If you’ve ever planned a trip to Mexico (or thought about buying real estate in the Riviera Maya, chances are good that at least one person you know has asked, “Is it safe?” So, to help dispel common myths and bring clarity to the situation, we put together this brief overview of safety and travel concerns in the Riviera Maya, to show you how this magical region of Mexico compares to other destinations worldwide.
Safety in Riviera Maya, Mexico
Before we go any further, it’s important to acknowledge that – much like Chicago, Detroit and Washington DC in the United States – parts of Mexico definitely have serious issues with crime. But – also like the U.S. and most other major countries worldwide – serious criminal activity in Mexico typically goes down far away from the country’s popular vacation destinations and expat havens.
“We feel confident in saying that Mexico is safe for vacationers and travelers,” said Rich Biswell of Journey Mexico, which specializes in experiential trips that take visitors to all of the country’s top destinations.
Regardless of what you might see in the headlines from time to time, incidents in Mexico that involve tourists or expats are extremely isolated, especially in the state of Quintana Roo, where the Riviera Maya is located. In fact, Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula – home to the Riviera Maya, as well as Merida, Cozumel and Cancun – is the country’s most-visited region and safely hosts millions of visitors each year from all over the world.
According to the U.S. State Department, there are no travel restrictions in the Riviera Maya region (aside, of course, from current warnings related to COVID) and most crimes occur between rival criminal organizations, well outside the realm of tourists and expats. The UK government advises travelers visiting the Yucatan “to monitor local advice, remain vigilant and follow the advice of local authorities,’ which in my view is also simply what sensible people should do anywhere else in the world to stay safe!
“What you don’t get from most reports in the US is statistical evidence that Americans are less likely to face violence in Mexico than at home, particularly when you zero in on Mexico’s most popular travel destinations,” wrote Lonely Planet travel writer Robert Reid.
As a whole, Mexico’s Riviera Maya is an amazing place to visit and explore, so travelers should feel comfortable venturing off the resort grounds to check out the ancient Mayan ruins, freshwater cenotes and fabulous beaches!
Here are a few more eye-opening safety facts about Mexico to help put things in perspective:
- The intentional homicide rate on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula is just 3 per 100,000, which is better than the US homicide rate of 5 people per 100,000.
- According to the UK government, top tourist destinations do not see the levels of drug related violence and crime experienced in other parts of the country, including Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Cozumel, Puerto Aventuras, Akumal and Tulum.
- Cities such as New York and Baltimore have much higher crime rates than the Riviera Maya.
Safety Tips for Tourists in Mexico’s Riviera Maya
Although no place is ever entirely safe, the Riviera Maya region of Mexico definitely offers a secure haven for tourists and expats to come and explore the Caribbean, with plenty of family-friendly activities for those traveling with children. Generally speaking, don’t venture out alone (or too drunk) late at night and stay within the more populated areas. Also, trust your gut and:
- Don’t flash expensive items.
- Use a “dummy wallet” to fool pickpockets and keep your real cash hidden away in a money belt.
- Stay at trusted and accredited hotels and resorts.
- Book taxi rides and bus tours through the hotel concierge.
- Consider using a PacSafe backpack for expensive equipment like smartphones and cameras.
- Don’t leave valuables unattended while you swim.
- If you want to go clubbing or bar hopping, bring a friend.
- In your hotel room, use the safe, keep belongings organized and request maid service only when you need it.
- Be wary of strangers – it’s okay to make new friends, provided you keep in mind that you just met!
Finally, whenever you are seeking up-to-date info about safety in Mexico – or any country – be sure to check out your government’s travel advisory pages, which are regularly updated with new regional developments. Also, feel free to reach out to me directly, as my own family has called the Riviera Maya “home” for over five years and I would be thrilled to share details from my own personal experience of living in paradise!
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