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Is Cancun Safe to Visit in 2023? | Safety Concerns

Is Cancun Safe to Visit in 2023? | Safety Concerns

Cancun isn’t your typical holiday destination – it’s an exotic paradise! With breathtakingly beautiful beaches, endless sunshine, and turquoise Caribbean waters, it’s a perfect escape from the everyday stresses of life.

The city is a cultural melting pot, with traditional Mexican cuisines such as tacos and tostadas, modern restaurants serving gourmet dishes, and lively nightlife.

It’s also an excellent place for shopping, with popular malls and boutiques offering quality merchandise. For those who want to venture even further, the island of Cozumel and the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza are just a short trip away.

Here you can learn about the region’s history and its diverse wildlife. The city reported over 20 million passengers in 2022, cementing its status as one of the world’s top tourist destinations.

With so much to see and do, this is a must-visit for honeymooners, families, and adventurers. But with all the tales of violence and drug-related crime in Mexico, it’s no surprise that travelers might want to know if Cancun is safe. Read on to find out!

Is Cancun Safe to Visit?

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Cancun is one of Mexico’s safest vacation cities. Unfortunately, like many tourist hotspots, it’s not immune to occasional reports of petty crimes like scams and pickpocketing.

However, as long as you remain vigilant and take the usual precautions, your stay should be worry-free. If you follow the news, you’ve probably heard about gang-related violence between drug cartels in certain parts of Mexico.

While these heinous incidents occur even in Cancun, media sensationalism often exaggerates the severity of the situation. I’ve been to the Playa Mujeres and Riviera Maya areas (by Cancun) every year for the past 4 years and I’ve never felt unsafe, especially because we stayed at our resorts the entire time.

In truth, tourists are rarely the target, and authorities go to great lengths to ensure their safety. Back to petty crimes-you may want to avoid places outside the hotel zone.

Due to the influx of visitors staying in beachfront resorts, the area is heavily patrolled, contrasting with the city’s interior. However, that doesn’t give you a free pass to let your guard down. Hurricanes are also worth noting since Cancun is located in a tropical region.

Thankfully, the risk of injury and death has reduced due to advanced warning systems and improved evacuation procedures. Nevertheless, monitor the local media and pay close attention to advisories issued by the National Hurricane Center.

Crime in Cancun

Cancun’s crime rate is around 62%, with home burglaries and corruption taking the top spot. Being in the drug cartel corridor and as one of the global travel hotspots, most people would expect these figures to be higher.

Unsurprisingly, this is not the case. The Island crime rate is comparable to some of your favorite U.S. cities. Miami and Los Angeles, for example, have crime rates of 58.56% and 59.32%, respectively.

On the other side, New Orleans leads with a staggering 81.44%. While this is a nice reprieve, the numbers remain concerning.

Mugging, assault, and drug trafficking are among the most prevalent crimes, with rates of more than 59.85%. Below, we explore the various types of crime in Cancun and what you can do to stay safe during your visit.

Mugging

Woman getting her pocket picked to help answer is Cancun safe

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Mexico has a massive wealth disparity, like the rest of the developing world. As a result, most of its population lives below the poverty line, forcing many to resort to desperate measures to make ends meet.

Mugging is one of the most common crimes in Cancun, with a rate of 60.71%. Tourists are particularly vulnerable due to their unfamiliarity with the area and perceived wealth.

Most are simple robberies, but victims can be subject to physical violence if they resist. The risk of getting mugged increases significantly outside of the hotel zone and at night. Thankfully, most of these crimes are non-lethal and unarmed.

If you are in such a predicament, don’t resist and hand over whatever valuables you have. Your safety is the most important thing. Furthermore, be aware of your surroundings at all times.

Avoid dark and isolated areas, leave expensive items like jewelry behind, and travel in groups. These measures will drastically reduce your chances of becoming a victim.

Scams

Perhaps one of the easy-to-fall-for crimes in Cancun is scams. From overpriced tours and transportation to fake police officers demanding bribes, travelers are not spared.

Timeshare traps lead in this category. Scammers often disguise themselves as representatives from reputable timeshare companies and offer attractive deals. Once you’ve signed up, they’ll demand exorbitant fees and penalties for canceling or not following through with the purchase.

Other obvious scams include fake taxi drivers who overcharge or take you to a different location than intended and street vendors who sell counterfeit goods.

Oh, and not to mention the infamous “friendly locals” who offer to show you around, only to lead you to a shop or restaurant where they demand a commission.

To avoid being scammed in Cancun, consider these tips:

  • Research reputable tour companies and transportation options before traveling
  • Be wary of unsolicited offers or deals that seem too good to be true
  • Always ask for a receipt and make sure to check the prices before agreeing to any service
  • Don’t give in to pressure and decide on the spot
  • Be aware of your surroundings and avoid dark and isolated areas
  • Trust your instincts and if something feels off, walk away

Assault

The New York Post published a story late last year about a U.S. citizen kidnapped and attacked with a machete while on vacation in Cancun. While such incidents are relatively rare, they occur and are a severe concern for tourists visiting the city.

Assault can take various forms, including physical, verbal, and sexual. Worse, they can leave victims traumatized, injured, or even killed. Solo travelers are often the most vulnerable as they may not have anyone to turn to in an emergency.

However, that doesn’t mean you’re immune if you’re in a group or with a partner. These crimes can happen to anyone and at any time.

The risk of assault increases significantly when alcohol and drugs are involved. When under the influence, it’s easy to let your guard down and make poor decisions.

Some establishments in Cancun, particularly in the downtown area, have been known to spike drinks or serve adulterated substances, endangering unsuspecting tourists. As a traveler, you can avoid all this by being vigilant and aware of your surroundings.

