Photo Credit: Photo Credit: Jhana Ellard
Is Tulum Safe? What You Need to Know to Travel Smart
Dusting off your passport and immersing yourself in other cultures is one of the biggest rewards that comes with international travel. But a big part of having a great time includes being smart when you travel. Paying attention to your surroundings, not getting duped by common tourist scams, and avoiding dicey situations are all part of the experience whether you’re traveling in a group or by yourself.
Tulum, a gorgeous town in Mexico’s Mayan Riviera, is a popular destination for solo travelers, families, and couples getaways. The town is home to amazing ancient Mayan ruins and boasts gorgeous white sand beaches bounded by the azure Caribbean Sea (thanks to its position along the Yucatán Peninsula). Every year, the town welcomes millions of tourists — especially Americans thanks to its close proximity to the United States.
But understandably, high profile stories of crime involving tourists leaves some people a little leary. So, is Tulum safe for vacationing tourists? And how can you protect yourself if you have your heart set on this beachside destination?
Is Tulum Safe for Tourists?
First, it’s always important to note that travelers should use common sense when visiting any part of the world. Even in countries that have relatively low crime, that doesn’t mean that no crime exists, even by way of scams or upcharging. So, no matter where your travels take you, be smart.
For Americans, Mexico frequently gets portrayed as dangerous because of cartel violence or political corruption. However, Tulum is firmly a tourist-centric town and is considered one of the safer areas to visit, right up there with Carmen Del Playa — another Mayan Riviera beach town. While crime can happen in Tulum, it’s often petty crime such as theft or scams that target tourists.
What About Cartel Activity?
Conversations about crime in Mexico often focus exclusively on the cartels. Yes, cartels exist, but these organized crime groups typically don’t target tourists. Also keep in mind that like many countries, tourism is a key driver for Mexico’s economy, and especially the state of Quintana Roo where Tulum is located. So, even federal and state officials work hard to ensure that tourist attractions and districts are generally safe.
Are There any Tulum Travel Advisories?
No matter where your travels take you, it’s always smart to check with the Department of State for any potential travel advisories. The most recent nation-wide advisory for Mexico was issued on October 5, 2022. The Department of State further breaks it down by states or cities, with Tulum included in the Quintana Roo advisory recommending that people exercise increased caution due to kidnapping and crime.
The advisory continues that while the crime typically doesn’t target tourists, some tourists have been injured as bystanders to altercations. Again, the advisory notes that people should avoid suspicious areas where illicit activities could occur, and avoid entering into any situation that looks dangerous. In short, stick to the tourist areas and avoid probing off-the-beaten path sections under the guise of “enjoying Tulum like a local.”
Is Tulum Safe with Covid-19?
If you follow tourism, you’ll know that Mexico dropped restrictions fairly quickly, well ahead of many other places. As of publishing this article, there are no requirements for U.S. citizens or residents to provide proof of Covid-19 vaccination or a negative PCR test to enter Mexico. However, you might get screened at a port of entry if you’re experiencing symptoms. If you’re a U.S. citizen or resident returning to the United States from Mexico, you also don’t need a negative PCR test. Non U.S. citizens or residents will need to show proof of vaccination to enter the United States.
Is Tulum Safe for Solo Travelers?
The crime rate in Tulum is rated as moderate with a slight uptick in recent years. Still, most tourists shouldn’t have any issues. You can safely travel to Tulum as a solo or solo female traveler. But, you should always be smart and avoid common pitfalls that increase your chances of becoming the victim of crime. This includes avoiding walking around alone at night in questionable areas, avoiding leaving drinks unattended in bars and restaurants, and being mindful to not flash valuables or money.
What Tourists Should Do to Stay Safe in Tulum
For the most part, tourists are more likely to fall victim to scams or petty theft than they are to come face to face with the cartel. So, being smart and avoiding situations that increase your chances of getting burned are your best bet.
ATMs and Robberies
Just like in the U.S., suspect ATMs are prime opportunities for theft. Avoid using random ATMs that you find on the street. Instead, stick to ATMs in your hotel, or go into an actual bank and use their interior ATMs to withdraw money. Meanwhile, avoid carrying large amounts of cash on you, or flashing valuables as this is a calling card to attract potential thieves.
Do you need a car to enjoy Tulum? Not necessarily. But if you feel you need one, book in advance through a reputable site. Avoid booking a rental once you arrive as you might spend more than you would have if you booked it earlier.
Tourists should avoid purchasing or using drugs in Mexico. Not only does this increase your chances of interacting with criminals, but it’s also illegal and is a great way to get locked up abroad. Likewise, when you’re under the influence, there’s a greater chance that you’ll get taken advantage of, robbed, or worse.
Avoid Nighttime Wanderings
For most tourists that stick to the hotel zone or tourist districts, Tulum is safe even at night. But random wanderings down questionable streets is a bad idea. If you want to party hop, use a taxi. Your hotel can usually help you secure one. For best results, build a relationship with your taxi driver and call on them when you’re ready to get back to your hotel at the end of the night.
Don’t Go Off the Beaten Path
Tulum is gorgeous, but a prime reason tourists become victims of crime is because they started poking around in areas where they didn’t belong. Because Tulum is so popular, there are plenty of guided group and private tours that will take you to the Mayan ruins or other attractions. Likewise, stick to hotels or home rentals in the busier districts. If you’re concerned about your safety, being in a remote part of town is not a good idea.
No one is saying that you should be fluent enough to conduct business. But knowing a few key phrases can help you negotiate a taxi, order food in a restaurant, or haggle with shopkeepers for the best tchotchke deals.
Stick to Filtered Water
Water quality varies widely across Tulum. If you’re staying at a major hotel, the water is typically filtered and you can drink straight from the tap without any issues. Although, these days most hotels provide bottled water as a service in the rooms.
Should Your Next Trip Be To Tulum?
Tulum is a gorgeous town that’s rich in history and is also just a great way to relax and unwind. While there is a travel advisory for Quintana Roo, Tulum is considered generally safe. As long as you’re a smart traveler and you avoid exploring questionable areas or engaging in suspicious activities, you should be safe. Also remember that Tulum is just one of many towns along the Mayan Riviera. So, you can also choose Cancun or Playa Del Carmen and book a tour to Tulum if you prefer.