Playa del Carmen is one of the top spots on the Riveria Maya in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo. What was once a small fishing village has rapidly developed into a trendy place for package holidays and backpacking adventures alike – and there’s a good reason for that.
Boasting beautiful blue sea, good beaches, a laid-back atmosphere and a reputation as being safe, it’s a popular place where visitors can soak up some sun, lounge around with drinks and enjoy the relaxed vibe – and, with plenty of vibrant marine life to see, go scuba diving.
Despite being worlds away from the hazards of Mexico City, the gleaming reputation for the safety of Playa del Carmen has been tarnished with a recent spate of violent crime. Naturally, visitors to this city will be wondering whether or not it actually is safe to visit at all…
That is the point of this epic guide we have created. In it, we will be sharing all our tips and information and helping you to assess the safety of Playa del Carmen with the help of our insider knowledge and specially dedicated research.
Whilst COVD 19 has not gone away, the world is opening up again to travellers. Most governments advise against travel to Mexico and if you do visit, you may be subjected to quarantine upon returning home.
For the most up-to-date safety information and what you should be doing to help, please consult the WHO and your local government.
- How Safe is Playa del Carmen? (Our take)
- Is Playa del Carmen Safe to Visit? (The facts.)
- Is it Safe to Visit Playa del Carmen Right Now?
- Playa del Carmen Travel Insurance
- 23 Top Safety Tips for Traveling to Playa del Carmen
- Keeping your money safe in Playa del Carmen
- Is Playa del Carmen safe to travel alone?
- Is Playa del Carmen safe for solo female travellers?
- Is Playa del Carmen safe to travel for families?
- Is it safe to drive in Playa del Carmen?
- Is Uber safe in Playa del Carmen?
- Are taxis safe in Playa del Carmen?
- Is public transportation in Playa del Carmen safe?
- Is the food in Playa del Carmen safe?
- Can you drink the water in Playa del Carmen?
- Is Playa del Carmen safe to live?
- How is healthcare in Playa del Carmen?
- Helpful Mexico Travel Phrases
- Final thoughts on the safety of Playa del Carmen
How Safe is Playa del Carmen? (Our take)
Quintana Roo is the Mexican state where Playa del Carmen is located. This is where you’ll find some of the most popular destinations that Mexico has to offer including Tulum, Cancun and Cozumel.
Playa del Carmen is one of the rising stars in Mexico’s roster of Yucatan Peninsula spots, but being in a country that is plagued by gang violence and drug trafficking may trouble some of those who are thinking of travelling there.
While Playa del Carmen does actually escape much of the crime and violence that comes to mind when many think of Mexico, there are still issues in this otherwise dreamy seaside city.
Petty crime, as with many resort towns around the world, is not unheard of. Thefts from beaches do occur, robbery of tourists has happened, and turf wars between gangs have been reported.
In recent years, as the city’s development skyrockets, so do the incidents of violence in Playa del Carmen – and sometimes in areas that are popular with tourists.
This has, however, been met by an increased police presence and statements from the local authorities to, in essence, not worry about travelling to Playa del Carmen.
With all that in mind, let’s take a deep dive into the facts and figures and pick apart the stats that give Playa del Carmen its reputation.
Is Playa del Carmen Safe to Visit? (The facts.)
Playa del Carmen has one of the fastest-growing populations in Mexico. Especially considering its humble origins, its current population of 252,087 is impressive; tourism is the main reason behind this and the city has had to develop its infrastructure on the hoof.
The tourism that drives Playa del Carmen’s rapid development is also impressive.
In 2019, the city saw around an 18% increase in foreign arrivals from the previous year (according to the Maya Riviera Times), with hotel rooms at 90% capacity on average.
Playa del Carmen was listed 15th most popular destination in the world, according to Tripadvisor’s Traveller’s Choice Awards in 2018, which also means that it is one of Mexico’s most popular destinations, too. In fact, Mexico was the 6th most visited country in the world in the same year.
People travel to Playa del Carmen, partly at least, because of its safety record. However, that does not mean that crime does not exist.
For example, the number of homicides in the first quarter of 2019 was six times higher than the first quarter in 2018, and accounted for one-third of all murders in the state of Quintana Roo during the same period.
Despite reports of crime on the rise, the effect has been played down by the local government and tourist numbers remain on the rise.
Much of the violence that you hear about in Mexico, however, is concentrated in certain, specific areas. In terms of the whole country, Quintana Roo is statistically safer than the rest of the country.
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Is it Safe to Visit Playa del Carmen Right Now?
Mexico has a mixed reputation for safety. At the moment, tourism is too important to the Mexican government to not protect assets like Tulum, Cancun and, of course, Playa del Carmen.
As a result, these areas have been spared the high amounts of drug-related violence that other cities and regions of Mexico have seen.
