Is Mexico Safe? [The Best Tips for Staying Safe in Mexico]

When it comes to Mexico, the most frequently asked question we get is, “Is Mexico dangerous?” 

After years of living and traveling in Mexico, we feel very qualified to answer that question. In fact, we’ve traveled to and spent significant time in four out of five of the Mexican states listed as “Level 4”  on the United States Department travel advisory scale. (The scale goes from “1: Exercise Normal Precautions” to “4: Do Not Travel.”)

Currently, five states in Mexico are level four: Colima, Michoacan, Guerrero, Sinaloa, and Tamaulipas. Colima is now supposedly the most dangerous place in Mexico right now. May is from Colima, and it is where we have spent most of our time in Mexico. 

Perhaps the biggest cause for confusion regarding Mexico’s safety has to do with who it may be dangerous for. It is true that there are safer countries to visit. One glance at the World Peace Index, and you can see that Mexico ranks as the 24th most dangerous country in the world. It also accounts for five out of ten of the most dangerous cities in the world (for homicides). But for the casual tourist, these numbers don’t tell the full story. 

Crime is heavily concentrated in regions that see a lot of cartel activity, but even then the chance of a visitor getting caught in the cross-fire is negligible. Most violence in Mexico has to do with individuals who are involved in the drug trade, or potential threats to those who are. 

While Mexico does have its issues, it’s nevertheless a fun and affordable destination to travel as long as you’re mindful of a few things. To help you make the most of your trip, here are nine tips for traveling safely through Mexico:

The violence in Mexico is mostly related to the cartels. Here are the top 5 high-risk states in Mexico according to the U.S. Department of State.

1. Drive During The Day

We have a strict rule that if we’re going to be traveling by car, we only drive during the day. If you’re driving somewhere, you don’t want to find yourself stopped by nefarious criminals in the dark. People sometimes get stopped on the road at night and have their possessions are stolen (especially on smaller roads).

Government checkpoints between cities help make sure that there’s nothing fishy going on as they can sort of monitor what’s going on on the highway. However, it’s best to always play it safe and avoid driving at night.

2. Don’t Put All Your Money In One Place

Never carry too much money on you. When you head out to explore or eat, only bring what you need for the day. If you’re going out for lunch and then to a museum or something, bring enough for those activities and nothing more. Also, bring only one credit card and leave another in your accommodation. That way, you always have a backup in case something happens. 

Check out our article on travel banking for our best tips for security and saving money on ATM and exchange fees while traveling abroad.

3. Blend In

Don’t flash your valuables. The average person in Mexico earns less than $20,000 USD per year. If you start flashing an Apple Watch and a computer and all things that most people in the area don’t have, it’s going to make you a target. 

Avoid wearing flashy jewelry and keep your valuables out of sight. You’ll be able to blend in much better and avoid becoming a target for would-be thieves. 

And as an added safety measure, you can register your devices with Prey Project. This way, in the event of getting your phone or your computer stolen you’ll have some additional tools at your disposal to help get your belongings back.

Our friend Matt, The Expert Vagabond was able to use this app to get his laptop back after it was stolen in Panama.

4. Take Only Authorized Taxis

When you need to take a taxi, use Uber or Chauffeur Pro, or Lyft in some cities in Mexico. If a standard taxi is your only option, buy your ticket at a kiosk or look for a “Sitio De Taxi” (Taxi Stand). 

That way, when you buy a ticket or take a cab from the Sitio you are making sure that the taxi is legitimate. It is also helpful to know the price ahead of time. 

And remember, in Mexico, you don’t usually tip taxi drivers. To learn more, you can check out our article and video about tipping in Mexico.

5. Don’t Go Alone

If you can avoid it, try not to travel alone. If you do go out alone, only walk around places where it’s well lit and where there are people around. Being with someone you trust will help you stay safe and avoid becoming a  target. 

If you are traveling solo, try to meet other travelers at your hostel so you can explore together. You’ll be much safer that way.

One night while walking around alone, a sex worker grabbed me by the crotch trying to convince me to hire their services. I walked home pretty quickly after that. It wasn’t anything violent and I was able to laugh about it afterward. However, sometimes, these sex workers are professional pickpocketers so you need to be vigilant. This likely wouldn’t have happened if I was with someone.

When you travel, always think about your safety. Here are some useful phrases in Spanish to get help in case of emergency.

6. Trust your Instincts

Sometimes you feel a weird vibe or something tells you that you shouldn’t be in a certain place. Don’t think twice about it. Grab your stuff and go. Nobody’s going to take better care of you than yourself. So, make sure you trust your instincts. We evolved to have them for a reason!

Our first and only time using the metro in Mexico City we thought we were being extra careful. We were going to go visit a friend in Coyoacan, 25 minutes south of the Historic Center, where we were staying. We had heard from others that the metro was safe for the most part. Despite being reluctant to take it, we wanted the experience. We put our valuables away and got in as a bunch of people were getting off the metro. One minute after we had entered the train we realized we had been pickpocketed. The thieves managed to take a cellphone out of my tight front pocket and a bunch of SD cards was taken from the camera bag May was holding with both arms right in front of her. We should have trusted our gut and taken an Uber.

