Is Merida Mexico safe? The answer to that question is a resounding yes.
This is not only one of the safest cities in Mexico, but one of the safest cities in the entirety of the Americas. That’s quite an impressive feat!
However, considering the fact that Mexico is not a destination that most people associate with safety, and that Merida is not the most common city to travel to, it is understandable why you may be asking ¨Is Merida safe?¨ The article has been written by someone that lives in Merida and exists to address all of the questions and concerns that you may have.
Is Merida Mexico Safe?
Merida Mexico is a very safe place to visit. This is not just an anecdotal statement, it is something that has been backed up by statistics too.
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.
There is no real history of political unrest in the state. 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.
Even when you compare Merida to other nearby popular tourist cities like Cancun, Tulum, or Playa Del Carmen, you will notice a significant difference. This is one of the few places in Mexico where you don’t have to worry if you run out to the convenience store in the evening, even as a solo female traveler.
A recent survey of 131 Merida residents highlighted just how comfortable people feel in this city. Yes, the sample size is relatively small.
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.
Visiting Merida Mexico
Merida Mexico is the cultural capital of the Yucatan state. It was also recently nominated as being one of the Lonely Planet’s ¨top 10 cities to travel to in 2022¨.
For years Merida remained largely under the radar, yet it is quickly growing as a popular travel and ex-pat hub. This is a beautiful city that played a major role in the Spanish conquest of Mexico.
Merida is characterized by its opulent, grand colonial mansions and ornate, colorful houses. During the henequen boom and the days of the Yucatan haciendas, Merida was one of the richest cities in the world.
The city also makes an excellent base for exploring the wider Yucatan peninsula. There are so many fascinating Mayan ruins, gorgeous Yucatan beaches, and charming small towns and Pueblos Magicos in this area.
You could easily dedicate a month or two to basing yourself in Merida and feel as though you have barely scratched the surface. There are simply so many things to do here.
The Maya cities of Mayapan and Uxmal are both just over an hour away from the city center. They make excellent day trips from the city center.
You can also travel from Merida to Chichen Itza in just over two hours and Merida to Celestun in two. The city’s central ADO bus terminal provides excellent overland connections to countless destinations in Campeche state, Chiapas, and Quintana Roo.
Why is Merida so Safe?
We have established that Merida is a safe place to travel. But why is Merida so safe?
When crime waves have rippled throughout Mexico, this city has remained exempt. There are a few theories and reasons for that.
The police here are generally better than in other areas
It is a sad reality that corruption is very much intertwined with much of Mexico’s police force. However, the police in Merida are usually very professional and take the safety of the city residents seriously.
You will often see police cars patrolling the streets during the day and night. If something looks out of the ordinary, the police will not hesitate to stop and question the person(s) involved.
This isn’t something to be intimidated by. This is something that exists for everyone’s safety.
In some parts of Mexico, police response is poor. The police take a long time to respond to callouts and often do not take crimes seriously.
This is not the case in Merida and you can usually expect a prompt, immediate response to any reports. This is true even if you call the non-emergency numbers.
You will be listened to and your reports/concerns will be taken seriously. Merida police are paid more than the national average and the absence of criminal gangs in the city means they are less likely to be involved in corruption.
Is Merida narco territory?
There is virtually no narco-crime-related activity in Merida. You are generally safe in Cancun and Tulum.
However, there is still a small (very small) risk of seeing clashes between rival gangs. There have been incidents where tourists have unfortunately been caught up in cartel activities.
Cancun is only a 4-hour’s drive away from Merida so it may seem strange that the safety situation is so vastly different.
One widespread theory is that the narcos and their families live in Merida and the surrounding areas. So, they do not want crime on their home turf.
While people that watch too many Netflix dramas love to blurt that out with no proof, that may not be the case at all. Indeed, culturally, Yucatecans are very proud people and want tourists to have a positive experience in their state.
Merida Mexico Safety Tips
Don’t just stick to the westernized areas
There are approximately 11,000 permanent American and Canadian ex-pats living in Merida as well as a whole host of other internationals. When you meet them, you will find that a lot live in the sought-after northern part of the city or in Centro.
It is absolutely false that these are the only safe areas of the city. They are just more gentrified, that’s for sure.
