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Are you hoping to visit Mexico, but worried about safety? After living in Mexico, and traveling all around this diverse country, we’re often asked whether Mexico is a safe place to visit. The answer is a resounding YES! Mexico is an incredible place to visit, and overall, a safe destination for tourists.
What I love about Mexico is how beautiful and diverse both the landscape and culture are. With everything from pristine white sand beaches and gorgeous mountains to lively cities – there is so much to enjoy while on a Mexican vacation. Delicious local cuisines vary by region, the arts scene is thriving, and you can experience night life, history, and outdoor recreation all in one epic trip.
So if you’re planning your dream trip to Mexico, but are hesitant because of safety concerns, know that you’re not alone. Many travelers worry about this, especially if it’s their first time visiting. However, we loved Mexico, felt safe there, and highly encourage anyone interested to visit.
So to help ease your worries and plan an amazing vacation, we’ve created this useful guide to safety during your trip!
About Visiting Mexico
With so much to explore, planning a trip to Mexico might seem intimidating. There are so many fun things to do in Mexico. you can experience mouthwatering street food, gourmet restaurants, luxurious hotels, all-inclusive resorts, pristine beaches, and plenty of Mexico’s colorful culture. The country welcomes travelers from all over the world, and is well set up for tourism of all kinds.
Mexico is a big country – the world’s 13th largest by area – and it is divided up into different regions with 31 states plus the capital of Mexico City. Tourist hot spots like Cancun and Tulum are located in the state of Quintana Roo (on the Yucatan Peninsula) get a lot of the attention when it comes to Mexican tourism, but the entire country is full of one-of-a-kind destinations if you choose to travel off the beaten path.
Even so, there are a few regions within Mexico that it’s best for tourists to avoid. Just like any other country you might choose to visit, it’s important to use common sense and good judgement. Keeping basic safety protocols in mind is important when traveling anywhere, and Mexico is no exception.
Is Mexico safe?
Watching the news or googling whether Mexico is safe might leave you doubting whether you should plan your trip. Mainstream media seems to paint a negative picture of Mexico and often points to increasing violence and some scary crime statistics.
The truth about safety in Mexico is much less scary than the media makes it appear – it’s a perfectly safe place to visit if you use common sense and use common travel safety precautions and remember that crime is a risk wherever you travel. Always use good judgment and be aware of possible dangers.
Mexico is 760,000 square miles (1.97 square km) in size, and most of that area is considered safe to travel.
In most countries throughout the world, there are certain areas that are more prone to crime, and it’s best to avoid those areas as a traveler or tourist. Mexico is a developing nation, and parts of Mexico have a significant income disparity, so the biggest problem that most tourists run into is petty theft. As a general safety tip for traveling in Latin America, you should watch out for pickpocketing.
Violent crime in Mexico occurs mostly in a small stretch of land between the US-Mexico border and only effects a small percent of the country. While violent crime does occur in other regions too, it’s important to remember that you run the risk of encountering violent crime in any city – especially if you involve yourself in illegal activity like purchasing illegal drugs.
Most visitors who travel to Mexico won’t have any issues with safety or crime during their stay. if you use caution, avoid high crime areas, and don’t involve yourself in illegal activities. In fact, many parts of Mexico have much lower crime rates than some states in the USA.
Safe Areas in Mexico
Dangerous and illegal activity in Mexico is mostly isolated to specific places. If you stay away from shady areas, it’s unlikely that you’ll have any issues at all during your trip to Mexico.
Even in the safest regions there is always a small risk of petty crime like theft, especially for tourists, so use good judgement and keep an eye out for potential pickpockets. While travelers to Mexico are advised to use caution due to threats that include violent and petty crime, and even kidnapping – if you stick to the safer zones for tourists, it’s generally safe to explore the country.
Mexico is a huge country, and it’s made up of many unique regions and states. There are some incredible places to explore but also some areas that are best avoided by tourists.
The United States State Department occasionally puts out a travel warning for popular vacation spots like the Riviera Maya, including Cancun, because of increased drug cartel activity. Even with the warning, Cancun is still considered safe for tourists if you avoid shady areas and choose not to engage in drug activity.
