drugged at a bar. One of them, sadly, was abducted and taken advantage of.
As I mentioned above, women aren’t the only ones who get targeted. Men get drugged as well in order to get robbed easier.
Take Pre-Cautions if Going Out Alone at Night
If you’re traveling solo, it’s hard to not go out ever at night. So if you do, please take safety pre-cautions. Know exactly where you’re going, tell someone your plans, and use a trusted taxi service if you need it.
There are several phone apps and features you can use to make sure someone knows where you are at all times. Here’s a few:
- Share your Live Location with someone via WhatsApp: to do this, tap the attachment icon (mine’s a paperclip) and select “Location” and then “Share Live Location”.
- Be aware of your emergency notification on your phone: For iPhones, you press the power button 3 times. For Google phones you long press then tap “Emergency”.
- Download and Enable Safety Apps: these apps will give you the option to enable tracking on your phone, plus a 24/7 on-call option. On Android’s there’s a Personal Safety App, or a great app I recently reviewed is CloseCircle.
- If you’re staying somewhere with a front desk or security, leave them the name of the place you’re going
- Join one of the many women’s groups and find people to go out with/let know you’re going somewhere, speaking of which:
Join a Women’s Facebook Group or WhatsApp Group Chat
To be honest, I had hardly any clue about the types of crime that were happening in Riviera Maya, some of them right near where I lived! Then I joined women’s facebook and whatsapp groups and they not only kept me updated on happenings, but offered a lot of valuable tips and resources for staying safe.
They also allow you to let people know if you’re going somewhere and want to be checked in on, or even better, if someone wants to go with you!
I can’t post the names or info of those groups just in case someone with bad intentions happens to be reading this. However if you shoot me a DM on Instagram, I’ll be happy to send them to you!
Don’t Take Random Taxis Alone Especially at Night
There apparently is a crime ring that operates via taxis. It has been said that they will pick you up, then more people will get in the car or will be hiding in it, and will then mug you, usually at gun point.
If you need to take a taxi, get one from a hotel, or use one of these approved, safe taxi services:
- whatsapptaxi central 52 984 197 0814
- Radio taxi english 52 984 316 3751
In case you’re wondering about Uber — it does not exist here, because the war with taxis is too dangerous.
Try Not to Walk Around Alone
This is mostly for Playa del Carmen, but in both there and Tulum, you definitely shouldn’t walk around alone at night. I know you may be a bit confused since i just said taxis are also potentially dangerous, but again, you can use the safety approved ones.
Or, what most people have to me, is to get a bicycle or motorbike. Basically any mode of transportation is safer than walking.
Don’t Be Flashy or Carry a Lot of Cash
Since the majority of the crime revolves around robbery, it’s a no brainer that you should try not to be flashy. Yes, that means you shouldn’t rock those Louis Voutton bags or Gucci shoes. Maybe also keep the expensive Sony or Nikon cameras in a bag instead of in your hand.
It’s also a good idea to only take some cash and one card out with you. Just in case.
Know What to Do IF Something Happens
Hopefully nothing will happen at all, but remember, you always want to be prepared! Take a self-defense course (or check one out online like mine!), read up on safety tips and techniques, and give yourself a prep talk!
Here’s some key tips to remember in the unfortunate event that someone tries to attack you:
- Scream. Loud, and non stop. Attention often scares attackers away.
- If there’s a weapon, and they’re asking for your money or purse, throw it far to the side of them, and then run.
- If someone is following you, or a car approaches you, first try to run. If that’s not possible, start recording them on your phone, or press the emergency button on your phone.
Don’t Accept a Ride from Someone You Don’t Know Well
Let’s face it, meeting a cute guy at a bar in Mexico doesn’t sound like the most awful thing in the world. But you honestly never know what people’s intentions are. Especially here and now when people are more desperate than ever due to the pandemic.
If someone offers you a ride home or even to the next bar, say no. Tell them you have someone waiting at home for you and expecting you back. If they’re persistent, let someone know immediately, and call one of the safe taxis mentioned above.
Do NOT Meet Anyone in Alleys or Dark Streets
This sounds like a no-brainer, but I’ve heard of at least two people making this mistake (it was in an attempt to buy drugs). I obviously do not recommend attempting to buy drugs anyway, but in general, just don’t meet anyone anywhere sketchy.
Don’t Buy Drugs or Bring Them
I know, I know, I’m not your mom, but I swear this is for your own good. Bringing drugs into Mexico is of course, illegal, and punishable by jail time. However as you probably know, there’s a big cartel drug ring here anyway, and you definitely don’t want to get mixed up with it.
You’ll probably be shocked (and maybe even tempted) the first time you’re walking on 5th Ave and hear a low voice say “Weed, blow, molly?” or “Wanna get high?”. But will quickly realize it’s very common! Just ignore or say “No gracias”!
Try to Bike Rather Than Walk
Most of the expat girls Ii have met have either a bike, motorbike, or car. They have also all advised me to at least get a bike, since walking makes you an easy target for crime.
If you’re planning on staying in Playa del Carmen or Tulum for a while (more than two months), I’d recommend buying a bike to use while you’re here. Or you can rent one using BiciPlaya.
Check the Weather!
The Riviera Maya has a tropical Caribbean climate…complete with scorching hot summers, and an intense hurricane season! In the two months I have been in Playa, there have been 4 major storms, and trust me, they are scary!
I would not advise traveling during Hurricane Season, which is October-early November. You won’t be able to do much in the rain, and will lose electricity for 1-5 days.
Be Aware of Corrupt Cops
By the time you’ve read all of these tips and gotten to this one, you probably aren’t surprised that there are corrupt cops in Mexico. They are mostly after your money, and will try to get it in the form of a bribe (like they’ll say you did something wrong, and to give them money to let you off).
This is a tricky situation because you never know what the “or else” is. Some expats have said to request asking to their “jefe” (boss), others have suggested recording the conversation on your phone if you can.
Overall, it’s just really sad, because with all of the other shady crime happening, you’d hope the cops would at least be looking out for you. Yet here we are, talking about how they will also rob you.
Oh! And my biggest tip of all;
Not only is it good manners and respectable to at least try to speak some of the local language of where you’re traveling to, but especially here, it may save you! In fact, since I speak and reply in Spanish whenever anyone tries to talk/sell me something, they are immediately likely to stop.
I even get better deals on prices for car rentals, and the police are always friendly, because I speak Spanish and say I live here! Use a free app like DuoLingo or FluentU, or invest in Rosetta Stone!
OH! And Wear A Mask!
Let’s not forget that now covid is a safety issue in all countries! In Mexico, wearing masks is not enforced in most places, but you’ll see most people wearing them. Given that most places are relatively small and crowded, especially Tulum, it is crucial that you wear one!
You don’t want to potentially spread it to tons of people, and likewise, you don’t know who is being irresponsible and spreading it without a mask as well!
OVERALL: I hope this post didn’t scare you in any way! Remember, bad things happen pretty much everywhere, so it’s always up to you to be smart, and stay safe! Please share with anyone you know who may be traveling to Mexico soon, and wondering “Is Mexico safe?”