Is Puebla safe to travel to? If you’re planning a trip to the western Mexican state of Puebla, safety is something that is likely at the forefront of your mind.
Safety is often one of the main concerns for people traveling to Mexico in general. After all, the country isn’t always portrayed in the best light via the media.
Generally, Puebla, like many parts of Mexico, is safe to travel to provided that you use the same common sense precautions as you would when traveling anywhere in the world. However, It is important not to be complacent. A lot of travel guides refer to Puebla as being one of the safest cities in Mexico.
While that may have been true at one point in time, crime has been increasing here over the past few years. It is unfortunate that some articles found online that discuss safety in Puebla are either out of date or have been written by people who do not live in Mexico.
A recent study was conducted in Mexico in 2020 to ask locals how safe they felt in their cities and 73% of Mexicans said that they felt unsafe where they lived. Puebla was perceived as being the least safe.
This is interesting considering the fact that organized crime and violent crime don’t happen here at the same rate as in other parts of the country. However crime is increasing, and gender-based violence is a particular concern.
This article discusses the question of “is Puebla safe to travel to?” and has been written by an expat in Mexico.
Puebla state shares the same name as its capital city. (The capital city’s full name is Puebla de Zaragoza).
It 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.
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?
Puebla can be a safe place to travel to provided that you take precautions for your personal safety. Unfortunately, even when you travel with precautions, there is always a risk of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
This article will take a look at the safety and crime statistics in Puebla, the US and UK government travel advice for Puebla, and some useful tips for staying safe during your visit.
Check your government travel advice for Puebla
It is a good idea to check your government travel advice before traveling anywhere in the world, including Mexico. The United States travel advisory provides a state-by-state safety assessment for every state in Mexico.
6 states (including Sinaloa, Colima, and Guerrero) are on the “do not travel list” for Mexico. Then, a number of states fall under the advice that you should “reconsider travel” to them.
Others are identified as places where you need to “exercise increased caution” and others are identified as places where you need to “exercise normal precautions”. Campeche state and the Yucatan state are the safest places in Mexico.
The US department of state says that you should exercise increased caution in Puebla due to crime and kidnapping. 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.
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.
Safety and crime statistics in Puebla
Crime has increased in Puebla in recent years. The Numbeo crime index compares the number of crimes and perception of safety in Puebla as compared to other Mexican cities.
It does so by asking residents to complete a survey about how they feel in their city. The structure of this survey and the questions involved could be compared 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 high overall crime rate of 64.83. By comparison, Mexico city’s crime rate is even higher at a rate of 78.09.
Tips for staying safe in Puebla
A handful of tips for staying safe in Puebla are discussed below. A lot of these are basic precautions that come in useful when traveling anywhere in the world. Others are specific to traveling alone in Mexico.
Use Uber and never take a street taxi
It is better to use Uber in Puebla rather than take a street taxi. This rings true for traveling in many parts of Mexico.
In some parts of the world, people do not consider Uber to be as safe as a licensed cab. However, in Mexico and much of Latin America, the perception is very different.
After all, when you enter an Uber, you have more information on the driver and the vehicle than you do if you get into a random street cab. One thing that may happen to you if you get into a random street cab is that you may be tricked or overcharged, or the taxi driver may take a roundabout route around the town in order to rack up the fair on the meter.
This type of thing could happen anywhere. However, express kidnappings are a unique risk of traveling in this part of the world.
These happen when an unsuspecting tourist enters a taxi that they have flagged down on the street. The driver will drive around the corner for his accomplices to enter the vehicle.
The tourist will be held at gun or knife point, forced to hand over all of their valuables and be forced to drive around Puebla making withdrawals from their bank accounts.
When the person has been rinsed dry, they are released. While the general aim of these kidnappings is to extort money from a person rather than to physically harm them, it is still a traumatizing experience that you do not want to have.
