Is Cancun safe to travel to right now? You may be wondering if you are planning to travel to Cancun in the near future.
Well, the short answer is yes, it’s safe to travel to Cancun, but in this post, I will go through more detailed information on the possible dangers and how to avoid them.
I have lived in Cancun for many years and although I am traveling most of the time now, I keep going back to my Mexican home city.
Therefore I believe I can offer you a clear and detailed answer to the most popular question. Is it safe to travel to Cancun right now?
Let’s go through it step by step.
Cancun Safety at a Glance
Cancun is arguably Mexico’s top tourist destination, capturing up to 50% of all tourists to the country. Approximately 10 million people visit Cancún every year, and those numbers show no signs of slowing down.
However, violent crime is still a major concern in the region. But does it affect tourists?
During the past year, news agencies have continued to report incidents of violence in Cancun, most of which were related to gang and drug-related conflicts.
Just recently we had dreadful accidents, that have been on the international news, one happened on February 22 and you can read more on FOX NEWS and another one was reported on the NYPOST. We can’t deny those episodes but we also need to put them in context.
All of this garners lots of media attention and propagates worry. It begs the question: is Cancun safe?
In this post, we’ll take an honest look at the statistics, warnings, and safety concerns you should consider before booking a trip to the Mexican Caribbean.
In addition to talking about crime rates, we’ll also discuss the measures the state of Quintana Roo is taking to address organized crime and protect tourists.
We’ll learn about the effectiveness of these measures so that if you choose to travel to Cancun, you can go with a sense of security grounded in reality.
Planning your next trip to Cancun? Here are my travel resources
Is Cancun Safe to Travel to Right Now?
Although Mexico is often portrayed as a cesspit of crimes including homicides, kidnappings, robberies, and carjackings, up to 10 million travelers visit Cancún each year.
Compared with the handful of violent incidents that have affected tourists, it is statistically unlikely you’ll encounter violent crimes yourself while in Cancún.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be concerned, informed, and aware, however.
Read on to learn more about the top safety concerns in Cancún, from crime and violence to health safety to staying safe on the road.
U.S. State Department Travel Advisory on Cancun
The U.S. State Department issued a warning “to exercise increased caution in the Riviera Maya, the 81-mile stretch of land that includes popular destinations such as Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and Tulum.”
The advisory states that “Travelers should maintain a high level of situational awareness, avoid areas where illicit activities occur, and promptly depart from potentially dangerous situations. U.S. citizens and LPRs have been victims of kidnapping. While not directed at tourists, shootings between rival gangs have injured innocent bystanders. Additionally, U.S. citizens have been the victims of both non-violent and violent crimes in tourist and non-tourist areas.”
But how true are these statements? Let’s take a closer look.
Crime Rate in Cancun Mexico
An article published in Por Esto news outlet in March 2022 indicates that during 2021 there were 337 homicides in Cancún, making the homicide rate 36.81 for every 100,000 inhabitants. Most of the homicides took place in 13 critical zones.
Although this statistic is certainly concerning, it’s interesting to note that none of these critical zones are in the Cancún hotel zone, where most tourists spend their time.
Another interesting data point surfaced in a recent survey by the Quality of Life Association (QOLA). The survey revealed that Cancun residents don’t seem particularly concerned by the homicide rate.
One member of QOLA explained, “They are not so concerned about the executions, as they consider that it is a problem that concerns only criminal organizations. However, 84% of those surveyed who have a business did point out that their greatest concern is paying the flat fee, or being robbed by common criminals.”
Another Por Esto article further corroborates this concern, stating that in a National Survey of Urban Public Security, 30% of the residents of Cancún reported being the victims of robbery or extortion.
The takeaway? It’s more likely for tourists to fall victim to robberies and petty theft than violent crime.
The problem of petty theft and robberies is related to the growth of income disparity in the region where rich tourists with their last-generation phones, flashing watches, and fancy clothing become a target for desperate people with scarce resources and low income. It’s inevitable.
And that’s where following simple common sense guidelines are critical for avoiding unpleasant situations.
Continue to the Cancun Mexico Safety Tips section to learn more ways to stay safe during your visit.
