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Mexico: Safety, Health and Money

Posted by Tony & Cheri on December 28, 2009

Ahhh....the gorgeous blue water of the CaribbeanHere at the Luna Blue Hotel in Playa del Carmen, Mexico we like many in the tourist business are wondering if 2010 will see a return of visitors to the Yucatan, or whether the fears that scared many people away from this part of the Caribbean earlier this year will continue. We know for sure that some people still have questions about crime and illness in Mexico…we see it in the statistics from visits to our blog where entries written months ago about safety issues are still the most read and sought out. And we hear it from people in the US when we travel there…”You live in Mexico? Aren’t you afraid?”

No, we are not afraid to live here. We continue to love our life here and enjoy running one of the area’s most popular small hotels. And we are not afraid to recommend this part of paradise as a travel destination whether with us or at one of the other fine resorts or hotels in Playa. And so we are going to end this year by once again talking about safety in Playa Del Carmen and the Mayan Riviera.


Mexico’s government is in a battle with drug dealers. That battle is sometimes very violent, and some innocent people have been hurt and killed. But the battle being fought (and won) by the Mexican government is NOT taking place anywhere near the tourist areas of Mexico’s Mayan Riviera, the Caribbean coast which stretches from Cancun to Tulum. The violence which erupts between drug dealers and the police is primarily centered on the border of Mexico and the southwest United States. It is over this border that guns are smuggled to Mexico and drugs are smuggled to the US. The competition over these smuggling routes between drug dealers and the disruption of those routes by law enforcement has caused much of the violence which is so sensationally reported by the media.

Imagine yourself on this beach...However, the Yucatan resort coast of Mexico has not experienced this type of drug-related warfare. We always remind people that Mexico is similar in many ways to the US. It is a huge country with borders on two oceans. It is divided into many separate states with sovereign governments under a single federal structure. Its people are diverse with different racial backgrounds, economic classes and cultural histories. Like the US it is difficult to pick one part of Mexico and claim it is representative of the whole country and people. Yet often the media of the US and Canada do exactly that, portraying Mexico as a solitary existence where drug dealers and banditos rule the country. While this may sell newspapers and cause people to stay tuned to the channel, it is simply not true.

According to the US State Department, the violence brought about by the drug cartels is centered in Ciudad Juarez, which sits on the northern border of Mexico across from El Paso, Texas. The distance from Ciudad Juarez to Playa del Carmen is approximately 2300 miles. This is about three times the distance from Chicago to New York, around twice the distance from New York to Miami and about the same distance as Los Angeles to Pittsburgh. And while there are travel warnings from the State Department regarding travel in the Mexican border areas with parts of New Mexico, Arizona and Texas, there are NO TRAVEL WARNINGS for the Caribbean coast of Mexico.

We ask again as we have before on this blog: would you cancel your trip to Disneyworld in Orlando because of a crime wave in New York? Would you avoid vacationing in Los Angles because of drug problems in Pittsburgh? We think most people would say “no, of course not.” Yet those who use the drug crimes of central Mexico to say the Mayan Riviera is unsafe are doing that exact type of thing. They are painting all of Mexico with a single brush, and that is unfair and untrue.

Of course our little section of paradise has problems with crime just as every city in the world does. But as the US State Department’s Overseas Security Advisory Council 2009 report found, “The Yucatan Peninsula has not suffered the same level of escalating violence seen in other parts of Mexico.” And if you find safety in numbers, remember that the State Department says that over 3 million Americans (and countless more Canadians, Europeans and South Americans) visit Cancun every year. The vast, vast majority of these tourists will never suffer anything more dangerous than sunburn.

Traveling to a foreign country always involves some risk. Using common sense about how you behave, where you go and how much you drink usually lessens those risks considerably. Travel to Playa del Carmen is no different and no more dangerous than travel to any large city in the US.


