is Tulum safe
Biking in Tulum: is it safe? – Austin Distel (unsplash)

Before choosing a travel destination, it’s advisable to research the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to assess the current safety of your intended destination. This travel destination bulletin covers essential factors such as political unrest and criminal activities targeting tourists. Travelers may also address tourism safety with a travel agent, friends, or family who have first-hand experience going to the intended destination.

Tulum is ranked as one of Mexico’s safest and most desirable beach towns. This tropical paradise is nestled within the famous Yucatan Peninsula. It borders the Caribbean Sea and is roughly 81 miles south of Cancun.

A Guideline For Travelers: Is Tulum Safe?

Safety and security while traveling are crucial elements of tourism, primarily responsible for the success or failure of a trip’s quality. Unfortunately, it is all too common for tourists to stick out in a crowd within an unfamiliar area, which is evident to thieves who can deceptively pickpocket money, credit cards, and valuable electronics such as cell phones and cameras. Thankfully, petty theft isn’t an automatic deal breaker to visiting tourist destinations since it’s preventable in most cases with awareness of personal belongings and surroundings.

Crime in Tulum

Regarding crime in Mexico, Tulum is generally considered safe for most travelers, and natural threats such as hurricanes, mosquitoes, and sunburns are the extent of complications that can happen indiscriminately. However, it would be unrealistic to expect any area to be 100% safe at any given time, and travelers should always be prepared for emergencies.

Considering the popularity of Tulum nightlife, tourists should always remain vigilant about securing their valuables in high-traffic areas and never leave anything unattended, even if it’s just for a few seconds. In addition, tourists should take alcohol consumption of themselves and others around them into consideration as well. To prevent accidental drug toxicity, alcoholic beverages should never be taken by strangers, especially if they’re offered for free.

Drugs And Cartels in Tulum

Due to the drug cartel violence that has plagued Mexico for decades, there have been occasional reports of shootings in Tulum within recent years. However, the country used to be relatively efficient at securing the Maya Riviera, which includes Tulum, Playa del Carmen, and Cancun, from the cartel gang violence that plagued other regions of Mexico.

However, security measures were reduced drastically once the Covid-19 pandemic occurred, resulting in economic decline, an increase in the hard-partying scene, and shifts in drug cartel territory. Unfortunately, there is no foolproof way to avoid all drug cartel activity besides sheer luck and keeping a low profile by not buying drugs in Tulum.

Traveling Solo in Tulum

Despite Mexico’s lousy reputation, Tulum is considered safe for solo travelers. Thanks to the substantial amount of solo travelers that visit Tulum annually, it’s an excellent opportunity to meet new people, especially at one of the best hotels in Tulum.

Tulum is vibrant with a free-spirited atmosphere, where the adventurous can dine, drink, party, or go sightseeing with other travelers on their journey. In addition, backpackers, families, and luxury travelers are also known to frequent Tulum regularly. So, solo travelers new to the area can discuss safety advice with others based on their individual experiences.

Nighttime Travels Within Tulum

Traveling around Tulum at night poses no significant safety risks, considering Tulum is a relatively small, tight-knit town. However, it’s still a good rule of thumb to avoid lingering around secluded beaches, dark and empty streets, or any other sketchy locations. Opting for a taxi instead of walking alone may be the better option in any area or situation that feels off. In addition, it never hurts to have a travel companion accompany you at night just to be on the safe side.

Travelers going to Tulum often bring a reliable light source, such as a headlamp or phone flashlight, since the area around Tulum Beach Road is poorly lit. Safety-wise, this is a good rule of thumb to lessen the chances of being a crime victim or avoiding accidental bodily injury from falls.

Scams To Watch Out For in Tulum

Although traveling to Tulum shouldn’t provoke too much concern, a little bit of streetwise will go a long way in helping travelers avoid common tourist scams. For financial safety, it’s better to be prepared and aware of what to look for in the rare instance a fraud might occur.

ATM Scams

Most locations within Tulum only accept cash, meaning travelers will frequently use ATMs to withdraw money to make purchases. Therefore, even though they are located throughout the region, it’s safest to use ATMs within banks in Tulum Town instead of the streets or on the beach.

Checking to see if an ATM has been tampered with can quickly be done by jiggling the card slot. If it’s not securely fastened, travelers shouldn’t trust it. Otherwise it should be good to go if it doesn’t budge.

Rental Car Scams

Infamously known as the “Mexico car rental scam,” this occurs due to most renters not reading or comprehending the fine print within the terms of the agreement, which discloses additional fees and taxes. This may leave travelers scratching their heads, wondering why the final price is double what they viewed initially online while booking the rental vehicle.

