Is Mexico City Safe for Travel? (Honest Advice for 2023)
Are you planning a trip to Mexico City and wondering if Mexico City is safe?
Mexico’s capital city is filled to the brim with culture, nightlife, and sites to see. But there are definitely some things you should know about safety in Mexico before hopping on a plane.
After living in Mexico City for the past five months and counting, I’ve picked up quite a few useful travel tips that can help you safely navigate this vast and incredible metropolis as a traveler.
Yet, even if you only spend time in Mexico City’s safest neighborhoods, there’s still a potential for running into trouble. When traveling throughout Mexico City, you should use good judgment and be aware of every possible danger.
To get you started, I’ve compiled a guide to safety in Mexico City, including:
- Safest (and unsafe) neighborhoods & areas
- COVID-19 Safety
- Common scams to watch out for
- Crucial safety tips
Let’s dive right in!
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Is Mexico City Safe for Travel?
Mexico City is a generally safe destination, but there are still some recommended safety precautions travelers should take to mitigate risks such as petty crime, covid-19, and scams. Many neighborhoods in Mexico City are safe and fun to visit, if you know where they are and what areas to avoid.
Many people worry that Mexico City is dangerous. However, it’s an easy place to visit safely if you do your research and arrive prepared.
In fact, Mexico City has a relatively low rate of crime compared to other regions in the country, and is safer than Mexico as a whole. Even some U.S. states have significantly higher rates of crime than CDMX.
The shady spots in Mexico City are usually contained in specific neighborhoods, making it more straightforward for tourists to stick to the safer zones.
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Things to Know About Safety in Mexico City
Mexico City Travel Advisories
As of early 2022, the United States has issued a level 4 travel advisory in the entire country of Mexico due to COVID-19 concerns. Be sure to check the latest US State Department travel advisory status before your trip, however, as it may have changed by the time you read this article.
The U.S. also says that visitors should exercise increased caution when traveling to Mexico City due to instances of both violent and petty crime. Though relatively rare, these crimes include kidnapping, so travelers must keep their wits about them while exploring the city.
Safe Neighborhoods and Areas in Mexico City
Mexico City is the #1 largest city in North America by population. Yes, that’s right – CDMX is even bigger than the major cities of New York, Los Angeles, and Toronto. That means there are endless cool places to explore, but many areas you should try to avoid as well.
Some of the neighborhoods in Mexico City that are generally safe to explore are Roma Norte/Sur, Condesa, Centro Historico, and Zona Rosa. These are the more touristy spots of the city that travelers tend to feel the most comfortable in. However, be careful in these areas as there’s still a potential for scams.
Other neighborhoods that are still very safe, but less overrun with tourists, are Juarez, Escandón, San Rafael, Coyoacan, and Polanco. Of course, this is the tip of the iceberg – there really are so many cool areas to discover while still being safe in Mexico City. Read my guide to the best areas to stay in Mexico City for more tips and info.
On the flip side, some of the areas that you should steer clear of are Tepito, Ciudad Neza, Iztapalapa, and Doctores.
Tepito is known for its extremely busy and sketchy street market, which is a hotspot for getting ripped off or robbed. Ciudad Neza is changing, but it was historically a very poor area with a lot of crime that is recommended tourists stay away from.
Iztapalapa has the highest rate of violent crimes against women by a landslide. And, while Doctores is generally okay to visit during the day and has the famous Lucha libre wrestling to see, it turns into a much more dangerous area at night.
🛏️ Looking for a hotel? The tourist-friendly zones have some of the city’s best hotels. To find out more about the best local stays, check out our guide to the best hotels in Mexico City.
Covid-19 Safety in Mexico City
The sheer size and population of Mexico City have made the impacts of COVID-19 more drastic in the area. As of February 3rd, 2022, Mexico City has had 1.23 million confirmed cases of COVID-19, which is almost 3X higher than any other region in Mexico.
However, 77% of people in Mexico City are fully vaccinated as of February 21st, 2022.
Mexico City is pretty serious about masking and social distancing policies, so expect to run into some COVID regulations. You’re required to wear a mask anywhere indoors, but many people wear them outdoors too.
While you usually won’t be asked for your vaccination card at a restaurant or bar, I did need it when I attended a large music festival. Social distancing is also very much recommended.
