Is Mexico Safe for Travel? Where to Avoid Traveling in 2024

Is Mexico Safe for Travel

What You Will Learn (Click to Expand)


Overview of Safety in Mexico

While it’s true that Mexico has had its share of safety concerns, it’s still a popular tourist destination loved by millions of visitors each year.

Areas with heavy gang activity and drug-related crimes pose the highest threats, but these places are typically far from where average tourists venture. Major tourist spots in Mexico generally don’t make it to this list.

In this Guide, we will answer the question: ‘Is Mexico Safe for Travel?’. Spoiler alert! Yes, as long as you stick to the tourist areas.

Is Mexico Safe for Travel

Travel Advisory for Travel to Mexico

The U.S. State Department provides a travel advisory for Mexico due to its crime concerns.

It discourages but doesn’t prohibit travel to some Mexican states, including Colima, Guerrero, Michoacán, Sinaloa, and Tamaulipas, mainly due to crime concerns.

The warnings from the State Department are not to be taken lightly, as these regions pose a serious risk to safety due to high crime rates.

Fortunately, the main tourist areas are not close to these regions, so visitors are safe.

Understanding the Risks in Mexico for Tourists

Crime in Mexico - A Guide for Visitors

Crime in Mexico varies for foreigners; while some cities and tourist hot spots see a fair amount of street crime, others have higher rates of violence.

Be mindful of theft and mugging, especially in crowded tourist spots. Many businesses rely on private security to deter crime.

If you fall victim to a crime during your visit, it’s crucial to report it to the nearest branch of the state prosecutor’s office (‘Agencia del Ministerio Público’) before leaving Mexico.

Is Violent Crime in Mexico a Concern for Tourists?

Violent crime, including murder, kidnapping, armed robbery, and sexual assault, does occur in Mexico. However, much of this is concentrated in specific regions and rarely involves tourists.

Statistically, only 0.0002% of crimes in Mexico are tourist-related, so while you must be cautious, understand that most violence is related to internal issues, such as territorial disputes among organized crime groups.

As a tourist, your risk is considerably lower, especially if you avoid risky behaviors like getting involved with drugs.

Common Scams in Mexico

Mexico, like any country, isn’t free of scams designed to trick tourists.

Here are a few to be aware of:

  • Fake ATMs: Avoid using standalone ATMs found on streets as scammers install devices to collect card data. Stick to ATMs within trusted banks, enclosed areas, and airports.
  • Restaurant Scams: Be vigilant when paying your bill, as restaurants may overcharge or give incorrect change. Double-check all bills before paying.
  • Bird Poop Scam: In this dirty trick, a substance similar to bird poop is planted on you, and a “friendly stranger” offers to help clean it up while snatching valuables from your pocket. If you’re approached in this way, stay vigilant and move away.
  • Airport Taxi Upcharge: Be wary of taxi drivers rushing you into large vans or not using the taxi meter. They tend to overcharge unsuspecting tourists, especially in Mexico City. Always use official taxis or pre-arranged rides.

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Discussing Safety in Specific Locations

Travel Safety for Cancun

Cancun, located in Quintana Roo, carries an “exercise increased caution” travel advisory due to concerns about crime. However, this popular resort area still maintains a relatively safe environment for tourists, especially inside the hotel zones.

The beaches, famous ruins, and resorts are all patrolled regularly by Mexican law enforcement, ensuring that travelers can soak in the sun with peace of mind.

Despite this, personal vigilance is necessary. Avoid venturing into desolated areas after dark, avoid withdrawing large sums of money from ATMs, and always leave your travel itinerary with someone you trust.

Here are some Amazing things to do in Cancun.

Is it Safe to Visit Tulum and Playa del Carmen?

Both Tulum and Playa del Carmen, also in Quintana Roo, are generally considered safe for tourists.

The famous Ven a la Luz (Come to the Light) Tulum man sculpture by artist Daniel Popper is a popular locale, marking the entrance to Raw Love Cafe and Ahau Tulum Resort. These areas follow rigorous cleaning and hygiene protocols to ensure a safe experience for visitors.

