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How Dangerous is Travel to Mexico – Really?

How Dangerous is Travel in Mexico Question for Expat Caitlin Evans “With all the current bad international press that Mexico is receiving, travel bloggers trying to gain prominence by saying that they are going to a “dangerous country” when coming here, the US department of state travel warnings, and all the reports of decapitation and [...]

How Dangerous is Travel in Mexico Question for Expat Caitlin Evans

“With all the current bad international press that Mexico is receiving, travel bloggers trying to gain prominence by saying that they are going to a “dangerous country” when coming here, the US department of state travel warnings, and all the reports of decapitation and people having their faces sewn onto soccer balls, what has been your on the ground experience of living in Mexico City?”

I really don’t understand why people are scared out of traveling to Mexico. A couple friends of mine came to visit me in Guatemala. They said “we initially wanted to travel to Mexico but our mothers thought it was too dangerous so we should travel to Guatemala instead.” Uhhhh… right. As much as I love Guatemala, there is much more violence against tourists on average there than in Mexico. (I don’t have the exact stats for that but I’m sure if you looked them up that would be confirmed.)

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Anyways, crime against tourists happens here but not to the same extent as many countries. Yes, there is a lot of crime in Mexico, especially right now, but it is really regionalized: the northern states, Guerrero and Michoacan. In those places it is possible right now to be caught in the crossfire so maybe you ought to visit other places in Mexico right now. (But actually I spent a few days in Patzcuaro, Michoacan in December and it was totally tranquilo, so violence is regionalized even within states.)

But I haven’t really directly answered your question. Ironically, amidst all the growing violence in the north, for example in cities like Monterrey which used to be really safe, Mexico City has gained a reputation for safety in the country. And indeed, both in terms of relative safety and absolute safety Mexico City has improved. It used to be that people would say “O no la capital… muy peligrosa.” Now they think “o la capital… es muy tranquilo ahora.

I feel generally pretty safe in Mexico City. For the most part the streets are busy, and people in numbers usually brings safety. I walk around without being worried. I walk after dark, but not too late – depending on the neighborhood, I’ll walk alone until about 9 or 10pm (though I could probably walk later without problem.) I don’t go wandering into known dangerous barrios though, so it pays to know where you are.

Overall, I think Mexico City’s bad reputation is dumb. It’s a city of 25 million people. In that many people of course bad stuff is going to happen, but when you think of it overall it’s not too bad.

After traveling around the world for a number of years, Caitlin Evans has landing in Mexico City. After poking around the English teaching circuit here, she landed a real posh position and now calls herself, “expat.” She is Vagabond Journey’s travel correspondent for Mexico, and if you have any questions for her, feel free to send them over at Mexico travel questions.

Filed under: Mexico, North America

About the Author:

Caitlin Evans is a teacher living and working in Mexico City. She runs Chilangish, a Mexico City guide and blog. has written 2 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

27 comments… add one

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  • Andy Graham January 27, 2011, 2:36 am

    I lived in Mexico for one year when I first started to travel, and 88 countries later, I believe Mexico is one of the most dangerous countries on the planet. Mexico is not dangerous if you move from location to location, Mexico is extremely dangerous if you live in one location, or try to purchase a home or start a business. Mexico has an advance form of Mafia type Police that will put you between a rock and a hard place.

    I know many stories, the worst was a women who built in Playa del Carmen, and she complained to the local police. They tied her down spread eagle in the police station naked for three days.

    Philippe the owner of a Hotel in Pie de la Cuesta, north of Acapulco was murdered because he became a citizen of Mexico and entered the local government. The problem is when you try to buy, build, own, or get involve in Religion or Politics. If you just are a tourist you are OK, but all of the above is highly dangerous in Mexico. Girls are raped daily in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, the American / Mexico tourism is so big, that the government of Mexico shuts up the press.

    Andy Graham of HoboTraveler.com in Ghana, West Africa

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    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com January 27, 2011, 8:50 am

      Good distinction, Andy.

      I have to agree with you, the inner workings of this country are rife with too many vying powerful elements, and involvement can be dangerous. If you stay on the surface, just traveling, looking around, living the good life, things will more than likely be fine, but taking the plunge and getting involved in any sort of real capacity opens up a whole other chest of difficulties.

