Posted by: heatherinparadise | March 3, 2009

Playa del Carmen is safe

Ok, people, enough’s enough.  Too many people are finding my blog by researching “crime in Playa del Carmen” and the US media has been going on a frenzy trying to sensationalize crime in Mexico in an effort to deter Americans from traveling here.

Here is the most recent travel advisory from the US State department.  Read it for yourself and then come back.

Ok, they’re warning you that there has been drug cartel violence as well as some robberies, etc.  in some of the border cities like Tijuana and Ciudad Juarez. They recommend restricting travel to Durango.

Have any of you seen a map of Mexico?  Here you go:


Quintana Roo, which is Playa del Carmen’s state, is the grey/purplish state that is on the far right, curled up little Yucatan peninsula.  In other words, it’s really, really far away from the border.

This is not to say there is not crime in Playa del Carmen or Cancun.  Of COURSE there is crime, as there is in any city in the entire world.  But I live here and have for 5 years.  If there were street shootouts or random hijackings/kidnappings going on, do you think I would still live here?

Here’s my advice:

1.  Don’t get involved in illegal drugs, particularly drug-trafficking.

2.  Don’t leave your bike locked up with a crappy chain lock, it WILL get stolen.

3.  Don’t get drunk and walk home alone in the dark, with your wallet half falling out of your purse.

4.  Don’t get drunk and walk home alone in the dark ANYWHERE in the world.

5.  Credit cards still aren’t that widely accepted here, so you’re better off using cash.  Pesos are better than dollars for use in Mexico, no matter what your American friends say.

6.  Use the same common sense here that you would use in any city.  People do things on vacation that they wouldn’t normally do and relax to the point of making themselves a target.  I’ve seen scammers in Las Vegas taking people with elaborate schemes on city buses.  Don’t be that guy.

7.  Ask yourself just why it is that the media has such a hard-on for trying to steer people away from travel to Mexico.  Could it be that there are certain interests in keeping US tourist dollars in the US during economic crunch time?  Wouldn’t be exaggerating anything in an effort to scare you, now, would they?  Hmmm.

Please read this list of Common Dangers in the area.

Do these people look like they are in danger?

How about these guys?

Think for yourself, don’t be an idiot, ask locals.  Playa del Carmen is as safe as any other tourist destination.  The end.

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  1. Thanks Heather, Way to tell it like it is. It’s horrifying how much of the American Public will suck up this kind of propaganda. BTW – We have never met but my sig other and I live in Puerto A. , I keep thinking we will cross paths, maybe someday! Right after we moved here, in Oct ’07, I got mighty sick, but when I was recovered enough to sit up, I found your blog and read it from the beginning over the next several months. Sometimes, my husband or a friend would have to come and take my laptop away from me b/c I was HOWLING and not supposed to experience “extremes”! But I will tell you, I credit you in part for saving my life. Thank you very much! I think you should forward the text of this chapter to Bill O’Reilly’s website, who last night included a 20 minute rant on the dangers of travel in (all of ) Mexico. A**H***!
    Also, Best Wishes on your engagement, I was married to my eternal sweetie after 11 years together (we married in Cabo San Lucas 9 years ago) and it was, and is, the best! I wish you and Michael much happiness.

  2. Hey, Lisa! Thanks so much for your comment, and your kind words. I’m glad my blog was able to bring some laughter into your life when you needed it. Not everyone likes my sense of humor, so I sure appreciate hearing from those who do. I hope we run into each other soon!

  3. I’m traveling to playa del carmen in may, I was wondering if there is anything I should know other than using common sense to keep safe. I have traveled there before a d walked up 5th avenue is it still safe to do so?

  4. Danny, I can think of almost nowhere in the world you would be more safe than walking on 5th avenue. Watch out for loose cobblestones or potholes; they’re really your only danger. I live here, in a non-tourist area, and feel completely safe. I don’t flash money around, I don’t walk around alone in dark alleys, and I don’t get so drunk that I don’t know my name (well, out of the privacy of my own home, anyway ;))
    Have a great trip in May!

  5. Hi – my husband and I will be spending a week in Playa (the 17th) and would like to do a language course in the mornings. Do you know anything about the different schools?

  6. Hi Lois! I know a little bit about the schools, I did write an article a couple of years back here:

    I’m not sure if the contact info is still correct, but you can certainly google the school names. Try Playa Lingua, Solexico, El Estudiante. Have a great trip!

  7. hey me and my friend are both headin to mexico in may, were stayin in playa carr, were both onli 19, so wud we be safe? herd a lot of stories, starting to freak me out, and what about traveling, could we walk to playa del carmen or wud we be better getting taxis?

  8. I was in Playa two weeks ago with my family including two three year olds and 76 y.o. mom. We stayed in a condo – not a gated complex. We didn’t stick to strickly touristy streets either. It was beautiful and fabulous and we never felt unsafe once. The media is definitely hyping it all.

