Is Playa del Carmen Safe in 2023? A Solo Traveler and Family Perspective
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When planning a vacation to Mexico’s Riviera Maya, Playa del Carmen is a beloved choice for many due to its pleasant climate, gorgeous beaches, various outdoor activities, and tasty margaritas served on rooftops. Despite these attractive features, tourists may have concerns regarding the safety of the area. Let’s delve into this matter below.
Playa Del Carmen is a convenient city to visit if you are traveling from Cancun or Tulum. Moreover, it is a popular destination for people planning to retire in Mexico and favorable for digital nomads seeking a warm and hospitable place during winters.
If you’re planning to travel to Playa del Carmen, whether alone or with a partner/family, it’s important to keep safety in mind as a tourist.
In the last 7 years, I have been visiting to Playa del Carmen and I feel that it is generally a safe place. However, I am only sharing my personal opinion based on my own experiences and not any official statistics. Everyone’s experiences may be different and affect their views of a destination. So, read what I have written and decide for yourself. Remember to always stay cautious, even if others say a place is safe.
Trusting your gut and following basic safety practices are vital to improving your security in any destination.
An Overview of Mexico’s Safety
Let’s first take a look at the following chart which provides information about the overall health and safety situation in Mexico, before discussing safety in Playa del Carmen.
Global Health Security Index
26 of 196
Global Peace Index
136 of 163
Is Playa del Carmen safe for Tourists and Expats?
Playa del carmen was a very safe small fishing back in the early 90s. In 2023, Playa del Carmen is a very vibrant city and is still one of the safer tourist destinations when compared to other global cities and even other cities in Mexico.
This information comes from Numbeo, a website that provides an overall Safety Index of 50.55 and a Crime Index of 49.45. Both indexes are considered to be low-moderate based on data provided by contributors who have personal experience in the area over the past three years.
The current ratings indicate that people feel relatively safe and have low levels of unease regarding physical attacks or discrimination based on gender or skin color.
The area’s risk of car theft is also low. However, Playa del Carmen has a higher rating due to concerns about rising crime rates, corruption, and bribery issues.
Most tourists generally feel safe during their stay in Playa del Carmen while enjoying daily activities such as walking along 5th Avenue/Avenida Quinta, going to the beach, or relaxing at their preferred Playa beach club.
To stay informed about current events in Playa del Carmen, it is recommended that you visit news websites that are written in English (Mexico News Daily , Riviera Maya News)
Playa del Carmen Safety: What the U.S. Department of State Advices
You can obtain accurate information about the current safety situation in Playa del Carmen by checking the travel recommendations provided on the website of the U.S. Department of State (DOS), which serves as a reliable source to start with.
The DOS website can be confusing as it covers two separate states, Yucatan and Quintana Roo, within the Yucatan Peninsula. Playa del Carmen is situated in Quintana Roo state, which has a higher safety warning compared to Yucatan state. The DOS advises travelers to exercise normal precautions in Yucatan state, while suggesting increased caution when traveling to Quintana Roo due to crime and kidnapping concerns.
Although everyone’s experience is unique, I personally never felt like I was in danger of being kidnapped while walking around Playa del Carmen. However, the possibility of crime was a concern, but fortunately, it did not happen to me.
t is important to note that Quintana Roo has a safety rating of two out of four from DOS, which means it is considered relatively safe compared to the third level of “Reconsider travel” and the fourth level of “Do not travel.”
The U.S. government is giving the green light to visit Playa del Carmen but has advised them to remain cautious and vigilant at all times.
We also recommend travel insurance when planning a trip to Mexico and quite frankly everywhere else in the world.
We have confirmed that Mexico’s northern neighbor considers Playa del Carmen safe for tourists. However, when it comes to news reports, Playa del Carmen may not be safe. If you were to read news reports about the city you are from, and put yourself in the position of someone who has never been there, it may not sound safe. It all depends on your perspective.
I will not go into the details of the recent crime in Playa del Carmen that has been reported in the news. You can look it up online if you wish. However, if you are concerned about the possibility of getting caught in a crossfire in Playa del Carmen, I would like you to consider this question: As an American, can you honestly say that you feel completely safe when you walk into a grocery store, attend a concert, or visit other public places without the risk of becoming a victim of a shooting?
