Mexico is one of the most attractive tourist destinations in the world. In fact, it ranks higher than Argentina, Canada, and Thailand in international tourism rankings, and gets the seventh-highest number of tourists in the world every year. But is Mexico Safe to travel right now?
It doesn’t come as a surprise to read that Mexico is such a prime spot for tourists when you consider its food, culture, beaches, cenotes, festivals, and many spectacular natural treasure. From world heritage sites, like ancient ruins, Mayan temples, colonial cities, and natural reserves, to major tourist destinations like Cancun, Chichen Itza, Copper Canyon, and many more, Mexico has a world of its own to offer when it comes to tourism.
Sadly, Mexico is also famous for its drug cartels—which is the only aspect depicted in mainstream media. And if you’re worried about your safety before visiting Mexico (which is quite understandable), I’ll try to help you dispel your confusions and concerns in this post, and hopefully help you decide whether or not it’s safe to travel to Mexico.
How safe is it to travel to Mexico?
As the ranking of Mexico on global tourism destinations implies, Mexico is a safe place to travel to if you’re a tourist. But, like any other country in the world, Mexico has its own issues. Among those, drug-related crimes and cartel activity top the list. Luckily, these crimes have nothing to do with tourists and they’re always left alone.
But when it comes to other crimes such as petty theft, scams, or robbery, you will have to use common sense, take necessary precautions, and research the area or region you’re traveling to very thoroughly. Although few and far in-between, there have been incidents of violent crime against foreigners who were visiting Mexico.
The world is also going through an epidemic and Mexico is no different, so you will be advised to take the Covid guidelines seriously and observe SOPs. Almost all the tourist attractions, resorts, hotels, and lodges are taking these guidelines very seriously and have preventive measures in place to make sure the tourist activity of Mexico doesn’t get affected by the pandemic, with some exceptions. Tulum is in fact one of the places where restrictions have been extremely loosened, but I will talk about it later in this post.
15 Safety tips for traveling to Mexico
Even if the place you’re traveling to is generally very safe, it’s always smart to take caution. To do so in Mexico, I’m listing the most common safety tips I have been using throughout the years I spent there and every time I go back.
Fly safely and observe safety guidelines.
Staying safe in Mexico begins from the moment you leave your home to visit it. Take all the necessary precautions—like wearing a mask, social distancing, and sanitizing your hands regularly—while flying to Mexico, and after you arrive there. Even though the restrictions are slowly being lifted, the pandemic is still around and the only way to get things back to normal is by following the SOPs.
Insider tip: you don’t need a covid test to travel to Mexico.
Don’t exchange your money at the airport when you arrive in Mexico.
Even though US dollars are accepted at most places in the touristy regions of Mexico, it’s good to exchange your money into pesos but you will find a better exchange rate in local banks or Casa de Cambio.
Once in Mexico, it’s never a good idea to blatantly show off your money or jewelry. Make sure you don’t come off as a rich traveler coming to Mexico for the first time. Keep a low profile, stash away your valuables in your hotel room’s safe, and only carry on you a sum of money that is enough to get you through the day easily.
Keep your money safe with a fancy and practical money belt.
Choose your hotel wisely
Instead of going for cheaper lodgings, like a hostel, go for hotels at the very least. Even if you’re on a budget, you will find nice cheap hotels where you can enjoy a clean private room. You won’t have to worry about your valuables getting stolen while you’re out exploring, and you won’t have to share your room with strangers as you would have in a hostel.
Be aware of your surroundings
Even if you are in the safest of regions of Mexico, it’s not ideal to let your guard down. But that’s the case with anywhere else you visit as well, be it Europe, Asia, or any other continent of the world. So make sure you’re always aware of what’s happening around you when you’re out in public. When dining out, make sure you never leave your food or drinks unattended, even for a minute. If you’re carrying stuff with you, be mindful of it and never leave it lying around when you’re outside.
