Is Playa Del Carmen Safe? What are the dangers and is there crime in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico that you should be worried about for your vacation? What is the low down on Playa Del Carmen crime? Since we are in the area, we can tell you everything you need to know here so you can have a safe time vacationing Playa Del Carmen, Mexico.
Is Playa Del Carmen Safe to visit?
Playa Del Carmen, Mexico has been safe place especially compared to other tourist destinations or even where you might live. There are things however, to watch out for and know what are areas of concern. In general tourists have few issues with safety in Playa Del Carmen. Below we mention some safety concerns and general things to look for and our top tips.
What is the current situation for crime in Playa Del Carmen?
Organized crime is present in most places in the world. While it has been here for a while, most of the crimes took place out of residents and tourists view. Unlike some parts of the world where crime is random, here it has not been targeted at residents and tourists. It should be noted though that if you are coming to Playa Del Carmen to party, take drugs or go out a lot, more crime happens in these circles, like it does in most places in the world.
If you are coming to an all inclusive resort in or near Playa Del Carmen, they are not affected at all nor is travel to and from the airport. This type of vacation travel is extremely safe and safer then most touristic destinations in the world. We don’t discourage people from vacationing and having a good time in Playa Del Carmen, but we do make people aware of how crime has changed from previous years.
We try to take a balanced approach to keeping visitors aware of what the situation is here with crime. Safety is the upmost concern on our mind. That is why we have written this guide. While the rise in crime is sad to see we also do not want to be alarmist. Most everyone that has recently came, has enjoyed themselves and has not been effected by crime. In 2019 we have seen less crime than 2018. Crime peaked in early 2018 and even though some violent crimes happen, it is receding for now.
But what about the news you hear? We will talk about this below.
But Playa Del Carmen is in Mexico?
Mexico in general gets a bad reputation for crime. The first thing to remember is, Mexico is a BIG country and what is actually the truth may be different from exaggerated or focused reporting.
For example, if something happens on the east coast of the United States do people cancel their trips to the west coast? Or if something happens in the north of Europe do people cancel their sunny vacations in Spain? No, not at all! That is because in both examples these places are large and localized events do not effect most other places that are so far a way.
Most of the violence you may have read about or seen on TV is in isolated pockets of Mexico, far away from the Yucatan Peninsula and Playa Del Carmen.
Mexican News and News Papers
The second thing we have to consider are the facts. Here in Mexico the news loves to publish gory stories about car crashes complete with photos and other shocking stories. This is called “yellow news” here. It grabs your attention and has shock value. How many people would read about a family that goes to Mexico on vacation and they had nice sunny days, amazing food and a good time with nothing bad happening? No one really would read it because it is “not news“.
Increasingly in other countries media outlets they report shocking news to grab attention. Reporters increasingly outsource writings or only jump on the band wagon to write about the current popular topic that sells just to make a profit.
With this being said, there are always people that will take advantage of other people and crime can happen anywhere. But with a little caution and knowledge, you can eliminate the risk of something happening to you that will distract from your vacation.
So what are the Playa Del Carmen safety issues?
Here are some things that can affect your safety in Playa Del Carmen.
Pickpocketing at restaurants and supermarkets
Pickpocketing on 5th Avenue is hardly ever heard of and quite frankly surprising due to the thousands of tourist that walk that pedestrian street daily. You should be normally careful on 5th Avenue. There are however two places to be a little more alert, restaurants and supermarkets.
This is something new we have had to add to the list. Starting around the second half of 2017 we have heard of a few reports of people getting things stolen out of purses at restaurants. It is easy to sit down and enjoy a meal and forget your open purse on the floor or back of your chair. Be especially cautious at tourists restaurants.
Update: In 2018-2019 We are glad this new safety issues has not become a bigger problem. We have not heard of more issues with this recently but it always pays to be vigilant.
There have been some reports of pickpocketing at grocery stores. This happens while a purse in in a cart or someone bumps into you while someone else takes your wallet. It is not too common, but keep alert and don’t leave your purse in your cart.