However… Since 2017, there has been a general rise in these sorts of incidents occurring in Playa del Carmen. Shootings, for example, have happened in locations that are popular with tourists.
It is important to note that tourists, so far, have not been the targets. Being in the vicinity of such an incident, however, can still mean that you are affected. One such occurrence, on the 21st February 2018, an explosive device was detonated on a tourist ferry that connects Playa del Carmen and Cozumel, injuring many including tourists.
A month afterwards, a failed explosive device was found on the same route. In light of these incidents, vigilance is the advice from the local authorities.
Aside from these threats of violence, the natural world is another timely issue that can pose a threat to potential visitors to Playa del Carmen.
From June to November, the hurricane season batters the Atlantic Coast; tropical storms do occur and can cause widespread devastation, landslides, and cancellation of transport.
Earthquakes can also hit Mexico, with tremors regularly being felt in neighbouring states. It’s a good idea to know what to do in an emergency situation.
Other than that, the trend of increasing crime – which seems to be increasing in tandem with the city’s popularity – is the only thing that may be slightly worrying at the moment. That said, people do visit, obviously, and Playa del Carmen is safe right now – especially safe, compared with other regions in Mexico.
Have you sorted your Travel Insurance? Even if you’re going on a short trip, it is always a good idea to travel with insurance. Have fun while visiting Mexico, but take it from someone who has racked up $1000’s on insurance claims, it is a good idea to get it sorted before you leave home!
The unthinkable can and does happen so it is better to be insured!
We personally use World Nomads to insure all of our adventures. Why not get a quote for yourself?
Do be sure to read the terms and conditions to make sure they are the right provider for your trip.
To find out why we recommend World Nomads, check out our World Nomads Insurance review.
If you want to shop around a little, then read up on competing companies and what they can offer. There are lots of insurances out there, so don’t feel limited.
Staying in Playa del Carmen is generally safe, and lots of people do go there with no worries at all. However, it is important to note that it’s not always 100% safe. Though crime against tourists is rare, it’s good to know how to minimise the risk so you can have a stress-free, absolutely amazing vacation. With that in mind, here are our top tips for staying safe in Playa del Carmen.
- Stay aware of your surroundings – Pickpocketing and bag snatching are only a minor risk, but it’s still a good idea to not let your guard down
- Don’t resist if someone tries to mug you – Though less common than the above, it is imperative that you do not resist, as muggings can be violent. It’s not worth it.
- Try to dress down – You may be on holiday and wanting to show off your new designer clothes and jewellery, but this will make you look like more of a target for wannabe thieves
- Avoid walking around with a lot of cash – Opening up your wallet to show off a wad of notes will attract the wrong sort of attention if someone sees
- Don’t leave items unattended on the beach – Even “hidden” in a pair of shoes; doing so with your smartphone could mean it ends up going missing.
- Keep an eye on your suitcases – Leaving them unattended in hotel lobbies and transport hubs puts them at risk of being stolen
- Report crimes to the state prosecutor’s office – That’s the Agencia del Ministerio Publico; there can’t be a formal investigation without reporting it – in person.
- Be careful of drinking too much – And likewise, be careful of tainted alcohol, which can be very dangerous. Being overly drunk leads to poor decision making and puts yourself at risk
- Avoid recreational drugs entirely – Penalties are harsh (up to 25 year imprisonment) and you will get mixed up with the wrong sort of people
- Be aware of scam artists – As a tourist, you will be more of a target. People may come up to you with all sorts of requests or boasts; it’s best to ignore them
- Keep your belongings close to you on public transport – This goes for buses mainly (we have a whole section on this later).
- Respect wildlife – Crocodiles and sharks do exist in the waters of Mexico; sightings have been reported in this area, so it’s best to just follow local advice.
- Carry around copies of your passport and FMM form – It’s required by law, but a copy will be fine; carrying around the real thing puts it at risk of theft
- Cover up against mosquitoes – Zika virus and Chikungunya virus are present in this region; cover up, use DEET, stay away from stagnant water around dusk and dawn – mosquito bites are nasty anyway, regardless of the viruses they can spread
- Monitor the weather – Especially during hurricane season (June – November) and follow local authorities’ advice
- Don’t leave important documents and valuables lying around in your room – Use a safe in a hotel room, a locker in a hostel
- Don’t walk around in isolated areas – Quiet places away from crowds and other tourists could be risky
- Brush up on your Spanish – Some simple phrases will go a long way, though many people will speak English
- Get a sim card for your travels – This can help keep you get around and keep in touch with people
- Don’t leave phones and bags out on tables in cafes – They could very easily go missing
- Choose where you eat carefully – A food and water bug called cyclospora has been affecting people returning from Riveria Maya destinations; we have a whole section about food safety in Playa del Carmen later on, however.
