Photos of colorful 5th Avenue, street tacos heaping with toppings, and white sand beaches might have you ready to travel to Playa del Carmen. But you might be wondering—is Playa del Carmen safe?
Playa del Carmen is safe as long as you stay within the tourist district, take taxis at night, and use common sense.
Playa is my favorite base for working remotely in the Yucatan, and I’ve always traveled there alone as a female.
So, I’ll share my takeaways here to help you have a safe and fun experience.
First Things First: A Disclaimer
I spent about five months living in Playa del Carmen and, overall, I had a positive experience safety-wise.
But the information I share here, with the exception of statistics from linked sources, is my personal opinion based on my encounters.
Everyone has unique experiences that shape their perception of any given destination.
So, take what you want from this article and leave the rest. And above all, never let your guard down just because I or anyone else tells you that a destination is safe.
Trusting your gut and following basic safety practices are vital to improving your security in any destination.
May I Ask A Favor?
Since the recent bad press about safety in Mexico, we’ve seen an uptick in readers looking through our Mexico safety articles. I’m doing my best to answer the questions I receive. However, the safety situation in any destination can change fast, and I’m not currently on the ground in Mexico.
So, I’d appreciate you returning to this article after your trip and leaving a comment about your experience in Playa del Carmen.
There’s nothing like recent firsthand experience to paint a more realistic picture of Playa del Carmen’s current safety situation.
An Overview of Mexico’s Safety
Before we talk about safety in Playa del Carmen, the chart below offers insight into the health and safety of Mexico as a whole.
|Global Health Security Index
|25 of 195 (good)
|Global Peace Index
|137 of 163 (bad)
Safety in Playa del Carmen: What the U.S. Department of State Says
The U.S. Department of State (DOS) is an excellent starting point to get a feel for safety in Playa del Carmen. They offer up-to-date travel recommendations, giving you the most accurate account of the Playa region’s current safety.
You can view the DOS’s recommendations here: Current Mexico Travel Advisory
But reading through the DOS’ website can cause confusion. That’s because the Yucatan Peninsula has two states:
- Yucatan state
- Quintana Roo state
Playa del Carmen sits within Quintana Roo state.
Unfortunately, Quintana Roo consistently has a higher safety warning than its neighboring Yucatan state. Whereas the DOS states to “Exercise normal precautions” in Yucatan state, it indicates that travelers should “Exercise increased caution” when traveling to Quintana Roo.
Crime and kidnapping.
Everyone’s experience is different. But I can say that from mine, I never walked around Playa del Carmen feeling like someone was on the brink of kidnapping me.
But crime? Yes. That was on the table (though, thankfully, it never happened to me).
To put the DOS’ Quintana Roo recommendation into perspective, it falls as a two out of four on their safety scale. Their third level is “Reconsider travel,” and their fourth level is “Do not travel,” as seen below.
|Exercise normal precautions
|Exercise increased caution
|Do not travel
So, the U.S. government gives the A-okay for people to visit Playa del Carmen. They just don’t want you to let your guard down.
Safety in Playa del Carmen: What the News Says
We’ve established that Mexico’s northern neighbor thinks Playa del Carmen is currently safe to visit. But is Playa del Carmen safe from a news perspective?
No, it isn’t.
But if you read the news about the city you’re from, putting yourself in the shoes of someone who’s never been there, does it sound safe?
It’s all about perspective.
That said, it’s undeniable that crime and violence have been picking up in Playa del Carmen. Much of this is due to cartels trying to wiggle their way into already established cartel territory.
Luckily, cartel-related crime in Playa del Carmen primarily remains between cartel members. But even then, incidents of tourist scare tactics have occurred, which the Mexican government believes becomes sparked when police make headway with cracking down on cartel operations.
I won’t hone in on the specifics of crime in Playa del Carmen that’s made the news lately—you can find that online on your own, if you choose.
