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Is Mexico City Safe – Advice For Staying Safe in Mexico

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Is Mexico City Safe? I decided to write a post about safety in Mexico City because I’m a little bit tired of how the U.S. media paints Mexico as unsafe, especially for those who have never even left their hometowns.

Contrary to popular belief, Mexico City is not a dangerous place to visit for your next vacation.  As with any other major city, there are spots you should probably avoid due to petty crime and common scams, especially as a tourist around the city center.  

I understand that you are concerned about safety when traveling to Mexico and that Mexico City doesn’t exactly have the best reputation.

Touristy areas like Condesa, Roma, and the historic center are primarily safe except for the occasional petty theft.

There are spots in Mexico City you should avoid, especially if you are a tourist or a first-time visitor. 

The two main neighborhoods to avoid are Tepito and Iztapalapa, but again, the neighborhoods of Condesa, Roma, and the historic center are the safest areas in Mexico City.

The U.S. State Department has released a Level 4 “Reconsider travel to Mexico” on five Mexican states, and the entire country has a Level 4 travel warning.

Mexico City Safety Summary

Mexico City is notoriously known as an unsafe destination, but as someone who has visited countless times, nothing has happened to me in the 20-plus years of traveling to Mexico.

I will give you my honest opinion about safety in Mexico City and provide tips on how to stay there.

The links in this post may be affiliate links.  That means that if you click them and make a purchase, this site makes a commission.  It will have no impact on the price you pay or the experience of your purchase.

U.S. State Department Unveils New Mexico City Travel Advisory

The U.S. Embassy & Consulate in Mexico issued a spring break travel advisory on Feb. 26.

Violent crime is widespread in Mexico, according to the U.S. State Department. Crimes such as carjacking, homicide, kidnapping, and robbery are prevalent.

Although an overwhelming majority of people enjoy a safe vacation in Mexico, and tourists are largely sheltered from the violence that grips local communities, the U.S. government and security advisors are worried the unrest seen throughout Mexico could spill into Mexico City, which is the largest city in North America.


Is Mexico City Safe For Tourists

While many people vacation in Cabo San Lucas, Cancun, Riviera Maya, and Tulum, the nation’s capital – Mexico City- still has unwarranted fears from many U.S. travelers.

I receive many emails asking if Mexico City is safe, and the answer is both yes and no — for the most part. 

Over the past few decades, Mexico City has made headlines for crime and violence. Still, you shouldn’t allow the media’s over-exaggeration of crime in Mexico City to overshadow the cultural and historical experiences and local cuisine that Mexico City has to offer travelers.

Let me be clear: the majority of the criminal activity in Mexico City is from Americans seeking to buy drugs and then cry foul or play the victim when something wrong happens. 

Why would anyone be looking to buy drugs in Mexico and think nothing is going to happen? 

If you do not go looking for drugs, you will be fine, but if you decide you must have drugs while on vacation, don’t cry later when someone in your party ends up dead.

Pack your bags because Mexico City is one of the safest cities I’ve ever visited. 

Safety is something you consider whether you are traveling to Mexico City or the Amalfi Coast. Despite what is reported in the media, thousands of people travel to Mexico trouble-free each year.

Here’s what you need to know when planning a trip to Mexico City:

  • Street safety
  • Scams in Mexico
  • Drug cartel 
  • Nightlife safety
  • Transport crime
  • kidnappings
  • Women’s safety
  • Water safety
  • Travel health
  • Video on is Mexico City safe

The Truth about Mexico City Safety (Fact vs. Fiction)

Mexico City is divided into 1,700 colonies (neighborhoods) that spread out in all directions.

Unfortunately, Mexico City hasn’t been immune to the nation’s murder woes.

The nation’s drug war — fueled by the United States demand for illegal narcotics, plus a flood of firearms from the United States into Mexico, as well as the U.S. government’s demands that Mexico clamps down on the trade has caused many to be fearful about traveling to Mexico City.

As of 2021, cartels have been making more significant inroads into the city, and violence has followed.

That includes extortion of vendors in markets, revenge killings, and all sorts of terrors, according to reporting by Vice magazine.

