Frequently Asked Questions About Cozumel Health & Safety
Before we launch into answering the most frequently asked questions about health and safety on Cozumel island, we'd like to say a special word to our cruise passenger visitors.
It's common practice on the cruise ships for the information officers to tell you Cozumel is not safe. Unless, that is, you stay in the "approved areas."
What a coincidence that every single establishment on this safe list for shopping and eating kicks back a significant percentage of sales to the cruiseship company.
In short, if you believe what they tell you about how you will be cheated, how your pocket will be picked etc.if you stray back into town or off on your own or buy from an "unauthorized" store, you are falling into their trap.
And that's really a pity. Because Cozumel is a remarkable destination from the safety point of view.
Cozumel is, in fact, the very favorite stop of most crew members. Why? Because they can roam the streets of town into the wee hours of the morning without worrying for their safety. And they can eat and shop a few blocks back off the waterfront cheaply and away from the crowds that pack the areas near the cruiseship pier and on the downtown waterfront.
We live in town -- three blocks back from the waterfront and 4 blocks from the Punta Langosta cruiseship pier. Carey regularly goes out late at night, by herself, for ice cream. This is one of the things we value most about living on the island. It is unusually safe. So don't let the cruiseship companies put the fear in you for their own gain! Get out and experience this friendly little island -- on your own terms!
And now we will, ahem, get off our soap box and get to the most frequently asked questions.
Is It Safe to Drink the Water?
Although Cozumel's water supply is chlorinated to some extent, you should never drink the tapwater. (This includes anywhere in the Yucatan, by the way--even if you are staying at a major resort with it's own filtration system.) Vacation rentals provide bottled water in 5 gallon water cooler jugs and some hotels provide small bottles each day. You should drink that. In addition, this water is made via osmosis and tastes great and isn't salty and hard like the tapwater.
How Safe Is It to Eat in Local Restaurants?
All the restaurants recommended on this site use bottled water for food prep, drinking and ice. Although we have not yet had time to review every good restaurant in Cozumel, the ones you'll see listed on this site continue to pass our stringent standards for cleanliness.
We would, however, urge you not to buy food from street vendors.
I Want to Eat the Local Produce. Is It Dangerous to Do This?
The selection of vegtables and fruit available on Cozumel is outstanding and so are the prices. If you like pineapples, mangos, papayas and so much more, you can enjoy it all you wish on your trip. Just follow these simple steps before you eat it.
#1. Purchase a small bottle of an iodine-based water purification drops. These are readily available in the produce sections of the island's three big groceries. They're usually hanging up.
#2. Fill the sink or a large pan with tap water and add the drops to it. A "gota" is a drop. A liter is around a quart and that's all you need to estimate how many drops for the amount of water you're using.
#3. Pre rinse your produce if it looks gritty and then dump it in the water bucket to soak for 20 minutes or so. So this before you even put it in the refridge. And we would advise doing to all produce including bananas.
By the way, when you eat unwashed produce in the U.S. you run some of the same risk, although in the U.S. produce is washed (well, usually) and when YOU wash it in the U.S. you are using safe water (well, usually). So after you soak the produce as described above, it is safer than what you often get at home. We have NEVER been sick from consuming locally-bought raw produce that was first treated in the manner described. Try it, you'll like it.
Are There Any Other Measures I Should Take to Avoid Becoming Ill in Mexico?
The most important thing you can do to keep yourself healthy is wash your hands a lot. Wash them every time you handle money, for example, after you've pushed a car through the grocery store, etc. etc. It makes good sense and it can make all the difference. Some people swear by chewing pepto bismal tablets morning noon and night. We think this isn't necessary.
We do suggest the following preparations for the unlikely event of becoming ill. Bring a small supply of Immodium-AD. This will not cure you. But it will stop stomach cramps and diarhea while you can get to the heart of the problem. Ask your doctor back home what antibiotic and dosage he/she would recommend in the event that you come down with Monteczuma's Revenge if it doesn't disappear on its own in about 24 hours on its own. Write down the generic name and bring this information with you.
Ciprofloxin and other modern antibiotics are readily available here, without a prescription and at a quarter or more the US price at every pharmacy on the island. This includes the large Chedraui and St. Francis D'Assis grocery stores which each have a pharmacy in them.
|If you have no Spanish and feel you can't communicate, hit the American DrugStore on Calle 3 two doors in from the waterfront downtown. They have everything and speak great English.|
I've Read There's a Lot of Crime in Mexico. Is This True of Cozumel As Well?
Unlike some places in Mexico AND the United States, incidents of violent crime are a fairly remarkable occurrence here on the island. Cozumel's small city,San Miguel, population approximately 80,000, is full of Mexican middle-class folks who moved from other parts of Mexico for that very reason. They vehemently believe that the island is the safest place in the country to raise their children.
It's partly the culture--conservative, deeply religious with a very strong Mayan component. But it's also the fact that this is an island and isolated from the mainland. So the growing crime statistics we read about for Cancun and the Yucatan coast don't impact much here. You have to realize that it costs more than a typical day's wages to take the ferry over here and another day's work to get back. This definitely keeps the riff-raff down.
Also the police here are vigilant -- both the special tourist police and the ones that work back in the neighborhoods of San Miguel. Cozumel is one of the brightest crown-jewells in the Mexican tourist economy. The powers that be want to keep it clean and keep it safe. And in our book they're doing a remarkably good job of just that.
This is not to say there's no crime at all, of course. But 99.9% of it is property--break-ins to houses left obviously empty for too long, cameras stolen from rental cars that weren't locked, that kind of thing.
Some in the states have called us overprotective parents. Yet in San Miguel we feel very comfortable letting our 20-year-old daughter venture out at night with her girl friends. After a lifetime of having to be paranoid about walking alone at night in cities, Carey says this is one of the things she most appreciates about Cozumel. And safety-wise it is torso, shoulders and head above other places we've visited in the Caribbean including St. John and St. Thomas, VI.
So use common sense and stay alert walking at night. Because there's a few rotten apples in every barrel. But we seriously doubt you'll run into any of them on Cozumel island.
What Kind of Medical Service is Available Locally?
There is excellent medical service on the island now and your insurance will cover you for problems. You also will have the novel experience of Not Having to Wait Very Long. We like the San Miguel Clinic on Calle 6 between Avenida 5 and 10--a block back from the waterfront Cozumel Musuem.
We had a guest last month who had a recurrence of a kidney infection while visiting. We whisked her in there and they had her in an observation room with a nurse taking her blood pressure in a matter of about 5 minutes. Within 10 minutes a doctor who spoke beautiful English was at her side. They diagnosed the problem, kept her overnight, fixed her up and sent her home. The parents told me that their insurance covered all but $100 of the expenses.
Another good-sized well-equipped facilitiy with many capable English-speaking doctors is the Cozumel Medical Center (CMC) which is on Calle 1 between Avenida 50 and 55.
If you have a problem while diving, there are two hyperbaric chambers on the island.