Cancun, Mexico is Safe for Tourists

I want to share the content of an email I got today. I think it offers some words of wisdom and some important facts regarding the safety of travel to tourist areas in Mexico right now.

Travel Still Safe to Major Tourist Hubs in Mexico

On February 20, 2009, the U.S. Department of State issued a travel alert to those visiting Mexico, warning of increased violence and drug-related conflicts in several areas. The alert states, in part, “While millions of U.S. citizens safely visit Mexico each year (including thousands who cross the land border every day for study, tourism or business), violence in the country has increased recently.”

Travel agents should be aware that the most noteworthy crimes are taking place in border towns including Tijuana and Ciudad Juarez and the city of Chihuahua. The most popular tourist destinations, including Cancun, the Riviera Maya, Los Cabos, and Puerto Vallarta, remain safe for visitors.

The following is an abbreviated response from the Mexico Tourism Board:

Mexico remains a safe tourist destination and this is reflected in the 22.6 million international visitors that arrived in 2008, of which 18 million were Americans. This number represents a 5.9 percent increase from the previous year. Tourists who suffered any incidents were minimal. The violence associated with drug trafficking is isolated in cities that are far away from tourism destinations. We suggest using common precautions as when traveling to any foreign country.

Q: Is Mexico an unsafe place to travel?

Mexico ranks tenth as an international travel destination in the world and is the number one international tourism destination for North Americans traveling abroad. Many tourists to the country are repeat visitors, which demonstrates that the vast majority of tourists are satisfied and leave with overwhelmingly positive impressions.

Q: The travel alert issued by the U.S. State Department warns that even travel within the country beyond the border is dangerous. Should I just avoid traveling to Mexico completely?

No. Common sense and proper precautions must be taken when traveling anywhere, and Mexico is no exception. Whether traveling on the border or if you find yourself in another area of the country, stick to legitimate businesses and tourist areas. Be aware of your surroundings and your stay should be a memorable and safe experience. Mexico’s frontier, like many other frontiers in other countries, at times experiences certain conflicts and those crossing border states should do so while taking the proper precautions.

Q: Then what do you make of the U.S. State Department warning against travel to the border due to infighting among drug cartels?

In Mexico, the possession and consumption of drugs and narcotics are illegal. The laws governing these offenses are stricter and the resulting fines and prison sentences are often harsher than those provided for in U.S. and Canadian law.

The recent incidents involving drug traffickers have prompted U.S. and Canadian authorities to suggest travelers exercise extra caution when visiting certain border towns.

It is important to note, however, that this temporary announcement does not advise travelers against visiting the many safe tourist destinations. In fact, Leslie Bassett, Deputy Chief of Mission of the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City, declared that the intention of the alert is to inform of the violent acts that are taking place in specific states of Mexico as well as in other nations. She clarified that in no way does this alert seek to negatively portray the tourist destinations.

Q: Shouldn’t everyone just avoid going to Mexico, with everything that is going on with the crime and drug dealers?

It’s important to note that hotel occupancy in the popular destinations for tourists within Mexico remains strong. A report from the Secretary of Tourism elaborated this month (February 2009) shows the following: Cancun’s hotel occupancy at 73%, Riviera Maya at 85%, Los Cabos at 69% and Puerto Vallarta at 78%.

As the country’s promotion agency, the Mexico Tourism Board recommends visitors to contact our many offices for more information on the destination they are planning to visit.

Drug dealing and possession are a social problem that every nation faces, and Mexico is no exception. Visitors can be confident that local authorities are working hard to apprehend all those who violate the law to bring them to justice.

Q: What if something does happen? Will emergency services be able to help?

Federal and local governments are constantly working on improving emergency services, not only for tourists but for locals, too. Visitors should take precautions if they have any pre-existing medical needs and speak to their doctors before they travel abroad. We are also working on raising the bar in our standards to that our guests are kept safe, such as de-legalizing open bars in areas known as Spring Break destinations.

Hundreds of thousands of American students travel to resort areas throughout Mexico over Spring Break each year. The best way to enjoy their vacation without incident is to use some common sense to avoid dangerous situations. We encourage students to drink responsibly and be aware of the laws and regulations.

As stated in the U.S. State Dept. website:

“Excessive alcohol consumption and unruly behavior can lead to serious problems with Mexican authorities. Alcohol is involved in the vast majority of arrests, accidents, violent crimes, rapes, and deaths suffered by American students on Spring Break. Disturbing the peace, lewd or indecent behavior, littering, driving under the influence, drinking on the street or on public transportation, using public transportation without payment, or making obscene or insulting remarks are all considered criminal activities by Mexican authorities.

For any emergencies involving U.S. citizens in Mexico, please contact the closest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. The U.S. Embassy is located in Mexico City at Paseo de la Reforma 305, Colonia Cuauhtemoc, telephone from the United States: 011-52-55-5080-2000; telephone within Mexico City: 5080-2000; telephone long distance within Mexico 01-55-5080-2000. You may also contact the Embassy by e-mail at: http://ccs@usembassy.net.mx. The Embassy’s Internet address is http://www.usembassy-mexico.gov/

Here’s a link to the full text of the U.S. State Department Travel Alert, please read it yourself.

