For many would-be tourists, the very idea of visiting Mexico sets alarm bells ringing. The country has well-documented incidents of drug and gang-related crime, particularly along the US border.
In truth and providing the visitor takes sensible precautions and avoids areas or activities that are known to have crime problems, the country in no more dangerous than any other. Cancun is one of Mexico’s most popular tourist destinations and is still one of the safest areas to visit.
What applies to many other parts of the world also applies to Cancun when it comes to tourist safety. There are certain scams that are rife, certain areas it’s wise to avoid and some things it’s just nice to know ahead of time.
If you’re travelling around Cancun by taxi, it’s advisable to agree the price with the taxi driver before setting off. It’s not unknown for drivers to hike the price once the destination is reached and there’s little you can do about it after the event.
In bars or clubs always check your receipt to make sure you’ve only been charged for the drinks you think you’ve bought. Dishonest bar tenders may add one or two – or more – drinks to the bill and unless you’re vigilant it’s easy to be charged for extras you didn’t actually order.
Other bar scams include clearing away half-finished drinks while your attention is elsewhere.
In restaurants, make sure a tip is not included in the charge before you add a tip of your own and also be careful that you are only paying for items you ordered. It’s not uncommon for extra items to be added and they’re easily missed if you’re not paying attention.
Just as you should when buying anything from a shop anywhere, check your change before you leave and make sure what has been wrapped up for you is what you wanted to buy.
For instance, unscrupulous shopkeepers, particularly in smaller market shops, might attempt to wrap a cheap version of your item rather than the expensive original one you wanted.
When you’re out and about, stick to the tourist areas of Cancun. The Hotel Zone, the beaches and up-market malls such as La Isla are generally considered safe for tourists.
Day trips around Cancun are a good way of getting to know the area. Xei-Ha and Xcaret, multi-activity parks where you can swim or snorkel, have day trips and for those interested in history, Chichen Itza and Tulum are areas where you’ll find fascinating Mayan ruins.
Staying away from areas deemed unsafe in Cancun is an important part of avoiding unnecessary upset or danger. It’s necessary to understand that most serious crime is not directed at tourists and doesn’t take place in the areas most likely to be populated by tourists.
Downtown Cancun, which is close to the Hotel Zone, is one such area that should be avoided if possible. Staying within the Hotel Zone completely is the safest option, but if you wish to venture further afield then be aware that the further you stray from the safer tourist areas, the more likely you are to get caught up in, or become a victim of, criminal activities.
Cancun mercados, or open-air shopping markets, are like mazes. It’s easy to get lost or become disoriented and tourists are often seen as easy targets for high prices. Bartering is expected and as far as possible you should know the value of something before you enter into negotiations. It’s advisable to avoid using credit cards in the small shops in a mercado as there have been reports of subsequent unauthorised use of credit-card numbers.
At night, or when driving, stick to the Hotel Zone, avoiding the outskirts of Cancun. Visiting bars or restaurants outside the tourist areas puts you into unknown territory and possibly in the way of harm. Your holiday is one of the most important events of your year, so taking precautions and staying safe makes sense.
Cancun is one of the safest areas of Mexico, but is not without its problems. Just as you’d research and learn about any other holiday destination, doing so about Cancun ensures that you will stay safe during your holiday.