When you travel in an uber, you have the driver’s name and license plate number. You can see how long they have been using the app, their rating, their past reviews, and how many rides they have completed.
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 on safety in Puebla, the best things to do in Puebla, the best local spots to eat and hang out, 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.
Recommended 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. Perhaps owing to the fact that Puebla isn’t as touristic as other parts of Mexico, traveling here on the whole is actually much more affordable.
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.
Some of the more chic, modern boutique hotels are located a little out of town in the area of La Paz. While this neighborhood is safe during the day, it is a little bit of a trek from the center 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 Uber or public transport and being careful about walking back to your hotel room at night.
It is generally preferable to opt to stay in the historic Center of Pueblo. This is particularly true if you are traveling alone.
The area around the zocalo makes a good base. From here, you have plenty of restaurants, mercados, plazas, cafes, and bars right on your doorstep.
Once you have found a hotel that you like the look of, it is a good idea to check past reviews. You can read these via Google reviews, TripAdvisor, and on platforms like booking.com.
Is Puebla safe to walk around?
It is generally safe to walk around Puebla city during the day. The city center, 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 center are in close proximity to each other. So, you could essentially explore Puebla on foot in its entirety.
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.
Any exploration that you do should be limited to heading to the bars and restaurants in central areas. If the restaurants that interest you 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 traveling alone.
Keep an eye on your belongings
If you are a victim of a crime in Puebla, it is most likely to be a petty crime. For instance, someone trying to snatch your bag or take your wallet out of your back pocket in crowded local markets.
A lot of the crime affecting tourists here is opportunistic and can be easily avoided with a few precautions. Never let your personal belongings out of your sight and keep your bag or wallet with you at all times.
Don’t leave your bag unattended at tables in coffee shops. And in crowded marketplaces, consider walking with your backpack in front of you.
There are a lot of Street vendors in the Zocalo and the surrounding areas that will approach you and try and sell you things while you are eating in the cafes and restaurants. Never leave your bag randomly on the table or on the chair beside you, as one of the many people that may approach you could run away with it.
One worthwhile investment for your trip to Puebla is to purchase a theft-proof backpack. Theft-proof bags, such as those offered by Pacsafe come with additional security features.
These are great if you travel regularly.
The bags are slash-proof, and waterproof and come with TSA-approved locking devices. They are more expensive than regular bags but they usually come with a lifetime warranty.
Don’t flash the cash
It is better not to draw attention to yourself when traveling through Latin America. There is a saying here called no dar de papaya which means don’t give papaya.
In other words, you don’t give something sweet to potentially tempt thieves and other unsavory people.
There is no need to wear expensive jewelry, $100 sunglasses, or designer labels when traveling in Puebla. Similarly, do not walk around with an expensive DSLR camera around your neck. Keep your valuables out of view
Be careful when traveling overland through Puebla state
There have been a few instances where people traveling over land in Puebla have been met with roadblocks or 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. The bus from Mexico City to Puebla takes just two and a half hours and connects both CDMX city center and Mexico City Airport with Puebla.
Atlixco, Cuetzalan, Pachuca, and Cholula are all great day trips from Puebla and they can all be easily reached via public transport. Renting a car can give you a lot more flexibility and freedom during your time in Mexico.
However, in some places like Puebla, it is just as convenient to rely on 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 that 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 minimize 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.
Better still, the design of the bottles is such that it keeps the water cold inside, even on a hot day!
Be careful at ATMs
Be careful when withdrawing money from ATMs in Puebla. there are several banks with indoor ATMs close to the Pueblo cathedral. When you need to withdraw cash, try to do so in daylight and opt to use an ATM that is in a bank or a shopping mall.
Standalone machines are more likely to have been tampered with.
Mexican ATM machines charge a withdrawal fee for using international cards. This can range from around 178 pesos to around 35 Pesos depending on which bank you go to.
So, it is important to remember which ATMs charge the Lesser fee for your card.
