Posted: 12/1/2022 | December 1st, 2022
Tulum, located in the southern section of Quintana Roo on Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, used to be a sleepy beach town that attracted hippie types who preferred the placid beaches and its Mayan ruins over Cancún’s wild, cacophonous nightlife.
In the last decade or so, though, the hippies have been overtaken by influencers, boho-chic digital nomads, and would-be yogis. So, while I enjoyed seeing the ruins there, I’m not a big fan of Tulum these days.
But that’s just me. Hundreds of thousands of people visit each year and love their time there. Travel is subjective, after all.
Home to some of the best-preserved Mayan ruins and picturesque white-sand beaches, Tulum is definitely a gorgeous slice of Mexico.
But is Tulum safe?
That depends on who you ask.
The Overseas Security Advisory Council says that Tulum is “moderately safe” — though there was at least one kidnapping of a tourist there earlier this year, and two women were killed by gang crossfire while dining at a restaurant in 2021.
For the state of Quintana Roo, which includes Tulum, the information from the US State Department says to “exercise increased caution” when traveling there (as opposed to six other states in Mexico, where the report said, “Do not travel to”).
That said, I’ve visited Tulum a few times now — and have road-tripped around the region — and never felt unsafe. Sure, you need to keep your wits about you and keep an eye out for petty theft, but that’s what you should do anywhere you travel.
To help you understand more about the city and decide if you feel comfortable visiting, here is everything you need to know to stay safe in Tulum.
Generally, yes. It’s in the local and national governments’ interest to make an effort to keep tourist-heavy destinations like Tulum safe. If tourists start getting robbed (or worse) in Tulum, visitors will stop coming, local businesses will suffer, and, as a result, there would then probably be more crime. It’s cyclical.
If you exercise some caution, as you should do in any new destination, you’ll likely avoid any serious issues.
Tulum is generally safe for solo female travelers. That said, female travelers have additional concerns and should exercise even more caution. Don’t walk alone at night, for example, while in Tulum. Never accept a drink from someone unless you saw it being poured or made. And always keep an eye on your drink when out at the bar.
Taxi drivers have a pretty bad reputation no matter where you are in the world. I’m happy to report that that reputation does not extend to this seaside town. Just be sure to agree on a price before you depart.
Taxis are plentiful in Tulum so in most cases you should not have a problem finding one. If in doubt, though, have your hotel or hostel call one for you so you can be sure you get a reputable driver.
There are some rental car scams that travelers should be aware of — not just in Tulum but anywhere in Mexico. It’s quite common, for example, to rent a car online and then show up at the office only to be told that they don’t have any cars at the moment.
The other issue is with hidden fees. There are exorbitant costs for insurance that you’re only told about at the last minute, so be aware when you book that you might get the deal that you think you’re getting.
Aside from these issues, it’s safe to rent a car in Tulum.
To find the best rental car deals, use Discover Cars.
Unfortunately, crime has increased in Tulum, and the majority of it is drug-related gang activity. Since 2019, drug-related gang crimes have increased by a whopping 783%. The good news is that this is mostly gang-on-gang violence and not aimed at tourists.
The key here is this: don’t use or buy drugs while in Mexico in general, and Tulum in particular. You’re just inviting danger.
The tap water all over Mexico — not just in Tulum — is notorious for not being as clean as it could be. That goes for ice cubes too. Find out first if the water in restaurants is filtered and then ask if the ice cubes are too.
Tulum can sometimes be sweltering, and sipping iced drinks might be refreshing, but it would be even worse to be stuck in your hotel room with stomach issues because you drank tap water or an iced drink that was contaminated with tap water.
Bottled water isn’t the most eco-friendly thing, but when in Tulum, stick to it, just to be safe. You can also bring a LifeStraw bottle, which has a built-in filter to ensure that your water is always clean and safe to drink.
It’s not recommended — especially if you’re alone. Making things more complicated, the beach hotels and the center of town are not necessarily a quick jaunt from each other on foot, so you should take a taxi. The good news is that taxis are abundant in Tulum.
