Cancun is quite a safe destination and most visitors enjoy their vacations without any unfortunate incidents, but it's important to maintain awareness of what's going on around you so that you can respond to any danger or untoward situation that may develop. Someone who only hears about Mexico through the news would think the entire country was filled with kidnappings and drug cartels, but that simply isn't true. While some regions of Mexico are not considered safe to visit, the country as a whole is popular with tourists and Cancun is one of the safest parts you can go to.
- Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Department of State has issued its highest "Do Not Travel" warning for Mexico. Restrictions and advisories change frequently and quickly, so check for updates from the U.S. State Department as well as local authorities.
- Prior to COVID-19, the U.S. State Department issued a warning to "Exercise Increased Caution," but not to reconsider travel, for Americans visiting the state of Quintana Roo where Cancun is located.
Is Cancun Dangerous?
While the perception is that Mexico is a dangerous place to visit, it's a huge country with vastly different regions, and the cartel violence that makes headlines in newspapers is concentrated far away from the hotels and beaches of Cancun. However, Cancun isn't completely immune to crime, especially when you venture away from the resorts located in the Zona Hotelera neighborhood. The local economy depends heavily on tourism and the government strives to protect that image by keeping the tourist zone heavily patrolled by police and the national guard.
If you travel out of Zona Hotelera into downtown Cancun, only do so during the day and avoid wearing high-value items or flashy accessories. Touristic areas of downtown, such as Las Palapas and around Avenida Tulum, are generally safe to visit (but keep your wallet safely tucked in your front pocket). For nightlife, there are plenty of options for bars and dance clubs within the Zona Hotelera to enjoy.
If you need transportation, ask your hotel to call you a taxi so you can be sure it's from a legitimate company and ask for the price before getting in the car. Many taxi drivers don't use the meter and will overcharge unwitting tourists, so confirm how much you're expected to pay. Uber does exist in Cancun, but Uber drivers often work "under the radar" due to an ongoing feud with taxi drivers that has at times turned violent.
Is Cancun Safe for Solo Travelers?
If you're traveling alone to Cancun, the same basic safety tips apply as for all travelers including stay in the touristy areas, don't travel outside of the Zona Hotelera at night, and keep valuable items locked away safely in your hotel room. One of the most extreme crimes that happens in Mexico is kidnapping, and a foreigner traveling alone may be a target. For this reason, it's especially important for solo travelers to avoid leaving the Zona Hotelera after dark.
If you've traveled around Mexico or you speak Spanish, navigating around the city is much easier. It's often refreshing to leave the bubble of the Zona Hotelera and solo travelers aren't limited to those confines. If you head to downtown Cancun, just stay near the main thoroughfare of Avenida Tulum and avoid the outskirts of the city.
Is Cancun Safe for Female Travelers?
While Cancun is overall a safe destination for female travelers, the city is known for its wild parties and nightlife that always require extra precautions. Women traveling alone or in a group should only accept drinks from trusted sources and always keep the glass in their hand. Bartenders have even been accused of spiking drinks, so if you're ordering a cocktail, it's best to do so at a place where you can visibly see the drink being made. If you feel ill or like you're losing control, immediately find someone you trust and let them know. If you're out and someone is making you uncomfortable—including another tourist—alert a staff member.
Safety Tips for LGBTQ+ Travelers
For LGBTQ+ travelers, there's little to worry about in Cancun. It may not live up to the gay nightlife scene in Puerto Vallarta, but Cancun is still a very gay-friendly city. Even though 2019 set a record for violence against LGBTQ+ individuals in Mexico—especially trans women and gay men—that statistic is across the entire country and Cancun is relatively safe.
The bars that cater to LGBTQ+ travelers are located outside of the Zona Hotelera in downtown Cancun, where being out at night while drinking isn't always safe. If you do decide to go out at night, you should travel with people you trust and call a reputable taxi service when you need to move around town.
Safety Tips for BIPOC Travelers
The most common complaints of discrimination in Cancun come from the local residents themselves, as well as national travelers from other parts of Mexico. Cancun depends on foreign tourists from countries where wages are often many times higher than salaries in Mexico. For that reason, international travelers often experience preferential treatment because locals assume they have more money and are more willing to spend it, while fellow nationals are more likely to be passed over. But this discrimination doesn't just apply to people born and raised in Mexico; Latino travelers from other countries—including the U.S.—may experience the same snub due to the same assumptions.
Safety Tips for Travelers
- Arrange for travel from the airport before you arrive. Once you step out of baggage claim you will likely be bombarded by people asking if you have a ride or where you're going. It's best to walk straight through and find your pre-arranged transit.
- If someone is advertising free tours or water sports packages, it's likely a timeshare salesperson who is trying to hook you into a meeting.
- If you're renting a car, never leave any valuables inside the vehicle. Rentals are often a target for potential thieves.
- Carry only a small amount of cash when you're walking around, and make sure your wallet isn't in a vulnerable place like a purse or your back pocket.
- Only use ATMs in crowded places and be aware of your surroundings when doing so.
- Choose reputable companies for water sports such as parasailing or jet skiing and be skeptical if one company is significantly cheaper than others.
- Recreational drugs are illegal in Mexico and are punishable by up to 25 years in prison. If you're offered, it's best to say no.
U.S. Department of State. "Mexico Travel Advisory." August 6, 2020.
Reuters. "Mexico sees deadliest year for LGBT+ people in five years." May 15, 2020.