Is Tulum Safe? Your 2023 Insider’s Guide

Is Tulum safe? This question is likely to be high on your list of questions when you are planning a trip to the Riviera Maya. 

Travel safety is a complex issue. Nowhere in the world is safe 100% of the time. 

Generally speaking, yes, Tulum is a safe place to visit.

That is, provided that you take the necessary precautions. This is one of the most popular travel destinations in Mexico and most visits are trouble-free. 

However, petty crime levels have risen in recent years so there are certainly a few things that you need to be aware of. A lot of incidents in Tulum are usually a result of being at the wrong place at the wrong time. 

Is Tulum Safe?

Mexico: Is Tulum safe?
Mexico: Is Tulum safe?

Is Tulum safe? A lot of people are concerned as to whether Mexico is a safe destination for travel in general. 

First-time visitors may be anxious about traveling to the country because, for some, the sheer mention of Mexico is synonymous with danger. That is in part, thanks to unfair media portrayals (particularly in the USA) and an abundance of Netflix shows and movies portraying Tulum as some kind of narco-state. 

These do not provide a fair or accurate view of Mexico, a country rich in history, culture, and natural beauty. Approximately 1.5 million tourists visit Tulum every year. 

A large portion of these travelers are Americans and a lot of people don’t just visit for a week or two, they spend months in Tulum escaping the harsh winters of their own towns. So, if Tulum was really dangerous, don’t you think we would hear of far more incidents and safety concerns?

Tulum real estate is also booming. The area is fast becoming one of the trendiest postcodes to have in the Americas. Thousands of international ex-pats call Tulum home.

Experiencing Tulum Mexico 

There are several reasons that you may be drawn to the gorgeous Caribbean coastline of Tulum and the Riviera Maya. For one thing, there are some stunning beaches here that boast crystal-clear azure waters and miles upon miles of soft white sand. 

Tulum Highlights 

For another, Tulum is one of the most social places to visit in Mexico. It is very easy to effortlessly meet other travelers here – whether traveling solo or as a group.

If you are a remote worker, you may be drawn to Tulum’s huge Digital Nomad scene, its abundance of trendy Airbnbs, coffee shops, cafes, and co-working spaces. Alternatively, if this is your first trip to Mexico, you may enjoy Tulum because it is easy to find home comforts here.

A lot of Tulum restaurants specialize in international cuisine. There are tons of trendy clothing stores and boutique shops. Generally, Tulum is nice for a first-time visitor to Mexico because coming here doesn’t provide the same culture shock that you may experience in more off-the-beaten-path parts of the country.

Tulum makes a great base for exploring the wider state of Quintana Roo. You can take day trips out from here to ruins like Coba, Chichen Itza, and the Tulum archeological site.

From here, you can also travel on to Bacalar, Mahahual, Playa Del Carmen, Cozumel, Isla Holbox, and Isla Mujeres. Basically, the opportunities are endless. 

Tulum may be getting a bit of a reputation as a party destination but it doesn’t have to be like that if that isn’t your thing. There are plenty of luxurious beachfront hotels and resorts where you can stay if you just want to enjoy some R&R by the sea. 

If you are looking for more peace and seclusion though, there are other destinations in Mexico you may want to consider before booking your trip. El Cuyo and the beaches of the Yucatan may be more up your street if you want to avoid the crowds. 

Is Tulum Safe? Preparing for Your Trip 

The Coba ruins

Purchase Comprehensive Travel Insurance 

It is imperative to purchase comprehensive travel insurance before you visit Tulum. This is important wherever in the world you travel. 

Unfortunately, even with the most careful planning, you never really know what is around the corner. It is better to be safe than sorry. 

Make sure that you purchase an insurance plan that comes with comprehensive medical cover. Always read the small print to check what type of activities are included.

A lot of travel insurance policies do not cover moped rentals or sports. Some even classify things like hiking as a sport that is not included.

It is worth purchasing cover that comes with additional extras – e.g. repatriation, loss of luggage, theft/loss of electronics, etc. Write down your insurance policy number and keep it safe. Should you need medical care, this will be the first thing that you are asked for before any treatment will be given. 

Purchase a theft-proof backpack and money belt 

The main crimes that you need to be aware of in Tulum are petty theft and opportunistic crime. Never leave your belongings unattended, not even for a second. 

