Safety in Mexico
Safety is often a large concern for expats relocating to Mexico.
Historically, the country has suffered from high crime rates, and the statistics have turned into a hefty deterrent for travellers and expats. Expats should note that reports of crime and kidnappings are highest in urban areas, particularly in Mexico City, but the crime problem is prevalent throughout the country.
Drug related crime is the biggest concern in Mexico; however, resort areas and popular tourist destinations such as Cancun, Los Cabos and Puerto Vallarta are more protected from this.
Expats in urban areas may want to employ private home security companies, while retirement communities and resort areas are much 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.
Recently there has been a rise in muggings in Mexico City, particularly around the Parque Nacional de las Cumbres del Ajusco. Expats should be extremely careful and vigilant in this area.
Drug-related crime in Mexico
As much as crime can be a problem in Mexico, the drug-inspired delusions of fear cultivated by the violence related to the drug cartels should not be an expat concern. While these murders and gun-fights between rival gangs and law enforcement make sensational international news, it does not generally affect people not connected to the drug industry. Expats are often concerned about police and military checkpoints along highways, although the government is usually careful not to perturb foreigners.
Despite this, expats should not become complacent and should be aware of the current dangers with regards to drug-related crime in Mexico.
Travel to Ciudad Juarez is not advised. There has been a high incidence of drug-related violence in this area. There has also been violence in the states of Chihuahua, Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas.
Luckily, drug-related crime in Mexico is mostly concentrated in certain areas and does not affect the entire country but US border areas are some of the worst affected. Most victims of drug-related violence are involved in the drug industry in some way. Expats in affected areas should be aware that clashes between cartel members and police can quickly turn violent 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 busses during the day as theft and hijacking is common at night. Expats should also ensure that the bus they are travelling on uses toll roads (cuotas) and not the free roads (libre) as the incidence of crime on the libre roads is much higher. Expats should also always travel first class on buses as an added safety measure. Armed robberies and kidnappings of entire busses have been reported in Tamaulipas and Nuevo Leon.
Bus stations and airports have also been targets for robberies in the past. Expats should also only use official, authorised and regulated taxis (sitio) in Mexico. These cannot be hailed off the street but should be reserved by telephone or met at a taxi rank. It is best of avoid hailing taxis off the street altogether.
The Metro in Mexico City is also a prime spot for pickpockets.
Road safety in Mexico
Hijackings are a problem on Mexico’s roads and expats should exercise extreme caution when driving and avoid driving at night. Highways between Monterrey, Nuevo Lardo and Reynosa are particularly dangerous. The Pacific Highway is also a hotspot for hijackings.
Expats should only use toll roads (cuotas) in Mexico and should be aware of their surroundings when stopped at traffic lights. Camper vans and SUVs are particular targets for hijackings.
For more detailed information on road safety in Mexico have a look at our page on transport and driving in Mexico.
Scams in Mexico
Perhaps most alarming to foreigners are kidnappings, or kidnapping scams, that try to elicit ransom money from families. Especially in larger cities, foreigners need to be careful of robbery, especially when withdrawing money from ATMs or changing currency at a Bureau de Change. Expats should also 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.
Criminals posing as police officers and demanding people pay a “fine” is also a common scan in Mexico. Expats should always ask police officers for identification if in doubt.
Health hazards in Mexico
Expats should not drink tap water in Mexico and should not take ice in their drinks. Stick to bottled water and be wary of street vendors selling food or unbottled drinks.
Expats should visit a doctor six weeks before leaving for Mexico to ensure that they gave received the correct vaccinations and have been provided with anti-malaria medication should they need it.
See our page on healthcare in Mexico for more information about malaria and vaccinations.
Natural disasters in Mexico
Mexico experiences hurricanes, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.
The hurricane season in Mexico is from June to November. Mexico’s active volcanos are the Popocatepetl volcano and the Colima volcano. These areas are closed off to the public and the surrounding areas are “danger zones”.
Oaxaca is the state in Mexico most affected by earthquakes.
Safety tips for Mexico
The US Department of State has rated Mexico’s crime threat as “critical”. This means that expats should always be on high alert when in crowded or urban areas, on public transport and when out at night. Foreigners are not often the targets of violent crimes but are usually the primary targets for scams.
In order to stay safe, expats should blend in, not display their wealth and should not appear vulnerable or unaware.
Emergency numbers in Mexico
Fire Department: 068
Air ambulance: (800) 752-4195