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Is Playa del Carmen Safe? | Travel Tips & Safety Concerns

Is Playa del Carmen Safe? | Travel Tips & Safety Concerns

One of the most beautiful cities along the Riveria Maya is Playa del Carmen. This city has seen miraculous growth in the town and population over the past two decades, going from a quiet fishing village to one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Caribbean.

Playa del Carmen is an exciting mix of tourist and local culture, great for those who want to experience both on their vacation to Mexico.

It’s known for classic white sand beaches with gentle currents and a thriving tourist and local culture. More laid back than Cancun but can still party until dawn.

Is Playa del Carmen safe to visit? It depends on your comfort level in seeing, so you need to decide if Playa del Carmen is safe or if it has too much risk before planning your trip.

Is Playa del Carmen Safe to Visit in 2022?

For a piece on Is Playa Del Carmen Safe to Visit, a number of bars and restaurants on a well-lit street

PLAYA DEL CARMEN, QUINTANA ROO / MEXICO. 20/04/2019 Bars and restaurants on the 5th avenue/Guajillo Studio/Shutterstock

The region of Riveria Maya and the state of Quintana Roo rely heavily on tourism for the economy. That means tourists are protected and not targeted for crimes. As a result, Playa del Carmen is safer than many other parts of Mexico.

The Mexican government guards these closely to ensure that tourists visiting this region are safe.

They have to with the amount of money tourism brings to the economy. So it’s nothing like the bad neighborhoods of Mexico City or the suburbs of Chihuahua.

However, that’s not to say there isn’t any crime. It’s just not directed at tourists. Poverty, crime, drugs, gangs, and cartels still exist in this part of Mexico. Practice sound safety, follow common sense, and remain aware of your situation.

Crime in Playa del Carmen

Most violent crime in Playa del Carmen comes from cartel and gang violence. However, while muggings are uncommon, they still happen, so avoid side streets and alleys, especially at night. Avoid walking anywhere at night. Just take a cab.

What tourists mainly need to worry about is pickpocketing and petty theft. In crowds, getting your wallet lifted out of your back pocket is easy without you noticing.

And of course, never bring anything to the beach you can’t stand to lose. Don’t bring anything to Mexico that you can’t stand to lose a good rule in general. Keep critical objects and documents in your hotel safe, and only carry the cash you need for the day on you.

Spending your vacation in a resort might be your best bet if you’re very concerned about theft. If you want to visit Mexico the safest way possible, picking an all-inclusive resort is a great way to do it.

Those high-tier resorts are safer than most European cities, so you can be sure you’re in good hands.

Resorts take many security precautions for their guests, like video cameras covering every inch of the property, metal detectors and bag searches for employees, and rules against bringing non-guests onto the property.

You should take standard precautions against crime and theft like anywhere else. Don’t leave your stuff sitting around, keeps things in your front pockets, and wear your backpack in the front, all precautions you should take whenever you visit a big city.

If you’re okay with the level of crime in major US cities like New York or Los Angeles, you should be perfectly fine in Playa del Carmen. Practice proper safety, avoid problem areas, and you should be fine.

Avoiding Bad Neighborhoods

Like anywhere, there are neighborhoods you should try to avoid in the city. Of course, if you’re a tourist going to touristy places and doing touristy things, you’re not going to run into any of these places by accident.

Nevertheless, it’s still good to know that to avoid when you’re in Playa del Carmen. Colosio is the neighborhood above 46th St. It’s famous for terrible poverty, relentless crime, and horrific violence.

Considering there aren’t any attractions or beaches in the area, there should be no reason for you to go so far out. The entire area isn’t bad, but the further you go, the worse it gets.

Another bad neighborhood is Villas del Sol, and again it’s far away from any attractions or beaches, so you have no reason to be there.

In recent years it earned the nickname “the neighborhood more dangerous than Colosio” as it has the city’s most significant number of police calls. Other than these two neighborhoods, it’s relatively safe.

Some districts are sketchier than others, but there’s none you should avoid altogether. However, you should avoid isolated areas like alleyways, side streets, and at night, public transport.

It’s hardly revolutionary, but hidden corners are hotspots for crime and shady dealings, and you should especially avoid them after the sun goes down.

If you find yourself alone on the street at night, you strayed too far from tourist areas. Pull out your phone, and find your way back to Fifth St and the hustle and bustle of the Playa del Carmen nightlife.

Water Safety

While Mexico has the proper water treatment procedures and facilities in place, the water in Playa del Carmen isn’t safe to drink. The pipes are old and spread bacteria which is the cause of the harmful tap water.

If you’re staying in an Airbnb, a rental villa, or a similar situation, you shouldn’t drink tap water. Or you should purify or filter it first before consuming or using it, either by boiling it or using a filter water bottle.

However, the tap water is usually filtered and safe if you’re staying in a friendly resort or hotel. At the same time, not all hotels and resorts adhere to this; it’s a pretty good rule of thumb. If you’re unsure whether water is filtered wherever you’re staying or want to stay, don’t be afraid to ask.

Restaurants also use filtered or purified water in drinks or ice cubes, so don’t be afraid of ordering what you want. Food is typically very safe as well. Food stalls also use good water, so take in all the delicious street food there.

Cut and peeled fruit is the only food you shouldn’t buy for fear of contamination. You cannot know how it was washed or prepared, so always purchase fruit in its raw form with no preparation.

Then prepare it yourself with clean hands and purified water. If you’re careful, you won’t have to worry about water-borne illness or diarrhea while still having your choice of beverages.

Hurricanes and Wildlife: Environmental Dangers

Storm above the beach for a guide to whether or not Playa del Carmen is safe

m_boldrin/Shutterstock

Hurricanes season is June through September, but hurricanes are pretty rare for this area of the Caribbean. The last one was in 2005, so it’s almost a non-issue.

