Is Monterrey safe to travel to in 2023? Safety is likely at the forefront of your mind if you are planning a trip to Monterrey as the city (and Mexico on the whole) doesn’t necessarily have the best reputation when it comes to safety.
The reality is that Monterrey can be a very safe, rewarding, and culturally rich place to visit provided that you take precautions and use common sense. However, the city, like a lot of Latin American cities, requires a heightened level of awareness of your surroundings and does have some not-so-safe areas which you ought to avoid.
Is Monterrey safe to travel to in 2023?
Monterrey can be a safe place to visit but you do need to have some street smarts and be aware of your surroundings while you’re here. Arguably it is a destination that is better suited to a more experienced traveler rather than someone traveling to Mexico for the first time.
The historic city of Monterrey was founded by Spanish Conquistador Diego de Montemayor in 1596, as part of a colony of ¨New Spain¨. For centuries, it was nothing more than a small, isolated rural outpost before foreign investors started working on industrializing the area in the 19th century.
Today, it is the third largest city in Mexico (after Guadalajara and Mexico City). Modern Monterrey is bursting at the seams with fascinating museums, gorgeous baroque churches, beautiful architecture, and excellent restaurants.
The Santa Lucia Riverwalk is a nice place to take a stroll during the day. This 2.5km long artificial riverwalk connects the Macroplaza with the Fundidora Park, a former steel mill turned into a recreational and cultural complex.
The Riverwalk offers a fun day out for the whole family as there are theme parks, restaurants, street food stalls, museums, and concert venues scattered along its banks. For as little as 45-65 pesos, you can take a scenic boat ride along the waterway.
People don’t usually think of Mexico when they think of hiking and outdoor adventures. But Monterrey is encompassed by valleys and mountains.
If you enjoy getting back to nature, you may also enjoy trekking along one of the trails in the foothills or to the peak of the Cerro de la Silla (Saddle Mountain) – a mountain that has four peaks and resembles a horse’s saddle. There is also the Cola de Caballo (Horse Tail) Waterfall, which is located in the Cumbres de Monterrey National Park.
Review your government travel advice for Monterrey
It is prudent to check your government travel safety advice before traveling anywhere for the first time and the same is true of traveling to Mexico. The US Government’s advice can appear quite sternly worded but it is useful as it provides a state-by-state breakdown of the safety situation in each of Mexico’s 32 states.
Safety in Mexico is complex, and the situation can vary significantly from city to city, state to state. The US Department of State breaks Mexico’s states down into four different safety categories.
These are places where you should exercise normal precautions (The Yucatan state and Campeche state are widely considered the safest states in Mexico), places where you should exercise increased precautions, places you should reconsider traveling to, and places you should not travel to.
Monterrey sits in the northern state of Nuevo Leon. This is recognized as a place where you should ¨exercise increased caution¨ to due to crime and kidnapping.
Honestly, the frequent mention of ¨kidnapping¨ in government safety advisories for Mexico sounds alarming. However, in Mexico, tourists do not just randomly get snatched up off the streets.
This really only affects anyone that is involved with criminal organizations. If you don’t go looking for trouble in Mexico, trouble will not go looking for you.
Crime rates in Monterrey Mexico
Numbeo and Statistica are good sources for checking the latest crime rates in Monterrey. Based on a July 2022 study, Statistica found that domestic violence, theft, and other familial crimes were the main issues in Monterrey.
While those things are unfortunate, they are not likely to affect you as a tourist. Numbeo provides various global cities with a safety rating from 0 to 100 (where 0 is ultra-safe and 100 is dangerous), based on interviews with local residents.
According to Numbeo, Monterrey has a moderate safety rating of 51.97, with residents concerned that crime has been increasing over the last three years. The main worries here are people being concerned about property-related crimes and vandalism, armed robbery, extortion, and muggings.
Still, if you compare Monterrey’s crime rating with major US cities, New York has a safety rating of 50.56 and Los Angeles has a safety rating of 47.35. Atlanta has a safety rating of 36.09!
Safe and fun things to do in Monterrey in 2023 and beyond
Monterrey is a great place to spend a long weekend. 3-4 days here is plenty of time for a thorough exploration of the city but you could cram a lot of the main highlights into just a day if you really are pressed for time.
Spend some time exploring the city’s Barrio Antiguo district, this historic area dates back to the 16th century and was once home to some of the most affluent families in Northern Mexico. The colorful houses and stores here are painted in vibrant colors.
Many retain their original characteristics and fixtures but have been repurposed to become charming boutique guesthouses, eclectic coffee shops, and artisanal stores.
Today, you will find a lot of important tourist attractions in Barrio Antiguo, such as the Plaza Zaragoza, the Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Museum of Mexican History. Be sure to try some regional foodie delicacies while you are in town too.
(Mexican food is much more than just tacos and burritos!) Cabrito, a roasted goat dish made with a young kid goat is one of the most famous dishes in Monterrey.
