Last Updated on
Mexico is a vibrant country full of many friendly people, eager to welcome you with open arms. From ancient Mayan temples through to exotic beaches, and an incredible street food culture, it’s easy to see why it’s such a popular destination. However, like anywhere in the world, some people have alternative motives so you need to practice some general safety awareness. Mexico, unfortunately, has its fair share of stories about pickpocketing, hijacking, and even kidnapping. There are several things you can do to take extra precautions. Here are some easy tips to stay safe in Mexico.
1. Hail a Taxi at a Designated Spot or Use an App
Mexico has designated sitios, or taxi spots, where only taxis that are registered are in service. Registered taxis should have a current license plate, picture ID of the driver posted on the dashboard, and a working taxi meter. If the digital meter is not working, be sure to get the price of your trip before you ride off. When getting in a taxi, if you feel like you’re in an unsafe area or it’s late at night, take a quick picture of the license plate or the driver display card and send it to a friend.
You can also research cab apps and use applications such as Uber or Beat, which are both widely used in Mexico City. In order to do so, it’s worth paying for an international data plan, or buying a SIM card with data when you arrive in Mexico, so you won’t have to rely on WiFi to book a cab.
2. Highway Caution
If possible, try to stick to daytime transportation. If traveling by car, use the toll (cuota) roads rather than the less regulated free (libre) roads whenever possible. If traveling by bus, opt for the higher rated bus lines on toll roads as well. Night buses in Mexico have been subjected to hijacking in the past. If you’re traveling on a night bus, consider hiding some cash or a credit card in your shoe, or another secret spot, just in case! You can also pay for a private car for an overnight drive.
3. Keep Valuables in Your Front Pockets
Public transportation in Mexico City is busy, especially during rush hour. You will be jam-packed into the Metro, and sometimes you need to take your valuables with you. In this case, try and put these towards the front of your body. You can hold them under a jacket or if you have pockets big enough, stuff them inside those. You’ll also see many locals wearing their backpack on the front of their body to avoid being pick-pocketed.
4. Learn Basic Spanish
Many people speak English in Mexico, but since the official language is Spanish, it is the most widely used. It’s important to know some basics not only to get around more easily but also to avoid being scammed. Mexicans are generally very friendly and willing to help you out, so use this as a resource to practice. Download an app such as DuoLingo to start learning the basics. You can also download an offline dictionary to your phone.
And if you’re a confident Spanish speaker, check out some of the Mexican slang that only the locals know — you never know, you might make a few new friends.
5. Stick to the Crowded Food Stalls
Now, this is a very important tip. Mexico is full of some of the best street food in the world. But sometimes, not all the food is the freshest, and you definitely want to avoid any form of food illnesses. Having a bad tummy from street food in Mexico is common, so stick to the stalls that have crowds flocking to them, follow the locals — they know what they’re doing!
6. Be Aware of Currency Scams
Although the official and most commonly used currency is the peso, the US dollar is also accepted in certain places. A scam that happens from time to time, is one involving currency confusion. A reasonable price is offered for a service, and upon completion, that price is then quoted in dollars. Be sure to clarify the currency being used when services are involved. Another tip is to always count your change after the transaction.
7. Withdraw Cash From a Sheltered ATM
Always withdraw cash from an ATM located inside a bank or hotel. It gives you privacy away from prying eyes of opportunistic robbers in the street. Once you’ve withdrawn cash, remember not to put it all in one place.
8. Have a Secret Stash of Cash
Wherever you travel in the world, it’s always worth having a secret stash of cash. Spread out your card and cash and don’t put them all in one wallet or one bag.
Remember: if you are robbed, it’s best to give the robbers what they want and don’t fight back. Kidnapping also occurs in some parts of Mexico, usually in the form of ‘express kidnapping’ where you are taken and made to withdraw money from an ATM. This can happen in everywhere from Mexico City to rural areas. Don’t resist — at the end of the day, it’s just money or a phone, it’s not worth risking your life!
If you’re looking for some inspiration, check out the best places to go backpacking in Mexico.