How to Stay Safe in Playa del Carmen
If you are around people who consume large amounts of alcohol or purchase illegal substances, your chances of experiencing issues increase statistically. During my visits in Playa del Carmen, I heard stories about foreigners losing or having their phones and wallets stolen.
Although these incidents tend to occur at popular nightclubs in town, they are not exclusive to Playa del Carmen and happen frequently in similar situations worldwide. Considering the high influx of tourists coming to Cancun and visiting Playa del Carmen, most locals and travelers go about their routines undisturbed.
Is It Safe To Walk Around Playa del Carmen?
Yes, it is safe to walk around Playa del Carmen, particularly during the day and in busy areas. Travelers have reported feeling safe at night while exploring the town’s Centro for dining and dessert.
Although there can be exceptions and unpredictable situations, according to Numbeo, tourists in Playa generally feel safe walking around during the day (with a high safety rating of 79.39) and moderately safe walking around at night (with a safety rating of 55.08). However, it’s important to keep in mind that as a tourist, it’s advisable to be more attentive and cautious, especially at night.
My advice is to walk on well-lit streets and to stick to areas where there are other people walking with you. When more people are around, there is usually a greater sense of safety. Additionally, it is a constant challenge to keep your food safe from seagulls when you’re at one of Playa del Carmen beaches.
Is 5th Avenue Safe?
5th Avenue, also known as Avenida Quinta in Spanish, is a very busy street in Playa del Carmen that is bustling at all hours of the day. While I usually prefer quieter areas, I do visit 5th Avenue occasionally to visit a beach bar and enjoy live music. It’s a good opportunity to meet expats who have been living there longer and socialize with the welcoming locals.
I always felt safe walking on busy streets like 5th and 10th Avenues in the main part of town because they are well-lit in the evenings and there are usually people walking around, headed to restaurants or bars. To avoid becoming a target for theft, it’s best not to conspicuously display any expensive items or draw attention to yourself in any other way.
To stay safe in Playa, it’s best to avoid the busy and trendy clubs that are packed with tourists, particularly later in the evening. These places tend to be more dangerous and attract pickpockets and drug dealers. If someone tries to sell you drugs, it’s important to refuse if you want to stay out of harm’s way.
Getting Around Playa del Carmen Safely
Playa del Carmen is only an hour’s drive away from Cancun International Airport, making it a well-connected tropical destination that can be easily accessed from many cities in the US and Canada. One of the most popular and safe ways for travelers to get around in Playa del Carmen is to hail licensed taxis.
There have been reports of taxi drivers scams from Cancun Airport and in Playa where travelers are overcharged, but I personally feel safe flagging down a taxi driver during any time of the day or night. To avoid being ripped off, it’s important to speak politely to the driver, have some knowledge of Spanish, and be aware of the typical fares. You can either negotiate the fare or ask the driver to turn on the meter.
A ride from Centro to Gonzalo Guerrero area via Quinta Avenida typically costs 35-50 pesos ($2-3 USD). If you’re arriving at the ADO bus terminal in Centro from Cancun, Cancun Airport or Tulum and you need a cab to get to your accommodation in Colonia Hollywood, the fair price shouldn’t be more than 50 or 60 pesos ($2.50-3 USD).
Traveling to Playa del Carmen from Cancun International Airport, using the ADO bus service is one of the safest transport methods. The buses are air-conditioned and run frequently (at least every hour until midnight). The bus stop is located just outside the airport terminal. Additionally, the bus service also offers trips towards Tulum if you are travelling further south.
Is Uber safe in Playa del Carmen?
Taking an Uber in Playa del Carmen may not be safe as the local taxi companies have a history of using violent tactics to prevent rideshare apps like Uber from entering the Quintana Roo market.
Are taxis safe in Playa del Carmen?
To avoid the high risk of robbery and crime, it is not safe to hail a taxi off the street in Playa del Carmen, although people do it. Instead, it is advisable to ask your hotel or restaurant to call a registered cab for you, which is a much safer way to get around town.
Is it safe to drive a car in Playa del Carmen?
Driving in Playa del Carmen is generally safe, however, it is not necessary to have a car as the downtown Playa del Carmen tourist area is small and easily accessible on foot. Finding a safe parking spot can also be difficult, so it’s best to avoid having a vehicle unless you have a designated parking area.
Is bus safe in Playa del Carmen?
