In Playa del Carmen Mexico, safety often comes in to question. The Riviera Maya is a popular place for visitors from all over the world, but its safety is often called into question. Stories of petty theft and violent crimes are commonplace among tourists and expat communities, which can put visitors off. But when you compare the crime statistics between Mexico and the USA, there really isn’t much difference!
But, by taking some simple precautions it’s perfectly possible to travel to Playa del Carmen with safety. We’ve put together this list of top safety tips from expats and locals on how to stay safe and have the best experience in Playa del Carmen.
Playa del Carmen Mexico Safety Precautions
Know Your Areas
As with most towns and cities around the world, Playa del Carmen has safe areas and not-so-safe areas. Knowing the difference between the two is important for making sure that you don’t accidentally stray into a neighborhood that’s potentially dangerous for foreigners.
As a general rule, the streets before you get to the 50s are safe, but once you hit 50 the area becomes less desirable to tourists. Avenues up to 35 are also classed as pretty safe, but any further out and you’ll start to notice the area changing. That’s not to say these areas are ‘no go areas just issue caution and avoid walking alone at night. Playacar is a gated community and is arguably the safest area in Playa del Carmen, so if you’re concerned about safety, this part of the town would be a good option for you.
Are Taxis Safe in Playa del Carmen?
It’s not recommended to walk around late at night, so taking taxis is a must in Playa del Carmen. That being said, there have been instances of robberies in cabs, so it’s important to take some precautions.
Taxis don’t use meters in Playa del Carmen so make sure you agree on the price before you get in. Failing to do so can result in being presented with a hefty charge at the end of your journey, which you’ll have no choice but to pay for. Never get in a taxi if someone else is already in it, and always sit in the back on the passenger side if you are alone.
Hailing taxis in the street can be risky as there’s no real way of knowing who your driver is or what their intentions are. This is especially true at night around the 5th Avenue area, and hopping in a taxi along there should be avoided. A popular service called WhatsApp Taxi is the safest method of calling a cab in Playa del Carmen, so it’s recommended to use it wherever possible.
Leave Your Bling At Home
In some parts of Latin America the phrase “no dar papaya” is used to remind people not to give criminals an opportunity to make them their victim. The most effective way of doing this is to avoid wearing obviously expensive jewelry and accessories. Leave your Rolex and your diamonds at home and replace them with more subtle items that won’t be as tempting to thieves.
The same goes for technology: don’t flash your expensive phone or laptop. Keep both tucked away securely when out and about, and if you need to use your phone (to check Google Maps, for example), step into a store or cafe to do so. Never leave your brand new iPhone on the table in a bar or restaurant: it’s incredible how quickly thieves can swipe them.
It’s also smart to try and blend in as much as possible. This might be difficult depending on your appearance, but avoiding clothing that could give away your home country (a university sweatshirt, for example) can make it trickier for you to be identified from a distance as a foreigner.
Carrying Cash in Playa del Carmen
Many places accept credit and debit cards, so there’s no need to carry around a lot of cash here. Whatever money you do take out with you, be careful not to flash it around. Keeping smaller bills and loose change separate from larger notes will help you pay for things without showing off your entire wad.
It’s also a good idea to spread your cash around instead of keeping it all in your wallet. Keep some in a money belt under your clothes or in different pockets to protect against losing all your money in the event that you are robbed.
We wrote a whole post about money you can read here.
When taking cash out of an ATM, be aware of your surroundings and make sure nobody is following you after you make your withdrawal. Try to avoid using ATMs at night, and stick to ones in busy, well-lit areas whenever possible.
The ATMs on 5th Avenue should be avoided at all costs, as they’re known to be prime spots for card cloning. In fact, it’s best practice to only use ATMs inside the banks as they are monitored more closely.
Common Scams in Playa del Carmen
As is the case in many tourist destinations around the world, there are a few scams in Playa del Carmen which are designed to trick visitors out of cash or their belongings. The condiment trick and variations of it are often reported by expats. The con artist will squirt mustard or another messy substance onto your clothing or bag, and as they help you to clean it they will also relieve you of your phone or wallet!
If anyone points out to you that you have something on your clothing, keep moving and clean it off yourself when it’s safe to do so.
If you’re staying in a resort that requires you to wear a wristband. Turn it inside out when you’re not in the hotel. Scammers see the bracelet and will claim that they’re a waiter at your hotel. This trick is used to gain your trust and make you let your guard down.
Gas stations are the location of many common scams. When your gas is being pumped keep a close eye on the attendant to ensure that they’re actually pumping gas and not just charging you for it. Always pay cash as instances of card cloning aren’t uncommon in gas stations. And, pay close attention when handing over cash.
Another scam, which also happens in stores and restaurants, is when you hand over one or more $500 peso bills to the cashier and they give you change for $50 pesos (the bills, unfortunately, look pretty similar). When you point it out they will claim that you accidentally gave them a $50 rather than a $500 and you won’t be able to prove them wrong.
Our aim with this post isn’t to frighten you off coming, we love Playa del Carmen, that’s why we chose to live here. But like anywhere in the world there are issues you should be aware of to help stay safe.
If you have any feedback or would like to add anything to this list then feel free to comment below and let us know!