Nightlife in Mexico: How Travelers Can Stay Safer

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At night, Mexico comes alive with locals and travelers enjoying a good time. But things can go wrong if you don’t use common sense. Here are a few safety precautions to consider.


A lively street at night in Mexico Photo © Getty Images/Pixelchrome Inc

How to travel safely at night in Mexico

When traveling after 9pm, only use licensed taxis rather than hailing a taxi on the street or taking public transport. Ask your accommodation/restaurant/bar to call one for you.

Before getting in the taxi, check your driver has a license (sometimes the license is displayed on the windscreen, some drivers will also wear uniforms). If the taxi has a meter, either ask the driver to use it or negotiate the fare before hopping in otherwise you may end up with an unpleasant surprise at the end of the ride.

Robberies have occurred in fake taxis (often a gang member or criminal who has borrowed the licensed taxi) so always be on your guard and watch out for creative fare scams such as changing the price after agreeing to an initial price, asking for gas money etc. In worst-case scenarios, these taxis can be the starting point for express kidnappings.

Personal safety tips

  • Avoid walking alone and stick to well-lit areas
  • Ask locals or at your accommodation about safe places to go to at night and where to avoid
  • Pickpockets are active in tourist-heavy destinations around Mexico, day and night, despite the beefed-up police presence in these locations. Only take out with you what you need, keep your valuables secured and be aware of your surroundings
  • Snatch and grabs can occur so never leave your bag or wallet unattended, over the back of a chair while dining or just sitting on the table
  • If you end up making friends with the locals, you may be asked back to their home. Be cautious and if it doesn't feel right, and politely decline
  • Always drink in moderation so you can navigate your way back to your accommodation safely, as there have been reports of sexual assaults and robberies
  • Avoid leaving your drink unattended, and think twice before accepting free or special drinks that you didn’t order. Aside from the bootleg alcohol factor, the drink may also be spiked
  • Fake police will generally approach solo travelers. If a police officer approaches you, asking for documents, to pay a fine or to go with them to the station or elsewhere – don’t go; instead contact emergency services on 112.
Image: Getty Images/Torresigner. Mexico City's Downtown at Twilight.

Fake tequila

Many people partake in Mexico’s national drink, tequila, but check that it’s 100% agave. Mexico takes its tequila very seriously and there is a regulatory council that oversees tequila standards in production and sales. By law, authentic tequila is produced in just five Mexican states – Jalisco and designated towns in Guanajuato, Nayarit, Michoacan and Tamaulipas.

Some bars and restaurants (particularly in popular locations such as Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and other areas of the Yucatan Peninsula) have been caught serving unregulated and potentially dangerous liquor to guests, including fake tequila.

When ordering a drink, make sure you can see what is being made and check that the brands are reputable.

Alcohol poisoning

Anything that is passed off as tequila which isn’t 100% agave is generally diluted with methanol which if consumed, can be fatal. Authorities routinely make arrests and seizures of fake tequila and other alcohol.

You can't see, smell or taste methanol in drinks so if you, or anyone you are traveling with, suspect that you may have been poisoned, seek medical attention immediately and report all cases of methanol poisoning to the local police.

Methanol poisoning symptoms to look out for include blurred vision, dilated pupils, fatigue, nausea, headache and abdominal pain.

If you still feel unsure, you might want to stick to bottled wine, bottled or canned beer.

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