However, whether you are visiting Merida on part of a wider Yucatan itinerary or you are thinking of moving, there are no parts of the city that you should consider out of bounds. In all honesty, you will have a more authentic Yucatan experience if you opt to stay in areas besides the north.
In the northern suburbs, you will pass Dairy Queens, Carl Jrs, and McDonald’s at every turn and it basically feels like you are in another part of the United States. North Merida, West Merida, East Merida – all areas are safe.
There are some industrial areas in the southern part of the city that are a little rough around the edges and not so pretty to look at. With the exception of Kanasin, most are not unsafe.
The central squares of Santa Lucia, Santa Ana, and the Zocalo are arguably the best places to stay in Merida.
Don’t be afraid to experiment with Yucatecan cuisine and street food
Do not be afraid of trying Yucatecan food or assume that traveling 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 center and its various neighborhoods. In particular, there is an abundance along the main promenade Paseo Montejo and in Park Aleman.
Elotes are a must-try. This is simply, corn on the cob grilled to perfection and slathered with mayonnaise, chili 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.
It is then stuffed with cajeta, condensed milk, jam, chocolate, or Edam cheese. There are a few precautions that you can take to avoid getting sick.
If locals are lining up outside a stall, it is usually a good indication the food is good. There are many excellent Merida restaurants and eateries to choose from.
Don’t eat from stalls where you can see that meat or fruit and veg have been sitting out for hours. Also, avoid places with flies.
None of these places are likely to look appealing anyway! Carry hand sanitizer and antibacterial wipes so that you can easily clean your hands before 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.
However, 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.
Some luxe hotels 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.
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 traveling solo, they can be a good way to meet other travelers.
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
It is safe to have ice in your drinks
While it is not safe to drink water in Merida, it is safe to have ice in your drinks. People here do not make ice cubes using tap water.
They have large bags of ice delivered to their restaurants/cafes/businesses. So, you don’t even have to worry about ice in your drinks.
Watch your bag in crowded marketplaces
The only real crimes that you are at risk of experiencing in Merida are petty crimes like bag snatching and pick-pocketing. Even these are very rare.
Most of these crimes are opportunistic so do not give thieves the chance to take your things. The Mercado Lucas de Galvez and the Mercado San Benito are crowded bazaars that sell everything but the kitchen sink!
Navigating your way through their labyrinth-like network of narrow passageways is as much about people-watching as it is an opportunity to shop for fun Mexico souvenirs and fresh produce. However, the markets do get very crowded.
When so many people are sandwiched together like sardines, it would be very easy for someone to reach into your bag or pocket. Keep an eye on your belongings at all times. Ideally, walk with your backpack on your front in such crowded places.
Consider purchasing a theft-proof backpack
One way to mitigate the risk of your bag being stolen in a crowded Merida marketplace is to invest in a theft-proof backpack. These are a little pricier than your average travel daypack, sure.
But they come with a plethora of additional safety features. Theft-proof backpacks, like those offered by Pacsafe, are waterproof, slash-proof, and come with a TSA-approved locking system.
They can be purchased in stylish designs so you would not suspect that they were any different from a regular backpack. Many come with multi-year warranties.
Make copies of your travel documents
Citizens of most countries do not need to obtain a visa in advance of traveling to Mexico. Instead, you will be asked to fill in a short form on your flight into Mexico.
At Immigration, you will keep part of this form. This is your FMM – Mexican tourist visa.
Mexican tourist visas are valid for up to 180 days. However, it is important to check how many days you are granted in Mexico upon arrival, as 180 days are no longer being given as default.
The number you have been given will be written on the card. Do not tamper with or edit this. It will also be recorded electronically.
Some travelers are given 10 days, 30 days, 90 days, etc. You need to be prepared to communicate with the Immigration Officer on arrival about how many days you want to stay in the country.
If you are planning to stay in Mexico for several months, you may need to show proof of funds, an onward flight ticket, and evidence of an accommodation booking. Theoretically, Mexican police and security can ask you to present this document at any time.
However, you probably do not want to be traveling around with your tourist card and passport every day. Take a photo of both and keep them secure on your phone. Back them up to the cloud/Google drive too.
It is worth carrying a printed photocopy of your FMM and your passport. Keep one on you and another in your luggage at the hotel.
