Is Cancún Safe? The Truth About Travel In 2024 By An Expert

Last Updated on April 28, 2024 by Ashlea J. Russell

Is Cancún Safe To Travel In 2024? What You Need To Know Before You Go.

Safety is a major concern for any traveller and with some of the news coverage Mexico receives it’s easy to wonder if it’s even a good idea to go.

Although it’s been Mexico’s top travel destination for years, you’re probably still asking yourself: is Cancún safe?

As a Mexico expert who has travelled the country without incident for years, I have the answer plus important tips you need to stay safe in Cancún and have the best possible time.

Let’s get into it!

Is Cancún Safe?

Yes, Cancún is generally a safe destination but there are some conditions to that.

If you’re the average traveller looking for a flop and drop beach vacation, water sports and adventure, or even enlightening experiences like Chichén Itzá and Mayan culture, then yes, Cancún is safe for you.

For party animals and spring breakers, you have a bit more to be concerned about.

For the average traveller the main safety concerns in Cancún are petty theft, scams, dehydration, and self-inflicted injuries, all of which are easy to protect yourself from.

Anything worse than this is usually precipitated by overdrinking, involvement in drugs, and bad behaviour.

Here are a few basic safety measures you can use to stay safe in Cancún and below, I’ll dive into a few of the common pitfalls travellers experience as well as how to stay safe when you venture off the resort.

  • Do not flash or carry large amounts of cash
  • Leave the expensive jewellery at home
  • Do not over drink
  • Stay hydrated
  • Never purchase or seek to purchase drugs
  • Do not walk around alone late at night
  • Trust your gut

Is Cancún Safe For Tourists?

Yes, Cancún is safe for the average tourist and they do a great job at creating an outstanding experience for the right type of traveller.

Until the 1970’s, Cancún was jungle and mangrove when it was selected by the government to be developed as a purpose-built tourist destination.

This means that Cancún was literally designed with the tourist experience in mind.

Most tourists visiting Cancún will stay in the Hotel Zone, a 22.5km/14 mile long strip of beachfront resorts full of restaurants, bars, and entertainment.

Taken from the boardwalk looking down at palm trees and a white sand beach in Cancun with the ocean in the distance.

The main issue here is that because this is a tourist hotspot, prices are much higher than you’d see outside this zone.

  • Most resorts in the Hotel Zone offer an all-inclusive option or certain meals included so you would likely only need to consider costs when leaving your resort.

Many people visiting Cancún will also want to spend time outside the resort area.

This could be for excursions like snorkelling or ATVing, tasting local tacos, visiting nearby towns, or even shopping at the local markets and malls.

All of these things are perfectly safe for tourists to do but there is something you should be aware of.

Almost all of the locals in this area moved here for the jobs and opportunities that come along with a tourist town. And while most of these people are regular hardworking folks, there are also some opportunists looking to get a little extra out of the tourist crowd.

As a visitor it’s easy to stick out as a potential target for simple scams like overcharging for purchases, activities, or even taxis.

  • Need a taxi? Ask your hotel to order one for you and how much they estimate a taxi should cost for your journey. Check out my Taxi Safety section below for more about how this works in Cancún.

If you’re ever unsure about the price of something or you feel pressured into spending money, don’t be afraid to just say “Gracias!” with a smile and walk away.

Most vendors and tour operators in Cancún offer similar things, so by shopping around a little or doing some online research you’ll soon get a sense for how much things should cost.

Is Cancún Safe At Night?

Much of Mexico is hot during the day, so when night falls things often start to come to life. This is also true in Cancún!

But, as with anywhere in the world, things change after dark so there are a few things you should know.

Cancún is generally safe at night, especially if you’re staying on the resort or at your hotel. The only area of Cancún I do not recommend exploring at night is the Centro/downtown area. But that doesn’t mean you have to avoid it altogether.

If you’re downtown at night to visit the mall, bus station, or restaurants, take a taxi and avoid wandering the streets.

  • My favourite dinner spot in Cancún is La Fonda del Zancudo, located downtown. It’s beautiful, romantic, delicious, and affordable! They will even call a taxi for you to return to your hotel when you’re ready to head back.

If you want to go for a walk at night, the Hotel Zone is a much safer place to take a stroll.

La Fonda del Zancudo restaurant in Cancun lit up at night with the moon in the sky.

