The gateway to the Maya Riviera – a stretch of beach resorts mingled with ancient Maya ruins and relics – Cancun is a top resort destination born in the 1970s. To this day people from all over the world still flock to the stunning beaches and resort atmosphere found here.
Cancun is well known to US university students as the party destination, especially for Spring Break. Party places around the world usually come with lower safety standards in Cancun, due to the atmosphere that surrounds that lifestyle.
Price inflation, scammers, street hawkers and petty theft are more common in these areas. The party mindset and increase in tourism also inevitably brings in more drug trafficking which can, in turn, can lead to an increase in cartel activity.
So quite understandably you’ll be wondering, “Is Cancun safe to travel to?”
For this reason, we have decided to create this complete insider’s guide to staying safe in Cancun. We will cover things from catching ferries to eating your way safely around the city.
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How Safe is Cancun? (Our take)
You may not be coming to Cancun for the history but that’s totally fine. The beaches here are stunning and the nightlife is poppin’. In fact, we don’t blame you for coming to this place for a total beach getaway.
However, Cancun is far from what we’d consider a completely safe city.
There’s been a rise in violence across all of the Yucatan Peninsula, as cartels are making a bigger push into the resort cities. In 2019, crime in Mexico was a serious issue. In general, though, safety in Cancun is generally considered to be better than other parts of the Yucatan Peninsula.
Cancun has always been a pretty chilled out place and boasted lower crime stats than much of the rest of Mexico. But in the first 8 months of 2018, there were 342 homicides in Cancun alone. That’s 1.4 murders per day, which is more than double the average rate for the country.
To put you ease, these murders are usually gang-related and happen outside the tourist areas and do not target tourists.
There is no such thing as a perfect safety guide, and this article is no different. The question of “Is Cancun Safe?” will ALWAYS have a different answer depending on the parties involved. But this article is written for savvy travellers from the perspective of savvy travellers.
The information present in this safety guide was accurate at the time of writing, however, the world is a changeable place, now more than ever. Between the pandemic, ever-worsening cultural division, and a click-hungry media, it can be hard to maintain what is truth and what is sensationalism.
Here, you will find safety knowledge and advice for travelling Cancun. It won’t be down to the wire cutting edge info on the most current events, but it is layered in the expertise of veteran travellers. If you use our guide, do your own research, and practise common sense, you will have a safe trip to Cancun.
If you see any outdated information in this guide, we would really appreciate it if you could reach out in the comments below. We strive to provide the most relevant travel information on the web and always appreciate input from our readers (nicely, please!). Otherwise, thanks for your ear and stay safe!
It’s a wild world out there. But it’s pretty damn special too. 🙂
Is it Safe to Visit Cancun Right Now?
Well, as we said, the crime rate seems to have risen regarding violence in Cancun. So right now, even though things may be getting more sketchy, that doesn’t mean it’s affecting the safety of tourists in Cancun right now.
There have been no travel advice warnings from the UK, and other governments.
Serious crimes don’t tend to happen in touristy areas. , but more in distant areas of the city and countryside, where you probably won’t be going anyway.
In general, Cancun doesn’t see the levels of drug-related violence as other parts of Mexico. The cartels know tourism is a big business and they do not want to do anything to affect that income.
Other Cancun safety things to be aware of, that aren’t human-related but more due to Mother Nature, is the weather! The rainy season in Cancun goes from June to November, which can bring cloudy skies, heavy rains and even some flooding.
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While it has a bit of a bad reputation, Cancun offers some amazing places to visit, which aren’t just unique, but also very safe. We’ve listed the three top ones for you.
Zona Hotelera is one of the most convenient and popular places to stay in Cancun. A short drive from El Centro, this area of the city caters to tourists.
It’s where you’ll find massive resorts, golden sand beaches, delicious restaurants, and incredible views. It’s also suitable for culture vultures and history buffs as the amazing El Rey Mayan Ruins are just a short drive outside of the zone.
Due to it’s popularity and loads of resort chains, this is the safest area for tourists in Cancun. You can even walk around at night without having to be scared for your life.
As one of the most popular areas in Cancun, Zona Hotelera is also the safest.
El Centro is Cancun’s lively and vibrant downtown. Home to most of Cancun’s residents, this part of the city is where you’ll find delicious authentic restaurants, charming local shops, and a variety of interesting sights.
This is the place to stay if you’re looking for a break from the throngs of tourists, or are keen for a glimpse into real Mexican life. It’s also a hub for backpackers as there are great budget accommodations in this neighborhood.
If you want to meet likeminded travellers and connect, El Centro is the perfect place to do so.
Ready for an actual paradise? Isla Mujeres is one of the most beautiful places in Cancun – and the safest as well.
