Mexico Travel Warnings

…some are true, most are false…

A few months ago I got a call off an ex-girlfriend.

I thought to myself, ‘Aha, maybe she’s finally seen sense.’

She was in the States and she said she’d seen all these Mexico travel warnings on the television.

“Was I okay?” she asked.

“I’m quite safe,” I reassured her. “What you’re hearing about is nothing but a bunch of travel propaganda made up by people who have never been to Mexico.”

“I haven’t been kidnapped by terrorists or been robbed at gunpoint,” I said that in a relaxed tone.

She seemed disappointed by that news.


Playa Del Carmen is very safe for visitors. But when visiting Mexico, in general, you should take a few precautions.

I’m going to outline some quick tips for staying safe.

Is Playa Del Carmen Safe?

In a word: yes.

Although if you’re a particularly voluptuous solo female who likes beach volleyball and tequila then you might get some extra attention from men like me.

I wrote an article about Playa Del Carmen and why it’s safe.

If you go on the US State Department website you get a massive page of Mexico travel warnings.

“Don’t go here.”  “Don’t eat the bananas there.” “Avoid the drug smugglers over there.” “Blah, blah, blah…” etc.

But scroll down to the Quintana Roo or the Yucatan Peninsula and you’ll find that there are no travel warnings for anywhere around Playa Del Carmen.

UPDATE 2021: There are no travel warnings for Quintana Roo (the state where Playa Del Carmen is located).

This is EXACTLY what the US State Department website says about this area:

Quintana Roo state – Exercise Increased Caution

Exercise increased caution due to crime.

Criminal activity and violence may occur throughout the state.

There are no restrictions on travel for U.S. government employees in Quintana Roo state, which include tourist areas in: Cancun, Cozumel, Isla Mujeres, Playa del Carmen, Tulum, and the Riviera Maya. (emphasis added)

” – US State Department (October, 2021)

General Mexico Travel Warning

The main problem visitors have is they lose stuff.

Sometimes they shout “My passport was stolen.”

But that’s usually code for “I got stupidly drunk, used by wallet as fish bait, and then fell asleep on the beach.”

If you lose your passport you’re in trouble.

Also, if you lose your plane tickets, forget your social security number, and misplace your driver’s license, it’s going to be a pain.


IMPORTANTThe best simple travel advice I could give anyone is to keep a scanned copy of all your documents.

This includes a copy of your passport, medical records/insurance programs, driver’s license, and birth certificate. Obviously, the most important one is your passport, but it’s always good to have more rather than less.

These can be on paper, saved to your email/cloud drive, or saved on your smart phone.

In fact, I would recommend saving the files in several of these locations.

Also, avoid the paper option; it’s so 90’s!!!

You can even put it on a USB flash drive and encrypt it with VeraCrypt, a free, open source encryption program that is based on the popular open-source software called TrueCrypt. (NOTE: TrueCrypt is no longer supported, so don’t bother with using it.)

Even better, use a program called KeePass that holds all your passwords. Unbeknownst to many, you CAN ALSO PUT FILES INTO THIS PROGRAM–like a copy of your passport, driver’s licence, etc… It also encrypts everything!

I lost my passport once.

It was just after I arrived here.

I stayed at a woman’s hotel room and left it along with my camera.

The next day I tried returning, but I had been so drunk I’d forgotten which hotel it was.

Anyway, I had a copy and the US embassy official was very accommodating.

The man in front of me had no copy and the embassy started accusing him of being an illegal immigrant.

So copy your documents!

Precautions When Taking Public Transport In Mexico

There are many Mexico travel warnings about taking buses.

Apparently they get held up by drug cartels.

Although I’ve never seen this happen.

It definitely doesn’t happen around Playa Del Carmen.

However, if you’re taking a bus elsewhere in Mexico, you can first check if there are any travel warnings on the state department website.

When taking a bus it’s best to travel during daylight.

You have better views and it’s safer.

If you have a really long overnight trip then why not break up the journey and see more of Mexico.

In all honesty, you really don’t need to know this, but the safest buses are the direct services that go on CUOTO or LIBRE highways.

Slower LIBRE freeway buses stop every two minutes and don’t have the same security on board.

