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Is Cozumel Safe to Visit in 2023? | Safety Concerns

Is Cozumel Safe to Visit in 2023? | Safety Concerns

Cozumel is a small Mexican island off the coast of Eastern Mexico. The island is only 40 minutes from the Yucatan Peninsula by ferry. It’s also one of the top tourist destinations imn the Caribbean.

Once it was home to a Mayan community and now to local Mexicans and foreigners. Today, tourists flock to the island year after year. The crime rate on the island is relatively low in comparison to other Mexican territories.

Thanks to the locals and police presence on the island, visitors have very little to worry about. Still, with low crime, you should know the essential tips and safety concerns if you’re planning on making a trip to the island.

We’ll tell you about the most common crimes, the least recommended areas to visit, and other things to consider in order to have a safe trip. Read on to learn all you need to know!

Is Cozumel Safe to Visit?

Woman in a shop in Cozumel to show that it's a safe place to visit

GTS Productions/Shutterstock

Mexico has been growing on the list of alerts and warnings for tourism. Sometimes tourists find themselves in tricky situations due to crime and wrongful choices.

The good news is that Cozumel continues to remain a safe travel destination within the Mexican region.

The United States continues to update its travel advisory list every year. Mexico is currently listed as a high-level advisory, which states that visitors should exercise extra caution. Cozumel has a level 2 travel advisory.

This advisory comes from Cozumel’s proximity to Quintana Roo. High levels of crime and kidnapping discourage many tourists from visiting different areas of Mexico.

Cozumel has an extremely low crime rate, and most tourists shouldn’t anticipate any danger during their trip. It’s always a good idea to be aware of your surroundings at all times. Tourists should exercise extra caution when it comes to trying different food and drinking water.

It isn’t uncommon to experience food poisoning while visiting the island. Don’t leave your belongings unattended, as you could find yourself a victim of petty crime. And be aware of natural disasters, as hurricanes often pass by the territory.

You can view the highest levels of crime in Cozumel here (reported by Numbeo):

  • Level of crime: 2
  • Home burglary
  • Property crime
  • Theft
  • Corruption and bribery

These crimes can happen to anyone at any time. Always be mindful of the area and potential danger. You shouldn’t have to worry about much other than petty crime.

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Crime in Cozumel

Dimly lit neighborhood on a street with little shops for a piece on Is Cozumel Safe to Visit

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Varying levels of crime take place all over Mexico. Cozumel has one of the lowest crime rates among all Mexican territories. A tourist can easily become a victim of theft or bribery if placed in the wrong situation.

Crime can change year from year on the island. The crime rate dropped 50% from 2018 to 2019. The majority of crimes start in Cancun or Playa del Carmen and carry over to Cozumel.

Both regions can be blamed for one crime since travelers frequently take trips between the two areas. Some of the crime involves drugs. In late 2022, Mexican authorities found 13 bricks of Cocaine on the beach of Cozumel.

You’re less likely to see drugs out in the open on Cozumel, but the drug movement is present. Visitors coming from the mainland travel to Cozumel by ferry. A lot of pickpocketing and theft of belongings happen at the port and in big crowds.

If you want to avoid this type of crime, keep your valuables safe and secure while traveling by ferry between the destinations. Cozumel has a safety index of 85%.

The safety on the island is significantly higher than in its neighboring states of Mexico. Mexico deploys active officers and navy officials to watch over the island and prevent as much crime as possible.

Theft and Pickpocketing

Mexico’s close location to the United States can easily have an impact if the US Government issues higher travel warnings. More tourists are unlikely to visit and travel to Mexico when the government issues travel restrictions.

An area like Cozumel can become easily hurt if tourism drastically decreases as it did during Covid-19. The island heavily depends on tourism as a source of income. Many locals operate businesses that rely on foreigners arriving on the island.

Crime can increase if tourism continues to reach significantly lower numbers than years before. Many situations can cause locals to face hardships, therefore increasing the chances of higher crime rates.

Pickpocketing doesn’t happen as much as in other places such as Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and Mexico City. Tourists might experience a pickpocketing occurrence near the ferry terminal, so you should consider taking extra caution.

These areas are the only public entry and exit points for the island. Chances of pickpocketing increase quickly when there are thousands of people coming in or leaving at the same time.

There haven’t been a lot of reports of pickpocketing in recent years, but you should always watch your surroundings. Theft is another crime that has risen over recent years. The majority of theft takes place on people’s property.

In 2022, A cruise line with tourists was dropped off at Cozumel for island activities. Some tourists left their belongings unattended on the bus, resulting in the theft of around $10,000.

No violence was involved and the incident occurred when the tourists were away from their things, according to a Tripadvisor thread. Two of the three highest crime statistics include home robbery, property trespassing, and stealing of unattended belongings.

You can quickly become a victim of theft if you don’t take care of your things and keep them secure. Most tourists don’t have much to worry about as robbery takes place on the property or in the homes of locals.

Corruption, Bribery, and Scams

Corruption, bribery, and scams are the highest crime statistics of all. These crimes are the easiest to fall victim to. It can happen to anybody anywhere, no matter where a tourist visits.

Corruption and bribery are present in Cozumel. Most of it occurs amongst locals and within the local community. As many people know, corruption has been a long-time problem in Mexico.