I always found taking the bus to be a safe and convenient way to travel when visiting Playa del Carmen. You have the option to take minivans (colectivos) for shorter trips within the city or ADO buses for longer journeys to other places in the Yucatan region. Playa del Carmen has two ADO bus stations, and one of them (touristica) is located directly on 5th Avenue.
Beach Safety in Playa del Carmen
Are you curious about the safety of swimming in Playa del Carmen? Generally, Playa del Carmen is a safe place to swim, with only small waves that increase in the afternoon due to the wind. Dangerous conditions like rip currents are rare in the area.
Seaweed season in Playa takes place from May to October, during which there is no harm caused by the seaweed. However, the seaweed forms a thick layer in the water, making it less ideal for swimming during this period.
The hurricane season in Playa del Carmen starts on June 1st and ends on November 30th. However, the highest probability of a hurricane hitting Playa del Carmen is from August to October. During my stay in Playa del Carmen, a Category 1 hurricane struck the south of Playa, but no one evacuated for it. Despite this, the electricity in my apartment miraculously stayed on with only a few brief outages.
While major hurricanes are not common in Playa, they are still a possibility. If you are traveling during hurricane season and want to avoid losing money on your vacation, it is recommended to purchase travel insurance.
The water in Playa del Carmen is not safe to drink! Even the local people don’t drink it. However, you can easily find affordable water bottles and jugs of different sizes at convenience stores called “tiendas” located almost on every street corner.
If you plan on staying in Playa for an extended period of time, I suggest purchasing a 20-liter container and refilling it at one of the public water refill stations located throughout town on the side streets. Although most travelers won’t notice much of a difference in cost savings, it’s a great way to stay hydrated while also being environmentally conscious.
Safest Places to Visit in Playa del Carmen
La Quinta Avenia
If you didn’t visit La Quinta Avenida, which is the main street in Playa del Carmen located just one block away from the beach, then you can’t really say you visited Playa del Carmen. La Quinta Avenida, also known as Fifth Avenue, is a bustling pedestrian street filled with numerous restaurants and shops. It comes to life at night with its lively nightlife scene.
During the day, it can be easy to get lost in the shops along this cobblestone street in Playa del Carmen whether you are enjoying a meal at one of the healthy cafes or watching street performers at night. Although it’s a safe area to visit, it’s important to stay vigilant for pickpockets and petty crime during the day.
To stay safe in a crowded area, carry your purse across your chest and keep your wallet in your front pocket. It’s important to be cautious with many people around. Avoid walking alone late at night, particularly after bars and restaurants have closed.
In Mexico, all beaches are public, which has its advantages and disadvantages. On the positive side, anyone can access any beach. However, some beaches can become overcrowded, leading to problems such as petty theft. To avoid this, one solution is to purchase a day pass for a beach club, which comes with a day bed or lounge chair and food credit.
Going to a public beach means there’s a risk of your belongings being stolen if you leave them unattended. To avoid this, it’s better to go to safer beach clubs like Kool Beach Club, Mamita’s Beach Club, and Lido Beach Club.
Not everyone likes the beach and some people prefer being at the pool instead. Luckily, Playa del Carmen has some truly gorgeous rooftop hotel pools available in Mexico. You don’t have to be a guest at the hotel to enjoy the pool – simply buy a day pass. These pool day passes are similar to beach clubs, in that you are guaranteed entrance, a food credit, and a chair to sit on.
Although pools are generally safe because they mainly attract tourists, it’s still not recommended to leave your belongings unattended for extended periods of time. This applies anywhere in the world as it may lead to problems.
Places to Avoid in Playa del Carmen
While Playa del Carmen offers beautiful beaches and fun activities, it’s important to note that there are certain unsafe neighborhoods that should be avoided. However, as a tourist, you have no reason to visit these areas. It’s just important to be aware of their existence before traveling.
The neighborhood of Colosio has a reputation for having a high crime rate. It encompasses the area north of 46th street, which becomes more disorderly as you travel further away. It’s important to note that not all parts of the neighborhood are unsafe. However, as you head further north (around 70th street), there is visible litter on the streets, houses without windows, and a significant level of poverty.
Villas del Sol
This neighborhood is situated far from both downtown and the beach, which implies that there are no chances to explore this locality. It has been recently dubbed as “the neighborhood more dangerous than Colosio” due to having the highest number of police calls in the city. Similar to Colosio, this area is also extremely impoverished and deprived.
