Is Cancun safe to travel to? This question is likely to be at the forefront of your mind if you are planning a trip to the Mexican Riviera.
The sheer mention of traveling to Mexico raises concerns about safety for a lot of people. While it is true that crime in Mexico has been on the rise in recent years, Cancun is still a lot safer than most parts of the country.
This is one of the most popular travel destinations in Mexico and in fact, approximately 6.15 million tourists visit Cancun every year. A large number of these are American and Canadian tourists and most visits to Cancun are trouble-free.
So is Cancun safe to travel to? Generally yes, but that comes with some caveats.
Nowhere in the world is completely safe 100% of the time. Incidents in Cancun do happen occasionally but they are often the result of being in the wrong place at the wrong time – much like bad things that could happen anywhere else in the world.
Most of Cancun is safe, but there are absolutely some areas that you want to avoid. These places generally don’t offer anything of interest to tourists anyway.
Is Cancun Safe to Travel to in 2022?
Crime across Mexico has been increasing for the last few years. That includes Cancun.
When it can be disconcerting to read violent crime statistics, it is important to keep in mind that most criminal activity happens between cartels. Tourists are generally not involved in this.
The main thing that tourists need to be aware of when visiting Cancun is petty crimes like bag snatching. There are ways that you can protect yourself against this.
Despite an increase in Crime in the area, Cancun is still safer than most US cities. Since tourism is so crucial to the economy of Quintana Roo, the Mexican government and tourism board take the safety of tourists in the county very seriously.
In late 2021, an army unit known as the Cancun Tourist Security Battalion was implemented in the area. In the short amount of time that has passed since they were introduced, crime rates are already decreasing.
This is just one of many practices being introduced in order to maintain and improve Cancun’s safety rating. These guards are stationed in a number of areas of Quintana Roo – including Cancun Puerto Morelos, Playa del Carmen, Isla Mujeres, and Tulum.
Is Cancun Safe? Precautions to Take in 2022
The Hotel Zone is one of the best areas to base yourself
The Hotel Zone (Zona Hotelera) is one of the safest places to base yourself in Cancun. From here, you have everything that you need right on your doorstep.
This neighborhood was purpose-built for tourists. Accommodation-wise, you will find everything from super luxurious all-inclusive resorts, to more budget-friendly mid-range hotels.
The area is just 11km/a 17-minute drive away from downtown Cancun and boasts its own ADO bus station. This makes it very easy and convenient to get from Cancun airport to the hotel zone, and from Cancun to Tulum, Playa Del Carmen, etc.
Many of Cancun’s most gorgeous beaches are just a stone’s throw away. Along the waterfront promenade, you have access to a plethora of international restaurants, coffee shops, and bars.
If you are looking to indulge in some retail therapy during your trip, you will find several malls in the area. Their stores range from luxury brands and independent boutiques owned by Mexican designers to renowned high street stores.
The main branch of MUSA – the underwater Museum of Art is nearby – a fascinating place not to miss even if you are not particularly interested in art. You can take a glass-bottom boat tour to see sealife interacting with grand structures, or you can opt to scuba dive in the area.
Downtown Cancun is also fairly safe
Downtown Cancun is constantly teeming with life and provides a more authentic look into local life in Cancun. You will find a plethora of local markets, street food stalls, restaurants, and nightlife options here too.
As Cancun has increased in popularity in recent years as both a travel destination and a Digital Nomad hub, Downtown Cancun has developed too. What was once an area where people seldom stayed now offers many excellent accommodation choices, coworking spaces, and hip hangout spots.
Many of the hotels here are substantially cheaper than those in the Hotel Zone. It is very easy to secure a room in a beautiful modern property for as little as $25 a night.
If you want to head to the beaches, you are still not too far away. Your hotel reception or concierge can point you in the direction of Cancun’s public transport links or help you to organize a taxi.
The main ADO bus station is located in the heart of “El Centro” (downtown Cancun). If you stay here, you just need to be a little more careful about walking alone at night.
Purchase an anti-theft backpack
If you are a victim of a crime in Cancun, it is likely to be a petty or opportunistic crime. I.e, perhaps someone tries to snatch your backpack or purse in a crowded marketplace, or slashes it open from behind when you are not looking.
