Is Chiapas Safe to Travel to in 2024? Your Local Guide

If you are planning a trip to Southeastern Mexico, you might be asking yourself “Is Chiapas safe to travel to?” While Chiapas is one of the poorest states in Mexico, it is also considered one of the safest. 

Places like San Cristobal de las Casas, the Palenque ruins, and the Sumidero Canyon are among the best-loved emerging destinations in the country, and the local authorities prioritize the safety of tourists. 

You are in good hands here because I live in Mexico and I have traveled extensively through Chiapas. (and I am a solo female traveler!) In this post, we will look at everything you need to go before you travel, and how you can stay safe during your trip.

A colorful street lined with umbrellas in San Cristobal de las Casas

Is Chiapas Safe to Travel to in 2024?

I have traveled extensively through Chiapas – flying into Tuxtla Gutierrez from where I live in Merida, spending a fair amount of time in San Cristobal de las Casas and Comitan de Dominguez and using both cities as bases for a wider exploration of the state. (I also visited the pueblo magico of Chiapa de Corzo, the Montebello lakes, Sumidero Canyon and the indigenous villages of Zinacantan and Chamula). 

Still, nowhere in Mexico is completely trouble-free, and it is important to be aware of the historical clashes between the Zapatista and the indigenous persons of Chiapas, and the authorities. At the time of updating this post (27th February 2024), there are a couple of things to be aware of in Chiapas. 

It currently is not possible to visit the Mayan archeological sites of Yaxchilán, the pyramids of Tonina and Bonampak which are closed to the public due to land disputes and cartel violence. Several sources state that armed men have taken control of the sites and the cartel have set up roadblocks on the roads that approach them. On the approach to Lagartero, tourists have been asked to hand over identification and cell phones. 

Local tour operators have suspended excursions to the sites and it is not wise to try to attempt to reach them independently. Aside from that, I would personally still not hesitate to travel to other parts of Chiapas – Palenque and San Cristobal de las Casas, Comitan and the southern part of the state, etc. 

Is Chiapas safe to travel to?
Is Chiapas safe to travel to?

Cartel activity in Chiapas

Generally speaking, Chiapas does not see the same level of narco violence as other Mexican states. (It definitely isn’t comparable to places like Sinaloa, and Chihuahua, and it sees less than in Cancun even, where various criminal organizations are fighting for the territory). 

However, it does exist, and as mentioned, there has been a recent uptick. No tourists have been harmed in the recent increases in violence and generally, the cartel do not target tourists and crimes against tourists are pretty frowned upon. 

Crime in Chiapas state

Tourism makes up 8% of Mexico’s GDP and this is increasing year on year. It is in the government’s best interest and priorities to ensure that tourists are kept safe. 

As long as you don’t go looking for trouble, and you have a good level of situational awareness, trouble wont go looking for you.

Chiapas is the poorest state in Mexico, with recent research indicating that more than 1.6 million Chiapas residents live in extreme poverty while more than 75.5% live in poverty.

With that being considered, you would think that the crime here would be higher than it actually is. Homicides and violent crime here are well below the national average.  

Numbeo is a good resource to gauge how safe a certain city/state is in comparison to other parts of the country or places in the world. The Numbeo safety index awards different destinations a rating from 0 to 100 based on an interview with local residents to gauge how safe they feel in their hometown.

(With 0 being very unsafe and 100 being safe). Similarly the numbeo crime index references the amount of crime in a certain place. (With 0 being little and 100 being a lot).

According to the safety index Numbeo, San Cristobal has a crime rating of 29.55. 

Tuxtla Gutierrez is a sprawling capital city so it makes sense that it has a crime rating of 46.97 and a safety rating of 53.03. By contrast, Mexico City has a high crime rating of 67.77. As does Cancun at 55.73.

Check your government travel advice for Chiapas

It is always a good idea to consult your government travel advice before visiting anywhere new and the same is true of traveling to Mexico for the first time. The U.S. Department of State awards a safety rating to each of the 32 Mexican states based on any perceived risks or dangers.

States are flagged as places to “exercise normal precautions”, “exercise increased precautions”, “reconsider travel” and “do not travel to”. This rating is awarded based on consideration of a number of factors. 

Chiapas is flagged as a place where you need to “Exercise increased caution due to crime.” It goes on to state that “Criminal activity and violence may occur throughout the state.” 

Be aware of the US government state ratings but don’t be terrified by them. They are sternly worded to encourage you to be alert. 

It is important to note that despite the recent upticks in crime in the area, the US Department of State have not modified their safety advice for Chiapas in any way.

