Mexico City claims unique—and sometimes scary—titles. It’s the fifth most populated city in the world, has the most passenger-friendly airport in Latin America, and is sinking at a rate of nearly 20 inches per year.
But in a country where people are quick to point to cartels as ruling the roost, it might have you questioning, “Is Mexico City safe?”
Like all major cities, Mexico City has safe neighborhoods and downright dangerous areas. Knowing their differences and using common sense is vital to your safety.
Accessibility Note: If you’re a wheelchair user, check out our guide on accessibility in Mexico City.
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First Things First: A Disclaimer
I spent over two weeks in Mexico City and, overall, had a positive experience safety-wise.
But the information I share here, with the exception of statistics from linked sources, is my personal opinion based on my encounters.
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 safe.
Trusting your gut and following basic safety practices are essential to improving your security 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 Mexico City.
There’s nothing like recent firsthand experience to paint a more realistic picture of Mexico City’s current safety situation.
An Overview of Safety in Mexico
Before we talk in detail about safety in Mexico City, below is some information on health and safety in Mexico as a whole.
|Organization||Index score||Country ranking|
|Global Health Security Index||57.0||25 of 195 (good)|
|Global Peace Index||2.61||137 of 163 (bad)|
Safety in Mexico City: What the U.S. Department of State Says
The United States Department of State (DOS) is one of the best resources for determining Mexico City’s crime rate.
At the time of this article, they rank Mexico City as a Level 2, which falls under the “exercise increased caution” category.
Here’s a chart to put that ranking into perspective:
|1||Exercise normal precautions|
|2||Exercise increased caution|
|4||Do not travel|
The DOS’ reasoning for giving Mexico City a Level 2 rating is because of the violent and non-violent crime that occurs there.
Furthermore, the DOS urges travelers to practice heightened caution under the following circumstances:
- Night outings
- Places outside tourist districts
- Areas with no visible police control
Petty crime, like pickpockets, is another situation that the DOS says is an issue in Mexico City. They state that such crimes are common in both tourist and non-tourist areas.
But here’s the silver lining: Despite the bad rep Mexico often gets for safety, the U.S. government places no restrictions on its employees who want to travel there.
In fact, unlike Baja California, the DOS doesn’t deem kidnapping a common enough problem to warrant mentioning it as an issue in Mexico City.
You read that right—based on the DOS’ data, you, in theory, have a higher chance of getting kidnapped on your beach vacation in Los Cabos than on your culture-filled Mexico City trip.
Safety in Mexico City: What the Statistics Say
Okay. We know the DOS’ standpoint on Mexico City’s safety.
But how safe is Mexico City from a data standpoint?
Let’s turn to Numbeo.
Numbeo is a website that offers a crime index level for cities throughout the world. The higher the crime index number, the less safe the destination.
At the time of this article, Mexico City scored a crime index of 68.39 on Numebo. That means Mexico City has a moderately high amount of crime.
As a comparison, Miami, Florida, has a crime index of 51.64, and Detroit, Michigan, has a whopping 74.93 crime index.
Numbeo also states that in the past three years, there’s been an increase in Mexico City’s crime rate.
The bottom line?
Mexico City isn’t the type of place where you should flaunt expensive jewelry and walk drunkenly down dark streets at night. But there may also be cities in your home country that rank higher on the crime scale than the city of spicy food and mariachi.
Visiting Mexico City as a Solo Female Traveler
I spent most of my time in Mexico City traveling as a solo female, except for a few days when my girlfriends arrived and we went to a lucha libre match.
So, is Mexico City safe for solo female travelers from my perspective?
Yes and no.
To give you context before elaborating, I explored Mexico City on my own by foot, metro, and Uber. I’m still alive and thriving today. But Mexico City wasn’t the type of place I felt I could fully relax when I was out and about.
A part of this had to do with where I was staying. I’m a huge fan of the Selina hostel chain since they offer cowork spaces (read my article on their coworks in Mexico).