It is surrounded by the turquoise blue waters of the Caribbean Sea and is covered in white sand beaches lined with vivid palm trees.
But there’s more to Isla Mujeres than rest and relaxation. This tiny island is home to a great variety of activities and attractions, from ocean adventure sports and exploring natural wonders, to turtle farms and dolphin experiences.
The island isn’t just a real paradise, it’s also incredibly safe to visit.
Places to avoid in Cancun
While the majority of Cancun is pretty safe, there are some sketchy areas that tourists should avoid. These areas are the main hub for serious crime.
- Anywhere at night: Keep in mind that you’re still in Mexico. Walking around at night might not be the best idea. While it’s okay to walk around after dark in the Zona Hotelara, you should definitely opt for grabbing a taxi to get from A to B anywhere else.
- Non-touristy areas: While we definitely recommend experiencing the local life in Cancun, you should do it with someone who knows the area – and not alone! Wandering into the wrong neighborhood outside the tourist regions might get you into trouble.
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21 Top Safety Tips for Traveling to Cancun
Cancun is a place for good times and fun by the bucketload. However, it pays to know that this ain’t a theme park – it’s Mexico, which is 140th on the Global Peace Index.
That said, a lot of backpackers still visit Mexico, so it can’t be too bad. Basically, as long as you travel smart and keep aware of the dangers then you should be fine. Here are a couple of tips that will make your trip a lot safer.
Cancun Safety Tips for Travelling Smooth
- Be aware of street crime – It happens in every city! Cancun is a tourist destination and that does bring an increase in petty crime.
- Stay aware of your surroundings – Being mindful of what’s going on around you is always a good thing.
- Keep your belongings close – Having dangly bags and valuables actively on show will definitely make you more of a target. Wear a money belt.
- Careful when you’re taking money out at ATMs in Cancun – Do it inside shops, banks or malls, and always be aware of who’s behind you.
- Learn some Spanish – It helps you get around, chat to people, order food. It’s just nice to make the effort, right?
- Don’t trust scammers – People may come up to you asking for “help”, but what they might mean is “financial help”.
- Watch out for police officers trying to fine you – Especially for something that doesn’t seem like a crime. Take note of their ID number if you’re not sure and head to the tourist police.
- Carry a copy of your passport (including Mexican visa) at all times – Police can ask for this.
- Dress down and avoid looking flashy – It just screams ‘I’m a tourist and I’m not paying attention to anything around me!’
- Zona Hotelera is safer than downtown Cancun – That’s where pickpockets work the markets.
- Make sure you know where you’re going – It’s not really the place to wander; you may inadvertently wander into a sketchy area. Have a set Cancun itinerary with a bit of research to add an extra safety level.
- Hand it over – If someone tries to rob you, give ’em what you’ve got. It’s not worth it.
- Maybe have a ‘dummy wallet’ – A crappy wallet full of a lil’ bit of money that you can give to robbers. Not essential, but still.
- Stay away from drugs – It’s up to 25 years in prison for “drug offences”. Plus, funding the drug barons of Mexico, do you really want to do that?
- Street hawkers can be annoying – But don’t be rude. They’re just trying to make some money.
- Don’t get crazy drunk – I know, it’s fun. But getting too drunk can seriously affect your safety, mainly in judging situations.
- Choose a reputable company for adventure sports – Paragliding, scuba diving, jet-skiing… Read reviews, go with the best company, make sure they’ve got adequate safety in place.
- Don’t swim under the influence – Cancun is parties, Cancun is beaches. Swimming drunk or whatever seems like a good idea but it isn’t – trust me.
- If you see a warning sign for crocodiles, don’t go near the water – Croc attacks on tourists have happened in the past.
- Watch the weather advice warnings for Cancun during hurricane season – We said earlier, but that’s June to November.
- Cover up against mosquitoes – Dengue fever is a potential risk, so make sure you know how to keep mosquitoes away.
Insider Safety Tips from the Broke Backpacker Team
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Travelling alone anywhere in the world, let’s be honest: it’s cool. You get to do what you want to do, and when you want to do it, but more than anything you only have yourself to rely on. Solo travel is a challenge sometimes, but I’ll tell you what – it’s totally worth the effort!
The main thing when you’re travelling by yourself is to look after yourself. Knowing the right travel tips for solo travellers might save you from one or the other sketchy situation.
Travelling to Cancun Alone – Tips and Pointers
- Don’t get completely wasted. Losing your mind to alcohol, or whatever, has the potential to lead to dangerous, dodgy and honestly just pretty stupid situations.