If you have to get off the bus for a safety inspection by the military, then take your backpack with you.

In fact, always keep your backpack with you.

Keep your valuables with you in a money belt or deep in hard-to-access pockets.

Basic Precautions At Your Hotel

Playa Del Carmen doesn’t have a bad reputation for theft or problems at hotels.

The exception to this is rental bikes; they ALWAYS get stolen unless you use a U-lock, which should be provided by the person or company that rents you the bike.

You should keep your valuables hidden away and not leave them wide open on the bed.

Most hotels have a safe you can use to keep your valuables. Use it.

If not a safe in the room then you can usually keep them in the main hotel safe and get a receipt for your belongings.

Basic Precautions On The Streets Of Playa Del Carmen

I’ve already said that for all the Mexico travel warnings, there is nothing about Playa Del Carmen.


But you still shouldn’t be stupid.

There are no travel warning about Los Angeles, but you might have problems if you walked around certain dark streets at night with a massive DSLR camera around your neck.

Most Mexico travel warning are unneeded.

Common sense dictates.

They just seem to be about scaring people and getting them worried.

One warning you should listen to is to leave everything you don’t need at home or in the hotel.

If you’re not going to use it, why take it to Mexico.

Just take a copy of your passport and visa when you go out rather than the original.

You don’t need loads of cash either.

They have ATMs in Playa Del Carmen if you run short.

It’s good if you have a couple of bank cards so you can keep one with you and one in the hotel.

A Mexico travel warning I sometimes forget is to go home before I get too drunk.

Sometimes I don’t remember getting home.

That’s not the safest way to behave if you’re on your own.

Warnings About Drinking In Mexico

One of the best things about Playa Del Carmen is the nightlife.

There are hundreds of different bars, ranging from trendy beach bars to down an alley local tequila joints.

They’re all awesome.

But some usual precautions apply.

Don’t leave your drink unattended around locals.

It’s extremely rare that people are drugged in Playa Del Carmen (involuntarily, I mean), but there has been one or two isolated incidents.

There are many great locals in Playa Del Carmen, and I don’t want to put anyone off meeting them.

But sometimes you meet people and you just know that they’re dodgy.

Perhaps a poorly dressed local guy walks into a bar, buys you ten tequilas, and then says lets go down this dark alley.

Obviously you wouldn’t trust him.

Normally the untrustworthy ones are the impatient, in-your-face type.

Most Mexicans are very chilled – even too chilled!

One time on 5th Ave I saw this massive college guy on steroids trying to start fights with people.

He didn’t even have a neck his shoulders were so big.

He ends up hitting a Mexican guy who didn’t back down.

Both guys ended up getting a tour of the local jail.

Getting Home When You’re Drunk

I see many wasted people walking around Playa Del Carmen.

Particularly around 5th Ave at Spring Break.

If you’re really drunk, then you’re probably not even going to find your hotel.

If you’re alone then ask the bar to get you a taxi.

If you’re walking home, then stick to the main well lit roads.

Don’t take a shortcut down a load of narrow dark streets.

Don’t go skinny dipping and then complain that your shorts have been stolen from the beach.

That’s just common sense really.

Don’t Buy Drugs On The Street

Some visitors to Playa Del Carmen are real idiots.

You don’t need a Mexico travel warning to know that you shouldn’t buy drugs off the dodgy young locals on the street.

“But wait!” I hear someone shout.  “Don’t tell me not to buy pot in Mexico!”

It’s actually legal to possess up to 5 grams of marijuana in Mexico (so I’ve been told).

They decriminalized it a few years ago. However, that DOES NOT mean the corrupt, local police won’t shake you down for a few hundred dollars if they find some on you. Trust me, they will–legal or not.

But please don’t trust those guys on the street.

They’re bona fide con artists.

For one, they’ll happily turn you over to the police for some extra $$.

And secondly, they’ll try sell you paracetamol or their mother’s garden plant.

If you really want to buy drugs then ask a local you’ve gotten to know on your trip or a bartender that you’ve tipped really well.

The local police are really hot on catching tourists buying drugs.

If they catch you, you’ll end up paying a massive bribe to get out of trouble.

By massive I mean you might need to phone home and get some extra money wired over.

If you don’t like the thought of a bribe you can take your chances in a Mexican jail.

