The Mexican city of Tulum is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country. Located on the beautiful Riviera Maya, Tulum receives over 2 million visitors a year, a big feat for a city of about 50,000 people.
Most people visit Tulum for its beaches, which have pristine sand and clear water, making them the perfect base for lounging on the beach or more adventurous activities such as snorkeling or diving.
There is plenty to do in Tulum away from the shores as well. You can explore the cenotes, unique swimming holes only found in the Yucatan, visit the Mayan ruins, enjoy the yoga studios and restaurants in town, or visit one of the adventure parks.
But while this region is rich in ancient history, culture, food, and amazing natural beauty, is Tulum safe to visit? Here’s our take.
Is Tulum Safe to Visit in 2023?
Yes. Tulum is very safe to visit and is actually one of Mexico’s safer destinations. That aside, there has been a crime increase recently, mainly driven by drug cartels fighting for territory in the Yucatan’s popular tourist destinations, so visitors should take additional precautions they maybe didn’t have to take a few years ago.
Most countries issuing travel advisories for Mexico make sure to specify information for the Riviera Maya, Yucatan, or Quintana Roo, which are the regions (and state) that Tulum belongs to.
They do so because they know that Tulum is one of the most popular tourist destinations in all of Mexico.
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It also helps to look at the travel advisory for Mexico overall to get a general idea of the safety situation you can expect to find once you are in town. Most countries, such as Australia, advise their citizens to exercise increased caution in Mexico, mostly due to the risk of crime.
The United States issues travel advisories specific to different states in Mexico because the safety situation is so different from state to state. The state of Quintana Roo, in which Tulum is located, is under a Level Two travel advisory due to the risk of violent crime.
However, there are few states in Mexico that are safer than Quintana Roo. The biggest concern for people visiting Tulum is crime.
Common crimes in the city include:
- Petty theft
- Drug-related offenses
The problem with crime in Tulum has been going on for a bit. In January 2022, the Overseas Security Advisory Council issued a travel warning for popular tourist destinations in Quintana Roo, including Tulum, due to increased crime.
Most of the crime increase was driven by cartel violence, which tends to be targeted, but tourists can still get caught in the crossfire. Besides crime, visitors should be aware of the risk of natural disasters.
Tulum is in the Caribbean, which experiences an intense hurricane season that peaks every year in late August and September. Tulum and the rest of the Riviera Maya are further south than the worst of the hurricanes, but the city has been hit by hurricanes before.
Traveling to Tulum during hurricane season is not as dangerous as to some other Caribbean destinations because hurricanes are rarer and weaker there.
However, you should still be prepared for very hot, humid weather and frequent rain — the price you pay for lower prices and fewer crowds. Monitor the weather reports to see if there are any hurricane alerts.
Crime in Tulum
Crime is the most common problem people worry about when planning a trip to Tulum. The city has experienced a rapid growth in crime over the past few years, especially violent crime. Between early 2022 and early 2023, homicides rose by a whopping 488%.
According to regional Mexican statistics, the homicide rate in Tulum is 222.1 incidents per 100,000 people, which is one of the highest homicide rates among popular tourist destinations.
However, that is because it’s a fairly small city, so when calculating the rate per population, every incident gets magnified. Between November 2022 and October 2023, there were 86 homicides in the city.
The crime increase in Tulum is driven by drug cartels. A few years ago, one of the biggest cartels in the region was fractured, creating a power vacuum.
Tulum and the Riviera Maya are some of the most lucrative drug markets in the country due to the high numbers of tourists, who drive most of the drug demand in the country. Most of the violent crimes are tied to this fight for power.
That means that the vast majority of homicides and other violent crimes are targeted, directed either at members of rival cartels or local business owners who refuse to comply with cartel demands. Civilians have been caught in the crossfire before, including in the popular tourist zones, but it happens rarely.
The municipality is also taking steps to try to make Tulum safer. There is a heightened security presence in tourist areas, including members of the National Guard, as well as technical solutions such as security cameras.
The efforts have yielded results already, as crime rates dropped in the summer of 2023. You are far more likely to be affected by a more mundane crime, such as theft, in Tulum than some high-profile incident of cartel violence.
While the crime statistics certainly are worrisome, they affect locals far more than tourists. Plus, it hasn’t been dangerous enough to deter millions of visitors, including many return visitors who are well aware of the potential risks but still come back to Tulum.
You may not know it from the headlines, but theft is actually the most common crime affecting visitors to Tulum, not gruesome cartel murder.
Although the theft rate is lower than in some other Mexican destinations, petty theft is widespread throughout Mexico’s resort towns. Tourists are often targeted
The UK government warns about the risk of petty crime throughout Mexico, including Tulum, in its travel advisory. Make sure that you take basic precautions to protect your valuables while in Tulum, including:
- Don’t leave your valuables unattended at the beach.
- Spread around your valuables. Store some backup pesos outside of your wallet so that even if you get pickpocketed, you can get home.
