Is Cancun Safe to Travel to? Your 2024 Local’s Guide

If you are planning to head to the Mexican Yucatan on your travels this year, you might be curious about safety in Cancun. The Quintana Roo capital is one of the most popular travel destinations in the country, and millions of international tourists enter Mexico through Cancun International Airport each and every year.

Most trips here are trouble free and memorable for all the right reasons, even if Cancun does get some negative press from time to time. So is Cancun safe for tourists?

Yes, Cancun can be a perfectly safe place to visit as long as you take some common sense precautions. 

You are in good hands here because I live in the Yucatan and spend a fair bit of time in Cancun each year. 

Is Cancun Safe to Travel to in 2024?   

For the most part, Cancun is a safe place for tourists and I have no hesitation in recommending it to you as a place to spend your vacations – whether you are traveling with friends, as a family, or completely solo as part of a wider Yucatan itinerary. 

Some parts of Cancun are a little sketchy and rough around the edges but areas that tourists frequent are kept safe by the local authorities. So when you touch down in the Mexican Caribbean, you can expect all of the wonderful things that put this area on the map in the first place – excellent food and Yucatecan delicacies, friendly locals, gorgeous beaches with crystal-clear turquoise waters, and some of the best Mayan ruins in the Yucatan just a stone’s throw away. 

Is Cancun safe?
Is Cancun safe? Rooftop view across downtown Cancun before sunset

Cancun has an excellent tourism infrastructure 

One great thing about traveling to Cancun, particularly if this is your first time traveling to Mexico, is that the area has great tourism infrastructure in place. By that I mean, since this is such a popular travel destination, you will find that English is widely spoken and it is very easy to find different tour companies and local guides that will help you organise excursions, day trips and activities. 

Public transport-wise, Cancun is very well connected to other places in the Yucatan peninsula both by bus and the new Maya train that completed its first few journeys in December 2023. 

Is Cancun safe?
Is Cancun safe?

Where to Stay in Cancun for a Safe Experience 

There are a couple of key areas to consider basing yourself in during your time in Cancun, depending on your personal preferences. 

The Hotel Zone

The Hotel Zone (Zona Hotelera) is the main tourist area that consists of luxury hotels and resorts, boutique stores, and a diverse selection of bars and restaurants serving cuisines from across the world. 

Many tourists choose to stay here and many never leave its borders. Opting to stay in a hotel or resort on this six mile strip means waking up directly on the beach every morning, enjoying some of the best sunset views in town. 

When the sun goes down, the hotel zone offers some of the most vibrant nightlife in town. Officially, this area actually consists of three different sub-sections: the North Hotel Zone, which is relatively peaceful and has a nice beach with calm, quiet waters that are perfect for swimming and snorkelling. 

The Middle Hotel Zone boasts some excellent restaurants, particularly around Nichupté lagoon. Its beaches are gorgeous but the waters here can get a little choppy and rough and are not the best for families with kids.

Finally, the South Hotel Zone and Punta Nizuc is very quiet, somewhat more exclusive, and is home to several luxurious resorts with private stretches of beaches. 

The Hotel Zone is very safe and you will mostly find tourists here. There is a police presence on the streets, and only registered hotel guests are allowed to enter the various resorts. 

You could essentially walk along the strip in its entirety but I would recommend doing so in the early morning or evening to avoid the heat and humidity. 

Punta Cancun 

Punta Cancun is the main nightlife hub of Cancun, home to many famous clubs like Coco Bongo, The City and Monkey Business Cancun, as well as more laidback and fun beach bars, countless dining options, and lots of great taquerias and comfort food spots where you can grab a late night taco or burrito after a night of partying. There are hotels here to accommodate a variety of budgets, but this is arguably not where you want to stay if you want to get an early nights sleep. 

Punta Cancun is still very safe, and is situated on the northern end of the Zona Hotalera. If you base yourself here, you are a short walk away from the stunning white sand beaches of Playa Gaviota Azul and Playa Caracol. 

Is Downtown Cancun safe? 

Downtown Cancun is mostly safe and can be a good place to base yourself if you are on a bit of a budget, or you want to be near the centro ADO bus stations so that you can visit other parts of the Yucatan. I often stay in a hotel just off Avenida Tulum when I arrive back in Cancun after an international flight, before taking the bus to where I live in Merida. 

