Is Cancun Safe for Tourists (and What Should You Avoid Doing)?

Cancun is a safe place to visit, as long as you keep to the tourist areas and always have your wits about you. Moreover, knowing what mistakes to avoid in terms of food and drink will also help keep you healthy and safe during your vacation in Cancun.
Is Cancun Safe for Tourists
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Unless you are travelling with an authorized tour guide or knowledgeable local, it is recommended that you stick to Cancun’s well-populated areas such as Downtown and the Hotel Zone, which is the safest part of Cancun. Read on for the essential guide to safety in Cancun.

Is Cancun Dangerous in Any Way?

Cancun is not completely immune to crime, particularly if you venture away from the Hotel Zone, which is the safest part of the city. That said, Cancun’s key tourist areas – which include the Hotel Zone and Downtown Cancun, are heavily patrolled by both the police and the Mexican National Guard, thereby making them generally safe.

Is It Safe to Leave the Resort in Cancun?

Yes, it is perfectly safe to leave the resort in Cancun. Touristic areas of Downtown Cancun, like Avenida Tulum and Las Palapas, are generally safe to visit by day. However, beware that crimes of opportunity such as petty theft, bag-snatching and pickpocketing do occur, therefore you should always have your wits about you.

Here are some safety tips to follow when getting off the resort in Cancun:

  • Only go on excursions arranged by reputable tour companies.
  • When you need a taxi, ask the hotel front desk to recommend a reliable driver.
  • Leave your valuables locked up inside the safe in your hotel room.
  • Always secure your personal belongings, especially your travel documents.
  • Do not flash cash, jewelry or other valuables.
  • Secure your mobile phone at all times.
  • Always use your common sense.

Can You Drink Tap Water in Cancun?

Although you can drink tap water in certain places in Cancun, it is not recommended that you do so. The water that comes out of the faucets at most big resorts in Cancun goes through a robust on-site water filtration and purification system and is technically safe to drink. Nevertheless, it is recommended that you only drink bottled water in Cancun to avoid the risk of getting sick while on vacation.

Can I Brush My Teeth With Tap Water in Cancun?

This will depend on where you are staying. Many big hotels in Cancun’s Hotel Zone have a water purification system installed, which makes it safe to brush your teeth using tap water. However, if you’re staying outside the Hotel Zone, it is not recommended to brush teeth with tap water, unless you are sure of the quality of the water. Use boiled, filtered or bottled water instead.

Is It Safe to Have Ice in Cancun?

This will depend on where the ice is served. Many big resorts in Cancun use purified water for everything, including making ice cubes, thereby making it safe to use in your drink. However, it is best to avoid using ice at bars outside of your resort as the ice cubes may have been made using untreated tap water which is unsafe to drink.

Can You Drink Coffee in Cancun?

Yes, it is perfectly safe to drink coffee in Cancun, as long as it is served while still hot. You should only drink hot coffee made using water that was boiled, thereby eliminating any bacteria that can cause stomach infections. Fortunately, most big hotels in Cancun use purified water for everything, including making coffee.

Can You Eat Fruit in Cancun?

Yes, it is perfectly safe to eat fruit in Cancun, as long as:

  • The fruit has been washed using purified water
  • You are able to peel or remove the skin yourself e.g. bananas and mangoes
  • Only eat fruit salad served at your hotel

How Can I Avoid Getting Sick in Cancun?

Here are some tips that will help you avoid getting sick in Cancun:

  • Be careful with drinks: Most importantly, only drink bottled water in Cancun. Never drink tap water or even use it to brush your teeth. Whenever you order drinks outside of your resort, be sure to order them without ice cubes. Don’t drink smoothies made using untreated water. Your safest bet is to stick to bottled drinks.
  • Choose wisely where to eat and drink: Avoid having food or drinks at cheap, unhygienic-looking places. To be sure, whenever you go for street food, only eat items that have been cooked in front of you. If you’re not ordering drinks at a resort, a decent hotel or a high-end restaurant, always keep a close eye on how your drink is prepared.
  • Be smart about salads: Always be careful with fruit and vegetable salads as it is difficult to know whether the raw fruits and vegetables have been washed using purified water. Use the slice of lime that comes with salads to douse the raw vegetables, which helps to kill bacteria. Only eat fruit that you can peel by yourself.
  • Don’t get carried away with alcohol: The most important thing to remember when drinking in Cancun is to stay hydrated. This will help you avoid tropical hangovers and headaches the next morning. Add a few pinches of salt and a slice of lime to a glass of water and sip on this throughout the day. During happy hour, be sure to alternate water with alcohol.
  • Don’t forget mosquito repellent: Although malaria is rare in Mexico, dengue fever is endemic throughout the country. It is therefore important to always have some bug spray such as mosquito repellent on hand to apply when you’re out and about in the evenings or during jungle trekking excursions.
  • Other preventative measures: Bring a general antibiotic like Immodium that you can take in case you get travelers’ diarrhea. Immodium is also great for stomach upsets during long bus, plane or boat rides. Other preventative measures include natural anti-bacterials like oil of oregano and grapefruit seed extract.

