Is Merida, Mexico Safe? A Female Perspective

There’s no shortage of people who’ve never been to Mexico but are willing to share their “expert” opinions on its safety. So among stories of drug cartels, kidnappings, and more, it might get you wondering—is Merida, Mexico safe?

According to Numbeo’s 2021 statistics, Merida ranks #8 as the safest city in the Americas. The only U.S. cities that rank higher than Merida are Irvine, California, and Amarillo, Texas.

I lived in Merida for one month as a solo female traveler and felt safer there than in nearly any other city that I’ve visited in Mexico (and the list is long).

So, I’ll share a combination of personal experience and statistics to give you a feel for Merida’s safety.

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First Things First: A Disclaimer

I spent one month in Merida as a solo female traveler and had an outstanding experience safety-wise. But the information I share here, with the exception of statistics from linked sources, is my personal opinion based on my time there.

Everyone has unique experiences that shape their perception of any given destination.

So, take what you want from this article and leave the rest. And above all, never let your guard down just because I or anyone else tells you that a destination is relatively safe.

Trusting your gut and following best safety practices are vital to keeping you secure in any destination.

May I Ask A Favor?

Since the recent bad press about safety in Mexico, we’ve seen an uptick in readers looking through our Mexico safety articles. I’m doing my best to answer the questions I receive. However, the safety situation in any destination can change fast, and I’m not currently on the ground in Mexico.

So, I’d appreciate you returning to this article after your trip and leaving a comment about your experience in Merida.

There’s nothing like recent firsthand experience to paint a more realistic picture of Merida’s current safety situation.

An Overview of Mexico’s Safety

Before we talk about safety in Merida, the chart below offers insight into the health and safety of Mexico as a whole.

OrganizationIndex scoreCountry ranking
Global Health Security Index57.025 of 195 (good)
Global Peace Index2.61137 of 163 (bad)

Safety in Merida: What the Data Says

Let’s circle back to that statistic I shared on Numbeo. The data took into account all countries in the Americas, which they classify as North America, South America, Central America, and the Caribbean.

It’s unclear what population an area must have to qualify for ranking on Numbeo’s scale, but it’s safe to say that small towns don’t qualify.

As of 2021, the safest city in the Americas was Quebec City, Canada. The U.S. cities Irvine and Amarillo came in second and third place. The remainder of the cities before Merida’s eighth spot were all in Canada (Markham, Coquitlam, Ottawa, and Oakville).

So, if someone asks you skeptically, “Is Merida safe for tourists?” and they live in any city in Canada or the U.S. that isn’t mentioned here, you can politely set them straight—statistically, they live in a more dangerous city than Merida.

Where Merida Ranks in the World for Safety

Admittedly, as of 2021, Merida doesn’t rank as one of the top ten safest cities in the world.

Instead, they take the #57 slot. If that suddenly sounds too dangerous for your liking, they rank #57 out of 431 cities in the world.

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, ranks number one, and Caracas, Venezuela, ranks #431.

For context, there are only two U.S. cities that rank above Merida for safety. The next safest U.S. city after Merida is El Paso, Texas, coming in at #112.

Numbeo’s country safety rankings challenge the stereotypes you may have about certain cities or countries. I encourage you to check out the rankings yourself.

What the U.S. Department of State Says

The Department of State (DOS) gives Merida the green safety light for travel. It’s one of the few cities in Mexico that gets the “Exercise normal precautions” label from the DOS.

To be fair, they give the entire Yucatan state this stamp of approval, making special note that the following cities and attractions are included:

  • Merida
  • Chichen Itza
  • Uxmal
  • Valladolid

You can visit Chichen Itza, Uxmal, and Valladolid as day trips from Merida.

For context, of Mexico’s 32 states, the only other state that falls within the “Exercise normal precautions” category is Campeche.

It just so happens that you can take a Campeche day trip from Merida by bus or car rental. I highly recommend visiting this under-the-radar city in Mexico.

Below is a chart showcasing the other categories the DOS uses (though hopefully they’ll never need to use them for Merida).