Safe Destinations to Visit in Chiapas in 2024

Palenque and San Cristobal de las Casas are the best things to do in Chiapas as far as most travelers are concerned. However, there is a lot more to see and do in the region. 

You could easily spend weeks in San Cristobal de las Casas using it as a base to explore the wider area. Word hasn’t gotten out about the treasures of Chiapas yet, it doesn’t see the tourist hordes as other parts of Mexico, and therein lies part of its charm. 

Some of the safest places to visit in Chiapas are detailed below for your consideration. They are all wonderful places to explore during your trip. 

San Cristobal de las Casas 

San Cristobal de las Casas is a lot of people’s entire raison d’etre for visiting Chiapas. The mountain town was founded by Spanish settlers in 1528. 

The Spanish had moved here after relocating from Chiapa de Corzo where they struggled to cope with the heat. San Cristobal has almost become something of a hippie commune in recent years, with a lot of barefoot travelers choosing to stay here for extended periods of time. 

Its labyrinth-like network of narrow cobbled streets twists and turn and lead to grand pizzas where Tzotzil women sell street food and handicrafts. The architecture here is different from other parts of Mexico.

San Cristobal’s streets are made up of pastel-colored houses adorned with red tile roofs. Several majestic catholic churches sit on hilltops and offer incredible panoramas over the city. 

From here, you can take organized day trips to the indigenous villages of Chamula and Zinacantan. Here, you are also at the heart of one of Mexico’s best coffee-growing regions and can do a tasting and tour of one of the many nearby Chiapas coffee plantations if you like. 

San Cristobal de las Casas is a safe town. Sometimes the occasional criminal is apprehended here but the town has largely managed to avoid the violent crime that affects other parts of Mexico. 

There are no parts of town that are unsafe. You can comfortably explore its entirety on foot, take the time to get lost in the various areas, etc. 

Walking to and from restaurants and bars in the early evenings is mostly fine. However, it is still best not to walk alone at night (just like anywhere). 

Chiapa de Corzo 

Chiapa de Corzo is a charming pueblo magico in Chiapas state. It is largely overlooked from most people’s Chiapas itineraries and is often only seen as a stopping point en route to the majestic Sumidero Canyon. 

However, the little town is definitely worthy of a day or two’s exploration in itself. The fact that it has been recognized as a “pueblo magico” should be a testament to that too. 

(Pueblo magicos are towns that have been recognized by the Mexican tourism board for possessing a particularly special history, culture, or gastronomy. When you see that somewhere has been flagged as one, it is usually a good indicator that it is a worthwhile place to visit.) 

The “Zocalo” is the central square of Chiapa de Corzo. It is a popular meeting point among locals and is home to the beautiful “La Pila” brick statue, built in the shape of a diamond, which dates back to 1562. 

Lots of great cafes and coffee shops where you can indulge in Chiapas coffee and traditional Mexican breakfast dishes encircle the square. Chiapa de Corzo, surprisingly, has an incredible street art scene. 

Large murals depicting local indigenous traditions and festivals cover entire walls, alleyways, and storefront facades. Many quaint, centuries-old churches are scattered around the town and a nice way to explore on foot is to simply pin their locations in Google maps and walk from one to another. 

You will discover some wonderful off-the-beaten-path neighborhoods and markets as you go. Chiapa de Corzo is safe, locals are friendly, and the area has a very small-town vibe. 

Celebrations in Comitan de Dominguez for Dia de Madre

Comitan de Dominguez 

Comitan is a pueblo magico in the southernmost part of Chiapas state, close to the border with Guatemala. This area has been occupied for thousands of years – initially by the Tzeltal Indians who named it Balún Canán, and later by the Aztecs and the Spanish. 

Comitan, with a population of 140,000 people, is the fourth largest city in Chiapas. Still, it has a very small-town feel about it. 

There are some great cafes and restaurants here where you can sample the best of the local Chiapescan cuisine. Street food vendors serve treats like cascara preparada and pan compuestos that you simply won’t find elsewhere. 

Be sure to check out the Comitan Archeological Museum while in town. It is only small, but it contains many interesting masks and artifacts recovered from the nearby Mayan cities of Chinkultic and Tenam Puerte. 

Very few tourists venture here and you will seldom see many other travelers ambling around. However, nobody bothers or hassles you, and the locals are very friendly. Since Comitan is closer to El Chiflon Falls, Montebello Lake, and other natural attractions in southern Chiapas, it actually makes a better base than San Cristobal for getting to some places. 

Chiapas indigenous villages 

Chiapas is one of the most indigenous parts of Southern Mexico. The Tzotzil, Tzeltal, Chol, and Zoque people make up a large part of the indigenous population. 