The safest and most tourist-friendly regions of Mexico include popular tourist destinations like Puerto Vallarta, Tulum, La Paz, Sayulita, Puerto Escondido, Playa del Carmen, San Miguel de Allende, Oaxaca City, Cabo San Lucas and even Mexico City.
These areas include historic landmarks, incredible architecture, beautiful beaches, and many activities that tourists look forward to on their trip to Mexico. Most visitors feel perfectly comfortable in these areas and are comforted by the presence of law enforcement and plenty of other travelers.
With so many incredible areas to explore, you shouldn’t feel worried about running out of things to do. Still, it’s important to keep in mind that some areas of Mexico have higher rates of crime, and it’s a good idea to avoid those areas all together. For current travel warnings for different regions in Mexico, check the United State’s government travel advisory website.
The most dangerous places in Mexico include Tijuana, the U.S/Mexico border near Texas including Ciudad Juarez, the State of Sinaloa, Zacatecas, Tamaulipas, and Guerrero, Colima, and Michoacan.
In addition to these areas, there are parts of larger cities, like Mexico City, that are also best avoided – although most of the city remains safe. Recently, the popular tourist destination of Acapulco has also gained a bad reputation for violent crime.
Related Read: When traveling to the capital of the country check out these tips for staying safe in Mexico City.
Safety in Mexico FAQs
15 Safety Tips for Visiting Mexico
- Don’t travel alone at night. Stick to larger groups to be safe.
- Use Uber – Uber is one of the safest forms of car transportation in Mexico.
- Learn a little Spanish before you visit Mexico.
- Book lodging in safer neighborhoods.
- Blend in – don’t wear flashy clothing or jewelry.
- Avoid carrying lots of cash.
- Avoid buying drugs or other illegal activities.
- Keep wallets on a chain and purses zipped when walking through crowds.
- Keep your cell phone on you.
- Know the emergency numbers – dial 911 if you need emergency assistance.
- Avoid drinking tap water.
- Buy travel insurance ahead of time.
- Leave your passport in a safe at your hotel.
- Only use legitimate taxi services and avoid flagging down taxis on the street.
- Avoid high-crime neighborhoods.
Food and Drink Safety in Mexico
The most important thing to remember when considering food and beverage safety in Mexico is that you should avoid drinking the tap water. Even Mexican locals who have lived there for their entire lives are advised against drinking tap water. The water contains bacteria and microorganisms that can make you super sick and ruin an otherwise fun vacation.
Even brushing your teeth with the tap water in Mexico can be problematic, although I personally don’t worry about it. Residents of Mexico might brush their teeth, making sure to thoroughly spit and never swallow, but tourists are better off just using bottled water to brush their teeth, and avoid opening their mouths in the shower.
Filtered water is fine in most areas, and when I lived in Puerto Vallarta, I drank filtered water right from my fridge. On top of that, all ice is made with filtered water so it’s extremely unlikely you’ll have any issues.
Food, on the other hand, is much safer than drinking water. Food standards in Mexico tend to be very high and even most of the street food vendors uphold healthy practices.
When choosing street food in Mexico, look for places with long lines as they are generally safe and tasty. It goes without saying, the more food they go through, the fresher it usually is. Look for hand sanitizer at the vendors to ensure the people preparing the food are keeping their hands clean, and make sure to wash your own hands before you eat. The easiest way to get sick is from your own hygiene practices.
Is solo travel in Mexico safe?
Plenty of people travel solo to Mexico each year. There are many reasons to travel solo, and Mexico is a popular destination with plenty of activities to keep solo travelers busy. Both Daniel and I have solo traveled around Mexico, and we both had super positive experiences. We were often never truly alone as we stayed in hostels and met other travelers frequently.
However, it’s important to be a little more careful as a solo traveler and make sure to avoid more dangerous regions and travel in groups at night.
If you stay at hostels in Mexico, you should have no trouble meeting other solo travelers that want to explore the city with you. There is safety in numbers! If you’re having trouble meeting people to travel with, consider booking guided group tours (like these tours in Cancun or these group tours in Mexico City) which you can find for low costs.
