State Department warns Cancun visitors against Ubers as taxis protest

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The U.S. Embassy and Consulates in Mexico on Monday issued a security alert for the state of Quintana Roo — home to Cancún, the Riviera Maya and Tulum — warning that hiring app-based car services such as Uber and Cabify could expose passengers to the risk of getting caught up in a tense exchange between drivers competing for fares.

While the State Department said transit apps “generally provide another safe alternative to taxis,” recent disputes between app drivers and taxi unions “have at times turned violent, resulting in injury to citizens. Americans in some cases,” the alert reads.

The travel alert came as licensed taxi drivers in the area protested in blockage the road to Cancun’s hotel zone, leading tourists to abandon rides to walk to the airport or be escorted by police, La Jornada newspaper reported.

According to Cecilia Román Quijas, safety communications manager for Uber Mexico, the company has teams in the United States and Mexico dedicated to working with the police and providing 24/7 assistance to clients.

Román said in an email that it was important to clarify that the alert was specific to Cancún due to “highly publicized incidents in a very specific tourist destination”. She pointed to the State Department’s regular travel advisories, which she said “repeatedly refer to Uber as a safe alternative nationwide.”

Natalia de la Rosa Hilario, food writer and chief operating officer of Mexican food tour company Club Tengo Hambre, says disputes between the local taxi industry and Uber are nothing new. With protests dating back almost a decade, “it started since Uber came to Mexico,” she said.

Frank Harrison, regional director of security for the Americas at World Travel Protection, a travel risk management firm, agreed that the current problems in Cancun and Quintana Roo are just the latest flashpoint of national anti-war sentiment. -Uber within the taxi industry.

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De la Rosa Hilario said there are benefits to using Uber for travelers visiting Mexico, pointing out that the app may seem safer for women because the driver is tracked, you can see where you’re going and you don’t. don’t have to exchange money.

But “don’t get me wrong, Uber isn’t the best either,” de la Rosa Hilario said. She acknowledges that similar start-ups use price-gouging practices and can threaten the livelihoods of licensed taxi drivers.

Román said Uber’s U.S. app security features are also available to passengers and drivers in Mexico. This includes an in-app emergency button for calling 911, Share My Trip, and RideCheck (which detects long delays or route diversions), among others.

Harrison said while Uber is a preferred transportation option for many U.S. travelers, anyone using the app or similar services needs to understand local sentiment. Being a taxi company or driver requires licensing, fees and inspections, Harrison noted. He added that drivers take pride in their service and may resent transport start-ups.

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While Harrison said he prefers to use licensed taxi drivers when traveling – they can be a useful source of local information and recommendations – he also recommends checking to see if your hotel has a courtesy shuttle or can arrange pick up for you with a trusted driver.

Unfortunately, Harrison said, there are issues with fake Ubers and taxis to be wary of in Mexico. If you’ve discovered you’re dealing with a bad ride, he said, you should get out of the car, try to take a photo of the vehicle’s plate and report it to local tourist police.

In an email to The Post, a State Department spokesperson reiterated the information in the alert and encouraged anyone planning a trip to Mexico to read the full travel advisory for the country on their website.

“We also encourage U.S. citizens traveling abroad to enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP.state.gov) to receive important messages about their destination(s) directly, including timely alerts and travel advisory updates,” the email read.

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