Cancun is a popular destination for spring breakers and honeymooners everywhere. Its white-sand beaches, culture, and Mayan ruins make it an excellent vacation spot for anyone who wants a bit of sun, local flavor, and history.
Until the 1970s, Cancun was mainly known as a fishing area due to its location on the Yucatán Peninsula. However, international travelers began frequenting the area in the 1980s, leading to a rise in tourism.
One of the main reasons people choose Cancun as their vacation destination is because it’s an excellent party spot and has a variety of all-inclusive resorts.
As a result, you can get everything you need within a small area without needing to venture into neighboring areas or towns. However, because Cancun is such a popular vacation spot, you should always consider safety.
Scammers, pickpockets, and price gougers often take advantage in areas where tourists don’t know the locale. There are also regional safety concerns to be aware of, too. 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?
By and large, Cancun is a safe place to visit, as long as you take basic precautions. Just as in any big city, the most common crimes for tourists to look out for in Cancun are scammers and pickpockets.
Aside from petty thieves, your main safety concerns will be unsafe drinking water and the potential for bad weather. Crime in Cancun is relatively low, so although you might run into thieves, if you take precautions, you should be safe.
Mainly, you’ll want to avoid bad neighborhoods and take care when you’re wandering the streets by carrying only the necessities.
Although crime is one of the key considerations when you consider safety in Cancun, you’ll also have to keep nature in mind. Weather and the local water can each cause safety concerns, too.
In particular, Cancun falls victim to hurricane season in the summer and early fall. In addition, not all tap water in Cancun is safe to drink, so you should stock up on bottled water if your hotel doesn’t offer filtered water.
Crime in Cancun
Overall, crime in Cancun has increased over the last several years. This is particularly true of violent crimes, such as shootings, as cartel activity has made its way into the city.
However, although more violent crimes have been reported, you’re more likely to fall victim to those looking to make a quick buck. The best way to avoid pickpockets, scammers, and price gougers is to practice common sense by remembering the following.
- Don’t carry a lot of cash at once
- Keep your valuables locked in a safe
- Avoid deals that seem too good to be true
- Never pull out all of your cash while standing on the street
A good trick for carrying cash, your passport, and cards is to use an inside-the-waistband fanny pack. This type of wallet rests just inside your waistband instead of outside, like a traditional fanny pack, keeping it out of reach of pickpockets.
Avoid Bad Neighborhoods
The best way to avoid falling victim to crime is to take caution when and where you walk. Cancun has several neighborhoods, some of which are safer than others. The following three areas are the safest at any time of day.
- Zona Hotelera
- El Centro (Downtown)
- Isla Mujeres
However, although these areas are safe, all neighborhoods, including these, can turn a bit seedier at night. So, do your best to avoid walking the streets after dark and use public transportation whenever possible.
Learn Some Spanish
Fluency in Spanish isn’t a requirement for traveling to Cancun, but knowing a bit can help keep you safe. Plus, it indicates that you don’t expect the locals to cater to your language needs. Take some time to learn the following, at a minimum:
- How to greet people
- How to ask for directions
- How to ask for the police
- How to order food
- How to ask medical questions
- How to say your medications or conditions
- How to refer to your companions (husband, daughter, sister, and so forth)
Plenty of websites provide lists of key travel phrases but consider keeping a phrasebook on hand. You can also download translation apps or use Google Translate if you’re on the go.
Don’t Draw Attention to Yourself
No matter where you travel, you want to avoid wearing anything that shouts, “I’m a tourist.” Scammers are always looking for the stereotypical “tourist” to take advantage of.
The best way to prevent yourself from falling victim to that is to be mindful of how you present yourself to the locals. So, avoid flashy outfits, don’t carry large purses or backpacks, and don’t walk around with a camera around your neck.
Also, if you usually wear a lot of jewelry, stow it in your hotel room’s safe instead. If you know ahead of time your room won’t have a safe, consider leaving your jewelry at home.
Don’t Exchange Money at the Airport
It’ll be tempting to exchange money as soon as you land in Cancun so your wallet’s full of pesos instead of dollars. However, there are two very specific reasons you should wait until you get into town to do your exchange.
First, the exchange rate at the airport will be significantly higher than those in town. You’ll get far more pesos for your dollar if you hold off on exchanging until you get closer to your destination. If you have to exchange right away, only use a small amount of money.
