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From magical cenotes, pristine white beaches, and whale shark encounters to vast archeological wonders and rich culture, Cancun has so much to offer! Unsurprisingly, the area draws millions of visitors annually, making it Mexico’s go-to tourism destination for good reason.
If you’re a regular on the blog, you’ll know I have a soft spot for Cancun! From my experience on multiple family vacations as a kid to living there as an adult, I love everything Cancun offers.
If you’ve never been to Mexico, it’s a great introduction to the country. But if you’re stuck wondering if it’s safe to travel to Cancun, our answer is a definite yes!
Since Cancun brings so much revenue to Mexico, they’ve got a vested interest in safety and security within the hotel zone. Even outside of that area, Cancun is still known as a safe city with a low crime rate. But that doesn’t mean we’re encouraging you to be complacent! Being aware of your surroundings and taking basic precautions is a good plan wherever you are in the world – Cancun included.
So if you’re headed there soon, you should know what to look out for and how to protect yourself. We created this blog to help you prepare for the best vacation in Cancun!
Is Cancun Safe?
Let’s face it – crime happens in every corner of the world, and Mexico is no exception to the rule. It can be hard not to be intimidated by others’ bad travel experiences or snippets on the news, but it’s way more important to see the bigger picture! When you add it all up, Cancun is a safe destination as long as you take some basic travel safety measures.
Like a lot of other countries, Mexico has a big wealth disparity among its citizens. There’s also a big income gap between locals and the many tourists that visit.
In spots like the Cancun Hotel Zone, you might subconsciously lower your guard because you feel more comfortable being in such a touristic area. But remember that pickpocketing, scams, and petty theft are crimes of opportunity, so maintaining a reasonable level of awareness is the best way to avoid them.
Simple steps go a long way: don’t leave your stuff unattended; keep a low profile with electronics and cash; keep your purse or wallet close to you, and maintain general spatial awareness in public spaces.
You’ll also probably stumble upon news articles about Mexico’s gang and drug-related violence, even in popular areas like Cancun. However, tourists are rarely the target of gang crimes, and you can easily avoid risky areas. While being informed of these crimes is good, they aren’t worth feeling paranoid about or canceling a trip.
Related Read: Cancun is also surrounded by beautiful beaches and towns. Read about these fun things in Playa Del Carmen – just an hour’s drive from Cancun.
Is Cancun Safe FAQs
Cancun Crime Rate
If you put aside the negative media coverage and dig into some statistics, you’ll understand the bigger picture. You’ll see what’s actually going on in Cancun and how it might affect you. Knowing what you might encounter is the best way to learn which safety steps to take and what to look out for.
Although the crime level in Cancun sits around 60%, it’s super important to put that into perspective. Cancun’s crime rate is comparable to some major US cities that you wouldn’t even think twice about visiting! Places like Los Angeles and Miami have crime rates of 58.51% and 57.44%, respectively. However, these don’t even come close to New Orleans’ whopping 81.67% crime rate.
It’s really easy to fall victim to fear-mongering if you don’t put these kinds of things into perspective, especially when the media gets involved.
If you break it down even further, you’ll notice that the higher crime rates relate mostly to gang-related violence and drugs. While tourists are rarely the target of gang violence, you can drastically lower your risk by avoiding drugs in Cancun. That leads us back to the primary source of crime, which is robbery and petty theft like pickpocketing – which are comparable to the rates in major cities like Miami and LA.
And while crime in Cancun is comparable to some major US cities (and other cities worldwide!), that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be concerned, either. A little factual research and consistent precautions can easily make for a hassle-free, enjoyable travel experience!
15 Safety Tips for Cancun
Cancun is an awesome city to visit and explore, but spatial awareness and good judgment are key to keeping safe – wherever you are in the world!
Here are a list of 15 ways to stay safe and have an awesome travel experience:
- Be aware of common scams so you can avoid them.
- Always be alert when using ATMs. Avoid using ATMs at night.
- Leave important documents safely stashed at your hotel.
- Avoid walking alone at night, especially around unpopulated areas.
- Keep cash to a minimum.
- Practice some Spanish phrases, like asking for directions or help.
- Use a paper map instead of whipping out your phone for directions.
- Pay attention to beach warning signs & be aware of currents and riptides.
- Keep it low-key – leave the jewelry and fancy clothes at home.
- Don’t keep all your cash and cards in one place.
- Keep digital copies of passports, insurance, and important numbers (in your email, Cloud, etc.).
- Keep cash & cards close to you (cross-body bags are great for this!).
- Stick with reputable hosts, tour guides, and car rental companies.
- Stay away from drugs and any hotspots for drug activity.
- Keep electronics or expensive items out of sight.
Related Read: If you’re also traveling to Mexico’s capital, read tips and info on staying safe in Mexico City.
