Posted: 12/01/2022 | December 1, 2022
Tulum, located in southern Quintana Roo on Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, used to be a sleepy beach town that attracted hippie types who preferred the quiet beaches and Mayan ruins to Cancún’s wild, noisy nightlife.
In the last decade, however, hippies have been overtaken by influencers, boho-chic digital nomads, and wannabe yogis. While I enjoyed seeing the ruins there, I’m not a huge fan of Tulum these days.
But that’s just me. Hundreds of thousands of people visit every year and love their time there. After all, travel is subjective.
Home to some of the best-preserved Mayan ruins and scenic white-sand beaches, Tulum is definitely a beautiful piece of Mexico.
But is Tulum safe?
That depends on who you ask.
The Overseas Security Advisory Council says Tulum is “moderately safe” — although at least one tourist was kidnapped there earlier this year and two women were killed by gang crossfires while eating at a restaurant in 2021.
For the state of Quintana Roo, which includes Tulum, U.S. State Department information said it “exercised increased caution” when traveling there (contrasted with six other states in Mexico, where the report said, “Travel don’t go there”). .
Having said that, I’ve visited Tulum a few times now – and driven around the region – and never felt unsafe. Sure, you need to keep your sanity and be on the lookout for petty theft, but you should do that wherever you travel.
To help you learn more about the city and decide if you’re comfortable visiting, here’s everything you need to know about staying safe in Tulum.
Is Tulum Safe for Solo Travelers?
Generally yes. It is in the interest of local and national governments to make efforts to keep tourist destinations like Tulum safe. If tourists are robbed (or worse) in Tulum, visitors will stop coming, local businesses will suffer, and there would likely be more crime as a result. It’s cyclical.
If you exercise some caution, as you should with any new destination, you’ll likely avoid serious problems.
Is Tulum Safe for Female Solo Travelers?
Tulum is generally safe for solo female travelers. However, female travelers have additional concerns and should exercise even more caution. For example, don’t walk alone at night in Tulum. Never accept a drink from anyone unless you have seen it being poured or made. And keep an eye on your drink at the bar.
Are Taxis Safe in Tulum?
Taxi drivers have a pretty bad reputation all over the world. I am happy to report that this reputation does not extend to this seaside town. Just be sure to agree on a price before you leave.
Taxis are plentiful in Tulum, so in most cases you shouldn’t have a problem finding one. However, if in doubt, have your hotel or hostel call one for you so you can be sure you’re getting a reputable driver.
Is renting a car in Tulum safe?
There are some rental car scams that travelers should be aware of—not just in Tulum, but throughout Mexico. For example, it’s quite common to rent a car online and then show up at the office only to be told they don’t have any cars at the moment.
The other problem is hidden fees. There are exorbitant insurance costs that you are only told about at the last minute. So when booking, be aware that you may get what you think you are getting.
Those issues aside, it is safe to rent a car in Tulum.
Use Discover Cars to find the best car rental deals.
Is there a problem with gangs and drug cartels in Tulum?
Unfortunately, crime in Tulum has increased, and the bulk of it is drug-related gang activity. Since 2019, drug-related gang crime has increased by a whopping 783%. The good news is that this is mostly gang-to-gang violence and not aimed at tourists.
The key here is: do not use or purchase drugs while in Mexico in general and Tulum in particular. You only invite danger.
Can you drink the tap water in Tulum?
Tap water throughout Mexico — not just Tulum — is notorious for not being as clean as it could be. This also applies to ice cubes. First find out if the water in restaurants is filtered, then ask if the ice cubes are too.
Tulum can be muggy at times, and sipping ice drinks might be refreshing, but it would be even worse to be stuck in your hotel room with stomach upset from drinking tap water or an ice drink contaminated with tap water.
Bottled water isn’t exactly eco-friendly, but if you’re in Tulum, make sure you do it just to be on the safe side. You can also bring a LifeStraw bottle, which has a built-in filter to ensure your water is always clean and safe to drink.