Stay just as careful as you would be at home
Going to Mexico doesn’t give you a free pass to do everything you wouldn’t have done back home. All the common-sense rules still very much apply. Just like you wouldn’t wander the empty streets of your hometown at night, especially not if you have had some drinks, don’t do it here either. Stay away from anything even remotely related to drugs, drink in moderation so that you don’t get too wasted to keep yourself safe.
Avoid walking in deserted streets especially alone
Similarly, don’t go to shady or isolated areas and stay where the crowds are after it’s dark. Mexico is famous for its nightlife, so you will find plenty of activity at night without having to roam around in deserted areas. Take a cab when visiting the nightlife destinations and avoid using public transport. If you need to use a cash machine, do it in the day and avoid withdrawing on empty roads/streets. Opt for shopping malls or touristy places when looking for a cash machine to withdraw from.
Keep your Migratory Tourist Form (FMM)
Keep your Migratory Tourist Form (aka FMM) safe once you receive it at the airport in Mexico. This is a card you receive once you go through immigration and it will be collected at your departure. If you lose it, you will have to pay for a new one. In fact, make a copy of all your travel documents. It’s understandable if you think carrying your travel documents on your person is the safest way to keep them, but it’s not. If your stuff gets misplaced or stolen, you will have lost your travel documents along with it and that’s something you don’t want to happen. Carrying copies of your travel documents will suffice in situations where you need them, while the originals will stay safe and secure back in your hotel room.
Take care of your health
Getting sick on a vacation is definitely not pleasant. So, make sure you don’t. Apart from avoiding Covid infections, you also need to avoid other diseases. So among all the other Mexico travel tips, you should most of all make sure the water you drink is bottled water. Mexico can get really hot if you’re visiting during summers, which makes it important to stay hydrated. But you should never go for tap water in Mexico.
Use mosquito repellent
Pack mosquito repellent, better if eco-friendly. Even though mosquito-caused diseases are scarce because of the prevention habits in most of the hotels, it’s still better to be safe than sorry. There have been cases of Zika and Dengue, although rare. But besides the danger, mosquito bites are just annoying.
Do not forget to use sunscreen
Especially, but not only, if you are traveling to Mexican Beach destinations, a good eco-friendly sunscreen is a must to avoid sunburn during your adventures outdoors and spoil your Mexican vacations.
Get health insurance
If you do end up sick, it can be quite expensive to access healthcare in Mexico. Not having good health insurance in such a case will put a large dent in your budget. That’s why I never get tired of recommending purchasing good travel insurance. It’s a small investment, which pays back if anything happens even if we all hope for the best. And will give you peace of mind. I use either Safetywing or WorldNomads. Both are great but serve different kinds of needs. So make sure you read through what’s included and not.
Always use Uber or registered taxis
I normally use Uber when available, since it’s more reliable, and cheaper, and usually, uber drivers are kinder, for some reasons. If Uber is not an option like in the Quintana Roo state, then make sure you use official taxis. Better if called through an app. Or you can go to a taxi stand and book yourself a registered taxi at the kiosk. If you decide to get a car rental instead, which is for me the best option in the majority of the cases, only drive in the day and avoid secluded areas/roads.
Be friendly but not naive
Be friendly with locals, but make sure you keep some precautions, such as avoid giving out too much information about yourself if you don’t know the person. That applies also to other tourists that you meet along the way. It’s not that because they are travelers like you they all have the best intentions. Try to figure out who you are talking to before being too open. And that goes to the next point.
Trust your instincts
In the end, only you can make the best decisions when it comes to people and your surroundings in general. If you feel unsafe or even uncomfortable somewhere, or in somebody’s company, bail out. If someone offers to give you a tour or take you to a “famous place” nearby, politely refuse and steer clear of them. If, after all the precautions, you still end up getting your stuff stolen or pickpocketed, register a formal complaint with the Mexican authorities. Never chase after the perpetrators even if you do spot them running, it’ll only bring you more harm.
Stay connected all the time
Make good use of the technology to stay connected and be able to reach out if lost or in danger. So make sure to keep your cellphone recharged (power banks are slim and light to carry) and have a good internet connection (purchase a local SIM card for cheaper data plans). This way, you will have access to many resources like Google Maps, translation apps, and many other features. You can take a picture of your hotel’s front to show to your cab driver in case you want to take a taxi back.
