Crime and Law in Mexico - How to Stay Safe

Mexico's visitor numbers grow every year, which locals and government hope will continue. Before you go, here's what you need to know about crime and staying within the law.


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Petty Crime

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.

Violent Crime

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. 

Car Rental Laws

If you are renting a car in Mexico, make sure you have the necessary insurance papers; if you don’t, you can be jailed and your car can be impounded until all claims have been settled.

Your Mexican auto insurance will also refute any claim if you have received a citation for drunk driving. 

Alcohol Consumption

In Mexico, the legal drinking age is 18. Police in border towns and the large tourist spots of the Yucatán Peninsula, Pacific Coast and Baja California are clamping down on travelers who visit Mexico for the sole purpose of partying themselves into oblivion.

While Mexico doesn't prohibit traveling with liquor in a vehicle, it’s illegal to drink on the street; travelers can and will be fined, or jailed for public drunkenness.

In recent years, authorities have launched many campaigns that actively target drunk drivers. Breath-testing checkpoints can be found in large cities, such as Mexico City, and around the popular seaside locations. If you are found to be drunk behind the wheel, you will probably spend time in jail. 

The government likes to keep the peace in the lead up to elections, state and federally. Known as ley seca (dry law), this means it’s prohibited to drink between 24 and 72 hours before voting, (regardless of whether you have the right to vote). Duration varies depending on which state you are in. Baja California, Jalisco and Queretaro are the exceptions where ley seca doesn't apply. In some states, alcohol can still be served in a restaurant with meals, or only during daylight hours.

Drugs in Mexico

Contrary to popular belief, things aren't that loose in Mexico when it comes to drugs. To find out how to stay within the law and avoid drug violence, read our article.

LGBTQ in Mexico

Discrimination against the LGBTQ community is illegal in Mexico. However, LGBTQ travelers should remain discreet and respectful of the local culture as Mexico is still a largely conservative country. To find out more, check out our article from our LGBTQ expert, Ed Salvato.

Driving Laws

If you hire a car, do yourself a favor and avoid speeding, running a red light, using a cell phone or any other traffic offense or the local police will pull you over and give you a ticket. Always remain calm and respectful. If you are given a fine, ask the officer to take you to the local police station to pay for it legally. However, you may be asked for a mordida.

What is a Mordida?

It's a bribe. Despite being illegal, and the efforts of government officials trying to stamp out the practice, some police try to solicit a bribe, as a form of intimidation, particularly from travelers.
If you do find yourself on the end of mordida request, don't pay it. Politely and firmly decline the request and ask to be taken to the local police station so you can fill out the paperwork and process the fine legally. If the officer keeps insisting, then ask to go to the station to speak to their boss, the police chief. Usually, that will end the interaction and they will go away. 

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  • hggurhfihv said

    Animal abuse should be illeagal

  • Dominique said

    Ok. I need some help say if i have my card paperwork saying im a patient to smoke cannabis what is the law for cannabis patients how much weed can we bring with use. .

  • Jammy said

    So all three comments are idiots.

    Mark Waverly; nothing about this is racist or in poor taste. I live in Mexico at the moment; it is all culturally sound and honest. Americans love to think everything is racist; especially when they don't know wtf they're talking about.

    hggurhfihv; i completely agree but that just so happens to be culturally insensitive and close-minded. Judging a culture and saying they should change is the equivalent to someone telling you to stop wanking. You clearly never will you pathetic loser

    Dominique (gay name btw) Weed is easy to get here in general. Don't bring your pathetic lil card cuz they don't care; they are legalizing marijuana (for locals.) You can smoke it in public; just don't be an idiot. If you get caught you don't get in that much trouble anyway; you pay a bribe or go to the station and pay a fine. No jail time; just... read a book and suck a dick you pathetic little bitch.

    Why are most people so stupid? Seriously; each of these comments were retarded in a unique way.. Good article though!

  • Jammy said

    Oh, one more thing! As an openly homosexual man in Mexico I can say at least that part of this shitty article was correct! I've had the best gay encouters of my life here!

  • Manny said

    I once got caught by local police and instead of a bribe, I got off by sucking the policemans dick.. it wasn't as bad as many would think.

  • Kaisa said

    Finland is not a gun-friendly country. You should not mention the U.S. and Finland (and Norway) even in the same sentence when you talk about gun-friendly countries. That is insane.

  • Keith said

    Last trip down there the cops robbed us. They said we could sit in jail and fight the charges or just pay them and go home. It's not worth waiting a year to be found innocent we paid them and went on our way. If you travel keep a small amount of money in a different location for a bribe to leave you the hell alone.

  • Abby said

    Stop writing articles with false information.
    It shows you did zero research on Mexico. Personal possession and use of some drugs is discriminalized. Yes you CAN legally own a gun in Mexico. Yes you CAN own brass knuckles. You are wrong about access to "prescription" drugs as well.
    Delete this stupid article.

  • Allyson said

    Hi everyone,

    We are well aware this article is very out of date. Keep posting your experiences and updated information in the comments section, we're in the process of updating these articles and appreciate your input.


    [email protected]

  • Spence said

    Have you even been to Mexico? Open containers in public is the norm as well as smoking weed. As long as you can walk it is highly unlikely the police will stop you....even if they do most of the time they will put your drunk ass in a taxi

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