You can also try machaca (dried meat) with eggs, carne asada (Northern Mexican BBQ), and fideo seco – pasta made with thin noodles that are toasted and then cooked with garlic, onions, and tomatoes.
Of course, with more time to spare, visitors can take day trips out to the natural attractions and national parks outside the city center.
Safety Tips for Visiting Monterrey Mexico in 2023
A big part of staying safe in Monterrey Mexico comes down to common sense and trusting your judgment. Some useful safety tips to keep in mind while you are in the city are detailed below.
Always keep an eye on your personal belongings
As a tourist, petty theft and pickpocketing are probably your biggest risks in Monterrey. Don’t wear flashy designer items, or expensive jewelry or draw attention to yourself by walking around with an expensive DSLR camera dangling around your neck.
In crowded places, always walk with your backpack in front of you rather than slung over one shoulder or behind you where you can’t see it. Traditional Monterrey markets like Mercado de los Dolores, Mercado San Juan, Mercado del Chorro, and Mercado Juárez are great places to observe scenes of local life.
However, areas, where people are crammed together in narrow spaces, are perfect for opportunists and pickpockets. If you travel frequently, you might want to consider investing in a theft-proof backpack or money belt.
Theft-proof bags like those offered by Pacsafe come with additional safety features and long-term warranties. For example, they are slash-proof, water-proof, and have a TSA-approved locking system.
Know which parts of town to avoid
Barrio Antiguo is a great place to base yourself while in Monterrey as it places you within walking distance of the city’s main attractions and a wide range of dining and nightlife options. There are, of course, areas in Monterrey that you want to avoid.
Solidaridad, Independencia, Santa Catarina, and Escobedo are considered less than safe. You really have no reason to wander into them as a tourist anyway.
Is Monterrey safe at night?
Monterrey is known for its vibrant nightlife which offers something for every taste and budget. There are some great bars, nightclubs, and restaurants here, but obviously, you have to be extra careful in Mexico after dark.
San Pedro Garza Garcia and Barrio Antiguo are the safest places to go for drinks with no stress. Maverick Bar (Rio Mississippi 103D, Col. del Valle, Del Valle) is a chic cocktail bar that is home to some of the best mixologists in town.
Live musicians are hosted here regularly, with different nights of the week dedicated to different musical genres. (E.g. Wednesdays are for jazz sessions and Sundays are for moody blues).
A Secret in the City (Río Mississippi 105-B) is a Monterrey speakeasy that is tricky to find unless you are aware of its existence. It is hidden behind a small unsuspecting doorway and inspired by the prohibition era in the United States.
The menu offers a diverse selection of classic and craft cocktails, plus the bartenders can rustle up something especially for you based on your taste if you like.
When you go out at night, stick to safe areas like those mentioned above. Don’t do anything you wouldn’t do at home.
For example, don’t try and walk back to your hotel alone and drunk, don’t leave your drink unattended, and don’t take shortcuts down dark dimly lit streets.
Taking cabs in Monterrey
Uber exists in Monterrey and it is a much safer option than taking street cabs. Depending on where you are from, it may come as a surprise to hear that Ubers are generally considered the safer option in Mexico.
It is because there is more accountability. When you get into an Uber, you have the driver’s vehicle information, license plate number, and past reviews.
You also have visibility on how much the ride is likely to cost and the route that the driver should take. You don’t have that when you wander into a random car off the street.
As a tourist, local cab drivers may assume that you do not know the correct going rate and try to overcharge you. On the more sinister end, express kidnappings are an issue in Mexico.
This happens when an unsuspecting tourist enters a random street cab. The cab driver drives them a short distance before their companions enter the vehicle and hold the passenger and gun/knife point asking them to hand over their valuables and make withdrawals at ATMs until the conmen have gotten everything they can out of the tourist.
Although not all cabbies are conmen, this isn’t worth the risk. Try and always use Uber where you can.
If you don’t have the app or you prefer not to use it, ask your Airbnb host or hotel receptionist/concierge to call a trusted driver for you. Uber doesn’t work at Monterrey International Airport but you can take it from the city center to the airport.
Can you drink the water in Monterrey?
You cannot drink the water anywhere in Mexico, including in Monterrey and the wider state of Nuevo León. This isn’t just because your stomach isn’t used to the local water, even Mexicans don’t drink tap water in their country.
Although the water is purified at the source, it often gets contaminated en route to the tap and tourists have fallen ill in the past. It is generally fine to brush your teeth with it and to cook with it if you boil it but you shouldn’t drink it.
Fortunately, most hotels and Airbnb will provide you with a couple of complimentary bottles of water when you arrive. Then, you can pick up a few more from local convenience stores like Oxxo or 7/11.
Some luxury hotels often have potable water sources so you can fill up water jugs in your room. If they do, they will have signs that read ¨agua potable¨.
Is Monterrey safe for solo travelers?
Monterrey and Mexico on the whole are a lot safer for solo travelers than people realize. (This entire website has been written by a solo female traveler based in Merida, Yucatan).