Cancún is also a well known party town, so if you’re planning to indulge in the nightlife you’ll want to keep yourself safe by staying hydrated, monitoring your drinks, and knowing your limit.

Mexico has some tough drug and alcohol laws so stay out of trouble by avoiding drugs, being drunk in public, and fighting.

Be mindful of your pockets and bags in crowded clubs or bars, and when packing for Cancún you may want to leave your valuables at home.

Another thing to be careful of at night is the ocean. It can be tempting to go for a moonlight dip but I don’t recommend entering the ocean at night, especially if you’ve been drinking.

If you really want to check it out at night I recommend taking a night snorkeling tour instead with a local guide who knows the water.

Is It Safe To Go To A Resort In Cancún?

Yes, it is safe to go to a resort in Cancún. It’s also popular!

In fact, according to a recent study, 17.5% of all flights booked from the US to an international destination (January – August 2023) were headed to Cancún.

A view looking over the swimming pools at an oceanfront Cancun resort.

Vacationers have been visiting Cancún’s white sand beaches for years, and the majority of them stay on resorts along the Riviera Maya without issue.

Many of the world’s best known resort names have beachfront properties here, like Grand Fiesta Americana, Secrets, and Westin.

If you’re looking for a few days in paradise then a resort in Cancún could be a great choice.

Important Cancún Safety Tips

Here are a few things you can do to keep yourself safe while in Cancún.

Know Your Limits

So many problems in Cancún are caused by overindulging in alcohol, so I don’t say this lightly: Know your limits and stay within them.

Overdrinking can result in dehydration, heat stroke, alcohol poisoning, vacation-ruining sprains, broken bones, or worse.

Mexican authorities are not tolerant of public drunkenness, drinking in public places, or fighting, and are even harsher on drug-related crimes.

It’s best to play it safe and imbibe responsibly.

Walk Away As Needed

Being a tourist in a touristy place can be overwhelming at times. Walking around Cancún you might be approached by tour reps, restaurant hosts, or market merchants, to name a few.

The best thing you can do if you want to avoid any of these interactions is to smile, say “gracias” and walk away.

It’s important to remember that most of these people are just doing their jobs and often that means drumming up business. These types of encounters can feel pushier in Cancún than in other parts of the country but that’s mostly just because the competition is high here.

If you aren’t interested, don’t like a price, or simply don’t like the vibes, just keep walking and they’ll move on to the next person.

Explore With Kindness

The best way to get the most out of any place you visit is to interact with the locals.

Luckily, in Cancún more people speak English than in other parts of Mexico and this makes communicating a lot easier.

Be friendly, ask questions, and remember to smile.

If you enter a store, greet the people who work there. Remember to say thank you when you leave or make a purchase. If you visit a local restaurant, it’s common for guests to greet each other, so don’t be afraid to return the favour.

Operating with kindness is a great way to start conversations, make friends, and even get better prices or insider tips on where to eat or what to do during your trip.

It’s also a great way to improve safety by lowering your likelihood of being taken advantage of and increasing the likelihood of locals wanting to help you when you need it.

If you really want to impress people, why not try practicing your Spanish?

Pay In Pesos

Nothing says “tourist” in Mexico quite like trying to pay for things in US Dollars.

This is something that comes up a lot and I see people arguing this point, so let’s put this to bed once and for all: The currency of Mexico is the Mexican Peso.

Unlike other parts of Mexico, in Cancún it’s not uncommon to see businesses accept US Dollars, however this is an adaptation that occurred over years of tourists not having the local currency.

When you pay for things in US cash you have a much higher chance of being scammed or overcharged. This is true of anything from taxis to shopping and even tours.

  • Most businesses will not be able to provide change in USD which means you’ll pay for things at a poor exchange rate and receive Mexican change.

If anyone encourages you to pay in USD or lists prices in USD instead of Mexican Pesos, you’re likely in a tourist trap and are all but guaranteed to overpay.

Mexican Pesos fanned out in a colourful arrangement.

Some people will argue that businesses want USD because it’s “better” but that is largely a myth.

Cash is king in Mexico and many people live their lives entirely in cash.

  • Credit cards are accepted most places in Cancún but you’ll need cash for small purchases, markets, and taxis. When paying by credit card, pay in Mexican Pesos and allow your bank to convert the charge for you.

