Mexico City is an amazing destination with a vibrant culture, multi-layered history, and plenty of fascinating sites to explore. There are many good reasons to visit Mexico City, and there’s absolutely no need to avoid visiting due to safety concerns. As one of the largest cities in the world, of course there is crime, but you can take some precautions to ensure that your time in Mexico City is enjoyable and safe. Read on for tips for minimizing risks during your next trip.
The U.S. State Department’s Travel Advisory lists Mexico City at Level 3, indicating travelers should exercise increased caution. Some Mexican states have higher Travel Advisory levels, including the neighboring state of Mexico. The Travel Advisory alerts travelers to petty crime occurring in both tourist areas and non-tourist areas and the fact that the city sees both violent and non-violent crime. They advise being cautious, especially at night and outside of the frequented tourist areas where police and security patrol routinely.
Is Mexico City Dangerous?
Mexico City is not a totally safe destination, but travelers who practice safety precautions are unlikely to encounter problems. It's important to use common sense, avoid certain areas, and employ the same strategies as you would when traveling in any big city. There is a large police presence, particularly in places of tourist interest. Criminals do not specifically target tourists; victims typically are targeted based on an appearance of prosperity, vulnerability, or a lack of awareness.
The Mexico City neighborhoods of Centro Histórico, Roma, Juarez, Polanco, San Rafael, Condesa, Zona Rosa, and Coyoacán are well-traveled and generally safe. You may want to avoid the neighborhoods of Merced and Tepito or practice high levels of caution in those areas, and places like Nezahualcoyotl and Iztapalapa, which are not places of tourist interest, are best avoided.
A few types of crime that you should be aware of when traveling in Mexico City are express kidnappings and virtual kidnappings.
- An express kidnapping is when a person (often a taxi driver or someone posing as a taxi driver) abducts their victim temporarily and forces them to withdraw the daily maximum allowed amount from an ATM. They may hold the person until midnight to withdraw the full amount again on the following day. In express kidnappings, the victim is usually not injured: the kidnappers’ goal is to get cash, then they let their victim go. To avoid being a victim of express kidnapping, use secure transportation instead of hailing cabs on the street, always maintain an awareness of your surroundings, and avoid being out by yourself at night. Also, don’t carry extra debit or credit cards on you; leave them in your hotel safe.
- In a virtual kidnapping, no one is actually abducted. This is an extortion phone call and the victim is the person who receives the call. Usually, they’re told that a loved one has been kidnapped and there may be the sound of a crying/pleading voice, ostensibly the person’s loved one calling for help. The caller may confuse the victim and trick them into giving away important information. Virtual kidnappers may use information obtained from social media to target potential victims. To avoid being a victim of this type of crime, avoid posting your precise whereabouts in real-time on social media, keep family and friends advised of your travel plans, and don’t give any personal or family information over the phone.
Is Mexico City Safe for Solo Travelers?
Solo travelers report feeling safe in Mexico City. Try to learn some Spanish before you go—at least a few phrases that will come in handy. Make sure a friend or family member has a copy of your itinerary and has an idea of your general whereabouts, and have a set time to check in with them. Stick to tourist-frequented areas, and keep an eye on your possessions when you’re out and about.
Is Mexico City Safe for Female Travelers?
Women travelers generally feel safe in Mexico City, but it’s wise to take some extra safety precautions. Young women travelers, in particular, and any woman traveling alone may be catcalled and subject to unwanted advances. As much as possible, travel mainly during the day. Carry your essentials in a cross-body bag instead of a purse. If you’re out at night, stick to areas that are well-lit and where there are other people around. Be cautious in bars: keep an eye on your drink, and be wary of accepting food or drinks from strangers. Read our tips for women travelers to Mexico for more ideas on how to deal with these issues.
Safety Tips for LGBTQ+ Travelers
Mexico City is overall a welcoming destination for LGBTQ+ visitors. Same-sex marriage was legalized in Mexico City in 2009, and the law provides protection against discrimination based on gender identity. There’s a thriving gay scene, and travelers are unlikely to experience harassment.
Safety Tips for BIPOC Travelers
Mexico City is generally a welcoming and safe destination for BIPOC travelers. Although 1.2 percent of Mexico’s population identifies as being Afro-Mexican, or of African descent, they have only just recently been officially recognized in the Mexican Constitution, and the majority live in Veracruz, Guerrero, and Oaxaca states. Travel blogger Tina Hawkins writes about her experience of being Black in Mexico City and having people point and comment about her hair and skin in a curious manner, but not in a way that felt threatening to her.
Safety Tips for Travelers
Mexico City is a wonderful destination that offers good value, has a rich cultural heritage, and wonderful museums and sites to visit. Travelers should exercise the caution required in any destination.
- Taking the metro in Mexico City can be a convenient and effective way to get around. During peak times crowds are intense, making it easy for pick-pockets to rob items without you even noticing. Don’t carry valuables beyond the necessary, and make sure they’re tucked away and won’t be easy to access if you’re packed into a crowded subway car. On some lines, there’s a car reserved for women and children at the front of the train.
- Use an authorized taxi for transportation from the airport or bus station. Instead of hailing a cab on the street, use Uber or ask your hotel to call a taxi for you; they’ll make note of the taxi number that picked you up.
- It’s best to use ATMs in bank branches during business hours, and the second-best choice is at the airport or your hotel. Avoid using ATMs on the street or in isolated areas.
- Keep a low profile. Leave your valuables at home or make use of your hotel safe. Don’t wear expensive jewelry, watches, or other items that look expensive and may draw attention to you. Keep your cell phone and camera tucked away when not in use. Try to blend in as much as possible.
- Know what to do in case of an emergency. The emergency phone hotline in Mexico is 911, and dialing will connect you with a bilingual operator for the Ángeles Verdes.
U.S. State Department, "Mexico Travel Advisory." September 8, 2020.
Overseas Security Advisory Council, “Mexico 2020 Crime & Safety Report: Mexico City.” August 1, 2020.