The name “Quintana Roo” might not ring a bell if you’re new to Mexico travel. But many popular destinations call Quintana Roo state their home, including Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and Tulum.
Nevertheless, you might be asking yourself, “Is Quintana Roo safe?”
Quintana Roo isn’t among the safest destinations in Mexico, but it’s not downright dangerous for the average traveler. As long as you stick to the tourist areas, don’t buy drugs, and don’t participate in other illegal activities, you can expect to have a safe experience.
Read on for the truth about Quintana Roo’s safety from a data standpoint and my experience as a solo female traveler.
First Things First: A Disclaimer
I’ve spent more than one year in Quintana Roo over the course of multiple trips. 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.
An Overview of Safety in Mexico
Before we explore safety in Quintana Roo, below is a chart highlighting some of Mexico’s health and well-being statistics.
|Organization||Index score||Country ranking|
|Global Health Security Index||57.0||25 of 195 (good)|
|Global Peace Index||2.61||137 of 163 (bad)|
Now, let’s move on to Quintana Roo.
Safety in Quintana Roo: What the U.S. Department of State Says
The U.S. Department of State (DOS) labels Quintana Roo as a Level 2. For context, they operate their rankings on the following four-tiered system.
|1||Exercise normal precautions|
|2||Exercise increased caution|
|4||Do not travel|
Before you look for a safer destination in Mexico than Quintana Roo, know that many popular tourist spots fall under the Level 2 category.
Despite the DOS’ wise advice of needing to exercise increased caution, Quintana Roo is safe enough if you approach it right. Namely, roaming around during daylight hours and staying within the main tourist centers.
The good news is that the DOS doesn’t restrict travel for their employees in any part of Quintana Roo state.
Nevertheless, they urge travelers to be extra vigilant at night, even in the downtown areas of the following locations:
- Playa del Carmen
That’s not to say you should let your guard down during the day, though.
Crime is common throughout Quintana Roo state, and the DOS states that kidnappings can happen. Luckily, it’s rare for gangs to intentionally commit crimes against tourists who weren’t sticking their noses where they don’t belong.
But it’s impossible to ignore the fact that innocent tourists have sometimes gotten caught in rival cartel gunfire.
Safety in Quintana Roo: What the Statistics Say
Is Quintana Roo safe from a data perspective?
Numbeo paints a similar picture as the DOS for crime in Quintana Roo. They break down their safety rankings according to the city.
Below is the crime index that Numebo places on the three most popular tourist areas in Quintana Roo. These numbers are on a scale of 100, with zero being the safest and 100 being the most dangerous.
While I agree that Playa del Carmen feels a bit safer than Cancun, Numbeo’s Tulum crime ranking feels outdated.
Sadly, crime has recently increased in Tulum due to a new cartel trying to take the established cartel’s territory. The Cancun Sun even published an article in August 2022 acknowledging that Tulum has been receiving bad international press for decreasing safety levels.
The Tourist’s Role in Quintana Roo’s Crime
Here’s where the irony arises: The Cancun Sun points out that some analysts believe that crime is increasing in Quintana Roo because of tourists.
It’s not because the cartels intend to harm tourists.
Instead, an increasing number of tourists to Quintana Roo means more potential drug sales for cartels. And so, it motivates rival groups to vie for territory when they otherwise may have left it alone.
I implore you not to buy drugs in Quintana Roo or anywhere.
You not only harm yourself by doing it, but you contribute to a system that murders and displaces thousands of people each year.
Visiting Quintana Roo as a Solo Female Traveler
The statistics I shared sound grave to anyone. But if you’re a solo female traveler, there’s an extra layer of security issues that naturally come from being a woman.
As a solo female traveler who’s spent over a year traveling through Quintana Roo, I’ve crisscrossed the state. Thankfully, I’ve never been harmed, nor had any of my belongings taken.
But I have a calculated approach to my travels in Quintana Roo—traveling during the day, not staying out late at night by myself, and turning around if anything feels off.
ADO buses are my favorite way to travel through Quintana Roo as a solo female traveler. They’re comfy, well maintained, make designated stops, and only allow people on who have a ticket.
That said, I’ve taken plenty of public transportation via colectivos (shared vans) by myself in Quintana Roo.
I’ve always felt safe on colectivos, though I only take them during the day, and I keep a hand on my belongings.
Because Quintana Roo is so touristy—and you should stick to those tourist areas when you’re there—vendors are persistent about trying to get tourists to buy things. But when it comes to solo female travel, they sometimes take it a step further, making unwanted comments.
It’s annoying. But I’ve never felt physically threatened by the vendors in Quintana Roo.
The current safety issues in Quintana Roo haven’t stopped me from visiting there as long as the DOS keeps its rating at a Level 2. But it’s undeniable that I’m on higher guard in Quintana Roo than in certain other destinations in Mexico.
I’ll cover the places where I feel safest in Mexico shortly.
Is Quintana Roo Safe at Night?
As a whole, Quintana Roo isn’t very safe at night.
There are exceptions to this, of course. You have a higher chance of having a safe experience on the bustling part of 5th Avenue in Playa del Carmen at night than meandering down a dark side street by yourself.
Nevertheless, the DOS cautions that even the main tourist centers in Quintana Roo become less safe at night.
That said, it’s safe to travel on night buses in Quintana Roo. It’s uncommon to hear about cartels blocking the roads, unlike in certain other Mexican states.
But I avoid taking night buses.
And that’s not the early bird in me speaking; although the bus route is safe at night, I’m not a fan of arriving at the bus stations after dark.