Otherwise, follow the basic safety guidelines for any solo-travel trip. Don’t buy drugs or engage in illegal activity. Watch your belongings closely and don’t carry too much cash. Don’t wear flashy clothes or expensive jewelry so that you avoid making yourself a target for theft. Keep in touch with someone at home and have regular check-ins with family and friends. If you’re going out at night, let someone know where you are going and when they can expect you back.
What about solo female travel?
I loved traveling to Mexico solo. It was one of the countries in Latin America where I felt the safest. In fact, most solo female travelers in Mexico won’t have any safety issues.
With that said, it is still important for females traveling alone to use extra caution. It’s not advised to go out at night by yourself, although I did do this on odd occasions in Cancun and Puerto Vallarta. Others might even want to stick with a group during the daylight hours in some areas.
Female travelers should also be careful of leaving their drinks unattended. While drink spiking isn’t a huge problem in Mexico, it isn’t unheard of. Keep your beverages with you as a solo female traveler, even if you’re around other travelers. Often, it’s other tourists who are the ones drugging the drinks of solo female travelers. Use your best judgement and stay alert and you should be just fine!
Is the Nightlife in Mexico Safe?
Mexico has a vibrant and lively nightlife scene in many of the cities and beach towns – it is one of the things that keep tourists coming back to visit again and again. You can experience everything from fancy cocktail bars to salsa dancing to fun beach parties.
Visiting Mexico and avoiding the nightlife is almost impossible. It’s one of the greatest things about a trip to Mexico! Still, it’s important to use caution as you would in any other country in order to stay safe. Travel in groups at night when walking around at night and bar hopping. Don’t do drugs or involve yourself with people who are doing drugs.
Enjoy some delicious drinks without getting out of control. It’s fine to party but getting blackout wasted in a way that is obvious to those around you makes you an easy target for robberies and other crimes. Walk back to your hotel, Airbnb, or hostel with a group and make sure that no one is following you. Take an Uber home instead of a taxi or public transportation at night.
Related Read: Cancun is a great place for nightlife. Read about these fun things to do in Cancun’s Hotel Zone.
Travel scams to watch out for in Mexico
Anytime you travel to a new place, especially a major tourist area, it’s a smart idea to do some research on common travel scams. Even if you’ve visited a destination several times, travel scams can change. During your visit to Mexico, there are a few scams to be wary of.
Taxi Scams are common, and while most of them are minor – others can lead to intense situations. Most taxi-related scams simply involve the driver hiking up the fare for tourists and charging a much more expensive rate. Make sure that you have a general idea of what you should be paying and ask your driver the cost ahead of time.
A much rarer taxi scam involves a fake taxi driver holding a rider hostage and forcing them to take money out of an ATM or hand over cash and valuables. Again, this is rare, but it is known as ‘express kidnapping’ and if you ever find yourself in this situation just hand over whatever the driver asks for. Don’t risk your safety over material possessions.
Fake souvenirs are commonly sold in markets and outside of major tourist attractions. It’s great to support local vendors and artisans, but make sure you aren’t overpaying for items. When buying jewelry, know how to check for authenticity and how to tell the difference between silver and other less expensive metals. Be especially wary of anyone trying to pass something off as a genuine artifact or relic.
Fake ATMs can be a horrible scam to fall prey to during your Mexico vacation. Some ATMs aren’t affiliated with banks and are rigged to swallow or copy your card numbers. Luckily fake ATMs are easy to avoid – just use the ATMs located inside of actual banks.
When trying products, make sure you know the price beforehand. Many times, you’ll try a drink or food and then be pressured into buying something at a hugely inflated price. Many tourists feel uncomfortable and pay whatever is asked for. The same goes for restaurants, so only eat at places with prices listed on the menu.
Other common scams involve pickpocketing distractions like the common “mustard scam,” in which someone will sneakily squirt you with mustard or some other disgusting goo and then offer to help you. When you’re distracted, they will attempt to steal your wallet.