Can I walk around Tulum at night?
It is not recommended – especially if you are alone. To complicate matters, the beachfront hotels and the city center aren’t exactly a short walk from each other, so consider taking a taxi. The good news is that taxis are plentiful in Tulum.
So, unless it’s a very short distance, don’t go in Tulum at night.
10 safety tips for Tulum
Tulum is one of the most reliable safe places in Mexico. Still, you should exercise caution, especially when venturing out of the heavily touristed areas of the city. Here are some things to consider:
1. Stay Alert – When walking around, especially at night, stay very alert and aware of your surroundings. Do your best to belong.
2. Keep your phone out of the reach of others – Pickpockets like to prey on unsuspecting tourists, so always keep your phone out of the reach of others. If you’re walking around swinging your smartphone everywhere, you might find that this item is suddenly missing.
3. Keep your valuables at home – If you have a lot of nice jewelry and/or an expensive watch, keep them at home or in the hotel room as well. You don’t want to draw the wrong kind of attention.
4. Be careful 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 city center and the beachfront Hotel Zone.
5. Download an offline map – If you are not roaming internationally, download an offline map to use for navigation. Just be careful not to pull out your smartphone too far or it will be stolen.
6. Learn some Spanish – Speaking a few words in the local language is always a good thing. It can open doors and help you adjust (and be less likely to be a target). It is also useful in an emergency. The emergency number in Mexico is 911.
7. Watch Your Money – Don’t carry every peso you have in your wallet or pocket. Hand it out (partly in your wallet, partly in the hotel safe, partly in your backpack) so if someone steals your wallet or robs you, you’ll have money safe elsewhere.
8. Download the Prey app on your phone and laptop – If your phone or laptop is stolen, you can use the Prey app to track where it is. You can install the app for free and then upgrade to a paid version (it only costs $5) if you need to track your stolen device. Prey can also activate your phone’s camera and take a picture of the thief.
9. Be careful when using ATMs – Only use ATMs within a bank. Not only can skimmers be planted at outdoor ATMs (to steal your PIN), but robberies are far more common. For security reasons, only use ATMs indoors.
10. Watch out for flash tides – While the beaches in Tulum are stunning, the flash tides can be dangerous. Never stray too far from shore just to be safe. If you’re not a good swimmer, stay in the pool.
So should you visit Tulum?
In terms of security, yes. As I said above, Tulum has had its fair share of drug and gang crime in recent years, but unless you’re looking for drugs — and you really shouldn’t be — then you’ll probably avoid such troubles.
My top advice
Buy travel insurance. We never think anything could go wrong when traveling. But sometimes it does – which I’ve learned from experience. I’ve lost luggage in South Africa, had equipment damage in Italy and ruptured an eardrum in Thailand. I was also stabbed in Colombia.
It’s not fun to think about, but bad things can happen when you travel.
That’s why I never leave home without travel insurance. Neither should you – especially if you’re traveling to Mexico. For just a few dollars a day, you get a safety net that will ensure you don’t go bankrupt should something bad and unexpected happen.
Don’t skimp on your health and safety. It’s not worth the risk.
Here’s everything you need to know about choosing comprehensive insurance.
Tulum has quickly become the epicenter of the so-called Riviera Maya, attracting all types of people drawn here for its stunning white-sand beaches that nestle against blue-green waters, as well as its well-preserved Mayan ruins.
Although it is generally a safe place for tourists, you should always be alert and exercise caution while in Tulum. If you do that, you can have a fun – and safe – visit.
Book your trip: logistical tips and tricks
Book your flight
Find a cheap flight with Skyscanner. It’s my favorite search engine because it searches websites and airlines around the world so you always know that no stone is left unturned.
Book your accommodation
You can book your hostel at Hostelworld. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as they always show the cheapest prices for guesthouses and hotels.
Don’t forget travel insurance
Travel insurance protects you against illness, injury, theft and cancellations. It’s total protection in case something goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I have had to use it many times in the past. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value for money are:
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