Is Veracruz safe? Like most Mexican states, Veracruz is a safe place to travel to as long as you use the same common sense precautions as you would anywhere else in the world. Veracruz is far from the most usual Latin American travel destination but places like the cultured capital of Xalapa, the witchcraft city of Catemaco, and the coffee-growing region of Córdoba are rewarding places to visit for those who enjoy venturing off the beaten path.
Veracruz is a state in eastern Mexico that borders the Gulf of Mexico. It shares its borders with Chiapas, Oaxaca, Tabasco, San Luis Potosí, Hidalgo, Puebla, and Tamaulipas. With its rich history, beautiful landscapes, and cultural attractions, Veracruz has plenty to offer.
Is Veracruz Safe to Travel to in 2023?
Veracruz is safe to travel to, provided that you practice situational awareness and take precautions for your safety. Safety is something that a lot of people worry about when they travel to Mexico for the first time as the country does not have the best reputation internationally.
A lot of this is unwarranted and over-exaggerated. More than 25 million international tourists travel to Mexico every single year and most visits are trouble-free.
While violent crime has been an issue in Veracruz in recent years, incidents are usually restricted to things happening between organized crime groups, rather than random acts of violence that affect tourists. This article, written by a British expat Travel Writer based in Mexico provides a logical look at how you can stay safe during your trip to Veracruz.
Review your government travel advice for Veracruz Mexico
It is a good idea to check your government travel advice before traveling to any new country and the same rings true for planning your first trip to Veracruz. The U.S. Department of State advice appears quite sternly worded, but it is a good source of information as it provides a state-by-state breakdown of the safety situation in different parts of Mexico.
Via the U.S. State Department travel safety guidance, Mexican states are broken down into four different categories. States are recognized as places that you should exercise normal precautions when traveling to, places that you should exercise increased precautions when traveling to, states you should reconsider traveling to, and states that you should not travel to at all.
Campeche and the Yucatan are the safest Mexican states and the only two places on the ¨exercise normal precautions¨ list. Veracruz is marked as somewhere where you should ¨exercise increased caution¨.
The United States government travel advice states:
¨Violent crime and gang activity occur with increasing frequency in Veracruz, particularly in the center and south near Cordoba and Coatzacoalcos. While most gang-related violence is targeted, violence perpetrated by criminal organizations can affect bystanders. Impromptu roadblocks requiring payment to pass are common.¨
It is a good idea to keep checking the US government advisory page prior to and during your trip. Any developments will be updated here in real time.
The UK government travel advice for Mexico is a little more liberal than its US counterpart. The page is updated periodically and there are no travel warnings or issues mentioned for Veracruz.
Crime rates in Veracruz Mexico
The Numbeo crime index awards various global cities with a safety rating out of 100 based on how safe the local residents feel. (With 0 being incredibly safe and 100 being dangerous.)
Veracruz City boasts a moderate crime rating of 57.61, with some locals concerned that crime has been on the rise in the last three years. To get more of an understanding of the numbers, we can compare this to crime ratings in other Mexican and US cities.
Merida is the safest city in Mexico and it has a crime rating of just 25.16. Cancun has a crime rating of 56.16 and Guadalajara has a crime rating of 62.14.
If we compare this to US cities, Los Angeles has a crime rating of 52.64, New York has a crime rating of 49.43 and Atlanta has a crime rating of 64.09.
A 2022 study by INEGI (National Institute of Statistics and Geography) found that the most common crime was robbery or assault on the street or on public transport. To avoid being a victim of this, avoid wearing designer items or walking around with expensive electronics on display.
Always be aware of your surroundings and don’t walk down sketchy-looking alleyways in unfamiliar areas or walk alone at night.
Veracruz Mexico Safety Tips for 2023
There are a couple of precautions that you can follow to help yourself stay safe in Veracruz. A lot of these things are common sense measures that you should follow anywhere but they are worth reiterating here.