- Don’t accept drinks from strangers – Even if they seem very friendly, their offer of a drink could be spiked, followed by robbery or assault
- Keep an eye on your credit card at all times – Don’t let it leave your sight; credit card fraud can occur and will leave you with bills piling up for things you didn’t buy
Playa del Carmen is a safe place, and you should have a great experience on your trip. Unless you are putting yourself into unsafe situations, you are likely to have a trouble-free time during your vacation. It’s all about common sense and not doing things that you wouldn’t do at home – just because you’re on holiday, doesn’t mean that you can leave your bag lying around for anyone to take!
Some General Safety Tips from the OG Broke Backpacker
Keeping your money safe in Playa del Carmen
It is important to think about keeping your money safe in any country you visit, anywhere in the world: it’s money that will be paying for your accommodation, transport and food.
In Playa del Carmen, while it is relatively safe, there could be a worry of having your money stolen – and if not stolen, then what happens if you lose your wallet?
To give you peace of mind, and to keep your money safe in Playa del Carmen, we advise that you use a money belt.
It is a simple piece of kit that will enable you to keep your daily budget safely tucked away and on your person, rather than loose in your pockets or in a wallet that could easily go missing.
A lot of money belts, however, seem overcomplicated to us; they can also look quite obvious, and feel uncomfortable to wear when worn under clothing like T-shirts.
Our money belt of choice is the Active Roots Security Belt. The key for this great product is simplicity, as it looks and acts like a normal, everyday belt – except it has a secret zipper pocket, which is where can stash your cash for the day. That’s all there is to it.
If you are not the sort of person who wears a belt, then you might want to consider an alternative – of which Active Roots has plenty. Their infinity scarf, for example, allows you to keep valuables in a scarf – somewhere no one would ever look.
Solo travel can be an amazing experience – and heading to Mexico to live your best life on the Caribbean Sea is a pretty cool prospect.
There are loads of other people to meet up with, so much going on all the time, and an all-round chilled vibe that means no stress, and no worries, for your solo adventures.
Of course, you will be by yourself and you may be more worried than if you were travelling with a bunch of friends. We’re here to tell you it’s fine – and we want you to have the best time, so here are some pointers for travelling solo to Playa del Carmen.
- There are many different accommodation options for you, and many of which are hostels. Hostels are a great way for you to get to know other travellers in any destination, but just make sure that you do your research. Staying at a highly rated hostel won’t be good for you if it turns out to be a party hostel, when you were looking for something chilled, so read the reviews carefully.
- Location matters. Sometimes cheaper does not always mean better, especially when it comes to Playa del Carmen’s Airbnbs. We would recommend trying a hotel, if a hostel doesn’t sound good to you. Hotels are often in safe, busy areas, and sometimes even have discounted rates for solo travellers.
- Spend the day at a beach club. There are a load of these in Playa del Carmen. These are places where you can chill around a pool in a secure environment, and are often a good way to get chatting to fellow travellers too. Some may put on events as well, which is a good way to get to know people.
- Joining a bar crawl is another good way to get to know other people. There is a lot of clubbing, drinking and dancing to be done in Playa del Carmen, but it could be a daunting prospect if you are by yourself, so we would recommend that you join a bar crawl or a tour of the city’s nightspots, to give you a social introduction to the nightlife of Playa del Carmen.
- Alternatively, if you’re not into drinking, you could hang out in one of the town’s coffee shops. These makes for easygoing places to meet other travellers, and get chatting to people in a non-pressured environment.
- Another way to get to know fellow travellers, whilst also learning a bit about Playa del Carmen, is to book yourself on a tour or activity. Something like cooking classes, a history tour or a food tour, or even Spanish language classes, is a good way to meet likeminded people and get more in touch with the culture of Mexico.
- Don’t take anything unnecessary to the beach. If you are by yourself, there will be no one to look after your belongings. Since opportunist thieves snatching things from beaches is relatively common here, you may want to consider a dry bag so you can simply take your phone, sunglasses and wallet with you when you go for a splash around in the sea – simple.
- If you are out by yourself, don’t get completely drunk. Being totally wasted just means that you are going to be more likely to put yourself into an unsafe situation by making bad decisions you wouldn’t make if you were sober, or even just less inebriated.
- Don’t cut yourself off completely. It might seem like a nice idea to have a complete break from the outside world, but isolating yourself from others by not using social media or keeping in touch with anyone is not a good idea. It could be bad for your mental health and, generally, it is safer that somebody knows where you are and what you’re doing, rather than you going off grid.
- Ask for local advice from your hotel concierge and the staff at your hostel, to a friendly shop owner you get chatting to. They will be able to tell you about safe areas that you can explore, areas that aren’t so safe, plus they may know of some hidden gems that you could put on your to-do list, too.