So, if you are asked to show your FMM or your passport, you can show the photocopy or the photo on your phone. You can then assure whoever is asking that the original is in your hotel room/Airbnb if they need to see it.
(As of late 2022, tourists flying into Cancun are automatically given 180 days on arrival. This is not the case in other international airports and appears to be a trial).
Connect with locals, expats, and travelers in Merida
In 2020, Merida had a population of 995,129. This includes a large, continually expanding community of expats, as well as many friendly Yucatecans.
There are many useful resources online that will help you plan your Merida itinerary and wider Yucatan trip. In particular, there are a lot of Facebook groups where you can ask questions to people living and traveling in the city.
If you are traveling alone or considering moving to Merida and want to meet up with others, you will find people through this platform too. A number of useful Facebook groups for visiting Merida are detailed below.
- On the road in Mexico
- Backpacking Mexico
- Traveling to Mexico
- Female travelers in Mexico
- Expats in Mexico
- Foreigners in Mexico
- Digital Nomads in Merida
- MERIDA FRIENDS
- Expats living in Merida
- Expats in Mérida and the Yucatán
- Merida Mexico Expat Community
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 that have done so have sometimes been victims of muggings and scams.
However, that isn’t a concern here. The Yucatan is one of the safest parts of the country and the things that happen elsewhere in Mexico simply don’t happen here.
You will be able to find and utilize street taxis in Merida by hailing them on the street, or by finding one at a rank. Taxi ranks can be found in a number of busy locations such as outside Merida 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 vs 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.
Take care in the hot, humid summer months
The heat and humidity in Merida during the summer months are no joke. Even Yucatecans that have been born and raised in Merida often dread this time of year!
The period of late April through to early October can see daily temperatures that soar as high as 107°F. The conditions in this part of Mexico are also very humid and muggy, making it feel even hotter.
Sometimes, it can feel unbearable to walk more than five minutes down the street or spend extended periods outside at this time of year. When choosing when to visit the Yucatan, try and avoid this time of year if you can.
The months of May through November are also the rainy season/hurricane season in Southern Mexico. The storms that this time of year brings can often knock out electricity for hours/days.
Since Merida and the Yucatan are hot all year round, remember to stay hydrated and look after yourself in the sun. Be sure to include a wide-brimmed hat in your Mexico packing list, as well as sunglasses and reef-safe sunscreen.
Purchase comprehensive travel insurance
It is always prudent to purchase comprehensive travel insurance before you travel anywhere and Merida is no different. Unfortunately, despite our best planning, you can never really know what is around the corner.
Healthcare in Mexico may not be as expensive as it is in the US but it doesn’t come cheap either! When traveling to Merida, be sure to purchase a comprehensive insurance plan that offers at least $1 million USD worth of medical coverage.
A good policy will offer additional extras too. For instance, protection in case of loss/theft of luggage, repatriation, etc.
Always read the small print to check what is covered. For example, a lot of policies count things like hiking or snorkeling as ¨adventure sports¨ and don’t cover them in their standard plans.
Once you have purchased your Merida travel insurance, write a note of your policy number. This will be the first thing that you are asked for if you need any help overseas.
Use the same common sense you would elsewhere
It is easy to stay safe in Merida if you use the same common sense that you would anywhere else in the world. Always keep an eye on your belongings, and never leave them unattended in a bar or a coffee shop.
The Yucatan is a fairly affluent part of Mexico but it is still better to leave your flashy designer goods at home when traveling in Mexico, so as not to draw attention to yourself. Be wary of over-friendly strangers and purchase a Mexican sim card so that you are always connected.
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 center. 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.
Avoid the south, particularly Kanasin. There really isn’t anything of tourist interest in this area anyway, so you are unlikely to accidentally book a hotel here or accidentally wander into this region.
Once you find a place you like, it is always a good idea to check past reviews before you book.
Is Merida Mexico Safe? Parting Words
Do you have any questions or concerns about whether Merida, Mexico is safe? If you are planning a trip to Mexico for the first time, you may also be wondering is Tulum safe? Is Puerto Vallarta safe? Is Cancun safe?
Don’t worry too much about the media portrayal of Mexico. You will have a wonderful time exploring the Yucatan peninsula.
Safe travels! Hasta luego! Xo