Is Playa del Carmen safe? - Digital Nomadity (2023)

One of the most popular tourist destinations on the Riviera Maya is in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo. This is the Mexican Caribbean and is loved by many. Playa del Carmen started out as a small fishing village and has over the years swiftly grown into a hip town for package holidays, backpacking adventures and a popular destination for digital nomads. Playa del Carmen attracts more than a million tourists each year. After living in Playa del Carmen we unexpectedly fell in love with the beautiful blue sea, the amazing beaches and laid-back atmosphere which is typical for countries and areas around the Caribbean Sea. We did not expect is to be this laid back and thought that it would have a Cancun vibe which is not the case.

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Playa del Carmen has a very good reputation

Playa del Carmen has a good reputation for being incredibly safe. When we lived in Playa del Carmen we have never felt uncomfortable nor have we experienced any unfortunate situations. It is a place where you can soak up the sun and enjoy the relaxed vibes on the beach or have fun in downtown Playa del Carmen. Sadly, the positive reputation of this little town has been stained by a recent flood of violent crime. Thankfully though, Playa del Carmen is still worlds apart from Mexico City, but we can understand that visitors want to know if the town is a safe destination. The question if ‘Playa del Carmen is safe’ will always be answered depending on whom you ask this question. Some people had a great time and some people not because of unfortunate incidents.

We arrived at Cancun international airport without knowing anything about Playa del Carmen and we do not want you, like us, standing at Cancun airport and not knowing anything about the safety of the place that you are heading to. We want to share all we know now about Playa del Carmen and help you the best way we can with a bit of insider knowledge and tips.

Playa del Carmen safety

Playa del Carmen is one of the hotspots on the Yucatan Peninsula. When visiting Playa del Carmen you will notice that there are families, jetsetters, digital nomads, but also backpackers who love to spend some time in this stunning place called Playa del Carmen. Mexico however, is still a country that is plagued by gang violence and drug trafficking. We know that this makes some people uncomfortable when planning on visiting Playa del Carmen or Mexico in general. However, we can proudly tell you that Playa del Carmen is one of the safest places in Mexico.

Tourist areas are way too important

Mexico has a mixed reputation when it comes to safety and like we have mentioned before the answer will completely depend on whom you ask this question. Some people may have had some horrific encounters while others might had luck on their side.

A fact is that tourism is very important to the Mexican government. This means that they protect popular places such as Tulum, Cancun and for example Playa del Carmen at all times. As a result, these places have been spared the drug trafficking and other drug-related violence that other cities and areas in Mexico still do have. These are the cartels that are active in for example Sinaloa, Michoacán, and Colima. However, these are also the areas that are not much visited by tourists. We chose not to go to these areas since the locals in CDMX told us that the cartels were very active and that war was going on in much of these areas. In these areas they do even target the civilians which have nothing to do with drug trafficking. So it would be smart to just stay away.

Mexican drug cartels

However, in recent years, there are more and more reports of shootings. Nevertheless, most of the shootings and other occurrences are related between cartels. It is important to avoid cartels at all costs. Even buying drugs from them can be very dangerous so please, do not buy any drugs. We do not want to sound like overprotective parents, but this way you will have no involvement at all. The Mexican drug cartels are a challenging subject and Tulum, Playa del Carmen and Cancun definitely have a cartel presence, but cartels do not target tourists. If someone is trying to sell you drugs say ‘no, gracias’ and continue your way. Just stay as far away from them as possible.

Petty crime

Petty theft is not unheard of but hey, which town in the world is not dealing with petty theft? But since you are a tourist in Mexico, you are an easy target so just make sure to stay alert and be careful.

Natural disasters

The Riviera Maya has a hurricane season from June to November. This means that tropical storms will occur and they can cause severe weather. Always get a travel insurance when visit another country, in this case Mexico in case of any emergencies.

Furthermore, the Yucatan peninsula is not as seismically active as the west coast of Mexico, but earthquakes still occur in this area.

You can stroll safely on the Playa del Carmen beaches

After having discussed all of the above, we still consider Playa del Carmen as one of the safest places to visit in Mexico. For sure somes place in Playa del Carmen are safer than others. This is why we have tried to put up a list of the safest areas and the less safe areas.

Playacar

Playacar is the hotel zone of Playa del Carmen and is considered as one of the safest neighborhoods in town. Playacar makes Playa del Carmen safer because of all the CCTV cameras and security guards who guard the neighborhood. Playacar is not the cheapest neighborhood in town. Thanks to the colossal resorts, luxury mansions and wonderful condos. But staying here will make you enjoy this bustling city even more. The Playacar beach is beautiful and is kept very clean by the local community. The water safety is good thanks to the weak currents and you are close to Quinta Avenida which means you can enjoy all the attractions and restaurants.