These problems have been more present in the last decade. Many of the bribes involve police officers stopping vehicles. Today, it rarely happens in Cozumel, but you never know when it can happen again.

Scams are another big problem of any tourist destination, including Cozumel. It isn’t uncommon to see businesses and locals try to charge tourists foreign prices. They think that tourists have a lot of money to be there on vacation. Therefore, a higher price won’t hurt them.

Scams take place everywhere, on and off Cozumel. Locals might charge you higher prices for drinks, excursions, and rentals. You should be cautious of the gas scam that tourists have experienced.

There are locals scamming visitors by asking them to take photos. When you take the photo and hand the camera back, they drop it. After picking it up, they will tell you to pay them for the damage to the phone. Watch out for this scam.

Another scam involves helping someone at an ATM. These scammers will help you at an ATM and quickly take a scan of your debit card while seeing your PIN. Don’t allow anyone to help you at an ATM.

If you hop into a taxi on the island, always tell them to turn on the meter. It’s common for them not to turn on the meter and charge foreigners extra fees that aren’t fair. Don’t go by taxi if the meter isn’t operating or you disagree with the price.

Many other scams will take place. If you’re visiting Cozumel soon, make sure you know all possible scams. It’s best to research activities and prices to avoid such problems during your visit.  

Avoiding Bad Areas

Raccoons on the cement for a piece on Is Cozumel Safe to Visit

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The entirety of Cozumel is generally safe. You might want to consider specific areas and activities once darkness sets in. The island’s ferry terminal and entry point is the number one area to exercise extra caution.

As I mentioned earlier, pickpocketing and scams are more likely to happen here. The southern part of the island is more popular and tourist-friendly because of roads, restaurants, and resorts.

The north of the island is more rural and remote. There aren’t public roads, and it can be challenging to navigate through. The worst areas can include any place on the island where you find yourself alone.

A bad situation can target those who travel alone as they quickly become helpless. The truth is that once the sun sets, there isn’t much to do on the island.

Most tourists and locals return home or to their resort to relax and recover for the next day. The Centro district or San Miguel Area of Cozumel is the only place to engage in nighttime activities.

Outside this central area, there isn’t much lighting, and the island becomes dark until sunrise. You shouldn’t have much to worry about if you’re visiting Cozumel.

Things to Consider

You’ll not have too much to fear when visiting Cozumel. Although crime is low, you should keep a few things in mind when visiting the island paradise.

These include:

  • Natural disasters can cause hiccups to your travel.
  • Don’t drink the tap water in Cozumel.
  • Beach conditions are less safe on the east of the island.
  • Don’t take a taxi without confirming the price beforehand.
  • Consider using cash on the island so no one can make a copy of your bank cards.

Frequently Asked Questions

Guy scuba diving with a turtle in Cozumel

Brian Lasenby/Shutterstock

Below, see answers to other common questions you might have about Cozumel:

What should you avoid in Cozumel?

You shouldn’t drink tap water on the island as it isn’t pure and can make you sick. It’s always best to drink water bottles and buy them when needed.

Secondly, avoid flashing valuables such as cameras, expensive phones, and jewelry. Crime is low, but you don’t want to take any chances.

Why is Cozumel so popular?

Cozumel’s location is on the world’s second biggest reef (Mesoamerican reef system). Over the past few decades to the present time, cruise ships have continued to bring tourists to the island.

Locals and foreigners can enjoy scuba diving, snorkeling, relaxation at a resort and spa, and much more. The island promotes some of the most exciting vacation activities in the Caribbean.

How long does it take to drive around the entire island?

If you hire a motorbike or vehicle, you can loop the entire island in less than an hour. Plan to spend a few hours visiting different island sides as you make a full loop.

Is Cozumel safer than Cancun?

Cozumel and Cancun are in the same Mexican State. Cozumel has a higher safety rating, but Cancun has higher crime levels (moderate and high). According to Numbeo, Cozumel’s crime index is 20% lower than Cancun, making it a safer area.

Does the seaweed problem affect Cozumel?

Recently, the Caribbean has been having issues with floating seaweed that covers the beach. The Sargassum Seaweed floats in massive tons and produces a foul smell. Cozumel is a destination that it barely affects.

The Western side of Cozumel is the best area to go. This area is clear and free of Seaweed thanks to channel currents and wind pushing the Sargassum past to Cancun and Playa del Carmen.

Are there drug cartels in Cozumel?

Drug and cartel activity is low in comparison to Cozumel’s neighboring regions. The police working on the island do everything they can to stop the cartels from operating in this part of Mexico. Of course, there are some drugs in the area, but nothing like the Western side of Mexico.

In September of 2022, the brother of a drug cartel member was shot to death outside of a Cozumel school. You might experience or see someone offering drugs while on the island. Say no and carry on if you hear someone offering something to you.

So, Is It Safe to Visit Cozumel?

📈 Numbeo crime rate34.38 (low)
👮‍♂️ Most common crimePetty theft
🏠 Worst neighborhoodN/a
❓ Safety tipDon't travel alone at night

Cozumel is the perfect Mexican vacation without attracting or experiencing unwanted crime. Always be aware of your surroundings, whether you visit during low or high season, with family or solo, or in luxury resorts or on a budget.

You should always avoid visiting lesser-known areas at night, drinking tap water, and flashing expensive belongings to stay safe during your visit. With that in mind, what are you waiting for — book your trip to Cozumel today!