Vice also reported that murder rates in the city for the first three months of 2019 were 35 percent higher than in the same period in 2018 and also higher than those in 2017.

Although the murder rates have increased in Mexico City, it is still lower than many major U.S. destinations.

For example, ChicagoNew Orleans, Miami, and Philadelphia — all major tourist destinations within the U.S. — all had higher murder rates than Mexico City as of 2021. 

how safe is Mexico

Which Mexico City neighborhoods are the safest?

The neighborhoods of Roma, Juarez, Polanco, San Rafael, and Condesa are what I consider safe zones. These spots are well-traveled and safe day or night. 

The safety of Mexico City’s Centro Historico (Historic Downtown) is widely debated. Most sources advise staying away from Centro after dark, especially alleyways and the neighborhoods of Merced and Tepito.

The neighborhoods of Centro and Bella Artes are welcoming of tourists and considered safe, but I suggest that if you are hanging out after dark, you take precautions and be aware of your surroundings. 

Tourist attractions like Plaza de Las Tres Culturas and the canals of Xochimilco are safe during the day but should not be explored at night.

A handful of neighborhoods should be avoided entirely, including TepitoDoctores, Ciudad Neza, and Iztapalapa.

  • Colima state due to crime.
  • Guerrero state due to crime.
  • Michoacán state due to crime.
  • Sinaloa state due to crime.
  • Tamaulipas state due to crime and kidnapping.

The Truth about Mexico City Safety (Fact vs. Fiction)

Let’s start with some basic facts. In my opinion, Mexico’s Level 4 travel advisory, issued by the U.S. State Department, is exaggerated and unnecessary.

When deciding whether or not to visit Mexico as a tourist, it’s crucial to consider safety and understand the area you are traveling to.

After all, no one wants to travel somewhere that isn’t safe.

However, don’t let media portrayals of Mexico fool you into thinking that Mexico is dangerous. There are multiple reasons why visiting Mexico should be on your bucket list.

The city itself sprawls over 513 square miles, barely impeded by mountains that rise within and around it.

Within that sprawl, Mexico City is divided into 1,700 colonies (neighborhoods) that spread out in all directions.

Unfortunately, Mexico City hasn’t been immune to the nation’s murder woes.

The nation’s drug war — fueled by the United States demand for illegal narcotics, plus a flood of firearms from the United States into Mexico, as well as the U.S. government’s demands that Mexico clamps down on the trade has caused many to be fearful about traveling to Mexico City.

As of 2021, cartels have been making more significant inroads into the city, and violence has followed.

That includes extortion of vendors in markets, revenge killings, and all sorts of terrors, according to reporting by Vice magazine.

Vice also reported that murder rates in the city for the first three months of 2019 were 35 percent higher than in the same period in 2018 and also higher than those in 2017.

Although the murder rates have increased in Mexico City, it is still lower than many major U.S. destinations.

For example, ChicagoNew Orleans, Miamiand Philadelphia — all major tourist destinations within the U.S. — all had higher murder rates than Mexico City as of 2021. 

Which Mexico City neighborhoods are the safest?

The neighborhoods of Roma, Juarez, Polanco, San Rafael, and Condesa are what I consider safe zones. These spots are well-traveled and safe day or night. 

The safety of Mexico City’s Centro Historico (Historic Downtown) is widely debated. Most sources advise staying away from Centro after dark, especially alleyways and the neighborhoods of Merced and Tepito.

The neighborhoods of Centro and Bella Artes are welcoming of tourists and considered safe, but I suggest that if you are hanging out after dark, you take precautions and be aware of your surroundings. 

Tourist attractions like Plaza de Las Tres Culturas and the canals of Xochimilco are safe during the day but should not be explored at night.

A handful of neighborhoods should be avoided entirely, including TepitoDoctores, Ciudad Neza, and Iztapalapa.

  • Colima state due to crime.
  • Guerrero state due to crime.
  • Michoacán state due to crime.
  • Sinaloa state due to crime.
  • Tamaulipas state due to crime and kidnapping.

Mexico City Travel Advisory Levels

Will You be Kidnapped in Mexico City?