Gonzalo Guerrero

Are you looking for a bit of partying? Then the safest place that Playa del Carmen has to offer is Gonzalo Guerrero. This is the district where you can find the best nightlife with the best (beach)clubs and restaurants. In Gonzalo Guerrero there is excitement, all day and night. For us, it was a bit too busy and we are not too keen on tourist areas so this is solely our opinion. Yes, we had some nights that we went out in Gonzalo Guerrero but that was more because of the fact that we could not find any better place or party for that night. However, if you are into busy streets, tourists and partying this place is definitely the place for you.

If you want to party but still want so stay in a calmer area you can book an accommodation in Centro or Luis Donaldo Colosio which are very close to Gonzalo Guerrero. This way you can party at night but have a good sleep at home without hearing all the noises from the party area.

Centro

Centro is the most famous and iconic neighborhood of Playa del Carmen. The name says it al, it is the heart of the city. It is a lively neighborhood with lots to explore. Staying in Centro means you can easily acces the party districs, La Quinta Avenida and other neighborhoods such as Luis Donaldo Colosio.

Places to avoid in Playa del Carmen

There are a few safety tips that we want to share with you. Yes, Playa del Carmen is safe, but there are areas that are better to avoid. As in any other city elsewhere in the world. In Playa del Carmen it just pays off to be extra cautious since you are a tourist which makes you an easy target for criminals.

Use your common sense

In Playa del Carmen there are no neighborhoods or particular areas that are famous for their crimes or areas which are known to be sketchy. However, as mentioned before, there are places that you should avoid. Think about side streets, public transportation stations or places without tourists. The side streets are not the safest at night since there still is a drug traffic problem in Playa del Carmen. You do not want to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. The public transportation stations are a gathering point for sketchy people, especially at night. If you are wandering the streets and at some point do not notice any other tourists or suddenly get a feeling that people are staring at you, you are probably in the wrong area. Try to get back to busy tourist streets as soon as possible.

Tips from Anna & Alex

There is no such thing as a 100% safe place. Here are our safety tips to minimize the risk of getting robbed etc. in Playa del Carmen.

  • Always stay aware of your surroundings to avoid pickpocketing and bag snatching.
  • Always keep an eye on your belongings and never leave them unattended. Not even in your hotel.
  • Same goes for your personal belongings at the beach. Do not take any valuables with you to the beach.
  • When someone tries to rob you never resist! Robberies can get violent and it is just not worth it. Give them everything you have and let them go as soon as possible. Some people wear fake wallets with some cash and expired credit cards in case of a robbery.
  • Do not dress like a typical tourist, but try to look more like the locals.
  • Do not walk around with too much cash and if you carry cash make sure to always use a moneybelt. We have heard about people getting robbed while wearing a moneybelt so wearing one does not mean that you do not have to be cautious. Always watch your surroundings and be careful.
  • Partying is fun and letting yourself go once in a while is fun too, but try not to get too drunk in Mexico. It is dangerous because you will become a target for people who want to rob you or even worse..
  • As mentioned before, do not buy recreational drugs! You will not only get mixed up with the wrong people but the penalties for drugs involvement in Mexico are pretty harsh.
  • Do not accept drinks from strangers! Mexico is famous for spiked drinks and we have read some horrible stories about this. Also, when you have a bottle of water or any other drink do not put it out of sight. Always keep it next to you. This was a tip from a local which we always adhere to. You really do not want to get drugged.
  • Ignore scam artists. You are a tourist and they will always come up to you, no matter what but just ignore them and continue your way.
  • When using public transport alway keep your belongings close to you.
  • Do not leave important documents such as your passport in your hotel room or Airbnb. If there is a safe or a locker always use it.
  • Do not walk into quiet areas. Especially, when you are alone.
  • Always keep your creditcard with you and do not let anyone take it to another room. Not even in a restaurant. Credit card fraud happens a lot.
  • If something happens always report it to the Agencia del Ministerio. This is the state prosecutor’s office. If you do not report it in person, there cannot be a formal investigation.

Solo travelers

Solo travel has become more and more popular over the years and anyone who has traveled alone knows how relaxing this can be. A disadvantage of traveling alone is that you are on your own and this might make you a bit worried in some situations. Which is completely normal. If it is your first time traveling alone we have some tips that might help you along your journey.

