Is Mexico City safe to travel to? You might be worried about safety if you are planning a trip to the Mexican capital this year or in the near future. After all, Mexico on the whole isnt a destination that people necessarily associate with being super safe, and it is often in the media for all the wrong reasons.
In short, yes, Mexico City can be a safe place to visit but you need to take precautions while traveling here just as you do with any major city. You are in good hands here because I have been living in Mexico for the last two and a half years and have spent a lot of time in and around Mexico City.
In this post, we will cover everything you need to know when planning your trip and how to stay safe during. If you still have any questions at the end, you are welcome to reach out to me.
Is Mexico City Safe to Visit in 2024?
Historically, many people thought that Mexico City was a bit of a dangerous city. I live in Merida in the Mexican Yucatan and even when I told Mexicans from other parts of Mexico that I was going to CDMX, they were a little concerned.
For me personally, Mexico City is one of my favorite cities in the world. I have fortunately never felt uncomfortable there or had anything bad happen to me. (And I am a solo female traveler).
Since the global pandemic, more and more remote workers from across the world have started traveling and moving here, and word about how great the city is has finally gotten out.
Where to stay in Mexico City
There are more than 300 different barrios in Mexico City, each of which has its own unique culture and charm and is like a little independent village in itself. As a first-time visitor, you want to base yourself somewhere central and safe.
Consider booking a hotel or an Airbnb in the neighborhoods of Polanco, Roma Norte/Sur, Coyoacan, Condesa, Anzares, or Zona Rosa. When booking accommodation, check the reviews that have been left by previous guests and look at the property’s location on the map to make sure that you are not basing yourself in a potentially shady area.
Polanco and Anzares
The upscale district of Polanco is one of the most exclusive areas in Mexico City. Its tree-lined streets and promenades are lined with designer stores and chic coffee and brunch spots that attract a well-heeled crowd.
There are some gorgeous luxury hotels here like the Wild Oscar and the W Mexico City as well as the contemporary Museo Soumaya which is worth checking out for the architecture alone, even if you don’t consider yourself a “museum person”.
The leafy, sleepy district of Coyoacan was once its own independent town until it was engulfed by the expansion of CDMX. For decades, it has been the residence of choice for countless artists, writers, and creatives and it isn’t difficult to understand why.
Even acclaimed artist Frida Kahlo and her husband Diego Rivera lived here, in Casa Azul, and they would frequent the local Coyoacan market where they would shop for fresh produce for their famous dinner parties.
Think of Coyoacan as the Mexico City answer to New York’s Greenwich Village. It is a little far out of the center but it is safe and easy enough to take Ubers to and from the area.
Roma Norte/Sur and Condesa
The Roma and Condesa neighborhoods of Mexico City are known as “barrio magicos” for the special charm and culture they offer. They can be found south of the Paseo de la Reforma and their cobblestone streets boast brightly colored colonial mansions that have been converted into quirky coffee shops, independent art galleries, and boutique stores.
Over the last few years, this area has become a bit gentrified, but it is simultaneously one of the safest and most popular areas to stay in.
Zona Rosa is something of a haven for foodie travelers as it is here where you will find many of the best restaurants in town. The district runs close to the sprawling Chapultapec Park, Mexico City’s answer to New Yorks’s Central Park, and the largest urban park in North America.
There is also an interesting part of this barrio called “Pequeña Seoul” or “Little Seoul” because it is home to many authentic Korean restaurants. With tons of stores selling sought-after Korean cosmetics and skincare products and eateries serving DIY Korean barbecue and specialty dishes like bulgogi and bibimbap, this is a nice place to grab food if you have been in Mexico a while and fancy a change.
Know which areas to avoid
Mexico City is not a city where you can wander around freely, blindly following Google Maps. Even in the historic center, you can easily find that you are in an area that is perfectly safe, take a wrong turn, and wind up somewhere that you really don’t want to be.
A couple of blocks away from the Palacio de Bellas Artes is Plaza Garibaldi – a small square encircled with bars and restaurants that is known for its mariachi performers. While it is safe during the day, it is sketchy at night, and there are often vans filled with riot police around the block.
