Is Mexico Safe? 13 Essential Travel Tips for Visitors

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Mexico isn't dangerous if you know what to look out for. From kidnapping, crime and drugs to scams, natural hazards, health and transport safety tips, these are the things you must know before you go.


View of beach in Acapulco, Mexico Photo © Getty Images/ElOjoTorpe

Safety is something many travelers think about before traveling to Mexico – but despite what you might see in the media, thousands of people travel here trouble-free every year.

Before you go, check your government's travel advisory for the most up-to-date information relevant to you.

This is what you need to know to stay safe and out of harm's way in Mexico.

1. Street safety in Mexico

Despite the media headlines telling us that Mexico is rife with crime, the majority of travelers experience one of the world's most vibrant and extraordinary cultures without incident. If you use your common sense, stay aware of your surroundings and keep your valuables out of sight, your trip to Mexico will be uneventful in the best sense of the word

2. Petty crime

Pickpocketing, theft, and snatch-and-grabs can happen in Mexico, particularly in crowded areas such as markets, plazas, parks and transport hubs – Benito Juárez International Airport is one such hotspot.

Pickpockets often work in teams, aiming to distract you while they fleece you of your phone, wallet, purse, or bag. Be aware of who is around you and where you are. 

On a day out, don't take anything more than you need for the day and secure your valuables in a safe at your accommodation. If there is no safe available, divide your money up and secrete it away in different places.

If dining out, don't leave your bag over the back of the chair or on the table. Keep it between your feet or on your lap, with the strap around your wrist or leg. Don't leave your wallet, purse or phone on the table.

Should you experience petty crime, report it to your embassy and the police, though, in the latter case, with the sad proviso that you would be likely wasting your time.

3. Violent crime

Most of the time, visitors to Mexico won't experience anything more than petty crime. While the country has a notably high murder rate (back in the tens, the border city of Ciudad Juárez held the distinction of being “the murder capital of the world”), the killings are chiefly the result of turf wars between drug cartels.

If you are threatened for your money and other valuables, don't resist or fight back. The assailant may be armed and won't hesitate to use the weapon.

Physical and sexual assaults have been reported in many locations in Mexico. Avoid wandering alone at night, particularly in poorly lit areas and near beaches. Avoid traveling alone among ruins, and don't hike solo in remote areas, such as the Copper Canyon.

4. Scams in Mexico

Fake taxis, fake cops, airport scams, watered-down drinks, car rental damage scams and the good old foreign exchange switch.

These are just some of the scams that can test any traveler in Mexico and, in some cases, drain your holiday funds. Most locals aren’t out to bilk you, but with a little care and by being aware of who is around you and what is going on, you can avoid becoming a con artist’s next victim.

5. Drugs and drug cartel country

Unfortunately, there’s no ignoring that Mexico has a reputation for drug-related crime, and it doesn’t restrict itself to the mean streets of the cartel-run states of Sinaloa, Guerrero, Colima and Michoacán. It goes where the money is, and that includes tourist spots such as Cabo San LucasCancun and the Mayan Riviera, Puerto Vallarta and Playa del Carmen.

Most travelers report trouble-free trips, but some have found themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time or did not follow government safety warnings and advisories. In the case of the Copper Canyon, the popular hiking spot, in the absence of a reputable local guide, wrong turns are all too easy to make and have proved fatal.

6. Nightlife safety in Mexico

Mexicans throw a great party. From sunset to sunrise, whether you are at a bar, in a club or enjoying a nighttime festival, it’s important to look after yourself, your fellow travelers and your belongings. Drink spiking can occur, which places you at risk of assault and theft. So, watch your drinks and drink in moderation so you can get back to your accommodation safely.

7. Transport crime

If you’re renting a car, don’t drive overnight, and stick to toll roads during the day; otherwise, use first-class coach services between cities as illegal roadblocks and highway robberies are becoming predictable in states such as Guerrero, Michoacán, Oaxaca, Chiapas and along the US border.

Pickpockets are common on city buses, so use car-sharing and ride-hailing apps. Travelers also need to take personal safety precautions and secure their valuables around transport hubs.