1Exercise normal precautions
2Exercise increased caution
3Reconsider travel
4Do not travel

Why Is Merida So Safe?

A colorful street in downtown Merida.

Merida is notorious for having honest police and a small drug cartel presence. My theory is that the lack of a strong cartel presence inherently allows most police to remain the honest people they normally would be, but that’s a topic for another day.

Unlike in other parts of the Yucatan, like Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and Tulum, you won’t see loads of National Guard vehicles barreling down Merida’s streets. If you’re not used to it, it can be intimidating seeing National Guard members packed into open-air military vehicles, rifles bigger than their torsos in hand.

Instead, news outlets highlighted when Merida used the National Guard to enforce the airport’s Uber ban. You read that right—to control Uber.

If you read deeper into the article, you’d learn that the National Guard was also there to protect the airport from “violence, drugs, and Uber drivers.”

I don’t doubt that people traffic drugs through the Merida airport or that a rogue traveler occasionally passes through its doors. But I personally think that the Merida airport is safe and shares the same safety struggles as airports in most parts of the world.

High Surveillance Camera Presence

One question I asked myself was, “Is Merida, Mexico safe by nature or because of its high camera presence?”

When you walk the streets of Merida, look up. You’ll notice security cameras at most street corners.

Many stores also have signs warning customers that they have security cameras on their property. Regardless of how you feel about being recorded in public, these cameras seem effective at keeping Merida’s crime rate low.

Add to this that the locals are proud of Merida’s safe reputation, and you’ve got a city of hundreds of thousands of people playing neighborhood watch to ensure it remains that way.

Visiting Merida as a Solo Female Traveler

I have over a decade of experience being a solo female traveler. But even so, I always wonder about a destination’s safety before going there.

So, is Merida safe for solo female travel?

It absolutely is. I say this from both a data standpoint and personal experience.

Of course, just because Merida is safer than essentially every city in the U.S. doesn’t mean that you should throw caution to the wind.

Stuff still happens.

So taking safety precautions that you would in any unfamiliar place is essential.

But as a solo female traveler living in Merida for one month, cat calls and unwanted comments were minimal. I also never felt that anyone was on the brink of robbing or pickpocketing me except during my visit to the Mercado Lucas de Galvez, where being on higher alert is vital.

I even walked in the wrong direction for 30 minutes before realizing it and never felt unsafe.

Yes. I’m that bad with directions.

From my experience, there aren’t many large cities in Mexico where you can take a 30-minute stroll in an unknown direction without running into some version of a questionable area.

What Parts of Merida Are the Safest?

When asking, "Is Merida safe?" Paseo de Montejo has wide sidewalks and is one of the safest areas in the city.

Paseo de Montejo and the historical downtown center are the safest parts of Merida.

These areas have a lot of activity and a high security presence. I visited them during the day and night and felt safe regardless of the hour I was out.

That said, keep an eye on your belongings if you visit Mercado Lucas de Galvez. This is a massive market in downtown, but pickpocketers and opportunists of many sorts are there.

If you’re looking to move to Merida but don’t love the thought of being in the touristy areas of Paseo de Montejo and downtown, I recommend finding a place in the northern part of the city.

Accommodation tends to get more expensive the more north you go in the city as apartments give way to houses with lawns. But this is an extremely safe part of town, and you’ll have access to modern malls and amenities.

Generally speaking, the more southern part of Merida, particularly the neighborhoods around the airport, are less safe.

Is Merida Safe at Night?

A church in Merida lit up at night framed by palm trees and the moon.

Merida can be very safe at night if you do it right.

So, what does doing it right look like?

It looks like kicking it in the main square with dozens of other tourists and locals instead of wandering down dark, desolate streets.

Both the historical center and Paseo de Montejo are safe at night, provided you stick to the main drag. These areas are well-lit and have a police presence.

Transportation Safety in Merida

A bus to Progreso from the Merida bus station.

You might be wondering—is Merida, Mexico safe to explore by public or private transportation?

Yes, it is.

Below are details on what to expect when getting around Merida.

Is it safe to take an Uber in Merida?

