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Tourists Warned Of Increasingly Common Taxi Scam In Cancun

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Cancun is one of the top destinations for American sun-seekers looking to escape the harsh winter months. It is home to a series of world-class hotels, a pristine coastline straddling the Caribbean Sea, and a developing wellness culture, but there is one big caveat tourists are being warned of: the city's decades-old problem with taxi scams is now increasingly more common.

Traveler Boarding A Taxi

For years, travelers to Cancun have struggled with day-to-day corruption on different levels. Be it restaurant owners that overcharge Americans on the assumption they have money to splurge, corrupt police officers who will extort naive visitors over every minutia, and of course, inflated transfer costs that make New York fares sound like a steal of a deal.

Sadly, in spite of the local government's zero-tolerance policy against crime, it seems Cancun is still a long way to go regarding exploitation:

The Average Price Of A Cancun Taxi Is Higher Than In New York

Cancun Airport, Shuttle Area, Cancun, Mexico

Heading into the winter months, when a record nine million guests will be landing in Cancun, Cancun's infamously sky-high taxi fares are averaging 500 pesos, or the equivalent of USD 24.35, for a 3-mile ride – that is, if you can speak some Spanish and you're really good at negotiating. Otherwise, you could be paying a lot more even.

According to the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission, a similar ride in New York would cost a much lower USD 12.34, proving Mexico's tourist zones are becoming more upscale by the minute. The Cancun Sun attributes the phenomenon to a lack of competition, seeing that popular ride-sharing companies like Uber, which offer cheaper transportation, are banned.

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Exterior Area Of Cancun Airport, Terminal 4, Cancun, Mexico

Of course, there is public transportation in the city and a multitude of collectivos, minivans that only run once they're filled to capacity, which are usually preferred by locals and resort employees. These are not, however, ideal for vacationers in search of a luxurious retreat – but then again, it is the only viable option left compared to cripplingly expensive cabs.

What's The Rate Across Other Riviera Maya Hotspots?

beachgoers in cancun get some sun

While the official rate is much lower, tourists in the Riviera Maya have been reportedly paying 600 pesos every three miles when lesser-known tourist destinations like Bacalar may charge only 60, around ten times as much. In a study conducted by The Cancun Sun, out of 35 tourists that were interviewed, 86% paid over 500 pesos for a 5-minute ride.

That's an estimated USD 24.27 every mile and a half. In other words, the vast majority of Americans vacationing in Cancun will fall victim to corrupt practices when calling a taxi. Understandably, not only short-term visitors but digital nomads who have moved to the Mexican Caribbean are starting to verbalize their discontent about the abuse.

Young Female Tourist Gazing At The Tulum Ruins And Beach Below, Riviera Maya, Caribbean Coast Of Mexico

After attending a co-working meet-up, the Cancun Sun concluded that 100% of ex-pats and remote workers living in the Cancun-Tulum belt who were present refuse to take taxis, mostly because they simply ‘can't afford it'. Alternatively, many get around with rented scooters, making this an option for couples or solo travelers.

Tulum Is The Worst Place For Budget Travelers In The State

Young Female Traveler With Hat Looking At Tulum Ruins, Tulum, Quintana Roo, Mexico

The situation in Cancun may be critical, but in the nearby resort haven of Tulum, it is even worse, with over-development and consumerism being largely to blame for the town's decaying tourism scene. Richard Downy of Rapid City, who's been living in Tulum for half a decade, was quoted saying it will ‘continue getting more expensive' unless the state of Quintana Roo intervenes.

Downy states prices continue to ‘double' every year, but as there are no alternatives, tourists simply have to pay it. Holding a similar view, Stephanie Sargento, originally from Washington, is yet another digital nomad enamored with Mexico who moved to Tulum ‘because it basically looked like heaven on Earth', besides being ‘cheaper and more relaxed' than other beach hotspots in America.

Paradise Beach In Tulum, Mexico

Sargento couldn't have been more wrong: despite conceding the overall cost of living is lower in the Riviera Maya compared to her previous base of Seattle, in the past year and a half, she noted taxis not longer fit her budget, and like others in the same meeting, buying a scooter was her way of cutting down the cost of living in Mexico's most luxurious beach.

