Wondering, Is Mexico City Dangerous to Visit?
Mexico City is one of the world’s great cities. Seven hundred years of original history, three hundred years as the Viceroyalty of New Spain, and two hundred years as the capital of the United Mexican States are on display in the chaotic symphony of daily life. It is a feast for the senses and for the soul, but is Mexico City dangerous?
The Metropolitan Area of the Valley of Mexico is both indigenous and cosmopolitan. The regional cuisines of all 32 federal entities (31 states + federal district) can be found in the capital. It is a city that has welcomed immigrants from all corners of the globe while assimilating them into Mexican society.
There is a good reason why everyone wants to visit Mexico City right now. It is a beautifully diverse society with some of the best food on the planet. There are activities for all budgets but the luxury accommodations are a pleasant surprise for many travelers.
Is Mexico City Dangerous?
Yes, Mexico City is dangerous. That is a sweeping generalization but Mexico City is enormous. There are both safe and unsafe areas in the Metropolitan Region. Asking, “Is Mexico City dangerous?” is an important part of planning.
The population of Mexico City was just over 9 million in 2022. However, the Valle de Mexico Metropolitan Area has a population of over 22 million. This includes not only 16 burrows of Mexico City but also parts of Mexico State and Hidalgo State.
Mexico City functions much more like a state than like a city. There are 16 independent burrows (delegaciones) with their own local government. Each burrow has a significant population that is comperable to a city elsewhere. Milpa Alta has a population of 150,000 while Iztapalapa has a population of 1.8 million.
According to a quarterly survey of residents in Mexico by the INEGI, Mexico City has some of the safest parts of the country as well as some of the most dangerous parts of the country. It is diverse, to say the least.
Just because there are parts of Mexico City that are dangerous does NOT mean that you should avoid them. It means that you should make an honest assessment of the risks and make a plan. Maybe that means hiring a tour guide and leaving your valuables at home.
Making a plan and taking some basic precautions will allow visitors to travel confidently in Mexico City.
Mexico City is so much more than just Roma and Condesa. Whether it is seeing a soccer game in Estadio Azteca, attending the Corona Capital music festival, or the Iztapalapa Passion of the Christ on Easter Sunday, Mexico City has some amazing experiences. However, many of these experiences require some advanced planning in order to be safe.
There is a funny meme going around Mexico City right now. Mexico City has become so popular that many digital nomads and Instagram influencers are claiming that Mexico City is the best place to live. The funny part is that when they say Mexico City what they really mean is Condesa/Roma/Polanco which isn’t a true representation of the Mexico City experience for most Mexicans.
Is Uber Safe In Mexico City?
Uber is the safest form of public transportation for most of Mexico City because of the geolocation data tracking, user-generated rating system, and a nominal vetting system for new drivers.
Taking a regular taxi in Mexico City requires an extra level of security. You should never hail a taxi down on the street without first calling a taxi cab company or collective.
Uber is a great transportation option for those that do not speak Spanish fluently. The names of many streets and destinations in Mexico City are taken from Náhuatl and can be very difficult to pronounce correctly. One of my favorite restaurants is called Los Chamorros de Tlacoquemecatl on Tlacoquemecatle Street, in front of Tlacoquemecatle Park. It took me nearly a week to learn how to pronounce that word so that someone could understand me.
The Uber app used artificial intelligence predictive modeling to guess what word you are trying to type in and give you suggestions based on real-world data. You don’t need to spell out the complete name of your hotel or street anymore. Uber knows where you want to go after just a few keystrokes.
Uber From The Mexico City Airport
The one exception to this is the Mexico City International Airport (AICM). There are no problems for Uber to drop passengers off at the airport. Uber does occasionally have problems picking up passengers at the airport.
In June 2022 there were huge signs hung up in the airport prohibiting ridesharing apps from making pickups. However, there was no enforcement of the prohibition.