Venture a couple of blocks more and you will end up in the notorious Tepito district – a dangerous marketplace known for being somewhere that criminals go. Always have a set plan of where you want to go and how you are going to get there.
In particular, you want to exercise caution in or avoid the below areas
Tepito market is a region where most Mexicans, and even the police, will not venture. There is a saying that “you can buy everything in Tepito except your dignity”.
Some of the stalls here simply sell fake designer handbags and sneakers, etc but as you go deeper in, it becomes more sinister.
Guns, drugs, and weapons are for sale. The area is notorious for petty crime and it is known that cartel members come here to hire hitmen.
Shootings, drug busts, violent assaults, and robberies have happened here in the past. If you have a phone or a camera in your hand when you enter, you may not leave with it and tourists are really not welcome. So if you come here to try and film something for your Tiktok you will attract a lot of angry looks.
Itzalapapa is a huge barrio in the eastern part of Mexico City that is home to the largest concentration of street art murals in Latin America, as well as a cable car network similar to that in Medellin. Unfortunately, for now, at least, it really is not a safe place to go.
Crime rates here are extremely high, particularly gender-based violence against women. Femicides and assaults here were so bad, that the government invested in street lights and surveillance to make the main avenue, Ermita Iztapalapa Street, the most illuminated in the world.
As a tourist, you might head into Colonia Doctores to catch a lucha libre wrestling match at the Arena Mexico. But you really don’t want to spend any time in this area aside from going directly to and from the arena in an Uber.
Robberies, including armed robberies, happen frequently and even local chilangos consider this a place to avoid.
Colonia del Valle
Colonia del Valle is an area in the Benito Juarez borough of CDMX that can be interesting to explore by day but is definitely best avoided by night. The barrio has the highest rates of kidnapping in CDMX which is primarily a concern for locals, rather than international tourists, but points to a wider seedy underbelly of the area.
Ciudad Nezahualcoyotl is a vast area east of Mexico City, past the city’s main airport. Truthfully, you are unlikely to find yourself here as a tourist anyway.
This is one of the poorest areas in the state and while it is unfair to make a sweeping generalization, generally speaking, poverty creates violence, and crime rates across the board are higher here.
Due to a huge disparity of wealth in Mexico City, the rising cost of living, and an overpopulation problem, informal neighborhoods known as “Colonias Populares” have sprouted up over the city in recent decades. They are generally best avoided as inquisitive tourists are not really welcome, and there is a greater risk of petty theft, etc.
For instance, from the Palacio Bellas Artes (a very touristic area filled with travelers and police), a five-minute walk takes you to Plaza Garibaldi – a small square known for its live mariachi performers. However, the area between the two squares is not a good neighborhood.
Centro is probably the only part of Mexico City that you are likely to visit as a tourist where you need to practice increased caution. Again, common sense is key. Don’t wander down uninviting, sketchy-looking alleyways, and always be aware of your surroundings.
A lot of homeless people and drug users loiter around the Plaza de la Concepcion and in the streets that veer off from Plaza Garibaldi.
Crime in Mexico City
Mexico City sees a moderate level of crime and crime has been on the rise here over the last few years. According to a report by Statista, there were 32,078 crimes per 100,000 inhabitants in 2021 and 46,032 crimes per 100,000 inhabitants in 2022, representing a whopping 43.63% increase year over year.
Still, the data is arguably skewed by incidents in neighborhoods that you would have no reason to venture into as a tourist (Tepito, Iztapalapa, etc), and clashes between criminal groups. As a tourist, the main things that you need to be concerned about are petty crimes like pickpocketing, bag-snatching, and other opportunistic crimes.
In 2023, thefts and robberies on the street or on methods of public transport were the main crimes reported which accounted for almost a third of all crimes in the capital. Crimen in Mexico is another interesting reference point and displays a list of the safest and most dangerous places
A good way to gauge how safe a certain city “feels” is by browsing the crime and safety rates on Numbeo. The site interviews residents of various global cities to determine how safe they feel in the places they live.
Cities are awarded a safety rating from 0 to 100 where 0 would be very unsafe, and 100 is safe. The Numbeo crime index is rated in a similar way, with 0 meaning few crimes and 100 meaning a high level of crime.
