Is Riviera Maya Safe

Is Riviera Maya Safe in 2024? A Local’s Perspective

Viva La Travelista Disclosure

Are you wondering if Riviera Maya is safe to visit in 2024? You’ve come to the right guide!

As a travel blogger that has lived in Playa del Carmen for many years, I’ve got insider knowledge and experience to share with you about the safety situation in Riviera Maya.

And while you’ve probably seen major news headlines about safety in Mexico, these stories are often blown out of proportion and safety risks can often be easily avoided with a few simple precautions.

In this article, I’m sharing my honest perspective on safety in Riviera Maya including the crime situation in the region, common scams to look out for, and safety tips and advice for transportation, nightlife, and more.

My intention is not to sugarcoat the truth but hopefully by the end of the article, you’ll at least be able to make an informed decision on whether or not visiting Riviera Maya is right for you.

Ready to find out all about safety in Riviera Maya? Let’s get started!

Is Riviera Maya Safe for Tourists in 2024?

Riviera Maya can be a very safe destination as long as you take basic safety precautions and avoid illegal activity.

A large majority of tourists that vacation at resorts in Riviera Maya don’t even leave the resort and face very little safety risks.

Staying at a resort in Riviera Maya is actually much safer than staying in the downtown areas of Playa del Carmen, Cancun, or Tulum, as the resorts are heavily secured and have strict security protocols.

The resorts here have 24/7 security with guards and cameras everywhere, and all arrivals and departures are logged against the guest manifest.

This means you can feel very safe when you’re staying at a resort in Riviera Maya, as strict safety and security measures are in place to keep guests safe.

🚨 Do you need travel insurance for Mexico? Yes! Most insurance plans in your home country will not cover incidents abroad. I recommend using Travel Insurance Master, which is a handy travel insurance marketplace where you can compare policies. Get a FREE quote by clicking here!

Riviera Maya Resort Safety

Safety Precautions in Riviera Maya

If you do decide to venture out and explore more of the Riviera Maya region, be sure to take safety measures.

This includes booking Riviera Maya tours and excursions with reputable companies like Viator or GetYourGuide, taking safe transportation, and avoiding late night criminal activity.

Also, it’s important to note that drug cartels and drug-related violence does exist in the region. However, it is usually very targeted and tourists are rarely involved.

Now, that’s not to say that innocent bystanders can’t get caught in the crossfire, but these types of situations are rare and police presence has heavily increased in recent years.

Overall, I don’t feel unsafe living in Riviera Maya but I do take precautionary measures and follow these Playa del Carmen safety tips to ensure that I don’t put myself in risky situations.

Of course, safety is never guaranteed but as long as you use your common sense and take the necessary precautions, you will more than likely be safe in Riviera Maya.

There are thousands of tourists that visit Riviera Maya each year and the vast majority of them have a great time without any issues.

Is Riviera Maya Safe

Mexico Safety in the Media

Another important thing to mention is that news stories on American media outlets have often blown safety in Riviera Maya out of proportion.

Yes, there is certainly crime and violence here but it’s important to remember that Mexico is a very diverse country and crime levels vary drastically from state to state.

By no means am I saying that these news stories are false, but it’s important to remember that Mexico is a huge country and incidents that happen in other Mexican states are often miles away from Riviera Maya.

For example, the incident that happened last year in the border town of Matamoros was over 1,300 miles away from the Riviera Maya in a state with a long-held “Do Not Travel” advisory.

To advise travelers not to travel to Riviera Maya because of an incident that happened in a completely different part of the country would be like saying you shouldn’t travel to California because of something that happened in New York.

So, it’s important not to let sensationalized news stories cloud your judgement and to do your own research into the safety situation in Riviera Maya before making a decision.

US State Department Travel Advisory for Riviera Maya

The U.S. State Department currently has issued a Level 2 Travel Advisory for the Mexican state of Quintana Roo, which includes Riviera Maya.

This means that travelers should exercise increased caution when visiting and be aware of heightened risks to safety and security due to crime.

