Isla Mujeres is one of the most visited islands in the Caribbean annually, and with its stunning coastline and picture-perfect waters, it’s easy to see why!
But due to its high foot on the islands, there are a few scams in Isla Mujeres to watch out for!
Scammers on the island know the many visitors visiting it yearly and understand how tourists can easily get distracted when visiting Isla Mujeres because of its natural beauty, and they take advantage of that.
Here’s a list of the most well-known scams in Isla Mujeres to watch out for when visiting!
Golf Cart Scams
This is the most popular scam in Isla Mujeres for many reasons; renting a golf cart in Isla Mujeres is the most popular way to get around. Not only because it’s convenient but also because it’s fun!
Here are a few golf cart scams in Isla Mujeres to watch out for when renting one on the island.
The first golf cart rental scam is the classic rental scam. You’ve rented a golf cart from a shop, and now it’s time to return the golf cart to the shop. Once you’ve returned the golf cart, an employee says you’ve caused damage to the golf cart, and you must pay for the repair.
When you’ve done nothing, this is just a shakedown for extra money for them to put right into their pocket.
Another golf cart scam in Isla Mujeres occurs online. You may be in an Isla Mujeres Facebook Group, and someone is advertising cheap golf cart rentals, but you need to give them a “deposit” to reserve your golf cart. They’ll take your money and block you.
How to Avoid: When renting a car/bike/golf cart, always take a video of your rental before leaving. That way, if you’re accused of damage, you have footage to show, which demotivates scammers – Always rent golf carts in person.
RELATED: How to Get Around Isla Mujeres
Restaurant Tipping Scam
Unfortunately, this scam is occurring increasingly in Mexico, especially in popular tourist spots like Isla Mujeres, Playa Del Carmen, and others.
There are two different ways the restaurant tipping scam in Isla Mujeres can occur, and I suggest you keep an eye out for both.
The first one occurs after you’ve enjoyed a meal and it’s time to pay your bill; what then happens is your waiter/waitress puts a high tip percentage into the machine without your knowledge and hands you the machine to pay by card. You don’t think twice; pay your bill with the inflated tip and move on.
The second version of this scam is similar to the first, but this time, perhaps you notice that a high percentage tip has been added to your bill; you then ask the employee about the tip, and they suggest it’s an “obligated tipping percentage,” ask for a manager and inquire whether this is accurate or not.
There are restaurants in Mexico and worldwide that place an obligated charge, but if so, it’s always clearly stated on the menu or at least communicated before dining.
Tipping in Isla Mujeres: If you’re unsure what to tip, the tipping standard in Isla Mujeres is 10% to 20%
Unfortunately, I’ve experienced this scam in Tulum, Playa Del Carmen, Cancun, and Holbox. So keep an eye out for it anywhere you visit in Mexico!
How To Avoid: When visiting a restaurant/beach club, ask the manager if there is a tipping policy, NOT the waiter — Be careful when paying your bill with a machine; make sure the tipping section prompts, and check your tab twice!
Bill Swap Scam
When you travel to a new country, it takes some time to get familiar with the local currency notes, the different coins, the currency bill colors, the exchange rate, etc.
The bill swap scam in Mexico is popular because the 50 and 500 Mexican peso bills look quite similar, but each value is very different.
So when you’re at a restaurant, shop, leaving a taxi or anywhere really, double-check the amount you’re handing over and receiving back. The bill swap scam is an easy way for a scammer to make a quick payday off of you. At 450 Mexican pesos, that’s about $26.50 US!
Some bartenders also take advantage of tipsy customers in Isla Mujeres, so watch out for the bill swap scam when you’ve had a few drinks.
I’m quite familiar with this scam because I’ve had it happen to me in a few countries, like Greece, Egypt, and others.
How To Avoid: Get familiar with the local currency, count your money twice before handing it over/know how much you should receive back, and be alert for the bill swap scam.
There are plenty of tour scams in Isla Mujeres; you’ll be targeted for tour scams as soon as you land at Cancun International Airport.
Once you land and leave the airport, many will approach you to sell you a tour at the airport, when in reality, they’ll take a payment, and you’ll never hear from them again.
The same happens when you arrive at Isla Mujeres after taking the ferry from Cancun Airport. I’m not saying all tour agencies selling tours are scams, but there is a fair amount, and you should be careful.
How To Avoid: Book your tours with Viator, a review-based reputable tour agency offering several trips in and outside Isla Mujeres. Or at least book with a tour agency located on the island with a shop.
When visiting Isla Mujeres and walking around the Centro part of the island, you’ll be offered the chance to visit restaurants, bars, shops, and locals approaching you with items to buy, etc.
While this isn’t a scam per se, the shop itself can be, and it’s just something you must watch out for regarding how aggressive some salesmen/employees may be.
Some shops don’t have price tags on items, and that’s usually a clear indicator you’ll be overcharged for what you’re buying. Stick with the shops that have clear-cost signage.
Also, beware of any self-proclaimed tour guides offering to show you around the island; they approach you in a friendly manner, trying to befriend you when, in reality, they’re just trying to make money from you. This is definitely a scam.
How To Avoid: Avoid any touters randomly approaching you on the street. Regarding salesmen and shops, stick to the stores with clear cost signage.
Cops Golf Cart Shakedown
This is another golf cart scam, but it does not involve the rental shop this time; it involves dishonest police.
So you’ve rented a golf cart, and you’re driving around the island, minding your own business, when suddenly, local police pull you over, and you’re confused why.
Local police then proceed to try to “hustle” you for some money; they’ll tell you that you were speeding while driving around, accuse you of drinking/driving, or state some false violation you’ve committed while driving.
