How to Travel Safely in Mexico: Travel Tips for Mexico
You can listen to this article here:
November 29, 2023
10 min read
Traveling to Mexico can be both an exciting and intimidating experience. With its vibrant culture, beautiful beaches, and delicious food, there's so much to explore. However, it’s important to remember safety is a priority when traveling in a foreign country. To make sure your trip runs as smoothly as possible, I'm here to provide you with my top tips on how to travel safely in this beautiful country.
It's important to note that over 20 million tourists visit the Mexico each year and on average half of those are Americans. And while this article will discuss a lot of topics that turn people away, there are plenty of safe areas to visit. If you are planning to visit one of the many popular tourist destinations in Mexico such as: Cabo San Lucas, Puerto Vallarta, Playa del Carmen, Tulum, or Cancun you will be fine. You will also be safe in Mexico City, Oaxaca, Monterrey and Guadalajara too.
The US Department of State has issued multiple travel warnings, alerting citizens of the potential safety risks in certain areas due to crime and violence. The US Embassy in Mexico City has urged travelers to "exercise increased caution" when visiting certain parts of the country. The warning is based on reports of crime, including homicide, kidnapping and carjacking.
In particular, tourists should avoid nonessential travel to several states within the country; these include Colima, Michoacán, Sinaloa and Tamaulipas. Additionally, those who decide to visit Guerrero or Oaxaca are advised to stay in tourist circles only and not venture out of these areas without proper security measures.
While it is important that all visitors remain vigilant while travelling throughout Mexico and pay close attention to their surroundings, you can still travel to these areas but use extreme caution and travel with a local if possible.
I have visited both Michoacan and Guanajuato states, of course with a local. You are generally safe while traveling on the larger roads or toll roads. On my visit to the cities there, I felt completely safe. There are a high number of national guard patrols through the cities and a high number of police on the streets. It's the areas outside the cities that can be dangerous.
Crime and Statistics in Mexico
Crime and statistics in Mexico have been a growing concern for many years. The Mexican government has reported that from 2022, violence related to drug cartel-related activities, as well as petty crime and kidnappings, have increased in the country. This increase in criminal activity has put a strain on the law enforcement agencies of Mexico and is causing a great deal of distress for citizens of the nation.
Mexico has experienced a concerning rise in violent crimes the past few years. According to official figures, in 2020, there were 36,773 homicides in Mexico - a 15 percent increase from the previous year. This is the highest rate ever recorded in the country. The homicide rate in 2021 was 76.3 percent higher than in 2015. In the first 10 months of 2022, overall homicides dropped by about 7 percent compared with the same period last year. However, the Mexican Statistical Agency (INEGI) and the Ministry of Security and Citizen Protection report that Mexico is still on track to record more than 30,000 homicides for a fifth consecutive year in 2022.
Furthermore, four out of five Mexico states that deteriorated the most in terms of peacefulness recorded the largest deteriorations in homicide and firearms crime rates. An average of 17 atrocities were reported in news outlets in Mexico each day during the first six months of 2022, up 18 percent from the same period in 2021. In related news, drug-related homicides in Mexico decreased to 31,127 for the year in 2022, down to
Clearly, Mexico has experienced a worrying rise in violence and crime over the past few years. While there has been some improvement in the homicide rate in the last two years, it is still concerningly high. The government and other stakeholders must work together to reduce the levels of violence and ensure greater security for citizens.
Is Mexico Safe for Americans?
The statistics say absolutely. While it is true that there are certain areas of Mexico known for higher crime rates, many of these are located far away from the popular tourist destinations frequented by Americans. You can see my statistics on the rate of American deaths in Mexico here.
With the proper precautions and awareness, the beautiful country can be a safe and enjoyable place to travel. Overall, Mexico has many wonderful attractions and experiences to offer visitors, and if safety concerns are taken into consideration then it can be a safe place for Americans to visit.
Travel Safety Tips
Research the Area
When planning your trip it is essential to protect your safety and security by doing some research about the best areas of Mexico to visit. As an experienced traveler, I’ve found that the best way to find out more about an area is by reading reviews from travelers who have already visited. Reading blogs written by people who know and understand the city can provide invaluable information on which parts of town are safest for tourists, as well as what areas one should avoid.
I always make sure to research potential areas before visiting any new city or country. Having a good understanding of which cities and neighborhoods are safe can help you feel prepared and at ease on your visit to Mexico. A great place to start researching is online; search for traveler’s reviews, ask questions on travel forums or Facebook groups, or read up-to-date blog posts from people who live in the area or from me ;)
It's best practice to use caution when traveling alone or in groups, particularly if you are carrying or wearing valuable items. This is especially true in densely populated areas such as downtowns and city centers. It is important to remain aware of your surroundings and take steps to protect yourself from potential thieves and other criminals.
Be sure to keep all valuables out of plain sight and do not leave them unattended in a public place. If you must carry a purse or bag, keep it securely fastened around your body at all times while walking. You should also be aware of any suspicious people who may be following you on foot or lurking nearby.
Also, it probably goes without saying but you shouldn't accept drinks from strangers or from anyone else that you just met. Make sure if you are going to drink that you get your beverages from the bar or cooler.