So, unless it’s a super short distance, don’t walk at night in Tulum.
Tulum is one of the more reliably safe spots in Mexico. That said, you should still exercise caution, particularly when you leave the heavily touristed areas of town. Here are some things to keep in mind:
1. Stay alert – When walking around, especially at night, stay very alert and mindful of your surroundings. Do your best to fit in.
2. Keep your phone out of the reach of others – Pickpockets love to prey on careless tourists, so keep your phone out of the reach of others at all times. If you walk around swinging your smartphone all over the place, you might find that item suddenly missing.
3. Keep your valuables at home – Similarly, if you have a lot of nice jewelry and/or an expensive watch, keep it at home or in the hotel room safe. You don’t want to attract the wrong kind of attention.
4. Be cautious at night if you’re traveling alone – Tulum isn’t the most dangerous place at night, but in some places, it’s not as well lit as it should be. Don’t walk around alone late at night if you can avoid it — especially between the center of town and the beachfront hotel zone.
5. Download an offline map – If you don’t have international roaming, download an offline map to use for navigation. Just be sure not to pull your smartphone out too much, lest it get stolen.
6. Learn some Spanish – Uttering a few words of the local language is always a good thing. It can open doors and help you fit in (and you’re less likely to be a target). It’s also useful in case of an emergency. The emergency number in Mexico is 911.
7. Be mindful of your money – Don’t carry every peso you have in your wallet or pocket. Spread it around (some in your wallet, some in the hotel safe, some in your backpack), so that if someone steals your wallet or robs you, you will still have money secured elsewhere.
8. Download the Prey app to your phone and laptop – If your phone or your laptop gets stolen, the Prey app allows you to track where it is. You can install the app for free and then upgrade to a paid version (it’s just $5 USD) if you need to track your stolen device. Prey can also activate your phone’s camera and take a photo of the thief.
9. Be careful when using ATMs – Only use ATMs inside a bank. Not only can skimmers be placed on outdoor ATMs (to steal your PIN), but robberies are much more common at them. To stay safe, only use indoor ATMs.
10. Watch out for riptides – While the beaches in Tulum are stunning, the riptides can be dangerous. Never stray too far from shore, just to be safe. If you’re not a strong swimmer, stick to the pool.
In terms of safety, yes. As I said above, there has been a fair share of drug- and gang-related crime in Tulum over the last few years, but if you’re not seeking out drugs — and you really shouldn’t be — then likely you’ll avoid experiencing any such issues.
Buy travel insurance. We never think that something is going to go wrong on trips. But it does sometimes — which I’ve learned from experience. I’ve lost luggage in South Africa, had my gear break in Italy, and popped an eardrum in Thailand. I was also knifed in Colombia.
While it’s not fun to think about, bad things can happen while you’re traveling.
That’s why I never leave home without travel insurance. You shouldn’t either — especially if you’re heading to Mexico. For just a couple of bucks a day, you’ll get a safety net that ensures that you won’t go bankrupt should something bad and unexpected happen.
Don’t cheap out on your health and safety. It’s not worth the risk.
Here’s everything you need to know about picking a comprehensive insurance plan.
Tulum has quickly become the epicenter of the so-called Riviera Maya, attracting all types of people who gravitate here for its stunning white-sand beaches hugging up along blue-green waters, as well as the nicely preserved Mayan ruins.
While it’s a generally safe place for tourists, you should always be alert and exercise caution while you’re in Tulum. Do that, and you’ll be able to have a fun — and safe — visit.
Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner. It’s my favorite search engine because it searches websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is being left unturned.
Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as it consistently returns the cheapest rates for guesthouses and hotels.
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:
Want to travel for free?
Travel credit cards allow you to earn points that can be redeemed for free flights and accommodation. They are what keep me traveling so much for so little. Check out my guide to picking the right card and my current favorites to get started and see the latest best deals.
Ready to Book Your Trip?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel. I list all the ones I use when I travel. They are the best in class and you can’t go wrong using them on your trip.
Leave a Reply