The crime of paying too much
This is not a major issue since everywhere tourist go, they often pay more for things even without knowing it. Here are some tips on how not to overpay in Playa Del Carmen. There are three aspects we will look at:
- Shopping and not paying too much.
How to prevent the crime of paying too much shopping
While shopping, look around. A good rule to have when traveling is, never buy anything the first day. It is good to see what is out there and what a good price is.
If you are shopping in Playa Del Carmen, bargaining is pretty much not done. But you will say “Hey Mr. Yucatan, I see it all the time”. Yes people pretend to give a discount but they are really just offering the real price. Prices are really fixed here, it is just a matter of knowing what the real price is. Most stores already offer the real price, you get into a little negotiation with smaller street sellers. If things are not marked with a price then often the seller will size up and come up with a price that they think they can ask. Then when you try to get a lower price they might come down. To avoid this just look for items to be priced.
Tax Free shopping
Many stores on 5th Avenue will offer tax free shopping for tourists. This means that the tax added is returned after you file the claim at the airport. There are different programs and readers have gotten different results from buying things. Some have never gotten the refund (see our article here on tax free shopping and the comments). The rule should be, don’t buy something just because you are going to get a discount of not paying the tax. Buy things you want and expect to pay the price.
How to prevent the crime of getting ripped off at a restaurant
5 things to do so you are not overcharged at a restaurant
- Some places will add in a tip and you might end up tipping twice which can add up if you have a large group or went out for a nice dinner. It is illegal to add a tip to the bill in Mexico. Even though it is, places sneak it on and can switch the printer to add it in at times.
- Add up the math, even if all the menu items looked to be charged correctly, the adding up can be more then it is supposed to be. Use your smart phone calculator to check the math. For example $120 peso plate of food plus a $40 peso drink should cost $160 peso. But an unscrupulous waiter might right it up and say $180 pesos.
- Check those two for one drink specials, did they charge you for two or one on the check?
- Always know the price of what you are getting before you order. There is a saying “if you have to ask the price you cannot afford it“, that certainly does not apply here. Those specials may sound good, but make sure it is not special just because they are charging you a special price for it when you get the bill.
- And last of all, if there is some question about the bill, ask. Even if your waiter does not speak English, someone should at a restaurant on 5th Avenue and it is probably an excuse not to correct it by playing dumb and not understanding what you are asking about. Of course there may be a rare instances where there is a communication problem and this does not excuse rude behavior or being belligerent. You may have to chalk it up to being in a foreign country and not knowing the language.
- Check out our article about the top 10 tips for eating at restaurants in Playa Del Carmen.
The Playa Del Carmen crime of charging too much in a taxi
The last aspect is taxis. Taxis in all countries get a reputation for their schemes and over charging people. Here in Playa there are no meters but a chart of rates based on the area you are going to and from. Check out our taxi information in the Tourist information here on our website for a chart. If you don’t know the price and ask, at least you can decide if you want to pay it before you get in.
At night when you might have been out drinking, taxi drivers can ask or say an even higher price. Not all taxi drivers do this and in general, just knowing the price helps to avoid paying more for the cab. Just for reference only about 12% of drivers speak good English. So be prepared with some Spanish. At least know your destination in Spanish or Hotel name. Taxi drivers usually do know numbers in English if that is the only English they know.
Taxis to Cancun Airport are safe but since there is no set price it can be more that what is normal. The best is booking a private transfer with a discount for a round trip rather than a taxi from the Cancun Airport to Playa Del Carmen. Alternatively, you can also see our guide on all transportation options from the Cancun Airport to Playa Del Carmen here.
Tip: Taxis hailed on the street are cheaper from taxi stands. They really are the same taxis, they are just more convienent at taxi stands. You can find this tip and other information in our Taxi Guide for Playa Del Carmen.
The Playa Del Carmen dangers of crossing the street
Yes this can be a safety issue. We see tourist all the time jay walking and thinking they have the right away while crossing a busy street.