However, if you plan your vacation during hurricane season, you should be prepared to cancel your plans at the last minute and keep a close eye on the weather while you’re there. A more significant concern is the local wildlife.

Playa del Carmen is surrounded by tropical rainforest filled with dangerous animals like spider monkeys and crocodiles. So, whenever you’re out of the center of town, take a quick scan of your surroundings to see if there are any animals to watch for.

And this is especially important in remote cenotes. If you don’t see anyone in the water, do a quick scan for crocodiles.

It’s unlikely, but you don’t want to make headlines as the one tourist who was eaten at a popular attraction. Just be on the lookout for wild animals, and leave them well enough alone if you do see them.

Eruptions are unlikely, but the volcanoes are active, so you can discount the possibility. Earthquakes are more common and may have tsunamis. All of these events are extraordinarily unlikely but still possible.

Traffic and Taxi Safety

Playa del Carmen is walkable, but it’s spread out, and the heat will tire you out fast. So it’s best to pick some kind of transportation, whether you rent a rental car, take taxis, or go local with the public transportation system.

A rental is undoubtedly the most convenient way to get around, but that also means you’ll have to deal with traffic, which is far more reckless and dangerous than in the US.

Lights, speed limits, and signs are ignored regularly, and you need to get insurance that works in Mexico. Also, rental charges for existing damage on the vehicle are expected, so take pictures of the car before you begin driving.

Moreover, if you have to get gas while driving around, check the meter before they fill you up. The workers don’t always zero the pump and charge you for gas you didn’t get, so check it’s on zero before they fill you up.

Taxis are another good option, but they will try to rip you off. There’s a discrepancy between what they charge locals and tourists. However, it’s still cheap and easy, and you won’t be in danger when flagging them down in the street.

And ALWAYS settle on a fare before you get into the cab; meters are rarely (if ever) used. The public transportation system consists of collectivos and buses.

They’re the cheapest type of transportation, but don’t expect them to know English. Also, public transportation becomes a lot sketchier during the night. While it’s safe enough during the day, take a taxi once the sun goes down.

Drivers have a lot of stuff to pay attention to on the road, and pedestrians are low on their list of priorities. If you do decide to walk, look both ways. Jaywalking could very well get you hit, so ensure a car is going to stop before crossing the street. 

Scams: What to Avoid

Taxis in Playa del Carmen for a piece on is the city safe to visit

Phortun/Shutterstock

There are scams you’ll want to use your street smarts to avoid. If your instincts tell you something is wrong, it usually means there is. You can walk away from a dangerous or uncomfortable situation, so don’t be afraid of being rude.

It’s better to be rude than robbed. Taxis and restaurants will try to overcharge you. For taxis, you should negotiate a fare before you get in the cab, and you should look over the check carefully at restaurants for overcharging, double-charging, and tips already included in the bill.

ATM scams are another thing you should try to avoid. Only use ATMs inside banks in the city, as skimmers and identity thieves will try to get your account number and pin on unguarded machines.

If its an emergency, try to find an ATM inside somewhere and be aware of who’s around you while putting in your credentials. Another popular scam is the familiar face scam, where someone approaches you on the street and says they work at your hotel or resort.

After convincing you you know them, they’ll take you to a tourist shop where they overcharge. Just ignore strangers who approach you on the street without prompting, no matter who they are.

Gang and Cartel Violence: How to Avoid It

If you stick to the tourist areas and practice good safety, you shouldn’t see them. Avoid the bad spots and isolated places, take taxis at night, don’t look like a target, and most importantly, don’t do drugs.

If you want to distance yourself from cartels and gangs, you should never buy drugs, especially in the city. For one, the money you’re giving them supports these criminal organizations. Two, tourists have gotten caught up in the violence due to drugs. Just don’t buy drugs in this city or out of it.

Things to Consider

Playa del Carmen is safe to visit if you take the proper precautions.

  • Dress casually. Expensive brands and fancy gadgets just make you look like a target.
  • Drink responsibly. Being drunk makes you a target for thieves, scammers, or even worse.
  • Know basic Spanish. Knowing some key phrases will make your trip much better.
  • Stay in touch. Keep your loved ones in the loop about where you’re going and staying. Social media is another excellent tool for broadcasting your plans, which helps keep you safe.

Frequently Asked Questions

People walking along a beach in Playa del Carmen because it's safe

Posztos/Shutterstock

Fun attractions, a laid-back atmosphere, and perfect beaches make Playa del Carmen the destination of a lifetime.

Is Playa del Carmen Safer than Cancun?

They’re about the same when it comes to safety. Instead, you should pick based on their vibes. Cancun is livelier, while Playa del Carmen is more laid back.

How Safe is Playa del Carmen at night?

You shouldn’t walk around alone, but it’s okay if you stick to busy streets like Fifth Avenue.

What should you avoid in Playa del Carmen?

Avoid scams, never do drugs, and stick to the city’s touristy areas.

Is English spoken in Playa del Carmen?

Most people in the tourist industry speak English, so you shouldn’t have any trouble communicating. However, knowing some basic Spanish phrases will still come in handy.

Is Playa del Carmen worth it?

This personal question asks how much risk you’re willing to take in a destination. However, the beaches, attractions, and nightlife, coupled with the relative safety of tourists, make Playa del Carmen an attractive destination for many.

So, Is Playa del Carmen Safe?

Most visitors never experience crime and go home with good memories and many souvenirs. However, most are not all, and some visitors do experience crime, violent or otherwise. It’s up to you.

However, Playa del Carmen has over a million visitors per year, and many people visit just to get a taste of the unique local flavors of the area. Happy travels!