Is Quintana Roo Safe? A Female Perspective

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.

This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase, we’ll receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

First Things First: A Disclaimer

Related article: Is Cancun Safe? A Solo Female Perspective.

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.

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 your questions in the comments section. 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 Quintana Roo.

There’s nothing like recent firsthand experience to paint a more realistic picture of Quintana Roo’s current safety situation.

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.

OrganizationIndex scoreCountry ranking
Global Health Security Index57.025 of 195 (good)
Global Peace Index2.61137 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.

LevelDescription
1Exercise normal precautions
2Exercise increased caution
3Reconsider travel
4Do 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:

  • Cancun
  • Tulum
  • 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

Overlooking the ocean from a cliff in Tulum.
A view of the ocean from the Tulum ruins.

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

A shopping section on 5th Avenue in Playa del Carmen.
5th Avenue in Playa del Carmen.

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

Related article: Is the Yucatan Safe?

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?

The sunset over Quintana Roo.

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.

It’s palpable.

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

Is Quintana Roo safe for bus travel? A bus in Cancun.

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 currently isn’t safe to take an Uber in Quintana Roo. As of January 2023, it’s advised that tourists avoid the use of taxi apps, including Uber, in the Quintana Roo region.

Local taxi unions have a rocky history with Uber. They don’t like the competition that Uber creates and have been known to take out their frustration on Uber drivers and passengers.

Although Uber has been my taxi method of choice in the past when it’s dark out or when I don’t want to wait for the bus, it’s best to avoid using it in Quintana Roo until things settle down.

If you’re traveling from the Cancun airport, I recommend booking your transfer in advance, as taxi scams are common, particularly if you grab a taxi after you exit the airport. GetYourGuide is the company I recommend, as their support team is top-notch if you need any help.

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

A quiet beach in Akumal.
A quiet morning at Akumal Beach.

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?

Is Quintana Roo safe? A vacant pier in Bacalar surrounded by lily pads.

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?

15 thoughts on “Is Quintana Roo Safe? A Female Perspective”

    1. Hi Joyce,

      That’s indeed sad. I have faith that the Mexican government will get things under better control, but how long it’ll take is impossible to say. So many good-hearted locals rely on tourism income. I can’t imagine the frustration they must feel alongside tourists when Quintana Roo gets bad press.

  1. Our family is planning to take a trip to Playa Del Carmen, staying at the Hilton. I have five main areas of concern:
    1) The Hilton has a shuttle that we are taking from/to the Cancun airport. I feel we are exposed on that 45 minute trip (or so). Not sure if we should carry cash to hand over if we are stopped or we should not carry any cash. And, how dangerous will the stop be, in the case we are stopped.
    2) The beach at the hotel. I’ve read where there have been issues on the beaches.
    3) Stepping out into the local town, how risky that is.
    4) The alcohol at the hotel, if they will purchase alcohol from off-market and potentially have ill health effects like we have heard so much about.
    5) Taking any excursions to local areas, seems to be that is adding unnecessary risk.

    I’m curious if you have any comments to my concerns. I understand it would only be your opinion but I would be interested nevertheless.

    Thank you in advance and for the article!

    Regards,

    Robert from Nashville

    1. Hi Robert,

      How exciting that your family will be visiting Playa del Carmen! I understand your concerns; I know it can be scary to read about safety in Quintana Roo, especially when you have the added responsibility of bringing your family.

      To reiterate the valid point you made, what I’m about to share is only my opinion. Here it goes:

      1. The chances of your Hilton shuttle getting stopped between the Cancun airport and Playa del Carmen is very, very low. The bad apples are currently targeting Uber drivers. And even then, there’s huge pressure from the Mexican government and those in organized crime to keep tourists safe because it’s good for business. Think about it this way: The Hilton likely runs their shuttle route multiple times per day. If the route were truly dangerous, they wouldn’t operate it at all. I’d carry cash on you because having pesos is useful for buying street food and souvenirs from small vendors; it likely won’t serve you in the ultra-rare scenario where someone stops your Hilton vehicle. I’ve personally taken public transportation between Cancun and Playa del Carmen dozens of times by myself, and no one ever stopped my vehicle, nor did I ever feel unsafe on the route.

      2. I’m not sure of the exact issues you’re referring to, but you definitely shouldn’t leave valuables alone on the beach.

      3. One can never say never, but there’s low risk in exploring the downtown Playa del Carmen tourist area by day. The Hilton is ideally located in Playa del Carmen; you can get to all the main places on foot. You should keep your valuables close, for pickpocketing can happen since the area gets crowded. It’s also not out of the question to encounter people selling drugs. You can say “no” if they offer them to you or ignore them, per your preference. As with so many places around the world, crime risks increase at night in Playa del Carmen.

      4. Again, one can never say never, but the Hilton is a highly respected brand, and my guess is that they vet their employees more than a random bar on a side street in Playa del Carmen. Spiked drinks are usually a bigger concern at random bars than at well-known hotels. And, of course, it’s vital to take personal responsibility never to leave an open drink unattended once they give it to you.

      5. Everyone has different comfort levels, so I recommend choosing what will give you the most peace of mind. I’ve traveled up and down Quintana Roo on my own and am glad to have had the experience of seeing so many of the Yucatan’s beautiful destinations. It’s also worth considering that no destination is 100% safe, including a trip to the grocery store in our own country. So, in my opinion, it’s about finding a balance where one can explore in a way that feels comfortable and true to them.

