Earlier this year, the US Department of State released a security alert indicating that the Embassy had received information about a security threat in the tourist destination of Playa del Carmen. Because of the heightened alert for its citizens, the U.S. Consular Agency in the region is closed until further notice. The U.S. government is not permitting its employees to travel to the area.
The Department of State has previously noted that the state of Quintana Roo (which includes the popular Riviera Maya tourist areas of Cancun, Cozumel, Playa del Carmen, and Tulum) has experienced an increase in homicide rates over previous years. While most of these homicides appeared to be targeted assassinations by organized crime groups, turf battles between such groups have resulted in violent crime in areas frequented by U.S. citizens.
On March 1, authorities discovered undetonated explosive devices on a tourist ferry that operates between Cozumel and Playa del Carmen. On February 21, an explosive device detonated on a tourist ferry in Playa del Carmen, resulting in more than 20 injuries.
The US State Department has designated a Level 2 Travel Advisory for Quintana Roo, indicating a need for travellers to exercise increased caution statewide. Additionally, U.S. government personnel are currently restricted from travelling to Playa del Carmen and from using tourist ferries between Cozumel and Playa del Carmen. If the government won’t let its employees travel to this area, its best to consider other options.
The U.S. Consular Agency in Playa del Carmen has been closed until further notice. U.S. citizens in Mexico requiring Consular Services can find the nearest consular location here.
In addition to the advisory regarding Playa del Carmen, the State Department published an Alert on March 7 highlighting potentially unforeseen security issues that travellers may encounter in Mexico during Spring Break. These included:
- Medical Emergencies: An illness or accident could result in the need to seek medical treatment or hospitalization in Mexico. Private hospital prices are comparable to those in the United States. Many facilities require payment in advance of treatment.
- Drowning: Some beaches have strong undercurrents and rip tides. Beaches may lack life guards, warnings, or signs of unsafe conditions.
- Unregulated alcohol: U.S. citizens have reported losing consciousness or becoming injured after one or two drinks, and may have consumed unregulated alcohol.
- Sexual assault: U.S. citizens have reported incidents of rape or sexual assault. Perpetrators may target inebriated or isolated individuals.
- Drugs: Drug possession and use, including medical marijuana, is illegal in Mexico and may result in a lengthy jail sentence.
- Arrests: Drunk and disorderly behaviour and urinating in public are illegal in Mexico. If you break Mexican law, you will be arrested.
To address these potential issues, the Embassy suggested that travellers take the following actions:
- Purchase travel insurance that specifically covers you in Mexico and includes medical evacuation insurance.
- Avoid strong currents and do not swim while drinking or when warning flags note unsafe conditions.
- Drink responsibly and watch your drink at all times. If you begin to feel ill, seek medical attention immediately.
- Know your drinking companions and stay in a group of friends who have your safety in mind when you are in clubs, bars, out walking in dimly-lit areas, or in a taxi at night. Obey Mexican law and remember Mexican laws may differ from U.S. laws.
- Contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate if you need assistance.