While in some places in the Yucatan you may think nothing of leaving your laptop at a coffee shop table while you go to the bathroom, you absolutely cannot do that in Tulum. It will be gone in an instant. 

Watch your bag in crowded streets and marketplaces. When there are tons of people around, you might want to carry your backpack on your front.

Make sure that you don’t have a bag that can be easily opened and never put anything important in the front or side pockets. Avenida Tulum, the main strip in the city, is perpetually crowded and sometimes feels sketchy so be aware of what is going on around you at all times. 

A theft-proof backpack is a good investment, especially if you travel a lot. These are a little bit pricier than regular backpacks, sure.

But they come with a lot of additional safety features. For instance, they contain TSA-approved locks so that nobody can get into your bag.

They are waterproof and slashproof so nobody can try and cut the bottom of your bag open with a knife. Theft-proof bags and moneybelts sold by Pacsafe come with long, multi-year warranties. 

Be smart with your money and bank cards 

Don’t flash your cash and be careful when it comes to managing your bank cards. It is a good idea to have a couple of bank cards.

That way, if you lose one, you can easily cancel it and access your funds elsewhere. Take photos of your cards so that you have the numbers stored safely on your phone/the cloud. 

Carry one card and some cash with you. Then, hide the other and a spare $50-$100 or so deep in your luggage. 

Listen to the local news for any developments 

While most visits to Tulum are trouble-free, it is undeniable that crime in the area has been on the increase in recent years. The cartels do operate in this part of Mexico and sadly, tourists have been caught in the crossfire

In October 2021, two tourists were killed at a popular restaurant in a clash between two cartel groups. This was an isolated incident. 

However, cartels have been known to clash in areas frequented by tourists and they don’t pay much consideration as to why may be caught in their crossfire. Bad things like this can happen anywhere in the world – a consequence of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

It is important to be informed about the situation in Tulum but don’t let it terrify you from going. If something seems to be escalating around you, leave.

Check the local news and your government travel advice pages for events and developments. The USA government travel advice and the UK government travel advice pages may seem sternly worded.

However, they provide good practical information and Mexico travel tips. Their pages are updated very frequently. 

Take tours organized by trusted local firms 

There are a lot of interesting day trips that you can do from Tulum. You can visit charming Pueblos Magicos like Valladolid, climb the sunbleached remnants of Mayan ruins at Coba, Mayapan, Chichen Itza, and Ek Balam, and visit a plethora of stunning beach towns along the Caribbean coast. 

Public transport in Mexico is generally pretty good. While there are currently no train links between Quintana Roo and the Yucatan, buses are a very good way to get around.

Several domestic bus companies operate in Mexico. All of them are pretty reliable and comfortable but perhaps the most common is ADO.

Mexican ADO buses run between Cancun and Tulum and other major towns, cities, and tourist attractions. The clean, modern buses boast plush reclining seats, complimentary wifi, on-board bathrooms, and USB charging ports.

If you want to travel around independently, the buses are a reliable and safe way to do so. Alternatively, if you want to take the stress out of managing the logistics of getting from A to B, you can visit the various sites near Tulum on organized tours. 

This is a good way to meet other travelers. Countless local tour companies offer excursions around this region. 

It is better to reserve any tours that you are interested in online, in advance to secure a place. A number of popular excursions from Tulum that you may be interested in are detailed below. 

Recommended tours in and around Tulum

Do not get involved with substance abuse 

Part of avoiding the possibility of getting caught in the wrong place at the wrong time in Tulum means avoiding shady characters. There is a lot of corruption and crime in Mexico and so, you need to be careful with who you get involved with. 

You absolutely should not get involved with drugs in any form, for any reason. Don’t buy them here, don’t take them here, etc. 

Whenever there is violent crime in Tulum, it is almost always related to drugs. Separately, you don’t really know what you are taking, whether it could be laced with something else, etc. Do you really want to take your chances on winding up in a hospital in Mexico?

Don’t flash expensive items 

If there is one way to make yourself a target in Tulum, it is to wander around looking like a rich tourist with an expensive camera dangling from your neck. Keep your expensive items and electronics out of sight. 

Leave your jewelry and your brand labels at home. People generally don’t have a lot of money in Mexico and dressing flashy is one way to draw attention to yourself. 