Drug & Gang Related Issues in Cancun
According to the Atlas of Security and Defense of Mexico 2020, five different drug cartels and organized crime groups operate in Cancun.
- Cártel de Jalisco Nueva Generación
- Cártel del Pacifico/Cártel de Sinaloa
- Los Zetas
- Cártel del Golfo
- Other Local/Regional Groups
As mentioned previously in this post, most violent crime is related to drug dealers and inter-gang conflicts.
Tourist deaths are usually extremely low in the area, with most of the violence happening between criminal organizations.
Of course, that is not always the case, as the shootings and gun battles in January 2022 attest. Tourists weren’t the focus of these crimes, but they were affected by them.
Kidnappings in Cancun Mexico
The U.S. travel advisory indicates that tourists should exercise increased caution due to “crime and kidnapping rates.”
However, Cancun’s kidnapping rates are actually extremely low. In fact, between January and September 2022, the Mexican government says that only one kidnapping was reported.
Travelers will be comforted to know that Quintana Roo has implemented a mass-surveillance system using C5 cameras and surveillance agents, concentrating their efforts on tourist-frequented bars, restaurants, and shops, further increasing security in the area.
Cancun’s Response to Crime – Tourist Security Battalion
Now that we’ve seen some of the statistics related to crime rates, kidnapping rates, and the most pressing security concerns of the populace, let’s talk about the government’s response.
Cancun and the state of Quintana Roo have been actively combating crime. One of the largest responses led to the creation of a Tourist Security Battalion in December 2021. The battalion was formed to counterattack the rising incidence of gang-related violence and crimes in multiple Mexican states.
Seven hundred members of the Security Battalion were deployed to Cancun in December 2021.
Shortly after the battalion was deployed, the Secretary of Public Security, Lucio Hernández Gutiérrez, reported a 35% decrease in muggings, a 30% decrease in home invasions, and a 50% decrease in homicides.”
An additional 300 soldiers were deployed to help keep tourists safe over the high summer 2022 season.
Is Cancun safe for solo travelers?
Cancun can be just as safe for solo travelers as for those traveling in groups or with families.
However, as a solo traveler, you should be more strict about following safety protocols.
👉 Use your common sense
👉 Stay in tourist zones
👉 Avoid deserted areas
👉 Use trusted transportation services
👉 Share your daily plans with someone you know and trust, and check in with them on a regular basis.
👉 Don’t go out alone at night
👉 Don’t over-indulge in alcohol
👉 Don’t accept drinks from strangers.
Learn more in the safety tip section later on in this post.
Is Cancun safe for female travelers?
Yes! Just as Cancun can be a safe destination for solo travelers, it can be safe for female travelers.
In fact, I’m a female traveler myself and have been living in Cancun for several years. Just as with solo travelers, female travelers should be careful to follow safety precautions and use common sense.
If you are out at night, stay in the tourist zone, and in well-lit areas. Use the same precautions recommended for solo travelers.
Is Cancun safe at night?
It is best to avoid staying out late at night, however, if you do go out, take extra precautions.
If you are out after 9 pm, take a trusted transportation service. Before getting in a taxi, always check the taxi license (often displayed on the windscreen).
Avoid walking alone and stay in areas that are well-lit.
Ask locals which areas are safe at night and stick to malls, the hotel zone (la zona Hotelera), and possibly a few parts of downtown.
Only take what you need with you, leave your valuables at your hotel, and don’t flash money or expensive jewelry or gadgets.
Is it safe to rent a car in Cancún?
Yes, you can rent a car safely in Cancún, however, there are some scams and safety precautions you need to be aware of. Check out my post on renting a car and driving in Cancún for all the information you need.
Is it safe to drive in Cancún?
Driving in a foreign country always comes with its challenges, and Mexico is no different. There are a few areas of Cancun that you should avoid, but in general, the roads are in good condition and have good signage.
You can check out the above-linked post for all the information you need about driving in Cancun safely.
Drive defensively and be aware of extra things happening in the streets as there will probably be more obstacles in the road than you are used to.
Avoid driving at night. Accidents are more common after dark and many vehicles drive on the road without any lights.
Most of all if the police stop you do not give them any bribe, just ask for the fine if it’s due or tell them to take you to the police station to pay for it, if they insist.