In very rare occurrences, Mexico City sometimes experiences kidnappings. While it is very rare you should arm yourself with the right information to stay safe in Mexico City.

  • Kidnappings in Mexico City occur based on perceived vulnerability, but foreigners are rarely targeted.
  • In a popular scam, some visitors receive calls or emails saying their travel companion has been kidnapped. Just hang up and report the call to the local police.
    • Do not provide personal information (i.e., phone number, hotel location, email address) to anyone outside your party, shopkeepers, or public surveys.
  • Express kidnappings are a form of mugging when a taxi driver temporarily abducts their passenger and forces them to withdraw all their money from an ATM.
    • These unfortunate incidents can easily be avoided by ordering an Uber, which is very affordable in Mexico City.

I know for a fact Mexico City takes safety seriously—the city has an incredibly high police-to-civilian ratio and over 11,000 security cameras around the city itself so yea, you are safe in Mexico City.

Safety on Public Transport in Mexico City

If you are worried about your safety on Mexico City’s myriad public transport, rest assured that it is relatively safe. 

The bus routes that circulate through Mexico City’s most tourist-friendly zones are the safest, so you don’t have anything to worry about regarding Mexico City’s public transportation.

To stay safe on public transport in Mexico City, use the same common sense you’d use anywhere else.

Keep your jewelry to a minimum, don’t take out your valuables unless you need to, and keep your backpack and purse zipped at all times.

Safety in Taxis and Private Cars in Mexico City

If the idea of taking a taxi in Mexico City scares the hell out of you, it’s probably because you watched too many movies about express kidnappings. 

The likelihood that you will fall victim to an express kidnapping and you are whisked off and forced to withdraw all your money is slim to none.  

To stay safe when using taxis and private cars in Mexico City, you must follow a few rules.

I suggest finding a taxi stand vs. flagging a taxi on the street when looking for a taxi.

Official taxi drivers should have white license plates and their laminated license cards displayed on the window. 

However, if you’re nervous about using a taxi after dark because you’re alone or don’t speak Spanish, just stick to ride-share apps like Uber.

Safety on the Streets In Mexico City

When you’re exploring Mexico City and snapping Instagram-worthy photos of the street murals, it’s very easy to let your guard down, so stay alert of your surroundings. 

While you may be in awe of the architecture and fascinated by the popular tourist neighborhoods like Roma, Condesa, the historic center, and Coyoacán, you must still be aware of those around you.

I suggest not wandering down sketchy-looking alleyways, keeping your bags zipped and locked, and not laying your electronics down.

Always look both ways when crossing the street to avoid being mown down by an errant Pesaro bus.

Is Mexico City Safe for Solo Female Travelers?

While most locals are friendly, some still uphold the machismo attitude towards women. 

Solo women travelers may experience harassment as a result. Dressing modestly and low-key (especially in rural locations) can help avoid unwanted attention.

Ask locals where safe places to go when in town. If you’re unsure about exploring by yourself, take a tour. It’s a great way to meet other fellow travelers. 

Food and Water Safety In Mexico City

Most definitions of safety omit food (and drink) safety. However, this isn’t something to be ignored in a city that’s renowned for its dining and street food scenes.

First and foremost, look for busy street food vendors.

If it’s popular, there’s a reason and look for meats that are cooked fresh (rather than piled up waiting to be served) and watch to make sure vendors regularly wash their hands to prevent cross-contamination of food.

When drinking, make sure beer bottles are opened in front of you.

DO NOT drink Mexico City’s tap water.

Tips For Keeping Yourself Safe in Mexico City

As I stated above you must use common sense when traveling whether it’s to Mexico City, Italy, Costa Rica, or Belize. 

My biggest piece of advice is to learn some Spanish so you will be able to communicate and understand simple phrases. 

Not only will this help you if you get pickpocketed but it will also help you move with a little more confidence throughout Mexico City.

What if you Are Robbed or Mugged?

If you are mugged, pickpocketed, or express kidnapped, please do not panic.  Keep calm which I know is easier said than done. 

 Whatever you do, do not fight back just give them your cash or phone then call the police.  Once you have contacted the police then you can cancel your credit cards and call your insurance company. 