There are no laws on the books prohibiting ridesharing apps but the airport and taxi drivers make it as difficult as possible to pick up.
Getting picked up at the Mexico City airport is the one place where I prefer to use the official taxis over an Uber.
Is It Safe To Walk In Mexico City At Night?
Rather than thinking about walking during the day vs walking at night, I urge you to think about walking when there are other people on the street.
The reason that the streets become dangerous after dark is that there are few people on the street. Criminals prefer to rob people when nobody is looking. It is much more likely that criminals will be identified or arrested when there are lots of people on the street.
It is safe to walk on busy streets where there are lots of open businesses, cars driving by, and people walking. Avenida Alvaro Obregon is a great example of a street that is safe to walk at night because of all the activity.
It is not safe to walk at night on streets that have no traffic. Downtown Mexico City is a good example of this. It is very safe to walk all over downtown during the day. However, when the sun goes down and the local businesses shut their security screens, it is better to get a ride.
Stick to the main streets after dark or find a ride.
Is Mexico Safe For American Tourists?
Yes, Mexico is safe for American (United States) tourists. The United States and Mexico have a great relationship. You will meet tons of Mexicans that have visited or lived in the United States.
It is rare for Mexicans to say that they visited the United States and hated it. For every one person that had a bad experience, there are ten more that had a great time.
There are some key pieces of US culture that feel bigger in Mexico than they are across the US. The LA Dodgers are a big deal in Mexico. Fernando Valenzuela is a national icon. I have talked to people wearing LA Dodger gear that have never been to LA but are huge fans and really want to visit.
Since the pandemic, there has been a new wave of digital nomads moving to Mexico and gentrifying some neighborhoods. Roma and Condesa are two of the neighborhoods with the highest number of non-Spanish-speaking new arrivals.
A couple of high-profile xenophobic incidents used some clickbait to make it look like the neighborhood was dangerous for English speakers.
One TikTok Video showed a Mexican woman confronting an English-speaking woman about her unleashed dogs, a verbal confrontation escalates, and the Mexican woman tells the US woman in English that she is in Mexico and has to speak Spanish. She finishes by telling her to go back to her country. This was an altercation about something else that quickly escalated into name calling.
Another click-bait article showed flyers posted around Roma saying, “NEW TO THE CITY? WORKING REMOTELY? YOU’RE A F*****G PLAGUE AND THE LOCALS F*****G HATE YOU LEAVE”
The use of the thrid person makes it sound like the author is not a local. The local businesses are doing a pretty good job marketing to the newcomers and offering services in English.
Gentrification and inflation are problems all over the globe right now. Having just a modicum of humility will go a long way. Most attempts at speaking Spanish are met with appreciation.
Mexico City is a major cosmopolitan city. The people that like foreigners, or feel agnostic about foreigners far outweigh the xenophobic crowd.
Is Mexico City Safe For Solo Female Travellers?
Mexico City is not the safest place in the world for solo female travelers.
Solo female travelers that are accustomed to the risks of big cities should have no problems. People from the suburbs who have never traveled before may be surprised by some of the behaviors in Mexico City.
The Mexico City metro is infamous for groping. There are dedicated female-only cars that can actually be worse because the perpetrators wait at the doors for the women to exit. Cat calls are way more common than they should be. Gender violence is rarely prosecuted let alone reported. There are far too few consequences for bad behavior.
March 8th is International Women’s Day. It has a completely different context in Mexico than in most places on the planet. Massive protests take to the streets to petition the government for security. The protests often turn violent and property is damaged. Too many women never make it home and this protest is meant to remind the government that the level of gender violence and impunity is unacceptable.
Being a solo female traveler in Mexico City takes a little bit of additional planning, assertiveness, and situational awareness.
Without coming off as a sensationalist, I think that a little bit of planning will go a long way. Skip the Mexico City metro during rush hour.
