Planning a trip to Mexico’s Riviera Maya and wondering … is Tulum safe? If you’ve been keeping up with the news surrounding Tulum, then you might have some concerns as to whether this once-paradisiacal coastal town is currently safe for tourists.
Tulum is largely safe for travel, but has recently seen an increase in high profile safety incidents and unrest. Much of the safety issues are connected to cartels, corruption, and the clash of rapid development with local residents. The situation has changed drastically from even a few years ago, so it best to educated yourself to assess your own risk tolerance with respect to travel to Tulum.
Additionally, the ongoing global health crisis is very much still a concern in Mexico’s Riviera Maya. The health situation is fast evolving, and may have changed even by the time you read this article, so you should be sure to check the latest news on this front.
I’ve visited Tulum a couple of times now, and I have to admit that both experiences were met without incident. I found it to be one of the most beautiful places to visit in the world and had a very relaxing, adventurous, trip. However, my experience is obviously anecdotal and I used a reasonable amount of caution in certain areas.
To equip you with the best knowledge, this article is full of the latest research and statistics, my own experiences and tips, and the accounts of other trusted travelers.
So, how safe is Tulum? Let’s get into it:
Table of Contents
- Is Tulum Safe in 2021?
- Things to Know About Safety in Tulum
- 10 Tulum Safety Tips
- #1 – Don’t Walk Around at Night (Especially Alone)
- #2 – Watch Your Alcohol Consumption
- #3 – Don’t Flash Valuable Items
- #4 – Stay Away From Prohibited Substances
- #5 – Keep an Eye on the Weather
- #6 – Don’t Carry Large Amounts of Cash
- #7 – Stay in the Popular Areas
- #8 – Only Get Cash at Banks
- #9 – Learn Some Spanish
- #10 – Book Secure Accommodation
- Is the Water in Tulum Safe to Drink?
- FAQ About Safety in Tulum, Mexico
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Is Tulum Safe in 2021?
Tulum’s tourism has exploded in recent years due to its world-class beaches, seaside Mayan ruins, great parties, luxurious boho-chic hotels, and laid-back hippie vibe. Tourism is big business in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo. Though this is great for the many people who rely on visitors for income, the influx has brought an increased amount of corruption and cartel activity as well.
In general, cartels do not target tourists and the authorities have a huge incentive to keep visitors as safe as possible so that they keep coming back to the area. However, when it comes to steering clear of crime, your safety in Tulum will largely depend on what you do and where you go. Tourism-related petty crime and robberies are likely your biggest threat in Tulum.
Of course, bad things can happen regardless of your own behavior, but sticking to a few key safety tips will go a long way in having a great experience.
Another biggie is making sure you have travel insurance. World Nomads is one of the most trusted options out there (I’ve used their coverage on more than one occasion), but there are a few Mexico travel insurance options depending on your needs.
👉 Considering Playa del Carmen instead? Check out our comparison of Tulum vs Playa del Carmen to decide which Riviera Maya town is the best place for you. Playa del Carmen is also generally safe, though suffers from many of the same issues that affect Tulum.
Things to Know About Safety in Tulum
Tulum Travel Advisories
According to OSAC (Overseas Security Advisory Council), Tulum is moderately safe to visit and travelers should exercise increased caution in the area. Their advisories include concerns such as cartel activity, Covid-19, contaminated water, and natural disasters.
While the U.S. State Department does not have a Tulum-specific advisory, the advisory for Quintana Roo encourages travelers to “exercise increased caution due to crime.” You should also review the agency’s general country-wide advisory for the latest recommendations before booking your trip to Mexico.
Let’s dive into the various Tulum safety concerns to consider a little deeper:
Covid-19 Safety in Tulum
Covid is still very much a reality in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo and, as of the time of this article’s publication, the country is entering a third wave of the pandemic. That said, vaccination is also progressing and the situation in Tulum is constantly evolving. It is therefore a good idea to check Mexico’s Covid-19 vaccination and infection rates for the most up-to-date information.
In Mexico, the pandemic has been managed via a four-tiered stoplight system that is updated by the government every two weeks. Quintana Roo has been in the orange zone for many months, which means there are capacity, mask, and distance restrictions in force.
👉 Pro Tip: While you can enter Mexico without being tested for Covid, if you’re traveling from the United States or Canada you will need to present a negative PCR test before you return home. Your hotel or resort should have more information on how to obtain this (some of the major hotels even do it in-house), or you can get a rapid test at the Cancun airport.
