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Safety is something a lot of people worry about before traveling to Mexico – and despite what's reported 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.
Despite the media headlines painting Mexico as a place of crime and drug violence in the past few years, travelers shouldn’t allow that to stop them from experiencing one of the most colorful and amazing cultures in the world and the cities have plenty of that. Using your common sense, being aware of your surroundings, keeping your valuables out of sight and taking a few precautions while exploring the cities means your Mexican trip will be a safe and fun one.
Pickpocketing, theft and snatch-and-grabs can happen in Mexico, particularly around crowded areas such as markets, busy streets and transport hubs; Benito Juárez International Airport is one such hotspot.
Pickpockets will often work in teams, aiming for maximum distraction of the traveler while they fleece you of your valuables. Be aware of who is around you and where you are.
Don't take anything more than you need for the day out with you and if available, secure your valuables in a safe back at your accommodation. If there is no safe available, split your money up and secret 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 sitting on the table.
Should you be subjected to petty crime or violent crime, report it to the nearest tourist police or local police. Also, report it to your embassy.
Most of the time, visitors to Mexico won't experience anything more than petty crime, however, there have been reports of travelers falling victim to violent crimes. While Mexico has a notably high murder rate, most of the victims are Mexican nationals.
If you are threatened for your money and other valuables, don't resist or fight back; the assailant may be armed with a weapon and won't hesitate to use it.
Physical and sexual assaults have been reported in many locations in Mexico. Although travelers aren't targeted, it pays to use some common sense. Avoid wandering alone at night, particularly in poorly lit areas and near beaches. Avoid traveling alone among ruins, in temple areas, and don't hike alone in remote areas, like Copper Canyon.
Due to the ever-present drug war going on in Mexico, only travel during the day to minimize the risk of carjacking and robbery.
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 can test any traveler in Mexico and in some cases; drain your holiday funds if you’re not careful. Most locals aren’t out to fleece you, but with a little care and being aware of who is around you and what is going on, you can avoid falling prey and becoming a scammer’s next lucrative customer.
Unfortunately, Mexico does have a reputation for drug related crime including in popular tourist spots such as Cabo San Lucas, Cancun, Tijuana, Acapulco and others. Most travelers have a trouble free trip, however there have been reports of travelers being killed by drug cartels. Often it’s been a case of “wrong place, wrong time” or not following government safety warnings and advisories in the case of the popular and spectacular hiking spot of Copper Canyon, where taking a local guide is not just a necessity for the language barrier but for safety.
If it’s one thing Mexicans do well, it’s that they know how to party. From sunset to sunrise, whether you are at a bar, in a club or enjoying a night time 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.
Pickpockets, car-jackings and robberies have occurred in Mexico and the risk of these crimes while traveling increases at night, particuarly in known drug cartel country and border areas. So it’s best to do your traveling around town or within the country during the day. Travelers also need to take personal safety precautions and secure their valuables when on the move including on public transport and around transport hubs.
While not exclusive to Mexico, express kidnapping is a growing issue in Latin America. Often used as a means to obtain quick money, the victim is kidnapped and forced to empty their bank account. While most people are let go without physical injury, it’s still a traumatic experience. On occasions, injuries and death can sometimes occur when people resist their kidnappers. Taking precautions when withdrawing money at ATM’s and using licensed taxis can help reduce the risk of being express kidnapped.
If you get unexpectedly sick or injured overseas, your medical bills could be expensive. Make sure you pack travel insurance, with 24/7 emergency assistance.
While most locals are friendly, there are some who still uphold the machismo attitude towards women. Solo women travelers may experience harassment as a result. Dressing modestly and low key (especially in rural locations) can help avoid unwanted attention. Check with locals where are 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.
Mexico is increasingly becoming a hot spot for LGBTQ travelers each year, however the conservative influence of the Catholic Church still exists and for local LGBTQ people, expressing their gay side is done discreetly. There are local LGBTQ communities in the city areas however if you plan to travel out into rural locales; attitudes are more conservative, with public displays of affection frowned upon. It’s important that travelers be discreet and respectful towards the local culture to avoid putting yourself potentially in harm’s way.
Most of the time, things are pretty calm in Mexico however during various times in the year, nature decides to challenge the locals and travelers. Volcanoes, earthquakes, heat, hurricanes, animals. Even going to the beach can present risk for any traveler. Many people drown each year at popular beach holiday spots across Mexico due to the conditions, rips or misadventure. These are a few of the hazards you need to watch out for while enjoying the beauty of Mexico’s natural environment and there are many ways you can stay safe.
Split by the Tropic of Cancer, Mexico has both tropical and temperate climates which aid numerous mosquito borne diseases such as dengue fever, malaria, chikungunya and other health hazards. The country also has great hiking spots, some of which are at 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 present even the most intrepid traveler with a challenge.
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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