Tulum, a charming town situated on the Caribbean coast of Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, used to be a hidden gem popular among hippies and those seeking spiritual enlightenment. But in recent years, it has gained popularity among tourists looking for serene beaches in a less bustling environment than party cities like Cancun and Cabo San Lucas.
As the town has grown in popularity, it has also become more developed with upscale hotels, beach clubs, and a thriving food and beverage scene. However, the downside of development has been an increase in crime, especially related to the illegal drug trade.
To have a safe and enjoyable trip to Tulum, it’s essential to follow these tips to avoid becoming a victim of crime. We’ll discuss common crimes, areas to avoid, and safety precautions to take.
Is Tulum Safe to Visit?
To enjoy a safe visit to Tulum, it’s important to remain alert and attentive to your belongings. As with any tourist destination, incidents of pickpocketing and purse snatching may occur if you’re not mindful of your surroundings.
Unfortunately, Tulum is also facing a more severe issue with fatal shootings that involve gangs and drug dealers. Furthermore, tourists have reported an increase in robberies that involve weapons and individuals attempting to sell them illegal drugs such as marijuana, cocaine, and ecstasy. In addition to crime, there are other safety concerns to consider when traveling to Tulum.
Consuming tap water in Tulum can result in stomach infections or parasitic illnesses. Additionally, during hurricane season (June to November), severe storms may cause significant harm to the area’s structures and infrastructure.
Keep reading for a comprehensive examination of all safety concerns, as well as suggestions on how to prevent becoming a victim.
Tulum was previously considered one of the safest destinations in Mexico, but due to the recent increase in violent crimes, many travelers are reconsidering their plans to visit. In the following sections, we will discuss the most prevalent safety concerns in Tulum, providing you with the necessary information to make an informed decision.
When visiting highly touristic areas, it’s common to encounter pickpocketing and non-violent theft. These types of crimes range from snatching purses off chairs in outdoor dining areas to stealing wallets from back pockets without detection. Thieves often create diversions or excuses to get close to their victims, such as pretending to remove bird droppings from clothing while simultaneously stealing belongings.
To avoid becoming a target, it’s important to remain alert and aware of your surroundings. Don’t appear lost or uncertain about your destination and be wary of anyone trying to touch you or create distractions. Politely decline their offer and walk away, while keeping your personal items close to you. Some travelers prefer to use safety wallets strapped inside their clothing, but avoiding storing items in back pockets or unzipped bags can also significantly reduce the risk of theft.
Gang/Drug Trade Violence
Previously, the Maya Riviera, encompassing Tulum, Playa del Carmen, and Cancun, was relatively protected from the gang and cartel violence present in other parts of Mexico. However, due to the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, an increase in the hard-partying scene, and shifts in cartel territories, Tulum has become a site of horrific gang violence that often spills over into tourist areas.
There has been an 80% increase in intentional killings in 2021 alone, and shootings involving cartels in clubs and restaurants popular with tourists have become commonplace. Unfortunately, this means there are no surefire ways to avoid the violence, and it ultimately comes down to luck. Gang violence has erupted in various tourist hotspots, including restaurants, all-inclusive resorts, and beach clubs, making it impossible to avoid specific areas.
To protect yourself, it’s essential to remain alert to the people around you, as it can give you a few extra seconds to run or hide if a shooting begins.
Unfortunately, Tulum has seen an increase in armed robberies in recent times. These incidents usually involve groups of 3-5 young men who carry or claim to carry a firearm, and occur mostly at night. They may demand or forcibly take your valuables, so it’s important to cooperate and avoid fighting back or arguing. After the incident, it’s crucial to cancel all your cards, so make sure to borrow a phone once you return to your hotel.
To prevent losing all your belongings, it’s wise to carry only small amounts of cash when going out. Leave your passport and cards safely locked up in your hotel room, and only take what you need. Also, avoid walking in dark, isolated areas at night, especially if you’re alone or under the influence of alcohol. It’s better to take a taxi from door to door to minimize the risk of violence.
The Mexican government has not published any official crime rates on sexual assault, and reports indicate that travel websites like TripAdvisor have been deleting warnings about rape. However, among female travelers, there are warnings of violent sexual assaults.
To reduce the risk of becoming a victim, it’s recommended to avoid going out alone at night, consuming excessive amounts of alcohol, or accepting drinks or drugs from strangers. It’s important to note that perpetrators can be locals or other travelers, so being with a fellow hotel guest does not guarantee safety. Stay alert and cautious of anyone who tries to get too close.
Avoiding Bad Neighborhoods
Safety concerns in Tulum are not limited to specific areas since it’s a smaller city. The uptick in violence is visible in popular tourist areas, including South Tulum, the Hotel Zone, and near the Mayan ruins. The city center, which is less frequented by tourists, is not safer than the other areas.
It’s crucial to avoid isolated areas such as Airbnbs in the jungle since they are more vulnerable to armed robbery. To stay safe in Tulum, it’s recommended to steer clear of dark places, beaches at night, and drug hotspots throughout the city.
Although there has been an increase in violent crimes in Tulum, it is still considered a relatively safe tourist destination in Mexico. However, to ensure your safety, it’s important to be vigilant of your surroundings and avoid getting excessively intoxicated. Additionally, it’s advisable to stay in your hotel after dark and take precautions to avoid being a target of property crime.