We can look at this to see how Mexico City compares to other cities in Mexico, the US, and elsewhere in the world.
|New York City
Is the cartel in Mexico City?
It is realistic to assume that cartels such as the Sinaloa cartel and Jalisco New Generation cartel have a presence in Mexico City as they do in many cities and states across the country. While you may hear narco-related news from the city occasionally, any conflicts that do happen are generally restricted to instances between members of criminal groups and do not target tourists.
In some parts of Mexico, including ultra-popular tourist destinations like Cancun and Tulum, there have been instances where tourists were caught up in the crossfire of clashes between cartels and killed by ricocheting bullets.
There have been no such instances in Mexico City in recent years. The chances of being at the wrong place at the wrong time are fortunately very slim here anyway, but you probably have a greater probability of something happening in Cancun, where cartels are literally fighting over the territory, than in CDMX.
Check your government travel advice for Mexico City
I always tell people that they should check their government travel advice before traveling anywhere new for the first time and that includes Mexico. Although it is a bit sternly worded, the US Department of State has a great safety advisory page for Mexico that offers a state-by-state breakdown of what the situation is like in each of the country’s 32 states.
This is a good resource to periodically check before and during your trip as it is updated in real-time to reflect changes in entry requirements, security warnings, etc. There are currently no warnings in place for Mexico City and the wider Estado De Mexico, aside from a general warning to exercise precautions.
You can also find the Canadian government travel advice for Mexico here, and the UK government travel advice here, although they are somewhat less comprehensive.
Getting around Mexico City
During the day, it can be safe and fun to get some steps in and explore Mexico City on foot. To get between different districts, museums, and tourist attractions, you can opt to take an Uber or ride the subway.
Taking the Subway in Mexico City
For whatever reason, many tourists are absolutely terrified of using the metro in Mexico City. While it is better to avoid using it at night, particularly in quieter outskirts of town, it is really no more dangerous than taking the subway in other major cities and it is definitely safer than other Latin American subway networks.
You can get a CDMX metro card known as the “integrated mobility card” for the city’s network of buses, light rails, and metos for just 15 pesos and journeys cost less than a dollar. Watch your belongings as you would anywhere and you will be fine.
Using Uber in Mexico City
Uber is a great way to get around in Mexico City and in Mexico, locals tend to prefer ridesharing apps over street cabs. There is more accountability via apps like Uber as you can see the driver’s past reviews and journeys, rating, etc.
You should avoid taking random street taxis in Mexico City. Not only are you likely to be ripped off and overcharged, but express kidnappings are a risk here.
This happens when an unsuspecting tourist gets into a cab and the driver locks them in the car and holds them at gun/knife point while forcing them to hand over their valuables and driving them around the city making them make the maximum withdrawal from ATMs. This is not a possibility that you want to entertain, and Uber is considered much safer here. (Plus you have the added benefit of it being cheaper too).
Always double-check the license plate number before you get in the car. When someone accepts your fare, it is a good idea to click on their driver profile and see how many journeys they have done and what their rating is.
If someone has done thousands of journeys and they have a rating of 4.9, you can feel pretty comfortable that they are reliable. If they have done very few rides and/or have a low rating, you can cancel and select another driver.
Is it safe to drive in Mexico City?
Driving in Mexico City is not unsafe per se, but it can be a bit chaotic, and is perhaps not the best introduction to driving in Mexico if this is your first visit here. Honestly, for most Mexico City itineraries, you really don’t need a car and even taking day trips out from CDMX to places like Teotihuacan and Xochimilco is generally much easier with public transport.
The city is extremely congested and getting anywhere can mean being stuck in traffic for long periods of time, especially at rush hour. To combat this, CMDX introduced restrictions known as “hoy no circula” which mean that certain vehicles cannot drive during certain hours (and this often includes international/tourist cars since locals need to commute).
If you are sure that driving here works out convenient for you, there are a few safety pointers that you should keep in mind.