To avoid any disputes with rental car companies upon returning a car, travelers should take photos of the vehicle’s interior and exterior upon purchase. Travelers can also err on the side of caution by overestimating what they’ll pay – by doubling the base price of the online rental car posting if paying the minimum insurance and tripling the final cost if opting for premium coverage.

Police Corruption in Tulum

Being a victim of police corruption can easily blindside travelers who lack at least some basic legal knowledge. Thankfully, most law enforcement within Tulum operates legitimately, and there’s only a tiny percentage of corrupt officers to be on the lookout for.

Usually, police officers will only question you if you’re breaking any laws. However, behaving obscenely while drunk in public is one of the quickest ways to attract attention from law enforcement, along with being reckless on the road in a rental car.

Robberies in Tulum

Tourists in Tulum can be the targets of robbery and theft, which has gradually become more common. Therefore, leaving non-essential valuables at home while packing for a trip is crucial to lessen the likelihood of having them stolen during your trip. Furthermore, bringing only enough money to ensure you can afford your stay each day is advisable and should be at most 1,000 pesos (roughly $50 US dollars). Finally, if all else fails and a theft/robbery occurs, the safest decision would be to hand over the valuables without causing a scene.

Tips For Safety in Tulum

Monitor Your Alcohol Consumption

Drink spiking, the act of deliberately adding drugs or alcohol to someone’s drink without their knowledge, is a problem travelers of any age and gender should be wary of. Impairments in behavior and judgment are the effect of these mind-altering substances, which are often used as date rape drugs that target young travelers, especially women.

Purchasing alcohol from reputable, licensed sources such as bartenders and liquor stores is the safest way to drink. At public parties with significantly large crowds, travelers should keep alcoholic drinks on their person at all times or have someone else supervise their beverages whenever necessary.

Don’t Be Flashy With Valuable Belongings

Being flashy with valuables in public is a surefire way to receive unwanted attention from thieves looking to score easy money. Instead, utilizing a bank or hotel ATM while they’re not busy is a safe way to handle your finances without being watched and should not include withdrawing more cash than necessary. It’s also helpful to book a hotel with portable safes in its rooms so guests can secure valuables such as electronics, fine jewelry, and travel documents without worry.

Steer Clear of Illegal Substances

This dangerous situation is a double whammy since buying drugs, even unknowingly, puts travelers under the law enforcement and drug cartel spotlight. In addition, travelers should never be visibly intoxicated in public or carry illicit drugs, especially in populated areas where word of mouth can spread in seconds. The distribution and possession of drugs in Mexico pose severe legal consequences and result in many tragic stories through media coverage.

Stay Hydrated + Avoid Drinking Tap Water

Staying adequately hydrated is quintessential in maintaining mental clarity, especially for travelers visiting Tulum during its hottest and most humid months. Sufficient water intake also ensures awareness of yourself, your valuables, and your environment.

As a rule of thumb for personal health, drinking tap water in Tulum is unsafe. Although it’s processed at a water filtration plant, harmful bacteria are known to travel through the pipes which carry this water through homes and local establishments. In this case, bringing your own filtered water is the safest option to minimize the risk of illness.

Learn The Basics of Spanish Before Arriving in Tulum

Brushing up on the native language is essential for everyday interactions that will be expected while touring, such as ordering at restaurants, taking taxis, and negotiating with merchants. In addition, comprehending possible safety concerns you wouldn’t pick up on if you only spoke English is another significant benefit of learning Spanish.

For example, travelers can learn different Spanish phrases for emergencies, such as “I need an ambulance/dentist/police officer,” or know how to describe their current location in Spanish (street names, district/neighborhood names, hotel addresses, etc.). Of course, there’s no guarantee that someone will always be around for assistance, so it’s advisable to have the phone numbers of all local emergency services for immediate help.

Stay in The Best Neighborhoods in Tulum

Despite its small size, Tulum is a rapidly expanding town featuring some of the best Tulum all-inclusive resorts that are ideal for traveler safety. Tulum Beach, Aldea Zama, and Tulum Town are highly favorable areas with incredible hotels, Airbnbs, and hostels. In addition, these areas are heavily populated and adequately lit at night, compared to most remote neighborhoods in the area.

Becoming a theft or robbery victim is significantly less likely in well-lit areas with a lot of foot traffic. Staying in a highly populated place also ensures it’s much harder to be alone for more than a few moments. Do a bit of research of where to stay before you come and decide the best safe spot near your planned activities.

Opt For Taxis at Night If You’re Out Alone

Travelers staying near the beach will be safer using taxi services instead of bicycling or walking solo on dark streets, which is just the easy target criminals are looking for. Travelers should also write the taxi’s plate number for their records and share this information with someone they trust. In addition, taxi drivers are notorious for charging highly-inflated fees, so travelers may need to haggle to get where they need to be.