But if you’re worried about the unlikely situation of getting caught in crossfire in Playa del Carmen, I’ll ask you this—if you’re American, can you honestly say that you’re safe walking into a grocery store, attending a concert, and visiting other public places without the risk of falling victim to a shooting?
Visiting Playa del Carmen as a Solo Female Traveler
So, how safe is Playa del Carmen if you’re traveling as a solo female?
Personally, I felt safe enough at any given time as a solo female traveler. I stuck mostly—but not entirely—to the main tourist streets.
5th Avenue and 10th Avenue are streets that are in the heart of the tourist district. But I felt comfortable walking up to 30th Avenue, which is home to Walmart and Mega Soriana (a grocery store).
I was also comfortable walking from downtown up Av. Benito Juarez, a busy main street, to arrive at the colectivo stop on 50th Avenue for buses that run between Tulum and Cancun.
As for how far down 5th and 10th Avenues it’s safe to walk, I felt comfortable between the areas of Parque Los Fundadores and Calle 34 both day and night (before midnight).
5th and 10th Avenues are well lit between those points at night. Restaurants and shops also stay open until late in the evening, so there are tons of people around.
I often walked to the Deportivo Mario Villanueva Madrid track to run in the evenings, which borders Calle 34. It’s a free and safe place to get some exercise.
I would also walk down 5th and 10th Avenues past the intersection of Calle 34 during the day (I even lived past Calle 40 for 1.5 months). But the crowds taper off there at night, and the lighting isn’t as good after you pass Calle 34.
A Note on Vendors
For me, the most uncomfortable thing about being in Playa del Carmen as a solo female was the vendors’ remarks. To be fair, it happened when I was in groups, too, and the comments would be directed at all of us.
Some vendors are simply insistent on you purchasing their items. Others will comment on your beauty.
The comments were nowhere near as bad or insistent as my experience in Los Cabos. But it can feel extra unpleasant if you’re not used to this unsolicited attention.
Another item to note is that some “vendors” will try to sell you drugs.
These are typically people on the street without street stands who will walk up to you rattling off their drugs in stock.
I was offered drugs about 50% of the time I walked down 5th Avenue. Luckily, an unflustered but firm “no” is all it takes for them to back off.
Is Playa del Carmen Safe at Night?
As a solo female traveler, I typically make a beeline to my accommodation before dark (and being a morning person, doing so was my guilty pleasure).
But I made a lot of friends staying at my cowork hostel, so I found myself hitting the town at night more than usual.
And I felt safe every time.
Playa del Carmen arguably has more people in its streets at night than during the day. The nightlife scene is massive there seven days per week, and the shops and restaurants lining 5th Avenue stay open well into the evening.
Just take care of your belongings. Since the streets get so crowded at night, it’s an ideal situation for pickpocketers.
But as a whole, Playa del Carmen is very safe at night as long as you stick to the main tourist streets and stay clear of desolate areas on the beach.
Transportation in Playa del Carmen
If you’re curious about safety when getting around Playa del Carmen, I’ve answered some common questions here. The good news is that you can easily walk to all sights in the downtown tourist district, so many people don’t need transportation during their stay.
Is it safe to take an Uber in Playa del Carmen?
It’s not safe to take an Uber in Playa del Carmen. Uber and other rideshare apps have a history of trying to enter the Quintana Roo market. Unfortunately, local taxi companies have often resorted to violent tactics to prevent this from happening.
Is it safe to take a street taxi in Playa del Carmen?
Hailing a taxi off the street isn’t safe in Playa del Carmen. People do it, but the risk of robbery and crime is high. Really high.
So, I recommend having your hotel or restaurant call a cab for you. That’s a far safer way to get around town, as your ride will be registered.
Is it safe to drive in Playa del Carmen?
It’s safe to drive in Playa del Carmen, but most people don’t need a vehicle there. The downtown tourist district of Playa is compact, making it easy to get to the beach, shops, restaurants, and famous 5th Avenue on foot.