- Always check Google Maps and be mindful of the route you are being taken. There are some neighborhoods you really don’t want to pass through
- To get to Puebla state and other parts of Mexico, you might need to pass through Itzalapapa. Along the main roads in daylight, this is fine
- Driving at night is generally best avoided in the city and you should never drive interstate/between cities at night, largely because the roads often do not have street lights, making it difficult to see stray animals and hazards
- Drive around with the windows wound up where you can. People often ask for money at stoplights and thefts/crimes are not unheard of
- Never leave anything in your car, even if it isnt something super valuable like a jacket, backpack, etc. Be mindful of where you park your car.
Take a guided tour to get your bearings
Taking a guided tour is a great way to get your bearings in a new city and it can help you feel a lot more confident if you are nervous about being in Mexico City. Better yet, exploring with a CDMX local means that you have an expert on hand to help you discover districts, markets, and restaurants that you would not have found independently and whom you can ask questions about your itinerary.
From street food tours to history walks, there is something for everyone.
Best Mexico City tours for 2024 and beyond
Tons of reputable tour companies operate in Mexico City and a selection of some of the best tours they offer is summarized below .
Book your places online in advance to avoid disappointment!
- From Mexico City: Teotihuacan air balloon flight and breakfast
- Teotihuacan and Tlatelolco day trip by van
- Mexico City tour: Xochimilco, Coyoacan and Frida Kahlo house
- Mexico City street art bike tour with snacks
- CDMX Authentic downtown food tour
- Mexico City market tour
- Mexico City: Tacos & mezcal night food tour
- San Miguel de Allende day trip from Mexico City
- Puebla, Cholula and Tonantzintla day trip from Mexico City
Is Mexico City safe for solo travelers?
Mexico City can be a safe destination for solo travelers of all ages, backgrounds and genders. I have traveled to the city numerous times as a solo woman and have never felt uncomfortable.
The city also has a great Digital Nomad and international social scene so it is very easy to meet like-minded people if you are looking to socialize during your time here. (Check out one of the many Facebook groups dedicated to people living in Mexico City, or seek out a Meetup event).
Since there are so many different people from different backgrounds and cultures living here, you wont stick out or attract weird looks for being foreign or solo.
Is Mexico City safe for solo female travelers?
This entire article and website has been written by me, a solo female traveler based in Mexico. I am a big advocate for never letting your gender or physical appearance make you feel that you cannot do something and that includes traveling to Mexico City.
Violence against women is an issue in Mexico, although I have personally never had anyone act less than chivalrous towards me in real life. Mexican women tend to dress quite modestly here.
Even during the summer months they wear things like jeans and t-shirts to avoid unwanted attention. It is a good idea to follow suit.
Since I dress quite feminine, I usually wear things like dresses and stockings with trench coats. Wearing shorts and t-shirts or skimpy summer dresses is a surefire way to attract unwanted attention.
Earthquakes and natural disasters
Earthquakes do happen in Mexico from time-to-time and unfortunately Mexico City is one of the worst places for them. The entire country sits in the world’s most seismically active zone known as the “Pacific Ring of Fire”.
Mexico City is particularly susceptible to quakes because it sits on the border of five tectonic plates: the Pacific plate, the Cocos, the North America Plate, the Caribbean plate, and the Rivera plate. Add to that the fact that the city was built on the site of an old, dried-up Aztec lake which is constantly sinking and you have a recipe for disaster and an understanding of why the ground here is often shaking.
Tremors here are pretty common and if you downloaded a seismic warning app during your time in the city, you would just drive yourself mad with worry because there are small tremors almost daily. Mexico City has had some much larger, destructive quakes though and it pays to read up on what to do in the event of an earthquake.
A lot of hotels here do have earthquake and evacuation procedures on the walls of their rooms. Many modern buildings in central neighborhoods have been built to withstand quakes.
Is Mexico City safe at night?
There are some wonderful speakeasies, cocktail bars and rooftop bars in Mexico City and it would be a shame to miss out on them. You need to practice extra caution at night – take an Uber back to your accommodation rather than walk, watch your alcohol intake and keep an eye on your drinks, etc but a lot of this is mostly common sense.
Practical safety tips for visiting Mexico City
I have summarised some general safety tips for visiting Mexico City below. A lot of these things are good practice wherever you travel but they are worth reiterating here.