Second, taking out large amounts of money in public will draw unwanted attention to yourself. For example, if you hand over all of your cash at the airport, pickpockets nearby will see how much you have on you and target you when you leave.
Always Book Tours Through a Company
One way scammers take advantage of tourists is by offering cheap tours. They’ll stop tourists on the street and offer tours by boat, foot, or vehicle for an unbeatable price.
These individuals won’t have any affiliation with an official company and simply want to get your money. The best way to avoid this is to book tours through official agencies that depart from the business’s physical location.
Don’t ever put yourself in a position where you’re getting into a vehicle with a tour guide unless you’re certain they’re with the agency you hired.
Always Keep Your Money Separate
There’ll be times when you’ll need to have larger amounts of money on hand. This is especially true if you don’t want to or can’t use credit cards. However, this also puts you at risk of losing all of your money at once if a pickpocket finds you.
To avoid falling victim, keep your money separate but secure. Choose clothing with pockets that button or zip, and store your money in small amounts in those places, in your wallet, or in a close-fitting bag.
When in Doubt, Assume the Worst
Scammers do their work in many ways, and not all will try and appeal to your need for a great deal. Instead, some might try to tap into your good nature by asking for help in the form of money, food, or even directions.
If someone approaches you asking for assistance, the smartest thing you can do is assume they’re scammers and politely extricate yourself from the situation. And don’t be swayed if it’s a child or elderly person asking for help because scammers come in many forms.
Always Know Where You’re Going
As a whole, Cancun is relatively safe. However, certain neighborhoods and nearby towns are less safe than others. So before you start touring the region, know where you’re going and which areas to avoid.
The area surrounding Cancun is far less safe than Cancun itself. If you take tours out of town, let someone know where you’ll be. This can be a hotel clerk, a friend at home, or even a social media post.
Don’t Drink the Water
Although falling ill due to contaminated water isn’t a crime, staying healthy is a key safety consideration no matter where you travel. The lack of proper water treatment in Mexico allows bacteria and parasites to thrive in the water, so you should never drink unfiltered tap water.
The best way to avoid catching traveler’s diarrhea is to stick to bottled or filtered water. Fortunately, if you’re staying at an all-inclusive resort, the tap water should be fine. Just make sure to confirm with your concierge first.
Things to Consider
Here are a few other things to consider when traveling to Cancun.
- Purchase travel insurance
- Carry a map at all times
- Know the telltale signs of a scam
- Learn the phone number and address of the local police
- Carry as little on you as possible when walking
- Invest in a hotel door lock
- Research the safety of Cancun’s surrounding towns and villages
- Consider staying in Cancun for your entire trip
- Only travel out of the city during the day
Frequently Asked Questions
There’s a lot to know when it comes to Cancun’s safety. Here are the answers to a few commonly asked questions about vacation safety in this popular tourist destination:
Is there a cartel in Cancun?
Although Cancun is safe compared to its surrounding areas, Mexico’s drug cartels have recently found their way into the city. As of February 2022, there was a spike in cartel violence in Cancun targeted at tourists. This had led to an increase in the National Guard’s presence in the area.
Are all-inclusive resorts safe in Cancun?
The hotel zone, or Zona Hotelera, is the safest place to stay in Cancun. This is where all the all-inclusive resorts are. These resorts provide most of what you need to avoid wandering into the city too often. They also discourage non-guests from entering the premises.
How much does a meal cost in Cancun?
Food is relatively cheap in Cancun, so you won’t have to worry about carrying a lot of cash on you for food when you go out. A typical meal will run you anywhere from 10 to 45 pesos, or $1-4 American dollars.
When is the best month to visit Cancun?
The most popular months for tourism in Cancun are December through April. You’ll get good weather, but larger crowds. If you go in the less-popular months, it’ll likely be easier to spot pickpockets and scammers because crowds will be smaller.
Is it safe to visit Mexico right now?
Although Cancun is still considered safe, the U.S. State Department issued a warning in March of 2022 that increased the travel warning to a level 3 for Mexico. This is due to the increased rates of drug cartel violence. However, that warning is for Mexico as a whole, not Cancun specifically.
So, Is Cancun Safe?
Cancun is a picturesque tourist destination that offers white, sandy beaches, historic sites, and fun activities. However, you should keep the concerns in this article in your mind when planning your trip. Always be diligent and practice safe behaviors. But, most importantly, have fun.