Learn some Spanish
It never hurts to learn some basic Spanish both to avoid scams in markets but also to mingle with locals and learn about their culture. Learning a language is the starting point.
Is Mexico safe to travel alone?
Mexico is safe for solo travelers as well but not everywhere. It’s a huge territory, and, as such, has its own safe and unsafe regions. As long as you steer clear of the unsafe ones, you will be good to go even if you’re going there alone.
The same common-sense rules apply in this case as well. Avoid trusting strangers, never leave your stuff unwatched or in the care of a stranger (unless you trust them without a doubt), and don’t leave your drinks unattended.
Avoid alcohol completely if you’re traveling alone, but if you must, only consume minimal amounts so that you can stay alert and mindful. Don’t go to shady or empty areas, especially if it’s at night. Stay at a place with ample security so that you can keep your valuables safely there without having to carry them and watch over them 24/7.
Safest places in Mexico
Mexico has a lot of must-visit destinations which are filled with beauty and awe, and are also very safe to travel to. But there are a few places that most travel advisories recommend not visiting because of the rampant criminal activity there. Generally, all the tourist destinations in Mexico are really very safe. The government of Mexico is working its hardest to make sure travelers get a positive experience and keep returning to the country. In fact, tourism is one of Mexico’s biggest industries and contributes a major sum to its economy, so you can stay assured that these destinations are as safe as can be. In this section, I’ll cover some of the destinations that you absolutely need to visit.
Cancun is one of the most popular destinations in Mexico. It’s filled with nature, beaches, culture, food, and everything else you’d expect on your trip to Mexico. It’s also surrounded by lots of cenotes, which are one of the most famous things about Mexico. But is Cancun safe to visit right now? Simply put, it sure is!
Cancun has the lowest of crime rates among Mexican cities. And even those are mostly drug-related crimes between cartels, or turf wars, which tend to be targeted and have nothing to do with civilians or tourists. It’s no surprise that Cancun is among the most-visited tourist destinations in Mexico.
In terms of pandemic safety, Cancun was among the earliest places to resume business as usual. Strict safety protocols are still in place in Cancun hotels to protect people from the virus and ensure everyone’s safety. The government has been doing a very good job at keeping tourism up and kicking in Cancun.
Another one of Mexico’s hotspots for tourism, with nomads, expats, and tourists arriving here to spend a quality time and explore its beach, restaurants, nightlife, and ancient ruins. Unlike Cancun, Tulum has a more natural vibe to it. With no discrimination on where the tourists should live and where the locals, it’s a place where everyone intermingles and finds a place in a single community not divided based on social/financial status.
Despite being such a diverse place to visit, Tulum is relatively safe. All you need to do is take basic precautions and avoid coming off as a target—which basically means to avoid deserted areas, not going out alone at night, and not wearing ostentatious jewelry or showing off your wealth (see the safety tips above for a more detailed explanation).
It won’t come off as a surprise to you that Tulum isn’t doing very well compared to Cancun when it comes to dealing with the Covid pandemic. With so many parties, gatherings, and a bustling community of sociable people, Covid infections have been a little higher in Tulum. Nevertheless, it’s still dealing with the epidemic quite effectively and you shouldn’t worry much about its spread as long as you’re following SOPs, even if the others don’t.
Cozumel is famous for its diving experiences and marine life. But it also has a lot of other features to it, like cruises, legends, the world’s second-largest barrier reef, and a perfect destination for tourists. If you love nature, you will find it brimming on the third largest island in Mexico, and your heart will fill with warmth to see it thriving there (unlike so many other places where nature is being hurt by all the development).
But does this spectacular preservation of nature in Cozumel spell danger? Absolutely not. Cozumel is developed enough to accommodate tourists from all across the globe (which it does in thousands every year). If you’re touring Cozumel, all you need to worry about is not missing any of the countless things that it offers. As long as you’re taking the usual safety measures, you will be free to take tours, rent bikes/scooters, and explore all the destinations on this beautiful piece of paradise.