Let’s say you pay for a souvenir in cash but you use USD, the person you bought it from can’t spend that money on food or to pay bills until they change it into Mexican Pesos.

Many banks won’t change small amounts of cash so they’ll need to save up USD over time and will have to wait to be able to use their money.

It’s better for everyone to just use the local currency.

Insure Your Experience

In my years of travel I’ve sprained an ankle, got sick in the jungle, and been stranded overnight due to cancelled flights. Travel insurance has bailed me out every time.

If you’re spending a decent amount on your trip, plan to venture off the resort for activities and excursions, or don’t want to spend a lot for unexpected out of pocket expenses I strongly recommend you take out a travel insurance policy before your trip.

At a minimum your policy should cover medical expenses and emergency transportation.

  • Emergency Transportation can mean anything from being airlifted out of a remote area to being flown to a more capable hospital or even returning you home in the event of an emergency. You should always have this coverage.

You’ll also have the option to add coverage like trip cancellation and interruption, lost bags, extreme sports, and even valuables like jewellery or phones.

Insurance is often the sort of thing you never think of until you need it, but I think it’s worth spending a small amount now rather than potentially thousands later.

Getting Around Safely

Visiting a place like Cancún doesn’t mean you have to be tied to your resort or hotel. I’m going to cover the safest ways to get around Cancún and a few things you’re better off skipping.

Walking Around Cancún

Unlike other parts of Mexico, Cancún doesn’t really have a walkable Centro/downtown area.

Downtown Cancún is busy with traffic, has large US-style roads, and lacks the charm you get in other places like Puerto Escondido or Oaxaca.

Frankly, it’s just not the sort of place you’re likely to want to spend much time exploring on foot unless you’re staying in this area, and it’s not somewhere I recommend anyone walk around at night.

If you do decide to walk around Centro then follow these safety tips:

  • Be mindful of traffic
  • Only cross at designated crosswalks or with a local
  • Stick to the main drags
  • Do not wander into unknown neighbourhoods
  • Don’t flash expensive jewellery or electronics
  • Do not carry large amounts of cash
  • Do not walk around Centro at night

The Hotel Zone on the other hand is a safer place to walk with plenty of tourist-friendly businesses, shops, restaurants, and bars.

You can also walk along the beach here which is nice for catching a breeze.

Walking around the Hotel Zone can be hot and even sticky, depending on what time of year you visit Cancún. Remember to carry water, wear sunblock, and take breaks as needed.

Uber In Cancún

Uber in Cancún is a tricky situation so stop scrolling, because you need to read this.

Technically, Uber exists in Cancún. If you open the app, you will see drivers. If you order a ride, someone will show up.

But it’s not as simple as it seems.

Uber map showing several available drivers in the Hotel Zone of Cancun.

The taxi driver union in Cancún does not want Uber to operate in the area and as such, since Uber launched in Cancún there has been conflict.

  • In November 2023 an agreement was reached between Uber and the taxi union that would allow taxi drivers to benefit from Uber by operating on the platform. However, tensions are still high and whether or not this is an actual solution remains to be seen.

In Cancún it’s not uncommon for Uber drivers and riders to be targeted by the taxi association.

This could mean anything from confrontations to aggressive driving or being followed.

Acts of intimidation are the primary way that the taxi union aim to get their point across and sometimes that means full-scale protests closing down roads.

  • This issue is unique to Cancún. Using Uber in Mexico City and other places around Mexico is a safe and easy way to get around.

In an attempt to not appear as ride-share operators, Uber drivers will often aim to hide in plain sight. This means not having any Uber markers on their vehicle, hiding their phone while driving, and making riders sit in the front seat so they appear to be friends rather than customers.

Palm trees line a white sand beach in Cancun while a parasailer flies behind a speedboat in the ocean.

There are also some restrictions as to where Ubers can even operate. You may be able to get an Uber at the airport but they are not allowed to service many resorts, where the taxis rule the territory.

Although taxis cost more and lack some of the benefits of Uber like ride tracking, they are ultimately the safer choice in Cancún at this time.

Taking an Uber in Cancún is not something I do and not something I recommend you do, until an actual resolution brings change.