      I’ll end this with recommending to keep an eye on the DOS’ travel advisory for Mexico. Please take everything I say with a grain of salt; the DOS is a much more accurate and up-to-date reference when deciding whether Quintana Roo is safe enough to visit.

      Wishing you and your family a wonderful trip, wherever it takes you!

  2. Hi there!

    I enjoyed reading this article and found it very informative. I will continue to read your thoughts on other destinations. I am going to Quintana Roo, Cancun in a few weeks and I am beginning to get a little bit nervous. We are staying in a well reviewed Airbnb in a group of 8 (5 men and 3 women), we do have some excursions planned during the day fishing trips and trip to isla murjeres and dinner planned in the evening and maybe going out afterwards (I may avoid doing this depending on how late it is). Anyways any additional information I should know or you can suggest. I think once I am there I will feel better but in the meantime I am starting to worry about crimes and kidnapping.

    Any insight to ease my mind would welcome!

    Thank you in advance!

    1. Hi Navy,

      I think you’re spot-on with your comment that you think you’ll feel better once you’re in Cancun. If we were to read about crime happening in the nearest cities to where we live without ever having visited them, they’d likely sound scary to us too. It seems like you’ve put a lot of thought into planning your trip, and I can tell you’ll implement basic safety precautions. You’ve set yourself up for a safe and fun time, as far as I can tell.

      Despite the news, Cancun and the Quintana Roo region continue to be popular destinations for international tourists. I think that’ll be evident when you arrive and see the streets and beaches filled with tourists in Cancun’s Hotel Zone and the Playa Norte area of Isla Mujeres. My guess is that’ll make you feel at ease.

      If you think of it, I’d greatly appreciate you returning to the comments here to share your experience after your Cancun trip. I sense that our readers are understandably concerned about the current safety situation in Quintana Roo. It would be valuable to start receiving reflections from those who recently traveled there.

        1. I returned from my trip! I wanted to share some insight. I felt safe the entire trip just by following simple safely guidelines. The only issue we had was the initial taxi ride from the airport, we were charged three times the amount which in hindsight we should have used pesos. Other than that we had a wonderful trip full of fun and beauty!

          Thank you!

          1. Thank you so much for coming back to share your experience, Navy! I’m so happy to know you had a fun and safe time despite the initial taxi ride hiccup.

  3. Hi Laura! Thanks for the informative article. My wife and I are headed to Quintana Roo and Yucatan for our honeymoon in a week. We are planning to rent a car and drive from Cancun to Bacalar, Bacalar to Mahahual, Mahahual to Valladolid, and then back to Cancun. What is your take on the current safety of driving in this area? We are planning to stick to major highways (307, 295, and 180D) and avoid driving at night, but we’ve heard that police stops and bribing are not uncommon. Given recent travel advisories (which I realize are primarily for other parts of the country) and that the drive from Cancun to Bacalar is ~4 hours long, we want to make sure that we’re fully informed before we go. Thanks!

    1. Hi Aidan,

      How exciting that you and your wife have chosen the Yucatan for your honeymoon! What a great itinerary you have.

      In my opinion, and assuming the DOS doesn’t increase their travel advisory between now and your travel dates, you should be fine traveling throughout the Yucatan. You can expect to encounter some routine police stops at established streetside police stations, given the destinations you’ll be driving to. But as long as you have your driver’s license, passport, and vehicle registration information, there’s little to worry about.

      I’ve never rented a car in Mexico myself, but from my understanding, police stops involving bribes are more common when a police officer pulls you over. It’s true that these aren’t uncommon, so I’d advise harnessing your best driving skills. Police bribes, while frustrating, aren’t typically threatening from a safety perspective.

      I’ll piggyback off my request with Navy that if you could return here to share your experience with our readers after your trip, it would be greatly appreciated 🙂

  4. We were invited to wedding in Cancun this upcoming summer. Due to the recent crime and headlines on the news we feel anxious and skeptical. We did not anticipate feeling this way while planning our first time visit to Cancun. Is it generally still safe to visit Cancun and other tourist areas such as the Mayan ruins and Chichen itzá?

    1. Hi Leslie,

      Despite all the bad press that Mexico is getting, the U.S. Department of State still lists Quintana Roo as a Level 2, which includes Cancun. Therefore, as of now, the U.S. doesn’t consider Cancun dangerous enough to place in their “Reconsider travel to” or “Do not travel to” categories. Quintana Roo was a Level 2 when I visited, and during the many years I’ve been traveling to Mexico, it’s always been a Level 2 whenever I’ve checked.

      Of course, things can change, and the DOS’ Travel Advisory page is a better resource than my opinion for helping you determine whether you should travel to Cancun. I recommend keeping an eye on their website leading up to your travel dates.

      You should also avoid using rideshare apps in Cancun, arranging a transfer with your hotel or inside the airport instead.

      As for Chichen Itza, it sits within Yucatan state, which the DOS lists as a Level 1 (Excersize normal precautions). You can read my guide on Is the Yucatan safe? for more details about the safety differences between Quintana Roo and Yucatan state. You might also be interested in reading my article on safety in Merida, which is the capital of Yucatan state, for some perspective on safety in certain parts of Mexico versus safety in the U.S.

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