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No Uber in Cancun

At this moment Uber is not available in Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Tulum, the entire state of Quintana Roo.

Listen to this blog-post on our Daily Travel Tips Podcast (18 minutes).

Uber is one of the most valuable private technology companies in the world. In April 2015 it sought once again resources among investors to continue its expansion. The result exceeded expectations, and got 5.9 million dollars, which turned it into the best valued private technological company of all times, with a value close to 50,000 million dollars.

Screen shot taken in Cancun from Uber App September 12, 2018

"Uber is the fastest growing company. Maybe in the history of the planet. And it's a brilliant idea"

Mike Novogratz, president of Fortress Investment Group

The beginnings

In 2009 Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp developed an application for smartphones that could call a private taxi with the push of a button.

A year later, Uber was born.

In a few months, the company jumped from San Francisco to the rest of the United States, and from there to the whole world. Today it has a presence in more than 270 cities. The rapid rise, in just five years, has brought imitators, such as Lyft and Sidecar, but also fierce opposition from taxi unions and governments.

Even, the service has been banned in US cities, such as Portland, in the state of Nevada, and in other parts of the planet, such as India, China, Thailand and parts of Mexico.

Despite the company's confrontation with taxi unions and governments, investors have raised their thumbs and injected large amounts of money.

A year ago, Uber was worth 18,000 million dollars, today it has 178% more capital.

With the sack full of money, an extensive network of lawyers, pressure groups and excellent press of the users, Uber looks unbeatable. But not everything is perfect.

"The meaning of all this is simple: 'Uber and companies like Lyft, which is more generous with its drivers but has a similar business model, are extremely efficient machines to create jobs that are practically of minimum salary. Uber is not a taxi service, but low-paying jobs," the financial daily The Wall Street Journal recently published.

On August 2nd in 2013 Uber announced: "Uber has launched in Mexico City!"

"We love Mexico and the biggest city on Earth has shown a lot of #UberLOVE since we first put cars on ground in mid-June."

Uber arrives in Cancun

Uber arrived in Cancun on September 14, 2016 in response to the great demand of users who seek to move easily, safely and accessible in the Mexican Caribbean.

Before the launch, 58.000 foreign users and 102.000 national users had tried to request a trip in Cancun.

The demand in Cancun has been very high, more than 40 thousand users, locals and tourists, have requested an Uber, to reach their next destination.

Uber in Cancun has generated nearly one hundred thousand mentions in social networks; the #UberCancun label was trending topic at a national level with more than 350 thousand mentions.

The citizens have created a that in just 7 days has gathered more than 9 thousand signatures.

Violence against Uber drivers in Cancun and Playa del Carmen

Within a couple of days the first incidents between taxi drivers and Uber cars occurred. Covered by the news were road blocks, protests, punctured tires, impounded cars, fights with broken noses and even deadly accidents because of fighting people getting hit by a truck on the road.

Uber confirmed that 22 drivers filed complaints against taxi drivers by March 2017.

The stated:

"With a market of billions of pesos at stake, taxi driver union Andrés Quintana Roo has maintained an open war for half a year against independent drivers affiliated with Uber.

Many Uber drivers have experienced intimidation and violence that has resulted the death of one driver and the hospitalization of at least a dozen others.

The origin of the battle is to control one of the country’s most lucrative public transportation routes, a route known to generate more than 8 billion pesos a year. Taxi drivers can charge up to 700 pesos or $35 for trips from the Cancun Airport to the hotel zone, a route that costs around 200 pesos with Uber."

According to Riviera Maya News Uber Cancun was fined 76.5 million Mexican Pesos and has an average of 8 cars towed per day within its first 155 days of operation.

Uber won many enemies throughout the Quintana Roo region after protesting against a new mobility law that imposed restrictions on the transport company.

Uber could no longer accept cash payments from passengers according to the new rules. This was seen as problematic by Uber due to the fact that tourists often prefer to pay in cash. The restriction could easily cause Uber to lose 40 percent of its business in Cancun.

In late December 2017, after many incidents between taxi and Uber drivers, the company decided to suspend their services in the state of Quintana Roo in order to protect its drivers and wait for the law to change in their favors.

In just one year more than 300,000 customers used Uber's service with more than 60 percent of the users were tourists.

Uber is still providing technical support for its drivers. Nobody is certain how long that support will continue. Uber executives have indicated that the company will formally cease all operations in the area on a permanent basis if an agreement cannot be reached.

Executives from Uber noted that the company's withdrawal from Cancun could certainly paint the city in a bad light on a global scale. This comes at a time when travel warnings and bad press have already placed shadows over Cancun and other popular tourist destinations in Mexico.

In June 2018 the modification of the Mobility Law took digital platforms like Uber, Lyft or Cabify in consideration. However it became clear that this reform is in favor of the taxi and its unions.

Taxi concessions are again indefinite, instead of 40 years, and digital transport platforms are restricted, and only those with concessions are legal.

We frequently have guests asking us about Uber in Mexico and the Riviera Maya and we do not know what to answer. It is our aim to be helpful and a reliable source of information, so we reached out to Uber asking for a statement if we may expect Uber in Cancun, Playa del Carmen and Tulum.

Uber responded:

“The approval of the amendment to the Mobility Law classifies wrongly transport services provided through the Transport Networks Companies (digital platforms like Uber, Lyft or Cabify), as public transport services, which are handled through concessions.

This neglects the fact that the Federal Competition Commission of Mexico and the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation distinguishes the services provided through Transport Networks Companies as different from traditional transport.

This means that to be able to use the Uber application, all partners (drivers) would have to acquire and endorse annually a concession to be able to provide their services.

It is very likely that these concessions, apart from being expensive, are controlled by the Government, therefore, could be very limited. This also opens the door to bureaucratic processes that go against innovation and flexibility that is obtained through the Transport Networks Companies (digital platforms like Uber, Lyft or Cabify).

In none of the states where we have a presence in Mexico, we have a regulation of this type. These concessions that the law will ask the conducting partners, would obligate them to obtain and endorse a concession as if they provide a traditional public transport service.”


We have asked Uber if there will be any service available soon and Uber responded in a second email:

“As previously mentioned, these processes mean that the driver-partners are limited by these bureaucratic processes, although it (Uber) is negotiating with the government to make this application for Uber possible.” At this moment Uber and its service is not available in Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Tulum or the entire state of Quintana Roo.


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