One way to remove that risk is to invest in a theft-proof backpack or money belt. These are a little pricier than your average travel daypack, sure.
But they come with a plethora of additional safety features. Theft-proof backpacks, like those offered by Pacsafe are waterproof, slash-proof, and come with a TSA-approved locking system.
They can be purchased in stylish designs so you would not suspect that they were any different from a regular backpack. Many come with multi-year warranties.
Take tours with reputable companies
Traveling around the state of Quintana Roo and some of the best places in the Yucatan is easy to do independently. Mexico’s public transport network, particularly its buses, is reliable, affordable, and easy to navigate.
However, if you prefer to take some of the stress out of managing the logistics of getting from A to B, you can participate in an organized tour. There are many companies that operate locally that run excursions to places like Chichen Itza, Ek Balam, and the beaches of the Yucatan.
If you are traveling solo, these can offer a good way to meet other travelers. There are some interesting ruins, cenotes, and Pueblos Magicos that are simply inaccessible unless you are renting a car.
If you prefer not to drive in Mexico, you simply would not be able to access some of these unless you are on a tour. Always read the reviews of local companies before booking an excursion.
If you are traveling during the peak season, it is advisable to reserve your place on a tour in advance to avoid disappointment. A selection of reputable day trips that depart from Cancun are detailed below for your consideration.
- Cancun/Riviera Maya: Chichen Itza, Valladolid and Cenotes tour
- Isla Mujeres catamaran tour from Cancun with lunch and open bar
- Cancun: Cenotes and Tulum 5-hour guided tour
- Xplor Park: all-inclusive entrance ticket
- Riviera Maya: Coba and Chichen Itza tour with entrance and lunch
- Cancun: Coco Bongo nightclub experience
- Cancun: speedboat, jet-ski, and snorkel combo tour
Watch your alcohol intake
Cancun is very much a party destination, particularly during US spring break. While meeting and partying with a lot of other travelers can be a lot of fun, be sure to watch your alcohol intake, particularly around strangers.
Never leave your drink unattended, just as you would not at home. It is easy to meet travelers in the area through events organized via Couchsurfing, Meetup, and Tulum expat/Digital Nomad Facebook groups.
While people can be friendly, you can never really be sure of their intentions. So watch how much you drink when you are around strangers and never try and walk home alone when intoxicated.
Purchase an alarmed doorstop
An alarmed door stop is a handy thing to include in your Mexico packing list. These can be purchased for just a few dollars and act as a wedge to stop anyone from entering or forcing their way into your room.
Should someone force entry, an alarm will sound that can be heard up to several thousand feet away. This may be enough to scare the person away.
Alternatively, it will wake you up and give you time to move to another room if someone is trying to break in. Obviously, that sounds unnerving but hotel break-ins in Cancun are not common. This is just one more safety item that is useful to carry when you travel.
Use the same common sense you would at home
Be aware of your surroundings and the people around you when traveling in Cancun. Be wary of over-friendly strangers and do not walk alone at night.
Similarly, do not wander down sketchy-looking side streets and areas with no one around. Purchase a Mexico sim card and download an offline map to help you navigate your way around.
Check your local government travel advice before travel
Your country’s government travel advice is one of the most useful sources of free information that you can utilize when traveling anywhere. The USA and UK government travel advice pages are particularly helpful.
They may come across as being sternly worded but they generally give a good insight into the current situation in different parts of Mexico. The USA travel advisory offers state-by-state safety warnings.
You will note that Quintana Roo (where Cancun and Tulum are situated) is under the category of “exercise increased caution”. Their information is updated regularly to reflect any developments in Mexico. You will also find handy information appertaining to entry requirements here.
Make copies of all of your important documents
Citizens of most countries do not need a visa to enter Mexico as a tourist. Instead, they will be provided a tourist visa upon entry valid for up to 180 days.
You will be required to fill in a short form detailing your itinerary in Mexico and where you are planning on staying. You may be asked to show proof of return flight or proof of funds if you are going to be staying in the country for an extended period of time.
At Immigration, you will be given an FMM tourist card. The number that is written here details how long you can stay in the country in days.
