Is Mexico City Safe? | Gringo’s Travel Guide
Is Mexico City safe?
Well, that depends on who you ask…
“What?! You're going to Mexico City? You've got to be careful.”
I was getting lectured as they looked at me like I had some mental illness. I had just told two Mexican friends, who hadn't returned to their country in over a decade, of my plans to visit CDMX. They weren't impressed.
In fact, they thought I was downright crazy. The capital of Mexico was a dangerous and disgusting place, according to these two. Now, my family friends were well-meaning. They're great folks, but definitely a little on the cautious side.
Giving older folks access to the Internet, mainly Facebook, wasn't the best idea we've ever had. Sex sells — but so does danger. And copywriting works, especially on the uninitiated.
They'd overindulged on the statistics and truly believed that all parts of Mexico, even the wonderful capital of Mexico City, were nearly war-torn hellholes filled narcos and thugs.
I calmly reassured my family friends that everything would be ok and that I wouldn't put myself in harms' way, but they weren't convinced.
You win some. You lose some.
I wasn't deterred. I was going to explore CDMX come hell or high-water. Preferably high-water, though, as your boy's stroke game is mad strong. But enough with the ado…
In this guide on safety in Mexico City, we'll cover:
Table of Contents
Is Mexico City Dangerous? | My Take
Before we go too far, I've got to come clean. I'm no CDMX expert. In fact, I barely scratched the surface of this behemoth of a capital city.
I stayed two weeks in Mexico City and explored neighborhoods like:
- Roma Norte
- …And a few other spots
Mainly, I checked out the safe, gentrified neighborhoods where most gringos and other foreigners choose to stay while in CDMX. The reality of the situation means around 90% of foreigners in the city will choose to live in these areas.
These Mexico City neighborhoods are simply the best, especially for those looking to enjoy a little rumba, live the digital expat dream, or simply relax.
Are other areas of Mexico City dangerous?
I have no doubts the slums of CDMX are violent and filled with banditos more than willing to jack a gringo who looks lost. But you won't be visiting those parts of Mexico City. Trust me.
There's almost no reason to leave the “gringo bubble” that is Condesa, Roma Norte, and Polanco. And these neighborhoods may be the safest places I've ever stayed in Latin America. Well, the safest places not named Miraflores.
In a Mexico City colonia like Condesa, you can stumble home at 4 am without any issue. The area is just super gentrified and filled with foreigners.
Is Mexico City Safe?
Honestly, I felt safer in Condesa than I do while enjoying a little rumba back home in Kansas. After visiting 4-5 different discos in Condesa/Roma Norte, I didn't feel threatened once. I saw no suspect characters.
I walked around drinking beer in the streets and giggling like a schoolgirl until the wee hours of the morning. No issues. Hell, no one even tried to sell me drugs!
And trust me, everyone in Latin America thinks I need drugs. Why? Because I look super gringo.
What the Stats Say about Mexico City Safety?
Well, that's going to take a little digging. But ya boy is up to it. See, I know the fancy neighborhoods like Polanco and Condesa aren't necessarily an accurate representation of the safety in Mexico City.
But you do see tons of armed police around every turn in the capital.
Maybe it's pretty dangerous, but they simply shield the gringos from the violence. Well, there could be some truth to that. According to certain stats, CDMX has more armed police per capita than almost any other city. There's one policeman per 100 residents in the capital of Mexico (Source).
That's either a really good sign or a horrific one. So, we've gotta dig a little deeper. Tons of police could mean safety, but it could also mean there's looming violence around every corner.
So, let's take a look at murder rates.
Mexico features some of the world's most dangerous cities. In fact, according to the most recent edition of the list, Mexico has 15 out of the 50 most peligroso cities in the world (Source).
That's not a good sign, especially seeing as Tijuana, Mexico is the most dangerous city in the world these days. But there's good news…
The capital, Mexico City, didn't make the list!
But, there's more. We haven't figured out if Mexico City is 100% safe yet. We need to dive into murder rates in the city itself and see what's really up.
For that, we'll listen to resident expert, Kyle Valenta, who states:
“Delegacion Cuauhtemoc, the central Mexico City district that includes its most-visited neighborhoods, had the highest murder rate in the city as of June 2017 (9.61 per 100,000 residents, according to Animal Politico). Even so, it's crucial to add some context to these facts. While Roma, Condesa, Juarez, Zona Rosa, and the historic Centro are included in Mexico City's most violent district, the murder rate for this part of town is far lower than many major world and U.S. destinations. For example, Cape Town's murder rate has historically been six times higher, while Chicago, Miami, and Philadelphia — all major tourist destinations within the U.S. — had more than double the murder rate of Mexico City on the whole in 2017 (Source).”
What does this all mean? Honestly, a lot.
There's a ton of information in the short paragraph above. Regarding Mexico City safety and danger, here's how I see it:
- Overall, Mexico City has a lower murder rate than many cities in the United States.