7. Use Your Spanish

Let it be known that you understand what people are saying around you. It will make you less vulnerable as people will be aware that you can understand them. That way, if there were sketchy individuals nearby,  they’re going to be more cautious about trying to plot against you. It will also help you avoid getting ripped off too as you won’t seem as easy of a target.

Here are some useful Spanish phrases if you are caught in a challenging situation or emergency: 

  1. “Alguien llame a la policía” – Someone call the police. 
  2. “¡Ayuda!” – Help!
  3. “Necesito un doctor” – I need a doctor.
  4. “No traigo dinero” – I don’t have any money. 
  5. “No traigo nada” – I have nothing.

8. Have An Emergency Contact

If you can, make sure someone knows every step of your travels. Share your itinerary and plans with a friend or family member, so that someone back home knows where to find you if there is an emergency. Send this person your travel insurance policy too, so that they can assist you should you get injured and need assistance. If your travel insurance company has a 24/7 emergency contact number, save it in your phone.

9. Make Copies Of Important Documents

I think it’s essential to have a copy of your passport, credit card numbers, license, backup phone numbers, and emergency contact phone numbers somewhere. Either a digital copy or even a physical copy — or both if you can. It’s better to travel with the copy easily accessible and the original protected. 

The easiest way to do this is to email yourself a copy of everything and save it in your inbox. That way, you can access it from anywhere — even if your electronics get lost/stolen.

Here are our best travel safety tips for visiting Mexico.

10. Don’t Drink the Water!

If there’s one thing you probably hear everyone mention about staying healthy in Mexico is to not drink the water. This is true, Mexicans don’t drink tap water, they instead get big 20 Lt water jugs of clean drinking water delivered to their homes once or twice a week. This is what they use for drinking and cooking.

Although most people in Mexico use tap water for brushing their teeth, I recommend you use a glass or bottle of drinking water if you’re not used to brushing your teeth with tap water in Mexico.

Something we should mention is that NO ONE in Mexico will serve you drinks made with tap water at restaurants or coffee shops, but you do have to be aware of the ice used in drinks. In Mexico there are two types of ice you can buy: 1) ice cubes, the ones with perfect shapes and a hole in the center, and 2) big ice blocks or pieces of a big block. 

The ice cubes you can buy in a bag at stores are made from purified drinking water. The big blocks of ice are most times used only to cool drinks inside of a cooler. They’re not always made with drinking water. Sometimes they are, but most times they’re not. If the ice in your drink is not shaped like a cube or cylinder with a hole in the center, better ask or simply not drink it. 

For most Mexicans, drinking some tap water won’t affect them, but if you’re not used to it, it might make you sick. 

If you want to learn more about how to stay healthy on your next trip, check out our video on how to avoid getting sick in Mexico for more useful information.

You just need to do a quick online search for “Mexico safety” and you’ll be bombarded with some terrifying news articles about cartels and violence in Mexico. So it’s common for people from around the world who have never been to Mexico to feel a bit concerned about visiting, but as we mentioned at the beginning of this article, the chances of a tourist being targeted by the cartels are very slim.

As long as you’re not getting yourself in risky situations (looking for/buying drugs) and as long as you’re being street smart and remain vigilant of your surroundings, you’re not likely to be affected by cartels during your vacation in Mexico.

Bonus Tip 

If you’re concerned about petty theft and robbery, carry a dummy wallet. A dummy wallet is just an old wallet with expired credit cards and maybe a small amount of cash. 

I don’t carry it as much these days, but there are certain places where we travel to where I’ll use a dummy wallet. That way, if I were to get mugged, I can just hand the dummy wallet that maybe has five or ten dollars in cash in it and some expired credit cards while my real wallet is hidden safely in my backpack. 

It’s Better to Be Safe Than Sorry

Still feeling a bit worried about traveling to Mexico? Get travel insurance! Travel insurance can protect travelers from many potential risks such as medical expenses, theft and lost luggage. SafetyWing is a great option for travelers looking for comprehensive nomad insurance.

SafetyWing offers affordable plans that cover medical costs in case of emergency or accident. This also includes emergency evacuation if necessary and 24/7 access to an online doctor for quick help with any health concerns. The plan also covers delays and cancellations, lost baggage and personal items as well as identity theft protection.

For the budget-minded traveler, SafetyWing offers plans starting at just $42 per month with easy sign up process – no paperwork or confusing forms required!

Secure Your Trip


Mexico is beautiful. It’s full of lovely people who want nothing more than to help you and make sure that you have a pleasant experience visiting their country. Unfortunately, just like any other place in the world, some people do want to harm you or steal from you so you have to be vigilant. By following these simple tips, you’ll be able to make the most out of your trip while staying safe!

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