Always keep an eye on your personal belongings
As a tourist in Veracruz, your biggest risk is that of being a victim of an opportunistic petty crime. (E.g. someone snatching your backpack by its strap or taking a phone/wallet from your back pocket.)
It is easy to avoid giving these people an opportunity. In crowded areas and marketplaces like Mercado Hidalgo in Veracruz City, consider walking with your bag in front of you rather than slung over one shoulder.
Never leave anything valuable in your back pocket. If you go to a coffee place or restaurant, always take your laptop/tablet, etc with you when you go to the bathroom or to the counter rather than asking a tablemate to look after them for you.
If you travel frequently, you might want to consider investing in a theft-proof backpack like those offered by Pacsafe. Theft-proof bags are a little more expensive than regular backpacks but they come with long-term warranties and additional safety features.
(For instance, they are slash-proof, waterproof, and come with TSA-approved locking devices).
Is Veracruz safe at night?
An INEGI study found that only 4 out of 10 residents of Veracruz feel safe walking around in their hometown at night. Veracruz in general, is one of a handful of Mexican states where the inhabitants feel the most uncomfortable in the country.
This perspective is worth keeping in mind as as a tourist, you are more likely to stand out and attract attention. Still, Veracruz City, in particular, offers a vibrant, varied nightlife scene that has something for every musical taste and budget.
It would be a shame to miss out on this out of fear and there are ways that you can experience Veracruz by night safely. The Veracruz boardwalk (Malecon) is one of the most famous tourists hot spots in the city.
This seafront promenade is lined with bars, restaurants, and cafes. It is a great place to watch the sunset over the Gulf of Mexico and whatever time of day you happen to stop by, it is usually filled with people cycling, rollerblading, and taking romantic walks.
At night, many of the buildings here are illuminated in different colors. Club Havana (Blvd. Manuel Ávila Camacho 11, Costa Verde) is a Veracruz institution and a local hotspot on Friday and Saturday nights.
The club plays host to live bands and DJs playing Cuban and Caribbean rhythms. Its decor is inspired by the old-fashioned Havana style.
A few blocks from the boardwalk, you will find the more understated Bar El Estribo (Independencia 1115). This elegant, old-fashioned bar is set inside a historic 19th-century building and retains its original decor and designs. The in-house mixologists here prepare some of the very best cocktails in town.
Try not to be paranoid and enjoy your trip!
It is easy to worry yourself into a frenzy when you are traveling somewhere new for the first time – especially if that somewhere is a place like Mexico that doesn’t always have the best reputation for safety. But if you spend your entire trip looking over your shoulder and being paranoid, you won’t be able to fully appreciate and enjoy the experience.
Read up on the latest safety developments and be aware of what is going on around you but try and focus your energy on having a good time.
Safe places to visit in Veracruz
Veracruz City (Heroica Veracruz) is a wonderful place to see and explore.
The Zocalo is the city’s main square, flanked by the impressive 18th-century baroque Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción (Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption) and the neoclassical Palacio Municipal (City Hall) – one of the oldest city halls in Mexico.
It is pleasant to sit beneath the cabanas of the bars and restaurants that circle the square and enjoy a Veracruzan mint julep cocktail or some traditional cuisine while watching marimba music in the historic center. The Museo de la Ciudad (Av. Ignacio Zaragoza 397) tells the history and development of Veracruz through the ages.
It is also possible to visit the old Spanish fortifications at Castillo de San Juan de Ulúa and the 17th-century Baluarte de Santiago. Catemaco, some three hours east of Veracruz City, is one of the most unique places to visit in all of Mexico.
Catemaco is known for its brujeria – people that are still involved in witchcraft. Mexicans and international travelers come from far and wide to have their fortunes read, receive a blessing, or shop for potions at local mystic mercados.
On the first Friday of each March, Catemaco celebrates the Noche de Brujas (night of the witches) – a supernatural, spiritual festival.
Food safety in Veracruz
Sampling the local cuisine is as much of a highlight of a trip to Mexico as seeing the sights and exploring. Different parts of Mexico are home to different regional delicacies and there are a few specialties that you should absolutely add to your radar while you are in Veracruz.