- It’s not always good to push yourself, however. Whether that’s by trying to see every beach or hit up every historical site all in one day, or if it’s trying to complete a super long hike by yourself in the heat, remember that it’s ok to not try to do every single thing that you have “planned” to do. Part of travelling is sometimes just sitting back and taking stock, so make time to do just that.
- Travel light. This is one of our top tips for solo travel anywhere in the world. Not only is it really un-fun to travel around with heavy bags, but it will also single you out as a potential target if you are getting off a bus laden down with luggage. It can also limit you, as simply having lots of stuff with you can make you feel cluttered.
- Know your emergency numbers and have them saved on your phone (ideally with a symbol saved before the name so that they appear at the top of your contacts list). You should also have these written on a piece of paper, just in case your phone decides to run out of battery.
Solo travellers should have little to no worries in Playa del Carmen. This well-trodden destination is a popular place for other travellers to stop off during their adventures on the Maya Riviera, so there are always plenty of likeminded people to get to know (or party with).
Of course, common sense should still be high on your list of priorities – especially if you want to go out swimming, go drinking in the evening, or generally enjoy the sunshine. Know that things won’t always work the way you expect them to… and be kind to yourself!
Is Playa del Carmen safe for solo female travellers?
Being a solo female traveller is a lot of fun – you get to do what you want, when you want, and learn all about yourself and the world as you go. However, not only can it be a challenge, but other people will be concerned about you on your trip, and that can end up worrying you!
You shouldn’t be worried though; you should be excited! Because you are going to be treating yourself to an absolutely amazing experience. It’s an easy to travel destination rippling with people to meet and mingle, things to do and memories to be made.
That said, safety is still important, so here are some tips for solo female travellers in Playa del Carmen…
- Book yourself into female-friendly accommodation. Whether you want somewhere to chill, or if you want somewhere to party, it’s important to make sure that the hostel is a safe space for women. Read reviews written by other women, get a feel for the accommodation (is it secure? does it have female-only dorms? are the staff nice?) and choose according to your preference.
- Don’t always be on a budget when it comes to accommodation, however; if you skimp out on things, you could end up in a weird Airbnb in an odd part of town, or a sketchy hotel that nobody else seems to be staying at. Accommodation should be a haven that you can return to after a day of exploring – not somewhere that you dread having to spend any time at all.
- Get connected to other solo female travellers online. There are plenty of groups where you can plan meet-ups, ask for advice and generally become a part of a global community. Specific to the area, there’s Facebook groups Ladies of Playa del Carmen and Expats & Locals in Playa del Carmen, for a start, which advertise various events that you could attend.
- When you’re by yourself, stick to safe neighbourhoods. This means not wandering around too much off the beaten track into places you have no prior knowledge of, or quieter, isolated areas – and especially at night time. While Playa del Carmen is, on the whole, quite safe, there still could be a risk to your safety.
- Do not leave your food and drink unattended. Drink spiking in bars and restaurants can and does occur, so it is best to keep an eye on your drink (especially) at all times when you are at a bar.
- Take care on public transport. If you are a woman by yourself travelling, it is a good idea to find yourself a spot on a bus next to a local lady – or a family – for peace of mind and security. You should always keep your belongings close to you or out of sight.
- Keep your personal details to yourself. You don’t need to be telling people your whole life story: your relationship status, what dates you’re travelling on, where you’re staying, where you’re going tomorrow. Always be very careful about freely disclosing this information to complete strangers.
- Take a taxi at night time. Even if you think it’s just a quick 15-minute stroll from your nightspot to your accommodation, it is just not worth the risk to walk it by yourself.
- Keep people updated with your travel. Leave your itinerary with people back home, or consider emailing your plans to them – even sharing them in a Google Doc (if your parents can handle that!). When your plans change, tell people, and generally keep in touch with people back home. Having a chat with someone you know can help stave off the homesickness and keeps them happy, too!
- Join a group tour. It is certainly not a cop-out to join a tour if you are by yourself. In fact, it makes sense: you get to learn about the place you’re visiting, meet other people on the tour, and do so while keeping safe. At the same time, however, you should always use a reputable tour company or guide – do thorough research, as some guides are not all they seem to be.
- Know that it is ok to say “no” if you feel uncomfortable. Remove yourself from the situation if something doesn’t feel right; you don’t need to be polite if you feel you are at risk.
- Try to blend in with what you wear. Mexico is still a relatively conservative country and, depending on where you are (i.e. away from the beach), you will probably want to lessen the hassle you get from guys by taking cues from what local women are wearing and trying to match it.
There are tons of ways to store valuables and goods while traveling but a travel scarf has to be the least obtrusive and the most classy.
The Active Roots Zipper Scarf is your run-of-the-mill infinity scarf but with a hidden pocket that’s big and sturdy enough for a night’s cash, your phone, a passport and (hell with it) some snacks too!