8. Express kidnapping in Mexico

Express kidnapping is a growing issue in Latin America, not just Mexico. Never flag down an apparently licensed taxi in the street. The vehicle might have been borrowed or stolen by a criminal who, once you have climbed inside, will make demands for money and take you to the nearest ATM to withdraw cash. The driver may take your valuables, too, or take you hostage until your family or friends make a ransom payment.

Normally, these encounters end with a trip to the cash machine. Either way, it’s vital that you don’t resist. Money and valuables can be replaced – you can’t.

9. Women's safety in Mexico

While most locals are friendly, there are some who have a machismo attitude towards women. Solo women travelers may experience harassment as a result. Dressing modestly, especially in rural locations, can help avoid unwanted attention. Ask locals about the safe places to go when in town and if you’re unsure about exploring by yourself, take a tour. It’s also a great way to meet other fellow travelers. Avoid traveling at night.

10. Is Mexico safe for LGBTQ+ travelers?

Mexico is welcoming more LGBTQ+ travelers each year, but the Catholic Church continues to exert a conservative influence, so discretion is usually advised in areas that don’t come recommended by gay friends. Large pockets of Acapulco, Puerto Vallarta, Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Mérida and Mexico City are very LGBTG+-friendly. And let’s not forget that parts of Mexico have been gender-queer since pre-colonial times.

11. Natural hazards

Every so often, Mother Nature decides to challenge Mexico with volcanoesearthquakes, hurricanes, intense heat, poisonous plants, venomous reptiles and spiders (rattlers, coral snake, black widow) and predatory big cats (puma, jaguar). But the difficulties we face aren’t always so dramatic – many people drown each year at popular beach resorts due to a combination of dehydration and rip currents. If throwing yourself on the mercies of the natural world is your thing, there are many ways you can stay safe.

12. Travel health

Split by the Tropic of Cancer, Mexico has both tropical and temperate climates, which are home to a variety of mosquito-borne diseases such as dengue fever, malaria, the Zika virus and chikungunya. The country also has great hiking spots, some of which are thousands of feet above sea level, posing the risk of altitude sickness. Throw in a dose of “Montezuma’s Revenge” and staying healthy while traveling in Mexico can throw down the gauntlet to even the most intrepid traveler.

13. Video: Tips on how to stay safe in Mexico City

Watch as Patrick Abboud speaks to a drug dealer, a police officer and locals at the market, to find out just how safe Mexico City is for travelers.

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  • David Torres said

    I agree in several points here, but others are not quite true. I have lived in Mexico City since i was a little boy and i can tell you that the only thing that have happened to me was to be pickpocketed twice: in the subway and in a really big concert. It's true that the northern part is quite a not-so-advisable place to travel, but I think the capital is just as other cities in the world, like Delhi or Lima, where you have to just be careful and keep common sense at hand.


  • Helen said

    I was astounded to read Janet's comments. We (a couple in our 60's) are just back from our third trip to Mexico and can't speak highly enough of the country and its citizens. We find the people to be kind courteous and extremely helpful. We love their penchant for late hours and have never felt unsafe, even very late at night. We do not go to the US haunts such as Cancun and the north. If you are thinking of going don't miss Mexico City. We feel safer there than in Sydney these days. Also think about Puebla and Qeretaro, both UNESCO listed cities, within easy reach of Mexico City. Also from Queretaro it is an easy trip to The natural beauty of Xilitla where inspired eccentric English artist Edward James created Las Pozas. The gardens and pools make Gaudi's garden in Barcelona seem very insignificant. It is a wonder of the world. Buses are the way to travel as they are very punctual, clean and very cheap. Do practise saying 'Soy d'Australia' so that you are not mistaken for an American and your trip will be truly wonderful. Did I mention the food?? So delicious and so reasonably priced. They appreciate you telling them it was delicious by saying 'Muy rico'. Go and enjoy.


  • Alina said

    "Do practise saying 'Soy d'Australia' so that you are not mistaken for an American and your trip will be truly wonderful..." XD Helen, I love you :) Australians will always be so welcome in Mexico.


  • Gary said

    After travelling around by myself for 6 weeks in a rental car in the Yucatan peninsula area and mingling with the local people I feel that area is safer than many places in the USA or Canada. I am returning this next winter and extending my journeys further. Don't be frightened by the hype!
    Link here to my trip report


  • Nazmul said

    If an average of 100 US citizens are getting killed every year, I don't give a damn how tasty their food is,or how beautiful the places are, specially not with little kids...