You could consider the “center” of Tulum as extending from Parque El Crucero to the north, to Plaza Tropical in the south, heading eastwards out to Mercado 28 and Catedral de Cancún. Since there are a lot more locals here, the vibe is a lot more authentic and in particular, you can find some really amazing taco stalls and street food places offering regional fare at non tourist prices. 

Downtown Cancun can look a little ugly and rundown in places but it is pretty safe during the day. Just use your common sense about heading down any quiet, isolated looking side street. 

Is Mercado 28 safe? 

Mercado 28 is perfectly safe despite conflicting advice online, though it isnt really a “local” market selling things like fruits and vegetables anymore, and has become a bit of a tourist trap selling souvenirs. 

Areas to avoid in Cancun

Virtually every global city has its less than desirable areas and that includes Cancun. During your visit, you are best avoiding the below barrios. 

Honestly, they do not offer anything of interest to tourists anyway. 

  • Bonfil

  • Tres Reyes

  • Valle Verde

  • Santa Cecilia 

Arriving at Cancun International Airport (CUN) 

It is a good idea to pre-arrange your transport/airport transfer from Cancun airport to your accommodation. Some luxury properties in the hotel zone and elsewhere in the Riviera Maya may offer you complimentary airport pickup but otherwise, arrange a private transfer. 

Uber is banned at Cancun Airport and only licensed cabs are allowed to operate here. Unfortunate the prices are extortionate (often more than double what the correct rate should be) and a lot of toots wait outside Arrivals harassing tourists. 

Trust me when I say you will save yourself a decent chunk of change, and make your experience a lot more comfortable and pleasant by pre-arranging an airport transfer. That way, you also have the assurance that someone will be waiting for you when you pass through Cancun airport customs.

Crime in Cancun

Crime rates in Cancun are pretty high and the instances of violent crime here are among the highest in Mexico. While that is terrifying to read, it is important to note that most violent crimes are a result of clashes between criminal organizations and do not target tourists. 

406 homicides were reported in Cancun in 2022, while various news sources reported a decrease in crime in 2023, largely due to the crackdowns and preventative measures being taken by the Mexican government. 

In late 2021, an army unit known as the Cancun Tourist Security Battalion was implemented in the area and crime has decreased since. More than 8.4% of Mexicos GDP comes from tourism and Cancun generates billions (yes, billions with a B) of dollars worth of tourism revenue each year. It is within everyone’s interest to keep the tourists safe so that they keep coming. 

(The final figures for 2023 havent been published publicly yet but I will share them here once they are available!) 

There have been a few instances over the last few years where innocent bystanders and tourists have been caught in the cross fire of cartel shootouts but these instances are very rare and the chances of being in the wrong place at the wrong time are miniscule. 

To put things in perspective, Numbeo awards various global cities with a safety rating based on how comfortable residents feel there with 0 being very safe and 100 being very unsafe. Cancun has a moderate rating of 55.73 while Los Angeles is not dissimilar at 52.96.

Are there cartels in Cancun?

Yes, unfortunately, there is a strong cartel presence in Cancun and in recent years, the cartels have been fighting for territory. The presence of tourists in the area has no doubt been a contributing factor to this as there is now an increased demand for drugs and contraband among those who come to party in Cancun. 

In April 2023, eight bodies were found on beaches of tourist areas in Cancun and in May 2023, Sinaloa cartel member Héctor Elías Flores Aceves was arrested in conjuction with his movement of drugs into Cancun. 

(This is exactly why you should not get involved with drugs in Mexico, as you are directly contributing to this). As discussed above, the cartels do not target tourists but it can be unnerving to hear of these things happening. 

Review your government travel advice for Cancun and Quintana Roo 

It is always a good idea to check your government travel advisory page when you travel to a foreign country and that includes Mexico. The US Department of State offer a particularly comprehensive travel advice page for Mexico that offers a state-by-state breakdown of the security situation in each of Mexico’s 32 states. 

