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.

Women.

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 2017: Several shootings and a deadly case of “tainted alcohol” have changed facts here. There are now travel warnings for the entire Riviera Maya. However, do some investigation before making a rash decision and canceling your trip. The police presence here is heavy and the chances of dying from drowning are still much, much higher than dying from gunfire here.

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

“Quintana Roo (includes Cancun, Cozumel, Playa del Carmen, Riviera Maya, and Tulum): U.S. citizens should be aware that according to Government of Mexico statistics, the state of Quintana Roo experienced an increase in homicide rates compared to 2016. While most of these homicides appeared to be targeted criminal organization assassinations, turf battles between criminal groups have resulted in violent crime in areas frequented by U.S. citizens. Shooting incidents, in which innocent bystanders have been injured or killed, have occurred.” – US State Department (October, 2017)

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.

INFO FOUR FOR IDIOT’S

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 were 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.

NOTE: THIS CHANGED IN MID-2017 AS THERE HAVE BEEN SEVERAL SHOOTINGS IN THE AREA THAT HAVE AFFECTED THE  U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT WEBSITE. AS OF NOW (October, 2017), WARNINGS EXIST FOR THE ENTIRE RIVIERA MAYA – INCLUDING CANCUN, PLAYA DEL CARMEN, TULUM, AND THE ENTIRE STATE OF QUINTANA ROO.

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

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!

2 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,

      Rufus

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