- Only take what you need for the day out with you. Leave extra cash and backup cards in your hotel safe.
- Don’t flash expensive jewelry or lots of cash. Leave expensive items in your hotel safe or, even better, at home.
Thieves sometimes target people after they use ATMs. Avoid using ATMs at night. Only use secure ATMs inside banks and other buildings, as street ATMs are common targets for fraud as well as pickpockets.
Scams targeting tourists are also unfortunate realities of visiting Tulum. Rental car scams are common throughout Mexico.
It’s common to book a car online only to show up and realize that you paid a deposit for a car that doesn’t exist or that you have to pay additional (exorbitant) fees. Always research rental car companies thoroughly and read reviews from previous customers.
Taxi drivers also scam tourists fairly often. Make sure that you agree on a price ahead of time or ask your hotel to call you a reputable taxi. Don’t hail taxis from the street without agreeing on a price, as they could overcharge you.
Ride-sharing apps such as Uber and Lyft are illegal in Tulum, and there have been violent clashes between taxi drivers and ride-share drivers in Quintana Roo before.
Some visitors to Tulum are rightfully worried about being the victims of violent crime, especially in light of the rising violent crime rates in the city. Tourists have been assaulted in the city before.
The Canadian government mentions the risk of assault and other violent crimes in Tulum and other popular Mexican tourist destinations in its travel advisory for the country. The most common violent crimes that affect tourists are assault and armed robbery.
Most violent crime incidents affecting tourists occur at night. Be very careful about your movements after dark. Take authorized taxis instead of walking, and make sure someone knows your location at all times. Avoid walking alone at night, especially if you are a woman.
Many violent crimes are tied to Tulum’s nightlife scene. Make sure that you keep a close eye on your drinks because drink spiking is, unfortunately, common in Tulum’s bars and clubs.
Victims are assaulted and sometimes robbed. The vast majority of victims are women, but men have been assaulted and had their drinks spiked as well. Although Tulum is a popular party destination, try to watch your limits.
Don’t drink too much alcohol or consume drugs (especially because drugs are illegal and will land you on the radar of the cartels). Assaults often happen when bar patrons get out of control and get into bar fights. Criminals also target inebriated guests for assault and robbery, so that’s another good reason to stay more sober.
Avoiding Bad Areas
In Tulum, there are certain neighborhoods that are sketchy and have higher crime rates. Most people tell tourists to avoid October 2, a squatter’s neighborhood in Tulum. There are other shantytowns throughout the town, and you can probably tell them through your instincts.
Avoid areas that feel unsafe or are far away from the popular tourist areas. Crime has also increased in the Zona Hotelera, especially around the beach clubs. You can still go out here, but be careful.
Things to Consider
Here are a few additional safety tips for visiting Tulum:
- Do not take drugs. Drugs are highly illegal in all of Mexico, including Tulum. Plus, the drug market in Tulum is entirely controlled by cartels. At best, you are giving money to the same people who are destabilizing the city — at worst, you are getting the attention of some very dangerous people. It’s better to just save your indulgences for a safe place.
- Learn at least a little Spanish. You won’t be able to blend in with the locals, but it helps you seem a bit more in-the-know.
- Exercise caution when swimming. Ask locals if beaches or cenotes are safe to swim in. If nobody is swimming somewhere, there is probably a reason. Cenotes are sometimes home to dangerous wildlife, so try to only go to ones where there are other people around.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some common questions people have asked about visiting Tulum:
Is Tulum safer than Cancun?
Tulum has a higher crime rate when calculated per population, but keep in mind that it’s because the town’s population is much smaller than that of Cancun. Cancun is slightly more dangerous because it is a bigger city.
Is Tulum safe for tourists right now?
Tulum is not as safe for tourists as it has been due to the increase in crime. However, it is still fairly safe to visit, and millions of people have visited this year with no problems.
When should you not visit Tulum?
Although hurricane season, which peaks in August and September, is not as strong in Tulum as in many other beach destinations, it’s still not the best time to visit Tulum.
Is it safe for tourists to drive in Tulum?
Yes, just watch out for the bad road conditions and other drivers. You should also be careful of rental car scams.
Is Tulum safe for girls?
Female travelers can travel to Tulum safely, and many still do so, but you should take additional precautions such as not walking alone at night or accepting drinks from strangers.
So, Should You Book a Trip to Tulum?
Tulum itself is not the safest place to take a vacation due to the rise in crime, especially violent crime recently. However, just like in the rest of Mexico, it’s possible to avoid all that as a tourist by sticking to safe areas, not buying drugs, and trusting your instincts.
When we travel to Mexico, we take a transfer to the resort and stay then until it’s ready to pick us up. While Tulum is safer than most popular destinations in Mexico, we suggest doing the same there as well.
So, with so much to see and do, and safe tourist areas, what area you waiting for — book your trip today and experience for yourself all that Tulum has to offer. Happy travels!