But it just so happens that Selina Mexico City Downtown sits a short walk from the touristy historical center.
The historical area in Mexico City is passible enough by day if you stick to the main streets. But it’s not the kind of place you want to be meandering around alone after dark.
So, if you only take one thing away from this article, let it be this—stay in one of the “safe” districts I’ll be showcasing shortly. That way, your chances of encountering crime while traveling as a solo female will significantly decrease.
And don’t fret too much about being in the best spot for sightseeing. Since Mexico City is so big, regardless of where you stay, you’ll be close to certain attractions and far from others.
A Social Viewpoint of Female Safety in Mexico City
Numbeo ranks Mexico City as “high” for its level of violent crimes, including assault.
Most women inherently know and implement best practices that help reduce the chance of crime against them. Not walking alone down desolate streets and taking a taxi at night are among the most critical.
But, sadly, machismo and femicide (murdering women because of their gender) are palpable for female residents in Mexico City. Between 2015 and 2021 alone, femicide rose across Mexico by 135%.
I happened to be in Mexico City during that time, witnessing an area where an anti-femicide strike had recently occurred.
Organized crime groups, such as cartels, play a role in femicide. But according to Vision of Humanity, almost 1 out of 5 female homicides happen at home. In contrast, only 1 in 13 home violence cases happens with males.
To reduce the incidences of femicide and assault, the Mexico City government implemented female-only cars on the metro. I’ll talk about the nuances of this strategy soon.
Although females undoubtedly have higher safety risks than men when traveling in Mexico City, it isn’t so dangerous that you need to be in constant fear.
Instead, remain on alert and consider staying at a hostel where you could meet some fellow travelers that can join you on your explorations.
Safest Districts in Mexico City
Choosing the right area to stay in Mexico City can make or break your experience. Below are some of the safest districts in Mexico City:
- Roma (both north and south)
- Benito Juarez
The choices on this list are varied, with some being an excellent fit for those wanting a modern vibe, others seeking large parks with cozy cafes, and others preferring a more neighborhood-like feel.
That said, there’s no shortage of hotels in Mexico City’s historical center by the Zócalo, and plenty of tourists stay there.
But I don’t recommend it from a safety standpoint, especially if you plan on frequently being out at night.
Is Mexico City Safe at Night?
Mexico City’s safety at night depends on the district—and the area within the district—that you’re in.
A dark, desolate street in any district poses a greater safety risk than if you’re in a well-lit area surrounded by shops and restaurants that are still open.
Unless you’ve talked with locals about how safe it is to walk at night in the area where you’re staying, it’s always best to err on the side of caution and take a taxi.
Don’t be embarrassed if it’s a short ride to and from your accommodation. Your safety is paramount, and a generous tip costs you little but means a lot to taxi drivers.
Transportation in Mexico City
You might be wondering—Is Mexico City safe transportation-wise?
Overall, yes. But read on to understand the answer to this question in more detail.
Is it safe to take an Uber in Mexico City?
Taking an Uber in Mexico City is as safe as most other parts of the world. Using Uber is one of the safest taxi methods for getting around, and you’ll have access to Uber’s safety tools.
Is it safe to take a street taxi in Mexico City?
Taking a street taxi in Mexico City is safe if you call a legitimate taxi company. You can have your hotel staff arrange a taxi for you.
Never flag down a taxi off the street in Mexico. Pirata taxis are common and contribute to Mexico City’s crime rate.
Is it safe to take the metro in Mexico City?
It’s quite safe to take the metro in Mexico City. If you’re a woman, you can ride in a female-only car, which decreases the chance of harassment and assault.
But pickpocketing and other crime on and around the Mexico City metro is common. So, remain on high alert.
Is it safe to drive in Mexico City?
It’s safe enough to drive in Mexico City, especially if you know where you’re going so that you don’t drive into an exceptionally dangerous part of town.
But given Mexico City’s traffic and aggressive drivers, most tourists prefer to get around via other means.
Is it safe to take a bus in Mexico City?
