There are a number of tips and techniques that travelers can take advantage of to minimize the chance of encountering trouble. Here are the ones we’ve found most effective.
1. Guard Your Cash Carefully
You only have so much money to spend on your trip, and that’s another reason you need to be careful with it while you’re in Mexico.
Before you even leave, you should write down your bank or credit card’s international phone number so that you can contact them should you lose your card or encounter an issue.
When you withdraw cash from ATMs, try to only use ATMs that are in reputable locations such as malls or stores, and be discreet. Don’t broadcast how much you’re withdrawing.
Carry the cash you need on any given day and leave the rest in a secure location; preferably, a safe at the hotel. As much of a fashion faux pas as it may seem, it might be wise to invest in a money belt that you can carry cash and your passport in. Not only are they difficult to see as they sit under clothing, but they make it nearly impossible for a pickpocket to take advantage of you.
2. Learn Some Basic Spanish Words
It’s unreasonable to expect to master a foreign language before you travel to a country, but it certainly helps to pick up a few key phrases.
The time investment to learn basic directional expressions, courtesies, “help”, etc. will pay off greatly as you’ll be more likely to get assistance when you need it.
There are many places in Mexico where few people speak English, so unless you’re going to be staying at the resort for your entire trip, you’ll want to do a little homework before you depart. Use an app like Duolingo for a couple weeks in advance and you’ll learn easily.
3. Choose Wisely When It Comes To Food
Food isn’t always thought of when it comes to safety, but food poisoning can pose a serious threat to your health and severely detract from a vacation.
You should be safe with most items served at resorts and hotels, but if you’re venturing into the streets, stay away from places that look small, unsanitary, and unpopular. If there’s a street vendor or restaurant with a large crowd, it’s likely a safe choice.
Tap water should be avoided wherever you are in Mexico. It might not be wholly necessary, but it’s best to play it safe and stick to bottled water.
4. Be Extra Cautious In Certain Areas
No one wants to be constantly looking over their shoulder when they’re traveling, but in certain areas of Mexico City, you’ll want to be alert to potential dangers.
Some areas to exercise additional caution in include Mercado Merced, Doctores, La Lagunilla, Tepito, Ciudad, Iztapalapa, and Neza. In general, try to stick to well-lit areas with crowds. Ideally, try to have a travel companion with you at all times.
Although crowds do tend to offer some security against violent crimes, they are where pickpockets tend to focus, so use the aforementioned money belt or guard your pockets. Thiefs commonly use bumps and congestion on public transportation to lift personal belongings from you without notice.
Before you trek out of the hotel, ask the manager or a staff member if they would recommend avoiding any specifics areas and if they have any safety suggestions for you.
5. Dress The Part
There might be a time to call attention to yourself, but walking the streets of Mexico City is not the time. Leave the flashy jewelry at home and don’t take anything has a high price tag on it.
You’ll likely want to take pictures so leaving the camera at home might not be possible, but keep a close eye on it and invest in a bag that attaches to you and wouldn’t be easily taken.
For personal safety, it’s likely wise to dress conservatively. Observe the locals and how they dress and try to imitate it as best you can. Standing out as a tourist is rarely a good idea.
6. Don’t Trust Every Taxi
Naturally, you’ll likely need to use a taxi while you’re in Mexico. Local guides stress that you should try to avoid hailing a cab in the street. There’s such a thing as authorized and unauthorized taxis, and you always want to use the former.
You’ll typically find authorized taxis at airports, bus stations, and designated taxi stops.
When in doubt, ask the hotel to call a cab for you. They have verified companies that they’ve vetted for tourist safety.
You don’t need to live in fear while you’re in Mexico – after all, you’re there to relax and have fun! Exercise these tips and you’ll have a safe and enjoyable time.