  • Andrew said

    I'd never visit Mexico:

    15.643 murders in mexico in 2015.
    17,013 muders in mexico in 2016. Yeah, it's getting much worse.

    Mexico holds first place worldwide in kidnapping.


    • Hemu said

      It seems this article was written for Italy. I think the most dangerous country is US.


  • mark said

    How safe is Los algodones, Baja mexico? Going there for dental work.


  • Don Juan Pedraza said

    I no longer visit Mexico ( my former country ) because of the cops that stopped me everytime I went there to visit my friends since my family all live in America now. You do nothing wrong, but in their minds you did do something wrong. A car with Mexican plates can pass you up, but the Mexican cops will stop you for going too fast when someone has already passed you up right in front of their noses. I can go to the Market Square in our city and buy everything I can buy in Mexico.


  • Josh Hall said

    If you follow a few simple rules and travel wisely, Mexico is safe and amazing! We spent six months traveling throughout the country and had zero issues. We wrote about our experience in the link below (satire):


  • Angel said

    I lived there for over 5 years, and I loved it! also as soon as i hit my pension, im going back, I adopted Mexico, and I can tell you the people are appalled at the narco crime and what is happening to their country. Most people are honest, hard working, drink Moderately, and are frugal. They are warm hearted, friendly, helpful, and just plain awesome! Not long after moving, to Cancun, man was looking into the window of the stairway, well, my neighbor caught him and started grilling him and the guy left. See? this Discourages, theivery, and keeps the neighborhood safe. And Thank You to my Fantastic Friend Jose Luis for looking out for a "stranger" God Bless Mexico and their people. They have lovelty traditions, Family is Still important, and the food, well,,, the food is grrreat! Go, you wont be sorry but play it safe, dont go walking into alleys, Ever,,, Especially at night. If someone wants to pick a fight, leave, immediately, and avoid hassles, of a more serious nature,,,, Do, have fun, but be Safe first,, god bless


  • rickardo said

    I've been to Mexico many times and never felt threatened,even late at night,but cateristas do inhabit every nook & cranny on buses & trains in DF . The stories of cops wanting bribes are rampant and I know them to be true,but I've been able to ward them off with my size,self confidence and judicious use of Spanish.


  • Renato Lopez said

    I just spent 70 days in Mexico in a state of Sonora The only issue I had was with the municipal police who searched my car and stole my Cologne. Other than that I had no problems with moving around the city in restaurants in public parks and museums in the outback.


  • Lance said

    Mexico is not just safe but extremely cheap as compared to the US, the purchasing power index rating of Mexico stands at 30.8; meaning prices in Mexico are more than 70% lower as compared to the US.


  • Frank said

    The US State Dept. warnings on Mexico are pretty clear, and very dire. Are they lying?


  • Sherry H said

    I traveled across the breadth of Mexico alone, lived with room mates and alone in 7 different states over a total of 2 years. My Spanish is passable, and I never once was robbed or molested. I always practiced common sense - never went to a bar alone, never walked at night alone, locked my doors, kept my purse on a long strap across my body and with the strap over my leg when I was sitting down, etc. Never experienced any kind of violence though a bus I was on was stopped by the Federales and that was a little scary. The terrifying moments were always riding in combi's without seat belts and with young male drivers intent on getting to the destination in the shortest amount of time, through the mountains. I got hit on by men and whistled at, and ignored them just like I've ignored them all my life. Once my wallet fell out of a zippered pocket I forgot to zip and the man behind me ran after me to return it. Not sure that would have happened in New York City or even Albuquerque. But who knows? The world is full of wonderful people but the ugly statistics are caused by the most cruel and hateful people.


  • Griz326 said

    Mexico has never been safe for gringos.

    As a former merchant seaman, I learned the meaning of situational awareness; without it, you're screwed.

    The only time I was robbed was because I dropped my guard with my "trusted interpreter."

    Cardinal rule #1: Trust no one.
    Cardinal rule #2: Never drink to drunkenness.
    Cardinal rule #3: Always have an escape plan.

    In my old age, I still like dive bars and barflies. I watch my drink being poured and keep it in my hand until finished. Refer to the Cardinal Rules.


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