Despite all the grim news about Mexico's drug-related violence, the Yucatán Peninsula remains relatively safe for those not engaged in illegal activities. Most of the killings you hear about happen between rival drug gangs, so tourists are rarely caught up in the disputes – especially in the Yucatán, which keeps a safe distance from the turf wars occurring elsewhere in Mexico. Cancún, Playa del Carmen and Tulum have all seen a gradual rise in drug violence, but major US cities such as New York and Chicago have higher murder rates than the entire state of Yucatán.
That said, purchasing recreational drugs or even engaging pushers in conversation can mark you as a target for interrogation or worse by police or gangs. You are best off avoiding this entirely.
Theft & Robbery
Crime against tourists here is rare; however, minimizing your risks will help ensure you have a problem-free vacation. Pickpocketing and bag-snatching are relatively minor risks in the Yucatán, but it's a good idea to stay alert on buses and in crowded bus terminals and airports. Mugging is less common than purse-snatching, but more serious: resistance may be met with violence (do not resist). Usually these robbers will not harm you: they just want your money, fast.
- Don’t go where there are few other people in the vicinity; this includes camping in secluded places. A simple rule: if there are women and children around, you’re probably safe.
- Don’t leave any valuables unattended while you swim. Run-and-grab thefts by people lurking in the woods are a common occurrence.
- If your hotel has a safe, leave most of your money, important documents and smaller valuables there in a sealed, signed envelope. Leave valuables in a locker when staying at a hostel.
- In the event of theft, make sure you have emailed yourself photocopies of your passport, drivers license, tourist card, international drivers license, and anything else that might be necessary for establishing your identity at an embassy. Having these documents on a USB key can also be useful in emergencies.
- Carry only a small amount of money – enough for an outing – in a pocket. If you do have to carry valuables, keep them hidden in a money belt underneath your clothing. Keep larger bills separate from your smaller cash so that if someone sees you paying for something, they don't know that you have other money somewhere else.
- Don’t keep money, credit or debit cards, wallets or bags in open view any longer than you have to. At ticket counters, keep a hand or foot on your bag at all times.
- Do not leave anything valuable-looking in a parked vehicle.
- Be careful about accepting drinks from overly social characters in bars, especially in tourist-heavy zones; there have been cases of drugging followed by robbery and assault. Products are available – ranging from drink straws to press on fingernails – that allow you to test for a tainted drink.
- Be wary of attempts at credit-card fraud. One method is when the cashier swipes your card twice (once for the transaction and once for nefarious purposes). Keep your card in sight at all times.
- Another swindle is when you pay for something with a M$500 bill, the clerk palms it and instantly produces a M$50 (they are both pink), asking 'Where's the rest of the money?' You scratch your head and then pay the rest, thinking you accidentally used a M$50 instead of a M$500 note. The swindler keeps the change.
- Purchasing illegal drugs or activities can quickly end up going sour, so avoid putting yourself in danger.