Is Playa del Carmen Safe for Travelers? Safety Tips From an Expat (2024)

written by local expert Jane Elmets

Jane always knew she wasn't destined for a desk job... She has travelled all over the world and is passionate about noodles, sloths and her hiking boots! When she isn't busy adventuring around the world, you can find her reviewing travel gear and dishing out travel tips to all the places she's visited.

As one of Mexico’s top vacation destinations, you may be wondering “is Playa del Carmen safe”?

In this article, I break down all you need to know about Playa del Carmen safety, as well as providing a few of my top tips for avoiding trouble. Founders of this blog lived in Playa del Carmen for over a year so we will be sharing all our top tips on safety in Playa.

It’s true that Mexico gets a bad rep, especially in the safety department, but don’t let this stop you from booking your dream getaway!

Mexico is much safer than you may imagine and as a tourist hub, you’ll be just fine in Playa del Carmen, especially if you keep your wits about you and use some of the advice laid out below.

Quick Answer: Is Playa del Carmen Safe? (2024 Update)

As the star of Quintana Roo, Playa del Carmen is a tourist haven with long stretches of beach, plenty of infrastructure, and nightlife that can’t be matched in other parts of the country. 

Near Cancun and a gateway to places like Tulum, Cozumel, and Coba, it’s no wonder why millions of foreigners flock to the Playa del Carmen shores each year, with tourism making up the majority of the local economy. 

Upon landing in Cancun International Airport, Playa del Carmen is only an hour way. It is located in the Yucatan Peninsula and is visited by tons of tourists every year.

Related: How to get from Cancun to Playa Del Carmen

As such, Playa del Carmen is a relatively safe place to vacation in Mexico as tourists take centerstage here. There’s less violence than in other parts of Mexico and as a tourist hub, there are plenty of measures taken to ensure a safe holiday for all.

This is mostly due to:

  • Large resorts with top-notch security – This makes accommodation quite safe for everyone.
  • People out all day and night – Since there are fewer quiet or remote areas, you’ll find you’re surrounded by others almost 100% of the time. 
  • A tourist-driven economy – Because tourism is the largest contributor to Playa del Carmen’s economy, there are strict measures taken to protect visiting foreigners. 

Mexico gets a bad name when it comes to crime and violence, but while staying in Playa del Carmen, you have little to worry about, so long as you exercise common sense. 

Playa del Carmen attracts a wide variety of visitors from solo travelers, families, digital nomads and more. As long as you keep your common sense and stay away from any shady situations, you should be pretty much safe while traveling this area.

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Safety in Playa del Carmen: What You Should Know

The tourism market in Playa del Carmen has absolutely boomed in recent years. While it has always been a dreamy destination, these days it’s actually number two on the list of best places to visit in Mexico.

Playa – as it’s known to locals – is a relatively safe area, with a beach backed by secure resorts and a buzzing town center with plenty of tours and attractions to enjoy during your stay.  

However, Mexico in general has seen a spike in crime since 2017 which is further exacerbated by the pandemic. Drug trafficking is rampant, and the violence in Mexico typically surrounds clashes between these gangs.

That being said, this is unlikely to affect you or other tourists, so long as you don’t go seeking out trouble.

Your mom may be warning you of all the horrors that await in Mexico, but the chances of anything bad happening are pretty slim. Simply be mindful of your surroundings and follow the safety tips outlined below… you should be just fine. 

Is Playa del Carmen Safe Right Now?

Yes, Playa del Carmen is considered safe right now.

If you’re concerned about Covid-19, please note that many of the resorts around Playa del Carmen have taken additional safety and hygiene measures to combat Covid-19, so if you’re looking for a stress-free stay, a resort may be your best bet.

A lot of resorts also offer in house covid testing which makes it easier to meet travel requirements back to your home country.

It’s important to keep in mind that the area is fueled by tourism and during the pandemic, a lot of locals were out of work. 