If they took your passport, contact the embassy and they should be able to assist you with getting back home. 

I would like to tell you Mexico City is 100% safe but unfortunately, there will be crime no matter the destination.

Whenever I hear anyone say a particular destination is completely safe, I’m a little skeptical because anyone who gives a blanket statement like that is a complete lie because there is crime everywhere.  

With that being said my answer is yes “Mexico City is safe” if you take reasonable precautions to keep yourself safe, like leaving expensive jewelry at home, not flashing money around, and leaving those expensive electronics in your hotel room. 

Travelers Diarrhea

Travelers’ diarrhea, or Montezuma’s revenge, is an intestinal infection caused by food poisoning, such as eating or drinking contaminated food or water.

Food handlers who do not wash their hands after they use the bathroom can transmit the infection to people who consume the contaminated food.

You should never drink unfiltered tap water in Mexico. Stick to bottled water to avoid traveler’s diarrhea or Montezuma’s revenge.

If you’re staying at one of Cancun’s many luxury resorts, you should be fine and will not have to worry about getting sick from the water.

The typical symptoms of traveler’s diarrhea include:

Mexico City Safety Guide

How to Deal with Police Extortion in Mexico City

We’ve all heard the stories about the corrupt cops south of the border. With stories ranging from extortion to kidnapping, the police in Mexico and the rest of Latin America do not have the best reputation.

Police extortion of tourists detained for minor offenses is often a problem and there have been some grotesque incidents. However, the authorities cracked down hard and dismissed hundreds of officers, including some top officials.

They claim the problem is under control.

If you are stopped for a traffic violation in Mexico City, you will be asked for your driver’s license, vehicle registration, and possibly proof of insurance.

You will also be told what you did wrong.

 Of course, in the U.S. we would then be issued a ticket that requires us to pay a fine or appear in court at a later date.

If it is a minor infraction, don’t bribe them; even so, they may ask for some money; the amount depends on the seriousness of the infraction; if you passed a red light, it is better if they only give you the traffic ticket.

If you drive without a license, the car must be impounded, and the fine is higher, in that case, I suggest you offer $ 200 pesos (if you look Mexican) if you are blond with blue eyes maybe about $500 pesos

If you stop drinking alcohol in the street, the fine is $ 1500 pesos or 24 hours of jail; you will probably have to pay your total fine.

Those are the most common crimes for which a police officer can pull you over, obviously, if you steal or kill, the amount will be considerably higher

The key is to remain calm and accept your mistake and when it is inevitable that they take you to jail then subtly offer the bribe, it is like a negotiation, start with a low amount and they will go up to agree on an amount.

How Not to Deal with Corrupt Mexican Police

 Don’t be a tough guy.

This is the worst thing that you can do.  If you act tough and get angry and make threats, the officer will simply arrest you for being disorderly or assaulting him or her, etc.

This is a very big no-no. Towing your car is technically something that the officer can’t do, even though they will threaten it, but if you give them enough of a desire to cause you harm, they will absolutely find a way to make it happen.

While most officers will not do anything illegal beyond soliciting bribes for traffic violations, they most certainly can act above the law when they really want to.

Don’t give them a reason to want to, because you will not win. Having your car towed (and potentially never seeing it again) is a lot more expensive than paying him one hundred bucks.

Safety Tips for Traveling to Mexico City

No matter the destination it is a good idea to always follow these basic travel safety tips.  Follow these tips while traveling to Mexico City:

  • Steer clear of spots with a bad reputation, known gang activity, or places that give you bad vibes. Stick to well-traveled places.
  • Check-in with friends and family back home as often as you can. Make sure someone knows where you’re at and when you expect to check in next.
  • Be aware of your surroundings. This is a good rule of thumb in general, but it’s especially important when traveling alone.
  • Don’t drink too much. Make sure you know your limits. Don’t put yourself in a vulnerable position.
  • Only use ATM machines that are found at reputable local banks or those at your resort.  
  • Do not wear expensive jewelry or watches that might attract unwanted attention.
  • Avoid taking excessive amounts of cash out and about with you.
  • Use the Orbitz Visa credit card because it does not charge international fees so you will not have to walk around with cash.