Common Scams in Tulum
Though scams and crime exist all over the world, the number of incidents has been rising in Tulum as of late. In particular, you should be aware of the following common scams in Tulum:
- 💰 ATMs – As a general rule of thumb in Quintana Roo, don’t use unsupervised ATMs on the street. Always find a legitimate bank, where there should be an entrance for an ATM. Not only will this keep your credit card safe, but it could also safeguard you from any opportunistic cash grabs. Side note: always decline the conversion to USD, as you will almost certainly get a better conversion rate from your bank.
- ⚠️ Corruption – If you look through Facebook groups for expats and digital nomads, it’s interesting to note that there has been a noticeable uptick in complaints about corruption as of late. Though it’s hard to predict when and where this will happen, corrupt authorities generally look for bribery opportunities where tourists aren’t going by the book — when they’re under the influence, have drugs on them, are speeding, etc. Never be under any influence in public, especially alone, and stick to the laws at all times.
- 🚗 Car and Motorcycle Rentals – Renting a car in Quintana Roo can feel a little risky when rental companies have been known to charge astronomical insurance rates and ding visitors for damage they didn’t create. I always recommend that you use Discover Cars when booking a car rental abroad as it clearly displays customer reviews of all the agencies.
- 💳 Petty Theft & Robbery – As in many places, petty theft and robbery have been known to occur in Tulum. To keep yourself safe, only carry a small amount of cash on you, don’t flash valuable items, and always be aware of your belongings.
- 🍷 Alcohol – Known to affect tourists of all genders, be vigilant about protecting yourself against drink spiking. Always purchase alcohol from a reputable source (straight from a bartender or liquor store), and keep an eye on your drink at all times.
👉 Need Help Getting to Tulum? Check out our guide on the best ways to go to Tulum from Cancun’s airport.
Crime, Drugs, & Cartels in Tulum
For some, Tulum is seen as one of the world’s premier party destinations — a place with great festivals and ever-flowing substances. Unfortunately, the latter indulgence has contributed to a growing cartel presence, violent crime, and ever-increasing turf wars between gangs.
Be aware that consuming illegal drugs may leave you vulnerable to corruption and robberies and it also supports the system that has been increasing Tulum’s crime rate.
In fact, data shows that drug-related crime in Tulum soared by 783% between 2019 and 2021, with the same studies reporting that ‘party drugs’ provided to visitors are direct causation for this increase. And look, I can’t tell you how to live your life, but when it comes to buying drugs on vacation just keep in mind that your purchases lead to real consequences for both the locals and other visitors alike.
📚 Related Reading: My article on the best 12 day trips from Tulum includes ancient Mayan ruins, cenotes (limestone sinkholes), beautiful towns, and island escapes. Check it out!
10 Tulum Safety Tips
In general, it is safe to travel to Tulum. But the answer to the question “is Tulum safe?,” does at least in part depend upon what you are planning to do in Tulum. Most tourists have a very safe experience enjoying Tulum beach without issue on their trip, but here are some tips to know that may help you maximize your chances for a safe and enjoyable beach vacation:
#1 – Don’t Walk Around at Night (Especially Alone)
As it stands, walking around Tulum at night — especially by yourself — is a big no-no.
Try to do any sightseeing during the day, and arrange trusted transportation if you go out at night. Although Uber is not available in Tulum, taxis are abundant and fairly easy to come by. On that note, I recommend finding a solid taxi driver and using them as much as possible. You can always check with your accommodations to see if they have recommendations for reputable drivers.
#2 – Watch Your Alcohol Consumption
As I mentioned above, drink spiking is not unheard of in Tulum — especially at clubs and other party locations. Always be aware of your drink and get your alcohol from a reputable source.
#3 – Don’t Flash Valuable Items
In Tulum, keep your valuables on the down-low, and don’t be too flashy in public. A few tips for this are:
- Only use ATMs in banks or your hotel where you won’t be watched
- Carry no more than a days worth of cash on you at any given time
- Stow your valuables (electronics, jewelry, passport, etc) in a Pacsafe portable safe in your hotel room
👉 Need Help Packing? For more ideas on what safety gear to bring with you, check out our guide on what to pack for a beach trip to Mexico.