With this in mind, keep your belongings close to you and valuables out of sight. It’s still rare that you’ll be confronted but it’s something to be aware of if you plan on visiting Playa del Carmen at this moment in time. 

If petty crime is something you’re concerned about, it’s a good idea to stay at one of the many resorts. Resorts often have top-notch security and so many amenities that it’s unlikely you’ll be spending too much time away from the property. 

Having said that, the Playa del Carmen beaches and wide open and are open to tourists who want to spend a few days relaxing in the sun.

Visiting Tulum sometime soon? Check out this article on the Best Time to Go to Tulum!

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Shootings in Playa del Carmen, Mexico

As mentioned earlier, there have been a few shootings in Playa del Carmen that has worried tourists. The most recent were two Canadians who were shot down at Xcaret Water Park due to a debt they had with the Mexican cartels.

Similar situations have happened in the past but almost all killings and violent crime are all drug and cartel related. So if you stay clear of drugs (which I recommend you do, especially in Mexico), you should be fine.

Drugs and Cartels in Playa del Carmen

Unfortunately, in the tourists towns of Playa del Carmen, Tulum, and even Cancun, there is a large cartel presence. While walking down 5th avenue in Playa, it is very common to be offered to buy weed, cocaine, or other types of drugs.

Simply ignore them or say “no, gracias” and you should be on your way. If you’re in a bar and you see some people buying/ selling, I recommend you just leave and find a different spot to hang out.

Unfortunately, police officers don’t help when it comes to this regard as there are high levels of corruption.

Having said this, after living in Playa for over a year, it is really not a problem just as long as you stay clear from these sketchy situations.

According to Numbeo, the safety levels of walking alone at daylight is high whilst violent crimes and assault are moderate. If you want to be extra vigilant, you can join expat facebook groups which talk about these issues quite a bit.

Having said all of this, After living and traveling all over Mexico for over a year, there were never any periods where we felt unsafe or worried. For more safety tips, keep on reading below!

Travel Insurance for Playa del Carmen

One of the best ways to stay safe in Playa del Carmen is being prepared for anything. Accidents happen and it’s extremely important to be covered in case of one.

This is why it’s good to have travel insurance before setting off for Mexico. We recommend World Nomad or SafetyWing, depending on what kind of traveler you are. Incase of sickness, natural disasters, or any other things that can happen during your trip, it is best to be insured.

Related: Is Tulum Safe to Visit?

Is Playa del Carmen Safe for Female Travelers?

If you’re a female traveler wondering “is Playa del Carmen safe?”, you’re in luck. You should have an easy-going time as a female traveler in this area, with little to worry about in terms of safety. 

Just keep these tips in mind and you’ll be groovy.

Editor of this blog exploring Playa del Carmen as solo female traveler.
Founder of this blog, Anna exploring Playa del Carmen as solo female traveler.

Read accommodation reviews from other women

To ensure that you’re picking somewhere safe to stay, read lots of reviews from other women before booking accommodation! This will ensure you’re staying somewhere not only safe, but safe and comfortable for women (especially if you’re on your own). 

Stick close to bustling areas

You’ll want to hang around town or the main drag of beach while visiting Playa del Carmen. It’s tempting to head off the beaten path, but you don’t want to put yourself in harm’s way by being far from town as a woman on her own. This is especially true at night!

Don’t be flashy

As a general rule of thumb when you are traveling, in order to avoid being targeted, we recommend that you refrain from being flashy. Leave your bling at home and instead, enjoy the beach without the bells and whistles. Traveling with an anti-theft bag is also a must to avoid your purse getting easily snatched.

Keep your eyes on your drinks and food

Drink spiking is the main safety hazard in Playa del Carmen, especially for women. This shouldn’t scare you but motivate you to be extra mindful when it comes to watching what you consume. Always keep your eyes on your drink or meal and never accept an open drink (beers included!) from anyone. 