The state of Quintana Roo (where Cancun is located) is referenced as a place where you need to “exercise increased caution” while traveling to due to crime, but this only appertains to being vigilent as mentioned here. The adjacent states in the Yucatan peninsula of Campeche and the Yucatan states are the safest states in Mexico.  

US travelers can register in the STEP program while overseas. If there are any changes to the entry requirements or the situation in Mexico, they are usually updated via this page in real-time. 

Is Cancun safe for solo female travelers? 

Cancun is safe for solo female travelers. This entire website has been written by a solo female traveller in Mexico (me!) 

I am a big advocate for not letting your gender or physical appearance deter you from traveling anywhere you want to go. Fortunately, since Cancun and the Yucatan in general are such popular travel destinations, you will see tons of solo female travelers ambling around here.

Sometimes I do feel that I experience more creepy looks, catcalls and advances from men in downtown Cancun than I do in other parts of Mexico but it is never anything sinister. It is tough, but learn to ignore catcallers and don’t give them the power/importance to ruin your day. 

Dont walk alone at night and dont worry about standing out. People are so accustomed to seeing tourists of all shapes and sizes here that nobody will bat an eyelid that you are alone. 

If you want to be social, consider staying at a hostel (I like Selina Cancun) or just going on to events and barcrawls organized in one. (You can tag along even if you are not a guest). 

Is Cancun safe for families?

Yes, Cancun is safe for families traveling with children of all ages. Many of the hotels and resorts here are family-friendly and have things like kids clubs, activities and classes for kids, and childrens pools and playgrounds. 

There are other fun things that you can do with the little ones here like booking a place on the Captain Hook’s pirate show and dinner cruise, heading to adventure parks like Ventura Park, or exploring nearby beaches, islands, and ruins. With kids, your best bet is to stay in the Hotel Zone. 

Getting around Cancun safely 

Cancun is a large, sprawling city and it really isn’t walkable. You can walk up and down the Hotel Zone strip or around the downtown area but otherwise your best bet is to take Ubers and transfers.

The local bus network can be a little overwhelming to navigate and buses can be very hot and crowded as they are mostly used as commuter buses by Mexican workers. Never, I repeat never, get into a random street cab in Cancun.

Always take Ubers or have your hotel set you up with a trusted driver.

Taking cabs and Ubers in Cancun 

Uber works in Cancun although its presence is not appreciated by everyone. It is banned in other parts of Quintana Roo state but you will find it in other large Mexican cities like Merida, CDMX, Puerto Vallarta, etc. 

The local taxi companies are not happy about the existance of Uber and there have been instances in the past where they have gotten into confrontation with Uber drivers. Since taxi drivers are very very likely to rip you off to an extortionate degree (it’s almost a certainty), I always use Uber. 

Due to this aggression, Ubers are not likely to pick you up outside main taxi hubs like the ADO bus station. Instead, walk a couple of blocks away from crowded areas and if you feel comfortable doing so, sit next to your driver in the passenger seat rather than in the back.

Taking street cabs in Cancun also puts you at risk of express kidnappings. This happens when an unsuspecting tourist gets into a cab and the driver holds them at knife/gun point and forces them to hand over their valuables and make maximum withdrawals from their ATMs.

Ubers are safe, although there are less drivers on the app here so you may have to wait longer for a ride. Some handy tips to follow when ordering an Uber in Cancun are detailed below. 

Safety tips for using Uber in Cancun

  • Check that the driver has completed a healthy amount of previous trips (100+) and has been on the platform a while

  • Check that the driver has a rating of 4.5 or above

  • Cancel the ride and look for another driver if neither of the above ring true – if you do this quickly, Uber will not charge you any fee

  • When the driver arrives, make sure that their vehicle and license plate match those on the app 

Taking ADO buses to other parts of Mexico 

You might want to take day trips from Cancun to places like Bacalar, Chichen Itza, etc. Domestic Mexican buses can be a comfortable, affordable, and safe way to get around. There are multiple bus stations in Cancun but the main one is the ADO Centro found in the downtown area. 

Intercity buses are safe, as are the roads in this part of Mexico which are well-maintained. 

There have been reports of people stealing bags from the overhead bins so if you are traveling with a handbag or a backpack, try and keep it with you rather than in a bin at the other end of the bus.