That being said, the same common-sense rules apply:

  • Remain vigilant and aware of your surroundings, especially in crowded or less patrolled areas.
  • Keep valuable items secured and avoid drawing unnecessary attention with flashy attire or behavior.

Here are the Best Things to Do in Tulum and Playa del Carmen.

Safety Aspect for Cabo San Lucas

Los Cabos, home to Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo, is considered pretty safe for visitors. The town thrives on tourism and takes the safety of visitors seriously.

However, as it is a popular party hub, visitors should be aware that excessive consumption of alcohol could increase their vulnerability to crime.

It’s advisable to stick within the well-lit tourist areas, be watchful at night, and refrain from displaying expensive possessions.

The laid-back vibe and beautiful beaches make the trip worth it, especially if the general safety guidelines are kept in mind.

Here are the Best Things to Do in Things to Do in Los Cabos.

Is Mexico City Safe to Travel?

Yes, Mexico City is safe for most travelers.

As one of the most populous cities in the world, it has areas of concern, but tourist spots like the Historic Centre, Chapultepec Park, and Roman Norte are generally secure. Police patrol these areas regularly due to their high footfall.

Just like in any metropolis, petty thefts and pickpocketing can occur. To avoid this, don’t flaunt expensive possessions, avoid isolated streets after dark, make use of hotel safes for valuable items, and always keep an eye on your belongings in crowded public places.

With its blend of modern skyscrapers and charming historical district, Mexico City can be a great place to explore when all safety measures are observed.

Here are some Amazing Things to Do in Mexico City.

Safety Aspects for Puerto Vallarta

Puerto Vallarta, located on the Pacific Coast of Mexico, is one of the country’s safer locations for tourists. It is very visitor-friendly and is home to large communities of expats. Notably, it’s also one of the most LGBTQ-friendly, especially in its Zona Romantica neighborhood.

Despite Puerto Vallarta being generally safe, there are occasional reports of petty theft. The city has a noticeable police presence, especially in the main areas, which deters most such occurrences.

Visitors should still take precautions by safeguarding their belongings while exploring Puerto Vallarta’s stunning beaches, historic museums, and galleries.

Here are some Fun Things to Do in Puerto Vallarta.

Is Guadalajara Safe for Travelers?

Guadalajara, the capital of Jalisco state, is a city where city charm and traditions come to life. However, the U.S. Department of State advises travelers to “Reconsider Travel” to the entire state due to crime. Despite this, the central parts of Guadalajara, where most travelers and expats stay, are safe.

You can minimize risks by staying in the well-trafficked parts of the city, taking care not to display expensive items, and traveling by booked taxis or trusted rideshare services, especially at night.

Despite these risks, Guadalajara offers a unique blend of history, music, and tequila that makes it a hidden gem for many travelers.

Solo Traveler's Safety Guide to Mexico

Is Mexico Safe for Solo Female Travelers?

Mexico is generally safe for solo female travelers, especially if they have prior experience with solo travel.

Of course, there are some areas in Mexico that can be considered riskier, which is why doing research and taking precautionary measures during your stay is crucial.

Avoiding deserted areas at night and being more aware of crowded tourist hotspots are good habits to adopt. Booking centrally located accommodations helps ensure you’re staying in a well-lit area.

Avoid flaunting flashy jewelry or expensive electronics, as petty crimes are often crimes of opportunity. And perhaps most importantly, take the necessary steps to ignore any catcallers you might encounter.

In a nutshell, as long as solo female travelers exercise the same level of precautions as they would when visiting any other country or city, they should have a worry-free experience.

How to Be a Smart Solo Traveler

As a solo traveler, there are a few smart habits you can adopt for traveling in Mexico or any foreign country.

  • Research beforehand: Familiarize yourself with the local language’s customs, culture, and basic phrases.
  • Be suspicious of too-good-to-be-true offers: This can be a unique local experience or a must-see sight. If it seems too convenient or too cheap, it could be a scam.
  • Keep a low profile: Dress modestly and don’t flash expensive items around.
  • Keep your documents safe: Have copies of your important documents, like your passport and ID, in multiple places. Leave originals in a secure place in your hotel, if possible.
  • Stay in touch: Share your travel plans, location, and contact information with friends, family, or hotel receptionist.
  • Travel insurance: Have travel insurance covering theft, health issues, or any unexpected emergencies. We use SafetyWing.