Playa del Carmen
Originally a small fishing village, Playa del Carmen has now grown into a beach town with thousands of tourists coming in every year to visit its tropical beaches and have fun touring the place. It has freshwater cenotes to swim in at only 20 minutes’ drive, some of the world’s best beaches to relax on, and its most famous Quinta Avenida (5th Avenue) to go shopping, have delicious food in restaurants, and experience its famous nightlife at.
Just like the destinations mentioned before, Playa del Carmen is also relatively safe for tourists. The administration is very good at keeping it safe and secure for travelers who come to the town for all the tourist activities offered here. If you ever do encounter any kind of crime, it’s going to be petty crime and, as I have said before, it can be avoided quite easily with the right precautions.
Isla Mujeres, also known as the Island of Women, is a place worth visiting at least once if you’re touring Mexico. It has one of the most beautiful beaches, palm trees, colorful streets, and mesmerizing views. You can explore the island, including its famous Playa Norte, dine at the amazing restaurants by the beaches, and visit sightseeing spots.
Isla Mujeres is a relatively small island off of Cancun’s coastline. As such, it’s quite easy to keep the place under strict administration and contain the criminal activity in it. You’ll find that the whole island is open to tourists, with almost all the areas marked safe. My only advice to you is to avoid visiting the deserted areas at night and not wandering out alone after dark unless you’re going to one of the touristy areas with lots of people there.
Puerto Vallarta is a huge resort town in Jalisco. Apart from the beaches, snorkeling, and marine life, Puerto Vallarta is famed for being the most LGTBQ-friendly town in Mexico. A Pride Parade is held in Puerto Vallarta every year, where thousands of tourists from around the world celebrate the diversity of this town. It also has amazing pet-friendly communities, and you will always find one way or another to participate in them. The Zona Romantica and Old Vallarta are two of the most well-liked areas by tourists because of their art galleries, museums, restaurants, and overall romantic vibe.
Petty crimes aside, just like the Riviera Maya, Puerto Vallarta is also prone to some natural dangers that you should know about. The first one on that list is hurricanes, which are quite rare and chances of their arrival are only during summers, but it’s always good to check the weather forecast and be safe. Puerto Vallarta is famous for its lure for the surfers from all around the world. There’s a reason for it—the strong currents of the pacific coast make it an ideal surfing location for professional surfers. But the same strong undercurrent makes the sea a dangerous place for non-professional tourists, so make sure you stay safe while you’re there and avoid going farther than the safe zones on the beaches.
When it comes to crimes and petty theft, Puerto Vallarta is relatively safe although I have to say that such issues have increased over the years.
Cabo San Lucas
Cabo San Lucas is a Mexican resort town famous for its rock formations. Although its nightlife, restaurants, beaches, snorkeling, watersports, and many other tourist attractions are equally as good, the El Arco rock formation of Cabo San Lucas is a cherry on top. It’s located at the end of Baja California Peninsula, where the El Medano beach is a quite famous with its outdoor bars and restaurants. On your way to see the El Arco rock formation, you’ll find the Playa del Amor (Lover’s Beach) which is only accessible through a water taxi and makes for a perfect romantic escapade for couples.
Cabo San Lucas is among those places where crime against tourists can be categorized as petty theft and pickpocketing. As far as Covid is concerned, the tourism board in Cabo San Lucas has been making policies to tackle the pandemic since its beginning. With plenty of partnerships and strict guidelines, the city is doing quite well on that front. As a result, there are no restrictions on tourism in Cabo San Lucas and it’s quite safe to visit.
If you’re a history buff and would like to witness something just as astonishing as the Egyptian pyramids and hieroglyphics, Chichen Itza is the place for you. Located in the heart of the Yucatan Peninsula, it’s a complex of Mayan ruins. The center of attention in Chichen Itza is the Kukulcan Temple, which I’m pretty sure you’ve seen (at least in pictures) even if you didn’t know the exact details. But it isn’t just the temple or ruins, you will find other traces of Mayan civilization, like stone carvings from as far back as 600 A.D., many other temples, and the Wall of Skulls. The musical concerts and light show here at night top it all off perfectly.
