You’ve probably spent months in your house self-isolating to protect yourself and others, and to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Now you may have heard that Cancun and the Riviera Maya, which includes tourist hotspots like Playa Del Carmen and Tulum, have recently opened for tourism again.
While this may sound like a great opportunity to book a much deserved getaway, it’s important to note that the coronavirus pandemic is ongoing. With that in mind, I’m sure you have many questions about traveling to Mexico at this time.
I’m going to try and answer the most commonly asked questions and give you the resources you need to get the latest updates. That way, you can make an informed decision about traveling to Mexico in 2020.
Current COVID status
How to know the current status (Stoplight system)
Mexico has created a stoplight system to inform citizens and visitors of the current status for each state. The colors in this particular stoplight include red, orange, yellow, and green. The four metrics that determine the color/status are: the trend in numbers of new cases; hospital occupancy trends; current hospital occupancy rates; and percentage of positive cases.
The color status determines what businesses or services can open, and any other restrictions that may apply.
Stoplight colors and what they mean
- Only essential businesses are open (e.g. grocery stores, hospitals, pharmacies, banks).
- SOME non-essential businesses can open at a maximum of 15% capacity (hotels, restaurants, historic sites, water/theme parks).
- Closed in this stage: schools, churches, public beaches & parks, movie theaters, bars & nightclubs, barbers & salons, gyms.
- Many more businesses can open at 30% capacity. These include hotels, restaurants, some historic sites, golf courses, movie theaters, shopping malls, barbers & salons, tours, water/theme parks.
- Bars, nightclubs, and gyms remain closed.
- Similar to orange in terms of which businesses are open, but they can open at a larger capacity of 60% or higher.
- Public beaches & parks can open at 60% capacity.
- Gatherings of up to 50 people are allowed.
- Virtually no restrictions
To get a full list of business/attraction types and their imposed restrictions, refer to the Quintana Roo government’s official chart.The website is in Spanish, so use Google Translate if needed.
What is the current stage/status?
The state of Quintana Roo has been updating the status on a weekly basis. You can check the current “stoplight” status here (Spanish site).
The government of Mexico also has a national map showing the status of each state.
If you’re planning a trip, it’s important to know where you’ll be visiting and staying because different parts of the state may be in a different stage. For example, at the time of writing this, the southern part of the state, which includes Bacalar & Chetumal, is in the red stage. The northern part, which includes Cancun, Cozumel, Playa Del Carmen and Tulum is in the orange stage.
What is open?
Aside from the list above, the Quintana Roo government’s official chart shows a complete breakdown of all business/destination categories and the restrictions that apply based on current the stoplight status.
Most hotels & resorts have re-opened, but it’s best to check the hotel or resort’s official website to see their status, and also check the health & safety measures being taken.
Grupo Xcaret parks (Xcaret Park, Xel-Ha, Xplor and others) are mostly open with a few restrictions and limited capacity. The status and schedule of the parks can be found at the bottom of the Xafety 360 page.
An important note
Government corruption and untrustworthy reporting is a sad reality in Mexico.
Like many leaders, President López Obrador has downplayed the severity of the coronavirus threat on several occasions. And a New York Times story reported that a survey of hospitals around Mexico City found many more COVID-19 cases and deaths than federal statistics showed. Keep in mind that Mexico City, a densely populated city, is the hardest hit part of the entire country, no other area in the country comes close.
Even though the numbers reported may not be accurate, it’s what we have to work with, and it’s still useful. It’s a good idea to try and verify claims, and err on the side of caution. So pay attention to health officials & statistics, not just the government.
An insider’s view
Another great way to learn more and verify claims is to check with locals, that way you get an idea of how life is for those that are there on the ground every day.
In addition to message boards and Reddit, I’ve been following a few YouTubers who are currently in various parts of Quintana Roo. Seeing their vlogs & videos has allowed me to get an up-to-date inside view of what life is really like in Cancun and surrounding areas.