      Stay on the surface, this is an excellent tip for any country.

      Thanks.

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      • Caitlin January 27, 2011, 10:06 am

        OK, fair enough… I certainly don’t get involved in politics, etc… I just live my life and let Mexico run its course. I think it’s a bad idea getting involved in the politics of countries that aren’t your own (or any area of really touchy activism).

        Again, also it really depends where you are. Mexico City for example is quite cosmopolitan and lots of foreigners own businesses and houses without problem.

        A million Americans live in Mexico, and there’s probably another million of other foreign nationalities. Somewhere along the line some of those people are gonna get murdered (in a population that big.)

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  • Réjean and Lise January 27, 2011, 10:58 am

    Congratulations for this valuable topic. Me and wy wife are presently in Mexico for 3 months. We are most precisely in Puerto Angel at Monte Cristo Hotel. Tomorrow we will be in Puerto Escondido and then up to Rincon de Guayabitos nearby Puerto Vallarta for one month.

    We flew to Mexico City from Montreal on January 10th 2011 and stayed 2 nights at Prim Hotel on Versalles street. We had the best deal with Expedia.ca at $34.00 canadian dollars a night with wifi internet and continental breakfast included. Not noisy at all and safe with a security 24 hours a day. We enjoyed so much Mexico City and felt always safe during our short 2 days journey. We walked a lot in all kind of streets even at night ( around 8 o’clock). We used the subway and never felt we were in danger. We are aware that this is a very big town with approximately 25,000,000 people and that crimes may occur much more often than in a small fishewrmen village like where we are.

    I must say that there is a very powerful presence of policeman and policewomen with guns in hands ready to shoot at any moment !! It may help a little I guess ! lol !

    Happily this police staff is mostly smiling and willing to help tourists for any kind of information. I took a picture of my wife just beside a group of 5 policemen for example. 5 minutes later one of them came over us……….I got scared I must admit……..and simply asked my wife to come with them for a better picture ! Amazing ! We accepted of course and now my wife is immortalized with smiling policemen around her with even one holding her by the shoulders ! Oufff !

    Many mexican people were willing to help us for streets of sites information with a sincere pleasure. We could felt it !

    Mexican people have class and many good life values. Canada and USA people have a lot to learn from them for our crazy way of living.

    We took a long bus ride at night to Huatulco without any problems but we heard that it is not the safest way to travel at night.

    We are glad if we could have helped someone to travel in Mexico ! Enjoy your trip !

    Réjean and Lise.

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    • Michael Jones January 27, 2011, 5:51 pm

      I lived in Mexico, Ajijic, for ten years, and that was twelve years, drove back and forth to the US many times with no problems, but now I would not do it. These drug gangs rule the road, they just killed a missionary lady today, near where she lived for forty years. Yes, I think the deeper south you go is better, but up north take your chances.

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      • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com January 31, 2011, 1:00 am

        It is my impression that driving a private vehicle is an additional risk in pretty much all countries. It is my experience that public transportation is usually the safest way to travel in just about any country — you may be robbed, but if you get in big trouble there will be a lot of other people with you. Safety in numbers, especially in this instance.

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    • Alex January 30, 2011, 2:56 pm

      We never would consider travel in Mexico. While your post is interesting, its only your experience, our friends experience has been that of attacks, robbery and rape,. I do not understand why anyone would travel to a lawless society where women are considered
      expendable as well as all human life has no value.. I think their life style is sick and they are
      raised that to be violent is acceptable.Their
      culture degrades womens rights and kills without forethought. No thanks I would never put
      myself or my wife in that situation. . Here in the US we value life, personal freedom, and human rights and if you think that is a crazy way of living, good luck to you.

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      • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com January 31, 2011, 12:48 am

        It is obvious that you have never been to Mexico.

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      • Caitlin January 31, 2011, 6:46 am

        Yeah, you are right. My Mexican boyfriend totally degrades me every day and then heads out to go shoot a few schoolchildren on the street. Maybe I should think of heading to the USA where nobody suffers from violence or domestic abuse. (And if they do, surely it’s the fault of Mexican immigrants.)

