Travel Health Tips for Mexico: How to Avoid Getting Sick

Can you drink the local water? How do you avoid Montezuma's Revenge? What diseases do I need to worry about? Find out how to stay healthy while traveling in Mexico with these tips.

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Street food stall in San Miguel de Allende Photo © Getty Images/Linka A Odom

Vaccinations for Mexico

The following vaccinations are recommended for travelers to Mexico:
  • Typhoid
  • Hepatitis A
  • Hepatitis B
  • Rabies

Don't forget to check that you're up to date with the following routine vaccinations: tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis, measles, mumps, rubella and polio.

Yellow fever isn't present in Mexico however it's endemic in many other countries within Latin America so if you are arriving into Mexico from a yellow fever endemic country, you will need proof of vaccination. 

Medical Treatment in Mexico

Mosquito Borne Diseases

Can I Drink Local Water in Mexico?

Water treatment and filtration systems have improved in some parts of Mexico over the years, with many resorts and major tourist spots like Mexico City, Monterrey and Cancun claiming water is safe straight from the tap. It's up to you if you want to take their word and try it. Otherwise, you will need to make sure your water is boiled or treated especially if you are out traveling in rural locations.

It's easy to forget while on vacation the many things cleaned or prepared with water -- ice, salad, pasta, etc. You need to be careful when brushing your pearly whites, too. Even if water is purified, it still might give you diarrhea because you're not used to the microbes swimming around in it.

Montezuma's Revenge

Travel diarrhea aka Montezuma's Revenge can literally put a cramp in your travels and your stomach. However, there are ways you can avoid being stuck riding the porcelain bus by observing good personal hygiene practices and taking precautions with where and what you eat.

Food stalls are common throughout Mexico, even in the rural areas, where families make a living selling homemade cooking. Some food is prepared safely and kept well, but watch out for hot foods that aren't actually hot and anything that looks like it's been sitting uncovered for a while. Always eat at spots where the food is cooked on the spot, has a high turnover and if you eat meat, ask for it to be cooked more on the well done side.

Avoid buffet-style restaurants where the food may be prepared in a questionable way or left to sit out all day. For more handy tips, check out our article on street food safety.

It goes without saying but always wash your hands before eating (use an antibacterial gel if running water and soap isn't available).

If, unfortunately you do end up sick, often it's a case of just riding it out. Read our article on what to do should you end up with a dose of traveler's diarrhea. 

Food and Water Borne Diseases

Other Health Concerns

In Mexico you can drink:

  • Sealed bottled water
  • Water that has been disinfected
  • Ice made with bottled or disinfected water
  • Carbonated drinks
  • Hot coffee or tea
  • Pasteurized milk
  • In Latin American, coconut milk is deemed a panacea for every conceivable stomach ailment, and then some.

In Mexico don't drink:

  • Tap or well water
  • Ice made with tap or well water
  • Drinks made with tap or well water (such as reconstituted juice)
  • Unpasteurized milk

Tropical Diseases in Mexico

There's more to worry about than water and food if you travel to certain areas of the country.

Although it doesn't offer much reassurance, you are far more likely to be hurt in a car accident in Mexico than contract a tropical disease. While risks of succumbing to a medieval sounding ailment like leishmaniasis are slim to none, it's wise to 

In certain areas there is a very low risk of contracting malaria and dengue fever. Depending on where you are traveling, and during which season, malaria prophylaxis may be advised.

From skin burrowing parasites to blood sucking mosquitos, pesky insects are omnipresent in low lying tropical areas in the following states:

Chiapas. Chihuahua. Durango. Nayarit. Sinaloa. Campeche. Jalisco. Oaxaca. Sonora. Tabasco. and the southern part of Quintana Roo that borders Belize.

There have been reports that dengue fever is spreading in Mexico. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website (http://www.cdc.gov) provides updated information and health advisories for travellers to Mexico.

Get a travel insurance quote for Mexico

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1 Comment

  • Jan said

    I lived in Mexico for several years. In order for the boiling method to work, water must boil for 20 minutes. Go that reason, coffee and tea should be avoided unless you have confidence that it was boiled sufficiently.

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