    Love your blog Heather.

  9. Nikita, Playacar is one of the most prestigious neighborhoods in the area. You’ll be just fine, as long as you follow the common sense rules of being aware of your surroundings, not putting yourself at risk by being too drunk while walking alone in the dark, etc. If you’re drunk or it’s late, take a taxi. Have a great trip!

    Sidlaroo: Thanks for your input, I’m so glad to hear you had a good time. What condo did you stay in?

  10. Hi,

    My husband and I will be traveling and staying in Playa in May. Been to Mexico several times, in fact this will be my 14th trip and have always felt safe, but the travel advisories are making me uncomfortable and I have a new baby so the nerves are much worse (she’s not going with us). Question is, we usually take the collectivo to Yal Ku and Akumal, do you think this is still safe or should we just get a taxi this time?

    Thanks for the info and the honesty!

  11. Hi Jill,

    I take colectivos several times a week. You’ll notice no difference at all in your colectivo experience. You do still have to be very careful crossing the highway when the colectivo drops you off on the non-Sea side of the street…I always feel like Frogger trying to dodge traffic.

    Have a fantastic, relaxing vacation!

  12. Was at Playa Del Carmen week of March 1. No issues or problems never felt life was in danger. We did stay in Playcar but ventured out to 5th ave and couple other spots a few times. Usual common sense and mind you’re own business. Not any different then anywhere else in the world.

  13. we are planning on travelling to playa in july! we are very excited as it is our first time there. practically everyone we know is trying to talk us out of going! wtf! but we do have our concerns as well. i’ve been reading your site and it appears to be pretty safe in the region but what about the weather in july! will it be brutal? thanks!

  14. I cannot tell a lie, Scooter. It is going to be HOT in July. You’re most likely staying in a place with A/C, however, so you’ll be fine. It always feels good on the beach, too, with the breeze and sitting under an umbrella. I’ve lived here almost 5 years with no A/C…can you even believe it?

  15. we are travelling to playa del carmen in july. with the escalating tension and the travel warnings, how safe is it really to travel to this reagion? the warnings are including cancun which is only an hour away. we are debating whether we should change our itinerary. please be direct and honest. we have enjoyed reading your other posts.

  16. we are travelling to playa del carmen in july and are becoming concerned with the escalating violence and travel warnings. how realistically safe is it to travel to that region? the latest warnings include cancun which is only an hour away. we are debating whether to change our itinerary or not. please be direct in response. thank you.

  17. Hi smith…I was honest in both of the blogs I wrote on this subject. Playa del Carmen and Cancun are safe for tourists. Unless you’re the type of tourist that gets drunk and falls off balconies. In my opinion, canceling your trip would be a mistake, but do what you have to do.

  18. Thank you for the information Heather. My GF and I are considering a return trip to the Rivera Maya (El Dorado Royale) in July. A friend in the international security business said that he felt the locale was safe, especially an “all inclusive” resort, and that the only real concern if any would be the travel to and from the resort. What we did learn from our last visit was that the night life at the resort was a little lacking and we want to spend more time in playa this year. Would you consider taxi trips to playa during the day or night, particularly, to be safe methods of transportation?

  19. Hi MAK,

    Absolutely it is safe to travel the highways here, day or night. The only unsafe thing, probably, is the way people drive like bats out of hell, so I would leave the driving to a professional taxi driver or van driver! Accidents will happen, but that’s the nature of life, I guess. There are and have always been military checkpoints on the highway, but I think that is more a matter of training exercises. They rarely stop cars at these checkpoints, but are simply a presence. There have been no incidents of “highway robbery” or “banditos” or any such thing in the highways/streets here. Enjoy your trip!

  20. Hubby and I just got back from Playa Del Carmen, spent first week of March there and still feeling so…… relaxed/lazy! (even though it’s snowing here!!!) Amazing vacation, first time there, stayed at Gran Porto Real……..will definitely go back! Actually, can’t wait to go back!! Love, love, loved everything!!!! Felt totally safe, walked around 5th every nite………………felt much safer there then it is back home! Heather, you are one lucky gal, livin’ in paradise for sure!

  21. Jo-Anne, you totally ROCK for taking the time to come here and post your experiences in PdC!! My first visit here in 2002 left me completely in LOVE with the area, which lead, two years later, to my packing up and moving here. You sound like you’re next!!

  22. Hi Heather!

    I’m going with a group of 5 to Playa Del Carmen and staying at Sandos Caracol. I was wondering your thoughts about that resort or have any suggestions for us before we leave.

  23. Hi,
    We have posted before about this issue. The violence in Mexico is very far away from the tourist destinations. Cancun, Playa del Carmen and Riviera Maya , for example, are several miles from U.S border.