Take reputable taxis at night rather than walking

If you’re headed home after a fun night out, if you can, walk home with people that you know. Remember, there is safety in numbers. Taxi drivers in playa are a hit and miss so we recommend ordering one from reputable companies.

In Playa, there is an all-female taxi driver company called Taxi Rosa (+52 9841254655) who you can book with in advance. All you have to do is send a whatsapp message and arrange a pickup. Although it is a little bit pricier than usual, we recommend going down this route as an extra precaution.

If you’re looking for reputable transportation options from Cancun Airport to Playa del Carmen, we recommend you check out these two providers for quotes on buses, shuttles, or private drivers.

Is Playa del Carmen Safe for Solo Travelers?

Playa del Carmen is generally quite safe for solo travelers as it’s such a tourist hotspot. If you’re traveling to Playa stag, you’ll find plenty of others in the same position. 

As it’s such a lively place, you’ll quickly realize that it’s not only safe to be a solo traveler in Playa del Carmen, but that it’s also super easy to meet other foreigners also on their own.

Here are our top tips for staying safe as a solo traveler in Playa del Carmen.

Stay somewhere close to the action

Whether it’s a hostel, hotel, or an Airbnb, it’s best to be near other tourists in the area rather than far away by yourself. Hostels are great for meeting others, and Airbnbs are awesome picks if you want to have a more authentic local experience. You may even be able to find a deal on a resort as a solo traveler!

Staying close to the action also means you will never have to wander down dark roads on your own to get home at night. Trust me on this one. 

Watch what you drink

While Playa del Carmen is party central, if you’re alone, try to avoid getting totally wasted. Being mindful of how much (and what) you drink is the best way to stay safe on a night out. It’s quite easy to take advantage of drunk foreigners who are on their own… don’t be one of the easy targets!

Make some friends

Being a solo traveler is fun, but there’s real power in numbers. Make some friends at a hostel, beach club, or on a tour to have people to spend time with in Playa del Carmen. This way, you’ll never really be all by yourself.

If you’re looking for a beach club to hang out in, a few of our favorite ones are Mamitas, Lido’s and Zenzi. If you’re a digital nomad, you can also join local facebook groups to find people to hang out with.

Keep in touch with people back home

Yes, traveling by yourself can be a much-needed break from the people at home but it’s still wise to keep in touch as much as possible. This just lets people know where you are and that you’re safe. If that seems like too much, you can share your location with mom, dad, or your best friend using your smartphone. 

There’s not too much to worry about as a solo traveler in Playa del Carmen. Simply use your common sense and avoid dark places at night… You should be just fine. 

Is Playa del Carmen Safe for Families?

Playa del Carmen is a safe destination for families and offers fun in the sun, no matter how old you are! There are plenty of kid-friendly activities in the area and you should have no problems when it comes to making sure the little ones are safe and sound. 

That being said, there are a few safety tips that will make your vacation a whole lot more enjoyable when it comes to traveling to Playa del Carmen as a family.

Find kid-friendly accommodation

While many resorts in Playa del Carmen are adult-only, there is actually a large handful of ones that are family-friendly! This means rooms that can fit the entire squad comfortably (aka no sleeping on top of each other and privacy for mom and dad) and lots of activities to keep little ones occupied.

Take care outside

The biggest hazard to kids in Playa del Carmen is Mother Nature. Make sure that you’ve applied bug spray before heading out to explore local nature, and lather up on sunscreen when you hit the beach or stroll through town. Traffic can also be a hazard in Playa so hand-holding while crossing the street is essential!

There are many Playa del Carmen beaches to choose from so if you’re planning on spending a day out in the sun, make sure you bring some reef safe sunscreen for your little ones.

Prioritize safety on tours

Looking after little ones is a must on tours and activities. When booking, make sure to note that you have kids accompanying you and ask what safety measures are taken. This is especially important if you’re taking a boat trip… kid-sized life jackets are non-negotiable. 