- Do your homework about what to do in the area. There’s no point being by yourself but being too afraid to go out and do anything and looking lost can lead to you being targeted
- But if you don’t fancy going it alone, that’s fine. Head on a tour and you’ll get to go to places you might not have considered visiting in Cancun alone.
- Read up about the accommodation you’re going to stay in. Being stuck somewhere you don’t like can change the whole trip, so make sure you book yourself a nice hostel in Cancun.
- Get clued up on social events happening in the area. These might be happening at other hostels, bars, and social spaces around town.
- Know your limits. Not just when it comes to drinking, but we’re talking about everything – tanning, laying on the beach, etc.
- Don’t run out of money. Set up a daily budget and stick to it.
- Wandering around by yourself in sketchy areas just isn’t clever. Even less so when it’s night.
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Is Cancun safe for female travelers?
Cancun for a solo female traveler is as safe as you make it, honestly. There are things about being a female traveller that just don’t apply to your male counterparts – male attention being one of them. It happens everywhere and vacation in Cancun is no different.
To keep you extra secure we’ve got a few travel tips for women travelling to Cancun…
Travelling to Cancun as a Woman – Tips and Pointers
- Excursions and trips are awesome. In fact, these are the perfect ways to both meet people and see what Cancun has to offer outside of where your feet can take you.
- Research your hotel. You’re probably going to want to read reviews written by fellow female travellers.
- Do not go wandering around by yourself at night. It’s not really a clever thing to be doing many places in the world and definitely not in Mexico.
- Get connected with people and meet up. Friends are everywhere, and they add to your safety!
- Let someone know where you’re going. Whether that’s the staff at the hostel, your parents or friends back home.
- Push yourself to do things outside your comfort zone. But know that if something is actually making you feel uncomfortable, and it doesn’t feel right, then don’t do it, don’t go along with it.
- Don’t feel obliged to tell the truth. If someone’s a little too interested in you then don’t feel like you have to tell the truth about who you are or what you’re doing.
- If someone is really making you uncomfortable, make a fuss, make a scene. Tell staff. Yell “Fire!”
- Keep your food and drink in sight at all times. Drink, and food, spiking is something that can happen, so watch your drink.
More About Safety in Cancun
We’ve covered the main safety concerns already, but there is plenty more to know before you start your travels. Read on for some more detailed information on how to stay safe in Cancun.
Is Cancun safe to travel for families?
Being a beach resort, you’ll find that Cancun is a safe place to travel for families, especially if you’ve got young children.
A vacation here is a fantastic opportunity to introduce your kids to a whole new country and culture. More than that though, it’ll be an amazing beach holiday that they’ll probably never forget.
Snorkelling, Mayan Ruins, personal trips on pirate ships (yup). It still comes with the understood hazards, but, otherwise, a Cancun holiday for families is a guaranteed good time, safety included.
Is it safe to drive in Cancun?
To drive somewhere like Cancun, you’ll have to be confident. It can get super busy and congested. You’ll have to be careful where you park your car (so things don’t get stolen from it).
Driving in the city can be stressful with aggressive bus and taxi drivers. They sometimes make up their own road rules. They’ll cut you up, slam on their breaks, weave in and out of traffic…
When it comes to car hire, make sure you use a reputable company and always check the car first – so you don’t end up getting stung for damage you didn’t do once you return it. (Take photos.) Also, make sure you arm yourself with solid rental car insurance.
Is Uber safe in Cancun?
Sadly, Uber in Mexico has been touch-and-go. It was blocked completely for a while, but things are improving.
You’ll find Uber in Cancun but maybe not as reliably as back home.
Are taxis safe in Cancun?
Taxis in Cancun are everywhere. There are no meters in taxis in Cancun – always fun. You’ll need to figure out the fare before you get in.
Speak to and agree with your driver before you get in, and definitely before you start moving, to avoid mishap and confrontation at your destination.
Taxis in Cancun are green with a white stripe and they will have the drivers’ permit displayed in some prominent place; the same permit number will be on the license plate as well.
When getting a taxi from your hotel, there will usually be a rates card posted in some visible location outside the hotel – a list of set fares for set “zones”. Taxis are required to have one in the car as well.
That’s it. Taxis are safe in Cancun.
Is public transportation in Cancun safe?
Buses in Cancun are safe in general. They’re traversed mainly by tourists, anyway. That said, it’s always good to be aware of your surroundings. Just make sure you keep your belongings close to you.
The buses that traverse the most popular routes are pretty frequent. These routes, R1 and R2 specifically, take you between the downtown areas of Cancun to the Zona Hotelera.
In addition, there are buses that run further afield; these buses are run by a company called ADO and go to places like the airport in Cancun, Playa del Carmenand Chichen Itza.
