Is Merida Mexico safe to travel to? If you are planning a trip to the Yucatan capital of Merida and the wider peninsula, you might be concerned about how safe you are going to be when you get here.
I get it. On the whole, Mexico isn’t really a country that people automatically correlate with safety and it often feels like Mexico is in the media for all the wrong reasons.
However, Merida (and the Yucatan state in general), is a very safe place. Many of the violent things that you hear about happening in other parts of Mexico simply don’t happen here and the city is renowned for not only being the safest in the country but one of the top three safest cities in the Americas in general.
The culture is just different here. Yucatecans are very polite, friendly and respectful and you never have the feeling that you have to keep looking over your shoulder and reminding yourself you are in Latin America.
And I should know because I have been living in Merida for the last two years and in 2023, I bought a house in the Los Reyes district of East Merida.
I don’t plan on going anywhere and I feel more comfortable in Merida than I did in my hometown in the UK (which should say something). I moved to Mexico as a solo female traveler and have explored Mexico extensively so you are in good hands here.
Is Mérida Mexico Safe to Travel to?
MéridaMexico is a very safe place to visit and if you are someone who is anxious or nervous about travelling to Mexico, I am willing to bet that all of your worries will dissipate when you get here and see how gorgeous and clean the city is, and how hospitable its residents are.
This isn’t just an anecdotal statement either – it is something that has been backed up by statistics.
Crime in Merida, Yucatán
There is no real history of political unrest in the Yucatan peninsula where Merida is located. Similarly, countless global media publications have spoken about the safety of Merida compared to other parts of Mexico.
While crime across Mexico has been on the rise in recent years, Merida has remained largely free from it. The atmosphere is so much different in the Yucatan state, that you almost feel as though you are in a different country and it is for that reason that so many international expats, as well as Mexicans from other parts of the country have been relocating to Merida almost en masse in recent years.
Even when you compare Merida to other nearby popular tourist cities like Cancun, Tulum, or Playa Del Carmen, you will notice a significant difference. In Merida, I can run out to the convenience store in the evenings, go for a jog around Parque Lineal with my friend at night, and walk home from dinner at a restaurant and I never have to second guess whether I am safe doing so or not.
A recent survey of 131 Merida residents highlighted just how comfortable people feel in this city. Sure, the sample size is relatively small but it is indicative of a wider perception of Merida.
However, most respondents advised that they had no worries about being attacked, mugged, or insulted. Similarly, most people had no worries about their vehicles or properties being broken into. This speaks volumes about safety in Merida.
Do drug cartels operate in Merida?
There is virtually no cartel activity in Merida (which may sound surprising when you consider that there have been several clashes in Cancun and Tulum, just a couple of hours away) in the last few years. While one theory behind this is the aforementioned idea that many narcos and their families live here, Merida is located pretty inland and isnt really on any drug route towards the US so it makes sense.
The State Department’s Mexico Crime and Safety Report for Merida (OSAC) details that there is very little to no narco-related crime threat in Merida. Indeed, the Yucatan is one of the only states in Mexico with no transnational criminal organization or terrorist group.
Why is Merida so Safe?
Crime waves have rippled through many parts of Mexico in recent years, especially after the pandemic caused many people to lose their jobs and experience greater struggles. However, Merida has remained pretty much exempt from that.
There are several theories as to why Merida is so safe. One of the wilder ones is the idea that many narcos and their families live in Merida and they have declared the city as neutral territory.
While there is definitely a lot of money in Merida, that’s a pretty outlandish claim. The reality is that the police here are excellent which is a marked change from how the police act in other parts of the country.
You will notice a relative police presence in the central parts of town, and should you ever be unfortunate enough to need to call the police in Merida, they respond quickly and prioritise the safety of residents.
Culturally, the Yucatan is very different from other parts of Mexico. As you walk down the street, people greet you with a “buenas dias” or a “buenas tardes” in the city centre and even in the most random and remote parts of the state.
Yucatecans genuinely care about people having a pleasant experience in their region and it shows.
Is Merida safe at night?
