Is Puebla safe to travel to? Safety is likely to be at the forefront of your mind if you are planning a trip to the west-central Mexican state of Puebla and its cultured capital, Puebla de Zaragoza.
Afterall, Mexico isn’t always a country that we associate with safety. A lot of people are nervous about travelling here in general and the country is often in the media for all the wrong reasons. Add to that the fact that Puebla isn’t the most common destination in the country and it is understandable why you may be feeling worried.
You are in good hands here because I have been living in Mexico for the last two years. As a Travel Writer, I have made it my priority to explore as much of my new home as possible and I have travelled to 13 different Mexican states, mostly as a solo female traveller.
In February this year, I spent several weeks in Puebla by myself, and in this post, I will share my experiences with you to help you plan your own trip.
Is Puebla Safe to Travel to in 2024?
Puebla, like many parts of Mexico, can be a safe place to travel to as long as you take precautions and use your common sense. There are a lot of resources and travel guides online that refer to Puebla as being one of the safest cities in Mexico but as a solo female traveller, I did not feel that comfortable in Puebla (and it was one of the only places in Mexico where I did not).
Unfortunately, much of the information about safety in Puebla that I found online was either completely out of date, or was written by people who haven’t even travelled to Puebla, which is alarming, but I guess we live in a world where people will write any old garbage online because they want to make some advertising revenue, even at the expense of people’s safety and wellbeing!
So with that being said, it’s important to think critically when following advice about travelling to Puebla that you find online and consider who you are taking it from.
Locals’ Perceptions of Puebla
As I mentioned, a lot of resources and travel guides online will refer to Puebla as being one of the safest places in Mexico but that perspective is definitely not shared by locals. A security study conducted across Mexico in 2020 found that over 70% of Mexicans didnt feel safe where they lived and Puebla was ranked the least safe place on the list.
Puebla, like many Mexican cities has experienced something of a crime wave over the last couple of years – something that has likely been spurred on even more by the global pandemic which led to many people losing their jobs, falling into poverty and resorting to desperate measures.
Among the various crimes that are on the rise in Puebla, an alarming one was femicide and violence against women. There are a lot of friendly people in Puebla, like much of Mexico, and the areas around the centre of town are often filled with locals and domestic tourists, but you do need to be aware of your surroundings here.
Organised crime and violent crime don’t happen here at the same rate as in other parts of the country but crime, in general, is on the rise. A recent survey among Puebla residents found that 9 out of 10 women did not feel safe in the city.
Check your government travel advice for Puebla
It is a good idea to check your government travel advice before travelling anywhere in the world, including Mexico. The US Department of State provides a state-by-state safety assessment for every state in Mexico and divides them into one of four categories depending on how safe they are (or aren’t).
Campeche state and the Yucatan state are the safest places in Mexico and the only two states on the “excercise normal precautions” list. Multiple states, including Puebla, are recognised as places where you need to “exercise increased precautions” and others have warnings in place that indicate that you should “reconsider travel” or not travel to them at all.
Although sternly worded, the U.S. State Department’s advice is generally a good place to start when planning a trip to Puebla. It is updated periodically in line with the latest events and developments across Mexico.
You can find the UK government travel advice for Mexico here, although it is more general and does not offer any specific pointers for traveling in Puebla.
Safety and crime statistics in Puebla
As mentioned, crime has increased in Puebla in recent years. To get an understanding of how Puebla fares vs other Mexican and global cities, we can take a look at the Numbeo crime index.
The results in the index are based on a study which has asked residents of various global cities how safe and secure they feel in their city. (You could compare the format of this survey and the questions involved to government-collected data and safety reports.)
Each city is awarded a number from 0 to 100 based on how much crime there is. The higher the number, the greater the level of crime and the safety risk based on this data.
Puebla has a moderately high overall crime rate of 56.89. By comparison, Mexico City’s crime rate is even higher at a rate of 67.92.
Looking at Puebla versus US cities, Los Angeles has a crime rating of 52.77 and New York is at 49.94.
Property problems such as vandalism, theft and break-ins were among the highest concerns in Puebla. (but are arguably not likely to affect you as a tourist.)
However, the rates of muggings and robberies in general were also quite high and study participants were concerned about how crime rates had risen over the last three years.