Scams, Crime and Cartels
Crime and scams exist everywhere you travel, including popular tourist destinations like Playa del Carmen.
Below we have listed some of the most common scams you should be aware of in Playa del Carmen, Mexico:
ATMs – To ensure the security of your credit card, it is advisable to use ATMs located at a bank instead of random cash machines on the street. This is because the latter are typically unmonitored and susceptible to tampering.
Unregulated Alcohol – In Playa del Carmen, there are reports of spiked or unregulated alcohol, which is also common in many places. To ensure safety, make sure to only buy alcohol from authorized sources and keep a close watch on your drinks. It’s recommended to avoid accepting invitations from strangers who may offer homemade, illegal tequila.
Car Rentals – I suggest using Discover Cars for all your international car rental bookings in Mexico to avoid rental companies charging you for damages you didn’t cause and high insurance rates.
Gas Stations – When you are driving in Mexico and approach a gas pump, be sure to check the fuel meter before fueling up. It is common for attendants to scam customers by not resetting the meter, causing you to pay for more fuel than you actually received
Although there are common scams to be aware of, it is important to note that there is also a presence of cartel violence in Playa. Homicides in the area have been on the rise in recent years, but they are usually not targeted towards tourists. However, if you are involved in drug-related activities or with individuals affiliated with them, the risk increases. It is recommended to do research and take caution.
Traveling Safely in Playa del Carmen: Important Safety Tips
If you’re traveling alone in Playa del Carmen, regardless of your gender, use this checklist to learn more about the city and how to stay safe while exploring it.:
If you’re exploring alone, stick to streets you know well.
To avoid theft, it’s best to keep valuable items like cameras, phones, and wallets out of plain sight.
Make sure you have your host’s contact information in case of an emergency. It’s also a good idea to get a local SIM card like Telcel, to be able to call local numbers in case you need to contact local authorities such as the Quintana Roo municipality or police station.
Before venturing out, spend some daytime hours wandering around your local area to familiarize yourself with it.
Take time to interact with locals, even if it’s just briefly, at places like bakeries, laundromats, or fruit stands.
Whether you’re renting an apartment or staying in a vacation rental, it’s a good idea to introduce yourself to your neighbors to create a sense of security.
Additionally, it’s important to consider the weather as a safety concern. Playa del Carmen experiences hurricanes from August to September, so take this into account when planning your trip.
Avoid walking on beaches by yourself at night.
To stay safe, it’s best to stay on the crowded public beaches.
If you plan on staying in Playa del Carmen for a month or longer, try posting in one of the ‘Rentals in Playa del Carmen’ Facebook groups.
If you’re interested in exploring quieter areas, it’s recommended to do so with a group of friends.
When you reach your accommodation, take some time to explore the surrounding neighborhood and assess whether you feel comfortable and safe there, particularly if you’ll be coming back late at night.
Don’t hesitate to ask your host for advice.
Finally, if you’re staying in Playa during hurricane season and a storm is approaching, avoid spending time on your hotel rooftop.
Finally, I hope you have a great trip! Playa is an incredible destination with plenty to explore and a lively atmosphere.
If you’re planning to travel around the Yucatan Peninsula, this is an ideal location to use as your home base. Many of the area’s best sights are easily accessible by taking a short ride on a Collectivo
Expert Tips: Stay Safe in Playa del Carmen
Here are some essential safety tips for when you’re in Playa del Carmen or any other destination:
– Take a taxi at night. Don’t walk.
– Avoid showing off your expensive electronics.
– Only use ATMs located inside banks.
– Don’t carry all your cash and credit cards with you.
– Keep your money in a money belt.
– Don’t wear expensive jewelry.
– Ask the locals for advice.
– Don’t leave your drink unattended.
– If you plan to drink, do so with a reliable and sober companion.
– Trust your instincts. If something does feels off, it probably is.
Some Other Great and Safe Destinations in Mexico
I’ve visited multiple destinations and felt safer in many of them compared to Playa del Carmen. The following places were where I felt the safest: Merida, Sayulita, Valladolid, Oaxaca City, and Puerto Vallarta.
The Bottom Line: Is Playa del Carmen Safe?
