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Safety Dos and Don'ts When Traveling Mexico's Riviera Maya

Updated on October 16, 2012
Beachfront at Mayan ruins of Tulum,  Riviera Maya
Beachfront at Mayan ruins of Tulum, Riviera Maya | Source

Mexico's Riviera Maya

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A markerPuerto Morelos, Mexico -
Puerto Morelos, Quintana Roo, Mexico
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Northern point of the Riviera Maya

B markerPlaya del Carmen -
Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo, Mexico
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Largest city in the Riviera Maya

C markerTulum, Mexico -
Tulum, Quintana Roo, Mexico
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Home of the Mayan ruins in the Riviera Maya

D markerFelipe Carrillo Puerto -
Felipe Carrillo Puerto, Quintana Roo, Mexico
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Southern point of the Riviera Maya

Helpful Tips for Your Tropical Vacation

Mexico’s Riviera Maya. Currently trending as a popular travel destination for its white sand beaches, luscious jungles, ancient Mayan ruins, and let’s not forget, the margaritas. But sometimes there are precautions that should be taken to avoid having a tropical dream vacation turn into a nightmare excursion. Here are some basic safety tips to ensure your trip to paradise is exactly that…paradise.


1) DO bring plenty of cash with you, either in American dollars or Mexican pesos. I was advised by previous Riviera Mayan vacationers not to worry about bringing a lot of cash as long as I had my credit card. I quickly found there were several places that were Cash Only and not all of them post it. The limited cash we brought quickly diminished and we soon found ourselves desperately seeking an ATM (cajero automático). So bring cash and a credit card and make sure they are secured safely on your person…which brings us to….

2) DO secure your wallet/cash/cards/purse securely. For men, keep your wallet in your front pocket at all times. My husband did this, but he had his camera in his back pocket and almost lost it to a thief in Playa del Carmen. I was walking behind my husband and the thief caught me watching him as he slyly tried to pull the camera string. He swiftly pulled his hand away and took off running down Avenida Quinta (Fifth Avenue ). His theft was unsuccessful, but had I not seen him, it could have been a different story as my husband did not notice a thing. For women, I suggest bringing a small purse with a zipper closure that has a long strap so you can wrap it diagonally across your body. No one can grab it and take off running without dragging you down along the road with it.

3) DO bring & use sunscreen everywhere you go. This seems like a no-brainer, but is worth the mention. My husband’s Norwegian blood typically provides him with a glowing tan, but he burned quickly in the Mexican sun. My brother-in-law burned as well after forgetting to re-apply before going snorkeling. The Caribbean sun is different than we Americans are used to; it’s much closer to the Equator and burns hotter. Better to be safe than burned and have it ruin your trip.

4) DO use the public transportation. There are many tourists who do not feel comfortable driving in a foreign country. I was pleasantly surprised when taking taxis and the public bus to and from our various destinations. The taxis and buses were significantly cleaner than I find ours to be in America, they were air-conditioned, and the drivers spoke enough English to make communication no problem. They were also very inexpensive, certainly more so than the cost to both rent and gas up a rental car. Buses were $3-4 (American) one way to most local destinations. The speed limit seems to be more of a recommendation as the drivers do drive fast, so prepare for that. The buses are sometimes standing room only, but you can always opt to wait for the next bus in hopes of getting a seat (they come by very frequently, we never waited more than 10 minutes).

5) DO be sure to drink plenty of water, but make sure it is bottled. We even used bottled water (agua en botella) to brush our teeth. It is important to stay hydrated, but you don’t want Montezuma’s revenge to make an appearance and ruin your tropical vacation!




1) DON’T pay through the nose for “Cuban” cigars. Due to the Cuban trade embargo put in place by President John F. Kennedy in 1962, it is illegal for Americans to purchase or possess Cuban cigars. This is not restricted to just within our borders…it is illegal for Americans to purchase Cuban cigars ANYWHERE, including Mexico. But let’s be honest. We do it. And there are no Mexican officials who are going to stop tourists from spending American dollars on Cuban cigars. So there are essentially no repercussions. However, it is because Americans are so obsessed with getting our hands on these taboo cigars, that Mexicans have learned ways to pass off Dominican and Nicaraguan cigars as Cuban. There are a lot of fakes out there and a lot of Americans who will unknowingly pay top dollar for them. So unless you are a cigar aficionado who really knows his tobacco, I suggest buying more affordable cigars. La Casa del Habano carries a very nice selection and is rumored to have some legit Cubans amongst their collection (Riviera Maya locations in both Playa del Carmen and Cozumel). Or just stroll down Avenida Quinta in Playa del Carmen, there are several cigar shops including many that roll their own on site. Cubans or not (some will still say they are), my husband and I found a lot of good cigars that we could enjoy WHILE IN MEXICO…which brings us to….

2) DON’T try to sneak Cuban cigars back over the border. Some people do it, and some people probably succeed. I just wouldn’t want to do anything that might put me in a Mexican jail…or an American one, for that matter. If you want to bring home a taste of Mexico, try some tequila. It’s legal and you can get some fantastic deals on upper shelf tequila. I recommend Don Julio Anejo, it costs about $30 in Mexico compared to $60+ in the U.S. (depending on the liquor laws and taxes in your respective state…we live in Washington State where we are taxed through the nose on alcohol, so this was a great deal for us).

3) DON’T bring your valuables from home. A Mexican vacation is not the time or the place to showcase all your finest jewelry or electronic toys (IPads, mp3 players, etc.). Petty theft is a huge problem in Mexico, and although the Riviera Maya has the reputation of being one of the safest areas in the country, you don’t want to be the exception to that rule. So if it means the world to you, leave it at home.

4) DON’T go anywhere alone at night, especially down dark alleyways or off the beaten path. This should just be a code to live by.



5) DON’T touch the iguanas. The Riviera Maya is surrounded by jungle and iguana sightings occur about every 100 feet. But while these reptiles are certainly interesting and often make perfectly good pets at home, these jungle creatures are wild. They can carry disease, parasites, and in some cases even salmonella, so it’s best not to touch them. However, DO feel free to take lots of pictures!

Just follow these safety tips and the Riviera Maya can be the perfect location for a tropical vacation. Happy Traveling!


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    • Happyboomernurse profile image

      Gail Sobotkin 4 years ago from South Carolina

      Lots of great tips and I loved your photos. Thanks for sharing this useful information.

      Voted up across the board except for funny.

    • BrandiNoelle profile image

      BrandiNoelle 4 years ago from Washington State

      Thank you, I appreciate the positive feedback! :)

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