Gangs, drug cartels and clashes between criminal groups are not really an issue in this part of Mexico, so you don’t need to terrify yourself worrying about Mexican cartels.
Is Puebla safe to walk around?
It is generally safe to walk around Puebla city during the day. The city centre, the Fuertes area, and the small town of Cholula are all safe to explore.
There aren’t really any parts of Puebla that are no-go zones like there are in cities like Guadalajara and Mexico City. The upscale residential areas of Angelopolis, Juarez Avenue, and Via Atlixcayotl can also be interesting to explore and give an insight into local life.
Many of the attractions in the city centre are in close proximity to each other. So, you could essentially explore Puebla on foot in its entirety and that is pretty much what I did.
Is Puebla safe at night?
It is not really a good idea to explore Puebla at night. the same can be said of any major cities. Crime increases at night and there are not a lot of people around when you leave the central square.
Of course, you dont need to be confined to your hotel room as soon as the sun goes down but it is better to stick to bars and restaurants around the main zocalo. If they are a bit of a trek from your hotel, it is better to order an Uber or ask the front desk to order you a trusted cab.
Be sure not to walk back to your accommodation intoxicated, particularly if you are travelling alone.
Is Puebla safe for solo female travellers?
Puebla can be safe for solo female travellers as long as you are assertive and you are aware of what is going on around you. I have travelled to 57 countries and 13 Mexican states, mostly as a solo female traveller and I never let my gender or my physical appearance stop me from going anywhere I am interested in travelling to.
At the same time, I found street harassment to be quite bad in Puebla, and I have not found that elsewhere in Mexico. (Except perhaps, Tuxtla Gutierrez in Chiapas state which is the only other place I felt uncomfortable).
Outside of the immediate city centre, I found that I could barely walk 5 minutes without being stopped and hit on by men. I think I counted that in a 15 minute walk to go and photograph a specific church, I was approached more than 15 times, with men leaning out of a truck to take photos of me at one point!
When I was heading back to my hotel afterwards, I felt someone place an arm around my shoulders and I looked around in horror to see the arms owner, to find that it was a group of young Mexican girls who came to walk with me because a guy was following me.
The following day, I was leaving Puebla City to go to Cholula and I felt almost as though I didnt want to leave my room. I did in the end, and I dressed very conservatively, and fortunately it was fine.
What should solo female travellers in Puebla wear?
As a woman, you should be able to wear whatever you like without abuse or harassment. Unfortunately, that is not always the world that we live in sometimes.
You will note that a lot of local women in Puebla and other parts of central Mexico tend to dress quite modestly. even when it’s hot. They will wear jeans and T-shirts and they will rarely walk around in skirts and dresses.
This is largely so that they do not attract unwanted attention from men. As a solo female traveler, it is often a good idea to follow suit.
Being alone as a foreign woman draws more attention to yourself anyway. And for your own benefit, safety, and comfort, dressing somewhat conservatively can reduce the number of creepy looks and comments.
People don’t really wear shorts here even when it is hot. A modest, knee-length summer dress or skirt is perhaps okay, but cleavage would probably attract unwanted attention.
If somebody is bothering or following you and you begin to feel very uncomfortable, go into a local business and tell them that you are being harassed.
Use Ubers instead of street taxis
In Puebla and Mexico on the whole, it is generally considered safer to use Ubers and other ridesharing apps to get around rather than street taxis. That might sound strange, depending on where you come from, because in a lot of countries licensed cabs are considered safer.
But when you think about it, it makes sense. There is a lot more accountability when you order a vehicle via a ridesharing app since you have the driver’s name, past reviews and rating, and vehicle information.
You simply don’t have that when you get into a random street cab. Street cab drivers trying to rip you off and overcharge you is a problem all over the world, but in Mexico, “express kidnappings” are another concern.
An express kidnapping happens when an unsuspecting tourist gets into a street cab in Mexico, the cab driver drives a little distance until their accomplices enter the vehicle, and then the passenger is held at gun/knife point and forced to hand over their belongings.
Fortunately in two years of living in Mexico, I have never had this issue, but then again, I always use Uber (or sometimes the local alternative Didi). Another Merida-based Travel Blogger was the victim of an express kidnapping in Puebla which is why I would strongly advise you to stick with rideshare apps.
