How to Stay Safe in Mexico City | Top Safety Tips
Updated: Jul 25, 2020
So you have decided or are thinking about taking a trip on down to Mexico City, and you would like to know is it safe for tourists? And if so, how you can stay safe during your visit? Well no need to worry, you can find all of the answers you are looking for right here!
Don't Look Like A Tourist...
Avoid Pulling Taxis From The Street...
Be Careful Of Dodgy Areas...
Stay In Well Known Areas...
Don't Buy From Street Sellers...
Pay With Card...
Be Careful Of Pickpockets/Thieves...
Learn Common Phrases...
Have Your Cellphone On You...
Don't Fight Back...
Apart from Mexico's notoriously bad reputation, the country is actually quite beautiful, and it's capital Mexico City is a wonderful place for you to visit. Before I dive into things, I should clear up some misconceptions that many people seem to have about Mexico City.
A lot of people seem to have the idea that Mexico is completely dangerous, and it should be avoided at all costs, I have found this information to be completely false! I've been living in Mexico City for almost a year now and not once I have ever had a problem in any place.
The travel warnings that you see the U.S government putting out are completely absurd, if you compare the statistics, it actually shows that tourists/visitors tend to have more problems in the U.S than in Mexico. Everything you see or hear about on the news regarding safety around Mexico has more to do with Politics than actual safety.
With all of the said there still are some things that you need to think about and consider before taking that trip, Mexico City is one of the largest cities in the world, and as with any city in the world, there can be problems if you choose not to travel wisely, especially in densely populated areas such as Mexico City.
Top Safety Tips
Having some knowledge about local areas, neighbourhoods, public transport, tourist traps goes a long way in keeping you safe, here is my list of tips both general and area-specific that will help you stay safe during your visit to Mexico City.
Don't Look Like A Tourist!
This is an obvious one, I mean if you are travelling anywhere in the world, of course you are going to create problems for yourself if you walk around looking like a tourist, if you don't know what I mean by looking like a tourist, follow this advice, and you should do just fine.
Don't carry the expensive camera around your neck.
Don't take photos of everything you see.
No souvenir t-shirts.
Don't use Segways.
Eat where the locals eat.
Those are some rules to abide by, and you shouldn't have a problem if choose to follow them, you really need to heed this advice as you being a foreigner already makes you stand out, you don't need to stand out more than what is necessary!
Avoid Pulling Taxis From The Street
This is one trap you need to be careful with when in Mexico, some may say this not a trap and it's fine to pull a taxi on the street, generally speaking, it should be fine to do so, but if the driver for one second thinks that you are a tourist and don't know the area or language very well, I promise you he will try to take advantage of you in some way shape or form.
This is almost guaranteed! It would prove quite difficult to find one taxi driver that wouldn't try to cheat you in such circumstances, so my advice for taking a taxi in Mexico City would be to use official Sitio taxis, these are taxis that have certain tracking capabilities, and can be found at taxi ranks near hotels, restaurants, shopping malls and most populated areas across the city.
Or take an Uber, this is my preferred method of travel, it's cheaper, safer and you can request an English speaking driver if need be, this is the perfect way to get around the city in a flash.
Be Careful Of Dodgy Areas
Mexico City is huge, in fact, it's one of the largest cities in the world, there are so many hidden gems, beautiful places and popular areas throughout the city, but amongst all of this, there are also dirty seedy, dangerous and violent places that need to be avoided.
You wouldn't just go to one of the largest cities in the world and hop on the bus or subway to see where it takes you, would you? You need to plan and take care in Mexico City. Many people don't like to follow or make itineraries for vacations, and the ones that do, never follow them completely, well in Mexico City, you need to have a plan and stick to it!
If you really want just to wander the streets and get some culture I recommend that you do so in downtown Mexico City and nowhere else! I'm going to briefly cover some areas you might want to avoid just below, if you are interested in the safe and dangerous neighbourhoods of Mexico City, check out this article I have written here.
These are just four areas of Mexico City that you might want to avoid, each one of them has got something to offer tourists and some might be considered safe during the day, so if you are thinking about visiting one of the mentioned areas, exercise caution, travel by Uber, don't stay after dark and don't pass in any alleyways.
Stay In Well Known Areas
This tip ties in with the previous, avoid dodgy areas! If you are staying in downtown Mexico City, you needn't worry about which place is safe and which is not, there are thousands of tourists every day in the city centre, this should give you confidence in your ability to roam the beautiful streets of downtown Mexico City carefree.
Popular areas that do attract tourists throughout the city are listed just below, if you choose not to stay in any of them, at least consider visiting as all of the places mentioned has something unique to offer and what they do have in common are the colourful people, beautiful architecture and amazing street foods.