Remember, being prepared and staying aware marks the difference between a great and a problematic trip.

Transportation Safety in Mexico

How Safe are Taxis in Mexico?

In major Mexican tourist areas, from Mexico City to Oaxaca to Cancún, authorized taxis are generally safe and reliable. However, not every city has taxis that use meters, so always ask in advance about the fare if there is no meter.

Avoid hailing random taxis, as they might not be legit. Instead, have your accommodation call a taxi for you or use reliable ride-sharing apps such as Uber or Didi, which also operate in Mexico.

However, keep in mind that in some tourist areas, especially Cancún, taxi drivers are actively protesting against Uber, which can occasionally lead to altercations with tourists caught in the middle.

Therefore, it’s wise to ask the local hotel staff about the safest transportation method in the area.

Air Travel Safety Measures when Visiting Mexico

Air travel in Mexico is the safest and most efficient form of long-distance travel. The country has an extensive network of domestic and international airports run by federal aviation authorities adhering to international safety standards.

To ensure seamless travel, here are several precautions you should take:

  • Only use reputable carriers. Check the safety ratings and reviews before booking.
  • Keep your passport and boarding pass with you at all times.
  • Follow all security protocols at the airport.
  • Never leave your luggage unattended.
  • Always carry essential items, like medication and important documents, in your carry-on luggage rather than in your checked bag.

Remember, while air travel in Mexico is statistically the safest way to travel, you still need to be vigilant about personal safety, particularly when it comes to theft or misplaced items.

Road Travel Precautions when Driving in Mexico

Road travel in Mexico is an excellent way to explore the country at your own pace, but there are some important safety precautions to consider:

  • Understand local driving habits: Mexican driving styles can be aggressive, and not all traffic laws are strictly adhered to. Stay alert and be prepared for unpredictable moves by other drivers.
  • Use toll roads (cuota) where possible: These are generally safer, better constructed, and well-lit at night, which makes them safer.
  • Avoid driving at night: This ensures you don’t risk hitting people, animals, or missing potholes, which can cause accidents.
  • Road conditions vary: Watch out for sharp curves, poorly marked or hidden road signs, construction sites, roaming livestock, slow-moving, or abandoned vehicles.
  • Beware of the topes (speed bumps) to avoid damaging your vehicle.
  • Wear a seatbelt and respect the speed limit: No matter where you are, practicing safe driving habits is a must.
  • Take precautions with your rental car: As rental car scams are common, take before and after pictures of your vehicle to ensure you’re not held liable for damage you didn’t cause. Always drive with a full tank, especially when traveling to isolated areas, so you don’t have to stop for a refill at a suspicious place.

By staying alert and taking these precautions, you can safely enjoy the picturesque landscapes that Mexico offers.

Health-Related Safety Concerns

Food Safety in Mexico - Street Food and Restaurants

Mexican street food is part of the country’s cultural heritage. However, travelers can be wary as unfamiliar cuisines, especially street food, can lead to a ‘traveler’s tummy.’ Being discerning about where you eat can help reduce this risk.

Here are some tips:

  • Look for street food vendors with long queues, suggesting higher turnovers and freshly cooked food.
  • Ensure there are at least two people handling the stall, one for cooking and one handling money.
  • Restaurants and cafes that are crowded with locals are typically good bets for safe and scrumptious food.

If you’re wary of street food, Mexico is home to some of the world’s top-rated restaurants. Follow the same cautionary advice for them as well.

Remember, part of the fun of travel is experiencing the local cuisine! So, don’t let the fear of an upset stomach keep you from trying out the vibrant flavors Mexico has to offer.

Is Tap Water Safe to Drink in Mexico?

Tap water in most parts of Mexico is not safe to drink.

Drinking tap water or consuming ice made from it can often lead to traveler’s diarrhea or other health issues. Even locals avoid consuming tap water directly from the faucet.