U.S. State Department Travel Advisory Levels

There are currently no travel restrictions for U.S. government employees in Quintana Roo state but it is recommended to exercise increased caution after dark and to remain in well-lit pedestrian streets and tourist zones.

🌎 The Riviera Maya travel advisory is at the same level as many other popular tourist destinations around the world, including France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom.

Smart Traveler Enrollment Program

If you are a U.S. citizen, I would recommend registering for the Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).

This program is a free service for U.S. citizens which allows you to submit your travel plans to the nearest United States embassy or consulate in Mexico. 

You’ll then receive news and safety alerts by email for the areas in Mexico you’re traveling to. I’m enrolled and have found it to be very helpful and informative!

They’ll alert you of any heightened safety situations and even natural disasters or weather advisories during hurricane season. Plus, it helps the U.S. embassy to contact you in case of an emergency.

Smart Traveler Enrollment Program Email

Crime in Riviera Maya

Here are some important things to know about crime in Riviera Maya:

Crime & Safety Index in Riviera Maya

Numbeo is an online global database of perceived crime and safety rates in major cities and countries throughout the world.

One statistic that Numbeo uses to measure violent crime rates is “Crime Index”, which is an estimation of overall level of crime in a given city based on a scale from 1-100.

They also report on “Safety Index” which is basically the opposite of Crime Index. If a city has a high Safety Index, it is considered very safe.

Since Riviera Maya is a region and not technically a city, here’s a chart outlining the crime and safety indices for Playa del Carmen, Cancun, and Tulum.

Playa del CarmenCancunTulumAverage
Crime Index47.25 (Moderate)55.73 (Moderate)37.26 (Low)46.75 (Moderate)
Safety Index52.75 (Moderate)44.27 (Moderate)62.74 (High)53.25 (Moderate)

On average, the Riviera Maya crime rate is 46.75, which is considered a moderate level of crime. While it is not the safest of the Mexican states, it is also not the most dangerous.

And it’s very comparable to other many major cities around the world like New York City, Los Angeles, Paris, and London.

Petty Theft in Riviera Maya

Petty crime and theft such as pickpocketing and bag snatching is not uncommon in tourist areas in Riviera Maya, so it’s important to always remain vigilant.

To stay safe, avoid carrying large amounts of cash or valuables in public and be mindful of your surroundings at all times.

Always keep a close eye on your purse, wallet, and cell phone and use a belt bag or crossbody bag with the zipper secured whenever you’re in crowded areas like when shopping on Fifth Avenue in Playa del Carmen.

5th Avenue Playa del Carmen Safety

When dining at restaurants in Playa del Carmen, Cancun, or Tulum, it’s best to keep your purse in your lap or always in front of you.

I’ve seen many videos of surveillance footage posted on Facebook where thieves will create a distraction and steal purses hanging from the backs of chairs.

While you’re at the resort, theft isn’t as much of an issue but it’s still a good idea to keep your valuables locked in the hotel safe and only carry the essentials with you when you leave.

Purse to Avoid Petty Theft in Riviera Maya

Drug Violence in Riviera Maya

As I mentioned earlier, drug violence does exist in Riviera Maya but it’s usually very targeted and tourists are not usually involved.

That said, I don’t recommend seeking out illegal activities and it’s best to stay clear of drug use or any other illegal activity that could put your safety at risk.

Drug violence exists in the Mexican Caribbean region because it’s a popular vacation destination and there’s a market for drug trafficking.

But it’s important to know that drug use is still illegal in Mexico and if you get caught, the penalties are severe.

The best thing you can do is avoid the drug scene all together to avoid any potential problems or safety risks.

Corruption & Bribery in Riviera Maya

Another important thing to know about visiting Mexico is that corruption and bribery can be present among local law enforcement and government officials.

Now I’m not saying that every police officer or Mexican government official is corrupt, but it’s important to remain aware and stay away from any situations that could potentially involve corruption.

It’s not unheard of for tourists to be stopped by police and asked for a bribe, especially if you commit a traffic infraction or other minor offense.