Not all intersections are four way stops and traffic flows at different speed and there are drivers with all levels of skills on the road. Taxi drivers are notorious for driving fast to get to the next fare and with an influx of people moving to Playa Del Carmen from other parts of Mexico, drivers here are sometimes just as unfamiliar with the local road rules as a tourist. Watch out and don’t count on cars to watch out for you.
There are raised crosswalks that can be found on 10th Avenue, Juarez, 30th Avenue and a few other streets. Technically if you are walking here, traffic has to stop for you. There are a lot of distractions while driving and you need to look out for traffic to make sure they are stopping.
Safety in Playa Del Carmen concerning drinking
As mentioned above in the taxi section, being tipsy can make you a target of someone wanting to take advantage of you. Here are some of the Playa Del Carmen dangers that lurk at night. This is important to read if you are going out. Also see our article concerning recent reports about alcohol at resorts and bars in Mexico.
Playa Del Carmen safety issues with prostitutes
Late at night and around clubs, sometimes there are women or transsexuals that are very charming and compliment you (mainly doing this to male tourist). Some are very touchy feely and while touching you they snag your wallet. They are less interested in having sex and more interested in earning a quick dollar even quicker. Just be more alert at night and buddy up with someone because walking around late at night (i.e. 12am-6am) after drinking can make you a target.
The police are aware of this problem and do patrol at night but the prostitutes walk away when the police come around and blend in. So this problem is not going away anytime soon. Don’t approach these “ladies” and don’t allow them to touch you. You can brush their hands ways if they get close. Be firm and just say no.
Safety issues with bringing people to your hotel
If you bring prostitutes or dates back to your hotel room, be careful about where you leave valuables. It might be a fun hookup but often there is theft involved. It is not often that tourists are going to the police report a prostitute or first name only person to report a theft.
Hotels try to balance registering guest who come but it can be hard to ask every person who comes through the door who they are. It really is up to you to use your judgement.
Is Playa Del Carmen safe concerning drugs?
Drugs are not a problem in Playa Del Carmen, it is the tourist that take them! If you plan on coming to Playa Del Carmen to party with drugs you should know that this is going to put you are risk for problems, mainly you doing something to harm yourself.
Remember if you decide to take drugs or buy them you are encouraging large organizations to provide them. This inevitably cause clashes between people fighting over the turf. Since January 2017 there have been drug related shootings in the downtown. This was not aimed at tourist, but these are the issues that arise when people want a supply of drugs.
What has happened to tourist in the past
There are several well known examples of tourist taking drugs and getting paranoid and running off into the woods. Only to be found days later practically dehydrated and thousands of dollars spent trying to find them. Some of the worst stories of tourist having problems is because drugs were involved. Club owners and authorities work hard to deal with partying people and are usually overly tolerant to make sure people have a good time but at the same time you will be removed from clubs if caught taking drugs or causing any problem. The moral of the story is have a good time but don’t take things you don’t know what it is or don’t do drugs.
Going clubbing? Take a friend
Also if you go out to enjoy the nightlife in Playa Del Carmen, it is good to be with friends. In very rare instances there have been allegations of being slipped some drugs. Usually this involves a single person and some romantic interest. This type of things can happen anywhere in the world where there are large clubs. It is not something to be paranoid about but just aware of.
You should note this article to know what happens in Mexico when you are arrested for drunken and disorderly behavior or worse, involved in drugs. This is an article about the U.S Consular Agency in Playa Del Carmen. this article talks about services for U.S. citizens but also talks about what happens when you get into trouble here.
Tip: It is good to go out with friends and take your cell phone with you so if you get separated you can contact each other. Have a plan to meet at a certain place and time if you get separated. Have at least enough cash to take a taxi home if you are alone. Or just plan on going to one club so even if you get separated you can find each other.
Is Playa Del Carmen safe for theft in your hotel room?
As with most tourist destinations, theft from rooms happens and there is not much you can do about it AFTER it happens. So here is what you can do about it BEFORE so it may not happen. Theft is not a big issue in Playa Del Carmen but it does not hurt to adhere to these tips.