Stick with your friends rather than splitting up, especially when out late at night. If you plan to drive, make it a point to travel during daylight hours.

Choosing to take a taxi at night is always a great idea, just to be on the safe side and know which areas to avoid in Mexico City.

Safest Areas For Tourists In Mexico City

If you do not go to crime-ridden areas in your own city do not go into crime-ridden areas when you travel.

While the crime rate is increasing in Mexico so is the crime rate in the United States and you haven’t stopped going to the grocery store, have you?

The Mexican government wants to keep tourists safe by providing extra security in touristy areas to ensure travelers are safe so there is no need for you to ask if the Mexico City Travel Advisory is really necessary.

Below are some of the safer areas in Mexico City:

  • Roma: Young and hipster-fabulous – Hipsters rejoice—Roma is also home to a third-wave coffee scene so for some authentic Mexican coffee check out Buna for a *delicious* cup of coffee). 
  • Condesa: Chill and authentic  – Roma and Condesa are sister neighborhoods with a shared history, and their proximity puts them high on the list of places to visit in Mexico City. 
  • Polanco: Sleek and fun. – Polanco is filled with high-end shopping, fancy cocktail bars, and some of the world’s best restaurants. If you’re wondering where to eat in Mexico City, you might want to start in Polanco.
  • Coyoacan: Artsy yet traditional – It has a lot of the same attributes that make Roma and Condesa sparkle, but since it’s a bit further away it has a quieter, chiller vibe. 
  • Centro Historico: Glamorous and historical –Among the best things to see in this neighborhood are Palacio Nacional, where the president works, Zocalo Square, where all big national events or holidays are celebrated, Catedral Metropolitana, the city’s enormous historic cathedral, and the ruins of the ancient Aztec city of Tenochtitlan

Areas to avoid in Mexico City

Now that we have discussed the safest areas in Mexico City for tourists here is a list of areas you should avoid when traveling to Mexico City or at a minimum be mindful of your surroundings:

  • Tepito—Tepito, essentially the black market of Mexico City, has a dicey reputation for a reason. Situated just off the Centro Histórico, it’s most well-known for its vast tianguis (street markets). But if you’re looking for a bargain, go somewhere else—most goods in Tepito are low-quality Chinese products or stolen.
  • Ciudad Neza – Ciudad Nezahualcóyotl (more commonly referred to as Ciudad Neza), a vast urban sprawl that’s technically within the Mexico City metropolitan zone, is another area that isn’t worth visiting if you value your safety. 
  • Tlalpan, Xochimilco, and Tlatelolco – I’ve included these three under one entry as after dark, they all become pretty dangerous and should be avoided. 
  • Colonia Del Valle – Colonia del Valle is the zone that has the highest rate of kidnappings in Mexico City, but the kidnappings are more of a danger for locals than tourists.

Best Hotels In Mexico City

Whether you're looking for an international brand-name hotel or a uniquely designed boutique hotel, Mexico City’s choice of accommodations is as eclectic as the city itself. From Polanco (a.k.a. the Beverly Hills of Mexico City) to hip La Roma to artsy La Condesa, each neighborhood has its own aesthetic. No matter which you choose, expect to find a home-away-from-home in this vibrant megalopolis.

U.S Embassy Contact Information

ASSISTANCE FOR U.S. CITIZENS

U.S. Embassy Mexico City

  • Paseo de la Reforma 305
    Colonia Cuauhtemoc
    Mexico, D.F., Mexico C.P.
    06500
  •  Telephone
  • 011-52-55-5080-2000
  •  Emergency
  • American Citizen Services: 01 800 681 9374 (toll-free in Mexico) / 81 4160 5512 (from within Mexico) / 844 528 6611 (toll-free in the U.S.)
  •  Fax
  • 011-52-55-5080-2201
  •  Email
  • ACSMexicoCity@state.gov
  •  Website
  • U.S. Embassy Mexico City

PLEASE FOLLOW THE RULES BELOW:

  • Use toll roads when possible and avoid driving alone or at night. In many states, police presence and emergency services are extremely limited outside the state capital or major cities.
  • Exercise increased caution when visiting local bars, nightclubs, and casinos.
  • Do not display signs of wealth, such as wearing expensive watches or jewelry.
  • Be extra vigilant when visiting banks or ATMs.
  • Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive Alerts and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.
  • Follow the Department of State on Facebook and Twitter.
  • Review the Crime and Safety Reports for Mexico.

