Lying between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, Mexico is a country between North and Central America. Famous for its astonishingly beautiful beaches near Cancun or Cabo, Mexico’s has a lot more to offer.
From the wild fauna and flora living in the southern jungles, the snow-capped volcanoes and endless deserts in the North or the fascinating cities built around a rich cultural heritage.
Mexico often makes the headlines for extreme violence, drug cartels executions and high criminality. While all of this is true, it is mostly limited to some specific areas, and tourists are very rarely targeted. Still, Mexico can be dangerous for an unadvised tourist.
Mexico is ranked 114th out of 162 on the safest and most dangerous countries ranking.
Mexico is a country with a high overall crime rate (14 per 100,000 while in the US it is 5 per 100,000), but it is mostly confined to very dangerous states like the Guerrero or Chihuahua. Other crimes such as kidnapping or extortion are decreasing – although it is hard to say what percentage of all crimes are effectively reported.
Still, the tourist areas are mostly crimeless; so don’t let paranoia spoil your vacation, but on the other hand don’t let negligence ruin your trip. Stay alert and be aware.
The most commons dangers for tourists in Mexico are theft, robberies, muggings and scams.
Most Dangerous States and Cities in Mexico
The five most dangerous states in Mexico are the state of Guerrero, Morelos, Tamaulipas, Baja California and Estado de México. For an extensive state-by-state security assessment, check the Travel.gov website.
The most ten most dangerous cities in Mexico are, according to Forbes, Acapulco, Tepic, Nuevo Laredo, Monterrey, Tecoman, Colima, Iguala, Pungarabato, Chilpancingo de los Bravos and Coatzalcolos. Check the map at the end of this article.
Pickpocketing and bag-snatching are threats while on crowded buses and metros, at bus stops, bus terminals, airports, markets and in packed streets and plazas, especially in large cities. Pickpockets often work in teams, crowding their victims and trying to distract them; for example, by grabbing hold of your purse or camera while their accomplice picks your pocket.
Mugging is less common than pickpocketing, but more serious: these possibly armed criminals may force you to hand them all your belongings, including cellphone, watch, rings etc. Do not resist, as resistance may be met with violence, and don’t stare at the mugger’s face.
Avoid sketchy-looking places where there are few other people, like unlit streets, empty metro cars at night, little-used pedestrian underpasses and isolated beaches.
Be careful around ATMs as there can be people waiting for you to withdraw money before mugging you. Other scams include fake surveyors who try to obtain your personal information in order to ask your family some extortion money, fake policemen/immigration officers, fake taxis or fake food samples.
Transport Safety in Mexico
Buses sometimes (is it uncommon but worth writing about it) held up and robbed, Wild West style. Prefer travelling with 1rst class companies (which use toll-highways rather than national roads), and never leave anything of value in your stowed luggage.
If you decide to rent a car, avoid driving at night. The Northern States have seen cases of carjacking, holdups and drug-cartel roadblocks : be careful in the states of Tamaulipas and Nuevo León; especially the Tampico–Matamoros road. In the cities, drive with you doors locked and windows closed; and always park in safe parking lots overnight.
Drug Trafficking in Mexico
Drug related violence is the major cause of criminality in Mexico : more than 10,000 people die every year for being involved in drug trafficking. The states along the US border are the hotspots for trafficking, and within this states violence occurs frequently in some particular areas. If you are unsure where you are going, try to avoid these states.
On the other hand, touristic states such as the Yucatan Peninsula or Oxaca, Chiapas, etc.. have nearly no drug-related violence.
Natural Dangers in Mexico
Beaches and Swimming the beaches can be dangerous in Mexico, particularly on the Pacific coast where the waves can be gigantic. What’s more, the beaches are not often watched by swimming instructors : it is strongly recommended not to swim alone at unknown beaches.
Hurricanes can happen on both Mexican coasts, while seismic activity is limited to the Oaxaca / Pacific region.
For more details, see city specific advice or take a look at our travel articles.
Warnings & Dangers
OVERALL RISK: MEDIUM
Mexico is an averagely safe country -some parts are very safe, others very dangerous. It is ranked 114th out of 162 on the ranking of the safest and most dangerous countries.
PICKPOCKETS RISK: HIGH
As a top touristic destination, there is a high pickpocket risk in Mexico. Check the city pages for more details, an follow a few simple precautions will minimize your chances of being pickpocketed.
MUGGING & KIDNAPPING RISK: MEDIUM
Mexico is an averagely safe country regarding the chances of being mugged or kidnapped. In some states of the North, the risk can become very high. Be aware of dangerous zones by asking local advice.
SCAMS RISK: HIGH
There are a lot of scammers and con-artists trying to take advantage of tourists, particularly in large cities and around major landmarks in Mexico. Be aware of “gold ring” tricks, fake petitions, groups of teenagers acting strangely or trying to distract you; and people offering help with your luggage.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK: MEDIUM
There might be some risk while taking public transport in Mexico (stolen belongings, pickpocketing or muggings). Always take licensed taxis or Ubers. Carjackings can happen in the most dangerous states.
NATURAL RISKS: MEDIUM
There can be some occasional natural hazards (geological, meteorological) in Mexico, and there is some risk of drowning on the Pacific coast beaches.
TERRORISM RISK: LOW
Mexico has not recently been targeted by terrorist attacks.
WOMEN TRAVELER RISK:MEDIUM
Mexico is mostly safe for women travelling in the country. Women can occasionally be subject to some whistles or attempts to get their phone numbers. Lone women shouldn’t venture alone in isolated places, remote villages or popular cantinas.
Avoid Being A Victim! 10 Tips for Your Personal Safety
It is best to carry a small bag across your shoulder or wear a concealed pouch rather than a back pack
Carry as little cash as you can
Don’t keep your wallet in your back pocket
Beware of individuals who act strangely and who try to divert your attention in order to steal your belongings.
Pay special attention while seating on restaurants and café terraces, when you are withdrawing money from ATMs or near tourist attractions
Never keep your mobile phone or wallet on the table of a café or restaurant.
Don’t wear expensive jewellery in an ostentatious way
If an attacker tries to snatch your bag, don’t try to stop them as you will risk being injured
Thieves commonly work near tourist attractions such as museums, monuments, restaurants, hotels, beaches, trains, train stations, airports, subways and target vehicles with non-local license plates.
Most but not all of pickpockets work in groups, often as teenagers
All visitors to Mexico will be issued a traveler’s permit upon arrival (costing about USD 15). Some nationalities require Visas, but citizens of the US, Canada, EU, Israel and Japan are exempted.
www.doyouneedvisa.com is a useful website that can help you know if you need a visa or not based on your nationality and the country you’re visiting.
The currency in Mexico is the Mexican Peso or MXN M$. As of June 2016, 1 Us Dollar= 18.6 MXN.
Mexico is an inexpensive country to visit, they are many cheap accommodations for backpackers and those travelling on a shoestring. There are also many options for those who want to spend more money on their trip. Expect to pay from 800 MXN to 2000 MXN per day.
Mexico City and other large cities can be visited year long. Between December and April is the country’s high season, particularly in the Yucatan peninsula. Cabo is best visited between October and March.