Most travel guides about Mexico will strongly advise you against walking around at night but the majority of places in the historic centre of Merida are very safe, even in the evenings. You will always see plenty of couples and groups of friends meandering down the Paseo de Montejo in the early evenings and the night time is when most of the squares and piazzas really come to life.
(It is so hot here during the day and temperatures often soar as high as 113°F/45°C during the summer months that the evenings are sometimes the only bearable time to be outside.)
Plaza Principal is a popular rendezvous point among locals who sit on the benches chatting with their amigos and enjoying Yucatecan street food eats like marquesitas and salbutes. Every thursday at 9pm, older Mexican couples meet in Parque Santa Lucia to dance to salsa and cumbia music, and there are live re-enactments of the Ancient Mayan Pok-ta-Pok ballgame outside the Merida Cathedral in Plaza Principal on saturdays at 8pm.
An abundance of excellent Merida restaurants, cantinas and bars can be found throughout the colourful streets of Meridas old town. In particular, check out Calles 60 and 47, the new “gastronomic corridor” in town home to a plethora of eateries that serve cuisinies from across the globe and cater to every palette.
If you use your common sense at night, you will be absolutely fine. Stick to the main streets where there are always tons of tourists and locals around and don’t wander off down dimly lit sketchy-looking side streets.
Is Merida safe for solo female travellers?
Merida is safe for travellers of all ages, genders and backgrounds and that includes solo female travellers. I came to Merida by myself in 2022 and I liked it so much that I bought a house here this year.
To be honest, I have travelled to 13 different states in Mexico, mostly solo, including a lot of unconventional places like Sinaloa, Guanajuato and Queretaro and I have never felt unsafe. However, if this is your first foray into travelling to Latin America, you can take comfort in the fact that Merida is the safest city in Mexico and therefore arguably the best place for solo female travellers in Mexico to start.
You don’t have to worry about what to wear or dressing modestly here because its so hot that everyone walks around in dresses and shorts all of the time, even local women. Sometimes, sure, you might experience the occasional catcaller or someone who curiously checks you out but that happens everywhere and I personaly find that I experience less harassment in Merida than I did when I lived in Greece.
Is it safe to walk around in Merida?
Merida is a very walkable city and it is safe and easy to explore its central districts. You can walk freely here.
Merida is not like Mexico City or Guadalajara where you have to be mindful of where you walk because you might end up in a sketchy area. Virtually everywhere is safe.
Kanasin, in the southern part of Merida, sees a lot more crime and is a little rough around the edges but it is so far from the centre that you would never accidentally wander into it and you really have no reason to travel to this area.
It is a little trickier to get from Central Merida to Northern Merida on foot not just because of the distances, but because the wider city really isn’t built for pedestrians and consists of large, multi-lane roads. So for example, if you want to go from the centre to The Gran Mundo Maya Museum or to some of the malls in the north, you should take an Uber or a bus.
Is it safe to rent a car in Merida?
Renting a car in Merida is safe and driving in southeastern Mexico can be an enjoyable, painless experience. The roads in the Yucatan are well paved and in excellent condition and honestly, driving here is not that different from driving in the US or Canada.
You dont really need a car to get around in central Merida but if you are visiting the city as part of a wider Yucatan itinerary, it can make things a lot easier as many off-the-beaten-path villages, beaches and Mayan ruins in the Yucatan are not well connected by public transport.
Many reputable international firms operate in Merida including the likes of Avis, Budget, Dollar and Europcar. I would strongly recommend using Discover Cars to find a good rental as the platform allows you to filter by trustworthy suppliers (search for rental companies with a rating of 7+) and compare and contrast quotes and prices.
Is Merida a safe place to live?
I have been living in Merida for the last two years and I feel very safe here. I live in a non-gentrified neighbourhood called Los Reyes in eastern Merida and I am the only non-Mexican on my street.
You will find that many expats that move here choose to live in the centre or in the northern suburbs. Northern Merida is looking more and more like a US city every day and has all the home comforts and amenities that the American and Canadian expats that live there could possibly want. (Stores like Walmart, Office Depot, Carls Jr, etc).
However, these aren’t the only safe areas. Bar Kanasin and some rather unsightly industrial areas in the very south, all of Merida is safe.