Playa del Carmen is a great place to go for a solo female traveller. If you want to take some time off and enjoy a vacation at your own pace, this Yucatan Peninsula destination is a good choice.
There will be plenty of other people to meet, a great choice of accommodation, and a ton of interesting experiences, activities and sights to keep you entertained while you’re there.
As long as you remember that Playa del Carmen is not Disneyland, and you can’t just throw caution to the wind and do whatever you feel like (common sense still matters), then chances are you’ll have a totally trouble-free time here.
Is Playa del Carmen safe to travel for families?
Playa del Carmen offers up a fantastic destination for families visiting Mexico. The Yucatan Peninsula region, in general, has a triple threat in terms of attractions for kids: There’s ancient ruins, great beaches to play on, and aqua adventures to embark on.
Active families with older children or teens will enjoy getting out and about snorkelling, getting to explore archaeological sites, bike riding, swimming in cenotes and island excursions.
Those with smaller children who are looking for a break can make the most of Playa del Carmen’s comprehensive selection of affordable family-friendly accommodation and easy to access beaches.
The selection of hotels here means you can easily choose one that fits how you and your family want to travel and spend their time. Most family resorts are set up to make your holiday easy, with kids’ clubs, children’s menus, children’s pools and family rooms, as well as other activities in more upscale options.
Make sure, however, that the accommodation is child-friendly, as some options in Playa del Carmen will be adult-only.
When it comes to thinking about safety for children in Playa del Carmen, the environment will be the biggest threat. Mosquito-borne diseases (namely, Zika virus and dengue fever) can be an issue, for example. It is very important to cover up, use an insect repellent that does not include DEET, and make sure to avoid still water and greener areas at dusk and dawn, when mosquitoes are most active.
Make sure to pay a visit to a doctor a few weeks or months before your trip to Playa del Carmen; ask for any specific medical assistance you may need, including what vaccines you and your children may need on your trip.
Make sure everyone keeps hydrated. It gets hot, especially when you’re out on the beach all day, and children won’t always tell you if they’re thirsty (especially if they’re busy!), so make sure to keep them – and yourselves – topped up with water.
Speaking of the sun, it can be more powerful than you realise, so try not to stay in the sun for long periods, taking regular breaks in the shade, wearing strong SPF sunscreen and covering up with sunhats and T-shirts.
Safety in the water when snorkelling and diving, or swimming, or simply splashing around close to the shore, is key. If you go somewhere like a cenote, or out on a snorkelling trip that involves a boat, make sure the company you use has appropriate safety equipment for children. Do thorough research when it comes to guides and tour operators.
Note that you may find it hard to find baby changing facilities outside of malls and shopping centres, and breastfeeding is not the done thing in this area of Mexico.
Another thing to make sure you are aware of: If you are travelling as a single parent with a child (under 18), you need a signed consent form or a notarised note from the other parent or legal guardian.
Playa del Carmen is safe for families. It’s easy to travel, it’s easy to stay, and it’s easy to have fun here. There’s a family-friendly atmosphere, when you’re out you’ll see families enjoying meals at restaurants, and – most likely – your hotel is going to be welcoming and very helpful to your needs. Enjoy your trip!
Is it safe to drive in Playa del Carmen?
It is not necessary to drive in Playa del Carmen, as basically everything is in easy reach (or a taxi ride away).
However, if you want to travel further afield, then it can be done. Driving in Playa del Carmen is safe, for the most part, but you will have to prepare yourself for some pretty local driving.
For example; people changing lane without indicating, jumping red lights, driving very slowly. All of this can put any good driver off and endanger them, and their passengers, so if you thinking about hitting the road, we would recommend that only experienced, confident drivers do so. Some driving hours racked up in foreign countries would be helpful.
Driving can be a good way to reach some of the more remote beaches that the public buses just cannot reach and basically gives you more freedom and flexibility.
However, it is a good idea to know at least some Spanish – for both reading signs and if you come into contact with (most likely not English speaking) locals. It is also important that you drive with patience, as things won’t always be working on a level you’re used to.
Road conditions, especially in the countryside, can be a little hairy.
Because the areas around the Yucatan Peninsula can be quite remote at times, it is not unusual to see locals waiting at the side of the road asking for a lift. While this is normal practice – as the buses are so infrequent – it does not mean that you should feel obliged to pick people up.
It would be a good idea to take a paper map with you, as well as GPS on your smartphone or a satnav; signs can be hard to follow, particularly on Yucatan’s non-tolled roads.
You should not rely only on satnav or Google Maps, as both can be incorrect – but more than that, sometimes there isn’t always signal.
Toll roads are in much better condition than the more remote roads, and these connect the big cities of the region. These aren’t going to be the most scenic routes, but they will be easier to use and safer in general.