- Don’t venture into known dangerous areas like the Tepito marketplace just to be “brave” or document it for social media. Don’t walk around with your phone or camera out in the open in these areas
- Try not to dress flashy and draw attention to yourself. You will see many well-dressed people in upscale chic Polanco and in the popular neighborhoods of Roma Norte, Sur, and Condesa but elsewhere, leave the designer bags and branded clothing at home
- Don’t wear things like flip flops and shorts and t-shirts as it is a surefire way to stick out as a tourist in Mexico City and attract unwanted attention. (Also because the floors are often gross, especially in the metro stations so wearing open shoes is a no-no)
- Consider purchasing a theft-proof backpack or moneybelt like those offered by Pacsafe, especially if you spend a lot of time in Latin America. These bags are slash-proof and water-proof and come with a TSA-approved mesh locking system as well as other handy security features
- Don’t hesitate to try the street food! Skipping it would mean missing out on a huge part of local food culture. Eating at street food stalls is not always synonymous with getting sick. Choose popular stalls where locals are lining up to be served – it’s a good indicator that it’s a decent place!
- Use Mexico City Facebook groups to connect with locals and expats for any questions you need to ask, recommendations, and if you want to be social and meet people for coffee, etc!
Purchase comprehensive travel insurance
It is imperative to purchase comprehensive travel insurance wherever in the world you travel. Unfortunately, even with all the preparation and caution in the world, you can never really know what’s around the corner.
Purchase a comprehensive policy that has at least $250,000 US dollars worth of medical coverage. Medical bills in Mexico can still quickly add up, even if they are cheaper than in the US and elsewhere.
Always read the small print and ideally, purchase a policy that comes with additional coverage for things like loss/theft of luggage and electronics, cancellations and repatriations.
Be sure to print out/screenshot the first page of your travel insurance plan and keep the policy reference number safe. Should you need assistance overseas, this will be the first thing that you are asked for.
Can you drink the water in Mexico City?
You cannot drink the water in Mexico City or anywhere in Mexico for that matter. Although the water in Mexico is purified at the source, it often gets contaminated en route to your tap.
The risk of getting very sick from congesting contaminated water is very high so this is simply not worth the risk. Most hotels will leave a couple of bottles of water in your room each day.
Some have potable water on-site. If they do, there will be signs saying “agua potable”.
It is a good idea to purchase a reusable water bottle like a Life Straw. These keep your water cool throughout the day and help you minimize plastic waste.
Just purchase large, multi-liter water bottles from Oxxo, 7/11, or Mexican supermarkets. Then, keep it in your hotel fridge and top up your reusable bottle each day.
Gentrification and attitude to remote workers and expats in Mexico City
Since the global pandemic, a lot more remote workers have started relocating to Mexico City on both a short and long-term basis. Since people have historically been a little nervous about safety here, international travelers often stick to the same few areas (namely, Condesa, Roma, Polanco) and rent Airbnbs so that they can be safe, central, and close to other expats.
This has caused rental prices in these areas to soar, to the extent that an unprecedented wave of gentrification through Mexico City is pushing locals out of their barrios where they can no longer afford to live. While this is definitely a global issue, it is new for Mexico.
A lot of people are not happy about it, and the topic has blown up on social media, encouraging people to plaster aggressive “go home gringo” signs around different areas. This is a sensitive topic, and while we should be ethical travelers, ultimately it is for the government to introduce regulations for Airbnb, etc.
Try to avoid conversations on this sensitive issue.
Is Mexico City safe? Final thoughts
Mexico City can be a safe place to travel provided that you take precautions and make your safety your priority.
Mexico, in general is safe for assertive travelers. Don’t listen to the opinions of people who have never traveled to a destination themselves. You don’t need to hear their ignorant stereotypes or sweeping generalizations about somewhere they haven’t even visited.
Follow the tips in this post and use the same common sense that you would in any other big city and you will be fine.
Do you have any more questions or concerns about planning your trip? Please dont hesitate to reach out to me via email, social media, or via the comments below.
I will do my best to get back to you as soon as I can. Safe travels and enjoy Mexico.
Buen Viaje! Melissa xo