Before finding my house, I bounced around a bunch of short-term rentals and Airbnbs in Dzitya, Los Heroes, Cholul, Chuminópolis, Las Brisas, and Itzimna. I felt perfectly safe and comfortable in every area.
It’s easy for foreigners to integrate into the community here, people are welcoming, and crime/discrimination are not a concern.
Merida Mexico Safety Tips
Some useful tips for staying safe in Merida and ensuring that your trip is memorable for all the right reasons are detailed below. A lot of these things are common sense and good practice wherever in the world you choose to travel but they are worth reiterating here.
- Watch your personal belongings, especially in crowded markets like Mercado Lucas de Galvez and San Benito market where pickpockets and opportunists operate
- Consider investing in a theft-proof backpack or money melt to keep your belongings extra safe
- Purchase an alarmed door stopper for your hotel/Airbnb room door for your peace of mind
- Purchase comprehensive travel insurance before your trip – you never know what is around the corner
- Use Merida Facebook groups and platforms like Couchsurfing and Meetup to connect with other travellers and locals
- Keep a spare bank card and a spare $50 USD or so of cash hidden deep in your luggage or in your hotel room safe just in case you lose your wallet
- Use mosquito repellent and consider purchasing a plug-in device. Mosquitoes here do carry dengue, and zika virus so it is better to be safe than sorry
- Drink plenty of water and wear a strong SPF – don’t underestimate how hot it can get in Merida, especially during the summer months.
- Be aware of your surroundings, don’t trust overly friendly strangers and use the same common sense safety precautions as you would elsewhere
- Buses and innercity public transport in Merida are safe but it is often very crowded with people commuting to work and very hot since there is no air con
- Don’t just stick to the gentrified areas; areas like Colonias, Cholul, Itzimna and Conkal are well worth a visit too
- Purchase a Mexican SIM card to stay connected
Don’t be afraid to experiment with the food
Do not be afraid of trying Yucatecan food and street food eats or assume that travelling to Mexico is synonymous with getting sick. It doesn’t have to be.
If you venture to Merida and don’t experiment with the local food, you are missing out on a huge part of the travel experience. When it comes to street food, there are many Mexican classics that you can find here, and many that are only available in the Yucatan.
You will find stalls scattered throughout the city centre and its various neighbourhoods. In particular, there are always lots of tianguis along the main promenade of Paseo de Montejo, in Plaza Principal and in Paque Aleman.
Elotes are a must-try in Mexico and this dish simply consists of a corn on the cob grilled to perfection and slathered with mayonnaise, chilli powder, and a spritz of lime juice.
For something uniquely Yucatecan, order a marquesita. This is a crepe that is rolled up like a taco and stuffed with cajeta (a kind of Mexican caramel), condensed milk, jam, chocolate or Edam cheese (queso de bola).
You can avoid getting sick here with just a little common sense.
If locals are lining up outside a stall, it is usually a good indication the food is good. Don’t eat from stalls where you can see that meat or fruit and veg have been sitting out for hours or if there are tons of flies around – I am willing to bet these places dont look appealing anyway.
Always carry a little bottle of hand sanitiser and some antibacterial wipes in your bag so that you can easily clean up before and after eating.
Can you drink the water in Merida Mexico?
You cannot drink the water in Merida, or anywhere in Mexico for that matter. Water in Mexico is purified and treated just like anywhere else in the world but it often gets contaminated en route to your tap.
You can never really know if the water from your tap is going to make you sick or not and so, it is best not to entertain the risk. Personally I dont even wash my face with the water in Merida because it is so hard and filled with white sediments (it even stains my sink and pans!)
Some luxury hotels in Merida have potable water on-site. If they do, they will advise you as such upon check-in.
Most hotels will provide a couple of complimentary bottles of water in the room for your arrival. You can then buy more from any supermarket, tourist store, OXXO, or 7/11.
Consider purchasing large bottles of water and then filling a reusable water bottle up each day. This minimizes your plastic waste.
Many reusable water bottles are made in such a way that they keep your water cool throughout the day. Life straws are pretty good. For every purchase, they donate a year’s supply of clean water to a child in a developing nation.