Taking a bus in Mexico City is relatively safe. Pickpocketing is often the most common form of crime, especially during peak times when people have to stand in crowded aisles.
However, I recommend taking a taxi at night instead of local buses, especially if you’re a woman.
The Mexico City airport is a prime place for pirate taxis to linger, along with genuine taxi drivers who want to overcharge tourists.
For this reason, if you fly into Mexico City and plan on using a taxi to get to your accommodation, book a taxi at a designated taxi stand inside the airport.
You can also book your airport transfer in advance.
Many legitimate companies operate airport transfers in Mexico City. However, my go-to company for transfers and tours is GetYourGuide.
What I like about GetYourGuide is that they’re an international, English-speaking company with 24/7 support. You can read customer reviews before booking your transfer, giving you a better idea of the service and vehicle quality to expect.
You can visit GetYourGuide to see pricing and availability for a Mexico City airport transfer.
A Note on the Metro
Mexico City’s metro is popular. It’s the second largest metro system in North America (New York City’s subway is the first) and ranks number ten for the highest number of passengers that use it.
So, while crime occurs on the metro, it’s not a big enough deterrent for most locals.
That said, in 2008, Mexico City’s transportation department made a huge and controversial move: They created female-only subway cars to reduce the high number of sexual abuse that was happening on the metro.
Many skeptics argue that Mexico City’s move to separate women and men on the metro is cowardly. Instead of taking stronger (or any) action against the offending men, they simply try to keep the bad apples away from women.
As a solo female traveler who frequented the metro in Mexico City, I always made a beeline for the women-only car. And I felt safer as a result.
Yet I wholeheartedly agree with the skeptics’ argument.
So, what’s the best solution?
Let me know your thoughts in the comments section.
Earthquake Safety in Mexico City
Earthquakes make frequent appearances in Mexico, and Mexico City is no exception.
Luckily, most earthquakes are so small that you won’t feel them. You can view up-to-date information on Mexico City’s most recent earthquakes on Volcano Discovery.
Although a damaging earthquake occurring in Mexico City is uncommon, it’s never a bad idea to know where the nearest outdoor earthquake safety area is by your accommodation.
Are there Cartels in Mexico City?
Cartels are rampant in Mexico City. The Mexican government uses the federal police and the National Guard to help maintain a certain amount of order and peace.
As a result, it’s common to see trucks packed with men and women in uniform bearing guns across their chests. It’s a scary sight, but they’re there to protect the public.
The Sinaloa cartel is one of the most notorious cartels in Mexico and has a stronghold in Mexico City, though other gangs frequently battle each other to claim new territory.
Never buy drugs in Mexico City—or anywhere in Mexico, for that matter. It’s illegal, and you’d be supporting organized crime that kills thousands each year.
Random injuries and deaths can happen by being an innocent bystander when cartel rivalry breaks out. But more often than not, tourists that have direct contact with cartel members—such as buying drugs or participating in other illegal activities—have the highest chance of suffering at the hands of the cartel.
Is the Water Safe to Drink in Mexico City?
Mexico City’s water isn’t safe to drink. Many pipelines are old, causing bacteria and corroded pieces to infiltrate the drinking water.
The good news is that bottled water is abundant and cheap.
You can also consider investing in a water filter if you stay in Mexico City for a while.
How To Stay Safe in Mexico City
Below are some basic safety precautions to take in Mexico City. As you’ll see, there’s nothing unique about them—it’s wise to practice these tips regardless of where 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
- Don’t leave an unopened drink unattended
- 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.
The Safest Destinations in Mexico
I’ve explored much of Mexico as a solo female traveler and have felt safer in several other destinations than Mexico City.
Below 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 Mexico City Safe?
Mexico City can be safe, or it can be dangerous. The choice is mostly yours, along with a dose of luck.
Since data constantly changes—for better or worse—I recommend checking the DOS’ website before you travel.
And if you have any questions or comments about safety in Mexico City, leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you.