Closely Monitor Weather Conditions

Summer and autumn in Tulum are peak hurricane seasons, where frequent rainstorms are expected, and hurricanes can form suddenly at any given time. Therefore, tourists should consider reputable travel insurance, such as World Nomads, before visiting Tulum during this season and bringing protective weather gear in case environmental conditions become unpredictable.

Book Secure Accommodations

Reading safety reviews to confirm the hotel you’re booking has security personnel is a great way to find safe lodging. Read as many reviews as you can from other travelers, carefully assessing the pros and cons and any recurring patterns regarding establishment operations.

Booking a stay within the Hotel Zone is generally the safest option since a 24-hour reception desk, or security gate is a standard measure to protect the property. However, it still wouldn’t hurt to contact the hotel to verify these security measures before booking accommodation, especially for solo travelers staying by themselves at an Airbnb. In addition, travelers who prefer not to wander Tulum alone at night would benefit from booking accommodation near the town. Most hotel locations with the Hotel Zone also have security for those who desire to be close to the beach.

Stay Up To Date on The Latest Tulum News

When in doubt, news coverage will give travelers a reliable and convenient range of essential travel information. These current statistics and stories have expanded to cover Covid-19, drug war activity, and detailed weather reports in Tulum. In addition, Riviera Maya News and The Yucatan Times provide Tulum news coverage in English.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

Is Travel Insurance A Requirement To Visit Tulum?

Legally speaking, there is no obligation to purchase travel insurance before planning a trip to Mexico. Since the Mexican government has no mandates requiring traveling insurance for tourists, it’s not something anyone should have to worry about showing proof of at the border. However, any seasoned traveler will know that unexpected situations can and will happen, so many opt for purchasing travel insurance for its range of benefits:

Trip Cancellation Protection

Trip cancellation protection acts as reimbursement for canceled trips which tourists can bundle with a comprehensive travel insurance policy at the time of purchase. In addition, it will ensure the security of prepaid, nonrefundable hotel and flight reservations. A sudden Covid-19 illness, jury duty, death of a travel companion, or nationwide lockdown are valid circumstances that tourists could cover under trip cancellation protection.

Trip Interruption Benefits

Unexpected interruptions can happen even after arriving at your intended destination. If an unforeseeable event forces travelers to return home early, the remaining portion of the trip that’s unused will be refunded by the travel insurance agency. Unused, prepaid, nonrefundable hotel stays and excursion bookings are covered under this policy. In addition, booking a new flight home, extra hotel nights, and airport taxi fare are all secondary expenses that may qualify for a refund.

Emergency Medical Coverage

Hospital visits are unfortunate for US travelers visiting a foreign country, only to find out they have expensive medical bills because their health insurance back home won’t cover them. Under this policy, travelers will be covered if an unforeseeable illness, injury, or infection poses the threat of significant health complications. In addition, ambulance medical treatments, such as surgery, medical tests, anesthesia, and prescription drugs, are provided under emergency medical coverage.

Emergency Medical Evacuation

Under medical evacuation insurance, the expense of emergency transportation to the nearest medical facility is covered if travelers sustain life-threatening illnesses or injuries while traveling abroad. In addition, if medically necessary, this coverage may pay for transporting a patient back to the US for further treatment.

Theft Protection For Belongings

Travelers are compensated for stolen items in their possession while on a trip. This travel coverage includes thefts within airports (with the addition of checked luggage), hotels, or during transportation to the intended destination (such as in a taxi or bus). Generally speaking, coverage limits range from $150 to $300, with higher limits included in specific plans. Travel insurance plans reimburse for the theft of electronics, cameras and camera equipment, jewelry, gems, watches, sports equipment, and furs.

What’s The Cost of Lodging in Tulum?

There is no recommended amount of cash to bring during your stay because it boils down to budget and lodging preferences. However, for a long-term stay in Tulum, apartments are the most economical option to save money. For an average of $250-$350 weekly, high-quality apartments such as the Suite Casa Tortuga and Tulum Nah are located near the town center.

Travelers seeking the most affordable beachfront hotels should budget at least $700 weekly, averaging roughly $1,300. Premium hotels in Tulum, such as Ana y Jose and Ahau Tulum, will cost a staggering $4,000-$5,000 weekly.

How Much Is Dining in Tulum?

Tulum restaurants can accommodate various budgets, with Tulum Centro being the pinnacle of budget-friendly options. Palma Central is a famous street food market where travelers can eat for roughly $11-13 per person. In addition, on average, plenty of street vendors prepare quick eats such as cheap tacos and Comida corrida meal deals for $5-7, while fine beachfront fare can rack up to $100, including wine.