There’s no stopping bell. When you want to get off, either tell the driver – or you could ask the driver beforehand to tell you when you get to a certain stop.
If you’re going to be in Cancun for a sizeable chunk of time, and you are going to be using the public transport quite a bit, then we’d recommend getting yourself a Go Cancun Card. It’ll help with things like round-trips and even entry to attractions.
If you want to go to islands like Isla des Mujeres, you can also take Cancun’s ferry service. That’s safe too!
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Is the food in Cancun safe?
Mexican cuisine is fantastic! I mean who doesn’t like Mexican food right? Cancun has a load of restaurants spread throughout the city, form local street vendors all the way to high-end eateries for more cultured connoisseurs of cuisine.
Eating in Cancun is pretty safe but if you’re worried, here are some tips that’ll help you stay safe.
- Read reviews. With the internet, you can find reviews of any restaurant ever in an instant.
- Go where the locals go. If anybody’s going to know where the tastiest food is to be found, it’s the people who actually live in Cancun.
- If you’re really worried about food poisoning, stay away from fresh fruit and salad.
- Don’t worry about street vendors or food stalls. All you’ll have to do is make sure it looks clean (as possible) and fresh.
- Another tip: watch the process of making the food. If the practices are up to scratch, great. If the vendors are doing things like handling money with the same hands they’re making food with, maybe avoid it.
- Watch out for that hotel buffet. These are convenient and amazing. We love buffets but they’re not always where you’re going to find the best food.
- Seafood, whilst it can be tasty, can be awful. If you’re eating, or about to eat, seafood and it tastes, or smells, weird then stop eating.
- Wash your hands. Save yourself the trouble of making yourself ill and just give them a scrub before you eat.
Can you drink the water in Cancun?
You probably shouldn’t drink the water in Cancun. Cancun has one of the best water systems in Mexico and many locals drink the tap water, but their stomach is different from yours. Also, be careful of ice, salads, or anything washed in water.
Bring a refillable bottle and stick to filtered water that they’ll probably have at your hotel or hostel. We have compared different travel water bottles in this article to help you decide which one is the best for you.
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Is Cancun safe to live?
Cancun is a modern seaside city that definitely attracts people to live there – especially after having visited as a tourist. There’s obviously going to be crime in certain areas, but you’ll be surprised at how safe Cancun is to live in..
People from all over the world live and work in Cancun, especially from the US and Canada, and it offers up a good standard of living. People even retire here – it’s just that nice.
A lot of people speak English, which is pretty handy. You won’t feel too isolated not knowing any Spanish and you should be able to make friends relatively easily, too. Spanish is a bonus, however.
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Is it safe to rent an Airbnb in Cancun?
Yes, renting an Airbnb in Cancun is in fact very safe. Plus it gives you the chance to see the city through the eyes of a local. While Airbnb doesn’t offer the same security standard of big resorts (guards and CCTV), you’ll be protected by the two-side review system Read up what previous guests had to say about the place and the host, so you’ll know exactly what to expect.
Is Cancun LGBTQ+ friendly?
Visiting Cancun as one of the LGBTQ+ community is going to guarantee you a great time. There are plenty of gay bars and open-minded clubs. Locals might give you a funny look, but it’s widely accepted. If you’re worried about your safety, stay in the touristy areas of Cancun and skip the rural area.
Cancun Safety FAQ’s
For a travel destination like Cancun, there are lots of different things you have to consider when it comes to safety. We’ve listed the most common question, answers and facts to make your trip as easy as possible.
So, is Cancun Safe for Travel?
Is Cancun safe? Yes. Is it always safe? No.
Will you be safe on a trip to Cancun if you behave like a normal person? Yes. There’s basically no reason to worry about going to Cancun if you use your common sense.
There are obviously ways to make yourself unsafe in Cancun such as drinking way too much or wandering down streets at night, but that’s true for many places in the world.
As long as you keep your eyes open, you’ll have the time in your life in Cancun. Step up your tanning game, chill at the beach for a whole week straight or have the party of your life – the options are endless. If you’ve been to Cancun before, let us know about your trip in the comments below!
Don’t Forget your Cancun Travel Insurance
It’s good to get lost sometimes, but it’s also good not to get too lost. There are people that want you home in one piece.
There’s one travel insurance provider The Broke Backpacker trusts for all his wildest shenanigans… World Nomads!
Click the button below to get a quote on your insurance or read our in-depth review of World Nomads’ coverage. And then… let the shenanigans begin. 😉
Disclaimer: Safety conditions change all over the world on a daily basis. We do our best to advise but this info may already be out of date. Do your own research. Enjoy your travels!
Thanks for reading – that was fun! 😀
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