- Keep organized, you may be missing things because you brought so much stuff and spread it all over the place that you cannot find anything.
- Check windows to see if they are locked when you check in. Often cleaning crews will open windows while cleaning and leave them unlocked.
- You can request maid service only when you need it. Having people come into your room everyday increases your risk. Do you really need your bed made or towels changed everyday? Not only are you saving energy and the environment, you are also saving work from people that work hard each day serving the tourist trade. Perhaps just catch the maid service in the hall and ask for new towels if you need them rather then have them come in and replace them. Use the do not disturb sign when you don’t want maid service or tell the maids in the hall.
- Use the safe. It is there for your valuables. If your room does not have one, lock your suitcases, this lowers your risk of having items taken.
- Be courteous and polite to staff. We should all do this anyways, but having a good relationship with people even if only for a few days, it can go a long way and gain you more respect. People are less likely to steal from you when you are know from being nice, not always, but it helps.
Security at large hotels for theft prevention
It should be noted that if you stay at a large resort, they are looking out for you. Many people don’t realize just how much security is going on while you are lounging by the pool. This is an advantage of staying at a large resort as opposed to a smaller hotel.
Often at employee entrances, everyone has to show ID, and when leaving go through metal detectors, open purses and no outside guest are allowed. Security cameras are all around even if you do not see them and resorts are very strict on outside guest or even staff in guest rooms or near them if their job does not entail it. All of this helps reduce issues, but still being alert helps go even further.
It is good to know that large resorts have this security in place and if something goes missing, you should report it as soon as you can, because security can see what they do. With decent security in place at resorts, larger items are very hard to steal. It is smaller things that you should keep on you or locked up in a safety box.
Safety in Playa Del Carmen while driving
Driving within Playa Del Carmen is safe but there are a few cautionary things to watch for. It can be hard to drive in a foreign country and have a lot of different distractions. Driving in the city of Playa Del Carmen can be more distracting then when you get on the highway and are in other locations. Here are some things to watch for to keep you more safe.
- Not all intersections are the same, some are two way stops and other are four way stops. Sometimes it is hard to see a stop sign. You have to make sure you know the traffic flow for you and watch out for other people coming from the other streets as well. Sometimes people run through intersections even though they have a stop sign.
- Watch for mopeds and motorcycles. A lot of accidents involve them. Usually they are not at fault. Because they are smaller and less visible, people often pull out or cross an intersection and an accident occurs. It is also the case that moped and motorcycles are less respected on the road and people in vehicles can be more aggressive.
- Watch for pedestrians and other tourist because people cross the street often not at designated crosswalks.
Usually most tourist do not need to drive much in town except when leaving for a day trip. Just be cautious and take your time so you can safely enjoy your drive.
We hope we answered the question of safety in Playa Del Carmen
So there you have it, the 5 common dangers in Playa Del Carmen that tourist encounter. With a little savvy you can avoid over paying, know with confidence how much to pay in the taxi, keep your belongings a little safer in your hotel, be cautious at night if you so choose to go out and be careful while driving on the streets.
We hope this article gives you piece of mind about Playa Del Carmen safety. Just to note, in all our time here in Playa Del Carmen, we have only had minor issues at restaurants and we have had it corrected, one taxi driver tried to charge double, which he did not get away with, and nothing else bad happen. So now, go enjoy your vacation!
If you are going to be staying in Playa Del Carmen for an extended period of time or as a resident, you will want to read our article on crime and issues that affect residents here.
If you have any questions or comments about safety in Playa Del Carmen let us know in the comment section below.
Make sure you see all our other Great Guides to Playa Del Carmen!!! We have over dozens of guides to help you find the best of Playa Del Carmen and have a great vacation! Also since you are coming to the areas soon you might want to know the best transportation option from the Cancun Airport to Playa Del Carmen or your hotel. For those that go to Cancun for vacation, we have a guide on safety there as well. We have you covered in the link so you can have the best vacation possible.