Are There Mosquitoes in Cancun?

Yes, there are mosquitos in Cancun. Mosquitoes are especially bad during Cancun’s rainy season, which runs between May and October. It is therefore important to take some preventative measures to avoid getting bitten by mosquitos in Cancun.

Here are some tips for preventing mosquito bites:

  • Mosquito Repellent: Bring mosquito repellent if you plan to do some outdoor trekking in jungle areas, or even just to enjoy dinner at an outdoor restaurant. Choose a repellent with DEET, the most effective ingredient for repelling mosquitos.
  • Light Colors: Apparently, mosquitoes have a color preference: they are less attracted by light colors than by darker ones. Therefore your safest bet is to wear light-colored clothing during your vacation in Cancun.
  • Long Sleeves & Pants: When outdoors or out at night, cover up by wearing long sleeves and pants, which will protect your arms and legs from mosquito bites. Because linen and cotton clothing are mostly white, they are great for repelling mosquitos.
  • Accommodation: When choosing accommodations outside of the Hotel Zone, check that the mosquito screens are in good condition. If you will be staying outside of urban Cancun, your safest bet is to sleep under a mosquito net.

Do I Need Bug Spray in Cancun?

Yes, you will need bug spray when visiting in Cancun.

Because Cancun is a tropical destination it provides a natural habitat for diverse insects that bite. Moreover, Cancun vacations are enjoyed mostly outside – think jungle excursions or dinner outdoors. Therefore you will need to bring a good bug spray, preferably with DEET. Although bug spray is available in Cancun, it is typically overpriced. It is therefore recommended that you bring some from home.

What Dangerous Animals Are in Cancun?

Here is a list of dangerous animals found in Cancun:

  • Crocodiles
  • Snakes
  • Scorpions
  • Mosquitos
  • Spiders

Are There Alligators or Crocodiles in Cancun?

Although there are no alligators, there are crocodiles in Cancun’s subtropical rivers and lagoons. In fact, Cancun’s Nichupte Lagoon is a natural habitat for the area’s crocodiles. Spanning 5,000 hectares, the lagoon is home to about 25 crocodile species, most of which live away from populated areas. It is therefore important for visitors to the lagoon to be extra careful so as to avoid a croc attack.

Are There Jaguars in Cancun?

No, there are no jaguars in Cancun. The Mexican state of Quintana Roo – where Cancun is located, is home to the largest number of jaguars in the country. However, the jaguars are mainly found deep in the jungles, well away from the typical tourist areas. Although there have been jaguar sightings in the nearby Riviera Maya area, these are very rare.

Are There Snakes in Cancun?

Yes, there are snakes in Cancun. However, tourism has over the years driven the snakes deeper into the jungle, making it less likely for visitors to see them. Nevertheless, there are still many around so it is important to be mindful of your surroundings especially when visiting vegetated areas. If you see a snake, keep calm and stay as far as possible from it. If you get bitten, seek immediate medical attention.

Are There Scorpions in Cancun?

Yes, there are scorpions in Cancun. Scorpions have a tendency to crawl into shoes and clothes at night. Therefore, when visiting rural areas, always shake yours out before wearing them the next morning. Although scorpion stings are painful, they are rarely life-threatening, unless the victim is very young, old, infirm or allergic to the venom. If you get stung by a scorpion, seek immediate medical attention.

What Should I Avoid in Cancun?

Here is a list of things to avoid in Cancun:

  • Drinking tap water – drink bottled water instead
  • Brushing teeth with tap water – use bottled water if unsure of the quality
  • Ingesting water while you’re taking a shower
  • Ingesting water from hot tubs or swimming pools
  • Using ice cubes made from untreated water in your drinks
  • Drinking concentrated or powdered beverages mixed using unpurified water
  • Drinking bottled water if the lid is improperly sealed
  • Eating raw fruit or vegetables washed with unpurified water
  • Eating raw fruit or vegetables that you did not peel yourself
  • Eating raw, undercooked or cold seafood, fish, meat, poultry and eggs
  • Consuming milk and dairy products that have not been pasteurized
  • Eating at restaurants that are unclean or don’t have many customers
  • Eating street food which is likely to have been prepared in unhygienic conditions
  • Eating cooked food that is not piping hot throughout
  • Eating cooked food that has not been covered, put on ice or refrigerated
  • Eating food with flies buzzing around it
  • Drinking too much alcohol in hot weather
  • Accepting drinks from strangers
  • Leaving your drink unattended or in the care of strangers
  • Assuming that all areas in Cancun are safe
  • Flashing cash, jewelry and other valuables
  • Getting random taxis off the street
  • Forgetting to apply mosquito repellent or bug spray
  • Ignoring warning signs for crocodiles
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