Mexico City Crime Rate Vs New York
There is a pretty big difference between present-day New York and Mexico City. Present-day Mexico City is more reminiscent of the 1970s or 1980s New York City. The police in Mexico City don’t investigate and solve crimes the same way they do in New York. The role of the police in Mexico is very different than that of other places.
The populations of both cities are fairly similar both at the city level and at the metropolitan level. The big difference is that New York City has a much higher population density.
|NUMBEO||Crime Index||Safety Scale|
|New York City||49||51|
According to NUMBEO, Mexico City has a higher level of crime across all levels with the exception of worries about a physical attack based on skin color, ethnic origin, gender or religion.
Problems with violent crime such as assault and armed robery are 27 points higher in Mexico City than in New York.
There are huge discrepecies in the data across different parts of the city. As I mentioned before, Mexico city has some of the safest places in the country as well as some of the most dangerous places in the country, all in one city.
Is It Safe To Drink The Water In Mexico City?
No, it is not safe to drink the tap water in Mexico City. Drink bottled water at all times. 5-gallon jugs (garrafones) of water are ubiquitous all across Mexico. 99% of households have a water dispenser that uses a 5-gallon jug.
Occasionally, some people prefer to set up water filtration systems in their houses but the maintenance is complicated. Most people prefer to buy their water from a big company like Coca-Cola which owns Agua Ciel.
Restaurants do not serve tap water to their guests. They serve filtered water out of a 5-gallon garrafon and they use ice made from filtered water. If a restaurant is busy, you know that they are using basic food safety protocols.
Are There Earthquakes In Mexico City?
Yes, Mexico City is prone to strong earthquakes.
Where Should You Stay In Mexico City?
Everybody is going to tell you to start with Roma and Condesa but I think that is cliché. Mexico City has so much more to see.
According to the INEGI survey on the perception of safety in Mexico, the Benito Juárez and Cuajimalpa burrows are two of the safest places in all of Mexico.
Benito Juárez is directly below Cuauhtémoc (Roma and Condesa) is one of the safest places in Mexico. This burrow includes Narvarte, Del Valle, Xoco, and Tlacoquemecatl. So is Cuajimalpa is on the far western side of the Metropolitan area next to Mexico State. It includes the neighborhoods of Cuajimalpa and Santa Fe, which are both lovely.
My four favorite places to stay in Mexico City are the Centro Histórico, San Angel, Del Valle, and Coyoacán
✅ Downtown Mexico City Centro Histórico
Downtown Mexico City is built on top of Tenochtitlán, the old Aztec capital. It really is the first neighborhood that you should get to know in Mexico City. The murals in the Palacio Nacional and the mole at Café Tacuba are some of life’s great pleasures.
The Centro Historico has a well-defined tourist corridor from the Alameda to the Zócalo that is safe to walk all day. At night, it is better to use a vehicle
✅ San Angel
We have family that lives near San Angel. My mother-in-law lived in a Catholic boarding house in San Angel when she was in high school and college. Many of the buildings have stood for over a hundred years.
Walking the streets of San Angel and Chimalistac is better than walking in la Condesa and Roma. Eat at Restaurante El Carnenal and San Angel Inn.
✅ Del Valle and Narvarte
Del Valle is where people actually live. While Condesa and Roma are being taken over by short-term rentals, Del Valle and Narvarte still have a sense of community.
If you want to know what life is like for middle-class and upper-middle-class Mexico City locals, Del Valle is a great place to do that. The market and the food are excellent examples of traditional cuisine. Anthony Bourdain ate at Fonda Margarita in the Tlacoquemecatl Plaza. I loved Los Chamorros de Tlacoquemecatl which is across the street.
Coyoacán is a southern suburb of Mexico City that feels like a pueblo someplace in the country. There is a great deal of traditional culture, wonderful food, and great museums.
Make sure to get coffee at Café Avellaneda, breakfast in the Mercado de Coyoacán, and dinner at Los Danzantes.
What Areas Should You Avoid In Mexico City?