In regards to entering the country, you won’t need a COVID-19 test on your way into Mexico City, but you will need one when returning to the United States or elsewhere. Rapid tests are widely available throughout Mexico City for pretty cheap.
👉 Pro Tip: I got my COVID rapid test in Mexico City at Salud Digna for 260MXN or 12.80 USD in November 2021. The medical facility has many locations around CDMX. But, be aware that you’ll have to speak a little Spanish to get through the appointment.
Crime in Mexico City
There’s no question that crimes happen in Mexico City – it’s an almost unavoidable symptom of being a big city.
Most of the crimes committed in Mexico City are vehicle theft, robbery, and, homicide. Because of this, the city has a huge police presence.
That all sounds very intense, but don’t let it scare you away from Mexico City just yet. The high crime rates around CDMX are usually in contained areas. That makes it much more straightforward to stay away from more potentially dangerous spots.
Also, Mexico City still has a reasonably low rate of crime compared to the rest of the country and even some states in the U.S.
Keep your wits about you while you explore Mexico City, but crimes probably won’t get in the way of having a safe trip if you use common sense and avoid dicey areas.
Common Scams in Mexico City
It’s a good rule of thumb to visit a major city like Mexico City with the knowledge of common scams fresh in your mind. In addition to pickpocketing, these are the most prevalent scams that you should be aware of:
🚕 Taxi Scams – There are various levels of taxi scams around the city. Some are minor, like a driver jacking up the price for a tourist. Others are major, like a full-blown express kidnapping. Express kidnapping is when a driver holds a rider hostage and forces them to withdraw money at ATMs. Express kidnapping is extremely rare today, but it’s best to know it exists.
🌭 Mustard Scam – In this scam, a stranger squirts mustard (or some other gross liquid) onto you and then offers to help clean it. While they’re cleaning, the spiller or an accomplice will steal your wallet, phone, or anything else they can grab in the moment.
🏧 Fake ATM Scam – When you need to take out cash and randomly stumble upon an ATM on the street, you may think it’s a brilliant convenience. In reality, many of these are fake cash machines that will steal or duplicate your card. Stick to ATMs located inside banks to be safe.
👉 Pro Tip: One of the best ways to protect yourself against scams is by hiding your valuables well, even if they’re on your person. I recommend using a cash/card pouch under your clothes like this PacSafe pouch for women or this Zero Grid neck wallet for men to make it more difficult for pickpockets.
Hazardous Weather and Natural Disasters
The most common natural disasters in Mexico City are hurricanes, earthquakes, and volcano eruptions.
The active volcano of Popocatepetl is only two hours away from Mexico City, and hurricanes have touched down in the area. But, the main thing you should be concerned about is earthquakes.
Mexico City is located in a subduction zone, making earthquakes pretty common. There have been three minor earthquakes near Mexico City in the past year, but there hasn’t been a major one since 2017.
Earthquakes are scary because they can happen anytime, even if you choose the least-problematic weather season to visit.
Is the Nightlife in Mexico City Safe?
Mexico City has a thriving nightlife scene that truly blooms when the sun goes down – there are hundreds of local bars to enjoy that range from quirky to upscale. The nightlife in Mexico City is mostly safe, but it’s still good to take precautions.
Here are some of the things you should know about partying in CDMX:
🍸 Fake Alcohol – Some places sell fake tequila. It’s unsafe because of how strong it is, so always check to see if you’re getting 100% agave tequila.
🚖 Order an Uber – When visiting local bars around CDMX at night, try to avoid using public transportation or hailing a taxi yourself. Stick with Uber or ask the restaurant/bar you visit to call you a reputable taxi service.
The most popular time to take advantage of tourists is when they’re drunk and distracted by a good time.
While a lot of Mexico City’s water supply is purified, it’s still not a good idea for tourists to drink tap water. In fact, it’s generally wise to avoid Mexico’s tap water altogether to avoid tummy troubles.
Traveling Around? Read all our safety guides:
11 Safety Tips for Mexico City
Tip #1 – Stay Alert in the Crowds
Many popular tourist neighborhoods, like Zona Rosa and Centro Historico, are super busy most of the day, while the city center can get incredibly crowded on the weekends when street markets pop up.
When walking around Mexico City’s busiest streets, you must pay attention to your surroundings. It’s the perfect place for pickpockets and other types of scammers to catch tourists in a moment when they’re preoccupied.