You need to watch out for things that could damage your car; speedbumps can be found on highways and seemingly in random places, to control traffic; stop signs (“ALTO”) can also come out of the blue.
It is just not a good idea to be driving after dark. This is not only because of other vehicles without lights on, or simply not knowing where you are, there are also hazards such as animals and pedestrians in the road which may not be easily visible. Another more serious issue when it comes to driving after dark is hijacking and robbery from cars.
You should not leave things on display in your car, as anything could be seen to be hiding something valuable, and break-ins do occur. Park in well-lit places, non-isolated places, where you can.
It might be the case that you get pulled over by the traffic police. This is not likely to happen in the Yucatan Peninsula but can happen. Some may ask for a bribe – you do not have to pay this; ask instead to pay it at the police station and get a receipt for the transaction.
Another thing to consider is the time of year you are driving. From May to October, heavy rains can mean flash flooding, landslides and roads getting washed away, especially in rural areas. If there is a downpour, do not drive in it and ask for local advice before heading out once it’s finished.
At the end of the day, driving in Playa del Carmen is not something we recommend. It’s not greatly safe and there are other ways to get around (including hiring a driver). Then again, if you are all about adventure and have significant experience driving in places such as this, then there is no particular reason why you shouldn’t give it a go. Just be sensible.
Is Uber safe in Playa del Carmen?
Unfortunately, there is no Uber in Playa del Carmen. It was decided, by the government and taxi unions, that Uber would not be allowed to operate in Playa del Carmen; this is also the case in other areas on the Yucatan Peninsula.
It may be the case that you try out your Uber app and, somehow, a driver appears as being available. However, it should not be available, and is actually illegal in Playa del Carmen, thus making this a shady, unregulated option.
There are plenty of registered, licensed taxis to use instead that are safe.
Are taxis safe in Playa del Carmen?
Taxis in Playa del Carmen are fairly cheap, easy to use, and safe. However, it pays to know just how to go about catching a cab in Playa del Carmen so that you stay as safe as possible.
Playa del Carmen’s taxis are plentiful. They are mostly clean, comfortable and well looked after.
They do not use meters but instead have a set pre-determined rate depending on where you are travelling to and from. You can check out a chart to ensure that you are getting priced the correct fare.
If you don’t know the price, you can ask the taxi driver before you get in. They should have rates pasted up at many taxi stands, as well as other locations. You can always ask at your accommodation if you want to know certain prices for certain routes.
However, one tip would be to research what of your journey should be beforehand, this should help you avoid being scammed by taxi drivers – they may try to take advantage of you not knowing, or if you’ve had a few drinks.
It is ok to hail a taxi on the street in Playa del Carmen. Unlike in other destinations, there is no distinction here between radio taxis and the sort that you can flag down in the road. In fact, you pay more for a taxi that you pick up from a taxi stand in Playa del Carmen – not much more, however.
Taxis stands can be found outside big hotels, popular beaches and other busy spots around town. Be careful at places the ADO Bus Station, where many people arrive in Playa del Carmen for the first time; taxi drivers here are a bit notorious for overpricing.
A tip for staying safe in taxis in Playa del Carmen is not to get into a cab that already has someone else riding in it, and likewise to not allow your driver to pick up another person while you are riding in their taxi.
It is also not a good idea to sit in the front seat, especially if you are by yourself.
If you are not sure about getting a taxi, you should ask your accommodation to arrange one for you. In fact, taxis can be hired for the day, which makes getting out and about to some of the more remote sights nearby much easier than self-driving.
In conclusion, taxis in Playa del Carmen are mostly safe, but are sometimes known for overcharging; knowing what rates you should be paying is an easy way to avoid this, however.
Is public transportation in Playa del Carmen safe?
Public transport in Playa del Carmen is mainly centred around two methods of getting around: collectivos and buses.
Collectivos are a common sight across all of Latin America. If you are not familiar with them, these vans (usually old Fords and Chevrolets) are a local way to get around, travelling between small towns and local neighbourhoods.
They can be referred to as combi when the van in question is a Volkswagon.
You can catch either a collectivo or a combi between Playa del Carmen and other destinations on the Maya Riviera – from Playa del Carmen to Cancun, for example, or to Tulum.
This is the kind of public transport that leaves when it’s full, stops whenever people want to get on or off, can be cramped, but is ultimately very cost-effective (it’s around 20-45 pesos per ride).
You should have change to hand over to the drivers – avoid using a big bill.
However, you should note that this is not the kind of transport that you should be taking if you have loads of luggage. Like we said, they are cramped, and it’s not the sort of service that will patiently wait for you to get your bags on and off. If you’re travelling as a group, for example, there may not be space for all of you and you may have to separate yourselves across different ones.
