Is it safe to drive in Cancun?

Cancun is that dangerous

From TRAVELBOOK | April 12, 2018, 11:01 a.m.

As in many areas of Mexico, crime is unfortunately the order of the day in Cancun and the Riviera Maya. There are various criminal drug gangs everywhere, which meanwhile don't even stop at popular tourist strongholds. How safe is Cancun? TRAVELBOOK asked about a travel security expert.

Do you have to go on vacation to Cancun? If so, you should definitely plan it very carefully - the reason: the dangerous security situation.

The tourist stronghold on the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico has long been considered relatively safe, but is now more and more frequently shaken by violent clashes and series of murders by the drug cartels: At the beginning of April 2018, 14 people were shot in various parts of the city within just 36 hours, according to the Mexican newspapers "Noticaribe" and "El Financiero" are all murders of gang crime. Usually such horrific acts take place away from the tourist spots, but this time they were committed in close proximity to hostels and hotels.

"Further incidents cannot be ruled out"

In the resort of Playa del Carmen, south of Cancún, vacationers should also be particularly vigilant, according to the Foreign Office (AA). In February 2018, 20 people, including tourists, were injured when an explosion occurred on a ferry between the island of Cozumel and Playa del Carmen. "On March 1, 2018, authorities were able to prevent another explosion on another ferry from the same company and on the same route, investigations into the incidents are ongoing," the AA website said. “Further incidents in the area of ​​Playa del Carmen cannot be ruled out. Travelers should therefore be particularly careful and follow the instructions of local authorities and tour guides. "

Be careful!

TRAVELBOOK asked the travel security expert Sven Leidel: How dangerous is Cancún for vacationers? The author of the book (“Handbuch Reisesicherheit”): “Cancún can still be associated with a number of risks.” These include: petty crime (pickpocketing, scams when changing money), organized crime (robbery), collateral damage through violence and incidents in connection with drug cartels; recently also increasingly in the center of Cancún, risk of kidnapping (including express kidnappings) - as a rule, however, locals are more likely to be affected than tourists.

What does Leidel advise? “Visitors to the Cancun tourist area should take basic precautions on beaches or other tourist locations. For example, don't go for a walk on the local beaches alone, especially not at night, ”he says. Common security measures, which by the way apply to many Mexican cities, are:

- Do not walk alone at night.

- Avoid dark alleys, side streets and unlit areas.

- Secure / lock or keep locked all entrances to hotel rooms and vehicles.

- Avoid openly displaying jewelry, money or the like.

- Stay vigilant in the city's markets.

- Only drink drinks from closed bottles, do not drink tap water and do not use ice cubes.

Leidel continues: “Travelers should only use the radio taxi services recommended by the hotel and avoid all other taxis. If you are staying in a hotel, avoid the downstairs and upstairs rooms as they are more easily accessible to thieves. Travelers should not open the door to their room until they have identified the visitor. "

Review - what happened in 2017?

The year 2017 started bloody on the so-called Riviera Maya, one of the most popular regions in Mexico with tourists: In January, five people were killed in a shootout in Playa del Carmen, only 70 kilometers from the holiday stronghold of Cancún. And they were only the first of a total of 169 victims who, according to the newspaper “La Nacion”, lost their lives in the first six months in the state of Quintana Roo, which also includes Cancún - that is more than three times as many as in same period 2016.

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This was and is to blame for the merciless drug war that has been fought by various cartels in Mexico for years - because the Riviera Maya is one of the main routes on which drugs are smuggled into the USA via South America. The arrest of the powerful drug lord "El Chapo" Guzmán had also created a power vacuum in the region that various gangs tried to fill with extreme brutality. The cartel expert Ricardo Ravelo, author of several books on the subject, told the "BBC": "In Cancún you can clearly feel the fight for a drug market that is becoming more and more successful."

Protection from politics

The consumption of marijuana and cocaine in this area is also significantly higher than in the rest of the country - which is of course also due to the countless party tourists from all over the world who come to Cancun and the Riviera Maya for precisely that reason. The most influential groups in the area are the Sinaloa and Golf Cartels, Los Zetas and Jalisco Nueva Generación. According to the BBC, the war would also be fueled by drug mercenaries who worked for several organizations at the same time and thus wreaked havoc in the already confusing senseless murders. As in other areas of the country, members of such terrorist groups are often former police officers or soldiers.

"Cancun has always been a useful region for organized crime," said Ravelo. In addition to Mexican cartels, even Russians, Chinese and South Americans were involved in the lucrative "business". In addition, the gangsters are not infrequently linked to the government through bribery: “These are mayors, city councilors, administrative officials, not to mention the police. They protect the criminal groups. "The ruling minister in Quintana Roo, Carlos Joaquín González, had declared war on organized crime and, according to the BBC, saw this as the reason for the new wave of violence in Cancún:" The gangsters were used to that their crimes were not only not punished, but even tolerated. "

Security forces increased significantly

At the “Paradisus Hotel” in Cancún, one of the best local establishments, there was still no concern: “There are violence and problems everywhere,” a hotel spokesman told TRAVELBOOK. “But don't be afraid because Cancun is still a beautiful travel destination. The people here also live from tourism - the last thing they want is that the tourists are afraid to come here. "

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According to the “Huffington Post”, despite the wave of violence in the entire region, tourism increased by a few percentage points at the time - the site also quoted the Spanish Foreign Ministry that wrote in its travel advice for Mexico: Zones of the country have no security problems, but vacationers should stay in the tourist zones and follow basic rules of caution. ”The site also reported that in Cancún, as in other tourist regions of Mexico, the presence of police and other security forces at least at times it had been heavily increased.

"At the wrong time in the wrong place"

In 2017, Leidel already spoke of “three main risks” associated with Cancún: “Simple and organized crime. Drug cartel violence and incidents, particularly in the Yucatan Peninsula. Latent risk of kidnapping, although mostly 'locals' are affected and not really tourists. "

Leidel said at the time: “Simple crime is rather characterized by pickpockets and other scams, as in almost all typical tourist destinations. Nevertheless, there is an increased risk for tourists especially in the evening and night hours and outside the hotels and resorts. In individual cases, this can lead to assaults, violent attacks and even rape. Normally the police are more present in the evening or at night to protect tourists. Unfortunately, it has often happened in the past that passers-by and tourists were in the wrong place at the wrong time and found themselves in the middle of a violent conflict between two rival drug cartels. "

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Situation not recommended as threatening

Elisa Schlögl also reported on this - when she was in Tulúm with three friends, they found the "actually very beautiful beach" secured by numerous heavily armed police officers. They would have secured the zone out of sight of the tourists: “We then heard that fights between drug gangs were taking place in the city itself. But it didn't happen to us, and we didn't feel unsafe either. ”However, their host told them that he wanted to leave Tulúm soon because it had become too unsafe for him here.

In Cancun, too, Elisa did not see the situation as threatening: "The first taxi driver offered us weed and cocaine, and they were generally very pushy - we just kept using Uber because we heard that it was safer." She was shocked to find out about the wave of violence in Cancun. “You don't worry about that - the people were all satisfied, the restaurants were good and the beaches were beautiful.” There was another reason why she no longer had to go to the Riviera Maya - she and her friends were simply closed full.

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