Food and Drink Safety in Cancun
Mexican food is a flavorful highlight of visiting this country, and street food can be a great introduction to local cuisine. Cancun has lots to offer, and the food standards are generally pretty good at local restaurants. However, nothing will wreck your travel plans faster than tummy troubles, so take a few basic precautions when picking out your next meal!
First things first, opt for bottled water and stay away from the ice. Some Cancun resorts or parts of the hotel zone might have filtered water or ice that’s safe to use. However, I find it’s best to get into the habit of drinking bottled water – better safe than sorry!
Even if you’re opting for local juices, stick with bottled versions or make sure it’s prepared with purified water before taking a sip. I made the mistake of not asking before drinking some delicious fresh juice, and paid the price shortly after!
Also, you should be careful not to open your mouth while showering. And watch out for raw fruits and veggies rinsed in tap water. You might think it’s okay after a while, but there’s a high chance your body isn’t used to the bacteria in local water. The gamble isn’t worth it, especially since getting sick will cut into your travel time and budget.
For food, use your best judgment and lean towards freshly prepared dishes. Anything that has been sitting around uncovered or left in the heat isn’t a good bet, especially because you have no clue how long it’s been there. As always, make sure you wash your hands before eating, especially if you’re diving into any handheld food!
Is Solo Travel in Cancun Safe?
Cancun draws the most tourists in Mexico, naturally making it a hotspot for solo travel. If you’re a newbie, it’s the perfect place to dip your feet into the world of solo traveling. One of the major perks is that many solo travelers end up here, so it’s super easy to make friends and connect with others!
But of course, all travel comes with caveats, and you do have to watch out for yourself while traveling alone.
For starters, it’s a good idea to have a trustworthy contact back home who you’ll be able to check in with regularly. You can also use Find My Friends or other location-tracking apps so they know your whereabouts. It’s comforting to know someone is looking out for you, and it’s also a good idea to leave copies of important documents and itineraries with them.
The general safety tips we already mentioned are especially important when traveling alone. It’s essential to orient yourself in a new location to avoid getting lost, and keep your belongings to a minimum while walking around. If you need to use an ATM, avoid using them at night and stick to ones in well-traveled areas. We also prefer ATMs inside banks, as they are less likely to be tampered with.
If you’re out drinking and partying with new friends, keep it to a reasonable level so you can get yourself home safely.
Related Read: If you want to feel prepared before your trip, read about some of our favorite travel apps.
What About Solo Female Travel?
While solo female travel can seem a bit riskier anywhere, Cancun is generally a safe spot, provided you take the necessary steps and exercise a little extra caution.
You’ll want to be aware of your surroundings, particularly at night – avoid walking alone if you can, don’t use ATMs, avoid smaller back roads or unlit streets, and have a plan in place to get home safely.
Cancun is a popular spot for partiers, and while there’s nothing wrong with letting the good times roll, solo female travelers need to keep a few things in mind. Only accept drinks if they’re unopened or if you saw them being poured. And like anywhere in the world, always keep your drink in sight! Don’t let your guard down just because you’re in the company of other travelers – anybody can spike a drink.
If you’ve found a group of friends to party with, it’s still a good idea to avoid getting completely wasted and definitely have a backup plan for getting home. A little extra cash stashed away for a taxi is always a good idea. You can still have a great travel experience full of good times AND do it safely!
I personally had no issues when I traveled solo, but, I’m certainly a careful traveler!
Travel Scams to Watch out for in Cancun
The best way to avoid scams is to know ’em! There are lots of ways to get scammed, but many are avoidable with a little research. And even though scams are always changing, a little awareness and common sense can still help you avoid being a victim.
One of the most common scams is Taxi Scams, particularly operators who overcharge tourists. An easy way to avoid this is to only travel with approved drivers, ensure the meter is on, and have a general idea of the travel route/cost. When practical, you can also take transport options with set prices, like public buses. And if you want to take a day trip from Cancun, there are several tours that include round-trip transportation so you won’t need to worry about taxi scams.
The Bird Poop Scam is also popular, where one person will smear some white paste on your shoulder. One scammer will pretend to notice and help you clean it while the other picks your pockets. This is a classic diversion tactic, and you should always be aware of this technique, as there are a few ways to execute it! Sometimes it is a drink or food that will get “spilled” on you.
Some simple, sneakier scams are found at bars and restaurants. You might be provided a menu with different prices jacked up for tourists, where the actual price is much cheaper. An easy way to avoid this is to check out online reviews with menus or stick with restaurants with set prices on a board or menu outside. Bars might scam you by putting extra drinks or charges on your bill, which can also be easily avoided by paying for drinks as you go, or keeping track of your tab (not getting too drunk also helps with this one!).