Meeting other travelers

Some solo travelers do not want to meet other people and just want to spend some time by themselves whilst other solo travelers love to meet new people. When you want to meet new people hostels are a great way to socialize. You can check out the coolest hostels online and book some nights to check out the vibe. Some hostels have bars which you can visit as a non-guest if you prefer staying at a hotel. When booking a hotel always book a hotel that is in a safe neighborhood. Yes, these hotels may be more expensive but cheaper does not always mean better.

Go out!

You can also spend a day at one of the beach clubs in Playa del Carmen. Lido beach club for example is very popular among expats and tourists. A beach club is a good place to start chatting about your vacation which leads to great conversations with people who are experiencing the same things as you. The bars in Playa del Carmen organise ‘pub crawls’ and this is a really good way to get to know other people who are looking for a party. When you join a crawl it may give you a more inclusive feeling since Playa del Carmen is all about clubbing, dancing and partying. It can be daunting for some to party by themselves. Just remember not to drink to much since you have to get home by yourself. If you are not into drinking or partying you can also book a tour or a activity. Think about a historical street tour or tours to cenotes! You can also ask a local for some advice. The staff at your accommodation or the staff from the restaurant where you had lunch might know some cool and safe places for you to hang out. The places that locals recommend always have another vibe to it compared to the more known tourist spots.

Solo female travelers

A solo female traveler can have a lot of fun. A girl can do whatever she want, whenever she want and learn so much about herself! Unfortunately, it can be challenging traveling by yourself as a woman so we hope that some of our tips can help you out. Anna has traveled alone before (since she was 18) so we think that this pretty much makes her an expert on this matter.

Girls for girls

Did you know that there are female-friendly accommodations? Make to sure to always read the reviews before you book a room. See what other women have written about security and staff. It is not always necessary to book female-friendly hotels, but we can understand that whilst traveling you sometimes just want a bit more security or safety. Additionally, we know that traveling often comes with a budget, but sometimes it is better to not to stick to much to that budget. Especially when it comes to your accommodation. You do not want to end up in a weird place in a dodgy part of town because it was a bit cheaper. Furthermore, there are blogs, facebook groups and vlogs online about solo female travelers where you can read experiences of others and these platforms give you an opportunity to can ask questions. Do not be affraid and post the question you want to ask. Are you interested in someones story? Send them a message. Everyone on these platforms want to help each other out so they would love to help you out. As mentioned before and it basically applies to all travelers, do not leave your drink unattended. Drink spiking in bars, restaurants and even hotels in Mexico happens occasionally so always keep an eye on your drink. As a female solo traveler you might be an easy target for some.

Transport as a female solo traveler

When using public transport try to sit next to a local lady or a friendly family. This might not change anything about a certain situation but it can give you a little bit peace of mind. If you want to go home after partying at night do not go to public transport stations but take a taxi. And please, do not stop a random taxi but always make sure to get numbers from legit taxi drivers from hotel staff. If you ever feel that you are in a uncomfortable situation or your gut feeling is telling you that something is not okay just leave. Say no and leave the place. It is better being safe than sorry and in most cases your gut feeling is right. Do not feel that you are being rude or whatever. Who cares what they think of you? It is also always helpful to learn some basic Spanish phrases before you go to Playa del Carmen. This way you can tell them off in their own language.

Check the locals out

Last but not least, try to mingle with local ladies. Overall, Mexico is still a pretty conservative country so try to match what the local women are wearing. Playa del Carmen is fun but it is no Disneyland. Enjoy your time, but always use your common sense.

Playa del Carmen for families

With al the clubbing and party stories you might not have guessed it but Playa del Carmen really is a family friendly destination. Families with older children love to go out, book some tours such as trips to archaeological sites or even island excursions. Families with little children like to visit the beach and children parks more often.Whatever you like to do with your family, Playa del Carmen is the right place for you.

Consent form as a single parent

Keep in mind that when you travel to Mexico as a single parent with a minor, you will need a signed consent form from the other parent or legal guardian. This is required by law in Mexico.

Is Airbnb safe in Playa del Carmen?

It is surely safe to rent via Airbnb in Playa del Carmen. Frankly, you can get the best and luxurious apartments for the best prices on Airbnb. Playa del Carmen is famous for offering the really good Airbnb apartments in Yucatan so make use of it! Airbnb has a secure and safe booking system, rating and reviews which can help you find out how an accommodation and/or the host is.

Mexican locals having problems with the Airbnb platform.