Collectivos are not what we would consider unsafe, but they are not the easiest to use or get along with. They stop frequently along the highway, they can be slow, they can be fast, they can be uncomfortable. There are also buses.
Buses in Playa del Carmen are known as camiones or auto-bus. Usually caught from fixed bus stops called paradas, they’re basically collectivos. Chances are, you won’t need to use them too much as they go to local neighbourhoods.
A good option for tourists and visitors to Playa del Carmen, however, is the ADO Bus company.
Rather than the small collectivos and camiones, these are modern coaches with a spacious luggage trunk and a site where you can book tickets online. They also have air-conditioning, and are generally quite affordable.
Riding the ADO bus is basically the first class option for the public transport in Playa del Carmen.
There are two ADO bus stations in Playa del Carmen. They are modern and efficient.
Aside from land transport, there are also ferries which you may come into contact with whilst you are on your Playa del Carmen trip. Boats ferry people to and from Isla Cozumel, but owing to the explosive devices found on them, the US State Department advised against using them in 2018.
This sort of thing is rare and is unlikely to happen. You should be more worried about possible overcrowding and bad weather than a potential attack.
Ferries connecting Playa del Carmen to Cozumel cost around 200 pesos, one way, making a day trip to the island relatively affordable (costing around $20 for a ride there and back).
Generally, public transport is safe in Playa del Carmen. It is important to research any transport company you may use, watch your belongings, don’t miss the last bus back, and – if in doubt – opt for a taxi to get around.
Is the food in Playa del Carmen safe?
Food in Mexico is amazing – there’s no two ways about it – and in Playa del Carmen, it’s no different. In fact, we could write a whole article on the food scene going on in Mexico.
Here there is no shortage of delicious food to devour; being on the coast there’s seafood, of course, but also a whole host of regional and national standards to tuck into that should mean you never go hungry. To help you navigate this culinary wonderland, we’ve put together this guide to the food in Playa del Carmen…
- Food safety is important. Currently, cyclospora is making the rounds, which can cause an upset stomach. Make sure the fruit and vegetables you buy can be peeled, washed and cooked yourself. There is no way to guarantee that chopped, peeled fruit has been washed in a hygienic way.
- With that in mind, it is a good idea to not go too crazy on the fruit smoothies. Often, you will not know how the fruit has been prepared, and will include ice cubes (which are also not a good idea). They may seem inviting on the beach but you may have to pay for it later in toilet-time.
- Hotels are a hotbed for these kinds of things. Usually made behind closed doors where you can see nothing of the hygiene practices that may or may not be followed, hotel food can be very hit or miss – and not just in terms of taste. Make sure to read reviews of your hotel’s before you go.
- As a rule of thumb, it is best to stick to freshly made, ideally freshly cooked food. Going to places like food trucks and stalls where you can see things being cooked at a high temperature before your very eyes is a good place to start.
- Go where the locals go. Places that are busy with locals are busy for a reason; these places will likely be tasty and not likely to serve up something that will make you ill.
- Speaking of which, the other side of the coin is tourist traps. You should avoid these places. With no incentive to entice you back for repeat business, these establishments are often in it for the money and won’t necessarily have your tastebuds – or stomachs – in mind. Avoid places with extensive English signage and especially if touts are trying to get you in.
- Though you may be worried about the hygiene practices of certain establishments, it is also important to keep yourself clean too – so wash your hands! This is a good way to make yourself ill, so ensure that you scrub your hands – or use hand sanitiser – before you eat, especially if you plan on eating something with your hands.
Mexican food is a difficult one to get wrong – it is very tasty indeed, and in Playa del Carmen you will have the chance to try plentiful Mexican cuisine, with international options for picky eaters, children, and for when you just can’t handle the heat levels anymore.
As long as you don’t go too hard too quickly (a change in diet, regardless of hygiene practices, make easily lead to an upset stomach), you’ll be more than fine in Playa del Carmen – you’ll be in food heaven.
Can you drink the water in Playa del Carmen?
In a word, no: you can not drink the water in Playa del Carmen. The tap water is not safe to drink here. Unfortunately, the best advice would be to stick to bottled water – and avoid ice cubes in drinks, making sure to ask for them without ice.
Boiling water for at least one minute, vigorously, can be a good way to purify water, but it is not a foolproof option.
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Is Playa del Carmen safe to live?
How is living in Playa Del Carmen then? Playa del Carmen can seem like a very inviting place to live, especially if you are in thinking about doing so when you are in the cold depths of winter in your home country.
To some extent, the beaches and laid back lifestyle of Playa del Carmen will fulfil the warm-weather, by-the-sea fantasies you may have about this place – and Playa del Carmen is a safe place.
It’s that safe that it has become a popular spot for travellers, tourists and expatriates alike, more diverse than neighbouring Cancun.