Lastly, the Cancun Sun interviewed a third nomad whose first name is Darrin (the last name was not provided), who has swapped Tulum for a more affordable Playa del Carmen due to the exorbitant prices. After all, besides the average fare of USD 72.00 for a 15-minute cab ride, there is the cost of accommodation and food as well, and these are also going up across digital nomad hubs in Mexico.

Solo Male Traveler Getting Into A Taxi Or Uber Car As Driver Opens Door For Him, Uber Concept Image

How To Avoid Being Scammed By Taxis In Mexico

The best way to avoid getting exploited and losing your hard-earned dollars to corrupt drivers is pre-booking your airport transfer (learn how to) and any inter-municipality travel in advance. By contacting local companies, you can negotiate the price and make sure the price agreed upon discussion is maintained at the time of travel.

Sign for airport taxis in cancun

Unfortunately, until Cancun authorities, including Cancun Airport, authorize ride-sharing alternatives, such as Uber, introduce tougher fare caps to push corrupt taxis out of the market, or improve public transportation across the city, tourists will keep being preyed upon as they are easy targets.

Regarding the latter, the long-awaited Mayan Train is launching next year, connecting Cancun to numerous destinations across the Yucatan Peninsula. This should help ease the heavy financial burden placed on the shoulders of visitors, but so far, the issue of extortion continues unaddressed, unlike that of safety.

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Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.


Wednesday 31st of January 2024

But of course the Tren Maya goes from the airports not downtown like everywhere else in the world ;)

ADO is the way to go and once you're out of extortion central get an UBER or other ride hailing service to pay a reasonable price and avoid the Credit card issues.

We were quoted $150 ride to downtown and in between disdainful laughs were presented a 'rate' card. Like it being written down actually means something so I responded by writing 'fu' to make that just as official.

We're considering taking this off the travel itinerary permanently as this type of extortion is a disgrace and permeates the entire travel experience. Having said that 99% of our interactions with the locals has been great, people have been wonderful. It would be a shame if this condition persists but there's a lot of competition out there for tourist hotspots.


Thursday 1st of February 2024


Me again. In my experience the international terminals are much worse than the domestic. Its sometimes beneficial to walk over to the domestic terminal to get better value as they might assume you know the drill if you are flying locally.


Wednesday 2nd of November 2022

I was just in Cancun and used the app DiDi to get around. If you're at the bus station, cross the street to the nearest OXXO and order a Didi car from there. You will pay up to 50% less. Not to mention you can, pre-pay by credit card, record the ride through the app and the drivers have been cross-checked for security purposes.


Tuesday 1st of November 2022

I am very happy that finally something is written about Taxi scams in Quintana Roo specifically. As a general rule, I don’t use taxis in Mexico, but especially not in Quintana Roo. And while renting a car seems to be a good option to bypass the scammers, one might get stopped by the police for no reason so that they can get a share of the loot. Note that in Quintana Roo, you have the right to receive a courtesy violation, which is defined in Article 241. And if you take the ADO bus, there is a chance you get checked for your immigration status by the police, which is illegal in itself. Only immigration officer or the National Guard have the right to check. Ride sharing apps like Uber aren’t allowed because the taxis+government+mafia all work together. This is a problem locals need to solve before it is too late when tourists refuse to return.

Al Finkelstein

Tuesday 1st of November 2022

Did you know the average mexican pays approx. 20% more for day to day consumption products just because of lack of competition? Monopolies, they dont like you to call them by their real name. Example:for decades airports have been places where only wealthy people are supposed to enter. You're supposed to own a car to access them, that's why they are so poorly connected. If you don't own a car you have to use a taxi. The only exception might be the Mexico City Airport. Other than that, you'll fall victim to the airport scams corrupt politicians and money interest call "concession taxis". These guys are all part of a white collar mafia linked to corrupt officials, their families and friends who monopolize concessions and even influence state governors to ban app-based taxi services. LOL, the owners of these concessions are so abusive that they can owe decades of rent and license payments to the airports they're based on and nothing happens.. Why? Because, again, they are a mafia. I welcome you to the Mexican capitalism. It's just a bunch of monopolistic jerks who believe they own the country because who their grandfather's where or knew.


Tuesday 1st of November 2022

@Al Finkelstein, it is an oxymoron to call “monopoly”capitalism. Clearly, this problem is caused by lack of free market economy caused by government meddling using the law to distort the market in favor of one group against another group.

John Faulkner

Monday 31st of October 2022

Abuse. Shut down the airlines for a month and see what