But all that aside, is it a safe place to visit in Mexico? Chichen Itza is far from dangerous when it comes to traveling there. Almost a million travelers visit the place every year, and that’s why it’s on this list. Moreover, it’s one of the New Seven Wonders of the World and part of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites. Being on so many lists can only mean one thing: it’s definitely a safe place to visit.
If you’re a fan of nature like me, you will find this island north of the Yucatan Peninsula a safe haven for it. Unlike the usual fuss you find in other tourist destinations, Isla Holbox is free of crowds, clusters of hotels, and other development with tourism in mind. It’s part of the Yum Balam Nature Reserve, famous for its wildlife and the Yalahau Lagoon. With no cars, loads of murals, amazing sunsets, wildlife spotting opportunities, and a laid-back atmosphere to offer, Holbox Island is the paradise that every traveler dreams of. In fact, Isla Holbox is proclaimed one of the Mexican Pueblos Magicos, for its natural allure.
Isla Holbox is a pretty safe place to visit as long as you use common sense and don’t go to the beach alone at night or with less caution than usual. Avoiding problems begins with taking care of your bags and valuables and storing them in a secure location.
Oaxaca is synonymous with art and indigenous culture. It’s filled with skilled artisans, whose sculptures can be seen adorning the streets and squares throughout the state. It’s one of my favorite places in Mexico, especially because of the authentic vibe it has to it. Cobbled streets, centuries-old cathedrals, colorful houses, and plenty of art galleries can be found in Oaxaca.
But is Oaxaca, Mexico safe? After all, it’s not just a city; it’s an entire state where anything may happen, from pickpocketing and petty crime to hurricanes and riptides. But there’s nothing to worry about as long as you’re taking care. Even though most of Mexico is considered dangerous because of its drug-related activities, high crime rates, and travel warnings, Oaxaca still remains one of the safest destinations in it.
This list wouldn’t be complete without the Mexican capital on it. Mexico City has countless things to make it a unique travel destination. But it’s not only famous for its historical richness. The city is teeming with activity and is a center of development. At the main square, Zocalo, you will find Temple Mayor, murals by Diego Rivera inside Palacio Nacional, and many other historic landmarks.
Despite being one of the biggest cities in the world, Mexico City is relatively safe to travel to, if you follow some guidelines and precautions. Just don’t go around exploring all of it. There are areas in it that will give you plenty to see. In my experience, you can find yourself a grand time in Roma, Polanco, Condesa, San Rafael, Juarez, and Centro Historic. And as long as you stick to these tourist-friendly zones, you won’t have to worry about anything. Again, common sense and safety measures are a must.
Is it safe to visit outside the hotels in Mexico?
Definitely. Hotels in the tourist destinations of Mexico are in the safest regions of those locations. You can go out and explore the cities to your heart’s content in the day time as long as you’re following the safety tips mentioned earlier.
At night, you will have to take some extra precautions and be wary of local/suburban areas. Only go out to places with plenty of activity and nightlife if you’re going outside of your hotel at night. Take cabs and avoid public transport at night.
Is Mexico safe for female travelers?
As a female traveler myself, I can confidently say it is. But I’m not the only one, there are so many female expatriates and travelers who have been traveling in and around Mexico for years. The travel destinations in Mexico are very safe for female travelers, even if they’re traveling alone.
The only thing to keep in mind when you’re a solo female traveler is to practice extra caution just like you would anywhere else.
- Choose your place of stay with excellent security in mind.
- Use registered cabs to get around, when Uber is not available in the city you’re in. Otherwise prefer UBER, it’s much better than even the registered cabs in Mexico. Never use public transport at night.
- Stay alert and on the lookout. That means never leaving your food or drinks unattended, not accepting drinks or anything else from strangers, and never getting drunk.