The beach in Playa del Carmen, MexicoThe single most devastating blow to Mexico’s tourism in the Yucatan this year was undoubtedly the swine flu/H1N1 scare. We say “scare” because the flu itself was never a problem in this part of the world. The real problem was the hysterical reaction of the media and the internet community.

When the swine flu epidemic hit Mexico City, the Mexican government and health workers responded in the best way possible. They announced it was happening, took immediate steps to isolate it and invited in international health organizations to monitor and investigate. Mexico’s reward for such exemplary behavior was to be publicly chastised as a “Typhoid Mary” among nations.

Bureaucrats and politicians trying to look important joined forces with a sensationalizing media and an internet full of self-appointed guardians of the public health to basically call for a boycott of Mexico. By the time it became apparent that the flu was present everywhere in the world and was milder than the seasonal winter influenza with a much lower fatality rate, the damage to Mexico’s tourist industry had already been done.

However, in the end, we did learn some important things. We learned that Mexico has a modern health care system which was ready and able to meet a medical crisis. We learned that Mexico has a policy of transparency when sharing information and seeking assistance. And while the swine flu never reached epidemic proportions here in the Yucatan, we saw doctors, hospitals and government offices were on alert and ready to deal with any problem that arose.

However even with this crisis now passed, there are those who are still concerned about medical care in Mexico. To those folks, we can say that Playa has a number of excellent medical facilities including the Red Cross hospital, the ultra-modern Hospiten hospital, and numerous emergency care facilities. We can also say that we personally have found the health care here to be of the highest order. For example, Dr. Eduardo Rovirosa, who is our family doctor and is on call for guests at our hotel, has seen us through any number of illnesses over the years, and we know him to be the equivalent of any physician in the US n terms of skill, training, and dedication. We think he is typical of the medical community in Playa.

Being ill on vacation can be a scary experience, particularly when you are in a foreign country. Rest assured that competent modern care is available in Playa del Carmen should you ever need it.

Why Mexico?

Along with fears of crime and rumors about exotic illnesses, another reason people think they should avoid Mexico is the economy. The “staycation’ media blitz by the US hospitality industry has pushed the idea that it is cheaper to stay home in the US for vacations this year. We have already spoken about the safety issue…now let’s talk about money. What does your dollar buy you on vacation in Mexico?

Isn't this better than a snowbank?The peso/dollar conversion rate reached an all-time high this year when it skyrocketed to 15 to 1 against the dollar. The current conversion is still around 13 to 1. With the current conversion rate, a dollar spent at home in the US is worth only a dollar, while in Mexico it is worth a third more! And not only is the dollar worth more, but there are also deals to be had. With the drop in visitors this year many hotels, restaurants, and tours are offering discounts and deals that will carry over into 2010.

As a result of the tourist-friendly economy here, Mexico and the Mayan Riviera are ending up on more and more top ten lists for travelers concerned about cost. Budget Travel magazine and US News and World Report’s Money section are just two of the national publications recommending Mexico as a money-saving travel destination in the coming year.

Of course, it’s not just the savings that are attracting visitors. Mexico’s Caribbean coast remains one of the most beautiful places on earth. Recognizing this fact, the 2009 Travel Leaders Company’s annual survey of travel agents in the US yielded the surprising results of having four Mexico destinations in the top ten places for Americans to vacation. Cancun, Playa del Carmen, the Mayan Riviera and cruises to Mexico were all on the list.

To top off the year the prestigious Times of London named our own Playa del Carmen the number one destination for a tropical beach vacation in the entire world! It’s hard to see how a “staycation” at home buried in a snow bank is just as good as laying on the white sand of the world’s best beach. We say forget the “staycation” and go for the “playcation”…or better yet a “Playacation!”

The facts seem pretty clear…Mexico is not only safe, it is a world-class travel destination with great value for your dollar. We hope we have cleared up some misconceptions about Mexico, and have made you think for just a moment about visiting a true tropical paradise…our home, Playa del Carmen.

