Mexico is known for its tropical beaches, beautiful serene waters, and overall friendly and welcoming atmosphere, all bundled up in an inexpensive package.
Up until the worldwide pandemic of 2020, Mexico experienced an average annual growth of 7% over the last 10 years for international tourist arrivals, totaling more than 45 million international tourists per year, according to the World Tourism Organization.
Although the pandemic has slowed all of us travelers down quite a bit, our determination and passion for traveling will keep us going strong for years to come.
That being said, the way we travel may be forever changed, and as adventure seekers, travelers, and tourists of the world; we need to set the example we can travel safely and responsibly even after a global pandemic, and Mexico is no exception.
Here are some of the best ways you can stay safe while traveling to Mexico.
How to Stay Safe Traveling to Mexico
1. Know What To Expect Before Traveling
Before traveling to Mexico, it’s a good idea to know what to expect, more specifically in the city you plan on traveling to. Mexico’s top tourist destinations such as Cancun, Cabo San Lucas, Puerto Vallarta, and other areas are among the safest cities to travel to in Mexico.
Tourist areas are heavily guarded by local authorities, ensuring the safety of foreigners and locals alike. Tourism accounts for 17% of Mexico’s GDP; without tourists, Mexico struggles to maintain as strong of an economy.
One excellent source you can take advantage of is the Mexico Travel Advisory’s website. Here you can view specific travel advisories for any area you plan on traveling to in Mexico.
I wouldn’t use this site as the ultimate determining factor for your trip, but rather as a general guideline that allows you to make the best decision about where you are traveling to.
2. Be Prepared Before Your Trip
Being prepared for your trip to Mexico before you ever leave is one of the most important aspects of traveling safely. Being prepared can mean a lot of different things, but I’m talking about being fitted with the necessary gear for your trip.
There’s a lot to consider, especially when traveling to Mexico where certain luxuries aren’t as readily available as they may be back home.
Here is a list of ESSENTIAL gear I always pack to ensure a safe and comfortable trip to Mexico. (You can find most of these items on Amazon.com or at your local Walmart.)
- Bring a BRIGHT flashlight (for a night exploring)
- Carry a quality portable phone charger (don’t let your phone die)
- Wear a hidden wallet (hide any extra money you carry)
- Safe Insect repellent is a MUST (bugs love to munch on foreigners)
- Supplement with activated charcoal (helps with an upset stomach, diarrhea, and indigestion)
- Bring plenty of reef-friendly sunscreens (you will burn in Mexico)
- Hand Sanitizer (you never know when you’ll need to sanitize)
- Disinfectant Wipes (sanitize common areas in your hotel/Airbnb room)
3. Disinfect Common Areas Where You Stay
We all know germs are hiding all around us. You may not be able to kill all of them, but you can sure try!
Germs are present, especially in common areas wherever it is you’re staying. Whether you stay in a five-star resort, a Superhost Airbnb, or just a little shack, I highly doubt all the common areas are sanitized, if any areas for that matter.
That’s why it’s important to pack some Disinfectant wipes. When you arrive in your room, one of the first things you can do to start your trip off on the right foot is wipe down ALL the common areas.
Common areas include:
- Light switches
- Door knobs
- Bathroom/Kitchen handles and hardware (including faucets)
- Bath/Shower/Toilet knobs and handles
- Freezer and Refrigerator handles
- Remote controls
- Accessories (hair dryer, hotel safes)
- Anything else you plan on interacting with
While you may not deem this necessary, I think it’s safe to say it’s not a terrible idea. You’d be surprised how long some of these common areas/surfaces go without ever being cleaned. Do yourself and your host a favor, and disinfect it ALL!
4. Stay Organized
Staying organized helps you keep better track of all your belongings, and makes everything you do a lot easier and quicker.
When you arrive wherever it is you are staying, organize everything in a manner so you know that it’s in a designated spot. Maybe you decide to keep everything in your bag in specific pockets.
Or perhaps you take everything out of your bag and spread it all out on a surface. Just know where you put things and why, that way when you go to look for your phone charger or important documents, you know right where to look first.
As well, the organization shouldn’t stop when you leave your room. It’s very important and even wise to plan for your day ahead of time. Pack everything you think you’ll need such as your phone, phone charger, drinks, snacks, whatever it may be. Pack it, organize it, and know exactly where it’s at.
As well, know how much money you need to take with you, I’d say it’s safe to go as far as knowing how much money you have on each part of your body, assuming you separate your money so it’s not all gathered in one place.
This helps you avoid needing to pull out a huge wad of cash when you’re just buying a small purchase at the store. I like to make sure my wallet (or purse) appears empty. Only keep what you plan on immediately spending in there, and tuck the rest away somewhere out of site.
When you run out of money in your wallet, find a discreet location and transfer some more money from your hidden spot. That way you’re ready for your next purchase ahead of time.
It’s all about perception. My perception is, I’M BROKE!
5. Keep Your Valuables Hidden
This is a big one. . . Keep anything important in a hidden location. This includes in your room, and when you’re out and about exploring the town.