Is Cancun safe for my health?
In order to stay healthy while in Cancún, it is important to drink purified water and avoid tap water, stay hydrated, and use sunscreen to avoid getting burnt.
According to the WHO, “Zika transmission persists in several countries but has generally been at low levels throughout 2018 to the present.”
Zika is no longer a major concern for travelers to Cancun. However, you can check the center for disease control website for the latest updates and recommendations on Zika virus.
Avoid getting mosquito bites during your visit to Cancún, and use insect repellent.
According to the official Quintana Roo website, the current risk of Covid-19 infection in the state is low. The state uses a traffic light system to evaluate the risks and as of October 2022, the traffic light was “green” for low risk.
No vaccine is required to enter the country.
Safest Areas to Stay in Cancun
In any city, some areas are safer than others. This is as true of Cancún as it is of New York City or Mexico City. That said, what are the safest places to stay in Cancun?
✅ La Zona Hotelera (Hotel Zone)
The hotel zone is a long strip of all-inclusive resorts and hotels that line the Cancún beach. Security is tight in this area, making it a safe place to stay. It is patrolled by the Tourist Security Battalion and most hotels also work hard to ensure the security of their guests.
Since many of these resorts are all-inclusive, only employees and guests regularly enter the hotel premises.
As the Secretary of Tourism, Miguel Torruco put it, “Some isolated cases of insecurity” exist several kilometers away from tourist zones.
Take a look at this map of the “red zones” in Cancún and you’ll see that none of them are near the hotel zone.
✅ Centro de Cancun (Downtown)
Another area that is generally safe to visit in Cancun is the “centro” or downtown area.
Downtown Cancun can be a fun area to visit, but it is best to avoid partying in the area. I also recommend getting a hotel in a different area of the city.
If you go to a restaurant downtown, I recommend using a taxi or your own transportation. Don’t walk around on foot, especially if you’re alone, and don’t flaunt money and valuables.
✅ Playa Mujeres
If you don’t mind staying outside of Cancún, Playa Mujeres is a great option. It’s an extended area north of Cancun on the way to Isla Blanca a beautiful virgin beach.
It is a residential area where many luxury hotels have been built. You will be quite isolated from the Hotel Zone but the area is very safe and you can always explore by renting a car or joining a tour.
Cancun Mexico Safety Tips
If you decide to travel to Cancún (or any other part of Mexico), I highly recommend you follow these safety tips.
1. Get travel insurance
Travel insurance is a key way to stay safe and in good health while on vacation in Mexico.
Having travel insurance has helped me out on several occasions and goes a long way toward my peace of mind when I’m away from home.
If you ask me I have two recommended travel insurance companies, one is SafetyWing, which I find relatively affordable and quite comprehensive.
The other is not a company but a site aggregator, Travel Insurance Master which will help you find the perfect insurance for you. You fill out the form with the information about your profile and requirements and they select the insurance company that is a good fit.
2. Be Aware of Your Surroundings
Situational awareness is a key component of security. Stay alert and aware of your surroundings. Walk with your head up, and visually scan the area. Over time, you can learn to do this automatically and in a relaxed manner.
Pay special attention to anomalies.
Criminals and thieves tend to look for easy targets. If you are paying attention, you’ll make yourself less of a target.
You’re also less likely to enter a dangerous area if you are paying attention. Avoid deserted streets. If you feel uncomfortable somewhere, immediately head towards a secure area.
3. Avoid Staying Out Late
Most crimes in Cancún tend to happen at night. This is true in most places around the world.
Avoid going out at night, especially if you are alone. If you do go out, try to go with a group. Stay in well-lit and well-transited areas.
Take a trusted taxi to reach your destination. (Arrange the fare with the taxi driver ahead of time, or ask him to use the meter.)
5. Guard against pick-pocketers
One of the best ways to avoid pickpockets is to not take valuables with you on vacation in the first place. Leave any non-essentials at home. Those you take with you should be left in a secure place in your hotel room.
If you have money or valuables on you, avoid flaunting them while you are out and about. One way to do this is to make sure you have small bills. Pay with a credit card when you can.
