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HomeMarketRead this travel warning before taking an Uber in Cancun

Read this travel warning before taking an Uber in Cancun

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What the hail?

Cancun travelers should be careful when ordering Ubers and other app-based ride-sharing services, the U.S. State Department warned earlier this week, as tensions and potential violence have risen between local medallion taxi drivers and competing Uber

On Monday — the same day that the the U.S. Embassy and consulates in Mexico issued the security advisory— taxi drivers blocked Kukulcan Boulevard, a main road leading in and out of the hotel district in the resort of Cancun, which forced some tourists to walk or catch rides in police pickups to get check in or to catch their flights. The Cancun police department shared photos of travelers getting into the bed of police trucks, and said “given the blockades on the Kukulcan Boulevard, our transit officers helped people get to the airport,” the Associated Press reported.

Videos purporting to show taxi drivers harassing tourists and ride-share drivers have also been making the rounds on social media.

Ride-hailing apps like Uber had been blocked in Cancun until earlier this month, when a court granted an injunction allowing Uber to operate. The tension between the uniformed medallion taxi drivers and the ride-sharing drivers comes as the traditionally higher cost of registered medallion taxis in Cancun has steered many tourists toward using the ride-hailing apps, instead. Uber competitor Lyft
has made investments in a Mexican operation but has been slow to get up and running there.

At a minimum, the State Department is warning Americans to stay alert while traveling to the Quintana Roo state of Mexico, home of spring break hotspots like Cancun, Playa del Carmen and Tulum.

‘Official complaints against Uber and other drivers do occur, however, and past disputes between these services and local taxi unions have occasionally turned violent, resulting in injuries to U.S. citizens in some instances.’

The warning reads: “In the wake of recent incidents involving taxi and Uber drivers in Quintana Roo, U.S. citizens are reminded of guidance provided on, specifically about the use of application-based transportation services in Mexico, which states: Application-based car services such as Uber and Cabify are available in many Mexican cities, and generally offer another safe alternative to taxis. Official complaints against Uber and other drivers do occur, however, and past disputes between these services and local taxi unions have occasionally turned violent, resulting in injuries to U.S. citizens in some instances.”

What’s more, the State Department has tagged Mexico’s Quintana Roo state with its “Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution” warning due to the potential for crime and kidnapping. “Criminal activity and violence may occur in any location, at any time, including in popular tourist destinations,” its advisory says. “Travelers should maintain a high level of situational awareness, avoid areas where illicit activities occur, and promptly depart from potentially dangerous situations.”

An Uber spokesperson told MarketWatch that, “Uber is deeply committed to safety around the world, and we have teams in the U.S. and Mexico dedicated to working with police and providing 24/7 support through the Uber app for riders and drivers.”

The rep also noted that Uber’s U.S. safety features are also available to riders and drivers in Mexico, including an in-app emergency button to call 911, Share My Trip, and RideCheck, among others.

Uber also added that, “It is important to clarify that this is relative only to Cancun due to widely publicized incidents instigated by third parties in a very specific tourist destination,” and noted that the State Department “repeatedly refers to Uber as a safe alternative throughout the country.”

The government alert also suggested that American travelers take the following steps to stay safe while visiting these areas of Mexico:

  • Review recommendations for your destination in our Travel Advisory for Mexico. 

  • In light of widely publicized security incidents in popular tourist destinations, please remember that all destinations have some level of risk.  Violent crime — such as homicide, kidnapping, carjacking, and robbery — is widespread and common in Mexico.

  • Review your personal security plans.

  • Be aware of your surroundings and maintain a low profile.

  • Monitor local media for updates.

  • Call 911 in Mexico for immediate assistance.

This warning comes ahead of the 2023 spring break travel season, which peaks in March as students (particularly college students) get a week off.

The travel industry is bracing for a busy spring break as a strong U.S. dollar
and pent-up frustration from the pandemic continue to stoke interest in traveling domestically or abroad. More than half of Americans are planning at least one trip this spring, according to a recent Vacasa survey. And Cancun is typically a top spring break pick.


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