Tips for staying safe in Puebla in 2024
Some useful safety tips for your trip to Puebla are detailed below. A lot of these things are common sense and are good practice wherever in the world you choose to travel, but they are worth reiterating here.
- Don’t flash expensive designer accessories, jewelry and sunglasses – a lot of people live well below the poverty line here and you may make yourself a target
- Consider investing in a theft proof backpack or moneybelt to keep your cash and belongings safe
- In crowded streets and markets, keep your eye on your belongings at all time and ideally walk with your bag in front of you rather than slung over one shoulder
- In coffee shops and cafes, always take your bag, computer, etc to the counter or bathroom with you. Never leave your things alone or ask a tablemate to look out for them
- Dont carry wads of cash. $4000 Mexican pesos is plenty to last you a couple of days
- Be careful at ATMs and if you can, stick to ATMs in banks and malls that are less likely to have been tampered with
- Keep an “emergency” credit/debit card and a spare $50 USD or so tucked away in your suitcase or your hotel safe just incase you should lose your wallet
- Do not drink the tap water. It is not safe to drink anywhere in Mexico.
- Purchase a Mexican sim card so that you can easily stay connected if your phone plan does not cover Mexico
- Be careful of which areas you wander into and don’t walk alone down quiet side streets and alleyways, even in the middle of the day.
Consider taking a walking tour to get your bearings
Opting to do a walking tour is a nice way to get your bearings in a new city. Numerous reputable local companies offer cycling and walking tours of Puebla with a local.
This gives you the opportunity to discover places that you may not have otherwise found independently and to get a lay of the land when you first arrive.
Better yet? Exploring with a local means that you have a Puebla expert on hand to ask any questions that you need about the safety of the city, the best things to see and do in Puebla etc.
Puebla is known nationally for its exquisite cuisine and its poblano dishes that are not found in other parts of Mexico. You may want to do a street food-focused walking tour so that you can sample all of the famous regional delicacies in the eateries and mercados that produce the very best version of the dish.
Best Puebla tours
A selection of reputable Puebla tours is detailed below for your consideration. Most include pick up and drop off from your hotel in Puebla.
Reserve your place online in advance to avoid disappointment!
- Puebla: Cholula and Atlixco private tour with food tastings
- Puebla: Full-day Malinche summit experience
- From Mexico City: Puebla, Cholula and Tonantzintla Day trip
- From Mexico City: Puebla and Cholula day trip
Do some research on where to stay
There is a diverse selection of hotels and accommodation options in Puebla to suit every budget. Travelling here on the whole is much more affordable compared to more popular Mexican destinations like Tulum, Cancun and Mexico City.
You can get a very comfortable three or four-star hotel room in Pueblo with modern furnishings, amenities, and an included breakfast for as little as $50 or $ 60 USD a night.
I opted to stay in the historic centre of Puebla and I was happy with my decision because it meant that I could walk everywhere. From here, you have plenty of restaurants, mercados, plazas, cafes, and bars right on your doorstep.
Personally, I stayed in the NH Puebla which, yes, is a chain, but the rooms were clean, spacious and comfortable, there was an excellent free breakfast and it was super central.
A lot of the more chic, modern boutique hotels are located a little out of town in the area of La Paz. While this neighbourhood is safe during the day, it is a little bit of a trek from the centre of town.
Like in many cities, you can get more bang for your buck if you up to stay on the outskirts. But that likely means having to take a lot of Ubers or public transport and being careful about walking back to your hotel room at night.
Be careful when travelling overland through Puebla state
There have been a few instances where people travelling over land in Puebla have been met with roadblocks or gotten robbed. These instances are far from daily occurrences and sometimes you really can just be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
However, for safety reasons, it is generally better to opt to take public transportation between towns and cities in Puebla state rather than rent a car . The bus from Mexico City to Puebla takes just two and a half hours and the buses for Puebla depart from numerous stations in the city centre and Mexico City International Airport. (MEX).
Atlixco, Cuetzalan, Pachuca, and Cholula are all great day trips from Puebla and they can all be easily reached via public transport. If you do decide to rent a car, you should be especially careful when driving in the Northern parts of Pueblo State and close to the border with Tlaxcala.
Is the water in Puebla safe to drink?
The water in Puebla is not safe to drink. (You cannot drink the water in Mexico in general).