In general, budget-friendly eating should figure at $30 daily per traveler or $210 weekly; however, opting for apartment cooking will significantly reduce the expense of eating out. Spontaneous diners not concerned about budgeting should allocate $60-$100 per individual daily (this average cost also factors in drinks).

What’s The Price Range For Tulum Beach Clubs?

A relaxing visit to the beach is achievable by booking a stay at one of Tulum’s exquisite beach clubs. Thankfully, most are traveler-friendly as they reimburse paid fees through food credit, which guests can count towards lunch.

Rosa del Viento is among Tulum’s most budget-friendly beach clubs, where guests can expect to spend only $25 per person. However, accommodations at pricier beach clubs can total around $70-$100 or more.

What’s The Cost of Tours And Attractions in Tulum?

If travelers plan on visiting local attractions, it’s best to prepare by deciding which destinations to visit before the trip. Tulum Archaeological entrance, for instance, requires a fee of about $5 per tourist, and certain cenotes, such as cenote Azul, incur an entrance fee of roughly $5-6. Some top-rated tours around Tulum, like a visit to the Sian Ka’an Biosphere, will be an average of $100 per tourist. Even though these fees aren’t significantly expensive, they can add up quickly, especially when traveling in large groups.

Is Spanish The Primary Language in Tulum?

The ratio of Spanish to English speakers in Tulum is 50/50, with English being the primary language in more upscale destinations on Tulum Beach. Locals make up most of Tulum town’s population, who tend to speak more Spanish. It never hurts to familiarize yourself with basic Spanish to ensure language barriers don’t become an issue. Speaking everyday courtesies such as please, and thank you in the local language is generally perceived as respectful.

Does Traveling to Mexico Require a Visa?

As long as US travelers have an up-to-date passport, a Visa is not required to visit Mexico, which is highly beneficial in terms of convenience. Instead, Mexico tourists will be given a 180-day (6-month) FMM tourist card upon going through the Immigration line. After departing the country, this miniature piece of paper is meant to be left with Immigration and held onto by tourists during their stay in Mexico.

Although receiving the FNM tourist card is free of charge, a fine of 600 pesos ($30 US dollars) will be implemented upon replacing a card that is lost. Additionally, this will be an inconvenient waste of time as tourists must make their way to the airport an hour in advance to file the lost visa paperwork and pay the fee.

What Are The Essentials To Pack For Tulum?

It’s crucial to remember that Tulum, and the Yucatan Peninsula, as a whole, are primarily tropical climates with temperatures averaging 70-90 Fahrenheit year-round. Be prepared for hot and humid conditions throughout the year, and wear light, loose-fitting clothing made of cotton to stay cool and absorb sweat. During the summer months, a wide-brimmed sun hat will protect the face from direct sunlight while UV rays are at their peak. Carrying a water bottle with a built-in filter will be handy for keeping hydrated while out and about in Tulum.

Being a well-prepared tourist in Mexico means keeping reef-safe sunscreen and bug-repellent spray on you at all times to avoid pesky sunburns and mosquito problems common in Tulum. Anti-hangover medications are also a lifesaver to prevent trip-ruining hangovers that are likely to happen in the morning after heavy drinking/partying.

How Do I Get To Tulum?

Tulum is part of the Yucatan Peninsula in southeastern Mexico, located in Quintana Roo. Cancun is located approximately 75 miles north of Tulum, along with Playa del Carmen and Riviera Maya 40 miles north. Bacalar Lagoon, also known as the “Maldives of Mexico,” is a fantastic Yucatan hotspot roughly 130 miles south of Tulum; Valladolid pueblo magico (magic town) is 65 miles east of Tulum. Lastly, Merida, a stunning colonial city, can be found 160 miles east.

Does Tulum Have Its Own Airport?

Unfortunately, Tulum does not have its own airport, although the Mexican government has announced the opening an international airport in Tulum in 2023. So, for the time being, travelers must make their way to Cancun International Airport, the closest location approximately 75 miles north. Thankfully, upon landing, it’s a straight 1.5-hour drive down Carretera Cancun-Chetumal (Highway 307). Rental cars, ADO buses, and shared and private shuttles are the various transportation options to reach Tulum from Cancun International Airport.

Conclusion:

With some research and common sense, staying safe in Tulum is easily achievable by travelers of all experience levels. Exploring Tulum is the experience of a lifetime and speaks for itself as it’s hosted up to 2 million visitors a year. Preparing for a trip to a foreign country is a significant life experience that promotes flexibility under changing circumstances, critical thinking, and survival skills.

Understanding the basics of safety while traveling is a critical underlying factor in the quality and enjoyment of traveling abroad. It may also be the deciding factor in whether or not travelers will visit a chosen destination again.

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