Also, try not to take the metro or other public transportation during rush hour from 6 AM to 9 AM and 6 PM to 9 PM. There are huge crowds during these times and many pickpockets wait around in the corners of the metro stations.
🛍️ Read Next: 11 Best Mexico City Markets
Tip #2 – Count Your Change
It always takes a minute to get used to a foreign country’s currency, and you should definitely take some time to get familiar with pesos when you visit CDMX.
Keeping an eye on the change you’re given isn’t as much of a priority when you’re in your own city. But, it should be when you’re abroad. I’ve heard many stories from tourists who were given less change than they were owed, but I’ve never had this experience myself.
There have actually been times when I gave too much money or forgot that I was owed change and the cashier always made sure I got the money I was owed. I’ve even had a stranger run down the street after me when I dropped a 100 peso bill (USD 5).
Even so, it’s better to lean on the safe side and make sure you have all your money after making a purchase.
👉 Pro Tip: Unlike U.S. Dollars, Mexican Pesos come in different colors to visually distinguish their value. However, some of the bills look very similar depending on the production year, and it can trip up many tourists. For example, a 20 Peso bill and a 500 peso bill can both be blue and look somewhat similar, but one is worth USD 1, and the other is USD 25.
Tip #3 – Touristy Areas Often Have the Most Scams
One of the most critical Mexico City safety tips to remember is that the popular attractions and areas appeal to people looking for tourists to take advantage of.
While you’ll find the trendy establishments and ambiance that most visitors are searching for, you’ll also come across more scams in these spots.
Many travelers think that the pretty, touristy places in a foreign country are the safest, but a lot of the time, it’s the complete opposite.
Tip #4 – Leave the Valuables at Home
A great way to reduce your chances of being a target for crime when you’re visiting Mexico City is by trying to not look like a tourist. All your expensive jewelry and sentimental valuables should stay at home or in your hotel room.
It’s OK to have an iPhone or a camera while you’re walking around. But, be aware of how you’re appearing to everyone else – especially someone who might be looking for a tourist to rob.
Keep a tight hold on these objects when you’re using them and stow them away in your bag when you’re not.
👉 Pro Tip: Check out our comprehensive Mexico packing list for a full rundown of what to bring to Mexico City!
Tip #5 – Consider Travel Insurance for Mexico
Reliable insurance is a necessity for any sort of international travel. So, you should invest in a comprehensive plan for your Mexico City vacation.
I once met a girl who said that she would’ve been in debt millions of dollars when her appendix burst on a remote hiking excursion in Nepal if she didn’t have travel insurance.
Hopefully, things won’t get that dramatic on your trip to Mexico City. But, you never know when you’ll need emergency services, lose your belongings, or get caught up in a natural disaster.
🛡️ Curious about travel insurance? If you want to learn more, read Nate’s article about the best travel insurance for Mexico in 2022.
Tip #6 – Research CDMX’s Neighborhoods
This article is your first step toward answering the common question – “Is Mexico City Safe?”. But, it shouldn’t be the end of your research.
Educating yourself about the many Mexico City neighborhoods is one of the most crucial safety tips. When you visit Mexico City, you never want to find yourself in an unsafe area.
Researching Mexico City’s neighborhoods won’t just help keep you safe, but it’ll also assist you in uncovering the city’s most exciting places to see.
Tip #7 – Be Careful in the Centro Historico
Because Centro Historico is so busy with vendors, street food, locals, and tourists, it has a somewhat chaotic atmosphere, making it a hotspot for pickpockets and other types of petty crime.
It’s also easy to accidentally make a wrong turn around here and end up in a bad neighborhood.
While you should take some time to explore the famous Mexico City landmarks and cobbled streets of Centro Historico while you’re in Mexico City, be smart about it. Be aware of your surroundings at all times, and don’t make your valuables easy the taking.
👉 Pro Tip: Getting pickpocketed in a crowded area can feel like just being bumped by a stranger, so I like to be equipped with an anti-theft bag such as the Ambor Travel Backpack. It has an anti-theft combination lock and tear-resistant fabric that will keep someone from poking their hands in your bag while you see the sights.
Tip #8 – Female Travelers Should Avoid Iztapalapa
I’m a huge advocate of solo female travelers getting out there and seeing the world, but they should do it safely. Sadly, women travelers must take extra precautions when exploring Mexico City, such as avoiding high-risk areas.