It is best not to walk around with too much cash. Realistically, you shouldn’t need to have more than 4,000 pesos in cash on you at any given time.
You can divide your cash into two different coin purses. Keep one with the book of your money at the bottom of your bag.
Then, keep the other person at the top of your bag and fill it with the small change that you need for that day. That way, when you need to pay for something at a store or a market, people will not see that you have a big wad of notes in your bag.
It is a good idea to carry multiple bank cards just in case you should lose one. Keep one on your person at all times and keep the other hidden at the bottom of your suitcase with a spare 50 US dollars or so.
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 touristic 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
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 – Im sorry, I don’t understand
- Disculpe – Excuse me
- Yo quiero – I want (useful for ordering Puebla food)
- 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 a million dollars 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.
Purchase a Mexican sim card
It is also a good idea to purchase a Mexican sim card so that you stay connected during your trip. Most hotels and restaurants in Mexico do have complimentary wifi but you cannot find free wifi randomly on the street in Mexico like you can in other countries.
If you have an American or Canadian sim card, Mexico may be included in your plan. Do check this before your trip.
Having a local sim card means that you have access to data at all times. This is important for checking Google Maps/GPS and being able to contact people or use Google Translate.
Having a local number also makes things easier if you need to make a phone call – perhaps to reserve a hotel, make a restaurant booking, or call a local for help. Several cell phone providers offer call, text, and data packages in Mexico.
Telcel, Movistar, and AT&T are the main Mexican cell phone networks. Of the three, Telcel is arguably the best option.
You can pick up a Telcel sim card at any Telcel store, Oxxo convenience store, or 7/11. The card itself is 80 pesos (circa $4 USD).
You can then purchase bundles for between 100 and 500 pesos. For 100 pesos (circa $5 USD), you get 1.3GB of data and unlimited social media for 15 days.
For 200 pesos, you get 3GB of data and unlimited social media for 30 days. You can then top up online (you will receive a text message with a weblink to top up when your data/package is running low) or at an Oxxo, Telcel, or 7/11 store.
Is Puebla Safe for Solo Female Travelers?
Puebla can be safe for solo female travelers. But as a woman traveling alone in Latin America, you need to take more precautions than you would when say, interrailing through Europe.
Plenty of tourists visit Puebla and the nearby pueblo magico of Cholula on a day trip from Mexico City.
So, although Puebla doesn’t see the masters of tourists that are seen in places like Cancun, Puerto Vallarta, and Tulum, international travelers are still a fairly common sight. Violence against women is on the rise in Puebla and in other parts of Mexico.
A recent survey among Puebla residents found that 9 out of 10 women did not feel safe in the city. While as a tourist, you see a different version of Puebla to someone who lives there for years on end, it is still worth being informed about this issue.
Try to opt for a hotel or accommodation in the central part of Puebla. That way, you have all of the main Puebla attractions, restaurants, museums, and cafes right on your doorstep. You won’t have to track back across town when it starts getting dark.
Street harassment in Puebla
Women traveling alone in Puebla may often feel as though they cannot walk in peace without somebody approaching them or trying to flirt every 10 minutes. Although many people may have harmless intentions, this can still be annoying.
So, it is more important than ever to be aware of your surroundings in Puebla. Catcallers are best ignored.
However, street harassment in Puebla often comes in the form of people following you or continuing to talk when you have said that you are not interested. If you begin to feel very uncomfortable, go into a local business and tell them that you are being harassed.
Be careful of which neighborhoods you wander into and don’t walk alone down quiet side streets and alleyways, even in the middle of the day.
What to wear as a solo female traveler in Puebla
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.
Is Puebla safe to travel to? Final thoughts
Is Puebla safe to travel to? It can be provided that you have your wits about you and you are careful.
If it is your first time traveling to Mexico, however, you may feel more comfortable visiting places in the Yucatan or starting somewhere like Merida.