Does the Cartel Operate in Quintana Roo?
The cartel has a stronghold of Quintana Roo. You can assume that anyone who tries to sell you drugs, which happens frequently in tourist centers, has a connection with one of the cartels.
And it can feel unsettling for first-time visitors if you haven’t experienced anything like it.
But I’ve found that a firm “no” is all it takes to let dealers know you’re not shopping around for white powder. They don’t want to waste their time convincing people who have no intention of buying that they have the purest stuff in town.
So, the bottom line is that if you’re wondering, “Is Quintana Roo safe from cartels?” the answer is no. But it’s unlikely they’re going to give you trouble.
Transportation Safety in Quintana Roo
I’ve already touched on safety, but let’s dive into it in more detail.
Is it safe to take an Uber in Quintana Roo?
It isn’t possible to take an Uber or use any other rideshare app in Quintana Roo. It’s a shame, given that this would offer tourists a relatively safe option for getting around. But the local taxi cooperative took a strong stance against allowing Uber.
Uber used to operate in Cancun (I even used Uber in Cancun back in the day). But you’ll be hard-pressed to find a driver willing to pick you up for fear of retaliation from the taxi cooperative.
Is it safe to take a street taxi in Quintana Roo?
Taking a street taxi in Quintana Roo isn’t safe. Many “taxi” drivers pose as legitimate cabs when they’re really operating a pirata service to rob you or worse.
So, always call a taxi company in Quintana Roo and have them send you a taxi. Write down the license plate number to ensure you get into the right vehicle.
Is it safe to drive in Quintana Roo?
Driving in Quintana Roo is quite safe. There are few issues with roadblocks, and police presence is strong.
The police presence is so prevalent that it’s common to encounter police stops. As long as you have your driver’s license and vehicle registration on you and aren’t carrying anything illegal, there’s nothing to worry about.
Is it safe to take a bus in Quintana Roo?
Taking a bus in Quintana Roo is very safe, especially if you travel on ADO buses. ADO is a long-distance bus company that runs several popular routes to Cancun, Tulum, Playa del Carmen, Bacalar, and more.
Beach Safety in Quintana Roo
Beach safety in Quintana Roo varies according to the beach and weather.
Some beaches, such as Akumal Beach, have notoriously calm water and a low chance of rip tides. Other beaches, like certain ones in Cancun and Tulum, can have glass-like water or strong waves and currents, depending on the weather.
If you’re unsure about whether it’s safe to swim, look for a green flag. Some beaches in popular tourist areas also have lifeguards on duty.
Whenever you choose to swim in Quintana Roo, leave your belongings on the beach with someone you trust. Otherwise, lock them in your hotel room; petty beach theft is common in the area.
A Note on Hurricane Season
Hurricane season in Quintana Roo is from June 1st to November 30th.
It’s not uncommon for a hurricane to affect Quintana Roo each year. I was even in Playa del Carmen when a Category 1 hurricane happened.
But direct hits—especially by major hurricanes—are uncommon.
Nevertheless, if you’re traveling during hurricane season, be prepared to change your plans at the last minute if a storm arises in the Caribbean.
Earthquake Safety in Quintana Roo
Are you wondering, “Is Quintana Roo safe from hurricanes?”
Quintana Roo is very safe from hurricanes. Earthquake Track shows that there have been zero earthquakes that affected Quintana Roo in the past 365 days.
The story changes west of the state, though, where fault lines are abundant.
Is the Water Safe to Drink in Quintana Roo?
The water isn’t safe to drink in Quintana Roo.
Not drinking the water in Mexico is wise advice regardless of the destination. However, Puerto Vallarta’s water is a notable potential exception.
How To Stay Safe in Quintana Roo
Below are some basic safety precautions to take in Quintana Roo. As you’ll see, there’s nothing unique about them—it’s wise to practice these tips regardless of where you travel.
- 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.
The Safest Destinations in Quintana Roo
I’ve explored much of Mexico as a solo female traveler and have felt safer in several other destinations than Quintana Roo.
Below are the top places where I felt the safest:
Note that Merida and Valladolid are in Quintana Roo’s neighboring state, Yucatan state. Yucatan state is one of only two states in Mexico that the DOS labels as a Level 1. Campeche state is the other Level 1 state, which also sits in the Yucatan Peninsula.
Should you be considering a trip to Cabo, learn why I don’t recommend it for solo female travelers.
Safety Resources in Quintana Roo
Whether you’re on the fence about visiting Quintana Roo or already packing for your trip, I’ve put together detailed safety guides on several Quintana Roo destinations.
Click on the links below for details.
I also encourage you to check the DOS’ website for the most up-to-date safety information on where you’ll be traveling.
The Bottom Line: Is Quintana Roo Safe?
Quintana Roo can be a safe place to visit if you’re aware of your surroundings and use common sense safety practices.
I know the statistics and news articles I shared can be intimidating. But the reality is that the locals in Quintana Roo are friendly, helpful, and most of them look out for each other and tourists.
If you have questions about safety in Quintana Roo, leave a comment, and I’ll be happy to help.
I’d also love to hear about your time in Quintana Roo. What was your experience with safety there? Is there anything you’d add to what I shared?
Laura has been wandering the globe for over a decade. She’s an early bird and backpacker at heart and can often be spotted with a dog or ten that she’s befriended along the way. Much of the content Laura writes on A Piece of Travel includes details on wheelchair accessibility, with the support of her brother-in-law and sister. You can learn about their accessibility endeavors here.