Cancun taxi drivers throw wrench in spring break plans as Americans flock to Mexican destination
As millions of Americans prepare to descend upon one of Mexico’s top tourist destinations ahead of the spring break season, travelers may want to think twice when it comes to their local transportation options: Uber vs. taxi.
Uber was recently reintroduced in Cancun after a court ruled in January that the ride-share app could operate after it was essentially driven out by taxi drivers after first being introduced in 2016.
However, tension over sharing the roads has not fizzled out, and taxi drivers in recent weeks have been aggressive and violent toward Uber drivers, their vehicles and even their passengers.
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Frustrated travelers have since taken to social media to show how unruly cabbies have become, with some suggesting their actions have motivated tourists to "boycott" Cancun’s taxi services.
The U.S. State Department issued an advisory to Americans traveling to Mexico in January after several reports of harassment and assault were issued.
Cabbies in January blocked the main road leading to Cancun’s hotel district, forcing tourists to either walk for miles or catch rides with drivers on the other side of the blockade.
The Associated Press even reported that police escorts were forced to shuttle people to the airport to catch their flights.
Several Cancun taxi drivers have been arrested for their hostile actions since January. In February alone, some 60 drivers were fined for violating the "Zero Tolerance" rule enforced by the Andres Quintana Roo Taxi Drivers Union – a policy implemented in a move to crack down on cabbie aggression, reported the Cancun Sun.
Cabbies are now being required to attend manner-based training sessions to improve their interactions with tourists. To ensure an enjoyable trip when visiting Cancun this year, one top travel agency told Fox News Digital that they advise avoiding either cabbie or Uber options.
The program will reportedly focus on issues relating to labor regulations and quality of service along with communicating and empathizing with passengers. Ultimately, the course is intended to not only give drivers the tools they need when dealing with passengers but will focus on rebuilding standards for passengers.
"We'd recommend that travelers contract transportation through non-ride-share services, like official airport taxis or licensed tour operators/travel agencies, to avoid delays and inconveniences until the situation has stabilized," Zachary Rabinor, founder and CEO of Journey Mexico, said.
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"We often get the question whether Mexico [or the] Cancun/Riviera Maya is safe," he added. "The U.S. State Department has specifically noted there are no restrictions in Quintana Roo state. However, they do advise to exercise increased situational awareness after dark as you would anywhere in the world."
The State Department did not return Fox News Digital’s request for comment, though the department has advised Americans to check the status of the location to which they are traveling in Mexico and adhere to its guidance.
"Application-based car services such as Uber and Cabify are available in many Mexican cities, and generally offer another safe alternative to taxis," the department noted. "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."
"In light of widely publicized security incidents in popular tourist destinations, please remember that all destinations have some level of risk," the department added. "Be aware of your surroundings and maintain a low profile."
Last year, some 5.6 million Americans traveled to the Mexican Caribbean, and those figures are expected to climb even more in 2023.
American’s traveling to the Quintana Roo region, which is where Cancun is located, do not face the same security issues as other regions like the Guerro or Sinaloa states, which are listed on the State Department’s red-flag "do not travel" areas.
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The Quintana Roo region falls under the department's second tier yellow flag advisory, which suggests that Americans "Exercise Increased Caution" when traveling to these regions – largely due to instances of crime and kidnappings.
Though as Rabinor pointed out, nations like France, Germany, Italy, Spain, U.K., Dominican Republic and the Bahamas also fall under this same classification.
Another expert on tourist safety in Mexico, Stephanie Farr, founder and CEO of Maya Luxe, agreed that Cancun in particular is "generally considered very safe" for American tourists.
Farr said that her suggestion when hitting top tourist destinations across Mexico is to take general safety precautions, particularly when going out at night. These include staying in a group, keeping tabs on one another, not drinking in excess, and keeping valuables like passports at the hotel or resort – suggestions that pertain to Cancun as well.
"Our biggest and most emphasized recommendation is to avoid any drug-related activities, and this will generally keep any tourist safe," she said. "In addition, we also suggest to not drink in excess and be aware of their surroundings. Inebriated tourists become a vulnerable target to petty theft."
"We always say that it’s up to the tourist of how much they want to expose themselves to any danger. With some precautions and common sense, travelers can have a safe and enjoyable trip," Farr said.