Here’s the good news: Uber operates in Merida. That’s different from destinations like Playa del Carmen and Tulum, where Uber isn’t technically allowed to run. And when it does, it’s often a risk to take one.

Taking an Uber in Merida is just as safe as doing so in most other parts of the developed world.

While Uber drivers are largely honest people, Uber has built-in safety features on their app that you can use should your driver say or do anything that makes you uncomfortable.

Should you wish to book a Merida airport transfer in advance, I recommend GetYourGuide.

Is it safe to take a street taxi in Merida?

My guess is that most locals would say that taking a taxi off the street in Merida is safe. And if I’m honest, I’d be more willing to do so there if I were in a crunch than in most other cities.

Nevertheless, the rule of thumb in most parts of the world is always to call a taxi company or use a ride-sharing app (like Uber). That way, you avoid the possibility of getting into a pirate street taxi.

Is it safe to drive in Merida?

Driving in Merida is very safe. However, you’ll need to prepare yourself to deal with loads of traffic and for essentially no one to follow the street rules that you’re likely used to in your home country.

You may encounter a police checkpoint when entering or leaving Merida. But these are nothing to worry about. As long as you have a valid passport, driver’s license, and you aren’t driving around with anything illegal, you’ll be fine.

If you plan on basing yourself in Merida, consider taking a Campeche day trip from Merida. Campeche is a charming colonial city that feels small enough to be a town.

Is it safe to take the bus in Merida?

From my experience, taking the bus in Merida is very safe. Figuring out the bus routes and timetables is a whole different ballgame, though.

But if you speak Spanish or are willing to give it a go with a translator, taking the bus is the most economical way to get around the city (aside from walking, of course).

Taking longer-distance buses from Merida is also safe. I took the bus from Merida to Uxmal and Merida to Progreso. I explain how to get to these destinations in detail, including information on their oh-so challenging timetables.

Can You Drink the Water in Merida?

According to a study published by the National Library of Medicine that was performed in 1995, the drinking water in Merida was “satisfactory” to drink. Of the 383 water samples researchers took, 95% of the city water samples proved safe enough for human consumption.

But that was over 20 years ago.

It’s hard to know how well Merida has maintained their water pipes and overall water quality since then.

But most locals rely on bottled water for drinking. So, I think it’s reasonable to assume that foreigners shouldn’t drink the water in Merida.

How To Stay Safe in Merida (And Anywhere, for That Matter)

When asking "Is Merida, Mexico safe?" exploring its downtown area is extremely safe.

Just because Merida is statistically the safest city in Mexico—and all of Latin America—doesn’t mean that you should let your guard down.

So, below are some basic safety precautions to take in Merida (and anywhere else in the world you travel).

  • Take a taxi at night
  • Don’t walk around showcasing expensive electronics
  • Only take out money from ATMs inside a bank
  • Never carry around all your credit cards and cash
  • Use a money belt
  • Don’t wear flashy jewelry
  • Ask locals for advice
  • If you’re going to get inebriated, do so with a trustworthy sober companion

Finally, trust your instinct. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.

Other Safe Destinations in Mexico

I’ve explored much of Mexico (all as a solo female traveler) and have felt safe in several other destinations. Aside from Merida, these are the top places where I felt the safest:

Should you be considering a trip to Cabo, learn why I don’t recommend it for solo female travelers.

The Bottom Line: Is Merida, Mexico Safe?

Spending a month in Merida was a breath of fresh air after spending time in places like Cancun and Playa del Carmen, where I felt like I had to be on heightened alert (though it certainly hasn’t stopped me from visiting those destinations multiple times).

That said, the perceived safety of a destination is often subjective. So, I’d love to hear your thoughts if you end up traveling to the Yucatan’s capital.

Is Merida, Mexico safe based on your experience?

Leave a comment and let me know.

P.S.- Are you planning on visiting Cenote Suytun during your time in Merida? If so, don’t miss my guide on visiting this sinkhole and how hurricane season can affect the water levels.