I’ve even known stories of the street dealers setting up sales for the police.

They sell you something, the police charge in once it’s in your possession, and the dealer makes their money out of the bribe you have to pay.

Other Information About Mexico Travel Warnings

Mexico is a safe country to visit.

Especially Playa Del Carmen.

When you check the over-paranoid US State Dept advice there are no travel warnings for Playa Del Carmen and the Yucatan Peninsula. (SEE NOTE ABOVE.)

But you should follow some basic precautions.

  1. Like keeping a copy of all your travel documents and passport.
  2. Staying sensible on a night out always helps keep you safe.
  3. And definitely don’t buy any drugs on the street.
  4. The most important Mexico travel warning is to use some common sense.
  5. Don’t advertise your wealth, and don’t go walking off with dodgy Mexican dudes (or chicks).
  6. And keep everything you don’t need either at home or in the hotel.

But most importantly, don’t let Mexico travel warnings put you off coming to Playa Del Carmen.

See you here soon…

Lots of love,


Rufus signature

It’s your turn. Do you have any important travel warnings that you would like to share with us? Please tell us about them in the comments section below!

16 comments on “Mexico Travel Warnings

  1. We’ve been traveling to Playa Del Carmen for 18 years. You provided All good information, but you make no mention of the 2 distinct gun shootouts which have occurred near the heart of downtown Playa Del Carmen. What advice do you have for avoiding getting caught in the middle of a shootout ? Duck-n-cover ?? It’s a shame that the criminal element has trespassed on your beautiful location. A very few bad eggs are going to cost many good people a livelihood.

    • Darryl,

      You are correct. I have not updated this page to discuss the recent shootings that have taken place here (August 2017).

      First, I will likely create a page specifically for shootings when I add the info. I think it would be more appropriate to put those on a specific timeline that can be updated on a regular basis. Unfortunately, this may be necessary.

      Second, I (personally) hate the shootings. I hate the incompetence of the police here. I hate that the local cartels are so bold in their assessment of their own safety that they dare attempt a shooting in broad daylight. However, with that said (and not to make light of the situation), there have been no shootings of tourists. The only exception to this was at the BPM Music Festival where several people in a large crowd were caught in the crossfire. But, honestly, that music festival was trash anyways and attracted some of the worst cokeheads and stay-awake-for-8-days-straight people I’ve ever seen. The festival will no longer take place here.

      I’m not complaining.

      Although there have been some shootings in Playa Del Carmen, I regularly go out. I don’t feel in danger. And I’m not some buff dude with balls of steel either. Heck, I’ve never even heard a gunshot here.

      Frankly, the chances of drowning while swimming in the ocean here are much higher than the chances of being shot as a tourist. AGAIN, I AM NOT TRYING TO MAKE LIGHT OF THE SHOOTINGS OR PRETEND LIKE THEY DIDN’T HAPPEN. It’s just that the shootings are not a daily epidemic at this point. I will keep an eye on things and report here if things get out of control.

      A heightened use of common sense is useful while visiting a foreign country. I think that same idea is applicable here. I wouldn’t worry much about dodging bullets as it’s just not going to happen to you during your vacation here–at least the chances of it happening to you are near zero.

      Use common sense and you’ll be 99.99% fine.

      Take care,


  2. Great info Rufus! My wife and I have been traveling to different parts of Mexico for the last 15 years. We have spent many winters in Sayulita. Now we have 2 little girls who are also part of the adventures :) We are planning another family trip to Playa and Tulum this summer and can’t wait! Mexico never scared me, Chicago, Detroit or Baltimore on the other hand… talk about sketchy. Thanks for the tips and stories!

    • Juan,

      Thanks so much for your comment. I made this site for people exactly like you.

      Unfortunately, you are right – every city has some dumpy neighborhoods. I hate Chicago!! Detroit is even worse. Don’t know anything about Baltimore, but I’m sure it’s crap as well.

      Take care, Juan, and I hope to see you here soon…


  3. Hi Rufus;

    We talked via email last year about my concerns about crime and you reassured me it was safe so my family came down and had the time of our lives!! There are new warnings out right now and I am not paying attention to them will be down soon for 2 weeks with my family again and have zero concerns!!

