I’ve been getting this question since I decided I was going to move to Mexico three years ago, “Is Mexico City safe?”
It is perhaps the most asked question in my inbox every day, the most asked question on YouTube and Facebook and in my Instagram DM’s.
“My family are worried about me traveling to Mexico City because they say that it’s dangerous, what do you think?”
The truth of the matter is that I have been living happily and safely in Mexico City for three years. I look over my shoulder more in the US and some parts of Europe than I ever do when I’m back home in Mexico City.
Sure, there are problems, like any major city. There are over 20 million people and there can be trouble, but it’s also quite easy to avoid trouble. Below I give you all the ways that you can stay safe in Mexico City and enjoy your trip (or your move to Mexico City!).
The Biggest Safety Issue You’ll Have in Mexico City: Pickpocketing
Like any big city, pickpocketing can be an issue here in Mexico. My advice for men is to keep your belongings in your FRONT pockets. This way you can keep your hands in you pockets on your phone and wallet and you won’t have a problem. This is exactly what my boyfriend does and he has never been pickpocketed either here in Mexico City or elsewhere.
For women, I recommend having a bag that at least has a full zipper. This way you always have your bag completely closed. The problem with bags that only have a snap close or a pull-string closing is that they are easy for someone to very quickly stick there hand in, grab something and you probably wouldn’t even notice if it was very busy.
I usually use a normal leather bag that sips full and I make sure my phone and wallet are at the bottom with something like a sweater or a water bottle over the top so it’s not very easy to grab.
The few places that you should be most vigilant about pickpocketers are on public transportation, in the Zocalo (main square), along Calle Madero (the pedestrian street in the Centro Historico), and inside markets where it’s very bust and people are constantly brushing past.
Is Drinking Water Safe in Mexico City?
You should avoid drinking water in Mexico City. I have a whole article about it which you can read here: drinking water in Mexico.
The water itself is safe to drink in most parts of the city, but unfortunately, it’s the old pipes and tanks that make the water not very safe. I use it to brush my teeth, wash dishes, and clean fruits/vegetables, to make coffee and tea, and to cook with. I simply do not use it to drink.
There is NO NEED to avoid ice in Mexico City. All restaurants around the city only used filtered water and most actually get their ice delivered each day. Ice is not made with tap water here. Trust me, on those hot day when you stop for lunch, you’re going to want some ice in your agua fresca to keep it cool!
How to Avoid Food Poisoning
The only time I ever had food poisoning here in Mexico City was after a bowl of ramen at a popular Japanese restaurant. Street food is a great option here in the city because it is cooked fresh to order, the meat is searing hot, and there aren’t many fresh ingredients that were perhaps washed in unclean water.
Look for street stalls and restaurants that are busy, that have a high turnover, and that are cooking their meat to order. It’s worth noting that Mexicans tend to eat lunch much later than we do in the US or the UK. Most lunch places won’t get busy until around 2:30 or 3pm. So if you head to a restaurant at 12:30 for lunch and it’s not busy, that doesn’t mean it’s not good, it’s just not lunchtime yet.
The Safest Way to Get Around Mexico City at Night
If you are concerned about getting around the city safely at night, I highly recommend using Uber. I use it to get to and from the airport, to get around the city when I’m going between neighborhoods that are too far to walk, and I always use it at night. I have never had a bad experience with Uber (other than sometimes when I book an Uber and they just cancel for no reason before arriving). Here in Mexico City it is definitely the safest options.
I have a very comprehensive post about using Uber in Mexico if you have any questions.
I don’t really recommend walking around at night unless you are in populated residential neighborhoods like Condesa, Roma or Polanco. I regularly walk around at night with friends or my boyfriend in these neighborhoods without a problem. However, if you plan to travel between the neighborhoods or you’re going to be alone, I always just hop in an Uber. Nothing has ever happened that has caused me to act this way, but I just think it’s a smart precaution in any large city.
Is Public Transportation Safe in Mexico City?
I use public transportation, particularly the metro and metrobuses very frequently here in Mexico City. While it can become very crowded during peak times (7-9am and 5-7pm), during the day and on the weekends it’s a cheap and easy way to get around.
Read my full guide to using the metro here: Everything You Need to Know About Using the Mexico City Metro
One of the things I love about using the metro versus metro buses is that there are women-only cars on every metro train. Look for the signs that say “mujeres” or “damas” and then as a woman traveling alone or with small children, you can use these cars.
Taxis Versus Ubers for Safety (and Ease)
Why should I use Uber instead of taxis? It’s a question people ask me a lot and in my opinion, there’s no comparison.
Taxis in Mexico City don’t often use meters, they don’t speak any English, and they don’t use a navigation system of any kind. This means that if they don’t know the best way to get to where you want to go and YOU don’t know the best route to take to get there, that it could take a while to get to where you want to go. It also means you need to negotiate the price before you get in. And finally, taxis are almost always more expensive than Uber.