It is worth noting that in the past few weeks the Cancun Airport has seen record numbers of international flights arriving, the airport is busier than ever before with tourists arriving for vacation.

I also want to point out that the exchange rate between the U.S. Dollar and the Mexican Peso is such that Americans traveling to Mexico right now can enjoy real bargains.

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27 Responses to “Cancun, Mexico is Safe for Tourists”

  1. islagringo
    March 3rd, 2009 21:01

    Great report!

  2. Safety in Mexico, continued « Heather in Paradise
    March 4th, 2009 12:08

    […] Rivergirl–Cancun, Mexico is Safe for Tourists […]

  3. Nakeshia
    March 7th, 2009 00:01

    This is a great article. I cancelled my trip to Cancun yesterday because of what I was hearing. Yesterday, the travel agency called to confirm my cancellation and after reading this article I think I’m going to be in Cancun on Monday!!!

  4. RiverGirl
    March 7th, 2009 08:39

    Nakeshia – Here is another article that will put your mind at ease: US travelers told Mexican violence ‘localized’. I’m glad you un-canceled. The weather here is perfect right now, you will have a great time here.

  5. “Am I going to be a victim of violence in México?” Take this simple quiz to find out! – Midwesterner in Mexico
    March 7th, 2009 15:59

    […] most of my fellow Mexico blogs have addressed recently, the news coverage around security in Mexico has reached fever pitch in the […]

  6. Nita
    March 13th, 2009 14:43


    I have been reading your blogs since Hurricane Dean. I totally trust what you are telling people and would not cancel my vacation plans in April over this. If you stay in the hotel zone, and don’t get crazy, you will be fine! I can’t wait for my trip with my family in April! Cancun HERE WE COME!!!

  7. RiverGirl
    March 13th, 2009 14:51

    Thanks Nita – I’m sure you will have a great time here. Visitors to Cancun just need to use common sense, like they do in any city or any place with lots of tourists.

  8. Bryce
    March 19th, 2009 14:37

    Thank you for your posts on Cancun, safety, and tourism. My wife and I, along w/ a large group of friends are planning on being there April 1 thru 8 for a much needed vacation and fun in the sun. While there, we’d planned a trip to Chichen Itza, because who knows when the next opportunity will be that we’ll be so close to such a historical site. Yet even though the trip is hosted by an established company and booked through the resort, we have friends backing out now because of fears for their safety. I have sent them all a link to your blog in hopes of calming some of their fears. Maybe a few words from you here about such a trip and how safe it is would help persuade them that they’ll be safe.

    Thanks again!

  9. RiverGirl
    March 19th, 2009 15:20

    Bryce – In all honestly going on an organized tour to Chichen Itza is safe. For that matter so is going in a private car. The drug cartel violence is horrible, it’s also 1400 miles (give or take) away from here.

    This is like if your friends were scared to go to Florida because of things that are happening in Detroit! I know the media is playing up the violence, but it’s pretty silly to warn people off Cancun when there’s nothing going on here.

    Tell your friends to relax. Millions of tourists come here each year, MILLIONS! And there’s never been a single tourist death due to the drug cartels. The worst thing that happens to tourists here is sunburn and hangovers…and once in a while they drown because they get drunk and go swimming.

  10. disenomiami cancun
    March 20th, 2009 14:28

    Yep I think is all in our behavior, if you go all crazy with alcohol and with unsafe behavior, INSIDE your house, will be a disaster too! why blame a problematic zone away from this paradise? Hotels in Cancun doesn’t have immigration problems…

  11. cancun on march 26th
    March 21st, 2009 05:18

    i was there last year and will be there this year. i wouldn’t care if there’s violence in mx or not, i knew Cancun is safe. so guys make your trip and enjoy life for life is too short to be scared and do noting about it. OH and dont forget to be at senor Frogs once you’re in mexico. see you all in cancun on 26th through april 1. if any cuties(girls, lol) will be there, drop me a note @ my yahoomail. its l33t1337l33t@yahoo.com

  12. RiverGirl
    March 21st, 2009 12:08

    disenomiami cancun – Thanks for your comment, I agree 100%, use common sense here and you will be fine.

    cancun on march 26th – Thanks for your comment. I agree, life is too short to be scared and there’s NOTHING to be scared of here.

  13. sbg68
    March 25th, 2009 08:49

    I will be traveling to Tulum in April and have been debating cancelling or going. I will be tehre with husband and teenage daughter. We were planning on visting Chichen Itza and taking a Coba adventure tour. Does anyone have any suggestions on whether or not this would be safe? Also, theer are so many tour companies- how do I know which ones are reputable? any suggestions. Thanks

  14. RiverGirl
    March 25th, 2009 09:53

    sbg68 – Of course it’s safe. Just don’t swim drunk and you’ll be fine. Many tour companies are good. One I’ve heard many good things about it Alltournative Tours, lots of people say their tours are great: http://www.alltournative.com/

    Enjoy your trip!