Don’t walk alone at night 

A big part of staying safe abroad simply comes down to common sense. Do not walk alone at night, especially if you are a solo traveler or a solo female.

Even Avenida Tulum can seem a little sketchy at night. Whether you are exploring during the day or night, be careful where you go.

Don’t venture down quiet and suspect-looking side streets or venture into unknown areas far from the beach and hotel zone. Pick up a Mexico sim card and download an offline map on your phone so that you always know how to get from A to B and never look like a lost, confused tourist. 

Watch your alcohol intake 

Be mindful of how much alcohol you consume on nights out. Being intoxicated makes you more vulnerable.

If you are traveling solo and you are meeting other travelers and ex-pats at parties and events, limit how much you drink. Even when people seem friendly, remember that they are strangers and that you can never really be sure of people’s intentions. 

Check reviews before booking accommodation 

Tulum has a wide range of accommodation options for every type of traveler. Hostel dorm beds here start from as little as 140 pesos ($7) a night. 

Even entire Airbnb apartments and private rooms at budget hotels can be found for around 250 pesos/$15 per night. Always check the reviews somewhere before booking.

Many aggregator hotel platforms like allow you to search for hotels that are popular and highly rated among solo travelers. You do not have to stay in expensive absolute luxury to be safe.

However, sometimes it is worth paying a little more for your comfort. If you want to indulge, there are some absolutely gorgeous luxe properties in Tulum. 

Some of the hotels and all-inclusive resorts on the seafront are among the most beautiful in the entire country. Staying in a more upscale place can also give you additional assurances for your safety. 

For instance, you know that the building is more secure and that the property has a good reputation. Many luxury hotels will be able to organize airport transfers, tours, cabs, and ground transport for you. 

Purchase an alarmed doorstop for your hotel 

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 Tulum are not common. This is just one more safety item that is useful to carry when you travel. 

Make Copies of your FMM and Passport

When you enter Mexico as a tourist, you will be asked to complete a small health form and an immigration form. Then, you will be presented with an FMM tourist card.

It is important that you keep this document safe as you will be asked to present it when you leave the country. Technically, police officers and security staff ought to be able to ask you to present it at any time.

Obviously, it is less than ideal to constantly have your passport and FMM tourist card in your backpack, especially when you are going to beaches, cenotes, etc. So, take a photo of both and keep it on your phone at all times.

Then, if you are asked to present this, you can simply show the photos on your phone and tell the person that the original documents are back in your hotel room. It is also useful to make some paper photocopies of your passport before you leave your home country. Keep one in your bag with you and another in your luggage. 

Use only trusted cab drivers 

Ride apps like Uber, Didi, and InDrive exist in some parts of Mexico. However, unfortunately, they do not exist in most of the state of Quintana Roo. 

So, you need to rely on regular street taxis. Unfortunately, this comes with a few issues.

The main one is that taxi drivers across the world are essentially a law unto themselves. Unless you know what the price should be to get from A to B, you are probably going to be ripped off. 

That’s not to say that good taxi drivers in Tulum do not exist. But people will often significantly overcharge you because they think that you are a tourist with no clue as to how much things should cost. 

You can avoid this by asking your hotel to organize taxis for you. Once you find a driver that you like, take his/her card or contact details and use them for your trip.

Always agree on a price before getting in. Only ever take licensed cabs and be careful of the toots that loiter around Cancun airport and touristic sites in Tulum. 

You cannot drink the water in Tulum 

You absolutely cannot drink the water in Mexico. While it is purified at the source, it often gets contaminated en route and so you most certainly do not want to risk drinking from a tap. Even Mexicans will not drink tap water. 

Some luxe hotels in Tulum will have potable water on site. If this is the case, they will tell you this or have signs to notify you as such. 

Don’t just assume. Most hotel rooms and Airbnbs will have a couple of bottles of water waiting for you in your room when you check-in.

Large, multi-liter bottles of water can be purchased from all supermarkets, convenience stores, and touristic shops for just a few pesos. Consider purchasing a reusable water bottle to carry around with you during the day.

They keep your water cool even in super high temperatures and help you to minimize your plastic waste. Lifestraw is a good option. For every water bottle purchased, they donate a year’s supply of clean water to a child in a developing country.   