I’ve personally never had this happen in Mexico, and most tourists won’t have any interaction with the police, but it’s still important to be aware of the possibility.

These types of situations are more likely to happen at night so it’s best to stay off the roads after dark.

Police in Riviera Maya Mexico

Taxis & Uber in Riviera Maya

When it comes to transportation, it’s important to know that Uber was approved by the local legislation in January 2023 to operate in the region, however even in 2024, it is still not safe to use.

Uber has always been strongly opposed by local taxi drivers and there have been many reports of violence against Uber drivers and passengers.

This means even if your Uber app will work, it is not safe to use Uber at Cancun Airport or in the entire Riviera Maya region including Playa del Carmen, Cancun, and Tulum.

Uber Safety in Riviera Maya Mexico

So if you don’t want to rent a car in Riviera Maya, you’ll need to rely on taxis, public transportation, or hiring private transportation to get around.

When taking taxis, it’s best to use taxis from official taxi stands and avoid hailing them from the street if possible.

If you’re staying at a resort in Riviera Maya, it’s very easy to get a taxi as each resort usually has their own taxi stand. And they’re typically pretty safe.

Taxi Safety in Riviera Maya

Always confirm the price upfront before getting in–some drivers may try to overcharge you if you look like a tourist. They should have a rate chart so that you can verify you’re getting a fare rate.

Fares can be paid in pesos or USD but it’s much easier to pay in pesos and you’ll save money on the exchange rate too.

I’ve never had any issues with taking a taxi in Riviera Maya but I’ve heard of rare incidents of theft or kidnapping, more so at night.

It’s best to avoid taking a taxi alone if possible and if you do take one, make sure to share the taxi number or your Whatsapp live location with a friend so someone knows where you’re going.

Taxi Safety in Riviera Maya

Common Scams in Riviera Maya

These are some of the most common scams in Riviera Maya to watch out for:

Airport Transportation Scams

The arrivals area of Cancun Airport can be a very hectic place (it’s known as the “shark tank”) and is unfortunately an area where a lot of people get taken advantage of.

In general, this area is full of scam artists that may try to sell you overpriced transportation services or give you misinformation about transportation options.

That’s why it’s so important to book your Cancun Airport transfer ahead of time through a reputable transfer company–I recommend using Cancun Airport Transportation.

But even if you do this, you still need to be on the lookout for potential scams as they may pretend to be with the transportation service you booked.

It’s honestly best to ignore anyone that approaches you at the airport unless you are 100% sure they are your transportation company.

Cancun Airport Transportation Safety

Rental Car Scams

Unfortunately rental car scams are very common in Mexico and Riviera Maya is no exception.

There are a lot of car rental horror stories including long wait times, not getting the car you booked, and extreme upcharges for insurance.

You may be tempted by advertisements online for Mexico car rentals as low as $1 per day but then you’ll get nailed for all the added fees and insurance premiums.

Rental Car Counters at Cancun International Airport

If you do want to rent a car in Riviera Maya, you’ll want to be very cautious and do your research online in advance.

I recommend using Discover Cars because you can compare multiple car rental companies and see detailed ratings for overall value, ease of pick-up, efficiency of agents, car condition, and overall time spent.

Just be sure to read the fine print and check reviews carefully as rental car scams are unfortunately common in Mexico.

Check prices for Riviera Maya rental cars on Discover Cars here!

Avis Playa del Carmen Rental Car Location

Bill Swap Scam

Another common scam in Riviera Maya to look out for is the bill swap or quick switch scam, which commonly happens at the gas station.

In recent years, Mexico released a new $500 MXN bill that is blue in color. Since $20 MXN bills are also blue, it’s not uncommon for gas station attendants to try and return your $500 bill with a $20 bill in the hopes that you don’t notice. 

Or, if you hand them $500 MXN, they’ll do a quick switch and say that you only handed them $20 MXN. Always keep an eye on the bills!

