Is it safe to take a taxi in Cancun? Here are the safest ways to get … – USA TODAY

U.S. travelers visiting Mexico’s Caribbean coastline may be unsure of the safest way to get around after the State Department warned tourists of possible harassment and attacks from local taxi unions for taking Ubers instead. 
The U.S. State Department issued an alert on Jan. 23 for Quintana Roo – home to popular tourist destinations such as Cancun, Playa del Carmen and Tulum – after incidents involving taxi drivers “occasionally turned violent” against Uber drivers and their passengers sometimes “resulting in injuries to U.S. citizens in some instances.” 
The introduction of Uber, which was permitted to operate in Mexico at the start of 2023, angered local taxi unions.
Videos of tourists being berated, circled and attacked by taxi drivers circulated on social media. There were also images and videos of people being forced into police pickups to circumvent taxi blockades to the airport.
Is Mexico travel safe?:What to know about visiting Cabo, Cancun, Playa del Carmen and more
Learn more: Best travel insurance
Saving the sharks:Mexico indefinitely bans great white shark cage-diving at this tourist hotspot
“Taxistas is a very powerful organization in Mexico, and they are not afraid to protest and/or intimidate to keep their monopoly,” Jeff Lanno, founder of Hola Weddings, a travel agency based on the Riviera Maya, told USA TODAY.
“Quintana Roo is in general a safe place to visit and get around as a local and as a tourist,” Hola Weddings community manager Ricardo Cruz, who is originally from the south of Mexico City and now lives in Playa del Carmen, said. “I have traveled to major cities in the U.S., Europe, and Asia and I feel much safer here than in some parts of New York or Istanbul. I think common sense and basic precautions apply everywhere you travel.”
Here’s what travel agents with experience planning trips in the Cancun area said about the best and safest ways to get around:
Even though Uber may be more affordable than taxis, the ride-hailing service is not widely available and its scope of driving is limited – it is not allowed at the airport and often stopped at resorts (where taxis usually wait in front).
“The issue surrounding Ubers and taxis in Cancun has been an on-and-off situation for the past several years,” Matteo Luthi, chief product officer of Mexico-based travel company Journey Mexico, said. Luthi has been based in Cancun for the past 12 years. “However, Cancun authorities have recently and officially legalized Uber, so we expect things to stabilize in the next few months.”
Lanno agreed. “We have thousands of U.S.-based customers flying into Cancun airport every year and at this time I would absolutely not recommend taking an Uber in the area.”
He said he, his friends and colleagues have yet to take an Uber in Cancun. They’re also not widely available. On a Tuesday night, he said only one was available in the entire Cancun hotel zone. 
There are other alternatives. “For people who plan of moving a lot along the coast, a rental car can be worth it,” he said. “However, for those staying in one area or planning to go to a resort and maybe going on an excursion or out once or twice, I would say stick to a transfer company and taxi and/or tour company. Cheaper and less hassle for sure.”
If you are making a quick trip around the area and don’t want a rental car, a taxi may be the right fit.
Cruz recommends getting a taxi from your hotel if you can, since “there is a sense of order and control.” He said, “This also helps to locate items left behind or to clarify any misunderstanding during the drive.” There are also taxi stands around at most visitor sites.
If you’re hailing one on the street, the team at Hola Weddings said to keep an eye out for a few things that ensure a taxi is legitimate.
Before getting into the taxi, make sure to ask for a rate card and agree on a price. “Drivers will usually try to overcharge you, or they simply won’t take you to where you are going because they think it’s too far,” Cruz said. 
If you pay in U.S. dollars rather than Pesos, expect the rate to be inflated, he added.
If anything, Lanno said you can ask to see a rate card, which all taxis should have, but “it’s rumored that some of them have different cards with higher rates on them.”
Both Hola Weddings and Journey Mexico said they always arrange private airport transportation for their clients because it’s the safest and easiest mode of transportation plus the prices are locked in. There are also official airport taxis at Cancun International Airport, Luthi said.
Kathleen Wong is a travel reporter based in Hawaii. You can reach her at