Taxi Safety

For quick trips around the Hotel Zone and the city of Cancún, taxis are a good option but there are a few ways to keep yourself as safe as possible when using this service.

If you’re leaving a hotel, resort, or restaurant you can ask a member of staff to call a taxi for you and give you an idea of how much it’s likely to cost.

This adds a layer of security to the transaction and takes some of the awkwardness out of getting a taxi for yourself.

If you’ve headed to a tourist attraction or popular part of Cancún there may also be taxi stands known as “sitios”. Only authorized taxis are allowed to use these stands and here’s what to look out for to make sure your taxi is legitimate before getting in:

  • Taxis are white with a green stripe
  • Plates on front and back
  • Drivers wear a white and green uniform with union logo on the chest
  • Taxi number on the side door
  • Driver ID will be displayed

When taking an authorized taxi in Cancún the biggest concern is making sure you’re being charged a fair price.

Unfortunately, while it’s not true of every driver, there are taxi scams that operate in Cancún to take advantage of the wealthier travellers.

Looking up at a red and white sun umbrella against a blue sky in the Riviera Maya.

While it’s not always advertized, the taxis actually do have a fare card they are supposed to adhere to. So the best way to make sure you’re paying a fair price is to ask for the fare card, known in Spanish as la tarifa.

La tarifa outlines how much it costs to go between popular areas of Cancún such as the markets, Hotel Zone, airport, bus terminal, and even Walmart.

Here are a few safety tips you’ll need to know before taking a taxi in Cancún:

  • Ask for la tarifa and take a picture for future reference
  • Agree to a price with the driver before getting in
  • Always pay in Mexican Pesos not US Dollars
  • Always pay in cash
  • Never get into a taxi with anyone other than the driver
  • Get out if anyone else gets into your taxi
  • Share your location with a trusted person
  • Take a note or photo of the taxi number
  • Trust your instincts

The majority of the time, taxi scam victims in Cancún are people who don’t know how the process works, want to pay using US Dollars, and appear to have a lot of money (carrying designer bags, wearing expensive jewellery, etc).

  • The local currency in Cancún and the rest of Mexico is Mexican Pesos. Many places in Cancún will accept US Dollars at a very poor exchange rate.

If you’re ever unsure or uncomfortable, trust your instincts and let the taxi go. There are plenty of others to choose from!

Public Transportation

Public transportation in Cancún is safe, cheap, and easy once you know what you’re doing.

The easiest way to get around the Hotel Zone or even from the Hotel Zone to places downtown is by bus.

  • ADO buses connect Cancún bus terminal to many other towns and cities. First class buses in Mexico are a fantastic, safe, and affordable way to travel.

The R1 and R2 buses cost $12MXN [$0.70USD/$1CAD] and run in a loop between the southern end of the Hotel Zone all the way to downtown.

If you’re travelling within the Hotel Zone then you can hop on any bus that comes along, as both routes service all stops in this zone.

  • Most bus drivers will not accept USD and won’t be able to give change for larger bills. Hang on to your coins and small bills if you plan to ride the bus.

Bus stops are easy to find because they’re marked with signs and there’s usually a few people waiting.

Buses on the ocean side of the road are heading north and buses on the inland or lagoon side are heading south.

  • Hold on as soon as you board the bus because the drivers are likely to take off before you find a seat. Remember to watch your step as you get on and off the bus as the steps are steep.

The good news is, all the buses turn at the bottom of the Hotel Zone so even if you get on the wrong one, you’ll eventually end up where you wanted to go.

Once you reach the top end of the Hotel Zone, this is where the two routes split.

The R1 heads toward the bus terminal while the R2 heads toward Walmart and other locations deeper in downtown Cancún.

  • Many drivers have functional English skills so don’t be afraid to ask for help and to see what it’s like onboard a bus in Cancún check out the start of the video below. 👇🏻

These buses are not tourist buses, they are public transportation that are used by locals and visitors to get around.

This means that sometimes they can be busy, so you’ll want to keep your backpacks and bags in front of you and be mindful of your personal space and belongings.

Driving In Cancún

Some people visiting Cancún like the option of having their own vehicle to explore other areas in the Yucatán Peninsula and Riviera Maya, and if that’s you, we need to talk about a few things, including what to do in a traffic stop.

In terms of road safety, the rules of the road can be fairly loose in Cancún. It’s important to be diligent but also drive confidently.

