The Yucatan is a quintessential Mexican beach destination. But it’s no secret that Mexico has a bad reputation for safety compared to its northern neighbors.
So, are all those stories you’ve heard right, or is the Yucatan safe?
The data suggests that the Yucatan is one of the safest places to visit in Mexico. As a solo female traveler with over a year’s experience traveling around the Yucatan, I mostly agree.
I’ll help you understand safety in the Yucatan from the perspective of statistics and personal experience. And I’ll also reveal the destinations in Mexico where I’ve felt the safest.
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Defining the Yucatan
If you’re strictly talking about the Yucatan without the word “Peninsula” after it, it’s one of 32 states in Mexico. It’s also one of three states that make up the Yucatan Peninsula.
Some popular tourist destinations in Yucatan state include:
- Chichen Itza
- Las Coloradas
That said, most tourists visit one or more of these destinations while basing themselves in the Yucatan Peninsula.
The Low-down on the Yucatan Peninsula
The Yucatan Peninsula is a mass of land jutting into the Caribbean Sea and three states comprise it—Yucatan, Quintana Roo, and Campeche.
Most tourists visiting the Yucatan Peninsula stick to Quintana Roo. Examples of destinations in Quintana Roo state include:
- Playa del Carmen
So, when people wonder whether the Yucatan is safe, they usually mean this: Is Quintana Roo safe?
Quintana Roo is a mostly safe state to visit. It isn’t home to the safest city in the Yucatan Peninsula (Merida in Yucatan state claims that title). But by following basic safety practices that you would in any unfamiliar place, you can expect to have a safe experience in Quintana Roo.
Since most tourists say “Yucatan” when they mean the Yucatan Peninsula, I’ll follow suit and use the word “Yucatan” to refer to the entire peninsula, unless stated otherwise.
Psst! Check out my guide Is Quintana Roo safe? for details on safety in this popular Mexican state.
First Things First: A Disclaimer
I’ve spent over a year as a solo female traveler exploring the Yucatan, spending a couple of weeks or longer in Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Tulum, Valladolid, and Merida. I’ve also taken shorter trips to Cozumel, Bacalar, Campeche, Holbox Island, and more.
Overall, I’ve had a positive experience safety-wise in the Yucatan.
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 Mexico’s Safety
Before we talk about safety in the Yucatan, the chart below offers insight into the health and safety of Mexico as a whole.
|Organization||Index score||Country ranking|
|Global Health Security Index||57.0||25 of 195 (good)|
|Global Peace Index||2.61||137 of 163 (bad)|
Safety in the Yucatan: What the U.S. Department of State Says
When asking yourself, “Is the Yucatan safe?” I advise starting with the U.S. Department of State’s (DOS’s) Mexico Travel Advisory page. They offer travelers-to-be the most updated information on their stance on the Yucatan’s safety.
As of August 2022, they say that you should “Exercise normal precautions” when traveling to Campeche state and Yucatan state.
But they slap Quintana Roo with an “Exercise increased precautions” label.
Remember, Quintano Roo is the state where tourist hotspots like Cancun, Tulum, and Playa del Carmen are located.
I don’t always agree with the DOS’s labels. But in this case, I feel they’re spot-on.
“Exercise normal precautions” and “Exercise increased precautions” fall as spots number one and two on the DOS’s four-step safety scale.
The DOS’s third safety level is “Reconsider travel,” and the fourth level is “Do not travel,” as seen below.
|1||Exercise normal precautions|
|2||Exercise increased caution|
|4||Do not travel|
So, the U.S. government is giving the a-okay for foreigners to travel to the entire Yucatan Peninsula. You’ll just need to be extra careful when you’re in Quintana Roo state, given that crime is more common there than in Campeche and Yucatan states.
Safety in the Yucatan: What the Data Says
Like any region of the world, the Yucatan isn’t devoid of crime. According to the Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC), the homicide rates in Quintana Roo increased significantly in 2017 and 2018 compared to prior years.
It decreased slightly in 2019, but the OSAC’s stance is clear: Targeted assassinations via “organized crime” are primarily the cause.
The good news is that cartels in the Yucatan rarely intentionally target tourists.