Parking can also be a headache in Playa del Carmen, so I’d avoid having a vehicle unless you have a designated parking spot in a safe location.
Is it safe to take a bus in Playa del Carmen?
Taking a bus in Playa del Carmen is very safe. That was my preferred mode of transportation. You can take minivans (colectivos) for short-distance travel within Playa and ADO buses for traveling to other destinations in the Yucatan.
There are two ADO bus stations in Playa del Carmen, with the touristica station sitting directly on 5th Avenue.
A Note on Airport Transfers
The Cancun International Airport is the closest airport to Playa del Carmen. Unfortunately, it’s a prime place for pirate taxis to linger, along with genuine taxi drivers who want to overcharge tourists.
For this reason, if you fly into Cancun and plan on using a taxi to get to your accommodation in Playa del Carmen, book a taxi at a designated taxi stand inside the airport.
You can also book your airport transfer in advance. Many legitimate companies operate airport transfers in Cancun, and hotels also often offer transfers.
Beach Safety in Playa del Carmen
You might be wondering—is Playa del Carmen safe for swimming?
Playa del Carmen is almost always safe for swimming. You can expect small waves, particularly in the afternoon when the wind picks up. But for the most part, rip currents and other dangerous conditions aren’t common in the area.
That said, seaweed season occurs in Playa from May to October.
The seaweed isn’t harmful. But it forms a thick blanket in the water, so it’s unlikely you’ll want to swim that time of year.
Note: The seaweed in the photo above is normal for Playa del Carmen. I took that in January, outside of the true seaweed season.
A Note on Hurricane Season
Hurricane season is from June 1st to November 30th in Playa del Carmen.
That said, the greatest chance of a hurricane striking Playa’s shores is from August to October. I happened to be in Playa del Carmen when a Category 1 hurricane hit south of Playa.
No one evacuated for it. And by some miracle, the electricity in my apartment stayed on, except for some less than one-minute outages.
Although major hurricanes are rare in Playa, they can happen. So, buy travel insurance if you plan on traveling during hurricane season and don’t want to lose your hard-earned vacation money.
Is the Water Safe to Drink in Playa del Carmen?
No, the water isn’t safe to drink in Playa del Carmen. You won’t even see locals drinking it.
Cheap water bottles and jugs of various sizes are readily available at tiendas (convenience stores), which dot nearly every corner of town.
If you’re in Playa for a while, I recommend buying a 20-liter jug and refilling it at a public water refill station (there are several around town on side streets). The money saved is insignificant for most travelers, but it’s an environmentally friendly way to stay hydrated.
How To Stay Safe in Playa del Carmen
Below are some basic safety precautions to take in Playa del Carmen. As you’ll see, there’s nothing unique about them—it’s wise to practice these tips regardless of where you travel in the world.
- Take a taxi at night
- Don’t walk around showcasing expensive electronics
- Only take out money from ATMs inside a bank
- Never carry around all your credit cards and cash
- Use a money belt
- Don’t wear flashy jewelry
- Ask locals for advice
- Don’t leave an unopened drink unattended
- If you’re going to get inebriated, do so with a trustworthy sober companion
Finally, trust your instinct. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.
Other Safe Destinations in Mexico
I’ve explored much of Mexico as a solo female traveler and have felt safer in several other destinations than Playa del Carmen.
Below are the top places where I felt the safest:
Should you be considering a trip to Cabo, learn why I don’t recommend it for solo female travelers.
The Bottom Line: Is Playa del Carmen Safe?
Like so many destinations, Playa del Carmen is as safe as you make it.
As long as you practice basic safety precautions and check the DOS’ website before you travel, you should be fine. Personally, I’ve always felt safe meandering around Playa on my own and look forward to when I can return.
If you have questions about safety in Playa del Carmen, leave a comment, and I’ll do my best to help.
P.S.—Are you curious to learn more about safety in the Yucatan Peninsula? If so, check out my guide on Yucatan safety.