  15. beth
    April 2nd, 2009 20:13

    i am going with two chilren at the age of 12 with my husband is it safe to go to cancun around december? thank you

  16. RiverGirl
    April 2nd, 2009 20:32

    Beth – Of course Cancun is safe. Millions of people come here each year and suffer nothing worse than sunburn. You will have a great time.

  17. Human
    April 13th, 2009 11:49

    Hello there.

    It’s great to find this kind of posts on the web. I am a concierge in a hotel here in Cancún and you have no idea of the number of people that have:

    1. Canceled their reservations after they see the so-called news on TV, saying how dangerous the ENTIRE country is.

    2. Called or emailed asking if the above is true.

    Some even ask how many tourists have been killed/kidnapped/attacked recently. Some others ask me to go to the airport to pick them up; as they won’t ever leave the hotel during their stay to avoid risking their lives, the only dangerous part of the trip would be the ride airport-hotel-airport, right?

    Now I answer the emails with a few lines, and a link to this post.

    In some way, you are making my job (and our business) easier.

    I wish there were many more like you!

  18. RiverGirl
    April 13th, 2009 12:03

    Human – It’s really extraordinary how many people are afraid to come to Cancun. And yet you and I live here and we know that our worst problem in Cancun is probably traffic or potholes in the streets or garbage.

    As locals we know how safe Cancun is. But tourists planning a trip to Cancun have to rely on the media to tell them what’s going on here.

  19. Stella
    April 15th, 2009 09:48

    Hey RiverGirl,

    Just wanted to let you know you were RIGHT!! Cancun was more perfect than we remembered. We had a blast and were completely as ease once we checked-in and got in vacation mode. There were no signs of violence at all and actually the people, employees and everyone in general were much more pleasant and accommodating than you will find in Pennsylvania.
    Thanks again for this website.

  20. RiverGirl
    April 15th, 2009 09:54

    Stella – I’m really glad you had a great time!

  21. gordon jervis
    June 30th, 2009 07:16

    hi river girl, i have booked to go to cancun in october for the first time with 7 friends, after the swine flu outbreak i am worried that there will be significantly less tourists from the us and other places in our age group (23-28) can you email me your thoughts? or post something on here. much appreciated x x x

  22. RiverGirl
    July 1st, 2009 14:57

    Gordon – I think that tourism to Cancun is getting back to normal very quickly. By August most locals expect things to be back to normal.

    But honestly right now the clubs are busy! So don’t even worry about it! Just come and have a great time!

  23. KelJen
    July 20th, 2009 10:39

    Hi there,
    My fiance and I are planning our honeymoon for the beginning of October. My parents have a time share out there at the Crown Paradise they are willing to give us…honestly, I am one of those worry wars, my future husband–not so much. He is all about Cancun, I am nervous. How is the swine flu outbreak out there? And yes, of course, the drug cartel??
    Please let me know so we can finally plan this honeymoon of our dreams! (I have been to Cancun plenty in the past, but not since 16 years old…LOVE IT, but now have reservations about going)….

  24. RiverGirl
    July 20th, 2009 15:42

    KelJen – RELAX!!! Mexico has big problems, but those problems rarely if ever affect tourists coming to Cancun. Worry about hurricanes, or rain, or sunburn, or hangovers…and wear your seatbelt when you ride in a car here. But don’t worry about the drug war, it doesn’t affect tourists here.

    As for the Swine Flu outbreak it’s as common in the U.S. as it is here. According to the Mexican Health Secretary [PDF] there were 196 confirmed cases of H1N1 in the state of Quintana Roo on July 16th (Quintana Roo comprises the Riviera Maya, Playa del Carmen and Cancun). The state of Quintana Roo has around 1.2 million people in it.

    So your chances of contracting the disease here seem pretty low. In fact, I’ll bet you are at greater risk of getting H1N1 from flying in a plane than from being here.

    In short, I wouldn’t worry about catching H1N1 here.

    Hope that helps!

  25. lori dodson
    August 8th, 2009 10:57

    What is the weather like in Cancun in December usually?

  26. RiverGirl
    August 9th, 2009 20:21

    Hi Lori – December weather in Cancun…

    Avg High: 82°F/28°C
    Avg Low: 69°F/21°C
    Warmest: 88°F/31°C
    Coldest: 52°F/11°C
    Number of days with some rain: 6

    More info available on the HiddenCancun weather page.

  27. Mike
    January 4th, 2010 15:31

    I totally believe in using common sense no matter where you are at…I will be visiting Cancun Jan 23, I wanted to see the town and a possible bullfight.. Are there any precautions that I should take that I may overlook?

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