One of the key places that solo female travelers should be especially wary of in CDMX is Iztapalapa. This area is known for having higher rates of attacks on women than anywhere else in the whole city.
Rates of violent crime against women in Iztapalapa have steadily improved since 2020, however, it’s still considered a risky neighborhood to wander around as a single woman.
Tip #9 – Use Extra Caution at Night
When you’re traveling in a new country, things can look a lot different in the daylight hours than they do when the sun goes down. That’s why you should be extra cautious when you’re strolling around Mexico City at night.
First, there’s the possibility of getting lost in the labyrinth of streets and neighborhoods. Squinting at Google Maps and trying to figure out where you are just makes you extra vulnerable.
Then, there’s also a higher chance of running into trouble and safety concerns after dark when you can’t see what’s going on.
With that being said, CDMX comes alive at night, and it would be a shame to miss out on all the festivities around town. So get out there and experience it, but be careful and try not to get overly drunk or wander around aimlessly once the night falls.
🍴 Read Next: Where to Eat in Mexico City
Tip #10 – Know the Local Emergency Numbers
Before you hop on a plane to Mexico City, take a moment to jot down the local emergency numbers. It may sound like overthinking, but if you’re caught in a tragedy or super stressful moment, you’ll be glad you did it.
Here are the emergency numbers you should have on hand in CDMX:
👮 For police, dial the national emergency number 911
🚑 For an ambulance, call 066
ℹ️ For the Tourist Assistance Hotline, contact 800 008 9090
It’s always a smart move to know your embassy’s phone number and location while traveling in Mexico City, too (or anywhere else for that matter).
Tip #11 – Learn a Few Key Phrases in Spanish
Unlike some places in the country, English is on the scarcer side in CDMX.
Some people speak a bit of English or are even fluent, but they’re few and far between unless you’re only visiting the very touristy areas. If you’re planning on venturing outside of these spots or want to get around easier, learn a few important phrases in Spanish.
A few phrases in Spanish to memorize before visiting CDMX are:
- Hello, Good Morning/Afternoon/Evening (Hola, Buenos Dias/Tardes/Noches)
- The check, Please (La cuenta, por favor)
- How do I get to ___? (Cómo llego a ___?)
- Where is the bathroom? (Dónde esta el baño?)
- I need help (Necesito ayuda)
- I am lost (Estoy perdido/a)
Not only will learning a bit of Spanish help you get around the city, but it’s also a tactic for keeping yourself safe. If you get hurt, robbed, or have any other type of issue, you need to have the vocabulary to help yourself just in case nobody nearby speaks English.
👉 Read Next: 19 Best Mexico City Day Trips
FAQs About Safety in Mexico City
Where should you avoid in Mexico City?
The areas you should avoid in Mexico City are Iztapalapa, Tepito, Ciudad Neza and Doctores. These neighborhoods tend to have the most crime, especially at night.
Is it safe to walk in Mexico City at night?
It’s safe to walk around some areas of Mexico City at night, like Roma and Condesa, but it’s always best to get a cab or Uber once the sun goes down. If you absolutely must go walking around the streets at night, do it in a group.
Are cabs safe in Mexico City?
Taxis are safe in Mexico City, but make sure you see the driver’s official ID in the window and keep an eye on the meter. When possible, use Uber or DiDi. With rideshare services like this, you’ll know exactly how much the ride will cost ahead of time, and there will be a digital footprint of your travels.
👉 Pro Tip: While Uber is available throughout Mexico City, it might not be accessible in other parts of the country like the Cancun hotel strip. If you’re planning on exploring beyond Mexico City, give Nate’s top 22 Mexico travel tips a read before you set off.
Just about any traveler can explore Mexico City safely as long as they have a good head on their shoulders. Judging by the fact that you’ve made it this far, you’re already on the right track when it comes to preparing for the trip ahead of time!
Check out our list of fun things to do in Mexico City for more CDMX inspiration. With a bit of planning and research, a fantastic trip to Mexico’s capital is well within your grasp.
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Hi Sky, thanks for your tips and suggestions. We’re planning to visit Mexico City for the F1 Grand Prix in October but weren’t sure what to expect. Our son works for a F1 team and has visited the city before but was concerned over our safety. I think he strays off the tourist path more than we ever would and from your comments, I think commonsense will see us OK.
How does Mexico City Compare to NYC?