You will need to present this document when you leave this country and theoretically, police and security personnel can ask you to present it at any time. If you travel to any areas near Mexican borders like Comitan de Dominguez or San Cristobal in Chiapas, police board buses to check people’s documents so it is important to always have this.
To prevent the risk of losing this or your passport, take a photo of the document and keep the original in your hotel. Then, if you are asked to present either, you can show the photo on your phone.
If you lose your FMM card, there is an Immigration (INM) booth/office in Cancun airport terminals 2, 3, and 4 to help you. You simply have to pay a fee in order to be issued with a replacement which you will need to exit the country.
If you lose your FMM card and you are still only partway through your Mexico trip, call immigration and make an appointment for a replacement. This costs approximately $25. Mexican bureaucracy can be nightmarish and this can be a long procedure best avoided if possible.
Purchase comprehensive travel insurance
Comprehensive travel insurance is a must wherever in the world you travel. No matter how careful you are, you never really know what is around the corner.
The cost of receiving medical treatment overseas can be extremely expensive so never travel without insurance. A good insurance policy will offer medical coverage of up to $1 million dollars.
Always read the small print as there may be many activities that are not included in your plan. For instance, a lot of policies do not include sports and they even consider activities like hiking/walking as adventure sports.
Similarly, while renting scooters can be a popular way to get around in Mexico, this may not be covered in your policy. Some plans include additional extras such as repatriation, cancellation, theft/loss of luggage, and loss of electronic items.
Be sure to print out/write down your policy number. If you need help overseas, this is going to be the first thing that they ask for before they help you.
Go to doctors recommended by expats and nomads
Should you be unfortunate enough to get unwell during your trip to Cancun, be mindful of which doctors and medical facilities you go to. It is worth paying extra for good treatment.
Not all surgeries here are created equal. Shady diagnoses can be a thing. Ask in Cancun Facebook groups for recommendations in your area.
Be mindful of your personal belongings
While investing in theft-proof backpacks can be one way to protect your possessions from opportunists, it isn’t the only way to keep them safe. In crowded areas, consider carrying your backpack on your front.
It is best not to wear designer labels, expensive jewelry, or flashy clothing when you are exploring during the day so as not to draw attention to yourself. Similarly, do not walk around with an expensive DSLR camera dangling around your neck or with a GoPro in your hand.
Take precautions for your health
Montezuma’s revenge or traveler’s diarrhea can present a problem for a lot of visitors to Mexico. It isn’t that the food standards here are poor, but that various aspects of international travel can wreak havoc on our bodies – early starts, long journeys, unfamiliar foods, spices, etc.
Pack a few things in a medical kit in your suitcase to aid you should you be unfortunate enough to get ill. For instance, Immodium, rehydration sachets, and Pepto Bismal.
Treda is an excellent Mexican remedy for traveler’s diarrhea that you can find in every pharmacy, in Walmart, and in most convenient stores. You can also find a drink called electrolit in most stores.
This is a good way to replenish your electrolytes if you have been sick. Even if not, it prevents dehydration when you have been out sightseeing in the sun for hours.
On the matter of not getting sick in Mexico, be careful of where you eat but don’t be deterred from trying street food or new things. Street food is a huge part of Mexican food culture and if you don’t try it, you are missing out.
If you see a stall with a long line outside it, that is generally a good indication of the quality. Don’t eat at places where meat/fruit/veg has been sitting out in the song for long periods or where there are flies buzzing around. They probably don’t look appetizing anyway!
Don’t drink the water
While the water in Mexico is purified at the source, it often gets contaminated en route to your tap. As such, it is not safe for consumption.
Even Mexicans do not drink it. It is not simply a case of your body not being accustomed to different water as may be the case in other countries.
Most hotels and Airbnbs will provide you with several complimentary bottles of water in your room when you check-in. A few luxury hotels in Cancun may have potable water on-site.
If they do, there will be signs stating as such and you will be advised of this at check-in. Don’t just assume!
Minimize your plastic waste by investing in a reusable water bottle. Lifestraw bottles are pretty good and they keep your water cool throughout the day. With every purchase, the company provides a year’s worth of clean water to a child in a developing country.