Mexican Peso Bills

Overcharging or Added Service Charges

If you decide to get off the resort and go out to eat at restaurants in Playa del Carmen, Cancun, or Tulum, it’s not uncommon for them to try and add an automatic gratuity or service charge to your bill.

In fact, it’s actually illegal for them to add an automatic gratuity so be sure to review your bill carefully.

Speak up if it’s incorrect and don’t be afraid to request that they remove the charge. And if paying in cash, be sure to count your change to make sure it’s correct.

Restaurant in Riviera Maya Mexico

Staying Safe in Riviera Maya

Here is what you need to know about resort safety, beach safety, nightlife safety, and water safety in Riviera Maya:

Resort Safety in Riviera Maya

If you’re visiting the Riviera Maya and don’t plan to leave the resort, you honestly won’t face many safety risks. 

Resorts in Riviera Maya are typically very safe and secured with 24/7 onsite security.

If you’re staying at an all-inclusive Riviera Maya resort, you’ll just want to be careful with your alcohol consumption and try not to stay out late alone–even if it’s just at the hotel bar. 

Alcohol Safety at Rivera Maya Resorts

There have been incidents at beach resorts in recent years where alcohol has been tainted but this is definitely not the norm.

And I’ve seen recently where more resorts are taking more safety measures against tainted alcohol like destroying the empty bottles after use so they can’t be refilled.

While at the resort, you’ll also want to utilize the hotel safe to lock up your valuables, credit cards, passport, and travel documents. 

Don’t just assume your valuables will be safe in your hotel room. You never know who has access to your guest room including housekeeping, maintenance, security, and other resort staff. 

Resort in Riviera Maya Mexico

Beach Safety in Riviera Maya

If you decide to venture off the resort and visit one of the public beaches in Playa del Carmen or the Riviera Maya, they will probably be very crowded and have no shortage of vendors trying to sell you their goods and handicrafts. 

Never bring valuables to the beach and keep an eye on your belongings at all times. It’s an easy environment for bag snatchers to make a quick getaway. 

Whenever I go in the water, I always secure my beach bag and keep a close and watchful eye on it.

If you want to be extra cautious, you can use a Pacsafe, which is a portable safe you can strap to a beach chair or permanent fixture. 

Beach in Playa del Carmen Mexico

But if you’re just going to the beach at your resort, you should feel pretty safe leaving your belongings at your beach chair as long it’s not anything too valuable.

And if you’re at an all inclusive resort, it’s not really necessary to bring valuables like your wallet or money with you around as you can just keep them in your room.

Secrets Akumal Riviera Maya Resort

Nightlife Safety in Riviera Maya

If you plan to leave the resort and go out to experience the bars or nightclubs in Playa del Carmen, Cancun, or Tulum, you’ll want to be extra cautious.

Always keep an eye on your drink or keep a hand over it to prevent anyone from slipping something in it. Unfortunately, drink spiking can happen, especially for ladies.

Alcohol Safety in Riviera Maya

This is not something I’ve heard of a lot but it does happen, sadly as it does in many bars around the world. Watch your alcohol consumption and never accept drinks from strangers.

And when getting back to the resort, only take taxis from official taxi stands and avoid taking a taxi alone if possible.

Clandestino Nightclub in Playa del Carmen Mexico

Drinking Water Safety in Riviera Maya

It’s important to know that the tap water in Riviera Maya (and all of Mexico) is not safe to drink for both tourists and locals. It’s best to stick to bottled or purified water while visiting.

Most all inclusive resorts offer free bottled water and purified water for drinking but you’ll need to make a conscious effort to stay hydrated!

It can be very easy to opt for soft drinks and alcoholic beverages while visiting, but it’s important to alternate with water especially with the increased heat levels in Mexico.