- On top of that, the neighborhoods that foreigners generally stay in are even safer and rarely see violent crime.
- Lastly, a murder rate of 9.61 murders per 100,000 residents is fairly low, especially in Latin America.
After a little bit of research, I can only conclude that Mexico City is muy seguro — if you stay in the nice neighborhoods, which happen to be wonderful places to stay anyway!
What the U.S. Department of State Says About CDMX?
Now, we've heard what the states say and seen some opinions of bloggers and journalists. But opinions and statistics don't tell the whole story. To get the good stuff, we need to hear what Big Daddy Gov has to say. What does the U.S. State Department have to say about Mexico City safety?
Well, let's take a look…
Unsurprisingly, the U.S. Government isn't fond of safety in Mexico City and the State of Mexico, although it's not too bad:
Mexico City – Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution
Exercise increased caution due to crime.
There are no travel restrictions on U.S. government employees (Source).
Overall, that's probably fair. The U.S. Department of State issues travel warnings and advisories for dozens of countries and hundreds of cities every single year.
After all, the world's greatest propaganda machine knows what it's doing. The goal? That's an easy one, fam. They want to keep those gringo tourist dollars in the United States of America.
Your safety? Well, that's a secondary concern.
Now, I'm just joshing here. The U.S. Department of State travel warnings have some merit. But for Mexico City, it seems pretty fair.
There's some crime in CDMX, but it's not too bad. I've known people who've lived in the city for years and haven't had an issue yet. And I certainly didn't have a problem during my few weeks in town.
Overall, if you stay in nice neighborhoods, like Polanco or Condesa, you shouldn't have much issue.
Staying Safe in Mexico City | Tips and Tricks
Just like Colombia has a reputation for danger — Mexico does, too. And anywhere that has a reputation for being dangerous probably earned it. If you know what I mean.
Mexico City is no different. Back in the day, the capital of Mexico was probably a pretty dangerous place that most gringos would have been better off avoiding.
Things have changed these days.
In fact, it's not too tough to stay safe in CDMX. If you've got decent street smarts, you should be all set. If not, just follow a few tips:
Stay in a Safe Colonia
A Colonia is a neighborhood or barrio in Mexico. If you stay in one of the safer ones in Mexico City, you'll all but eliminate your chance at something bad happening. Just grab a hotel or hostel in places like Condesa, Roma Norte, or Polanco.
Or better yet…
Grab an Airbnb apartment in the same areas. I stayed in a two-bedroom Airbnb in Condesa for under $50 USD a night. Talk about a deal!
The location was ideal. I could walk to bars, clubs, restaurants, gyms, and more. And I felt safe all day long. From dusk to dawn. No issues.
Just look at my Airbnb spot in Condesa, Mexico City:
Don't Be an Idiot
Seriously, a little street smarts go a long way, especially in large Latin American cities. If you have zero issues navigating a big city in the United States or Western Europe, you shouldn't have much problem moving about CDMX.
This isn't a raging third-world shithole. Mexico City is pretty damn nice. Trust me, Polanco is way nicer than most areas of the United States. Hell, Condesa is even more hipster than almost everywhere outside Williamsburg.
But enough with the ado, here are a few more tips:
- For women, try to walk in a group at night.
- If someone tries to rob you, just give up your smartphone and cash. Never put up a fight.
- If you're wasted, call an Uber instead of walking home.
- Just don't dar papaya, maricas!
Actually, you can dar papaya and have little issue in CDMX. You'll see hundreds of people using MacBooks at indoor/outdoor cafes throughout Condesa and Roma Norte.
Learn a Little Spanish
Lastly, Mexico City is still Mexico. While there are hundreds of thousands of foreigners spread throughout the city, you're still in a Spanish-speaking country.
As such, you'll want to pick up a little Spanish.
Now, learning Spanish is not a necessity in CDMX. There's tons of English-speakers throughout the city.
However, it's always safer to understand what the people around you are saying. A little Spanish skill can easily defuse a sticky situation before shit pops off. Trust me.
If learning a little Spanish for safety is right up your alley, then…
Is Mexico City Safe? | The Verdict
Alright, that's about it…
Is Mexico City safe?
Personally, I believe it is. Most gringos will have no issue heading to Condesa or Roma Norte to spend a few peaceful weeks or months.
I had zero issues over my few weeks in the city and have met countless others who never had a problem in CDMX. You can sit on the Internet all day and worry your life away. Or you can book a damn flight, grab accommodation, and see for yourself.
Tl:DR • Overall, I'm confident you'll be safe in Mexico City. Just stay in a solid Colonia and you'll be fine, mate.
More Mexico content:
- Mexico City Vs. Guadalajara: A Gringo's Go-To Guide
- A Gringo's Guide to Nightlife in Mazatlan, Mexico
- A Gringo's Guide to Mexico City Nightlife
- Mexico Vs. Colombia | A Gringo's Go-To Guide
- A Gringo's Guide to Mazatlan, Mexico | What You Must Know