Be careful with your money
If you need to draw money out from an ATM, be mindful of who is around you. If you get a weird feeling from someone, trust your gut and wait until you see another ATM. There are plenty around.
Try to use ATMs in branches of banks rather than standalone ATMs. They are less likely to have been tampered with. It is better to use those contained within malls or in busy areas.
It is understandable that it probably makes sense to draw out several thousand pesos at once rather than making repeated trips to ATMs. Just be careful when taking your purse out of your bag to pay for things.
It is better not to let anyone see how much cash you have on you. Consider carrying a small coin purse with just what you expect to use for the day in it. Keep the rest of your cash at the bottom of your bag in another purse and have an emergency amount in your luggage.
Travel with multiple bank cards
It is a good idea to take multiple bank cards with you when you travel. That way, if you lose one, you have a spare and you don’t have to worry about how you are going to access your money overseas.
Make sure that you have your bank’s app installed on your phone so that you can easily monitor your transactions and cancel your card immediately if needed. Opening a borderless bank account such as those offered by Revolut, Charles Schwab or Wise is a good idea.
This means that you do not incur fees on international purchases or withdrawals. Some Mexican ATMs can charge fees as high as $20 on a $300 withdrawal when you use an international card (!)
Take a photo of your bank cards and keep the photo safe in the cloud/Google drive so that you have your bank numbers if anything happens to your cards. Keep one with you and hide the other deep in your luggage.
Do not get involved with drugs
Taking drugs in Mexico can come with up to 25 years in prison. Being thrown in a Mexican prison is absolutely not an idea that you want to entertain.
You are generally safe in Cancun provided that you stay away from shady characters. But looking for substances to buy and take puts you right in their path.
Not to mention, you really don’t know if something you take here has been laced with something else. Just don’t do it.
Take precautions against mosquitos
Mosquito repellent and treatment spray are an absolute must. Mosquitos are a nightmare in the coastal regions of Mexico and you should always use plenty of sprays at night and near water.
The zika virus and dengue fever have both been detected in Mexico. Pack some anti-histamines just in case you are unfortunate enough to get bitten a lot and feel unwell as a result. Of course, if you forget, you can also pick them up locally.
Is Cancun Safe for Solo Travelers?
Is Cancun safe for solo travelers? Generally, yes.
While Mexico may not seem like the most common solo travel destination, plenty of solo travelers of all genders and ages visit the country every year. As such, it is very easy to meet other people to explore with. You don’t really have to spend much time alone if you don’t want to!
Trust your gut instinct
Mexicans are generally very friendly, welcoming, and hospitable people eager to show tourists the beauty of their country. However, good and bad people exist everywhere and Mexico is no different.
If someone is being overly-friendly or bothering you, trust your gut instinct. Just walk away.
If someone continues to bother or follow you, don’t hesitate to duck inside a store or restaurant and tell someone you are being harassed. Do not lead the person to a secluded area or to where you are staying.
Solo female travelers in Mexico may occasionally experience street harassment or unwanted attention from Mexican men. This can happen anywhere.
It is better to ignore catcalling and not let it ruin your day. You never really know someone’s mental state or if they may have a knife.
Join Cancun Travel Facebook Groups
Facebook groups can be a good way to meet other solo travelers. You can simply create a post in one of the groups and immediately find people to grab lunch or coffee with.
A handful of handy Facebook groups to be aware of in Cancun are detailed below.
- BEST TIPS TO TRAVEL CANCUN & RIVIERA MAYA
- Cancun & RIVIERA MAYA Friendly Expats, Locals, Digital Nomads,Entrepreneurs
- Advice To Travellers Coming to Cancun Riviera Maya & the Yucatan Peninsula
- Cancun Vacation Secrets Group
- Digital Nomads Playa Del Carmen Cancun Tulum
- Travel to Cancun, Tulum & Playa Del Carmen- Mexico Caribbean
- Cancun Expats
- The Cancun Sun News
- Love Cancun Tips
Have you traveled to Cancun recently? What did you think?
Do you agree that Cancun is safe to travel to? You may also be wondering: Is Tulum safe?
Enjoy your time in Mexico!