However, living somewhere will always be different to just visiting. There is naturally a higher chance of one of the risky things about this place happening if you are staying here for a long time.
You will potentially have to deal with things like hurricanes, which can hit Playa del Carmen between June and September. However, the last major one was Hurricane Wilma in 2005, which means that this adverse weather won’t greatly affect your life in the town.
Even though there has been a recent spike in some crime, Playa del Carmen still remains safe, with a relatively low crime rate compared to the rest of Mexico.
When it comes to deciding whether or not you are going to make the move to Playa del Carmen, it is a good idea to do some thorough research. Make sure you are talking to expat, and locals, groups online to ask for advice on the city’s safety, and what places are the best to live in.
Another thing to take into account is visiting Playa del Carmen before you go there. Suddenly deciding to up sticks and move to another place entirely without having first done some all-important research by actually spending a few weeks getting to know it, wouldn’t be a good move.
All in all, living in Playa del Carmen is safe. You may have to pay attention to your surroundings more than in your home country, but overall there should be nothing stopping you from making the move if you want to make it.
How is healthcare in Playa del Carmen?
Mexico, in general, has very good healthcare. In fact, this state-sponsored National Health Service is one of the best in Latin America; its private clinics, especially around the Yucatan Peninsula – where Playa del Carmen is located – are U.S.-standard.
Medical care, in general, is something that you won’t have to worry about. Mexico is actually used as a destination for medical tourism for many people from the U.S. and Canada, so this shows you the high level of quality that you can expect during your trip.
If you become ill, or need medical assistance, during your trip to Playa del Carmen and you need emergency treatment, the best hospitals to go to are CostaMed and Hospiten. These private facilities, located on the main highway between Tulum and Cancun, provide an excellent level of service and emergency care.
Hospiten, in particular, is often regarded as the best for tourists and foreigners alike. English is widely spoken and treatments range from surgery to radiology and plastic surgery, as well as general medicine.
For an ambulance to take you to the emergency room, simply dial 911. Depending on the severity of your ailment, paramedics will make an informed decision on where the best place to treat you is.
It is very important that you have health insurance; that said, you should know that not every hospital will deal with medical insurance companies directly. You may have to pay upfront and then get a refund via your medical travel insurance company after the event.
For more minor illnesses and injuries, there are very some good private healthcare clinics in Playa del Carmen that you can attend, such as Playa International Clinic, which is staffed 24 hours, and able to treat things like broken bones; they even have a hyperbaric chamber for decompression sickness.
Sometimes it may be required that you get taken to Cancun, which boasts a more in-depth selection of healthcare facilities for more specific or complicated health issues and injuries.
Pharmacies can be found everywhere; Similares is the most common brand of pharmacy. Many pharmacies in Playa del Carmen can be found in the south end of town, near Juarez Avenue.
It is possible to pay to see a doctor at a pharmacy, which is often very reasonably priced; if you need a prescription, this set-up is very convenient indeed, but note that doctors will speak very limited, or no, English.
Many if not all clinics, hospitals and pharmacies will be open and available 24 hours a day.
If you are not sure what to do, or where to go, your accommodation should be able to point you in the right direction for a good facility and/or an English speaking doctor.
Helpful Mexico Travel Phrases
Mexico is the largest Spanish-speaking country in the world, but it’s also home to nearly 70 native languages. While all 123 million of its inhabitants are considered Mexican, this is an incredibly diverse country. The culture and customs of Mexico change as you move across the country, ensuring there’s something new to discover everywhere you go.
Below are some useful Spanish phrases for backpacking Mexico. While many people speak English in the touristic areas and cities, once you get outside these areas, Spanish will carry you a long way!
Hola = Hello
¿Cómo está(s)? = How are you?
Mucho gusto = Nice to meet you
Estoy bien = I’m fine
Por favor = Please
Gracias = Thank you
De nada/Con gusto = You’re welcome
¿Cuánto? = How much?
Adiós = Goodbye
Sin bolsa de plastico – No plastic bag
No paja por favor – No straw please
No hay cubiertos de plástico por favor – No plastic cutlery please
Lo siento = I’m sorry
¿Dónde está el baño? = Where is the bathroom?
¿Qué es esto? = What’s this?
Quiero un taco/una cerveza. = I want a taco/a beer.
¡Salud! = Cheers!
Final thoughts on the safety of Playa del Carmen
Playa del Carmen may have seen a steady increase in crime of late, but it remains one of the safest – and most popular – destinations in all of Mexico. Aside from putting yourself into danger by not heeding local advice on offshore currents, wandering around by yourself in a sketchy neighbourhood, or partying too hard and getting so drunk that you make bad judgement calls, Playa del Carmen is totally safe.
And have you thought about getting Travel Insurance for your trip? You can get a quote from World Nomads by clicking on the link below.
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!
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