Instead of relying on tap water, carry bottled water, which is readily available and fairly priced. Alternatively, you could bring a portable water purifier or use iodine tablets.

A pro tip: consider a reusable bottle with a built-in water filter, like LifeStraw’s, which ensures your drinking water is clean and safe while reducing the use of single-use plastics.

Being hydrated is essential, especially when you’re out and about exploring!

Medical Facilities and Services in Mexico

Healthcare services in Mexico can vary widely. In urban areas and larger cities, Mexico has world-class private hospitals and clinics.

However, it’s good to know that these facilities can be expensive, and most won’t deal directly with insurance companies, requiring payment upfront.

Mental health services are extremely limited, especially outside of Mexico City, and the standards may not align with those of home countries like Canada or the United States.

In case of a serious illness or injury, medical evacuation can be very expensive, so it’s advisable to have travel insurance that covers such situations and hospital stays.

Remember, when heading for a Mexican vacation, ensure your provider is on your government’s list of approved providers and hospitals, as there have been cases of medical billing abuses. If you become ill or are injured, contact your travel insurer immediately, and they will help coordinate your care and payment.

Medical tourism is also prevalent in Mexico, but travelers should do diligent research on the health and financial risks, the medical facilities, and any potential language barriers and ensure proper coverage in their travel insurance before proceeding with medical tourism.

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Useful Tips for Traveling Safely in Mexico

Select Where You Stay Wisely

Your choice of accommodation plays a significant role in ensuring your safety while exploring Mexico.

Here are a few pointers to consider while deciding on your accommodation:

  • Location matters: Try to stay in well-populated and tourist-friendly areas where there is more security.
  • Hotel reputation: Stick to hotels with good reviews and ratings to ensure good quality service and safety standards.
  • Security: Check if the hotel has ample security measures, such as around-the-clock security personnel, lockers, or safety deposit boxes.
  • Consider other guest’s reviews: Often, previous guests’ reviews reflect the security and safety of the neighborhood and how well the hotel handled any issues that arose during their stay.

Remember, a well-chosen location can make your visit much safer and more enjoyable. So take the time to discern where you’ll stay during your visit to Mexico.

Be Aware of Your Surroundings in Crowded Places

Crowded places such as markets, tourist hotspots, and public transportation can often be a hub for pickpockets or petty thieves. Use common sense precautions to reduce your risk:

  • Keep possessions close: Have your handbag or backpack in front of you, especially in very crowded places.
  • Don’t flash valuables: Avoid displaying expensive jewelry, cameras, and smartphones in public.
  • Ignore distractions: Thieves may often have planned distractions to catch you off guard. It could be anything from a dropped wallet to a street performance.
  • Be vigilant about your surroundings: Always be aware of the people around you and possible escape routes.

Remember, being aware of your surroundings isn’t about being paranoid. It’s about paying attention and being smart, keeping your focus on enjoying your travels rather than dealing with preventable mishaps.

Only Travel Alone During the Day

Traveling alone at night, especially in unfamiliar areas, can increase the risk of potential dangers like muggings or theft. Limiting your solo travels to daylight hours can considerably reduce this risk.

During the day, streets and tourist spots are usually busier and have more active police patrols, making them generally safer. It’s a good idea to plan your day so you can return to your accommodation before nightfall. Also, check the sunset times and the safest routes before heading out for the day.

Using well-known transportation options such as Uber can be safer if you need to travel at night. Similarly, staying in areas with an adequate police presence that are well-lit and populated is advisable.

Taking such precautions can help ensure you have an enjoyable and safe trip to Mexico.

Don't Get Too Drunk at Local Bars and Clubs

Being intoxicated can make you an easy target for theft, sexual assault, and other crimes. Also, there have been cases reported of tainted or unregulated alcohol causing illness or blackouts.

Here are some safety tips:

  • Limit your alcohol: Moderate your alcohol intake to maintain clear judgment and awareness of your surroundings.
  • Keep your drinks in sight: This can prevent someone from slipping any unwanted substances into your drink.
  • Avoid accepting drinks from strangers: This significantly reduces the risk of being drugged.
  • Go out with a group: If possible, try to go out with a group or make friends with other travelers, providing an added layer of protection.