10 thoughts on “Is Merida, Mexico Safe? A Female Perspective”

  1. Hi Laura! I just luckily found your blog sites. You got wonderful pictures, links, clear descriptions, etc. — I love them!! All these will be very helpful for my trip to Merida in September, which is my “search” trip for my relocation to Mexico in January 2023. I will be a nomad starting Yucatan then doing cross-country to Sayulita. What do you think?

    1. Hi Akiko,

      How exciting that you’ll be relocating to Mexico! I think a cross-country trip from the Yucatan to Sayulita sounds wonderful. I’ve done a somewhat similar journey via flying, but Mexico has some really nice long-distance buses if you’re planning on going by land.

      Best of luck!

  2. Hi Laura, loved you article! I’m going to Yucatan for 10 days during the Christmas break. I am going with a female friend (she speaks spanish). We were planning on going to playa del carmen, but you mentioned you felt you had to be on high alert in playa del carmen. Could you please share your experience?

  3. Hi Laura
    My daughter’s college in the US is recommending a study abroad program in Merida for Sept 2023. As you can imagine, this is my baby. She will be just turning 20 yrs old, has never travelled alone, is very small in stature, and very naïve about the world. I am encouraging that she do a study abroad to build confidence, independence, and to have a great experience. Would you recommend Merida for this opportunity or am I right to be very concerned? Her other option is Seville, Spain.
    Any advice is appreciated.

    1. Hi Debra,

      How wonderful that your daughter has a mom like you who’s encouraging her to travel. I’m sure you and my mom would have lots to talk about, as I, too, traveled abroad for the first time alone when I was around 20 years old. At the time, I was a quiet student lacking confidence. Travel did wonders for helping me come out of my shell.

      I spent a month in Seville a few years ago, so I’ll try to be as objective as possible with my response. Merida would likely be a good fit for your daughter if she’s interested in interacting with locals without as many foreigners around (although this might be skewed if she attends a university with many international students).

      In contrast, Seville would be a gentler transition for a first solo experience abroad. It’s more orderly, has a greater number of tourists and English speakers, and offers more to see and do within the city.

      That said, if the main purpose of your daughter studying abroad is to learn Spanish, Merida is likely the better destination. Part of this is because she’ll encounter fewer English speakers, and part of it is because Mexicans speak a more neutral version of Spanish than the Spanish spoken in Spain.

      Personally, for as much as I love Mexico, when looking at it from a city vs. city perspective, I’d choose to study in Seville over Merida in a heartbeat. Seville has a larger historic downtown, offering more to see and do for a long-term stay. But I can see why your daughter’s college is recommending Merida, especially if the goal is for her to practice Spanish.

      Both cities are beautiful, though, and filled with kind, welcoming locals. So I’m sure your daughter will have a wonderful time with whichever destination she chooses 😊

  4. Thank you for this. My daughter, a college sophomore, has decided to spend the summer in Merida as part of her college’s environmental sustainability and Spanish internship program. With the recent mainstream media reporting on safety issues in Mexico, your article helped us to understand the true safety dynamics in play in Merida for a young woman. It really helped us.

    1. Hi Gerard,

      I’m so glad the article was helpful. Your daughter has chosen a beautiful city for her internship program!

  5. Thank you for the post, Laura.

    My daughter (and now grandchildren) moved to Merida in November 2022. I visited her at Thanksgiving and am here again in May 2023. I have wandered by myself as a single woman all over town, day and night, and have never felt unsafe. There’s so much going on in the evenings, both family friendly and at restaurants / bars with live music, that it is silly to stay in… it’s a great time to be out. (Especially in the 100°+ daytime heat in May!)

    Depending on where I’m staying, I usually take Uber when going back to my lodgings at night (airbnb or hotel), mainly so I don’t have to pull out my Google maps and appear lost! While waiting for an Uber driver may be somewhat slower than hailing a taxi, it’s so much more convenient not having to negotiate a price, since your card is already set up in the app. My two bits!

    1. Hi Boz,

      How wonderful that your daughter and grandchildren live in Merida. Thank you for sharing your experience and tips. It’s much appreciated!

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