U.S. citizens who travel abroad should always have a contingency plan for emergency situations. Review the Traveler’s Checklist.

TOP THINGS TO DO IN MEXICO CITY

Things to do in Mexico CIty

Best Time To Travel to Mexico City

Because Mexico is a big country deciding when and where to travel totally depends on the weather and which area you are visiting. 

The southern part of Mexico has a rainy season which generally starts in May and until October. Not to worry it only rains for a short period of time and the sun will come right back out.  

If you want to travel in the cooler season book your trip from December to February when it is cooler.

I suggest traveling to Mexico between December and April when the temperatures are more comfortable and the humidity is not at an all-time high.  

Mexico City Travel Insurance

I can’t say this enough, but please get insurance when traveling to Mexico! Even if you only go on a short trip, you should always travel with insurance.

Have fun while visiting Mexico, but take it from someone who has racked up thousands of bucks on an insurance claim before; you need it.

 Make sure to get your insurance before you head off on an adventure!  I highly recommend Travelex Insurance.

The Conclusion – Is Mexico City Safe

Yes, Mexico City is safe!

There is no doubt that there has been horrible violence in Mexico due to drug wars between warring factions, but that violence has, for the most part, been in isolated areas. 

Of course, there are certain areas to avoid in Mexico City but it is no different than you being in your own hometown where crime is restricted to certain areas. 

At the end of the day, Mexico City — particularly the parts of town where tourists go — simply doesn’t merit the fear that many travelers have.

In fact, the data show that Mexico City is safer than many major tourist destinations in the U.S.

When you add the exchange rate that’s friendly to foreign visitors, cheap flights from most major U.S. cities, cultural destinations, and the yummy street food that rivals some of the best cuisines of the world, you’d be missing out big time if you passed over a visit to Mexico City.

If you don’t go looking for trouble you won’t find trouble. 

I will say it again that many popular European destinations fall under the same travel warning but they do not have the same stigma that Mexico has when it comes to crime.   

DO NOT allow the U.S. media to shape your thoughts and views of Mexico City because they are not only misleading but wrong! 

If you are not asking if is Rome safe you should not, in my opinion, be asking if Mexico City is safe.  


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Travel Guide

ADDITIONAL ARTICLES FOR EXPLORING MEXICO

Safest Cities In Mexico For Solo Female Travelers

Is Cabo San Lucas Safe

Is Cancun Safe To Travel In 2020

Have you allowed the Mexico City travel advisory to affect your travel decisions, and are you still wondering if Mexico City is safe?

Are you traveling to Mexico City for summer break in 2024?

I would love to hear your thoughts on whether is it safe to travel to Mexico City and how you feel about the Mexico travel warning so leave me a comment on FacebookTwitter, or Instagram.

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24 Comments

  1. It is very useful information! Thank you a lot! You did a great job to inform others how to be in safe! Article is very extensive!

  2. It is very useful information! Thank you a lot! You did a great job to inform others how to be in safe! Article is very extensive!

  3. Mexico City and its people are beautiful
    But unfortunately it is not safe for its residents and tourists
    Your comments about police ratios and video cameras are misleading
    Most policemen I have interacted with are corrupt and don’t focus on your protection
    As for video cameras – obtaining video footage once a crime is committed is nearly impossible as the authorities don’t have the manpower to manage all the footage that is generated by all the daily crime.

  4. Mexico City and its people are beautiful
    But unfortunately it is not safe for its residents and tourists
    Your comments about police ratios and video cameras are misleading
    Most policemen I have interacted with are corrupt and don’t focus on your protection
    As for video cameras – obtaining video footage once a crime is committed is nearly impossible as the authorities don’t have the manpower to manage all the footage that is generated by all the daily crime.

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