Being close to the sea means that seafood and shellfish play a prominent role in the local cuisine. Huachinango a la Veracruzana (Veracruz-style red snapper) is essentially the most famous regional dish.
Jaiba (a Veracruzan crab dish), shrimp empanadas, arroz a la tumbada (the local answer to paella)and Crab Chilpachole (a spicy crab and chili soup) are all well worth trying. Restaurante Fussion (Av. 1º de Mayo 632) is a great spot in town where you can try traditional Veracruz recipes with a modern twist.
Some people associate traveling in Mexico with the idea of getting sick, especially when it comes to street food. But dining out at street food stalls and markets doesn’t mean that you are destined to get ill.
You will find street food stalls on virtually every street corner in Veracruz City and other towns and villages. The Malecon is filled with street vendors selling everything from jaiba to esquites, tacos, and burritos.
If somewhere is busy, with a line of people waiting beside it, it is usually a good indicator that the food is good quality and safe to eat. If you encounter a stall where it looks like the meat/fruit/veg has been left around or there are flies, move on. (That probably doesn’t look appealing anyway!)
Taking cabs in Veracruz
Unfortunately as of 2023, Uber and other ridesharing apps are not currently available in Veracruz. (Uber has operated here in the past and things may change in the future).
As a tourist, it is always safer to have your hotel receptionist/concierge order a cab for you via a trusted local firm rather than wandering into a random street cab. Unscrupulous taxi drivers in Veracruz and other parts of Mexico have been known to overcharge unsuspecting tourists.
Can you drink the water in Veracruz?
You cannot drink tap water in any part of Mexico, including Veracruz. Although the water is purified at the source, it often gets contaminated en route to your tap and may be filled with bacteria and other parasites.
Even the locals do not drink it. Your hotel/Airbnb will likely provide you with a couple of complimentary bottles of mineral water when you check-in. From there, you can buy large, multi-liter bottles of water from Oxxo, 7/11, and other convenience stores.
Is Veracruz safe for solo travelers?
Veracruz state and the port city of Veracruz are safe travel destinations for solo travelers, including solo female travelers. You should never let your gender or the fact that you are traveling alone put you off from visiting somewhere. (This entire website has been written by a solo female traveler based in Mexico!)
Still, it is important to be even more alert if you are exploring solo as you have the potential to be more of a target. Be wary of over-friendly strangers and don’t be naive if someone overly nice approaches you.
Purchase comprehensive travel insurance for your trip
It is prudent to purchase comprehensive travel insurance before traveling anywhere, including Mexico. Unfortunately, despite our best planning and caution, we can never know what is around the corner, and even in Mexico, medical costs and the costs of receiving assistance overseas can quickly add up.
A good plan will include at least $250k USD of medical coverage. It will also cover you for things like loss/theft of luggage, repatriation, and adventure sports. Always check the small print as some policies class things like hiking as adventure sports that are not included in their standard plans.
Violent crime in Veracruz
Drug-related violence happens across Mexico and it can be alarming to read about. However, incidents that take place between drug cartels do not target tourists.
Although technically you could say that there is a risk of an innocent bystander being caught in violent clashes, the chances of this happening are beyond minimal. The Mexican government goes above and beyond to make sure that tourist areas of Mexico are safe for international visitors.
This applies to the port of Veracruz, Xalapa, and other places across the state.
Cartel activity is mostly confined to rural areas. As a tourist, you are not likely to find yourself in dangerous areas accidentally, anywhere of tourist interest is safe.
Is Veracruz Mexico safe? Final thoughts
The Mexican state of Veracruz is a relatively safe place to travel to with precautions. Don’t do anything that you wouldn’t do at home or elsewhere and you should be fine during your trip.
If this is your first time visiting Mexico, you might also enjoy browsing through these Mexico travel tips. Have a safe trip to Veracruz and enjoy your time in Mexico! Xo