#4 – Stay Away From Prohibited Substances
I mentioned it in detail above, but it’s worth noting again — doing illegal drugs in Tulum will put you in direct line with both the cartels and police. Never carry drugs on your person and don’t be noticeably intoxicated in public. Though the situation may be different for you at home, drugs in Mexico are no joke and could end in very dangerous situations.
#5 – Keep an Eye on the Weather
Let’s be real, a huge reason you’ll be traveling to the Mayan Riviera is to have a relaxing Tulum beach vacation. But while Quintana Roo is a warm oasis from roughly November through April, it can get oppressively hot between May and October. Trust me, I went to Quintana Roo in August and was a puddle from the heat almost every day.
Not to mention, Tulum experiences hurricane season during the summer and fall– where daily rains are the norm and hurricanes are possible. If you are visiting during this season, you’ll definitely want to consider protecting your trip with travel insurance through a trusted brand like World Nomads.
#6 – Don’t Carry Large Amounts of Cash
In Mexico, I recommend carrying no more than a day’s worth of cash at any given time. Robberies and extortions have been growing more and more common in Tulum, and if you happen to be in this situation it’s best to just hand over your wallet.
Again, it’s not guaranteed that you’re going to be robbed or extorted, but it’s best to be on the safe side. If you’re concerned about robberies in Tulum then it may be worth carrying a dummy wallet. Fill this wallet with expired credit cards and just a little bit of cash, and if anything happens, just hand it over with no hesitation.
#7 – Stay in the Popular Areas
There are a few options for areas to stay in Tulum, but to be on the safe side, book a hotel in a popular area. Right in Tulum Town and along the most popular parts of the beach hotel zone are the best areas to look for accommodation first. Aside from pickpocketing, you’ll be less likely to be robbed when other people are present and the area is well-lit. Plus, it’s harder to be alone when staying in a hot zone.
#8 – Only Get Cash at Banks
Again, ATM tampering has been known to happen in Quintana Roo, and withdrawing cash from the ATMs at banks is the way to go.
If you suspect that an ATM has been tampered with, just give the card slot a jiggle. If it moves easily, you definitely don’t trust it, but if it’s secure, you may be good to go.
#9 – Learn Some Spanish
Learning a bit of the local language is a great tip no matter where you’re headed. In Quintana Roo, I recommend learning enough Spanish to order at restaurants, take taxis, and haggle with shop owners.
Not only is learning the local language a sign of respect, but it will also go a long way in showing others that you’re a confident traveler and not easily taken advantage of.
#10 – Book Secure Accommodation
When possible, book hotels that have security personnel on staff and great safety reviews online. Treat other travelers’ reviews like gold, and note if there are any recurring themes regarding the establishment.
Check out our list of the best hotels in Tulum for some recommended accommodation options. There are some pretty incredible hotels on that list!
Is the Water in Tulum Safe to Drink?
As a general rule of thumb, you should not drink Tulum’s tap water. Although Tulum’s water supply goes through a filtration process at the plant, the pipes used to carry the water to homes and establishments have been known to pollute the water with harmful bacteria.
That said, if you’ll be staying at a major hotel then chances are the water will be fine to drink, and the same goes for restaurants. Some hotels in the Yucatan have their own filtration systems (all the upscale places certainly will), but definitely ask the front desk about this before chugging any tap water. If all else fails, large jugs of bottled water are available for purchase at OXXO convenience stores all around Tulum.
FAQ About Safety in Tulum, Mexico
Is Tulum Safe Right Now?
Tulum is generally safe to travel right now. That said, travelers should check the latest travel advisories, exercise increased caution with respect to petty crime, and update themselves on the latest public health situation.
Is Tulum Safe for Solo Female Travelers?
Tulum is generally safe for solo female travelers, though I recommend not walking around alone at night. It is always best to keep an eye on your drinks, and to book trusted and reviewed accommodation.
What is the crime rate in Tulum Mexico?
The crime rate in Tulum is ranked as moderate. According to Numbeo.com, crime rates have increased over the past 3 years, but most visitors can still expect a safe and fun trip.
Thanks for reading my safety guide to Tulum!
Tulum is still one of the most beautiful parts of the country of Mexico. Provided you follow these tips and use common sense, generally Tulum is safe and you can expect to have a great trip there in 2021.
For more Mexico tips, visit:
- 33 Things to Do in Mexico (+What Not to Do)
- Rio Secreto: A Guide to Playa del Carmen’s Magical Caves
- Best Chichen Itza Tours from Tulum
Have fun in Tulum!