Remember, while you’re on vacation, to relax and enjoy yourself, shield yourself from potential harm by drinking responsibly and never leaving any drink—alcoholic or not—unattended.

Always Obey Mexico's Laws

It’s essential to adhere to the laws and regulations of any country you visit, including Mexico. Failure to do so can lead to fines, imprisonment, or deportation.

Key points include:

  • Drugs: Illegal drug use is a serious crime in Mexico. Even possession of a small amount can lead to incarceration.
  • Alcohol: Public intoxication and open containers in public are prohibited. Violations often lead to arrest.
  • Public behavior: Disorderly conduct, including rowdy behavior or public nudity, can lead to fines or arrests. Respect local customs and behaviors.
  • Traffic violations: Traffic laws are strictly enforced. Fines can be paid at the station within 5 to 30 working days.

Finally, if you become entangled in the Mexican justice system for violating the law, legal proceedings can be lengthy and complex. Penalties can be more severe compared to North America or Europe, even for similar offenses.

Always obey the laws and exercise the same level of caution you would employ in your home country.

Frequently Asked Questions About Safety in Mexico

Is Mexico safe for tourists right now?

Yes, many areas of Mexico are safe for tourists right now.

However, the safety of Mexico can vary by region, and it’s always a good idea to check the latest travel advisories and news before your trip.

In general, major tourist destinations like Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and Cabo San Lucas have taken extensive measures to protect tourists and are considered safe to visit.

Still, visitors should use common sense safety precautions, like staying in tourist areas and avoiding risky behaviors.

What is the safest place in Mexico?

The safest places in Mexico are typically those with a high influx of tourists.

Cities such as Merida in Yucatan and Tulum in Quintana Roo are considered safe for tourists. Additionally, Baja California Sur, which is home to cities such as La Paz, Todos Santos, and Cabo San Lucas, is also considered safe.

Other tourist-heavy sites like Riviera Maya and Puerto Vallarta also register lower crime rates. However, travelers should always stay abreast with the latest travel advisories and local news.

What areas should you avoid in Mexico?

According to the U.S. Department of State, some parts of Mexico are considered risky due to high crime rates. Most well-known tourists are safe, but traveling “off the beaten path” is not recommended in Mexico.

These regions include the states of Guerrero, Tamaulipas, Michoacán, Colima, and Sinaloa. However, the level of risk can vary within these states, and some areas may be safe to visit.

It’s best to do extensive research, check current travel advisories, and possibly consult with a trusted travel advisor when planning your trip.

Is Mexico City safe for Americans?

Yes, Mexico City is generally safe for Americans and tourists from other countries.

Major tourist attraction areas are patrolled regularly by police, and most tourists have a hassle-free and safe visit. However, just like any other large city, there might be some areas with a higher crime rate.

Thus, the city demands a level of caution – avoid venturing into isolated areas, especially after dark, do not flaunt valuables, and always be vigilant about your belongings in busy marketplaces or public transportation.

As long as you exercise these safety precautions, you can enjoy the cultural richness Mexico City offers.

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Conclusion: Is Mexico Safe for Travel

In conclusion, Mexico’s reputation for safety varies from region to region, but it remains a popular tourist spot.

Many areas have robust tourist infrastructures and can be visited without worry, thanks to local law enforcement that helps keep these areas secure.

That said, the key to safe travel is staying informed about the specific areas you plan to visit, practicing good judgment and vigilance, and following the laws and regulations, no matter where you travel.

Do remember to get comprehensive travel insurance and stay connected with your family and friends, updating them about your whereabouts and plans.

Despite its challenges, Mexico’s rich cultural heritage, scenic landscapes, and warm people make it a rewarding travel destination. While it is essential to be aware and cautious, do not let fear prevent you from enjoying the colorful and vibrant beauty that Mexico has to offer.

So, is Mexico Safe for Travel? With sensibility, respect for laws and customs, and vigilance – absolutely, it can be a wonderful getaway, opening you up to experiences and stories that last a lifetime.

If I missed anything, let me know in the comments below!

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