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MEXLAW > Legal Services  > Avoiding Scams in a Tourist Town

Avoiding Scams in a Tourist Town

We use the Riviera Maya as an example, but these tips are useful in any country you visit. There are so many amazing things that attract foreigners to visit, live, and retire in Mexico but like any country, there are a few known scams to watch out for.

As you arrive at the airport in Cancun or any other tourist destination, you will be swarmed by transport providers, tour operators, and timeshare salespeople. Although respectable tour and transport providers are vying for your attention, many unscrupulous people will lie and try to mislead you to get your business.

An example of the untruths told at the airport;

  • Taxi drivers telling people the bus to Playa del Carmen is not operating, and the only available transport is their taxi service.
  • Providing false information, advising tourists there is no free shuttle between terminals forcing people to hire a taxi.
  • After asking visitors which transfer company they are waiting for and claim the transfer company sent them to pick them up as they had overbooked, they demand you pay them for the trip and advise you to request a refund from your original transport company. You will not be reimbursed because your actual driver is outside waiting for you.

It is best to avoid talking to anyone as you navigate your way out of the airport.

If you are taking a taxi, go to the official taxi stand and negotiate the rate before you get in the car. Another inexpensive option is the ADO bus, a safe and convenient way to travel.

We also recommend that any time you take a taxi in Mexico negotiate the fee and take note of the taxi number before getting in the car, send a message with the taxi number to a friend. In the event, you forget something in the taxi, or something unforeseen happens, you know who your driver was. Until sharing platforms such as Uber are in place, there is no way of monitoring the taxis.

Purchasing Tours

You will find many tour sellers on the main street of any tourist town, many of these sellers are offering great prices because they are tied to timeshare presentations, and some are a cover to conduct illegal business. If you purchase tickets in the street and nobody picks you up for the tour, or the tour is not what you paid for you will have no recourse; the salesperson is not accountable and probably very difficult to track down. It is safer to purchase tickets from the tour company’s actual website rather than handing your credit card over to a stranger in the street.

Research online for eco-friendly tour companies, by booking directly with the tour company, you can rest assured you get what you paid for and if there are any promotions, you know they are genuine. Buying direct ensures there is no miscommunication between a reseller and the tour company.  

In the Riviera Maya, many visitors come to swim with the whale sharks, be sure you book with a guide that carries liability insurance and is authorized by the Mexican government. Avoid tours that involve captive animals or taking photos with wild animals in captivity. There are plenty of ways to see animals in their natural habitat in Mexico.

Timeshare Scams

If you are offered a fantastic tour for free or at a discounted price, chances are it involves a timeshare presentation. Do not get caught up in the sales pitch and sign up until a Mexican lawyer reviews the contract.

*If you already purchased a timeshare and have regrets, we may be able to help, contact our office for more information.

Stand-Alone ATM

Do not use the stand-alone bank machines, go to a bank, and use the ATM where it is less likely your card will be skimmed. Do not accept help from strangers while you are at the ATM.

Renting a Car

Check over the car with the agent, take note, and photograph any damage on the vehicle before you drive away. It is mandatory to have car insurance in Mexico. Consider a policy which includes legal representation and a 24-hour bail bond service.

Mordida (bite)

Beware of police officers that try to collect a fine (bribe) even if you did not commit a violation. Never pay the fine on the spot, not only is it illegal but you are contributing to corruption, if you have not violated any rules, politely ask for the ticket and request the officer to take you to the Transit Office to present your complaint.

Also, check out your rights as a tourist, for example in Quintana Roo a tourist should receive only a warning, provided no harm was done. The tourist is entitled to two warnings on two separate occasions.

Fueling Up

You may have seen posts about scams at the gas station. First off always check the pump, make sure it is at zero before the attendant begins fueling up your vehicle. Second is payment, the scam is a switch up of bills, the customer hands the attendant a 500 bill, and the attendant then claims he only received a 50 peso bill. When you pay, hand it to the attendant stating the amount you are giving them, make sure he sees which bill you are giving him and wait for the change.

Help From Strangers

Recently we heard about a grocery store scam; someone comes from behind the victim claiming they have ketchup on their shirt and offers to help clean it up meanwhile pickpocketing their wallet.


Always review your bill in restaurants. It is illegal for a restaurant to include a tip on the bill, but some restaurants in the tourist areas still try to get away with it.

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