I use Uber because it means I don’t have to carry cash with me. All drivers have nice new cars and they all have to use a navigation system whether it’s Google Maps or Waze. It’s the best option for travelers who are visiting the city and don’t speak much Spanish because the app already tells the driver where you’re going. It’s almost always the cheaper option.
Is Mexico City Safe for Solo Female Travelers?
Everyone warned me before I moved to Mexico how much I’d be wolf-whistled in Latin America. To be honest, I am heckled more as a woman in New York than I ever am in Mexico. I have never ever been wolf-whistled while in Mexico whether I’m with my boyfriend or not.
While I’m not saying being a solo woman here in Mexico City is easy, it isn’t the horror show that many paint. On the metro, there are women-only cars which I ride whenever I’m traveling around the city by myself. There are actually police who regularly go through the cars to make sure there are no men and if there are they politely ask them to move cars. The exception that I’ve seen is that often old men and young boys are allowed because there is more seating available or they’re with their mothers/grandmothers.
If you’ve been following the news about Mexico City at all in the last few years, you’ll know that in 2017, there was a large earthquake that shook the city. Many buildings collapsed and unfortunately, quite a few people were killed.
There is always a risk of earthquakes in Mexico. It is littered with active volcanos and shared a fault line with California.
However, the city is slightly more prepared now than they ever have been. There is an alarm that sounds roughly one minute before an earthquake is expected to shake the ground. Hotels all over the city have been required to get certifications that say the buildings are not only sound, but that they are “earthquake proof,” which means that they can withstand the shaking and they will move with the motion of the waves.
If it is a large concern for you, I recommend downloading an earthquake app called Skyalert (Android and Apple). These notify you if there is an earthquake and are supposedly very accurate about warning you before it actually hits (thanks to sensors in the nearby ocean).
Unfortunately, the longer I have lived here in Mexico City, the worse the air quality has become. I recently read an article that said since January 1st of this year (2019), there have been only 9 days of “clean air.” The city has an app which allows you to track the air quality. It’s called Aire (Android or Apple). It’s run by the Mexico City government and is updated every few minutes with the air quality. Green is safe, yellow is slightly polluted, orange is dangerous for sensitive groups, and red is stay home.
It’s never been red, but there are more and more days in the orange and this affects anyone really with allergies or asthma. I get a very dry throat and very itchy eyes. I use eye drops almost every day during the spring months when pollution is worst.
If you want to avoid the pollution, the best time to come is towards the end of the wet season in September or October or right after it ends in November and December. These are the cleanest months of the year for air quality thanks to the rain clearing it all away.
Buses to Other Parts of Mexico
If you plan to travel around more of Mexico while you are here, you may want to consider taking a bus to Puebla, San Miguel de Allende or even as far as Oaxaca (although I recommend flying there if you’re short on time).
There are four bus stations around Mexico City – an eastern, western, northern and southern terminal. If you are traveling east, you head to the eastern bus terminal and so on. I have a more detailed post about traveling by bus here: Transportation in Mexico City.
These are incredibly safe options, but there are a few things to keep an eye out for. Be sure to take first class or premium buses. Local buses stop a lot along the way and in the past, this meant that anyone could just get on the bus and steal from the people on the bus. Premium buses only stop at major bus stations.
I always use the ADO app (Android and Apple) and pre-book my bus tickets. This allows me to find out which bus station to go to, means I know exactly what time I need to get to the bus station, and usually you save a bit of money by booking in advance. ADO is the most reputable bus company in the country (they also own ECC) and it a very safe option for getting around the country.
How to Keep Your Valuables Safe in Mexico City
If you plan to stay in the main tourist neighborhoods (Centro Historico, Polanco, Roma, Condesa) then there is no reason that you need to hide your valuables.
I regularly explore the city wearing my favorite necklace, holding my DSLR camera and taking Instagram photos with my iPhone and in the three years I’ve been here I have never, ever had a problem. Just be aware of who is around you and don’t make it easy for someone to snatch your belongings.
If you head to busier neighborhoods, just keep the tips in mind that I mention about pickpocketing and you’ll be fine.
Tips to Help You Enjoy Your Trip and Stay Out of Trouble
These tips are mostly obvious, but I want to reiterate them for anyone who wants to ensure they have a safe and enjoyable trip to Mexico City.
- Stay away from drugs of any kind
- Be aware of your belongings, particularly in busy places like the metro, the Zocalo, and the buses.
- Learn at least a little bit of Spanish (this will just help you in general, but especially if there is a problem of some kind)
- Keep things zipped up or in enclosed pockets
- Consider getting travel insurance. It covers not only any emergencies but also if anything valuable is stolen. I always use it to cover my camera, lenses, and laptop when I travel. I’ve been using World Nomads for almost ten years and still believe it’s the best option out there. Get a quote here.
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