This is a very subjective list. Everyone is going to have different tolerance for risk. A lot of the kind-of-dangerous neighborhoods have some kind of tourist attraction. Many people will stick to Roma and Condesa but that is selling Mexico City short. It is like the people in Los Angeles that think Korea Town is the eastside. There is so much more to the city.
❌ Area to Avoid: Ecatepec
Technically, Ecatepec is not Mexico City but Mexico State. It is still a part of the Valle de Mexico Metro Area and barely a mile away from the Basilica de Guadalupe which is a major tourist attraction.
It is important to do some research before you go walking around in a new neighborhood. Mexico City can go from lovely to scary in just a few blocks.
I have noticed this phenomenon in several Latin American metropolis. There is a ring of misery around the city center. This is where the poor rural immigrants live after arriving in the capital.
Mexico State has some very poor and underdeveloped cities right on the border with Mexico City. In addition to Ecatepec, there is Cuautitlán Izcalli, Naucalpan de Juárez, and Ciudad Nezahualcóyotl. There is nothing there for a tourist.
❌ Area to Avoid: Iztapalapa
Iztapalapa needs to be visited with caution. There are both dangerous and decent neighborhoods in the large burrow. The largest Easter Sunday Passion of Christ performance is in Iztapalapa. And eating at the Central de Abastos is a real treat.
Iztapalapa is the name of a neighborhood and the much larger burrow (delegación). It spans both sides of the Anillo Periférico and is very different on the outside of the Periférico from the inside.
I have a lot of family that lives in Iztapalapa. Many of them have businesses in Mexico City’s Central de Abastos wholesale market. There is a lot of industry and wealth in this part of the city.
The Central de Abastos wholesale market has some of the best food I have tasted in Mexico. La Matoza Veracruz-style seafood was one of my best meals in Mexico City.
There are upper-middle-class enclaves to the burrow that reach all the way past Avenida Río Churubusco. Those areas are fine. It is the neighborhoods on the far side of the Anilo Periférico that need to be avoided.
Some of the neighborhoods on the other side of the Anillo Periférico are Santa Cruz Meyehualco, Vicente Guerrero, San Lorenzo Tezonco, Ejército Constitucionalista, Juan Escutia, and Santa Martha Acatitla. They are no joke. Tourists have no reason to travel to this part of Mexico City.
❌ Area to Avoid: Tepito
Take this one with a grain of salt because the gentrification is coming hot and heavy to the “barrio bravo” in Mexico City. Long considered to be a dangerous neighborhood, wealthy kids from Condesa and Roma have started taking tours of Tepito trying to increase their street cred.
A friend of ours who is the epitome of “fresa” was telling us stories about leaving the expensive handbags at home and drinking michiladas and gomichelas in Tepito on the weekends. There are a ton of memes making fun of this new trend.
Ironically, landlords are starting to rebrand their rentals as Reforma Norte rather than calling them Tepito.
Mind you, this is still a serious barrio where all sorts of clandestine activities are taking place just under the surface. Exercise extreme caution. Don’t go without a tour guide.
Safety Tips For Visiting Mexico City
Mexico City is a massive metropolitan region that requires some planning. There are dangerous activities located close to perfectly safe activities. With a little bit of advanced planning, it is possible to explore the neighborhoods that people say are dangerous.
Lucha libre for example is located in the Doctores Neighborhood of the Cuauhtémoc burrow. It is right next to Roma but was historically underdeveloped. It is important to take precautions but the traditional foods and lucha libres shows will bring tourists to high-crime areas.
✔️Metro by day and Uber by night
The Mexico City metro is an excellent form of public transportation at a below-market-value price. Just remember that the metro serves both good and bad neighborhoods.
Make sure you know where you are going and when to get off.
I wouldn’t carry a laptop on the metro if I had to commute every day.
Try to avoid the metro during rush hour. The crowds can be brutal.