Instead, in the rare situation where a tourist dies at the hands of a cartel, it’s usually because they get caught in the crossfire. That was the unfortunate situation for two tourists in Tulum in October 2021.
These tourists were dining at a restaurant when two rival groups of street-level drug dealers fought it out with gunfire.
The possibility of such situations happening can be hard to stomach. But as long as you’re not getting involved with buying or selling drugs, these events are few and far between.
Besides, if you’re American, can you honestly say that you can walk into a grocery store or any public place without the risk of getting caught in a shooting?
What Parts of the Yucatan Are the Safest?
Statistically, the safest part of the Yucatan is Merida.
Merida is the eighth safest city in North America, South America, Central America, and the Caribbean combined. That makes it safer than all but two cities in the United States (Irvine, California, and Amarillo, Texas).
Canadian cities make up the remainder of the top safest places before Merida. If you’re interested in learning more about this, check out my article on Merida’s safety.
So, is it safe to travel to the Yucatan Peninsula aside from Merida?
Yes, I think it is. Personally, the destinations in the Yucatan Peninsula where I’ve felt the safest aside from Merida include:
Note that this is based on my personal experience, so take it with a grain of salt. Nevertheless, Valladolid sits within Yucatan state, so from a statics standpoint, it’s safer than the destinations in Quintana Roo.
The Most Dangerous Places in the Yucatan
Admittedly, this title is extreme. As long as you’re not buying or selling drugs in the Yucatan, your chances of a murderous run-in are low.
That doesn’t mean that armed robberies, pickpocketing, and other dangerous situations don’t happen, though.
From personal experience, below are areas in the Yucatan that I’ve explored with increased caution:
- Downtown Cancun (not the Hotel Zone, although take care there, too, if you walk around at night)
- The streets west of 50th Ave. in Playa del Carmen
- Downtown Tulum at night
Also, regardless of where you are in the Yucatan, think twice before you head to a desolate beach during the day.
And don’t do it at night.
Armed robbery is common on beaches where it feels like you’re the only one around. A bike company in Cozumel warned me of this. They told me that stopping at any beach where there weren’t people (or many people) was an almost guarantee of being robbed.
Visiting the Yucatan as a Solo Female Traveler
Whether you’re a solo female traveler wanting to do some Yucatan backpacking or take yourself on a luxury “me time” getaway, I’ve found the Yucatan to be fine for solo female travel.
It’s not as great safety-wise as a trip, say, around Europe. But I didn’t walk out my door every day worried that something was going to happen to me.
Yes, you’ll get the occasional cat call on the street.
And there have been times when I’ve frustratingly had to turn around because of a questionable character or running into too quiet of an area. Had I been with others in those situations (especially if the “others” included a guy), I would have likely felt comfortable staying on course.
So, have there been times when I’ve felt limited traveling the Yucatan as a solo female traveler?
Yes. But, unfortunately, that comes with the territory of being a woman regardless of wherever you are in the world.
As long as you stay alert, don’t get inebriated alone in public, etc., you should be just fine.
Is the Yucatan Safe at Night?
Now that you have a feel for general safety in the Yucatan, you might be wondering—is it safe to travel to the Yucatan Peninsula after dark?
Traveling within the Yucatan by bus or car is generally regarded as safe both day and night. Unlike in certain parts of Mexico, where people involved in “organized crime” hold up vehicles, this is largely unheard of in the Yucatan.
Now, in terms of going out for a night on the town, night safety varies drastically in the Yucatan. Places like the Hotel Zone in Cancun, 5th Avenue in Playa del Carmen, and the Hotel Zone in Tulum are generally regarded as safe places to walk around at night.
But even then, it’s best to take a taxi back to your hotel, especially if you’re out when businesses start shutting down. Thieves know that people out late at night often have alcohol in their systems and are more likely to take advantage of unsuspecting passersby.
Transportation in the Yucatan
There’s so much to see in the Yucatan. So, even if you choose one place in the Yucatan to base yourself, you’ll likely want to take day trips to explore other destinations.
The good news is that there are many safe ways for you to get around.