Playa del Carmen is generallt safe as long as you take basic safety precautions and check the DOS’ website before traveling. In my experience, I feel safe wandering around Playa on my own.
Playa del Carmen Safety FAQ
Is Playa del Carmen Safe Right Now?
Currently, traveling to Playa del Carmen Mexico is considered relatively safe. However, visitors should be cautious of scams and adhere to any health limitations.
Is Playa del Carmen Safe for the Solo Travelers?
Although Playa del Carmen and the Mexican Caribbean is generally a safe place for solo travelers to visit, it’s important to be aware of the possibility of petty crime and scams in Mexico. Some tips for solo travelers include sticking to popular tourist areas, staying in hostels, and avoiding walking alone at night.
Is Playa del Carmen Safe for Female Travelers?
Although female travelers can feel safe in Playa del Carmen, they should still use caution and be aware of potential risks to ensure their safety. Check out our guide to solo female travel for more information.
Is Playa del Carmen Safe for Families?
Families can feel safe in Playa del Carmen Mexicobecause the city is easy to navigate, offers numerous family-friendly activities, and has a relatively calm atmosphere.
Is Playa del Carmen Safe for US tourists?
American tourists can safely visit Playa del Carmen Mexico as long as they follow typical travel recommendations and stay mindful of possible scams and hazards.
Is Playa del Carmen Safe at Night?
At Playa del Carmen, there are more people in the streets at night than during the day, thanks to its massive nightlife scene. The shops and restaurants at 5th Avenue are open until late. However, there is a risk of pickpocketing due to the crowds, so you should be careful with your belongings. As long as you stick to the main tourist streets and avoid desolate areas on the beach, Playa del Carmen is generally safe at night.
Is it Safe to Drink Tap Water in Playa del Carmen?
It is not safe to drink tap water in Playa because the delivery pipes are prone to bacteria that can make people sick. While there are good water treatment facilities in the Yucatan, the issue is in the piping system used to deliver the water to homes and businesses.
It is important to ensure that the beverage you order at a restaurant is made with purified drinking water. This is because restaurants prioritize the health and safety of their customers, so there is no need to worry when dining out.
Is the Mexican Cartel active in Playa del Carmen Mexico?
While tourist-related cartel incidents are rare in Playa del Carmen, the cartel is still present in the area. Tourists can avoid being involved in any cartel violence by refraining from using recreational drugs or becoming heavily intoxicated. Staying in the central tourist zones is also advisable
Traveling to 🇲🇽 Mexico soon?
I recommend these travel resources for Mexico that I personally use:
🏨 Hotels: I have found that Expedia and Booking.com consistently have the best deals on hotels and resorts in Mexico. If you prefer to stay at a vacation rental, check VRBO that is usually cheaper than AirBnB’s added fees!
✈️ Flights: To find the best flight deals to Mexico, I always use Kayak. Remember to subscribe to their price alerts for the travel dates you want. Another great alternative for flight deals is Expedia.
🚗 Rental Cars: I always use and highly recommend Discover Cars because it allows me to compare several car rental companies and view ratings on various factors such as overall value, pick-up procedure, agent efficiency, car condition, and total time taken.
🚙 CancunAirport Transportation: For the fastest and easiest way to travel, I suggest arranging a private transfer with Cancun Airport Transportation. Honestly, no better way to travel from the airport to your hotel or resort.
🤿 Tours & Activities: For tours and activities in Mexico, I highly recommend using either Viator or GetYourGuide. These websites offer a full refund if you cancel your booking 24 hours before the start of the tour, and they also provide excellent customer service in case of any issues.
🚨 Travel Insurance: I always suggest purchasing travel insurance as a precaution before traveling, especially after a recent accident in a taxi in Mexico. For short trips, I recommend Travel Insurance Master, whereas for digital nomads, Safety Wing is a better option.
📷 Best Camera for your trip: I always carry with me a GoPro, It’s light, compact, takes great video and pictures, and most importantly, it’s waterproof! You just can’t go wrong with one. If you are interested in higher quality video and photography, I always carry with me on my trips and highly recommend the Sony A7IV which I think is the best travel DSLR Camera out there.
☀️ Biodegradable Sunscreen: Remember to include a good sunscreen to protect yourself from the summer sun. I always use and suggest Sun Bum Sunscreen, which is vegan, reef-friendly, and cruelty-free.
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