Although it is purified at the source, the water often gets contaminated en route to the tap. It isn’t just tourists who cannot drink the water in Puebla because they are unaccustomed to it, the locals don’t drink it either.
Most hotels and Airbnb will provide you with a complimentary bottle of water when you check-in. You can then purchase large, multi-liter bottles to store in your room.
To minimise plastic waste, it is also a good idea to buy a reusable water bottle such as a life straw. You can fill this up in your room each morning before you set out and better yet, the design of the bottles is such that it keeps the water cold inside, even on a hot day!
Learn a little Spanish if you can
Learning a little Spanish goes a long way in Puebla and in Mexico in general. Few people here speak English and you are only really likely to encounter English speakers in hotels and other tourist businesses.
If you have never spoken a word of Spanish before in your life, it is unrealistic to expect to be able to be by any means conversational before your trip. However, even having a short selection of words and phrases in your repertoire can go a long way in helping you to communicate.
Useful Spanish phrases for your trip to Puebla
Some useful Spanish phrases for your trip to Puebla are detailed below.
- Yo tengo una reserva – I have a reservation
- Mi nombre es – My name is
- Lo siento, no entiendo – I’m sorry, I don’t understand
- Disculpe – Excuse me
- Yo quiero – I want…
- 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? – Do you speak English?
- Lo siento no puedo hablar español – Im sorry I cannot speak Spanish
Purchase comprehensive travel insurance before your trip
You should make sure that you have comprehensive travel insurance before you travel to any foreign country and the same is true of traveling to Mexico. Unfortunately, today’s health is not promised tomorrow and we can never really know what is around the corner when we travel.
There are lots of great medical facilities in Mexico. So if you should be unfortunate enough to for ill, you will be able to get world-class assistance.
However, even though Healthcare in Mexico is generally more affordable than in the United States, medical bill prices can still add up.
Make sure that you purchase a comprehensive travel insurance plan that comes with at least $250,000 USD worth of travel insurance coverage. A good policy will also come with additional extras such as repatriation, loss or theft of baggage, and adventure sports such as hiking.
Enjoy your trip and don’t let yourself be overcome with worry
Thanks to the negative media portrayal around Mexico, it is easy to think that this is a “dangerous” country to travel to. I definitely felt nervous when I first arrived here in January 2022, but I actually feel much more comfortable (for the most part) as a woman living alone in Mexico than I did during the five years I lived in Greece, which might come as a bit of a surprise.
Puebla is gorgeous, and you should try and concentrate your energy on enjoying your trip, rather than feeling that you constantly have to worry or look over your shoulder. The city was was founded by the Spanish in 1531 in an area called Cuetlaxcoapan meaning “where serpents change their skin”.
Puebla city’s historic center was given UNESCO World Heritage status in 1987 and you can easily while away a very pleasant weekend just taking the time to get lost in its various streets and passageways.
The Zocalo is the city’s main square. It boasts porticoed buildings and courtyards filled with al fresco coffee shops and cafes that feel very European.
There are many excellently preserved churches and historical buildings in Puebla that date back to the 16th-19th centuries. Notably, the imposing 17th-century Puebla cathedral which is the main focal point of the Zocalo, and the UNESCO-protected Biblioteca Palafoxiana which is the oldest library in the Americas.
Most of the buildings in Puebla have been built in a baroque style and are an interesting blend of American and European cultural influences. Many are adorned with brightly colored azulejo tiles which are a peculiar characteristic of the area and quite unlike anything you will find elsewhere in Mexico.
Is Puebla safe to travel to? Final thoughts
So is Puebla safe to travel to? It can be provided that you have your wits about you and you are careful.
Use your common sense, dont do anything you wouldnt do at home, and plan your travels through Mexico carefully and you ought to be fine.
Puebla is well worth visiting, particularly if you like immersing yourself in the local culture and history when you travel and visiting destinations that remain somewhat off the beaten path. However, if this is your first time travelling to Mexico and you are nervous, you may feel more comfortable visiting places in the Yucatan or starting somewhere like Merida which has a more established tourist trail and is renowned for its safety.
Do you have any further questions about Puebla or visiting Mexico in general? Please do not hesitate to reach out to me and I will do my best to get back to you as soon as I can.
Safe travels and enjoy Mexico! Melissa xo