The U.S. Department of State is cautioning travelers against using app-based ride-hail services, like Uber, in the Mexican Caribbean state of Quintana Roo, which is home to numerous travel hotspots.
The security alert applies to such well-known tourist areas as Cancun, Riviera Maya, Playa del Carmen and Tulum, which are perennially popular among Americans.
“Application-based car services such as Uber and Cabify are available in many Mexican cities, and generally offer another safe alternative to taxis,” the U.S. Embassy and Consulates in Mexico wrote in a security alert. “Official complaints against Uber and other drivers do occur, however, and past disputes between these services and local taxi unions have occasionally turned violent, resulting in injuries to U.S. citizens in some instances.”
The State Department’s warning was evidently prompted by a slew of incidents that occurred in Cancun earlier this week, when the city’s traditional taxi drivers took umbrage at the presence of Uber drivers in their territory.
On Monday, angered by the fresh competition Uber presented, “medallion taxi drivers started harassing and attacking drivers from the ride-hailing app Uber and their clients,” the Associated Press reported.
In their outrage, taxi drivers even blocked the Hotel District’s busy main road, forcing some tourists to walk or take rides from local law enforcement. The Cancun police department shared photos of people riding in the beds of police trucks, explaining that, “given the blockades on the Kukulcan boulevard, our transit officers helped people get to the airport.”
In one of the numerous videos posted to social media, a taxi driver can be heard shouting, “It is illegal, illegal,” at a family of tourists. The wire service pointed out that ride-hailing apps had, indeed, been prohibited in Cancun until early January 2023, at which time a court injunction granted Uber permission to operate in the resort-packed destination.
Other posts depict groups of uniformed drivers telling off and even manhandling tourists, as well as cabs encircling and blockading suspected Uber vehicles. One local resident, who was only attempting to give some people a ride, said taxi drivers dented his car by pelting it with stones.
Cancun’s Mayor Ana Patricia Peralta called upon the out-of-control cabbies to contain themselves. “I am not going to allow a small group to damage the reputation of the resort and human safety,” she said in a recorded message.
Given the high rates charged by Cancun’s medallion taxis, it’s unsurprising that many travelers would opt for ride-share services. Uber’s presence in the area will likely set up a real rivalry with local cab companies.
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