The U.S. State Department late last month issued an ominous warning to travelers visiting the Mexican state of Quintana Roo, advising them to avoid rideshare apps such as Uber and Cabify, a Spanish company that operates in Latin America.
While the app can be found in more than 10,000 cities around the world, the State Department said it discouraged tourists from using Uber in Cancun, which has seen an uptick in hostility towards rideshare drivers.
Here’s the State Department’s warning:
In the wake of recent incidents involving taxi and Uber drivers in Quintana Roo, U.S. citizens are reminded of guidance provided on Travel.State.gov, 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.
Why has this warning been sent now? There has been brewing tension between local taxicab unions, who have protested that rideshares should be subject to the same rules they are and should be ordered to have business licenses, thus giving rideshare apps an unfair advantage over taxi drivers. Such tension has spilled out from the airport to popular tourist attractions such as the Kukulcán boulevard in the hotel district.
Travelers who have visited Cancun in the past may remember that rideshare options weren’t readily available from Cancun Airport. Rideshares had been blocked from operating in Cancun until recently when a judge’s court order allowed rideshare apps like Uber and Cabify to operate legally in the area. Uber responded favorably to the ruling, saying that the company maintained that it did not require a public transport concession to operate in the area, according to a report from the Cancun Sun, a local media outlet.
High costs, coupled with aggressive tactics by drivers at the airport, have prompted some travelers to forgo medallion taxicabs in favor of much-cheaper rideshare apps.
Uber, for its part, hasn’t made mention of any turmoil on its Cancun page, instead providing a map of where Uber operates in the Quintana Roo region and offering price estimates for fares in the area. For instance, an Uber X from Cancun International Airport to the popular Hotel Zone (Zona Hotelera) has a minimum fare of just 35 Mexican Pesos (roughly $2).
In sharp contrast, rates on the Cancun Airport’s website list fares ranging from $25 (if booked online) to $45 (if booked at the airport). These fares are in U.S. dollars.
Local reports say the military has been deployed at beaches and to the Hotel Zone–where many all-inclusive resorts are located–to avoid violence between taxicab drivers and rideshare drivers from spilling over to tourists.
Is It Safe To Use Uber In Cancun?
In recent weeks, according to the Associated Press, drivers and riders have been accosted by protesters–and some travelers hitched rides to the airport in police cars as a result of the protests. Late last month, taxi drivers were accused of pelting Uber drivers with rocks.
Whether you plan to take a local taxi, Uber, or another rideshare option, there are ways to be proactive about your safety. The Uber app offers a feature that allows friends or family to monitor your location. Additionally, many smartphones, such as the iPhone, offer a “find my” option, that allows friends or loved ones to have access to your real-time location.
Relatively recent issues of violent crime in Quintana Roo have garnered international attention and unnerved tourists, who had been assured that Cancun was relatively safe. The State Department encourages travelers headed to Quintana Roo to exercise caution in the region due to the risk of crime and kidnapping.
In November 2021, two people were killed during a shootout at the Hyatt Ziva Riviera Cancun, a 5-star resort. That attack, in which armed gunman reportedly arrived by boat and stormed the resort, was said to be drug-related. And in January 2022, a gunfight at a resort near Playa del Carmen killed a Canadian citizen and injured two others.
Still, the likelihood of violent crime in tourist hotspots remains relatively isolated.
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