Avoid walking alone in unfamiliar or poorly lit areas, and never accept drinks from strangers. If you ever find yourself in such a situation, don’t hesitate to seek help.

Cancun’s local authorities are trained and equipped to handle these situations and will do their best to assist you. Keep in touch with family and friends back home, and inform your hotel or resort staff of your whereabouts and expected return time.

Avoiding Bad Areas Cancun

Hotel zone for a piece on is Cancun Safe

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Like a coin, Cancun has two sides. One is beautiful, with amazing sights and attractions, while the other is full of tourist traps you should avoid.

As they say, it’s better to be safe than sorry, and this is particularly true when you’re traveling. A general rule of thumb is to steer clear of the city’s outskirts, especially north of Lopez Portillo near Bonfil.

The likelihood of encountering unscrupulous individuals and getting scammed or harassed in this area is much higher. If you must travel there, do so during the day and in the company of a local guide.

And if you ever find yourself past Plaza Dos Mil, also famously known as Plaza 2000, be vigilant. While the area is a popular commerce and dining hub, it’s also notorious for shady activity.

Here, you’re more likely to fall prey to aggressive panhandling and pickpockets. The downtown area is another spot to look out for. It’s one of Cancun’s tourist hotspots due to its reasonably priced accommodations, delectable street food, and lively nightlife.

Despite its allure, it’s not exempt from petty crime, especially late at night. Exercise caution and stick to well-lit, populated streets. Generally, it’s best to stick to the touristic areas such as the Hotel Zone.

Here, you’ll be surrounded by more people, making it less likely for criminals to target you. Furthermore, the Mexican government has invested heavily in making the area secure and tourist-friendly.

Safest Places to Visit and Stay in Cancun

  • Zona Hotelera: If you google Cancun, the most probable image that’ll pop up is that of a magnificent 13-mile coastal strip. The place boasts some of the best hotels, restaurants, shops, and nightclubs, making it a haven for tourists.
  • Isla/Playa Mujeres: Located 8 miles off the coast of Cancun, the island is the perfect destination for a relaxed holiday. Its crystal-clear waters, white sand beaches, and wildlife make it ideal for exploration. I personally suggest staying at the Atelier or the Majestic Elegance. These were two of my favorite resorts, both on Playa M
  • El Centro (Downtown): El Centro is an excellent choice for the budget traveler. It has more affordable accommodation options, authentic Mexican restaurants, and plenty of activities.

Things to Consider While in Cancun

To make the most of your trip to Cancun, consider the following:

  1. Avoid tourist traps that promise something they can’t deliver. Look for reviews online, and don’t trust glossy brochures.
  2. Stay alert and aware of your surroundings. Avoid walking alone at night or in secluded areas.
  3. Avoid tap water, and always ask for bottled drinks when ordering at restaurants.
  4. Be prepared for the heat and humidity. Bring plenty of sunscreens and wear light, breathable clothing.
  5. Book accommodations and air tickets in advance. The city receives a massive influx of tourists during peak seasons resulting in spiked prices.
  6. Respect the culture, customs, and laws of the country. Ask for permission before taking photos of people or places.
  7. Research the city before your trip. Remember to purchase travel insurance to protect yourself against any unforeseen events.
  8. Avoid flashing expensive jewelry or cash in public places. Carry what you need, and keep your valuables locked away in a safe.
  9. Use ATMs in well-lit, busy areas and only withdraw cash from reliable establishments.
  10. Don’t resist if someone tries to rob you. Hand over your belongings and seek help from the police.

Lastly, learn a few words in Spanish to better communicate with locals. A basic understanding of the local language will go a long way toward making your visit more pleasant.

Frequently Asked Questions

Currency exchange at the airport for a piece on Is Cancun Safe

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Let’s look at some FAQs on how safe it is to visit Cancun:

Is Cancun safe for a solo female traveler?

Despite what you may have heard, Cancun is a relatively safe place for solo female travelers. However, you should exercise caution and common sense like in any tourist destination. Consider staying in the hotel zone and avoid wandering alone at night. And, if possible, join organized tours or travel with Facebook friends and expats.

Do you need malaria tablets for Cancun?

You’re at a very low to no risk of contracting malaria in Cancun and Mexico at large. As a result, malaria tablets are unnecessary. However, check with the CDC to find what other vaccinations they may recommend for your trip.

Is it safe to use Uber in Cancun?

Uber is widely used in Cancun and considered safer for visitors than street taxis. However, for peace of mind, double-check the driver’s rating and read the reviews before you hop in. It’s also a good idea to share your trip details with a trusted friend or family member.

What currency is best in Cancun?

While the U.S. dollar is widely accepted in most areas, you’ll get the best rate if you use Mexican pesos. Most restaurants, hotels, and stores also accept credit cards. However, you’ll need cash for street vendors and taxis, preferably in pesos.

Should I exchange money at the airport or in Cancun?

If you’re looking for favorable exchange rates, avoid doing so at the airport. Instead, find a local bank or currency exchange house in the city. However, if safety is your concern, ATMs at the Cancun Airport offer the best option.

So, Is Cancun Safe to Visit?

Cancun is a safe tourist destination to visit, stay and enjoy. And given its year-round warm weather, sandy beaches, and vibrant nightlife, it’s no surprise it’s a popular choice. However, that doesn’t make it impervious to petty crimes such as pickpocketing and scams.

Fortunately, if you remain vigilant and follow some common-sense safety precautions, you can have a pleasant stay in this stunning part of Mexico. So what are you waiting for — book your trip to Cancun today!