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        • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com January 31, 2011, 10:37 pm

          Yes, and all of those guys who 99% of the time get up and offer my wife and child their seat in the crowded subway of Mexico City are totally doing so because they want them to be in a better position to attack.

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          • luis bravo February 14, 2011, 10:38 pm

            alex and caitlin what kind of comments can mexican people hope to receive from people who live in a country where racism i one of the biggest problems also drug consumption
            and why not to say the home of the kkk
            but yes here in mexico happends everything what alex says but who is free to throw the first rock???? does the us have no problems???? how many kids are killed on schools every year i am 40 years old and i have never heard something like that here in mexico

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            • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com February 16, 2011, 12:12 pm

              Hello Luis,

              Caitlin is the author of the above article defending Mexico. Caitlin is also from Canada.

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          • Bob L February 16, 2011, 12:40 pm

            luis bravo, first off, Caitlin is Canadien. Second, she was being sarcastic, basically mildly putting down Alex’s ideas of Mexican Safety. I can see how it would be easy to misinterpret that if English were not your native language, so no foul there. I do disagree with your statement that the one of the biggest problems in the US is rascism. At least from my viewpoint and experiences, we are one of the least racist countries. That, of course, was not always the case. We were a little slow fixing these problems. I think one of our biggest problems right now is that we are trying to be so politically correct that some people are afraid to talk about anything for fear that they will be accused of being racist.

            Other people’s experiences may be quite different than mine of course.

            Bob L

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            • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com February 16, 2011, 2:25 pm

              I agree with Bob 100% on racism in the USA. Contrary to popular belief around the globe, the USA is among the least racist countries that I have been to. It is funny to me how people in many countries put down the USA for being racist while holding firm belief on their culture’s status quo that is often completely racist. The reason why racism seems rampant in the USA is because we have a history and a literature of discussing racism — racism it is an issue in the USA whereas in most countries it is hardly even acknowledged. Try telling a Japanese person that their culturally mandated second class citizenship of Koreans is racist and they will look at you like you are nuts. Racism in many cultures is so deep that it is not even something that is questioned.

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    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com January 31, 2011, 1:15 am

      Thanks for this. It is my impression that your experience in Mexico has so far been typical — smooth sailing, no problems, mostly friendly people. Mexico City truly surprised me, this is turning out to be one of the most livable cities that I have yet experienced in the world.

      Thanks for this comment, it will truly help other travelers.

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  • Sam January 28, 2011, 10:20 am

    Before I left I told friends and family I was starting in Mexico City and they thought I was crazy and was sure to find my into trouble. I wanted to find some actual numbers to prove them wrong or at least get a better understanding if what they were saying was based on any truth or only media hype. I found some interesting data from Prominix (http://www.prominix.com/sblock/web/index.php) and from NationMaster (http://www.nationmaster.com/index.php) and made my own conclusion (http://cubicleditcher.blogspot.com/2010/08/mexico-city-why-im-going-and-is-it.html). I thought the same as what others have said. As long as I’m not involved in drugs, politics or business then there is nothing to worry about. Go and have a good time and use common sense.

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    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com January 31, 2011, 12:52 am

      Good advice that should be used for everywhere in the world.

      Thanks for this.

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  • Michael Jones February 1, 2011, 4:57 am

    As I posted above, I really had no problems in Mexico, but today I got a e-mail from my friend Arthur, you has lived in Mexico for 22 years and yesterday was robbed at gun point by some guy at astop light in Guad, with his wife and two kids, and was hit over the head with the gun, had 21 stitches in his head, and the police said he had to pay $1,200 US for them to do a follow up on the case, he thinks it was a policeman that robbed him, so much for my thoughts on peaceful Mexico.
    That does remind of a time when a friend of mine bought a house in San Juan Cosala, and after a year around 12 o’clock midnight, the police busted in the door and arrested her, because the people who owned the house before did not pay the right compensation to the maid and gardner, when they quite, and the house was sold, so it fell to her. Night in a Mexican jail in Chapala, and $5,000, what did the maid and gardener get? How much did the police get? Take a guess, and why did she have to pay? Police need beer money!!!
    I guess those things had sliped my mind until I got this e-mail.
    I had been stoped maby times for no reason, in Gud, for the ever present police sakedown, for $20 bucks. I do remember one time I did not have enough for about 3 of them they gladly escorted me to the closes ATM, and when I put in the card the reached over and pused the highest number.
    These are minor things. The poor lady missionary who was shot and killed last week in her home town in Mexico where she lived for 40 years, now that is really bad.
    As a forgien person you have no rights there thats for sure, you are a gringo, and as Andy states it is dangerous once you become a target, and gringos are allways a target.

