Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mexico City


March 26, 2024

Mexico City is a vibrant metropolis with a rich history and culture, delectable street food, iconic landmarks, and world-class museums. But travelers’ questions about Mexico City invariably come back to: Is it safe to travel to Mexico City?

The answer is nuanced. Mexico City, like any major city, has safer areas and areas with higher rates of serious crimes. 

However, by taking precautions and being aware of your surroundings – you can significantly reduce your risk of encountering trouble no matter where you go.

Here's a comprehensive look at safety in Mexico City, starting with the State Department’s outlook on travel to Mexico generally and Mexico City specifically.

(If you want additional information on Mexican travel safety, check our updated posts on safe travel to Cabo San Lucas, Cancun, and Mexico in general.)

The State Department’s outlook on Mexico City

The State Department has a trove of information on safe travel in Mexico presented on a state-by-state basis, meaning it has a specific safety rating for Mexico City.

That rating is a level-two (“Exercise Increased Caution”), mainly due to crime. 

It can be scary to read about all the unsafe parts of Mexico, places where Americans are explicitly told not to travel, but don’t let it affect your travels to Mexico City – other than to inform and remind you that you need to be careful and watchful.

Considering that almost half the country is at a level-three or level-four rating, it’s also reassuring for travelers looking to experience Mexico City’s history, culture, and food.

Cathedral Maria de Assunção, Mexico City

Crime in Mexico City – an overview

Given that Mexico City’s level-two rating is mainly due to crime, what sorts of crime should travelers watch out for in Mexico City?

Non-violent crime, mainly. Pickpocketing and petty theft are the most common issues, particularly in crowded areas like markets and on public transportation. 

More serious and violent crimes are less likely to affect tourists who stay in safe areas and exercise caution.

So while you hear about kidnappings and drug crimes in Mexico, relatively few occur in Mexico City, and they almost never involve American tourists.

Staying safe in Mexico City – the basics

Given the crime picture, what are specific steps you can take to stay safe in Mexico City? These, for starters:

  • Choose hotels or Airbnbs in reputable neighborhoods. Look for well-lit properties with security measures.
  • Avoid carrying large amounts of cash or valuables.
  • Consider “hardening” yourself as a target by choosing backpacks and purses with cut-proof straps and clothing with several layers of Velcro and snaps securing valuables.
  • Download and use safety apps like GeoSure and Noonlight.
  • Stay alert and aware of your surroundings, especially at night and on public transportation. 
  • Speaking of public transportation, avoid it if you can.
  • Use authorized taxis from reputable companies or ride-sharing apps like Uber or Didi.
  • Avoid unmarked taxis, particularly at night.
  • Stick to well-lit, established bars and clubs in safe areas. Let someone know where you're going and when you expect to be back.
  • Book tours with reputable companies like Journey Mexico and avoid venturing off on your own, especially to unfamiliar areas.

Angle of Independence, Mexico

Neighborhood-by-neighborhood in Mexico City

Like most cities, Mexico City has safer areas and neighborhoods and areas that are less safe for travelers.

According to the GeoSure Global app, the least-safe neighborhoods in Mexico City are north of Cerro de la Estrella National Park. These neighborhoods include El Molino, Estrella del Sur, and Ricardo Flores Magon. 

Safer neighborhoods are closer to the city center and in a swath north of the city. As identified by GeoSure, these include:

  • Noche Buena
  • Roma Sur
  • Napoles
  • Piedad Narvarte
  • Reforma Iztaccihuatl Norte
  • Centro Historico

The Mexico City area has literally hundreds of neighborhoods. When traveling in Mexico City, the GeoSure app is an invaluable tool for judging where to go, where to stay, and where to avoid.

Food safety in Mexico City

Mexico City has world-class street food, but it doesn’t come without dangers. Montezuma’s Revenge is real. Here’s how to lessen your chances of getting sick when partaking of street food in Mexico City, per EscapingNY:

  • Bypass food stalls where the same person handles raw meat and veggies/tortillas
  • Bypass stalls where the same person handles food and money
  • Avoid stalls where there’s nowhere for the cook/vendor to wash their hands
  • Avoid stalls where food (raw meat, in particular) sits in the open air/sun for extended periods

And while it almost goes without saying, we’ll say it anyway: Don’t drink tap water, and avoid any drink that contains ice. Drink bottled water whenever possible.

Fine Arts Palace, Mexico City

Other health concerns

Mosquito-borne diseases are common in Mexico. While the incidence of these diseases is lower in Mexico City than other regions of the country, it’s not unknown. Bring and use mosquito repellent with a high concentration of DEET.

Speaking of things that crawl and fly, Mexico is home to a wide variety of creepy-crawlies. It’s a good idea to not turn over rocks, look before you sit down, and look in your shoes before you put them on.

Also, Mexico City is at altitude and has regular air-quality issues. It can take some time for you to adjust to less oxygen and more particulates, especially if you have COPD or similar respiratory or pulmonary diseases. If you find yourself short of breath, take time to rest.

In an effort to control air pollution, Mexico City has restricted vehicle traffic Monday through Saturday. Additional information can be found on the Hoy No Circula website (requires translation) maintained by the Mexico City government.

Finally, the combination of high altitude and thin atmosphere means there’s less to block the sun’s rays. You can burn quickly and painfully in Mexico City. Wear sunscreen and reapply it frequently – and remember that the insect repellent goes on over the sunscreen.

Driving in Mexico City

The best way to drive in Mexico City is not to. Traffic is nuts; leave the driving to someone else.

Since buses and metros are to be avoided, and bicycling is not really a thing, that restricts your movement options to walking and taking an Uber or taxi.

Avoid non-regulated (“libre”) taxis. Per the State Department, “When in need of a taxi, telephone a radio taxi or ‘sitio’ (regulated taxi stand) and ask the dispatcher for the driver’s name and the taxi’s license plate number.”

Ubers and other rideshares are generally safe. 

Zocalo Square and Mexico City Cathedral

Additional tips

The following will also enhance your Mexico City experience:

  • Learning some basic Spanish, so you can better interact with locals
  • Avoiding demonstrations, which are fairly common in the capital city
  • Taking a walking tour, so you can better understand your surroundings
  • Taking a food tour, so you can really understand the importance of food – and street food in particular – to Mexican culture

How Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection can help

Even with careful planning, the unexpected can occur. Travel insurance from Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection protects you in case of trip cancellation, medical emergencies, and even travel delays.

Our comprehensive plans let you focus on enjoying your Mexico City adventure, knowing you're covered if anything unexpected arises.

Mexico City offers so much to travelers – everything from the Teotihuacan pyramids to the Frida Kahlo Museum to the historic city center and the incredible street food.

By following our recommendations and traveling with insurance from Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection, you can confidently explore this remarkable city, immersing yourself in its rich culture and unforgettable experiences.

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