Think ahead about what you will need. For example, you may want to keep some cash in an easily-accessible bag or pocket, while keeping extra cash in a different less-accessible pocket.
6. Be Careful at ATMs
When you get money out of an ATM, pay extra attention to your surroundings. If possible, go with a friend or someone who can keep an eye on the area while you are at the ATM.
Choose an ATM that is inside a bank or mall over a roadside ATM. ATMs inside banks or malls usually have 24-hour video surveillance. During banking hours, guards may be present, making the area more secure.
The best time to get your money is during the day when guards are present. Avoid going to ATMs after dark.
Once you have the money, stow it out of sight as quickly and efficiently as possible. If you made a large withdrawal, go directly back to your hotel and leave most of it in a safe or other secure location.
7. Carry Cash With You – But Not Too Much
Although using a credit card is a good idea, not all stores and shops in Cancún accept them. I recommend using your credit card as much as possible, but carrying $1000 to 1500 MXN with you on outings.
You’ll need cash to pay for street food, taxis, and that sort of thing. I also like to have some cash on me in case of an emergency.
8. Stow Valuables in a Secure Place
Since petty crime is one of the main concerns for travelers to Cancún, one way to prepare is to leave valuables at home. Don’t take expensive name-brand items and high-end electronic gadgets with you unless absolutely necessary.
Keep essential valuables like extra money and your passport in the hotel safe. Carry a photocopy of your passport and immigration card with you. Police have the right to ask to see both of these documents.
9. Go Easy on Alcohol
It’s hard to stay situationally aware once alcohol gets involved, especially if you get soused. Drink in moderation if you have to, but do so in the safest manner possible.
If you are in a group, choose at least one person to stay sober and watch out for you, a “designated defender” if you will.
9. Do Not Accept Drinks From Others
It is imperative not to take a drink from anyone you don’t know very well or trust while in Cancún, even if the person is attractive and seems reliable.
This is true of going to any bar in any city. It’s also important not to leave your drink unattended. Take it to the restroom with you if you have to.
10. Do Not Buy Drugs
Do not, under any circumstances, buy drugs while in Cancún. Not only is it illegal, but it will also throw you in the path of the drug cartels.
As discussed in the crime section above, these organizations are responsible for a large portion of the violent crime in the region.
11. Get a local SIM card
Getting a local SIM card is an essential safety tip. A SIM card will let you stay in touch with your friends and family, be aware of safety bulletins, make emergency phone calls, and access maps.
Using maps can help you know where you are and keep you from getting lost.
12. Drink Purified Water & Stay Hydrated
It isn’t a good idea to drink tap water in Mexico because it could expose you to bacteria and stomach bugs. Instead, drink purified water everywhere you go.
Staying hydrated is also a great way to stay healthy and combat illness.
12. Stay in a Trusted Hotel
Lodging can make or break your trip to Mexico, especially if you don’t feel safe at your hotel. Avoid potential problems by choosing a safe and highly-rated hotel.
The hotel zone is always a good choice when it comes to staying in Cancún.
13. Stay Safe While Swimming
Sometimes there can be dangerous riptides in Cancún. These currents are very strong and can drag you out into the ocean if you are unaware.
To avoid anything unpleasant from happening while enjoying Cancun’s white sand beaches, swim near a lifeguard tower. Be aware of the water and waves as conditions can change quickly. If the water starts getting rough, work your way back to the beach.
If you find you can’t touch and are caught in a current, stay calm, wait for a wave, and swim with it at a diagonal. Wait for the next wave, and then repeat the process. Signal for help if you need it.
14. Learn Important Spanish Phrases
Being able to communicate is always an important factor in staying safe. Even the ability to ask for directions can be a huge help during your trip.
Is it safe to travel to Cancun right now? Final thoughts
Although there have been several incidents of violent crime in Cancun, statistics and official reports make it clear that tourists and most average citizens of the city are rarely targeted.
There have been almost zero incidents of kidnappings. The risk of falling victim to other security concerns such as petty theft can be minimized by following standard safety and common sense practices.
Although there is always some risk no matter where you live or travel, Cancún remains a relatively safe destination. Cancún will likely retain its spot as one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world for many years to come.