Don’t do the obvious and hide your valuables in a drawer or tucked in your sock, people already know that trick. I don’t even trust the safes that the hotel conveniently provides, you think they don’t have access to all of these? Think again.
Instead, you need to get creative! For example, you can hide extra money in a book or in a box of food you have laying around. If you’re looking to be even more discreet, I suggest bringing a diversion safe.
Diversion safes are awesome! These are common household items disguised as a safe. You can make your own, or get one on Amazon. These safes are disguised as hair brushes, lint rollers, shaving cream canisters, you name it. They’re good for hiding money or any valuable jewelry if you bring any.
But seriously, who’s going to think to look in your hairbrush for your money stash? The best part is you can bring the hairbrush or lint roller with you even when you’re out exploring or enjoying a day at the beach.
Another cool thing I recommend for the ultimate discreet travel experience is a hidden wallet. A hidden wallet is nice because one, it’s out of sight, and two, you can fit things like your passport and bank cards in it as well.
This one on Amazon is even made with RFID anti-theft material to help protect your cards and passport. It attaches to your belt, then you just let it hang between your pants and underwear. No one will ever know.
6. Don’t Use An ATM To Exchange Your Money
Some people may recommend using an ATM or even going to a bank to withdraw or exchange money. But I’m not “some people”. I avoid using an ATM, bank, or money exchange station for a number of reasons. Let me elaborate.
Using an ATM is risky for various reasons. For one, there’s only one reason you’d ever visit an ATM or bank; to get money. When you’re a tourist in Mexico, you already stand out like a purple cow. Combine that with standing on the street waiting for a machine to dispense your cash, and forget about it. You may as well be throwing your money in the air while shouting “Look at all this money!”
Not only do you risk being mugged, but you also chance to have your card and bank information compromised when using an ATM.
If you do find yourself in a scenario where you need to use an ATM, pull out your phone and check for any available Bluetooth connections while standing near the ATM, this may be a sign indicating that ATM is compromised and has a card reader just waiting to steal your info.
Something else to check is the keypad itself, ensure there’s not a cover over it, which may be recording your PIN when you enter it in. I know this can be hard to believe, but it can happen, and it does happen to people every single day.
My preferred way to get more money, including exchanging your money, is by using a money transfer service such as Xoom or WorldRemit. It’s the most discreet way to get money because you do it all from your phone. Then, you simply send your money to a non-obvious place such as Walmart, Elektra, or another local store where you present your confirmation code and I.D. and they hand you the cash.
This may seem sketchy, but I can assure you it’s amazing. You’ll never want to exchange your money any other way. No one has access to your money until they enter the confirmation code, which is only provided to you, and only you can provide it to them.
To learn EXACTLY how I transfer money to myself in Mexico, checkout out my complete guide where I walk you through step-by-step, how to go about sending, and receiving money using an online transfer service.
7. Maintain Good Hygiene
Hygiene is always an important factor no matter where you are. But, this is especially true when traveling in Mexico.
It’s a good idea to wash your hands before eating when possible. If there’s no sink available to wash your hands, whip out your handy bottle of hand sanitizer and give your hands a good scrub together until they feel dry, (about 20 seconds) ensuring you have killed any germs and/or bacteria.
If you happen to touch your face often; whether you are a nose picker or an eye itcher, it’s a good idea to sanitize your hands whenever you have come in contact with any common surfaces, especially in a public setting such as when you get off the bus or after shopping in the store.
Keeping your hands as clean as possible as well as showering often will help you maintain your good health, and help prevent the spread of diseases.
8. Ensure The Food Is Safe
Food safety in Mexico is VERY important. Eating the wrong food can spoil your entire trip. Trust me, been there done that. . .
I have a few simple words of advice to share with you when it comes to food safety. First and foremost, sit back and observe the food you are interested in trying.
What I mean by this is to watch the employees ensure the person who is making or serving the food, isn’t the same person who is handling all the money.
The only exception to this rule would be if the person puts on a glove specifically to handle the money, and then disposes of it when they are finished with the cash. If you see someone making the food and taking the cash without implementing proper safety measures, run as fast as you can in the other direction! You don’t want to eat there!
Another telltale sign that a restaurant or food stand may be no good or has a bad reputation is if they are not busy. Say there are 3 food carts next to each other all serving similar things, and there’s one cart that no one seems to gather around, this may be due to poor quality, and a bad reputation.
It’s best to go where the people go, they know what’s good and what to stay away from.
9. Stay Hydrated
This is a no-brainer, or at least you’d think it is. Millions of people suffer from some level of dehydration every year. In fact, a survey of thousands of Americans found that on average, 75% of people are considered to be functioning in a chronic state of dehydration daily. Source
Combine these facts with the intense heat of Mexico, a couple of alcoholic beverages, or some morning caffeine, and you have yourself the ultimate dehydration concoction.
Experts recommend drinking AT LEAST 8 to 10 cups of water every day. In my experience, you should drink even more water when in Mexico, especially if you are out exploring, or exposed to the sun for long periods of time.