Drinking Water Safety in Riviera Maya Mexico

Riviera Maya Safety Tips for Tourists

Follow these Riviera Maya safety tips to help ensure a safe and enjoyable trip:

  • Keep valuables in your hotel safe: Be sure to keep any valuables, including your passport, credit cards, jewelry, and electronics locked in your hotel safe. You never know who has access to your hotel room so the safe is the best place to keep them. It’s also a good idea to keep at least one credit card in the hotel safe while you are out so you still have access to funds if your wallet were to get stolen.
  • Keep your personal belongings close at all times: When out and about in crowded touristy areas, I would recommend wearing a crossbody purse or belt bag with zipper closures. If you want to be extra cautious you can buy a travel pouch to wear under your clothes. And when dining at restaurants, always keep your purse in your lap or in close sight when dining at restaurants.
  • Don’t carry large amounts of cash: Only carry the amount of money you’ll need for the day’s activities as flashing large amounts of cash around can make you a target.
  • Don’t buy drugs: As I mentioned, avoid the drug scene in Mexico and you will avoid trouble. If you are offered drugs while walking in the main tourist areas, simply ignore it and keep walking.
  • Don’t stay out late alone: Use the buddy system if you can and avoid staying out late alone, even if it’s just at the hotel bar.
  • Watch your alcohol consumption: By all means let loose in Riviera Maya–it is your vacation after all! But you’ll want to be careful of your alcohol consumption and make sure you are with people you trust and drinking in a safe environment. Intoxicated tourists can make easy targets.
  • Don’t accept drinks from strangers: Drink spiking can happen so it’s best not to accept drinks from strangers or at least ones that you haven’t seen prepared.
  • Don’t be a target: Avoid wearing expensive clothing, flashy jewelry, and accessories which can make you stand out as a target for theft, exploitation, and getting overcharged.
  • Stay hydrated: Since you can’t drink the water in Riviera Maya, it can be harder to stay hydrated when you have to rely on bottled water. Make a conscious effort to stay hydrated during the hot days and pack a collapsible water bottle to take with you while you’re at the pool or beach.
  • Learn some basic Spanish: It’s a good idea to learn some basic Spanish phrases for Mexico before your trip to Riviera Maya. There are a lot of English speakers that work at the resorts but knowing some Spanish can definitely help you to avoid getting taken advantage of.
  • Download the Guest Assist app: The Guest Assist App was created specifically for tourists visiting the state of Quintana Roo and the Yucatan peninsula. It provides assistance and resources for medical emergencies and lost documents, as well as information on contacting your local embassy or consulate. You can download it here for Apple or Android.
  • Pack plenty of sunscreen: The sun in Mexico is intense so make sure to pack plenty of sunscreen and reapply it throughout the day. Biodegradable reef-safe sunscreen is best while snorkeling and swimming.
Hotel Xcaret Arte Resort in Riviera Maya Mexico

Safety in Riviera Maya: FAQs

Here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about Riviera Maya safety:

Is it safe to go to Riviera Maya now?

Yes, Riviera Maya is considered safe to visit as long as you take basic safety precautions and avoid illegal activity. Be aware of your surroundings, stick to the main tourist areas, and don’t take unnecessary risks.

Is it safe to travel from Cancun Airport to Riviera Maya?

The safest way to travel from the Cancun Airport to Riviera Maya is by booking a private airport transfer in advance. Booking through a reputable company like Cancun Airport Transportation guarantees a safe and reliable ride to your hotel in Riviera Maya.

Is Riviera Maya safer than Playa del Carmen?

Yes, Riviera Maya is generally considered to be safer than Playa del Carmen. This is because the resorts in Riviera Maya are heavily secured and pose fewer safety risks than the bustling city of Playa del Carmen.

Is Riviera Maya safer than Cancun?

Yes, Riviera Maya is generally considered to be safer than Cancun. This is because the resorts in Riviera Maya are heavily secured and pose fewer safety risks than the bustling city of Cancun.

Is Riviera Maya Mexico safe for solo female travelers?

Yes, Riviera Maya is generally a safe destination for solo female travelers. Female travelers can feel very safe staying at resorts in Riviera Maya but as in any destination, it’s important to be aware of your surroundings and take extra safety precautions.

Is Riviera Maya safe for families?