Take precautions for your health 

While your physical safety is probably your main concern when asking “Is Tulum safe?” there are also precautions that you need to take here health-wise. Pack a comprehensive medical kit in your luggage for your trip. 

You can buy generic ones that contain things like bandaids, scissors, gauze, etc. Then add any additional prescriptions or items as needed. 

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. 

Montezuma’s revenge or traveler’s diarrhea can be a problem for people visiting Mexico. Don’t be scared out of eating at street food stalls in Tulum as a result, just be careful with what you eat. 

In other words, don’t eat at stalls where meat or fruit and vegetables have been left sitting out in the sun or there are flies around. Such places probably don’t look appetizing anyway! This should just be common sense. 

Pack some Immodium and some rehydration sachets in your bag for emergencies. There is also a very good Mexican tablet for diarrhea available at all pharmacies and supermarkets called Treda. 

It is worth purchasing some when you arrive and keep it in your bag. Pepto bismal in liquid and tablet form is also useful. 

You will find an anti-dehydration drink called electrolit in stores throughout Mexico. This is great to drink if you have been sick with traveler’s diarrhea, or just as a general way to restore electrolytes after hours out in the sun. 

Keep your locations and plans off social media 

It can be exciting to share all of the things that you are up to on vacation with your family and friends back at home. However, you never really know who is watching your social media, particularly if your accounts are set to public.

Strange people do use these platforms as dating apps and search for people via geotags and locations. Do not post in real-time and do not share your day-to-day itinerary online.

If you need to share your itinerary with your family, consider creating a shareable Google doc detailing your route. You can set it as “view only” so that you can make changes and updates as your plan changes, but your family has no way of accidentally messing it up or removing anything.

Never post in real-time on social media and do not share where you are staying or places that you frequent. Save all of the beautiful photos that you have taken in your drafts until you have left that specific location. 

Don’t spend your time fretting and worrying 

When you tell people you are traveling to Mexico, a lot of people react with horror and concern. Most of these people have never even been to Mexico and are therefore in no position to comment and advise. 

More than 32 million international tourists visit Mexico every year. This is a beautiful country home to many friendly, hospitable people and it would be a shame to miss out out of fear. 

Be aware of the safety issues and the precautions that you need to take but don’t let them scare you into oblivion. If you walk around looking skittish, constantly looking over your shoulder, or yelping every time someone says hello, you make yourself more of a target and ruin your trip unnecessarily! 

Is Tulum Safe for Solo Travelers? 

Tulum is safe for solo travelers, provided that they take all of the precautions outlined above. Even solo female travelers will feel comfortable here. 

Meeting Other Travelers 

If you are hoping to meet fellow travelers, Digital Nomads, and Tulum ex-pats, there are a few ways that you can do so. Check for local events on platforms like Meetup and Couchsurfing. 

You can also join Mexico travel and Tulum ex-pat Facebook groups. Sometimes you may find events that are taking place. 

Alternatively, you can create a post saying that you have just arrived and want to grab coffee/lunch/etc with fellow travelers. A few useful Facebook groups to have on your radar are detailed below. 

Street Harassment in Mexico 

Unfortunately, street harassment can be an issue in Mexico for solo female travelers. This can be something that women travelers have to deal with the world over but it never gets any more pleasant to deal with. 

If someone catcalls you on the street, just ignore it, pretend you haven’t heard it and continue walking. It really isn’t worth giving the person(s) attention or ruining your day/trip because of one incident. 

You never really know what someone’s mental health is like or whether they have a knife, etc so it is better not to confront someone. If someone is continually harassing or following you, stay in a public area.

Never lead the person back to your hotel or an area that you commonly visit. Instead, duck inside a convenience store or a busy restaurant. If the person doesn’t leave, tell someone working there that you are being followed or bothered. 

Hopefully, you never have to worry about this. However, it is always better to be informed and safe than sorry. Be alert to what is going on around you at all times. 

Parting Words 

Have you traveled to Tulum recently? What did you think? Is Tulum safe from your perspective?

Would you return? You may also be wondering: Is Cancun safe?

Melissa Douglas

Melissa Douglas is a British Travel Writer based in Merida, Mexico and the Editor-in-Chief of Mexico Travel Secrets. She has produced written content for several high-profile publications across the globe - including Forbes Travel Guide, the Huffington Post, Rough Guides, and Matador Network.