Otherwise, be ready for potential headaches accompanied by some dizziness.
Don’t just go and guzzle down the nearest sink water though, you want to make sure you drink quality water that won’t make you sick. Tap water is a big no-no. Instead, head down to the nearest store and invest in a gallon jug of water. You can fill up a water bottle using this gallon jug, plus it’s better than buying a bunch of single plastic water bottles for multiple reasons.
If you want to be able to drink just about any water while you’re on the go, I recommend picking up a filtered water bottle. These types of water bottles remove 99.99% of waterborne bacteria, as well as 99.9% of waterborne protozoan parasites, making it easy to drink from just about any water source without concern.
10. Don’t Except Free Drinks
Ah, there’s nothing like sipping on a free drink given to you by a friendly stranger. Actually, there is. It’s the exact same concept as taking candy from a stranger, don’t do it.
A free drink may be a friendly gesture indeed, or it may be a not-so-friendly gesture, but are you willing to take that risk? I say not. Drinks can often be spiked with different substances, making for a forgettable night.
Not only should you not accept any drinks from anyone, but you need to keep your drink in your possession at all times. I’d be hesitant to even set it down on the table in front of you. All it takes is a quick second to slip something into your glass.
No matter where you go or who you are with, be sure to keep your drink in your hand, this includes when you go to the restroom.
11. Don’t Share Where You’re Staying
A friendly conversation may seem harmless, but it may also put you in a lot of danger. If someone asks where you are staying, don’t tell them. There’s no need to be rude about it but simply say “I’d rather not share that info”.
If saying that makes you feel uncomfortable, just use a random hotel name or say you’re staying with some friends. No need to go into detail.
Sharing your location may ultimately result in being robbed or kidnapped. Although this may be unlikely, it can happen. Be smart. Be safe. Be private. Don’t share your whereabouts.
12. Don’t Trust Anyone
Mexico is full of friendly people however, people with bad intentions walk all surfaces of the earth as well. That being said, It may be difficult trying to pick and choose between the good and the bad ones so it’s safe to assume that no one has your best interests in mind.
A simple way to avoid falling for a bad person disguised as a decent human being is by trusting no one. I know that sounds cynical, but it’s the truth. Again, there’s no need to be rude to anyone, but don’t share any personal information that could ultimately be used against you.
This includes information pertaining to just about everything such as; where you live, where you’re staying, how long you’re in town, how many people you’re traveling with, or even what you do for work. Just keep the context very simple and generic.
13. Avoid Being A Pushover
In Mexico, I have personally experienced some people that I would consider pushy. Whether it’s a shop employee trying to get me to buy something, a street vendor, or anyone for that matter, don’t let them force you into buying anything you don’t want, or anything you don’t feel comfortable doing.
A simple “NO” is all that’s needed. If they continue being pushy, simply walk away. Remember YOU ARE IN CONTROL. It’s your money, your life, as simple as that.
Don’t worry about hurting anyone’s feelings or offending them. They do it for a living, you’re not the first person to deny them and you damn sure won’t be the last.
Besides, you’re just visiting Mexico. Most of these people will never see you again anyways.
14. Be Aware Of Your Surroundings
Being aware of your surroundings should be a top priority on your safety list. If you aren’t aware of your surroundings, don’t act surprised when someone pickpockets you or takes advantage of you in some way.
The more aware of your surroundings, the more prepared you will be in the event that something bad happens.
I have the perfect example of why being aware can save you from a bad situation. My best friend was walking down the street once in Mexico City, he noticed a group of guys gaining ground on him and his friend very quickly.
They decided to cross the street through some moderate traffic to try and put some distance between them and these other fellows, once my friend got across the street he began to run. Still following close behind was this group of guys who were now chasing after them. After sprinting for a couple blocks, they got to this street which luckily had a heavy police presence.
Once the group of guys chasing my friend realized what they just ran up on, they immediately retreated and ran in the opposite direction. Due to my friend’s awareness, they avoided being victims of a potential robbery.
Now, this example may seem extreme, but it’s obviously a very real thing that can happen to anyone. Staying aware equals staying safe.
15. Double Check Your Room Before Leaving
This isn’t so much a safety tip as much as it is an overall general tip. Before leaving your room to head back home, make sure to give it a thorough search for any items you may have left behind.
This is where staying organized will help you out. If you stayed organized your entire stay, then everything should be in its designated place.
If not, here are a few common areas where things get left behind most often:
- Bathroom drawers/cupboards
- Bedroom drawers, dressers, and closets
- Under the bed or in the bedding
- Outlets (phone charger)
- Kitchen fridge and freezer
- Outside area (patio or rooftop terrace)
Is Traveling To Mexico Safe?
Traveling to Mexico is considered safe overall. The most common crimes are theft, robbery, and corruption. The main things you need to remember in order to stay safe are; knowing what to expect before traveling, being prepared by packing the proper gear, staying aware, staying organized, and staying hydrated.