Some of the YouTubers that I recommend checking out are:
William Taudien- https://www.youtube.com/user/williamtaudien/
Divert Living- https://www.youtube.com/c/DivertLiving/
My Trish Advisor- https://www.youtube.com/c/MyTrishAdvisor/
Jesus Milan- https://www.youtube.com/c/SoyJesusMilan1/
Precautions & safety measures
The state of Quintana Roo has implemented new health and safety standards for tourism sectors including hotels, restaurants, bars and tour operators. Every business must receive a certification indicating that it has met these standards before reopening.
It’s quite impressive and re-assuring seeing how seriously Mexicans adhere to the precautionary measures set by the government. As a tourist, you’ll find it comforting to know that the people of Mexico are quite good at practicing the recommended precautions.
Firstly, the use of face masks in public is mandatory. If you’re near other people or are entering a business, you’re required to wear a face mask. Currently, if you’re outside and not near anyone, this is not enforced, but as of late July, there are proposals to make masks mandatory at all times while out in public. If this goes through, it will be enforced with a fine of up to 4000 pesos.
Restaurants & stores
When entering restaurants, stores, and many other places, they’ll take a number of preventative measures. These include checking your temperature, making sure you have a mask, offering hand sanitizer, and, something I haven’t seen anywhere else, sanitizing the bottom of your shoes by making you step on a special mat.
Social distancing and basic preventative measures are also in place, and as expected, the staff will all be wearing masks and other relevant protective equipment.
Hotels & Resorts
Hotels & Resorts are perhaps the most impressive when it comes to sanitary measures. Not only will they take all the common steps mentioned above (temperature checks, masks, sanitizer, social distancing), but they’ll go above and beyond.
- Hotel capacity has been greatly reduced. Fewer guests makes social distancing much easier. The capacity of the hotel will vary with the current stoplight color.
- Resort staff are masked at all times.
- Hand sanitizer stations have been added throughout hotels/resorts.
- Hand held menus have been eliminated. You’ll either see a menu poster on a wall, or you’ll need to use your phone to scan a QR code to see the menu.
- Designated hotel staff will plate and serve buffet food for you.
- Most gated resorts will sanitize the exterior of the vehicle in which you arrived, as well as your luggage.
- Rooms are thoroughly sanitized. Things like cups will either be replaced with disposable ones, or they’ll be wrapped in plastic so that they’re tamper proof. High-touch items like TV remotes, door knobs, and light switches will be sanitized.
Public beaches are closed in the red & orange stages, but beaches belonging to hotels or resorts are open as per the capacity of the hotel. The reason for this is because hotels can regulate the number of people on their beach, whereas the public beach can’t easily be enforced the same way.
To help generate interest, the local hotel associations have launched the #Come2MexicanCaribbean campaign.
Offers vary, but you can find deals on hotels, resorts, rental cars, excursions, parks and tours. You can find all the available deals at Come2MexicanCaribbean.com
Should you visit?
As I was doing research to write this post, I kept coming across posts, comments, and questions from people asking if they should visit now or wait a little bit longer.
I will say that based on my research, I feel quite confident in the precautions taken by Mexicans who work in the tourism industry. I’d be more worried about fellow travellers than locals.
People in the tourism industry will probably tell you that it’s safe, while others may say it’s a bad idea. Everyone has a bias or motive, so the only correct answer is: it depends! You need to take an objective view of your situation and risk appetite to find the answer that best serves you. And don’t forget to check your home country’s travel advisory
I hope this article gives you the information you need to make the best decision for yourself, but I’m curious to hear your thoughts. What do you think about travelling in 2020? Will you be going to Mexico anytime soon? If so, do you have any doubts or concerns? What precautions will you be taking?
Is there anything more you need to know in order to make an educated decision? Do you have any tips for your fellow travelers?
Please let me know in the comments!