Safety in Mexico
Safety in Mexico is a common concern for expats and travellers alike.
The country has historically suffered from high crime rates, and statistics have become a hefty deterrent for those considering travelling there. Expats should note that reports of crime and kidnappings in Mexico are highest in urban areas, particularly in Mexico City; however, crime is prevalent throughout the country.
Drug-related crime is the biggest concern in Mexico, but resort areas and popular tourist destinations such as Cancun, Los Cabos and Puerto Vallarta are largely protected from this.
Expats in urban areas may want to employ private home security companies, whereas those in retirement communities and resort areas are considerably safer.
Crime in Mexico
Street crime is an issue in Mexico’s cities, and resort areas are not exempt from this. Expats are advised to dress casually and keep expensive jewellery and watches out of sight. Expats should also keep a close eye on important documents, such as passports, as these are frequently stolen in Mexico.
Drug-related crime in Mexico
As much as crime in Mexico can be a problem, the fear cultivated by the violence of drug cartels is not usually an expat concern. While murders and gun fights between rival gangs and law enforcement make sensational international news, it does not generally affect people who are not connected to the drug industry.
Expats in Mexico are also often concerned about police and military checkpoints along highways, although the government is usually careful not to perturb foreigners. Despite this, foreigners should not become complacent and should remain aware of and up to date about current dangers regarding drug-related crime in Mexico.
Travel to Ciudad Juarez is not advised, as the area is infamous for a high incidence of drug-related violence. The states of Chihuahua, Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas are also known for high levels of drug violence, and expats travelling to these areas should do so with extreme caution. Clashes between cartel members and police can turn violent quickly and without warning.
Public transport safety in Mexico
Expats should be extra vigilant when travelling on public transport in Mexico.
It is advisable to only travel in buses during the day, as theft and hijacking are common at night. Expats should also ensure that the bus they are travelling on uses toll roads (cuotas) and not free roads (libre), as the incidence of crime on the libre roads is considerably higher. Expats should also always travel first class on buses as an added safety measure. Armed robberies and kidnappings of entire buses have been reported in Tamaulipas and Nuevo Leon.
Bus stations and airports have also been targets of robberies in the past. Expats should only use official, authorised and regulated taxis (sitio) in Mexico. These cannot be hailed off the street and should be reserved by telephone or met at a taxi rank. It is best to avoid hailing taxis from the side of the road altogether. The Metro in Mexico City is a prime spot for pickpockets.
Road safety in Mexico
Hijackings are a problem on Mexico’s roads. Expats driving in Mexico should exercise extreme caution when driving and avoid driving at night. Highways between Monterrey, Nuevo Lardo and Reynosa are particularly dangerous, as is the Pacific Highway.
Expats should only use toll roads and should be aware of their surroundings when stopping at traffic lights. Campervans and SUVs are particular targets for hijackings.
Scams in Mexico
Perhaps most alarming to foreigners are kidnappings, or kidnapping scams, that try to elicit ransom money from families. Expats in Mexico need to be careful of robbery, especially when withdrawing money from ATMs or changing currency at a Bureau de Change. It's best to steer clear of ATMs when they are being refilled, as armed robberies during this process are common.
“Express kidnappings” are a risk in Mexico. Criminals will kidnap their victims for a short amount of time, take them to an ATM and demand money. Victims are then usually released. Expats should be aware of this when withdrawing money.
A common scam in Mexico involves criminals posing as police officers and demanding people pay a “fine”. Expats should always ask police officers for identification if in doubt.
Health hazards in Mexico
It's best to avoid drinking tap water in Mexico, and expats should not take ice in their drinks. To be certain, it is best to stick to bottled water and treat street vendors selling food or unbottled drinks with caution.
Expats should visit a doctor six weeks before leaving for Mexico to ensure that they have received the correct vaccinations and have been provided with anti-malaria medication.
In case of medical emergencies, expats should have little apprehension utilising healthcare in Mexico, which is of a generally high standard.
Natural disasters in Mexico
Hurricanes, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions are all possible occurrences in Mexico.
Hurricane season in Mexico is from June to November, whereas active volcanoes in Mexico are the Popocatepetl volcano and the Colima volcano. These areas are closed off to the public and the surrounding areas are designated “danger zones”.
Oaxaca is the area most affected by earthquakes in Mexico.
Emergency numbers in Mexico
Fire Department: 068
Air ambulance: (800) 752-4195