(There are more than 68 different indigenous groups in Mexico, all with their unique customs, indigenous clothing, language, and traditions). Some parts of Chiapas are autonomous and are controlled by a specific indigenous group. 

The villages of Zinacantan and Chamula are predominantly inhabited by Tzotzil people. You can visit them on a day trip from San Cristobal de las Casas. 

Zinacantan is known for its beautiful churches and tradition of growing and selling flowers. Chamula is known for its unique San Juan Chamula church where people visit to see curanderos (local witch doctors) when they are sick. 

Chiapas Safety Tips 

Chiapas is a safe place to travel as long as you use your common sense and take basic precautions for your safety. The lack of detailed information about it online and the fact that it isn’t the most common place to visit in Mexico can have you thinking otherwise. 

But you don’t need to worry. Some safety advice for traveling to Chiapas is detailed below. 

Monitor the situation on the road between Palenque and San Cristobal 

The road Between the Mayan city of Palenque and San Cristobal De Las Casas is one of the only places where you need to take additional precautions when traveling in Chiapas. The road does not have the best reputation and is known for being somewhat sketchy.

Several years ago, two travelers lost their lives here after they were attacked. However, this was an isolated incident and buses pass along this route every day. 

So you shouldn’t let it scare you out of visiting. There are often roadblocks along the road between the two sides, particularly around Ocosingo. 

Locals may block the road and refuse to let people pass until they give them a payment of around 100 or 200 pesos. It is generally better to just hand this over rather than risk getting into any debate.

Although it isn’t what you want to deal with when traveling, these people generally don’t mean harm and it’s important to understand it comes from a place of poverty and desperation. The most frustrating thing about these roadblocks is that they can add hours to your journey if you wind up getting stuck behind a line of traffic somewhere. 

The roadblocks aren’t constantly there, however, they are often. In 2022, many travelers reported tourist buses being followed by thieves along this route but things seemed to have improved lately.

It is a good idea to sense-check what the situation is like in travel Facebook groups and forums before you travel. 

Street art in Tuxtla Gutierrez
Street art in Tuxtla Gutierrez

Tuxtla Gutierrez safety tips 

Tuxtla Gutierrez, the Chiapas capital is not an especially pretty or interesting city. It may be convenient to stay overnight here when you arrive at Chiapas’ Ángel Albino International Airport or before you depart. 

However, you can also just as easily stay in a more charming guest house in nearby Chiapa de Corzo. There are a few points of interest here but the industrial city isn’t easy to get around on foot. 

The Cristo de Copoya is a 62m high cross with an image of Jesus Christ carved out of its center. It sits on the top of Mactumactzá Hill in the southern part of the city, and you can enjoy sweeping vistas of Tuxtla and the wider region from the top. 

You need to keep your wits about you more here, as you would in any large city. Female travelers may feel uncomfortable with the amount of attention and comments they receive from men. 

It is better to ignore catcallers but sometimes it is just incessant here. Do not walk alone at night and be mindful about which areas you are venturing into. 

It is worth paying a little more for a good hotel where you feel safe. Read past reviews of the hotel you choose so you know what you are getting yourself into. 

Tuxtla Gutierrez airport cabs 

When you travel in Mexico and Latin America, it is generally better to use Uber or other rideshare apps like Didi rather than get into a random street cab. There is more accountability that way. 

However, these do not function in the Chiapas state. When you land at Chiapas airport, you will see that there are always plenty of airport cabs lined up outside. 

These are safe to use – just insist that they put the meter on. (Alternatively, you can also ask your hotel to organize an airport pick-up for you). 

If you need cabs elsewhere in Chiapas, it is generally better to ask the receptionist/concierge of your hotel to organize one for you, rather than to get into a random street cab.

Public transport in Chiapas

Public transport in Chiapas is generally pretty good. Buses are a low-cost and convenient way to get around and run between all major cities and towns at regular intervals. 

You can take the bus from Tuxtla Gutierrez to San Cristobal, and from San Cristobal to Comitan. Small minivans run from San Cristobal to Chiapa de Corzo, and from Comitan to the Montebello lakes. 

You are generally fine to purchase your ticket at the train station ticket office an hour or so before you want to travel. If you have luggage or a big backpack, you can store it under the bus. 

(You will be given a ticket which you need to present in order to collect your bag once you arrive at your destination). 

Learn a little Spanish 

English is not widely spoken in Chiapas. You may find a few English speakers in some hotels and tourist businesses but for the most part, you may struggle to communicate if you don’t have at least a couple of Spanish words and phrases down. 

