Breaking News: Six gringos ventured out of the hotel zone into “dangerous” Cancun city and survived! Nah, we didn’t make it into the news… but I think we should have as so few people who visit Cancun stay in the city. We were warned by countless people of the dangers of the city, and countless more people were perplexed by why we would ever dream to stay outside the hotel zone.
People seem to think of Cancun as swarming with drug activity and violence. In reality, teenagers walk alone after dark, kids play soccer and climb on play play structures after sunset; at midnight, families and friends are still happily eating tacos from roadside stops. None of them seem at all concerned about all “danger” that they have to live with everyday. You are so much more likely to get your wallet stolen on the hotel strip while under the influence, than you ever would just walking through Mexican neighborhoods. A shop owner who we talked to agreed that there are areas where drug activity and crime is greater, no different than Denver, LA, New York or any big city. If you end up somewhere that feels unsafe, trust your instincts and leave.
Upon arrival, my family got of the bus at the station in central Cancun. We had to walk for hours and by the time we arrived to our Airbnb in south Cancun it was almost eleven o’clock. We did not feel unsafe at all walking in the dark, or unsafe fitting six people in a tiny taxi while chatting with our seventy year old driver who thought we were hilarious. We did not feel unsafe getting hamburguesas, tortas, and tacos from a family business on the side of the road. We did not feel unsafe after getting on the wrong bus home from the beach, and arriving in a neighborhood miles away from where we needed to be. After getting off the bus lost, confused, and unsure of how we would get home, we were greeted by a happy group of locals who were talking, laughing,making and eating empanadas (which were amazing by the way and only a 50 cents). It felt like we were a part of the community.
The hotel zone is great for some people. Its easy, all inclusive, and very American. If you are coming to Mexico primarily for the beach and margaritas, it’s perfect for you. Have a blast! The beach is wonderful. On the other hand, if you came to Mexico to experience the beach and culture, don’t stay in the hotel zone. Rent an airbnb casa or couch surf! You will save a ton of money, learn some Spanish, and stay away from all of the crowds and tourist traps of the hotel strip. However you choose to travel, have fun and stay safe.