  • In countries like Canada and the US most people try not to hit other cars, in Mexico you try not to get hit by other cars.

If you decide to drive your own car down to Cancún you want to make sure you have all the legal documents and permits required before crossing the border.

If you’re flying in, rental cars are readily available in Cancún at the airport and downtown, but for the best prices you’ll want to reserve online to avoid any overcharging.

  • Make sure you have full insurance coverage. Personal Damage Liability is required in Mexico and is often charged on top of the rental rate.

The number one safety concern when it comes to driving in Cancún is being pulled over for traffic offences, both real and fictional.

Looking out at the beach and ocean from an infinity pool in Cancun with a side reading "Peace begins here".

So let’s talk about traffic stops and what to do if it happens to you.

It is not uncommon for legitimate police checkpoints to pop up along the highway between Cancún and Tulum. These checkpoints will stop foreign and Mexican drivers.

It’s also possible that when driving in an unfamiliar country you could make a mistake or break a law you weren’t aware of. This can also result in a legitimate traffic stop.

Unfortunately, in Cancún a racket exists that sees some cars targeted for scams and extortion. While rental cars are often a prime target, anyone can also fall victim to these schemes including Mexicans.

So here’s what should happen if you are pulled over and ticketed by the police in Cancún:

  • Police will use flashing lights to pull you over
  • Police will ask for your license, registration, proof of insurance
  • First ask for and make a note of the officer badge number and name
  • Then, provide the requested documents
  • If you are being ticketed you will be asked to follow the officer to a station to pay the fine
  • Fines are usually under $400MXN [$23USD/$32CAD]

Here are a few things the police should never do in a legitimate traffic stop:

  • Withhold their badge number
  • Withhold your documents
  • Demand money
  • Take you to an ATM

Every situation is unique and it’s easy to speculate on what you should do and would do if you were ever in this position. Reality is often another story.

Knowing how things should go and what red flags to look out for can help keep you safe but ultimately it’s up to you to read the situation in the moment and decide what the best course of action is for you.

If an officer demands money during a traffic stop try to remain calm, firm, and polite.

Often the best thing to do is insist on going to the station to pay your fine. This will often deter scammers and they will let you go.

Do not argue, even if you think you haven’t done anything wrong. This is a foreign country and sometimes paying the $20USD fine is better than getting into a legal dispute with the police.

Always read the situation and follow your instincts. If you find yourself in a dangerous predicament it may be better to hand over some money to ensure your personal safety and get out of there.

Although I don’t endorse giving in to criminal activity, sometimes it’s the safest choice.

Here are a few other tips to keep you safe while driving in Cancún:

  • Always carry ID and vehicle paperwork in case of a checkpoint
  • Never drink and drive or have open containers in the vehicle
  • Respect the speed limit (posted in KM/H)
  • Park in an official lot when possible
  • Never leave valuables in the vehicle
  • Watch out for speed bumps
  • Leave extra time for roadworks and detours
  • Have cash for gas stations out of town
  • Never drive outside town at night


You’ve got questions about safety in Cancún and I’ve got answers!

Which Is Safer Cancún or Cabo?

According to Numbeo, the crime rate in Cancún is higher than that of Cabo however both places are safe to visit. Drug related crimes are more common in Cancún but these do not involve the average traveller. Anyone visiting Mexico can stay safe by never purchasing or seeking to purchase drugs.

Is Cancún Safe for US Citizens?

Yes, Cancún is safe for US citizens! In fact, Cancún is the top international travel destination for US travellers and a great place to relax in paradise. While Mexico can get some bad press, Cancún actually has similar crime and safety ratings as popular cities like Seattle and Miami.

Is Cancún Safe From Cartels?

Cartels do operate in the Cancún area but it’s important to understand that this does not impact the average traveller. A cartel is a criminal organization that is operating a business and most travellers are not in that world. The majority of travellers who do have encounters with cartels do so through drug use and purchase.

Summary: Is Cancún Safe?

Cancún is one of the world’s top beach destinations and for good reason! It’s a beautiful place to vacation or even spend the holidays, and with countless activities and excursions to choose from, it’s sure to be a memorable time.

Staying safe in Cancún is easy when you know what to look out for and this article should have you feeling comfortable and equipped to start exploring paradise.