Obviously, it isn’t realistic to expect yourself to become fluent in a new language right before a trip. However, a handful of words and phrases can go a long way.

You should also download Google Translate on your phone to help you with your interactions with locals. A handful of useful Spanish words and phrases that will help you during your trip are detailed below.

Useful Spanish phrases

  • Yo tengo una reserva – I have a reservation

  • Mi nombre es – My name is

  • Lo siento, no entiendo – Im sorry, I don’t understand

  • Disculpe – Excuse me

  • Yo quiero – I want (useful for ordering food)

  • La cuenta por favor – The bill please

  • Quanto es – How much is it?

  • Buenos dias – Good morning!

  • Buenos tardes – Good afternoon!

  • Buenos noches – Good night

  • Hasta luego – See you later

  • Una mesa para uno/dos/tres – A table for one/two/three…

  • Dónde está – Where is…

  • Gracias! – Thank you

  • Tienes wifi? – Do you have wifi?

  • Necesito ayuda – I need help

  • Habla Inglés?

  • Lo siento no puedo hablar español – Im sorry I cannot speak Spanish

Watch your personal belongings 

Crime rating is low in Chiapas but nowhere in the world is completely devoid of crime. There are opportunists everywhere in the world and if you are going to find yourself a victim of crime in Chiapas, it is most likely going to be petty theft like pickpocketing or bag-snatching. 

These things can be easily avoided. Make sure you have your eye on your personal belongings at all times. 

Never store valuables such as your wallet or your phone in your back pocket. In crowded marketplaces and busy streets, walk with your backpack in front of you.

Theft-proof backpacks such as those offered by Pacsafe are a worthwhile investment if you travel a lot. They come with additional safety features compared to normal backpacks. 

For example, they are slash-proof, waterproof, and come with TSA-approved locking devices.

They are a little more expensive than regular backpacks, sure. However, they tend to come with long, multi-year warranties. 

It is better not to wear expensive jewelry, accessories, and designer items. People don’t really wear them in Chiapas and it is a surefire way to draw additional attention to yourself.

Similarly, don’t walk around with your expensive DSLR camera hanging around your neck. Keep it safely stored away in your bag.

If you go to a coffee shop in San Cristobal De Las Casas, Tuxtla Gutierrez, etc, never leave your laptop unattended. Take it with you to the counter or to the bathroom rather than asking other people to watch it for you. 

FAQs about Staying Safe in Chiapas 

Do you have any further questions about safety in Chiapas or planning a trip to this part of Mexico?  The answers to some frequently asked questions on the topic are detailed below.

Hopefully, you will find the information that you are looking for there. If not, please do not hesitate to reach out to me.

Is Chiapas safe for American tourists?

Chiapas is safe for American tourists and tourists from any other part of the world. This is a less common part of Mexico to travel to. 

However, that doesn’t make it any less worthwhile to visit than more popular places like Puerto Vallarta or places in the Yucatan. 

Follow the same common sense precautions as you would at home or anywhere else in the world and you will be just fine in Chiapas. 

Is it safe to drive around Chiapas?

Renting a car in Mexico can give you a lot more freedom and flexibility in your schedule compared to having to depend on public transport. However, the road conditions and local people’s attitudes to driving differ significantly from one part of the country to another.

In tourist places like Quintana Roo, the Yucatan, and Baja California Sur, the road conditions are pretty good. In fact, you might not notice any difference compared to driving in the US!

Chiapas is a little more off the beaten path and some of the roads have potholes or are not as well maintained.  People here often speed or drive dangerously so if you are considering renting a car, you need to be very aware of your surroundings. 

Driving between tourist destinations in Chiapas is pretty safe. However, you need to be careful on the road between Palenque and San Cristobal De Las Casas and in the Ocosingo region

Is Chiapas safe to travel to?
Is Chiapas safe to travel to?

Is Chiapas safe to travel to in 2024? Final thoughts

Chiapas is a safe and wonderful place to visit. If you are planning a trip to Mexico, you may also enjoy reading these Mexico travel tips or this post on general Mexico travel safety. Have a wonderful time!

Buen Viaje! Melissa xo 

Melissa Douglas

Melissa Douglas is a British Travel Writer based in Merida, Mexico and the Editor-in-Chief of Mexico Travel Secrets. She has over seven years worth of experience in working in travel media and has travelled to 57 countries, mostly solo. Throughout her career, Melissa has produced written content for several high-profile publications across the globe - including Forbes Travel Guide, the Huffington Post, Rough Guides, and Matador Network.

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