  24. Hi Brooklyn, I don’t know much about Sandos Caracol, except that it is a nice AI just north of PdC. You can find some info on in their All-Inclusive Forum.

    Have a great trip!

    Thanks, Playa del Carmen, for chiming in (Olympus tours). We are waaaay more than several miles from the US border. Like, I don’t know, maybe 2,000 or so?

  25. Hi Heather!!! My fiance and I are getting married in May and are coming to Playa del Carmen for our Honeymoon. I have to say, I have been having a few reservations about our trip due to the media. My fiance has been to Playa del Carmen before and I have not. I came across your blog and have been reading it for a few days now. Thank you so much!!! Your information and confidence has made me feel so much better about coming. I look forward to visiting beautiful Playa del Carmen.
    P.S. Your map of Mexico helped also as I am unfamiliar with the towns.

  26. Hi Heather!
    My husband and I are traveling to PDC in July, for the first time! I’ve been to Mexico twice….just not PDC yet.
    Anway, I keep reading all these reviews on the food. That it’s hard to find authentic Mexican food close to the hotels or on 5th street. It seems that all the resturaunts in our area are italian food…and I’m not really an fan of italian food.
    We will be staying at La Tortuga and would like to know if you can suggest some inexpensive local mexican resturaunts or taco stands, within walking distance from our hotel…or maybe tell us what streets to take from our hotel where we could hit several local food places during our one week visit.
    Also, we were thinking of taking the ferry from PDC to Cozumel. Our question is this…..when we get dropped off in Cozumel, are we going to need transportation to get anyway or are there plenty of resturants and shopping close to the ferry’s drop off point in Cozumel?
    I’m sure I will have more questions as we get closer to our trip! Thanks so much for running this blog! This is a BIG HELP!

  27. hey heather i am meant to be coming to mexico on wedensday but i am debating whether or not to cancel my trip due to this swine flue virus has it spread to playa del carmen?

  28. Hi Heather!
    We will leaving for our honeymoon during the end of November (Thanksgiving). How is the weather? We will be staying for nine days, any suggestions of what we should do with our time?! We are looking forward to relaxing in the sun!!!!!

  29. I would avoid Playa Del Carmen.

    The biggest danger is the corrupt police. Do not go out alone ever. I was harassed by 5 police officers who robbed me of 2500 pesos. When I demanded some paperwork or osmething, I was put in jail for a night. No one told me why, and when I asked how long they said at least three days (although they let me out the next day).

    Yes I was drunk at the time, but I had been in no altercation and was walking along the main street. They surrounded me at an ATM machine.

    All I can say is, be careful. It is not a safe place, and the police have very little respect for tourists.

  30. Um, OK, JOHN SMITH. Exactly how could you be “walking” along the main street and at the same time be surrounded at an ATM machine. I think “yes, I was drunk at the time” pretty much gives you away……

  31. Hi Heather,

    Can you recommend any safe night clubs in Playa ? I assume there are plenty of taxi at 12 a.m to 1 a.m ? Heading down Feb 4 – 11 and our resort has no night club in it.. The Valentin.

    Thanks, great blog, very informative.

  32. So glad to here your reassurance. We travel every year to Playa de Carmen and my grand-boys look forward to there mini vacation. Unfortunately, this year, my 13 yr old is telling me he is afraid because he has been hearing it is dangerous to travel to Mexico.
    I am forwarding to him a link to your blog, to reassure
    him we will be safe.

  33. playa is a paradise on earth that is true!

  34. Hi Heather, I’m a Canadian, looking to travel to Playa Del Carmen for a week of wonderful vacation, but saw a whole bunch of warnings and the Canadian Government posting a ‘Avoid all non-essential Travel’ warning, which is pretty serious. Of course, after reading many posts on the web, it may seem that PdC is safe from all that non-sense. But I do have a question as you seem to know quite a lot about PdC. We’re planning to visit the Chichinitza (mayan ruins? hoped I spelled correctly), and will likely take a tour bus. Would this be safe? I mean, have you heard of any dangers or issues with this place? Any response would be much appreciated, thank you :)

    • Hi Dani,

      Absolutely it would be safe to travel to Chichen Itza–thousands of tourists do so every day. I’m still living here, 7 years now, in a non-touristy area and feel very safe. I travel the highway all over the area often without incident.

      There have been NO kidnappings, highway-robberies, or anything like that. Be sure to stay away from illegal drugs and illegal drug trafficking, that’s my advice. We’re lucky in this area as we’ve not had the gang wars like in towns around the border and on the west coast (you need 2 drug cartels for wars, I guess, this area doesn’t have 2 drug cartels).

      Quintana Roo, which is our state, has a murder rate akin to that of Wyoming or Montana. The only crime I personally witness frequently is petty theft–bikes being stolen, homes robbed, that kind of thing. And even of that crime, I’ve only had my bike stolen once.

      Have a great trip–you’ll love it here.

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