Airbnb is getting more and more expensive in Mexico. Especially in CDMX where there are problems with the locals since Airbnb is taking over the city but in Playa del Carmen this is not yet happening so you can still enjoy the lower prices. We have dedicated a whole article on this matter since it is a very difficult topic in Mexico at the moment. Especially, in CDMX and tourist areas such as Playa del Carmen, Cancun and Tulum.

Is Playa del Carmen LGBTQ+ friendly?

Playa del Carmen is a fantastic destination for the LGBTQ+ community. We did not know this! Playa del Carmen offers plenty of gay bars, clubs and even hotels! The locals are also very open and friendly about it. You might come across one closed-minded idiot but this can happen in any other city in the world. So if you are looking for a great LGBTQ+ community make sure to check Playa del Carmen out.

Driving in Playa del Carmen

In Playa del Carmen everything is a taxi ride or bike ride away. However, if you want to visit beaches or historical sites that are outside Playa del Carmen it might be easier to rent a car. Thankfully, driving in Playa del Carmen is safe but you do have to prepare yourself for some crazy driving. It might not be as crazy as in Mexico City but it is also not as chill as back home.

Car rental

Playa del Carmen has a lot of rental companies where you can get a car for a good price. The price for an average car starts at approximately €30 ($35 USD). Make sure to check the insurance at the car rental because your travel insurance will not cover anything regarding your rental car. Oh, and it might be a good idea to take a paper map with you since GPS does not always work. We have had many times that we were standing in the middle of nowhere and did not know where to go since the GPS on our phones did not work. Usually, the car rental has some maps lying around that you can take with you. The cell service on some of the smaller roads who are basically in the middle of the jungle is horrible. You cannot do anything with your phone. Which in some situations can be nice since you are secluded from the rest of the world, but trust us.. when you are lost and cannot find the way it can be pretty frustrating not being able to use your phone.

Pick the big roads

It can happen that you end up op non-tolled roads but keep in mind that toll-roads are in better condition than the little, remote roads. The big roads might not give you the most beautiful scenery but they are much easier and safer to use. It is also better for your cell service. Your cell service does not always work on the big roads but it is far better than the service on the smaller roads of the beaten path.

Police officers

We have never experienced it ourselves (yet), knock on wood, but police corruption is a thing in Mexico. The most frequent stories are about officers that stop mostly tourists, ask for their drivers license and do not give it back. Until, of course, you pay a bribe. Some of the tourists had to pay a fine at the police station and got their drivers license back. We do not know what to do in such a situation but we think that sadly, it is best to just do what is said. These stories usually happen outside of touristy areas. We, for example, have not heard about such things happening in Playa del Carmen.

Are taxis safe in Playa del Carmen?

Taxi’s in Playa del Carmen are relatively safe and cheap. However, just like any other thing in Mexico you should be careful when getting a taxi. We know, it can get tiresome to watch every step you are take, but it is a fact that as a tourist you are an easy target. It is not fun, but sadly it is reality.

Always be careful

The first thing you will notice in Playa del Carmen is the amount of taxi’s. Did you know that Mexico is the country with the largest amount of taxi’s in the world? The only downside is that they often overcharge. They do not use meters but work with pre-determined rates depending on your route. There are charts online that can help you out with the prices and if you cannot find anything about the rate you can bargain with the taxi drivers and see what happens. In our experience, the taxi driver’s have set prices so do not bother to go to the next one in line because they will tell you the exact same price. Sometimes we just walked or took the bus, but sometimes we were so tired that we did not care anymore and just payed whatever they asked for.

Spot the legit taxi’s

In Playa del Carmen, in general, it is ok to hail a taxi on the streets. Just make sure to spot a legit one. After clubbing, at midnight we personally prefer to call a taxi driver we know from the accommodation. But that is just a personal thing. And before we forget, do not get into a cab that has someone else in it. This it not safe.

Uber in Playa del Carmen

We have some bad news for you.. there is no Uber in Playa del Carmen. The government in Mexico, together with taxi unions, have decided that Uber is not allowed to operate in Playa del Carmen. This is also the case in some other towns on the Yucatan Peninsula. We got very happy when we arrived in Mexico City and found out that we could use Uber again. Not just because of the prices that are set, but also because of safety.

Is public transportation in Playa del Carmen safe?

Public transport in Playa del Carmen is safe and there are three main ways of getting around. Colectivos, ferries and busses. We have tried all of them and we will share our experiences with you.

