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Tulum Attracts Negative International Headlines As Crime Soars 

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Tulum, like Cancun, has been attracting some negative international headlines recently, as crime soars in both Mexican Caribbean cities.  Due to the elevated level of crime, there have recently been warnings issued by the U.S. State Department advising Americans traveling to certain areas of Mexico to be vigilant while there.  Specific recommendations have been made to help keep Americans visiting Mexico safe, but how bad is the crime in these cities? 

Some Mexican cities have long been plagued with crime problems but the increasing level of crime in these tourist destinations has developed more since tourism has been on the rise.  While security analysts attribute some of the increase in crime to the increase in tourism, claiming that the drug market was developed in these cities to serve tourists, much of the violent crime is not directed towards individuals visiting from other countries.  More often violent acts are committed against locals, specifically other gang members, and restaurant and bar owners. 

That being said, there have been a number of incidents involving tourists over the last year.  Just two weeks ago four bodies were located in the Tulum Hotel Zone. Although the deceased were not tourists it shows how close to the tourist areas the criminal acts of the individuals committing the crimes can be. 

A recent Bloomberg article highlighted another incident in which the crimes of rival gang members came dangerously close to tourists visiting Tulum.  In this situation, which took place back in February, two drug dealers were shot and killed in an upscale restaurant.  It is a very real example of how the turf war between gangs affects tourists, and businesses, which are commonly forced to pay these gangs for protection.   

Tulum, like Cancun and Playa del Carmen, are all cities in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo and makeup part of the Riviera Maya area.  The area has gained tremendous popularity among international tourists due to its beautiful Caribbean beaches, the nearby archaeological sites to explore, and the larger number of luxury all-inclusive resorts all along the coast.  Each city has a designated tourist area, where most of the luxury hotels, restaurants, and bars are located. 

tulum police car

In a recent Independent news article, it was reported that the U.S. State Department added additional cities to its Mexico travel warning list.  Six Mexican states are on the “do not travel” list, 11 are on the “reconsider travel” list, and 17 are on the “exercise increased caution” list.  The state of Quintana Roo falls into the latter category with the reason for exercising caution being due to an increase in crime and kidnapping incidences in some of the state’s cities. 

tulum at night

Although the increase in crimes in places like Tulum is very real, there is more to the city than violence and it’s rare that tourists come face to face with it.  In the warnings issued by the U.S. State Department they advise the following: 

  • Do not travel between cities after dark.  
  • Avoid traveling alone. 
  • Exercise caution when visiting clubs and bars.  
  • Avoid displaying signs of wealth. 
  • Practice vigilance when withdrawing money from ATMs or visiting banks. 
  • Do not hail taxis from the road and if taking one alone send the license plate or taxi number to a friend back home. 
  • Keep family and friends in the states informed of your plans. 
downtown tulum area

The majority of people who visit Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Tulum, and other Mexican Caribbean cities do so without incident and enjoy their vacations.  Mexico is home to many beautiful vacation destinations and while the increase in crime in these cities is surely something to be cautious about it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are unsafe to visit.  Like in any other popular tourist destination it is just important to be vigilant of your surroundings and heed the warnings of officials, and you too can have a memorable Mexican Caribbean vacation in Cancun, Playa del Carmen, or Tulum. 

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