Arguably you are more of a target for opportunists when you are by yourself. However, Monterrey and other Mexican cities see enough solo business and leisure travelers that people are not going to gawp at you in bewilderment for traveling alone.
So yes, Monterrey is safe for solo travelers provided you take precautions. You essentially need to be more alert than you would be when traveling as part of a group.
Purchase comprehensive insurance for your trip to Monterrey
Today’s health is not promised tomorrow and despite our best planning, you can never really be sure what is around the corner. You should purchase comprehensive travel insurance for your trip to Monterrey.
A good policy will offer at least $250,000 USD worth of medical coverage and it will cover you for additional extras such as theft/loss of luggage, repatriation, and hiking/outdoor activities. Be sure to make a note of your policy number as this will be the first thing that you are asked for if you need any assistance in Mexico.
Try not to be paranoid and enjoy your trip!
If you spend your entire trip to Monterrey worrying and looking over your shoulder, you will not have a good time. It can be easy to worry yourself into a frenzy when planning your first trip to Mexico because it often seems like the country is always in the media for all the wrong reasons.
However, when you arrive, you will probably find that the situation on the ground is much different than what you read about and you feel more comfortable than you thought you would. Take the necessary precautions but try and focus your energy on having a good time and trying good foods!
Is Monterrey Safe to Travel to in 2023? FAQs
Do you have any further questions, queries, or concerns about staying safe in Monterrey Mexico in 2023? The answers to some frequently asked questions on the topic are detailed below for your consideration.
Hopefully, you will find the information you are looking for there. If not, please do not hesitate to reach out to me!
Is Monterrey Mexico a safe place to live?
Monterrey Mexico is quite an affluent city because there is a lot of industry here. For the most part, it is safe to live but there are sketchy areas and risks just like in any major global city.
Monterrey actually has lower crime rates than a lot of cities in the US. However, it is not quite as safe as Merida Mexico which is Mexico’s safest city.
What is the safest part of Monterrey?
San Pedro Garza García is one of the safest tourist areas in Monterrey. The neighborhood is often referred to as the ¨Beverly Hills of Monterey¨ as its streets are filled with luxury boutique stores, high-end clubs, and elegant cafes.
The historic center of Barrio Antiguo is also a safe place for tourists to base themselves and explore. Mexican authorities have increased the police presence here in recent years which may feel intimidating, but it has been done for the safety of locals and tourists alike.
Is it safe to drive to Monterrey Mexico?
If you are renting a car in Mexico or crossing into the country from the US, you might be interested in driving to Monterrey. (The state of Nuevo Leon shares a short stretch of border with the state of Texas).
It is better to avoid driving through Nuevo Laredo and to drive during the day rather than at night if possible. There are so many variables at play here and how safe you are depends on exactly where you are driving from.
If you are crossing the border from the US to head to Monterrey, Colombia crossing to Nuevo Leon is considered the safest and best. Opt to drive on the toll roads rather than the free ones as these are safer and better maintained.
From Colombia, take highway 2 to connect with 85.
Is Monterrey the nicest city in Mexico?
Monterrey is a wonderful Mexican city to visit but it is largely overshadowed in favor of more popular tourist destinations like CDMX, Guadalajara, Puerto Vallarta, Playa del Carmen, and Cancun. In some ways, that only adds to the city’s charm as visiting Monterrey provides you insight into what life is like in a real Mexican city away from the tourist hordes.
A 2019 study found that Monterrey was the city with the best quality of life in Mexico thanks to the high-income levels and modern amenities available.
Do they speak English in Monterrey Mexico?
English is not widely spoken in Mexico on the whole, and particularly not in Monterrey which is not a major tourism destination. You may find that some people in tourist-facing roles in hotels, tour companies, and airports speak English but it certainly isn’t everyone.
If you are going to be spending any amount of time traveling in Mexico, it is helpful to learn a handful of phrases in Spanish. Even just learning how to greet people and order food/drinks is enough to get by.
You can also download Google Translate on your phone so that you can easily communicate with people.
Is Monterrey a walkable city?
Yes, Monterrey is very walkable for a large city, particularly in its downtown area. You don’t have to worry about needing to take cabs and public transport to enjoy your itinerary here.
Is Monterrey Mexico dangerous?
No. Monterrey Mexico is a safe city to explore and should not be considered an overly dangerous place.
Is Monterrey safe to travel to? Final thoughts
Monterrey is a safe and wonderful city to explore provided that you are street smart. Don’t let a fear of the unknown or negative stereotypes about Mexico make you miss out on traveling here.
The city is the capital of the state of Nuevo Leon, which shares its borders with Tamaulipas, Coahuila, San Luis Potosi, and Zacatecas. It is well connected within Mexico by a series of overland transport routes and domestic flights served by numerous Mexican airlines.
Are you visiting Mexico for the first time? I have been living in Merida since early 2022.
Safe travels! Buen Viaje! Xo