Overall, Playa del Carmen can be quite the family-friendly vacation destination. Keep an eye on the little ones and it should be smooth sailing. 

We recommend booking Airbnb Experiences as they are usually composed of smaller groups. Here are a few we recommend in Playa Del Carmen.

Playa del carmen tourist district-min

Top Tips for Staying Safe in Playa del Carmen

There are some general tips to keep in mind when it comes to staying safe in Playa del Carmen. Here’s our top advice to remember on your holiday!

1. Be aware when wandering around town

It always pays to keep an eye on your belongings when you’re out for a stroll in town, no matter where you’re traveling. In Playa del Carmen, make sure that your bag is secured to your body and fully zipped to prevent hands from sneaking in and grabbing valuables.

If you’re worried, you can always bring along a money belt to wear under your clothes.  Click the link to see our top recommendations.

2. Stick with a pal

Using the buddy system makes the most sense, especially when traveling alone in Playa del Carmen. Don’t go wandering around by yourself, especially at night or in more remote locations in town. 

3. Don’t be too flashy

The bottom line is that looking wealthy makes you a target. The better dressed you are, the more likely you are to attract unwanted attention. This goes for wearing flashy jewellery or any valuables that are visible on your person.

Play it safe and dress down… you’re on vacation after all! 

4. Stay alert at night

If a stranger is getting too cozy with you or becoming extra touchy-feely while out drinking, be mindful of your belongings which they can easily coax from your pockets. You should also be cautious if you bring someone back to your room late at night. Ensure that valuables are locked away so there’s no room for temptation. 

5. Use the safe in your hotel room

Make good use of the safe in your room! Lock away all valuables, including your passport and spare credit cards when leaving the room. If you’re staying in a hostel, definitely pack some padlocks to secure your locker with.

Our biggest tip is to make photocopies of your passport beforehand and carry those around with you instead of the real thing.

6. Don’t carry tons of cash

If you pull out your wallet to pay for something and it’s brimming with cash, you may run into some trouble. So get in the habit of only carrying small bits of cash and leave the big bills at home. You don’t want to give anyone a reason to rob you!

7. Don’t leave your belongings alone on the beach

This also goes for restaurants and on tours. Always make sure to keep your belongings on your person, even if you just want to go for a quick dip in the water. If you’re going to bring valuables to the beach, toss them in a high-quality dry bag and bring it in the water with you. 

8. Watch out for scams

As a tourist in Playa del Carmen, you’re naturally susceptible to scams. Rather than falling victim to them, walk around and get a sense of prices before deciding to purchase anything, even tours and taxis! You’ll quickly find that the first price isn’t always the best.

Make sure you don’t leave any valuable items in your car whenever you park up. This includes going to the groceries and tourist attractions. In the section below, I will share more about popular Playa del Carmen scams and how you can stay clear of them.

9. Do not take any drugs!

This may go without saying, but even if you’re just a little bit tempted, let me assure you that taking drugs in Mexico is just about the worst thing you can do, especially if you’re concerned about safety.

Not only will you be unsure of what you’re getting, but buying drugs introduces you to a crowd you absolutely want nothing to do with. Most of the violence in Mexico surrounds drug trafficking, so believe me when I say that you want to stay as far away from this as possible. Along 5th avenue, a ton of vendors will offer you drugs- just stay away and say no.

10. Monitor Mother Nature

Mother Nature can come out in full force in Playa del Carmen. Mosquitoes carry the Zika virus, so it’s important that you protect yourself from this with loads of mosquito repellent. The sun is also rather harsh, so extra sunscreen is definitely necessary.

You should also make it a habit to monitor the weather, especially during hurricane season, as you never know what to expect. 

11. Learn basic Spanish phrases

While Playa del Carmen is swarming with tourists, knowing a little bit of Spanish can go a long way. Not only does it give you some street cred with the locals, but it’s a sign of respect to be able to say please, thank you, and some other choice phrases in the native tongue. 