Try a coletivo

Colectivos are not just a Mexican thing but more a Latin America thing. You might have seen these smaller busses or big vans that drive around and are full of locals. Colectivos do not have schedules and just leave when the bus is full. They start driving around 5/6 AM until around 11 PM. Whenever someone wants to get off or hop on they just random stop. If the bus is full they do not stop to pick you up. Do not worry when a full buss passed by and left you hanging. There will be another one arriving soon. The thing about these busses is that they do not have air-conditioning, they are not very comfortable and it can be a bit cramped, but the advantage that comes with it is that they are very cheap. The price for a ticket is $20-$45 MXN which is around €1-€2 ($2-$3 USD). Make sure to bring small change because the drivers usually do not have change for bigger bills. Also, these busses are not safe when you travel around with luggage. Petty crime in these busses is pretty common.

A bus

Busses in Playa del Carmen mostly go to local neighborhoods so you will basically not need them. If you want to travel to other towns such as Tulum or Cancun for example, you can always check out the ADO bus company. This is our favorite way of transportation! The busses are modern, comfortable and they have air-conditioning which feels like heaven in the hot and humid Yucatán weather. Plus, they are pretty safe so we love to book tickets online and go to the terminal whenever we plan trips to other towns. It depends where you are traveling to but a ticket will cost you around €8-€15 ($13-$16 USD)

Take a ferry to Cozumel

If you want to visit the island Cozumel you can buy a ticket for the ferry that leaves from Fundadores. A roundtrip costs around $200 MXN which is around €20 ($25 USD). It is a nice thing day trip to plan. You can catch the ferry to Cozumel in the morning and come back in the afternoon. The island is very popular amongst tourists who want to enjoy a day in nature. The island has unspoiled nature, vibrant reefs and beautiful white beaches. It is well worth your money!

What about food safety?

Who does not love Mexican food? Mexican food is always delicious, thus also in Playa del Carmen. There are some rules to abide to though. First of all, do not make rigorous changes in diet. Slowly getting used to another country’s food and hygiene standards will make your body get used to it. If you go too hard to quick you might get an upset stomach.

There rules that you should abide to are:

  • Wash the fruits and vegetables yourself. Peel and cook them yourself. This way you can guarantee that is has been washed and prepared in a hygienic way.
  • Do not go ‘loco’ on fruit smoothies. Playa del Carmen has a lot smoothie stores but you never know how the juices have been made.
  • Hotel food can make or break your day. Make sure to always read the reviews of your hotel before booking.
  • When you want to try out street food make sure that everything is prepared at high temperatures. Spot where the locals go and ‘do as the Romans do’.
  • Always bring along your hand sanitizer because you cannot wash your hands everywhere.

Tapwater in Mexico

Tapwater in Mexico is NOT safe to drink so do not drink tap water. Especially in Yucatan since it is known for the bad quality of tap water. You should always stick to bottled water and avoid ice cubes in drinks! If you do not want to buy plastic bottles since they are not good for the environment you can buy a filter water bottle. We use the Grayl Geopress. This is the market’s leading filtered water bottle which does not only protect you but also the environment. It is super easy and we have not bought a single plastic bottle since. We also use it for washing our vegetables and cooking.

Is it safe to live in Playa del Carmen?

Playa del Carmen is a fun place when visiting but also for settling down. The climate and lifestyle are something that we really loved. Come on, compared to the Netherlands? We have summer for like one week a year back home.

But living in Playa del Carmen also has its cons. Hurricane season can be hell with a lot of rain. However, living in Playa del Carmen is still pretty safe. The last destructive hurricane was in 2005. And based on safety.. Playa del Carmen is as safe as any other place in Yucatán.

So, in general, is Playa del Carmen safe?

In our experience Playa del Carmen is a safe place. However, we are not living there anymore and the world changes everyday. Especially nowadays with the tourists traveling again after the COVID19 pandemic and not to forget about the world nomads that are packing their bags again to move around to other places. With al the different experiences and views that people have it is hard to maintain what is the truth and what are mostly sensation stories.

Do your own research

The best thing you can do is, do your own research and use your common sense. Do not just read one article, follow one blog or focus on one Youtube channel but make sure to research each and everyone of them. People have different views, experiences and opinions so what is good for one can be bad for the other. During your own travels you will experience everything yourself and totally understand what we mean. As noted before, if you need help you can always check out Facebook groups regarding you destination. The people in these groups do not only post articles or real life experiences but they are also active in helping each other out. Whenever we had questions we posted in the groups and we always got answers. Some people even chatted us which was very helpful because it gets more personal.

Do you have any input?

Anna and Alex always try to provide you with the most accurate and relevant travel information but if you have any input.. please let us know!

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