Personally I have never had any bad experiences and I have taken these buses dozens of times but it is always better to be safe than sorry. 

Useful tips for staying safe in Cancun 

I have summarised some handy tips to help you stay safe in Cancun below. Some of these are good practice wherever in the world you travel but I thought it was worth reiterating here. 

  • If your cell phone plan does not include Mexico (Some American and Canadian phone plans do), purchase a Mexican SIM card to stay connected. (I recommend Telcel and you can pick up a card at any Telcel store, Oxxo convenience stores, or the airport)

  • Ensure that you purchase comprehensive travel insurance before traveling to Mexico. Todays health is not promised tomorrow and medical bills can quickly become expensive. A good policy includes at least $250,000 USD worth of medical coverage, as well as additional extras like loss/theft of luggage, repatriation, and water sports

  • Make printed copies of all of your important documents

  • Keep your families and friends updated at home but never share your real-time location on social media
  • Keep your eyes on your personal belongings at all times. Do not leave your things unattended in a coffee place, etc

  • In crowded markets, walk with your backpack in front of you and if you spend a lot of time in Latin America, consider investing in a theft proof backpack.

  • Opt to pay in Mexican pesos. This is the legal tender in Mexico and while some touristic businesses may accept US dollars, they may try and trick you on the exchange

Can you drink the water in Cancun?

No. You cannot drink the water in Cancun or anywhere else in Mexico for that matter. While it is purified at the source, it often gets contaminated en route to your tap and can make you sick. 

Even Mexicans do not drink the water here. Fortunately, virtually all hotels and resorts will provide you with several bottles of complimentary water for each day of your stay. 

Then, you can easily buy more from any Oxxo, 7/11 or other convenience store and supermarket. 

Is Cancun safe at night? 

Cancun’s nightlife is one of the main draws of traveling here. Clubs like Coco Bongo are world-famous, while The City is the largest club in Latin America. 

If clubs aren’t your thing and you want to enjoy a more understated evening of good food and drinks, and perhaps a trip to a couple of chic cocktail bars or rooftop hangouts, you will love Taboo Cancun or Chambao. 

Heading out to bars is safe enough, but you want to make sure that you get an Uber home or have your hotel organize a pick up for you, rather than walk. Watch your alcohol intake and never leave your drinks unattended. 

The main issue/annoyance with experiencing Cancun by night is that everything is quite spread out rather than in one main area. Bars are scattered between the hotel zone, the downtown, and the marina, so you essentially have to pick one area and stick to it for that night. 

Take tours with trusted companies

It is easy to travel around the Yucatan independently, but if you prefer to take some of the stress out of managing the logistics of getting from A to B, you can opt to participate in an organized tour.

Many reputable tour companies operate throughout Cancun and the Riviera Maya and offer 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. 

These tours can be a good way to build up confidence and get your bearings when you first arrive. A selection of reputable Cancun tours is detailed below for your consideration.  

Best tours for 2024 and beyond

Book your place online in advance to avoid disappointment!

Is Cancun safe for tourists in 2024? Final thoughts

I hope this article has helped to quash any concerns that you may have had about safety in Cancun. While there is crime in the area, it isnt directed at tourists, and millions and millions of people pass through the city every year. 

If it were so dangerous, we would be hearing about a lot more bad things happening, right? 

More than 80% of Quintana Roo’s economic activities come from tourism, and since this industry has created a lot of work and income for locals, tourists are well taken care of and nobody wants to deter them. 

If you are visiting Mexico for the first time, you might enjoy browsing this list of Mexico travel tips to know before you go. As I mentioned, I live in the Yucatan so if you need something, please dont hesitate to reach out via the comments below, or connect with me on social media. 

Have a safe trip and enjoy Mexico!

Buen Viaje! Melissa xo

Melissa Douglas

Melissa Douglas is a British Travel Writer based in Merida, Mexico and the Editor-in-Chief of Mexico Travel Secrets. She has over seven years worth of experience in working in travel media and has travelled to 57 countries, mostly solo. Throughout her career, Melissa has produced written content for several high-profile publications across the globe - including Forbes Travel Guide, the Huffington Post, Rough Guides, and Matador Network.

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