    THANK YOU !!

    • Greg,

      I am glad to hear that you and your family had a great time. As importantly, I’m very happy to hear that you didn’t listen to the media about how “dangerous” it is here. Complete nonsense.

      As I mentioned to another commenter just yesterday, I went out three nights this week. I meet other expats here every day. There are people who come here year after year after year. Try convincing them that it’s dangerous and they’ll laugh in your face!

      Now I would never argue tht Mexico is perfect. It’s not. This country has a lot of work and introspection to do both now and in the future. Most of these problems are deeply ingrained in the culture here and completely out of our control. Moreover, they are mere inconveniences to tourists and not burdensome enough to justify skipping your vacation here. There’s just too much cool stuff in the area to see and do (as you now know).

      The recent “warnings” you’re hearing about were because of an explosion on one of the ferries. If you do some research about what actually happened, you’ll find that a governor here had embezzled a bunch of money. He was evading the police until they found him in Panama. What’s interesting is that his father was the owner of the ferry boat that had the explosion. Nobody was killed. Clearly it was politically motivated and not targeting tourists. However, give this story to the media and they have a whale of a good time with it! It makes for good ratings.

      Buy me a damn ferry ticket/beer and I’ll cross over to Cozumel with you any time (if it makes you feel any better)!

      Honestly, the primary goal of these media outlets is to keep you sitting on your butt, changing channels, and living in fear while the rest of us are having the times of our lives. You can either participate in the media circus or explore the world. It’s your choice.

      Thanks to the media, many people are now deathly afraid of visiting the US as well–

      – “Shootings in schools!!!”

      – “Mass killings in Las Vegas!!!”

      – “Terrorist attacks!!!”

      – “Grand scale racism everywhere!!!!”

      – “What a dangerous country the United States has become!!!!”

      As you know, this is total BS, but it’s the garbage the media feeds the world daily.

      As you’ve found out first-hand, there is little to fear here. My best advice to travelers is to worry about getting a good exchange rate on your US dollars here LONG before worrying about explosions, drug cartels, and violence. Pouring over the “news” and “government warnings” is just a complete waste of time.

      What else can I say?

      Thanks for the comments, and I hope you and your family have a great (second) vacation here.

      Take care,


  4. Hi Rufus,
    Thanks for the informational post! I appreciate it! We’re planning a trip to an all-inclusive in Riviera Maya, leaving next Friday. Our travel agent is encouraging us to cancel/switch our trip to Jamaica due to the Dept of State warnings. Do you see any concerns with us heading there next week? We will likely spend most, if not all of our time at the resort.

    Thanks in advance!

    • Kathleen,

      Thanks for the comment. I’m 100% sure you will be fine here.

      As I’ve said before, DON’T BELIEVE THE PROPOGANDA. Find a new travel agent. He’s an idiot.

      Also, you’re a fool if you just stay in your resort. There’s a lot of fun things to see on both 5th Ave and 10th Ave. Come to downtown early in your trip. That way you’ll see how busy it is and how safe it is here.

      The media is exaggerating the problem. Believe me. I’m an American. The last thing I want to see is Americans in danger or hurt here. I absolutely would NOT tell you otherwise if I thought you were in danger.

      Furthermore, I’m not writing this for money. I’m not trying to sell you something. I’m telling you this because I want you to know the truth and enjoy your trip.

      My best advice: Get your ass down here. Enjoy the hell out of your trip. Leave a comment on THIS PAGE about your experience here after your trip (YOU MUST DO THIS)!!!

      Hopefully you will take this advice and leave a comment at a later date about your trip. You will see exactly what I mean.

      Lots of love,


  5. Hi Rufus

    Love the blog. Travelling to Maya Riviera next week and just wondering if weed can be bought at the resorts or is this not recommended?

    • PJ,

      Congratulations on your decision to come to Playa Del Carmen. I’m sure the resort of your choice will be great.

      I don’t recommend doing any drugs (other than aspirin and alcohol) during your trip here. However, I’m not the moral police either. God knows I’m no saint.

      With that said, if you need to smoke some weed while you’re here, you will need to build a relationship with some locals. A hip bartender would be your best bet. Your next best bet would be one of the tour sellers off 5th Avenue (10th Avenue or beyond). If you buy a tour from them, they might be able to connect you with the right person. The final option is one of the hostels, but you really need to build a relationship there first.

