While the State Department said that transportation apps “generally offer another safe alternative to taxis,” recent disputes between drivers for the apps and taxi unions “have occasionally turned violent, resulting in injuries to US citizens in some cases.” , the warning says.
The travel warning came as the region’s licensed taxi drivers protested by blocking the road to Cancún’s hotel zone, causing tourists to abandon their trips to go to the airport or be escorted by police, La Jornada newspaper reported.
Y pese a la alerta de viaje impuesta por Estados Unidos, así las cosas en Cancún, sometida por la mafia de taxistas.
Bloquean la zona hotelera, provocando que decenas de turistas decidean caminar rumbo al aeropuerto.
More, de: https://t.co/S4DHf2bKzu pic.twitter.com/UENGZ8mq3W
— Joaquín López-Dóriga (@lopezdoriga) January 23, 2023
According to Cecilia Román Quijas, head of security communications at Uber Mexico, the company has teams in the US and Mexico dedicated to collaborating with law enforcement and providing 24/7 customer support.
Román said in an email that it was important to clarify that the alert was specific to Cancun because “well-publicized incidents were in a very specific tourist destination.” She cited the State Department’s regular travel advisories, in which she said they “repeatedly refer to Uber as a safe alternative across the country.”
Natalia de la Rosa Hilario, food writer and operations manager at Mexican food tour company Club Tengo Hambre, says conflicts between the local taxi industry and Uber are not new. With protests going back almost a decade, “it started ever since Uber came to Mexico,” she said.
Frank Harrison, regional security director for the Americas at World Travel Protection, a travel risk management company, agreed that the current troubles in Cancun and Quintana Roo are just the latest flash of anti-Uber sentiment in the taxi industry nationwide.
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De la Rosa Hilario said there are advantages to using Uber for travelers visiting Mexico, noting that the app can feel safer for women because the driver is tracked, you can see where you’re going, and you don’t have to change cash.
But “don’t get me wrong — Uber isn’t the best either,” de la Rosa Hilario said. She recognizes that similar start-ups can engage in price hike practices and endanger the livelihoods of licensed taxi drivers.
Román said the safety features in Uber’s US app are also available to riders and drivers in Mexico. These include an in-app emergency button for calling 911, Share My Trip, and RideCheck (which detects long delays or route deviations), among others.
Harrison said while Uber is a preferred transportation option for many American travelers, anyone using the app or similar services needs to understand the local mood. As a taxi company or driver, licenses, fees and inspections are required, Harrison noted. He added that drivers take pride in their service and can refuse transport starts.
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While Harrison said he prefers to use licensed taxi drivers when traveling — they can be a helpful source of local information and recommendations — he also recommends checking if your hotel has a free shuttle or pickup with a trusted driver can arrange for you.
Unfortunately, Harrison said, there are issues with fake Ubers and taxis in Mexico to beware of. If you’ve discovered you’re dealing with a bad ride, you should get out of the car, try to take a photo of the vehicle’s registration number, and report it to the local tourist police.
In an email to The Post, a State Department spokesman reiterated the information in the warning and encouraged anyone planning a trip to Mexico to read the full travel advisory for the country on its website.
“We also encourage US citizens traveling abroad to enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP.state.gov) to receive important news about their destination(s) directly, including timely notifications and updates from Travel advice,” the email said.