✔️Do Not Carry Debit Cards
I recommend not carrying your entire wallet just in case something happens. If you lose some cash no big deal. If you lose a debit card it is possible for thieves to rack up thousands of dollars in charges in just minutes.
I like to have a credit card with a low limit and a little bit of cash.
Make copies of all important documents and leave the passport in a lockbox at the hotel.
You don’t want to get on the Mexico City metro with your wallet and all your credit cards in your back pocket.
If you are held up, don’t resist. That is a good way to get killed. You can replace a cell phone and your wallet. A gunshot is a lot more serious.
✔️Don’t Take Your Cellphone Out On The Street
Motorcycle thieves target distracted cell phone users. Don’t walk down the street TikToking, oblivious of your surroundings. It is common for motorcycle thieves to rip cell phones out of the hands of unsuspecting tourists.
✔️Set Up Good Security On Your Phone
It is amazing how much information we keep on our phones these days. If a criminal steals your phone and can gain access, they have a ton of scams they can run. They know how all digital payment and banking platforms work. They will try to scam your contacts on social media with stories that you are in trouble with the law.
Make sure that it is as difficult as possible for a thief to gain access to your phone.
Know how to brick your phone with the manufacturer. If your phone is stolen there is a zero percent chance that you will get it back. You want to make sure that phone doesn’t fall into the wrong hands.
✔️Use Extreme Caution At The ATM
Do not under any circumstances accept help from strangers at ATMs in Mexico. Scam artists use magician-level sleight-of-hand techniques to swap out cards.
Use the official ATMs at banks and avoid independent ATMs that are on the street. It is a lot less likely that criminals can attach a card skimmer to an official ATM in a bank.
I like using Banamex because they usually have safe parking and the ATMs are indoors.
Always look at the ATM to make sure there is no additional equipment or parts attached to the ATM. Most people would be surprised by how clean and almost invisible some of the card skimmers can be.
✔️Learn Some Spanish
Don’t assume that people in Mexico City will speak English. Make an effort to greet people in Spanish. At a bare minimum, learn to say, “por favor”, “gracias”, and “buenos días” in Spanish.
✔️Hoy No Circula
If you will be driving in Mexico City make sure that you get a Pase Turistico or you will need to comply with the blackout periods. Foreign vehicles are not allowed on the road for much of the week. Learn when your vehicle is not allowed to drive in order to avoid hefty fines.
You also need to pay attention to local media about environmental contingency days when the pollution is really bad. Those days further restrict travel withing the city.
✔️Selective Street Food Consumption
Mexico City is famous for its amazing street food. Choose street food stalls that are busy. It is easy to get sick with food that has been sitting around for too long or that is collecting dust from the roadside.
Follow local food bloggers like Lalo Villar of the Ruta de la Garnacha for top-notch recommendations of good quality street food. There is too much excellent food in Mexico City to settle for average or below average.
✔️Don’t Use Cheap Camera Bags
This goes for camera bags or backpacks that can be easily opened. I have a camera bag that I loved until I realized how easy it is to remove the camera from behind without my knowledge.
The over-the-shoulder, sling-type bags are very popular with Mexican locals. You want to make sure that you are keeping your valuables on the front of your body, and not on the back.
A cheap bag held over the back is a pickpocket’s dream come true.
Be very careful with your valuables. When I am in a space where people are very close together like a market, a sporting event, or on public transportation, I prefer to keep my wallet in my front pocket.
Conclusion: Is Mexico City Dangerous In 2023?
Mexico City is a cacophony of sounds and emotions. There is a lot going on at all times. And that is what makes it such a wonderful place to visit.
It can be easy to get distracted and let our guard down at an inopportune moment.
With a little bit of advanced planning, many of the common risks can be mitigated.
I know that everyone says that a lot of this is common sense. If you are used to living in a big city I understand that. People in San Diego hate LA because it is a big city and is difficult to navigate. Mexico City is substantially more complex than LA.