Outside magazine, October 1994
By Jeff Spurrier
You’re trying to get as far as possible from asphalt and neon, but with remoteness come inherent dangers. Here’s how to play it safe in the Yucatán.
Highway 307 is a narrow two-lane road with steady truck traffic; when the driver in front of you puts on his left-turn indicator, that means “safe to pass.” Don’t bet on it. Driving at night is not advisable. When nearing a town, watch for signs indicating topes (speed bumps), which can creep up with little warning.
Keep your tank full.
South of Tulum, gas stations are few and far between and sometimes run out, especially of magna sin (unleaded). If you’re driving to Xcalak, fill up in Felipe Carillo Puerto.
Few places south of Cancún accept credit cards. Though some will take traveler’s checks and most will take U.S. dollars, you may not get a decent exchange rate. Change money in Cancún and bring a supply of pesos.
Cover up in the jungle.
Wear closed-toed shoes, a hat, long pants, and bug spray, even on short hikes. There are poisonous snakes in the Yucatán, including coral snakes and the notorious “two-step” viper, so named because that’s as far as you get if bitten.
Check out the dive boat.
Before you commit to a dive trip, survey the boat: at the least there should be a fire extinguisher, a tank of pure oxygen, and more than one motor. Also scrutinize gear, meet the divemaster, and talk to other divers who’ve made the trip.
Beware the revenge.
No matter how laid-back you get, don’t forget the basic anti-tourista rules: Drink only bottled water, don’t drink beverages with ice, and don’t eat fruits or vegetables that you can’t peel. Ceviche is always suspect.
Know the danger zones.
Most beaches are safe at night, even for women, but keep clear of those around Playa del Carmen and Cozumel.