You dont have to worry about having ice in your drinks in Mexico because restaurants, bars, etc always have ice delivered. They do not make ice cubes using tap water.
Take Yucatan tours with reputable companies
Merida makes a great base for exploring some of the best places in the Yucatan. Many reputable tour companies operate in this area and their excursions can be a great way to get around while taking the stress out of figuring out how to get from A to B.
Many also include hotel pickup, drop-off, and lunch. If you are travelling solo, they can be a good way to meet other travellers.
A selection of high-rated tours is detailed below for your consideration. It is better to reserve your place in advance where possible to guarantee a spot!
- From Merida: Ria Celestun Biosphere Reserve Tour
- From Merida: Uxmal, Hacienda Yaxcopoil and Cenote with Lunch
- Hacienda Mucuyché and Cenotes tour
- Chichen Itza, Yokdzonot Cenote and Cooking Class
- Full-Day Cuzama Cenote tour from Merida
- From Merida: Uxmal Light and Sound Night Experience Tour
- Merida Street Food Walking Tour
- Merida Cooking Class: Taste of Yucatan
- From Merida: Day Trip to Izamal and Valladolid
- From Merida: Chichen Itza and Cenote Tsukan Guided Tour
Taking cabs in Merida
It is safe to take street cabs in Merida, as well as cabs ordered from ridesharing apps such as Uber and Didi. In most of Mexico, it is not recommended to get in a random taxi on the street as people who have done so have sometimes been victims of muggings and scams.
However, that isn’t a concern here. Taxis in Merida are pretty safe and you will be able to find one by either hailing them on the street or heading to a taxi rank.
Taxi ranks can be found in a number of busy locations such as outside Merida International Airport, across the road from the Merida cathedral in the Zocalo, outside the Galeria mall in North Merida, etc.
It is a good idea to have an idea of the going rates of your journey and to clarify the price with your driver before you get in. Uber exists in Merida and is a good way to order a cab to your location or to pre-book one.
The great thing about using this app versus getting into a random street cab is that you can see the price and route displayed upfront before you get into the vehicle. That way, you know that there will be no surprises.
Didi is a local version of Uber that works in the same way. Arguably these apps offer more accountability than street taxis as you have the driver’s information, their past reviews, their vehicle info, and license plate number, etc.
Do research on where to stay
When choosing where to stay in Merida, it is a good idea to look for a hotel or an Airbnb that is close to the centre. Opting to stay near the Paseo Montejo, Parque Santa Ana, Parque Santa Lucia, or the Zocalo, places you within walking distance of most of the city’s attractions.
Once you find a place you like, it is always a good idea to check past reviews before you book.
Do I need to speak Spanish in Merida?
English is not widely spoken in Merida and the wider Yucatan and you will often find that people cannot speak English, even in tourist-facing roles in hotels, etc. Obviously it isnt feasible to expect yourself to become conversational in a new language before your trip but a little Spanish goes a long way.
If you can order food “yo quiero”, and say basic greetings, etc, it will make your life a lot easier here. Duolingo is a great app for practicing beginners Spanish. It also pays to download the Google Translate app on your phone so if you are having trouble communicating with someone, you can type what you are trying to say into the app.
Is Merida Mexico safe? Final thoughts
Merida, Mexico is a very safe place and you really dont need to fret or worry about travelling here for the first time, despite all the negative stereotypes and media coverage that you may see for Mexico sometimes. This is one of the most beautiful and culturally-rich colonial cities in Mexico and I am willing to bet that it will be one of the highlights of your trip.
When travelling anywhere for the first time, it is always a good idea to check your government travel advice before you go and I would advise doing the same for Merida. The US Department of State recognises the Yucatan (where Merida is located) and the neighbouring state of Campeche as the two safest states in Mexico.
The UK government travel advisory, though less detailed than the US page, is also updated periodically and recognises the Yucatan as one of the safest places in the country.
Do you have any further questions about staying safe in Merida and the wider region of southeastern Mexico? As I mentioned, I have been living here for the last two years and I am happy to help out with any questions that you may have.
Please do not hesitate to reach out if you need anything.
Safe travels! Melissa xo