Yes, Riviera Maya is generally a safe destination for families. All inclusive family resorts in Riviera Maya are well-secured and have plenty of activities and amenities for both adults and kids.

Is Riviera Maya safe right now if you stay on the resort?

Yes, Riviera Maya is a safe destination if you stay on the resort. The resorts are heavily guarded and have safety measures in place to keep guests safe.

That being said, it’s still important to be aware of your surroundings, never leave valuables unattended, watch your alcohol consumption, and take basic safety precautions when traveling to Riviera Maya.

Is it safe to go to the Mayan Riviera?

Yes, it is generally safe to travel to the Mayan Riviera. Most of the resorts are in remote locations that are heavily guarded and have safety measures in place to keep guests safe.

Be sure to follow basic safety precautions such as not leaving valuables unattended, staying aware of your surroundings, and avoiding illegal activity.

Is there Uber in Riviera Maya?

Technically, Uber was approved to operate in Riviera Maya in January 2023, but it is still not safe to use as there have been reports of violence against Uber drivers and passengers.

Even if your Uber app will work while visiting Riviera Maya, it is not safe to use in the entire region including Playa del Carmen, Cancun, and Tulum.

Riu Palace Resort Riviera Maya Mexico

Final Thoughts: Is it Safe to Travel to Riviera Maya Mexico Right Now?

So how safe is Riviera Maya Mexico? I hope I haven’t scared you off with this article but instead, given you the info about safety in Riviera Maya that you need to make an informed decision.

Yes, Riviera Maya is a relatively safe place especially if you stay on the resort and follow basic safety precautions. Resorts here have tight security and have strict safety measures in place to keep guests safe.

While visiting, always be aware of your surroundings, don’t take unnecessary risks, and avoid any drug or crime-related activities.

While safety risks such as drug violence and petty theft do exist in Riviera Maya, it’s more the late night illegal activities that carry the most risk and can be more dangerous.

But overall, if you play it safe, Riviera Maya is a very safe and fun destination for families, couples, and groups of friends looking for a relaxing beach getaway.

It’s one of the best places to visit in Mexico and is an unforgettable destination for a beach vacation.

Plus, the region has so many amazing things to offer from its beautiful beaches and incredible cenotes to ancient Mayan Ruins and adventure parks, that I don’t think the safety risks should deter you from visiting.

But at least, with this information, you can make a more informed decision about whether Riviera Maya is right for you.

I personally love living here but I know it’s not for everyone. So, take what you’ve learned here and make the best decision for you!

🇲🇽 Traveling to Mexico soon?

These are the Mexico travel resources I use and recommend:

🏨 Hotels: I always find the best deals for Mexico hotels and resorts on Expedia or Booking.com. If you prefer a vacation rental, check VRBO as they are often cheaper than AirBnB’s added fees!

✈️ Flights: I recommend using Skyscanner for the best Mexico flight deals. Be sure to sign up for their price alerts for your preferred travel dates.

🚗 Rental Cars: I recommend using Discover Cars because you can compare multiple car rental companies and see detailed ratings for overall value, ease of pick-up, efficiency of agents, car condition, and overall time spent.

🚙 Cancun Airport Transportation: I recommend booking a private transfer with Cancun Airport Transportation for the quickest and most hassle-free option!

🤿 Tours & Activities: I always use Viator or GetYourGuide for booking tours and activities in Mexico. You can cancel up to 24 hours before the tour for a full refund, plus they have excellent customer service if you were to have any issues.

🚨 Travel Insurance: After my Dad broke his hand in a taxi accident in Playa del Carmen, I always recommend buying travel insurance before your trip for added peace of mind! I recommend Travel Insurance Master for short trips or Safety Wing for digital nomads.

☀️ Biodegradable Sunscreen: Don’t forget to add biodegradable sunscreen to your Mexico packing list! Regular sunscreen is prohibited when swimming in the ocean and cenotes in Mexico, so you’ll need to pack some biodegradable sunscreen for sun protection. I recommend Sun Bum Sunscreen, which is reef-friendly, vegan, and cruelty-free.