      Of course you can get weed on 5th Avenue, but the people there will give you crappy stuff and also overcharge you. Moreover, they sell other stuff you really don’t want to get involved with.

      If I was new here and wanted some weed, I would first find out if someone “smokes.” If they say yes, then (and only then) I would ask if they knew where to get something to smoke.

      And whatever you do, please don’t ask me to connect you with some as 1.) I don’t smoke weed myself. 2.) I don’t want anything to do with selling drugs here or even being a middle man.

      Good luck, and enjoy your trip!!!


  6. Rufus great blog !!! I’m visiting playa frequently for past 10 or 12 years . Playa is safe true but …. it’s way different compare to 5-10 years ego… don’t get me wrong from people on streets into festivals like “bpm” . People are less positive and they act like hyenas…. about weed on 5th ave it s just epic fail from price into quality this stuff is not smokeable for any pothead in usa and people( 5th ave dillers ) are root and dogystyle ppls avoid in any circumstances. Another issue today in playa is seaweed cus temp raise(global warming ) and that egg smell of water is just disgusting during few months during the year . Anyway playa is super safe as long you not retarded and you not looking for dickheads or festivals like bpm( salomun mix was great rest like.u mention Rufus. For.investment I personally think it s already to.late ( I sold my 2 condos last year cus water issue and bpm fail and the athmosphe overall in betwin people and 5th ave ) … ps sry for my bad ass English:-)

    • Piter,

      Thanks for the comment. This city is definitely growing (and changing as part of that growth). Every day gets more interesting!!!

      Hope you return soon, Piter.


  7. My girlfriend and I just got back from a week in a Tulum, honestly this area feels safer than most places in America. More tourists get robbed and killed in San Francisco than Tulum. You don’t need to bring marijuana if you’re from a legal state, we always take our legal 1oz vacseal for the smell from San Francisco airport w zero issues. If you need herb the safest guys to buy from are in the richer areas along the playa. There is a hookah shop and another place called Clandestino where friendly mota dealers hang out, you can buy a 1mg vape pen for about $2k pesos ($110) and some decent quality local yucatan grown bud, but the dealers were more impressed with our Cali weed. There is no need for street drugs as most pharmacies will have your fix, highly recommend Farmapram for any anxiety, insomnia etc just take small amounts. 30 2mg farmaprams run about $100 but we haggled a 90count. They sell codeine/flexiril tabs, soma, for relaxing. Modofinil is legal and good for staying awake and alert, and adderal and oxycodone can be found at some pharmacies under the counter for about $20-30 per 30mg. As for infamous Mexican Coke, the main dealers are on the strip and there is obviously some kind of protection racket because they operate w impunity. Our friends let a large fellow in a raiders jersey who hooked them up the entire trip. The mid grade coke (still very good) is about $700 pesos per gram and they sell a stronger one for $12-1500 pesos.

    • Al,

      For the record: I DO NOT RECOMMEND DOING DRUGS HERE!!!! You’re lucky you didn’t get in trouble. Sounds like you had a good time.


  8. Hey Rufus!

    …we’re leaving in a few days for our 1st trip to Playa. I’ve been trying to reassure my somewhat sensitive GF that it’s unlikely we’ll get caught in a cartel shoot-out (especially if we’re not dealing drugs on their turf), and that a good amount of the ‘warnings’ are just fear-porn and propaganda. Thanks for a refreshing read from someone who’s obviously been local for a while… Good call on making copies of all our docs! I might have forgotten that step despite a decent amount of international travel in my past.

    • Sewneo,

      You are absolutely right. The chances of you getting caught in a shootout are slim to none. Moreover, it is correct that most of the stuff that you hear on the television is garbage. I live here day in and day out. If you stay in the tourist areas, don’t try to sell drugs here, and generally avoid trouble, you will be completely safe.

      Thank you for the comment, and I hope you enjoy your trip!

      Finally, I am glad that you are going to take the advice about scanning/saving your documents. It’s a good idea to do this and more people should do it. Unfortunately many don’t. Better safe than sorry.

      Hope to see you here soon…


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