Read our most current blog entry about safety:
Safety in Playa del Carmen Mexico ~ 2012

18 Responses to “Mexico: Safety, Health and Money”

  1. Pat Andrews said

    We’re not scared off. We’ll be there in April and again in June.

  2. DavidB said

    Good blog Tony. I had a reason to use Playa’s hospital last March and received very good care. A U.S. trained specialist came down from Cancun to see me. The care was right up there with any US hospital. (and my wife’s a RN) We have never felt we were in danger any time we’ve been in Playa. The Rivera Maya is a great vacation value. See you soon.

  3. larryd said

    We were in Playa in November and wish we were back there now. We had no conerns about safety or health.

  4. Well researched and well written! Thank you Tony and best wishes for a successful 2010!

  5. Glenn Hess said

    I was is Playa last March, and Jalapa in August. I had a wonderful time, and met many wonderful people. I`m looking forward to my visit in Mar to Playa.

  6. We’re not scurred!! 😉

    Trust me, we’re longing to return to Playa del Carmen as soon as we can…but with me being unemployed (my own choice – walking away from a bad situation, er, job, was the best decision I made this year), us getting used to the financial blow of only having one income and with our 2010 goal of paying off all debt…well…a vacay in PDC is on temporary hold.

    It is our goal that we can, hopefully, make it down for the holidays in 2010…we’ll see.

    We really miss you guys!!

  7. This situation has been a Stupidly Uninformed Media in the USA and other countries around the world.

    I was there during the H1N1 scare also know as the Swine Flu scare of 2009. The Mexican Government is the only Government in the World to take the proper action against this flue. I applaud them.

    As for the ecomomy, well, it is around the world and the Riviera Maya is still a great deal for a vacations.

    Drug wars on the border of Mexico and USA is not the total country of Mexico. What about the whole of the USAa? Does not a border have two sides?

    Come to the Riviera Maya and have a Magical time finding all the Magic of the Area.

    bill in tulsa

  8. Dear Tony & Cheri,

    THANK YOU for writing this. As a Mexican, it fills me with joy to see non-Mexicans loving this country as much (sometimes even MORE) than we do. I have been living here all my life (born in Cancun!), and I have to agree with ALL that you say.

    So people, hear it from both a local AND a non-local! IT IS SAFE HERE!

    Very well written, good research… congratulations! And thanks for helping us! I’ll gladly republish your post on all my social channels… giving you your well deserved credit, of course!

    Heres one place I’ve already republished your story:

    Warm regards from Cancun! Next time I’m in Playa, I’ll pay a visit to your hotel! Sounds lovely!

    All the best,
    Camilo Olea

  9. Kirsten said

    We’re not scared! i’ve been to Playa twice now and we are coming back for our 3rd stay soon!!! We’ve also traveled to Cozumel, and Cancun..I have never once been given any reason to be afraid!!! The people in this area are so friendly and helpful!! We love it! As far as the economy goes it is bad everywhere and where else can you stay and eat so cheap???? No, we will be back again and again if we can afford to go!!!

  10. Sue said

    Thanks Tony and Cheri. Like I said before you guys are awesome and you do so much for everybody. I am not afraid of crime, sickness or financial problems when I go to Mexico. It’s one of the most beautiful, friendliest and economical places I have been
    to and believe me, I’ve been several times.

  11. Mary & Joel said

    We’re planning to visit again in the Spring. We’d love to move down in 9 years when we retire … I love receiving your posts …. you two inspire us to follow our hearts and try your adventure. I enjoyed the book “Gringoes in Paradise” and I believe you two are no longer gringoes …. you have been Mexicanized!
    Hasta Abril……….

  12. Louise said

    Thanks T&C for a great Blog entry. I love reading your Blog.
    All that you have said is so true!

