TULUM, Mexico – Over the past few years, if you’ve paid a visit to Tulum or you’re a tourist discovering this wonderful place in the Mexican Caribbean, you’ve probably encountered the harsh reality behind acquiring taxi services in this beautiful city. Navigating the streets of Tulum has become an arduous task due to various factors that the local government has yet to fully address. Despite ongoing efforts, the situation remains challenging for both residents and tourists. The lack of pavement and the deplorable condition of many streets, particularly those leading to new condominiums and neighborhoods, make it nearly impossible for cars, motorcycles, and bicycles to move around, especially when heavy rainfall hits the city.
Public transportation is virtually non-existent in Tulum, and the lack of proper signage makes it extremely difficult for tourists to recognize and utilize it as a transportation service. As a result, using motorcycles and bicycles as a means of transportation has become increasingly common on the streets of Tulum, primarily due to the current traffic congestion and road conditions. Adding to the transportation difficulties within the city is the harsh reality faced by both residents and visitors when hiring a taxi and paying for the service. Currently, taxi services in Tulum do not adhere to a regular fare system. Instead, each service is billed according to the taxi driver’s mood, ethics, the passenger’s accent or origin, and the destination. Consequently, the cost of the same trip can vary between 50% and 500%, with absolutely no regulation from the authorities.
A taxi ride from the ADO bus terminal to a specific destination within Tulum can cost up to 300% more than the same service acquired just 50 meters away. Moreover, taxi passengers are often taken aback when, at the end of the journey, the driver asks them how much they usually pay for the same trip. Based on the response, the driver sets the fare, highlighting the deep-rooted issue of inconsistent pricing not only for the passengers but also for the drivers and their earnings. Passengers can encounter an unexpected and unpleasant surprise when they arrive at their destination and inquire about the fare, leading to endless debates and, at times, physical aggression against those who refuse to pay the exorbitant amounts demanded by these taxi drivers, leaving passengers completely helpless in face of these assaults.
At present, both Quintana Roo and Tulum authorities seem reluctant to seek and implement effective solutions to this long-standing problem which is hindering the growth of tourism in Tulum. The issue indirectly affects other economic activities reliant on tourism, such as the hospitality and gastronomy sectors. The local taxi union, known as “Los Tiburones del Caribe” (Caribbean Sharks), has staunchly opposed the implementation of a fare regulation system based on time or distance. Furthermore, there is no significant pressure from the municipal authorities to enforce such measures. Unfortunately, there seems to be no resolution in sight for this deep-rooted problem that not only affects visitors but also residents.
In recent times, numerous instances of violence have been observed, not only between taxi passengers and drivers but also among the taxi drivers themselves, many of whom unwillingly find themselves involved in this established underworld in the beautiful corner of the Mexican Caribbean. Additionally, the impending arrival of ride-hailing service Uber to the city of Tulum, which was first mentioned at the end of 2022 and expected to launch in early 2023, sparked an excessive reaction from the Tulum taxi union, vehemently opposing this new application and its utilization by both tourists and residents. Tulum authorities decided not to take any action, and currently, the Uber app is not available in Tulum, affecting thousands of users, especially during peak seasons, and inadvertently favoring the taxi mafia that continues to grow and put increasing pressure on the pockets of tourists and residents.
Calling for a taxi on the street nowadays not only means facing uncertainty regarding the fare at the end of the journey but also potential disputes that many are unwilling to confront. It is important to note that amid this dire situation in which Tulum finds itself, there are indeed many taxi drivers who work with integrity and apply fair fares to their passengers at the end of the trip. These drivers, who brave the ever-changing streets of Tulum and the pressures they face not only from the taxi union but also from their peers, serve as beacons of hope for a true change in the policies surrounding public transportation services in Tulum.
For now, the “Tiburones del Caribe” continue to claim victims every day on the streets of this beautiful growing city.