This is all a shakedown to take money from you. Unfortunately, this happens sometimes with police in Isla Mujeres.
Not all the cops are dishonest in Isla Mujeres, and it would be wrong to assume so, but a few give them a bad reputation.
How to Avoid: If wrongly pulled over by police, tell them you’re willing to go to the local police station to address things, even if they say you will pay more at the station than on the street. Also, take out your phone and record the interaction with the police.
You shouldn’t get aggressive with them, but you should be firm and polite when telling them you’ve done nothing wrong.
Like anywhere in the world, taxi scams in Isla Mujeres are also a thing, and it’s your typical taxi scam you’ll run into anywhere you travel.
Either the taxi driver is attempting to overcharge you for your trip, or once they’re dropping you off at the end of the drive, they state that the price was higher than the agreed-upon price from before.
Another one that occurs less often but you should watch out for is the taxi credit/debit card scam. Once you’ve arrived, the taxi driver hands over the machine to you, and you pay. Once you check your account later, you notice a significantly higher bill charged to your card than you saw on the POS machine.
These are classic taxi scams to take extra money from tourists, and you should keep an eye out for them in Isla Mujeres.
How to Avoid: Before getting inside the taxi, repeat the agreed-upon price with the taxi driver so they clearly understand the price. Regarding taxi machine scams, always pay with cash.
Pickpocketing & Beach Theft
This isn’t much of a scam but rather just theft; like many places in the world where there are many tourists, pickpocketing, and theft are bound to happen.
When walking around the main downtown area of Isla Mujeres when it’s crowded, watch out for your pockets and purses for quick pickpockets, especially at night when there are crowds.
Also, be careful of beach theft, which is common in Mexico; at times, it’s locals, and sometimes, other tourists steal. When you enter the water, close your bags and make sure someone watches your belongings.
How to Avoid: Watch your pockets in crowds and watch for your belongings on the beach.
So you’re walking around the island and admiring the remarkable nature of Isla Mujeres when suddenly timeshare agents approach you, striking up a conversation about where you’re from or if you’re enjoying yourself in Isla Mujeres.
After discussing your visit to Isla Mujeres, the timeshare agent tells you about an “amazing timeshare opportunity” in Isla Mujeres. They’ll tell you enough to hook you into listening and then tell you to attend a timeshare presentation.
Timeshares are a waste of time and have been an apparent scam promoted to many globally for several years. Don’t waste your precious holiday time in Isla Mujeres.
How To Avoid: When approached by timeshare agents, politely decline any timeshares and continue to say “no gracis” as you walk away.
Cheaper Ferry Ticket Scam
When you’re at the ferry docks and trying to take the ferry back from Isla Mujeres to Cancun, a few scam artists wander around, approaching tourists and offering them “cheaper ferry tickets.”
The tickets they sell are fake and aren’t associated with the companies operating the ferries. If you buy a ticket from them, you’ll most likely be denied entry to the ferry.
How to Avoid: Only buy tickets at the official ferry stands or purchase them online
Fake Jewellery Scam
This scam can happen anywhere in Mexico; fake jewelry in Mexico is unfortunately common, whether you’re purchasing the jewelry from a local vendor on the street or at a fancy shop.
It doesn’t matter; avoid purchasing jewelry in Mexico unless you’re purchasing handmade jewelry that isn’t being sold to you as “genuine pearls, gold, silver, diamonds, etc..”
By the way, shop employees/owners will try many ways to convince you what you’re buying is real, showing you fake certificates and guaranteeing the authenticity of what they’re selling.
How to Avoid: Don’t purchase jewelry in Mexico unless you’re at a significant, well-reputable store in Mexico City.
Where to Stay in Isla Mujeres
Nomad Hostels & Beach Club: Located in the island’s southern area, Nomad is the most popular hostel in town, and it’s the best place to meet new people. The hostel has its own beach and hosts beach parties!
Selina Isla Mujeres: Selina is located in the Centro area, very convenient with its location
Hotel Isla Caraco: Well-priced mid-range hotel located a short walk away from Playa Centro / Beach
Nautibeach Condos: Condo rentals by night, conveniently located in the Centro area with beautiful beach views of Playa Norte (the main beach)
Privilege Aluxes – Adults Only: In the Centro area, steps away from both main beaches on the island
Scams In Isla Mujeres – Final Thoughts
Unfortunately, scams in Isla Mujeres happen occasionally, but the island isn’t notorious for scams.
But you should keep an eye out for all the following scams stated above when visiting Isla Mujeres.
That said, Isla Mujeres is one of my favorite places to visit in Mexico; the island is home to some of the nicest beaches in the Caribbean, locals are amiable, and overall, it’s a great time!
What should I be careful of in Isla Mujeres?
Be careful of the many scams in Isla Mujeres that may occur, including restaurant tipping scams, bill swaps, golf cart rental scams, and more.
Also, don’t drink tap water in Isla Mujeres, and protect yourself from the sun!
What is the crime rate in Isla Mujeres?
According to Numbeo, the crime rate is only 14.71 in Isla Mujeres, which is significantly low, overall Isla Mujeres is very safe to visit!
Is it safe to travel alone in Isla Mujeres?
Yes, Isla Mujeres is safe and tourist-friendly. During the day, you’ve got nothing to worry about, but stick to roads with foot traffic at night.
Is Isla Mujeres safe?
Yes, Isla Mujeres is safe. The crime index here is 14.71, which is significantly low, but this doesn’t mean you should completely put your guard down. Be mindful of your surroundings, especially at night.
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