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  • felicity February 1, 2011, 8:00 pm

    As a Mexican myself, I recommend traveling to Oaxaca, Tlaxcala, or Yucatan to the Chitzen Itza, which is one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

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  • luis bravo February 14, 2011, 10:11 pm

    insecurity not only in mexico

    i agree that here in mexico we are crossing to a dificult time all casued by the drugmafia or as we say here narcos, one of the top consumers of drugs is us and one of the bigest producers of drug is colombia so where mexico is? just in the middle, so all the drug that ends in the us travels through mexico. and in the attemp to stop that the goverment of mexico are having a real war with drug dealers thats why people thinks that mexico is very insecure but let me tell you all mexico is one of the greatest countries in the world full off history and magic places and don`t doubt that if you want to know the pretiest beachs in the world we have them come and enjoy my country

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    • Michael Jones February 16, 2011, 12:45 pm

      I agree I like Mexico alot, but a few, and a growing few at that, have made it very dangerous, news comes out everyday, bombing in GUD?/ That use to be a very safe place, now a hijacking of a armored truck everyone killed, its scary now days> Guatemala, is safer and its a beutiful palce as well, it has Panajachel, and Tikal, why take the risk in the bloodshead in Mexico, the law will not stop it they are all getting paid by the drug loards, what a shame.

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      • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com February 16, 2011, 2:27 pm

        I have traveled extensively in both Guatemala and Mexico, and it is my impression that most of Mexico is far more secure. Though this is not to knock Guatemala at all, but I have receive far more reports of crime, mostly petty, emitting from there.

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        • Michael Jones February 16, 2011, 2:58 pm

          Yes Guatemala has a lot petty crime, theres alot of poorp people there, but the police are not shaking you down, and granades are not being thrown into bars, in tourist districts, and no one is being shot while driving through the country, Mexico, was somewhat peaceful, but he has erupted now and there is no law to stop it as the law is involed. Sorry but thats the way of life there from the top down, and now its just become a war zone

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  • Reality March 1, 2011, 6:36 pm

    The reality is that you can be an Alien living on Mars and if you are involved in illegal activities or hanging out with the wrong crowed, you will pay the consequences. We have no guarantees in life sometimes people are in the wrong place at the wrong time and these are tragic accidents. Lets stay safe and hope for the best, lets not live in fear. God Bless us all.

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  • Adrian March 5, 2011, 1:42 am

    Wade, I’ve certainly enjoyed reading your experiences in Mexico City, they are proving to be valuable to me becuase I may venture off to this megaloplis this October. However, I would like to know about Mexico Citys nightlife..I am 22 years old,will be traveling solo, and very much enjoy bars, nightclubs, dancing and all the the nocturnal activities that come along with the nightlife of urban centers..

    I’ve read several comments regarding people staying out late (usually no later than 10 p.m. becuase of safety reasons) but for me this is a bit too early, especially if the nightlife of Mexico CIity is amazing.. So I would really like to know, how is the safety in areas popular with cafes, restaurants, bars and nightclubs?

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    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com March 5, 2011, 10:18 am

      Hello Adrian,

      Answered this question on the other page that you left this comment on.

      What is Mexico City Like?

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  • Colleen August 13, 2012, 12:16 am

    I completely agree that Mexico is perfectly safe, as long as you take normal travel precautions. There are certainly parts of the U.S. that I wouldn’t want to visit, but that doesn’t mean that tourists should write off the entire country.

    I really enjoyed reading the comments too — thanks everyone!

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