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Travel in Mexico: Safe or not?

Travel in Mexico: Safe or not?

Last Updated on January 15, 2024

When planning our round-the-world trip, the original idea was to cross the land border at Tijuana into Mexico from California and travel across the entire country north to south before entering Belize and the rest of Central America. This plan was met with insistent if not vehement attempts to dissuade us, not only from crossing into northern Mexico by land, but also from traveling through Mexico altogether. Which led is to ask: Is it safe to travel in Mexico?

is it safe to travel in mexico
Every single person we told, without fail, warned us against a trip to Mexico. Don’t you know how dangerous it is there, they would warn, speaking of killings, kidnappings and drug crime. Countless news articles seemed to support these warnings and, especially in Arizona, where immigration issues are endlessly being debated, front pages were filled with the treacherously unsafe conditions in Mexico. During our stay in Tucson we dropped plans for a day trip to Nogales, just across the border, because nearly everyone warned us not to go. Still now, almost fifteen years after my first visit to Mexico, nine Mexican cities place among the 10 deadliest in the world.

We decided to skip the northern territories as advised by the U.S. Department of State, and flew instead directly into Mexico City, moving only south from there.

After having spent over a month now in Mexico including time spent in Mexico City, Puebla, Oaxaca, a couple of smaller beach towns on the Pacific coast (Mazunte, Zipolite), San Cristobal de las Casas and Merida, we can honestly and happily say: Don’t believe the hype. Go to Mexico! We can’t imagine having left Mexico out of our travels. The things (and food) we would have missed!

Is it safe to travel in Mexico?

Of course you must be a cautious traveler. Take appropriate precautions as a female traveler in Mexico, always keep an eye on your surroundings and stay out of known-to-be-dubious areas. These are tips that apply to a trip to any unfamiliar location, from New York to Dubai. Admittedly, the immense police presence on the streets of Mexico City made us initially feel very unsafe. If so many heavily armed police are necessary, we must be in a very dangerous place, we worried. However, after just a couple of days we felt safer in most of Mexico D.F. than in some parts of L.A. and even extended our stay in the capital by five days in order to fit in all of the exciting sights. This is a city crammed full of passionate, intelligent and very open-minded Mexicans, and an extensive trip to Mexico without visiting the great city of Mexico D.F. would leave a black hole in someone’s true understanding of Mexico and its people.

is traveling in mexico safeDuring our visit to Puebla, we met up with foreigner-residents Rebecca from the U.S. (All About Puebla) and Elmar from Germany. They told us about the high-quality of life in the fine colonial city, and how safe they feel living in Puebla. Both have been in Puebla for over three years, a testament to a positive experience in Mexico. And both assured us that traveling in Mexico is safe.

In Oaxaca we stayed in a modest two-room bungalow in San Luis Beltran just outside of Oaxaca. Initially the area seemed rough, based on the level of poverty woven in and out of the areas known as the ‘Colonias’ outside the city center. Here it would have been easy (and probably smart) to feel like walking dollar signs.

Initially we were a little concerned as we were quite openly the only non-Mexicans on the streets and buses. However, during our two weeks in San Luis Beltran, we never felt unsafe. On the contrary, the people were very friendly, gave directions, made sure to say ‘Buenos Dias’ to us and Dani never felt scared to take her Cannon SLR camera out of her bag.

is traveling in mexico safeNo matter where we go, we are overwhelmed by this kindness. At the public viewing of the FIFA World Cup on Mexico City’s Zocalo, countless fans congratulated Dani on Germany’s third place win, and the next day, assuming the blonde-haired, blue-eyed spectator was Dutch, consoled her for Holland’s loss. Market vendors proudly and patiently have explained their produce, meals and traditions to us without a hint of an eye-roll or judgment.

The locals in Puebla were excited to introduce us to their culinary specialties, like chapulines – grasshoppers, and our friendly neighbors in Oaxaca brought over home-made tamales. It is hard to imagine a neighbor in London or Chicago bringing over food the day we move in. Such traditions were lost for us in the 1950s, it seems.

This article is not meant to sugarcoat the situation here. There is constant violence in the country, and everyday we read the headlines that speak of taxi drivers, a priest or innocent children being murdered. The national newspaper published a multi-article examination into the violence in the North of Mexico one weekend, looking at the issue from several different angles. But life goes on, as it does in the United States, which has one of the highest murder rates in the world.

is traveling in mexico safeIt is important to keep this in perspective, and not to lose sight of the fact that on the whole, the people of Mexico have done nothing but receive us with kindness, and we are constantly impressed by the colorful culture and traditions which in no way resemble the unfortunate preconceived notions we held about the country before we arrived.

Our new-found love of Mexico, coupled with its enormous size, has led us to extend our stay here by an entire month (most likely much to the dismay of some friends and family). We will spend this month exploring the Yucatan peninsula where we were able to find a fully-furnished apartment in Playa del Carmen at a bargain price thanks to our fellow traveler Wandering Earl. We hope that our feelings about safety in Mexico will not change over next few weeks and that the secure feeling continues throughout Central and South America.

Is it safe to travel in Mexico – further reading:

Have you recently been to Mexico? What are your thoughts: Is traveling in Mexico safe?


Wednesday 30th of December 2015

this post is already a few yrs old, but i felt like commenting. lst year i've been to mexico and i looooved it. especially the people, so lovely and generous, and extremely friendly. always felt welcome in thsiüüis beautiful place. and without any doubt, i'd go there again.

you know i think it's a shame how the media just wants us to believe only bad things about some places. i'm aware, things can happen and i'm a careful traveler... but something can happen anywhere. we can never predict that.

i'm glad there are people like you guys, who have been there and don't think like this. <3mexico<3

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C. A. Cardino

Thursday 3rd of October 2013

I lived in Mexico for almost two years and would have to agree with most of the comments about Mexico being a beautiful place full of wonderful people that treat you like you are from there. There is crime, just like every where else in the world. The military presence made me feel more comfortable about being there. I never had a bad experience with the Military or Federales, but the local police sometimes try to take advantage of people but you learn how to deal with them. Mexico reminded me of growing up in rural Louisiana 40 years ago. I think all Americans could be reminded of what our people use to be like. I would be more fearful to get help form a stranger in America than in Mexico. I lived in the Yucatan, so I know it's not the same as the border towns and its not influenced by all the corruption of the border towns. I've been all over Mexico and really enjoyed the more rural areas. A lot of the people may not be rich with money but they have a wealth of heritage and culture that everyone should experience.


Thursday 20th of June 2013

Except for one evening in Tizmin, I have felt completely safe in Yucatan. Try to visit Xcalak. A beautiful reef, diving and great flats fishing, with a possible boat ride into Belize. The Leaky Palapa Restaurant is worth a trip to the Yucatan all by itself


Thursday 20th of June 2013

Hi Dale! Thanks for commenting - we actually housesat in Xcalak for two months and spent a lot of quality time out on that reef! It was low season so the leaky palapa was closed, but we met the owners one night and they were so lovely! Life is good there and for anyone looking for a B&B we love

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