Another timeless scam is the Airport Scam, usually used on folks who arrive on delayed flights. Since many hotels and accommodations offer prearranged transfers, the scammers hang around the arrivals hall, convincing visitors that their ride has already left and they’ll have to come with them instead. Don’t trust them, and have a contact number for your prearranged ride just in case you need to find information after delays.
Diseases in Cancun
Like most tropical destinations, mosquito-borne illnesses are usually top of the list to watch out for. Dengue Fever is listed under the CDC’s Traveler’s Health Notices for Mexico, but a few simple precautions can help you avoid it. Use mosquito nets if available, and spritz yourself with bug spray – especially in areas with stagnant water.
These steps can also help you prevent other mosquito-borne illnesses like Zika Virus and Chikungunya. There are no vaccines to prevent these illnesses, so prevention is the best bet.
The CDC Guidelines for Mexico include recommendations for standard vaccines and ones for Hepatitis A & B and Typhoid. Malaria is listed as rare for Cancun, but you might consider getting antimalarials before your trip if you’re planning on continuing into areas of Mexico with higher Malaria rates (namely Chiapas).
Recently, there have been reports of rising cases of Salmonella in Mexico that may be linked to raw cheese and undercooked beef. Although Salmonella usually clears up in a week or so, it can still ruin your travel plans, so it’s best to be cautious about food-borne illnesses!
Cancun Travel Insurance
Travel Insurance is more important than ever right now!
If you’re traveling during these uncertain times, be sure that you have travel insurance!
SafetyWing is our go-to insurance when we are going on longer trips. They offer travel medical insurance that’s super affordable (only $42 USD per 4 weeks!) and even have coverage in case you get that dreaded c-word. The only thing to note is that the insurance must be purchased once you’ve left your home country – we typically buy it as soon as we land at the airport.
We’ve personally used SafetyWing for many different trips, and we’ve been reimbursed for countless expenses when we’ve fallen ill. SafetyWing even covered our flights back to Canada in full when the pandemic first happened (when last-minute flights before the borders closed were super expensive!)
It’s safe to say that travel insurance has saved us thousands over the years!
Getting Help in Cancun
As general travel advice, you should know the emergency services available where you are and have a few numbers handy. Mexico’s emergency number is 911, which is the quickest way to get help. Although not all operators will speak English, tourist areas often have bilingual operators.
It can be super stressful to have any medical emergency abroad, but luckily, Cancun has a few great hospitals if you require urgent care during your travels. The top two we recommend in the area are:
Hospital Galenia Cancun +52 998 891 5200
Hospital Amerimed Cancun +52 998 881 3400
If you’ve got some dental troubles or chipped a tooth on a wild night out, there’s no need to worry. Cancun has great emergency dental service, and they can fix you up in no time! Dental clinics are located in the hotel zone, with the added bonus of English services if your Spanish is limited.
Cancun Dental Specialists +1 888-231-8041
Cancun Dental Care +52 998 362 3410
For other emergencies like hospitalization, arrest, or losing your passport, you’ll want to seek help from the nearest consular agency. These are good numbers to keep on hand for any place you visit!
U.S Consular Agency Cancun +52 999 942 5700
Canadian Consular Agency Cancun +52 55-5724-9795
And, of course, local tourism authorities can be super helpful if you need help or advice specific to the region you’re in
Tourist Assistance Office Cancun +52 998 884-8074
Renting a Car in Mexico
Undoubtedly, one of the best ways to get around Mexico is in a rental car.
I struggled to get around by bus and taxi for the longest time. But after renting a car in Mexico in 2019, I never looked back. It allowed me to explore the country without worrying about tours or taxis. It was why I fell in love with Mexico and eventually decided to live here periodically.
I refuse to use local services whenever I rent a car in Mexico. The truth is they sometimes can’t be trusted or come with hidden fees (or costly insurance that doesn’t make sense.) There are even rental car scams! So instead, I use Discover Cars, the company most experienced travelers or ex-pats in Mexico recommend.
The rates on Discover Cars are cheap, too, with the average rental costing around $25 USD per day. Full coverage insurance can be added for an extra $10 USD a day too.
Driving in Mexico also only requires a driver’s license using the Roman alphabet. If yours uses another like Japan and China, you simply need an international driving permit.
Insurance is required, but if you book with Discover Cars and get the full coverage, that’s all you need! Oh, and being over 18 is required, and if you’re over 25, your renal will be much cheaper!
Thanks for reading!
Cancun is a top tourist destination with tasty Mexican cuisine, stunning beaches, and fascinating cultural sites. I’ve been here many times and always felt safe when following the right precautions.
So if it’s your first time visiting, or you’re worried about safety, I hope my blog has helped ease some of your concerns! Just remember, with some awareness and street smarts, you should be absolutely fine and have an amazing trip. And if you’re visiting other areas in the country, check out my other Mexico blogs for more travel tips and things to do!