    My 2 centavos worth… 🙂

    -Funny… I feel safer walking around Playa’s Avenidas & Calles at night than I do in my own home town. And my hometown is known to be a safe city, btw. Wish we were in Playa. 😦

    -Funny… how I (we) are more fearful of H1N1, right here in our own Canadian back yard. We’ve gone through 1/2 dozen of large Purell bottles already! We would still take all of the ordinary precautions as far as hand sanitizing if we were in Playa as we do here. We’ve always done that here anyway… Don’t have to be in Playa to exercise cleanliness. 🙂 It’s a ‘given’ in our day to day lives. Wish we were in Playa. 😦

    -Funny how our $dollar$ has always gone a lot further in Playa thatn it does here, in Canada. And that is a ‘given’ too! 🙂 Wish we were there, in Playa 😦

    Last but not least… We love our Luna Blue…and we love you!
    Through all of your blood, sweat & tears… Luna Blue is what it is today because of YOU!! Don’t we know this! 🙂
    Also…Playa is a better place to live because of your generosity, your love and caring of/for the Mexican community.
    I don’t know anyone who has gone out for their way, as much as you have, to make your hotel guests and locals friends feel so welcomed and loved as you have. And… let’s not forget how lucky & blessed your staff is to be employed by you!
    I need to learn so much from you. 😦

    Bless you…bless the Luna…bless Playa.

    Hope to see you in the near future. (God…we ‘really’ hope to see ‘you’ soon.) xo
    In the meantime…we are holding you near & dear to our hearts. 🙂

    Best of ‘everything’ for 2010! xoxox

  13. […] like to take some excerpts from “Mexico: Safety, Health and Money”, a GREAT article by Tony & Cheri of Luna Blue Hotel, in Playa del Carmen, Riviera Maya, Mexico. […]

  14. T.J. said

    Great blog entry. I could not agree more!!!!!

    See you in Feb. We can’t wait

  15. ALLY said

    Thank you so much for writing this blog. There aren’t very many other articles on the web providing such open dialog and reassurance. I have been looking for an article such as yours to share with my in-laws. We are hoping to have them join us on our next vacation to the Mayan Riviera.

  16. SteveO from Texas said

    Great information, i will be there in May, i cant stop doing research on PDC, im really looking forward to snorkeling and partying. everybody at work keeps telling me i’m crazy for going, but i keep telling them exactly what you just wrote about. i’ll be sure to pass this on.

  17. susan and ayla from jersey said

    my 16 year old daughter and myself, a 52 year old women, just returned from a heavenly vacation in playa del carmen. American feels more like a third world country then mexico! This morning when i woke up, just the thought of a glass of concentrated orange juice and lousy cup of american coffee made me want to dive into chronic depression. I was born and raised in the new york area and know all about the crime and safety. As a single mother traveling in a foreign country it is a major concern when traveling ANYWHERE. I find that “common sense” is the best protection. Upon arriving home i was slammed by friends and family about the women killed this past week in Acuapulco. Funny, they didn’t mention any of the murders that took place in New Jersey or anywhere else in the states. When i put on the news every morning theres at least 6 or 7 murders in philly every weekend. Our stay at the Luna Blue Hotel was beyond heavenly. We enjoyed walking amongst a sea of happy people from all over the world both day and night. The beaches were cleaner and more relaxing then any Jersey Shore beach i’ve ever been on and i live on the jersey shore. To all the people who pass judgment on visiting Playa, all i can say is, YOUR CRAZY for wanting to stay in the U.S.! Also, i’m happy as hell most people feel they would NEVER go to Mexico. I wouldn’t want to be around people with that mindset anyway.:) Thank god for Playa and the Luna Blue Hotel. Our Treetop Terrace room was “simply perfect”. Our eyelevel view of the coconuts on the coconut tree will be the wallpaper of my cellphone. The tropical garden setting of the Luna Blue Hotel is the most heartwarming atmosphere i’ve ever seen. There just aren’t words to describe the wonder of this place. My daughter and I are already planning our next trip and it can’t come quick enough. Thank you for keeping the Luna Blue the “hidden gem” of PDC. Thank you for the swing bar 🙂 and we’ll see you at christmas time.

  18. susan and ayla from jersey said

    Please post more info on the “tattoo convention in May.

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