- Stay away from drugs or anything related to them at all costs, avoid empty streets and shady areas, and, if possible, make it look like you’re not traveling alone. If someone directly asks, tell them you’re there with a group of friends.
Mexico Safety FAQs
Is it safe to visit Mexico during the pandemic?
Yes, it’s relatively safe to visit all the amazing places in Mexico during Covid pandemic as long as you’re carrying out the safety protocols to the tee. Wear safety masks, carry a hand sanitizer on you, and keep your distance when necessary.
In almost all of the tourist hotels in Mexico, these precautions are being taken very seriously. So you won’t have to worry about getting infected in your place of stay. The tourist attractions there are also made secure by the Mexican government to ensure tourists’ safety. You can research an area before going there by using Mexico Travel Advisory’s guidelines and maps.
What’s the safest way to travel to Mexico?
There are many ways to travel to Mexico, but the safest way depends on where you’re traveling from and to where in Mexico you plan to go. Generally, airways are the safest, fastest, and most convenient modes of transportation to get to Mexico from anywhere in the world.
Most of the major travel destinations in Mexico have international airports so you can fly directly to those locations. Some great options to fly to include Mexico City, Cancun, and Puerto Vallarta. Make sure you follow some smart tips before leaving for Mexico to make it an even safer journey.
Prepare well for the Covid protocols. Even though Mexico doesn’t require travelers to be vaccinated or to get a test, in order to visit the country, you still need to observe the safety guidelines issued by its government to keep yourself and others safe. If you’re traveling to Mexico for the first time, you might not be familiar with the Multiple Immigration Form (FMM) that is required to enter Mexico. Keep your FMM safe and secure once you get it at the airport. While leaving the airport, many people will approach you and might ask to take your stuff (don’t worry, it’s just so that they can get you as a passenger, not to mug you). If you already have a vehicle arranged to get to your hotel, politely refuse these cab drivers (a “no gracias” will do). If someone walks you to your vehicle, tip them a dollar or two.
Get the offline version of Mexico’s map on your Google Maps (or any other map application you prefer). It’s a time of technology, and making good use of it is always wise. Having a map of Mexico on your device that you can access any time you want regardless of reception or connectivity issues can be a blessing (especially if you’re visiting the place for the first time). In fact, you might find the map more useful because of how huge the country is. Bringing a power bank along will always be a good idea.
Which areas should I avoid in Mexico?
As a rule of thumb, avoid all cities not famous for tourism. In the destinations deemed safe for travel, you still have to avoid certain areas. These include the deserted outskirts, shady neighborhoods, and areas with increased crime and lower tourist activity. Or if there is a particular place that you want to visit and it’s off the beaten path, make some investigation before going or join a guided tour.
The Mexico Travel Advisory by USA’s State Department has released a list of states divided into four categories. Among those categories, two are Do Not Travel To and Reconsider Travel To. This basically means it’s not safe to travel to those states because of the crime there. The states included in these categories are as follows:
- Nuevo Leon
- San Luis Potosi
From this list, I have traveled to Taxco in Guerrero, Puerto Vallarta and Guadalajara in Jalisco, and through Nayarit, Chihuahua, Durango, and Zacatecas, San Luis Potosi and Michoacan.I spent some time there, used public transport, explored many of the areas, and never did I feel unsafe or uncomfortable in any way during my travels. From my experience in these places, I’m pretty sure they all qualify for one of the other two categories on the list. Just research the exact area you’re going to thoroughly before leaving for it, and it goes without saying that precautions and following safety tips are a must in these states.
Is Mexico safe to travel to for families?
It surely is. Just because I covered safety sections for solo travelers doesn’t mean there are no travel destinations for families in Mexico. It’s just that safety is a greater concern when you’re traveling alone. For families, Mexico has destinations ranging from perfect honeymoon locations to ideal family vacation trips and they are just as safe and enjoyable for families as solo travelers, if not more.
And that’s the end of my guide to Mexico Safety, I hope it was useful. If you have any further questions or concerns please let me know. In the meantime, if you are ready to plan your trip to Mexico you can start with my Mexico travel guide. I am sure it will be helpful.