Don't Buy From Street Sellers
There are thousands of street sellers all over this city, and most need to be avoided! Not to be confused with a local business (street vendors) set up in certain areas but rather the people walking around selling random items.
Everywhere you go, whether you are walking down the street, taking a taxi, bus or metro, you are guaranteed to run into some street sellers, they sell everything and anything they think they can make easy money from.
If they see that you're a tourist, they may try to take advantage of you, or worse! You should steer clear from those kinds of people at all costs.
I have seen it happen myself first hand, one tourist was unfortunate enough to take out his wallet and give the vendor some amount of money unknown to me and in return he got two energy drinks, after receiving the drinks the seller was leaving without giving change, to which I saw an argument break out and the seller was becoming quite aggressive and loud.
I don't believe it is a very common problem, but it's something you need to be mindful of if you want to buy something in the street, it's always best to give the exact amount of money required, have some pocket change ready and never take out your wallet!
Pay With Card
It's always going to be better to pay with card in Mexico, you eliminate so much risk and the chance of losing cash either to being robbed or ripped off.
If you are staying in downtown, you can pay with your card virtually everywhere, there is no need to carry a lot of cash, in fact, the less money you have in your pocket, the better! There are some situations where you might need to have a couple hundred pesos but no more.
If you want to eat tacos, try churros, drink horchata from the thousands of food stalls across the city, then you will need some cash, but this amazingly delicious food is so cheap that you needn't have a lot of money on your person to enjoy this.
Be Careful Of Pickpockets/Thieves
The problem with every major city in the world! Pickpockets are everywhere, and no matter what you do, there is always the chance you will come across these slimy people, and unfortunately even more so in Mexico City.
Although pickpockets may be plentiful in Mexico City, that should not deter you from visiting, the fact is, even in your home city it's possible to run into some pickpockets, there is not a single city in the world where someone isn't trying to steal something from someone else.
Even though this might be a problem, there are certain precautions you can take to make sure that you never fall victim to this crime.
Don't be flashy, keep the watch/necklace or other flashy items in the suitcase.
When using public transport, keep your backpack on your front side.
Keep valuable items on your person and not in your backpack when possible.
Don't show your wallet in public areas.
Stop worrying about fashion and wear a hip belt.
Learn Common Phrases
Learning some of the native language really goes a long way, not only will the locals know that you have interest in their culture and language, but you will also be better prepared to communicate with someone if an emergency does unfortunately arise.
Yes everyone knows you can translate using google, but the appreciation and respect you receive from Mexicans far outweighs what it would be if you were to take the phone out immediately and start translating, learn common things like thank you, how much, I like the food and don't just be that gringo nobody likes, I have listed some common phrases below you should learn and make use of.
Good Morning. Buenos Dias.
Good Afternoon. Buenas Tardes.
Good Night. Buenas Noches
Please. Por Favor.
Thank You. Gracias.
Very Delicious. Muy Rico.
Do you speak English? Habla Usted Ingles.
Where is the toilet? ¿Donde Estan Los Banos?
How are you? Como Estas.
Sorry. Lo Siento.
Have Your Cellphone On You
This is very important! Never go out without your cellphone, if you do ever run into trouble, lose your way or lose your partner, it is essential that you have a means of getting in touch with your partner or someone who can help you. If you are going to visit for a long time and don't want to worry about carrying around that expensive phone, invest in a smaller more stashable phone, you could even have two, your regular device and an old Nokia as a backup hidden away somewhere.
It is also important you know how to get in touch with the correct authorities in Mexico, if you do ever have any problems in the city, I can assure the police are never far away, however that may be, you should know which numbers to call if an accident does occur.
U.S Embassy - (52) 5080 2000
Locatel - (52) 55 5658 1111
Police - 999
Ambulance - 997
Fire - 998
Never Fight Back!
Easily one of the most important pieces of advice I can give you. If you are unfortunate to run into some bad people in the city and they are either looking to kidnap or steal from you, never fight back! Ever. They are only interested in money, and nothing you could possibly have in monetary value is worth more than your life.
Give up the phone, wallet, jewelry and whichever other valuable items you were foolish enough to carry around with you, if in extreme cases you fall victim to kidnapping, they are most likely going to take you around the city to specific bank machines and hold you hostage till they get all the money you have, this is called express kidnapping.
It's very rarely anything more, especially with tourists, in fact, this problem doesn't seem to really exist anymore, you shouldn't have anything to worry about, this is only my advice for if this extremely unlikely scenario happens.