You can read my article about the best way to travel and minimize your of items getting robbed or stolen.
Avoid Driving at Night
I try to avoid traveling at night in general but this especially applies to driving.. Not only is the terrain difficult to navigate due to the lack of lighting, but there are also many dangers on Mexican roads such as drunk drivers and car-jackings that increase after dark.
I highly suggest using toll roads whenever possible when traveling through Mexico during daytime hours. Though these toll roads are more expensive than regular highways, they provide travelers with added security and peace of mind knowing that their route will be well lit and patrolled by state or federal police.
Additionally, some toll roads even feature rest stops with food, gas stations and restrooms so travelers can make frequent stops without worrying about their vehicle’s safety while parked along a deserted highway.
Purchase Travel Insurance
Having travel insurance and travel health insurance can give you peace of mind knowing that if something unexpected happens, such as a medical emergency or lost luggage, your expenses will be taken care of. It can also protect you from any losses incurred due to flight cancellations or trip interruptions.
Additionally, make sure that you have travel insurance that covers liability and car rentals if you are looking to rent a vehicle along the trip. This also counts for scooters.
Before embarking on my next adventure, I always make sure to check what kind of coverage is included in my policy so that I’m properly protected while traveling abroad.
Take Some Precautions
Some other quick tips on personal safety in Mexico:
Avoid traveling alone at night - remember safety in numbers.
Keep your important documents in a safe at the hotel - this way you don't lose them and they are nearby and not on you.
Keep a list of important addresses such as your hotel and embassy - in case your phone dies or you have an emergency
Don't be flashy - try to blend in. No rings. No watches.
Learn some Spanish - this is invaluable just knowing how to communicate a little goes a long way
Only carry your debit card on you when you go to withdraw cash, otherwise keep in your room - don't lose access to your money
If you do have to travel on foot at night alone. Travel on the main roads, this will increase your chances of being around other people and well lit areas. Avoid going down small streets and alleys.
Avoid these Common Scams on Your Next Trip to Mexico
Tourist traps and scams are worldwide and account for a lot of situations that turn people off from traveling unfortunately. It's important to recognize that it occurs frequently in tourist areas, so be on the lookout for these types of scams:
As a tourist, the last thing you want to happen is getting scammed. Unfortunately, there have been reports of fake taxi scams happening around the country. It's easy for unsuspecting tourists to be targeted by these scammers and end up paying more than they should for the ride.
Fake cabs are a common scam, where people pose as legitimate drivers and charge outrageous fares or even rob their passengers. To avoid this, only use cabs from authorized companies or apps, and make sure to check the driver and car information before getting in.
My advice? When travelling in Mexico, it's better to use Uber or Didi instead of hailing a cab on the street. Uber drivers are licensed and regulated by the government, making them much safer than traditional taxi drivers who could be connected with a criminal group. You can also see an estimate of your fare before you book your ride so that you know what you're paying for ahead of time; this way you won't get ripped off or overcharged when it comes down to payment.
Caveat: Some Uber and Didi drivers are not allowed to pick up passengers from the airports, it depends on the city and power of the taxi groups. In this case, yes, it's safe to use a taxi. Most will have a handler that will direct you to the taxi, scan the taxi with a wand and take a picture of the driver and his/her badge. I suggest going to the taxi stall and ordering a taxi when at an airport.
On a side note, the US State Department just issued a travel warning in Cancun due to the hostilities between cab and Uber drivers. It is a lucrative business but unfortunately tourists are being caught in the middle. It's becoming increasingly popular for an Uber drivers to ask participants to walk to a nearby area or parking garage. Sometime Uber even notes the pickup area at the specific airport.
Pushy Street Vendors
As an avid traveler, I’ve always been fascinated by the hustle and bustle of street vendors. From food to souvenirs, these vendors provide an entertaining atmosphere that’s full of life. However, the exciting energy can be misleading because street vendor scams are common in many tourist destinations.
Don't fall prey to expensive souvenirs. You may be tempted to purchase souvenirs from street vendors, but they can be extremely overpriced. Stick to reputable stores or markets to avoid getting scammed. Anyone trying to wave you into the store and pressure you to buy something is probably best ignored.
When visiting a new place it’s important to remember that not all street vendors have your best interest at heart. Many will try their hardest to get you to purchase their products regardless of if you want them or not. My advice is simple, if you're not really buying then don’t look at the products! This will help reduce stress and the chances of being scammed since they rely on customers giving in to temptation and making impulse purchases.
Tequila for the Decision Maker
In Mexico, there is one tactic that stands out amongst all others – giving tequila shots to the shopper or decision maker. This approach is often used by vendors who are struggling to persuade someone into making a purchase and involves offering an alcoholic beverage as part of the deal.
The goal is usually to create a sense of trust and friendship between the vendor and customer in order to encourage them into buying. It also operates on the principle of reciprocity, so be wary of anyone trying to offer you shots while shopping.
Bump or Accident and Grab
This is a popular scam, where a thief or group of thieves will distract you with a bump and then snatch your possessions. They could also "accidentally" spill something on you and then attempt to wipe it off while also pickpocketing you. It is important to be aware of your surroundings, keep a close eye on your belongings, and only carry what you need.