Avoid pickpocketing by using a travel-safe bag under your clothing. For ladies – keep your purse closed and zipped up when walking through high-traffic areas. I personally use a money belt under my shirt to keep most of my cards and cash.
Diseases in Mexico
The most common illness that you can catch while traveling in Mexico are food and water-borne illnesses like Montezuma’s Revenge – otherwise known as Traveler’s Diarrhea or TD. While incredibly unpleasant, TD is usually not life-threatening. It can become dangerous if you have diarrhea or vomiting for an extended period because you may be prone to dehydration, so seek medical attention if it lasts for more than 24 hours and be sure to drink plenty of fluids.
Parasites are a common problem throughout Mexico and Central America, and you can catch them from drinking unfiltered water or from contaminated foods. If you feel sick for more than a few days, see a doctor to rule out parasites.
It is recommended that tourists visiting Mexico get up-to-date vaccinations for Hepatitis A which is endemic in Mexico – make sure to get at least the first round of vaccinations before visiting. Hepatitis B vaccines, typhoid, and rabies vaccines might also be recommended by your doctor depending on your travel plans.
In the tropical regions of Mexico, mosquitos are common. Even in cooler cities, it is still best to take precautions to avoid mosquito bites like wearing a mild insect repellent. Dengue is a common insect-borne illness in Mexico. Chikungunya has also been reported, as has Zika. Malaria risks have decreased dramatically throughout Mexico, but if you’re traveling to more remote regions you might want to check with your doctor about Malaria medication.
For more information on travelers’ health in Mexico, check the CDC website.
Travel Insurance is more important than ever right now!
If you’re traveling during these uncertain times, be sure that you have travel insurance!
SafetyWing is our go-to insurance when we are going on longer trips. They offer travel medical insurance that’s super affordable (only $45 USD per 4 weeks!) and even have coverage in case you get that dreaded c-word. The only thing to note is that the insurance must be purchased once you’ve left your home country – we typically buy it as soon as we land at the airport.
We’ve personally used SafetyWing for many different trips, and we’ve been reimbursed for countless expenses when we’ve fallen ill. SafetyWing even covered our flights back to Canada in full when the pandemic first happened (when last-minute flights before the borders closed were super expensive!)
It’s safe to say that travel insurance has saved us thousands over the years!
Natural Disasters in Mexico
Mexico has been known to have some pretty major earthquakes. The area surrounding Mexico City is a hotspot for volcanic activity and tectonic stress which has historically led to some violent earthquakes.
Two volcanoes and the Sierra Madre volcanic mountain range surround the city, so earthquakes can strike at any time. In fact, Mexico City is considered one of the most disaster-prone places in the world due to the natural hazards and infrastructure. On September 22, 2022, a powerful 6.8 magnitude earthquake struck the city and killed one person.
If you find yourself outside during an earthquake, head to an open area away from electric lines, trees, or balconies. If you’re indoors, head to a safe place away from windows.
In addition to earthquakes, Mexico can be prone to flooding during heavy rains which also leads to landslides. Keeping an eye on the weather can help ensure that you don’t get stuck in a dangerous situation involving flooding our landslides.
Getting Help in Mexico
If you find yourself in need of emergency assistance during your trip to Mexico, dial 911. Dialing 911 ensures that you reach the emergency services so that they can dispatch someone to help you.
No one wants to get sick while traveling, but if you find yourself in need of medical attention due to illness or injury, you’ll be happy to know that Mexico has amazing hospitals that will be able to give you all the care you need during your stay. Mexico City especially has some internationally recognized hospitals that offer some of the best care on the planet.
Throughout the smaller towns in Mexico there are plenty of clinics and farmacias (pharmacies) that offer care for minor illness and injuries.
Thanks for reading!
Thanks for reading my blog about safety in Mexico! I hope it helps you feel more prepared and relaxed before traveling to this beautiful country. I was also a little apprehensive after hearing stories, but felt very comfortable and safe after experiencing Mexico first-hand.
If you’ve enjoyed reading this, check out my other blogs about visiting Mexico. I have many location-specific guides with the best things to see and do and places to stay.