Is it safe to take an Uber in the Yucatan?
As of January 2023, the U.S. Department of State is advising tourists to avoid the use of taxi apps in the Quintana Roo region of the Yucatan Peninsula, including Cancun.
Local taxi unions in Cancun 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.
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. But for now, it’s best to stay clear of it in Quintana Roo.
Note that this doesn’t apply to Merida, where taking an Uber is considered a safe mode of transport.
Is it safe to take a street taxi in the Yucatan?
No, it’s not safe to take a street taxi in the Yucatan. Unless you’re in immediate danger on the street, don’t take the chance of getting into a taxi that you hail off the street.
While many street taxi drivers in the Yucatan are just trying to do their job, there are countless stories of drivers posing as taxi employees—or even true taxi drivers—taking advantage of a tourist they perceive as rich or inebriated.
Is it safe to drive in the Yucatan?
Yes, it’s safe to rent a car and drive in the Yucatan. You’ll likely encounter police checks during your travels, where they’ll ask for your driver’s license (and possibly passport) and car registration.
Such police checks can be intimidating for tourists if you’re not familiar with them. But as long as you’re carrying the proper documentation, there’s nothing to worry about.
Is it safe to take a bus in the Yucatan?
Taking buses in the Yucatan is very safe. Buses are my preferred way to travel around the Yucatan; they’re economical and feel even safer than taxis when I’m traveling alone, given that other passengers are there.
ADO is the primary long-distance bus company that operates in the Yucatan. They offer some of the newest, cleanest, and comfiest buses you’ve likely ever been on.
You can also take colectivos (shared minivans) within whatever destination you’re in to get around locally. These vans are often packed and provide little comfort, but they’re cheap, safe, and get the job done.
Beach Safety in the Yucatan
If you have the Yucatan pictured as having glass-like water with barely any ripples, think again.
While there’s no doubt you can enjoy calm Caribbean water during your time in the Yucatan, it largely depends on the weather and beach you’re at.
Most tourist beaches in the Yucatan have a flag system, with green meaning it’s safe to swim, and red and black flags encouraging swimmers to stay out of the water.
In some cases, the flags are there to warn beachgoers of the potential for rip tides. In other cases, they might be a sign of good (or poor) water quality.
A Note on Hurricane Season
Hurricane season in the Yucatan runs from June 1st to November 30th.
I happened to be in Playa del Carmen when a category 1 hurriccane hit and in Tulum when the byproduct of a hurricane passed through.
No one evacuated for these hurricanes. But if they were expected to be larger, it would have been a necessity.
Personally, knowing there’s the chance of a hurricane striking has never caused me to rethink a trip to the Yucatan. But everyone has different risk levels (and vacation time).
So, hurricane season might be food for thought as you plan your trip.
Is the Water Safe to Drink in the Yucatan?
Now that I’ve covered the question, “Is the Yucatan safe?” you might be wondering about health safety.
Like most of Mexico, the water isn’t safe to drink in the Yucatan.
Always opt for bottled water, which is plentiful and cheap at tiendas (convenience stores on nearly every block of any populated area).
The majority of locals in the Yucatan drink bottled or filtered water. So, you can assume most restaurants use safe water when preparing food, particularly if you’re eating at a restaurant geared towards tourists.
How To Stay Safe in the Yucatan
Below are some basic safety precautions to take in the Yucatan. As you’ll see, there’s nothing unique about them—it’s wise to practice these tips regardless of wherever 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 (all as a solo female traveler) and have felt safe in several other destinations.
Aside from Merida and Valladolid in the Yucatan, these 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 the Yucatan Safe?
In my opinion, the Yucatan is safe as long as you travel smartly.
That said, safety can change—what’s safe now might not be so safe when you’re reading this or once you arrive in the Yucatan.
So, I encourage you to check the DOS’s travel advisory page before you book your trip and again before traveling.
Luckily, if history is any indication, you likely won’t encounter major warnings from the DOS. So, go ahead and plan your dream Yucatan trip, not letting the fear of something happening overshadow the fun that awaits you.
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 solo female travel and wheelchair accessibility, with the support of her brother-in-law and sister.