Do not use stand-alone ATMs, as they are more likely to be tampered with and have your card skimmed. Instead, use bank-affiliated ATMs in more secure locations.
Time Share Scams
Be wary of anyone offering you a free vacation package or discounted timeshare property. These are usually scams that require you to pay a large fee upfront, which is often nonrefundable. This is mostly done online but could be in person.
Staying Safe While Traveling in Mexico
As a traveler who has lived in Mexico, it is important to understand all the available modes of transportation. From public transport and Uber, to buses and car rentals, there is no shortage of ways to get around.
Below I will discuss the different types of transportation available in Mexico, exploring their pros and cons so that you can make an informed decision on how best to get around.
Bus fares start at 10 MXN and tram or subway fares can be as low as 15 MXN. This makes it really affordable to get around larger cities, provided you know your route. It can be really hard to understand the bus lines' routes so I would suggest asking a local or the driver before hoping on. Even with a local I've hopped on the wrong bus before.
Subways and trams are pretty straight forward as they have their stops listed inside the car and at the stations. Some do announce their stops and destinations but don't always count on it.
As always, just make sure to keep your valuables stored safely and exercise some caution and you should be fine.
Uber or Didi
Using a ride-hailing service like Uber or Didi eliminates the need to find a taxi in an unfamiliar place, as well as reduces your vulnerability to criminal activity due to the ease of tracking your route. Not only are they both convenient and safe, but they're also much cheaper than traditional taxis. Plus, you can use them wherever you are, whether it be in large cities like Mexico City or smaller towns around the country.
Ride-hailing services provide a great way for travelers to safely explore their destination while also saving money at the same time.
Traveling around by bus is an excellent way to experience the sights, sounds, and culture of the country. Not only is it a relatively inexpensive option, but also offers access to regional parts of Mexico that other modes of transportation may not reach.
With more than 38,000 kilometers of routes stretching from one end of the country to another, there are many ways to explore this beautiful land. These are safe ways to travel between cities or take day trips. Some do travel at night; however, the majority will be running until 10 pm.
There are a wide variety of companies providing bus lines for travelers. Some offer luxury services with comfortable seats and large windows for sightseeing; others provide economy class coaches which are still comfortable enough for long distance trips.
Depending on what kind of journey you’re looking for, there’s sure to be an option available that fits both your budget and your needs. Mexico has developed modern highway systems throughout its territories so getting from one destination to another should be relatively easy.
As a traveler, car rental in Mexico is one of the best ways to explore the country. I have had the privilege of renting cars in Mexico several times and have always been impressed by the quality of service and selection of vehicles available. From small hatchbacks to luxury sedans, there is something for everyone when it comes to renting a car in Mexico.
The process itself is quite straightforward, with most providers offering a very efficient online booking system that makes reserving a vehicle quick and easy. There are plenty of car rental companies and locations in Mexico to choose from and they can all be found online.
The cost of car rentals in Mexico can vary depending on where you are traveling and what type of vehicle you select. Also, I highly suggest getting full coverage on the vehicle to avoid any hassles once you return it or should anything happen on your trip.
Just remember that there are a lot of toll roads in Mexico, so be sure to plan accordingly. Most stalls only accept cash, so be sure to have the right amount of pesos on you.
Staying Healthy in Mexico
When traveling to Mexico, it’s important to be aware of the health risks that come with being in a new environment. While the country is full of exciting experiences and incredible cuisine, there are certain precautions you should take to make sure you stay safe and healthy.
When eating street food, it is important to be aware of the safety of the food. Be sure to look for signs of freshness and cleanliness, such as freshly cooked food, food that is covered and protected from the elements, and food that is cooked with hot oil.
Avoid food that has been sitting out for too long, and make sure to check the temperature of the food. Only having partially cooled meat sitting in the open air is common in Mexico. So be extra aware if purchasing meat from the local markets.
Additionally, consider finding out what vaccinations are recommended for your trip ahead of time so you can be properly prepared. It's important to make sure you have your proper shots and vaccinations to make sure you are protected from diseases.
From washing my hands regularly with soap and water to using hand sanitizer after touching public surfaces, I try to take every possible step to stay clean and germ-free. It can be a challenge in Mexico when the sanitary standards are sub-par in some areas. I've put together a guide on the things you need when going to public restrooms here.
In addition to frequently washing your hands for at least 20 seconds with hot water and soap or using alcohol-based sanitizer whenever possible, make sure you use a disinfectant wipe before eating in restaurants and always cover your mouth when sneezing or coughing.
Conclusion: Enjoy Mexico Safely
With this information and my tips on staying safe and avoiding scams in Mexico, I'm sure you will be prepared to have a blast! I feel I can say that Mexico is safe for travelers. Just like all cities in the world, there are places to visit and have a good time and other places to stay away from. It all depends on using good judgement and caution.
Don't let this scare you away from visiting this beautiful country, contrary to US media reports crime and murders are realitvely low. I've put together an article on the deaths of Americans here, the stats are surprising low.