Jet Ski in Playa del carmen

Tourist Scams in Playa del Carmen

Similar to most big cities, there are a few tried and tested tourist scams that you can easily stay clear of. Here are some of the most popular scams and how you can avoid them.

Police Corruption in Playa del Carmen

Unfortunately, as mentioned previously, the level of corruption in Mexico in general is pretty high. In Playa del Carmen, some police officers may try to single you out and ask for a payment so they won’t “arrest” you. This usually happens when you are drunk or rowdy.

When you’re out and about, it’s best to avoid calling attention to yourself. However, having said that, in our year of living there, we have not encountered a single corrupt police officer. Most have been very helpful so there are definitely more good ones!

Playa del Carmen Rental Car Scams

When renting cars in Playa del Carmen (or anywhere in the world), make sure that you take photos and videos of your car rental. Some will try to charge you extra by blaming existing scratches and dents. It is also recommended to take full insurance when possible to avoid headaches like this.

ATM Scams in Playa del Carmen

We always recommend using ATMs that are directly linked to a bank. I would avoid the stand alone ATMs along 5th avenue and would only use ones that are attached to a bank, with security cameras. Although it isn’t as common as Bali, some machines copy your card information, compromising it.

FAQ on Playa del Carmen Safety

Is it safe to go to Playa del Carmen right now?

As of the moment, Playa del Carmen is safe to visit. All COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted and the city is operating as usual. Traveling in Playa del Carmen is safe, especially if you read and follow our travel tips above. Having lived there for over a year, I’ve always felt safe in Playa de Carmen, even when I walk around as a solo female traveler.

What should I avoid in Playa del Carmen?

Although Playa del Carmen is considered a safe destination, we recommend avoiding getting involved in anything drug related when partying or enjoying a night out. Similar to most big cities, there are also a few taxi scams going around and petty theft so it is best to remain vigilant.

Which is safer, Cancun or Playa del Carmen?

Both Playa del Carmen and Cancun have the same safety advisory level from the U.S. Department of State. They are both classified as “Level 2 – Exercise Increased Caution” due to the high levels of crime and violence in the state of Quintana Roo.

However, having lived in Playa del Carmen for over a year, and having visited Cancun multiple times, we can honestly say that both states are relatively safe, as long as you adhere to the safety tips and basic travel common sense.

How safe is Playa del Carmen at night?

Playa del Carmen is relatively safe at night, especially if you’re located in the main touristy areas. As always though, as long as you’re mindful of your belongings and stay away from sketchy situations, you will be fine. We definitely recommend booking a taxi when going home late at night rather than walking.

Can you drink the tap water in Playa del Carmen?

Generally speaking, tap water in all of Mexico is not safe for drinking. In Playa del Carmen specifically, you should not drink the tap water. Instead, you can buy large bottles of water from Oxxo, which is like a local 711 or use a water bottle with a filter.

Having lived there for a year, we were fine using the tap water to brush our teeth but made sure we used bottled water for drinking.

What are the safest areas to stay in Playa del Carmen?

The safest areas in Playa del Carmen are located where the tourist hotspots are which is mainly in the Hotel Zone on La Quinta Avenida (5th Avenue).

Further than that, you have Quinta Avenida which is essentially Downtown Playa del Carmen. We recommend choosing a place that’s between Calle 1 to Calle 38.

It might surprise you how safe Playa del Carmen really is. There’s little to worry about, no matter what kind of traveler you are, especially if you use some common sense. 

After reading this article, you should have no problems when it comes to Playa del Carmen safety. Just be aware of your surroundings and mindful of the potential hazards in the area. With these tips, you’ll be just fine.

For more in-depth information on traveling to Mexico, go to our Mexico Travel Tips page!

Planning a trip to Playa del Carmen? Check out these articles!

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Is Playa del Carmen Safe to Travel To? | Curious about safety when it comes to traveling in Playa del Carmen, Mexico? Here's everything you need to know about staying safe on your visit!

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