In my last post I wrote about Safety in Mexico, Is Mexico Safe? If you’ve read that and are still planning on visiting Mexico, here are 11 Tips on How to Travel Mexico Safely:
1. Don’t get involved with drugs.
Mexico has a lot of cheap drugs as it is the origin of many of them. If you’re into that you might be tempted. Just know that it comes with a lot of consequences and getting involved with the wrong people here can mean your life. I like to think that because you’re reading this blog you’re looking to travel more and not waste your money on drugs.
2. Don’t drive at night.
If you can avoid driving in Mexico you’ll be a lot less stressed. From the rental process in Mexico to trying to avoid all cops, you’ll just be a lot less stressed. But if you do chose to drive, try to avoid driving at night. That’s when you’ll run into more scams, stopped by criminals on a highway, robbed, or possibly car jacked.
3. Don’t walk alone.
This is pretty smart advice for traveling anywhere unknown but especially for women. The bigger the group the better. If you do have to go alone pick areas that are well lit, pick streets that are busier, and walk on the side of the street that has wider sidewalks.
4. Always carry some “pocket money/bribe money”.
Back in the States and in Australia I almost never carried cash. It’s also goes against most advice I usually give about don’t carry any more cash than you really need. But here in Mexico I made sure to always have some extra dinero on me even if I wasn’t planning on buying anything just to pay off the cops. This is mostly if I was driving but even when I wasn’t I would always have some money on me. The consequences if you didn’t have money were not worth possibly losing that money if it got lost or robbed. With that said don’t carry all your money on you, just a little extra.
5. Don’t keep all that money in one place.
Put some safety money in a shoe, or another pocket, travel pouch, or even on the side of your underwear.
6. Don’t stick out.
Try to blend in and don’t look like a flashy traveler. Shorts and flip-flops other than the tourist destinations will definitely scream “tourist”. Most people in Mexico wear jeans, even when it’s scorching hot outside. For the most part, at least at night I would try to wear jeans but during the day you’d find me in shorts because I just overheat.
Nonetheless, another way I would blend in are most guys wear a backpack, even if it doesn’t have much. I usually travel with a good amount of cameras and tech on me but I never try to flash it around. Sometimes I’ll carry my stuff in an inconspicuous Jansport backpack, and I’ll only carry the bare minimum of things I need for that day. But that Apple Watch or bright white AirPods in your ears, I’d say don’t flash that around when most of the locals could never afford that. Try not to be a target.
7. Take Uber.
For the most part I would take public buses around Mexico. But at night sometimes they don’t run or you just need a ride. If you’re not able to get Uber in whatever city you’re in, only take authorized taxis. These are usually found at taxi stands “or sitio de taxis” in the city where a whole bunch will be lined up. Some other taxis are not legal taxis or do not use their meter and will try to scam you, especially if they know you’re a foreigner. Also, don’t tip taxi drivers.
8. Go with your gut.
Trust your instincts with most of these things. If you think there’s something fishy about the area you’re supposed to go to or whatever it may be, don’t even think twice. Just grab your stuff and go somewhere else. This goes for most situations, a couple of times my girlfriend wanted to go somewhere or even do something and I just said no. I didn’t feel safe and didn’t want to risk it. It didn’t happen often but when it did, trust your instincts. This even includes just setting up the camera or drone for some simple shots. If I don’t feel totally confident in the area I’m in, I’ll go somewhere else or come back another time to get those shots.
9. Learn Spanish and use it.
Once people know that you can understand them they will be less likely to try to scam you. Even my Spanish wasn’t perfect but I would try to use a Mexican accent and only after a couple minutes of talking would they then ask where am I from. They thought I was from another South American country so that was a plus. But if you’re traveling with someone who can speak better Spanish, use them to interact with others first.
10. Make copies of all your important documents.
I used to, and still do, make copies of my passport and credit cards and keep them on an encrypted file in my Dropbox. Only carry around a copy of your passport during your day trips. I wouldn’t risk carrying an actual copy of my passport, but a copy should suffice. Also have a copy of the immigration form that you’re suppose to return when you exit the country, that has the date stamp on it of how long you can legally stay in Mexico. I also take a photo of them and keep it on my phone.
For credit cards, take copies of the back as well. Those toll free numbers to contact the issuing bank are handy incase you get your cards lost or stolen. Also include your driver’s license and even backup codes, such as for Google or anything else (if you have 2-Factor Authentication turned on, and you should!) incase your phone gets lost or stolen. Also have a phone number of your emergency contact memorized, incase you lose your phone and can’t get access online.
11. Don’t trust the cops or depend on them.
There are many levels of policing that you’ll find in Mexico. From the Federales, to the state police, to the metropolitan police. I’m not sure if any are particularly more helpful than the other, but I wouldn’t depend on them for help. Many will try to ask for a bribe to help you, and some might even try to turn the tables and blame whatever incident on you. Unless you absolutely need to use them, if you can, try not to avoid any situation that might put you in requiring the assistance of a police officer. You’ll find most security guards are dressed in tactical vests that look like bullet proof vests. Some are, most aren’t. Some carry guns, most don’t. Fortunately, most of these people try to be more helpful than actual police, but still are very limited in what they can do.
Use common sense. Most people in Mexico are very helpful and willing to go out of their way to help you. But there are a number of people out who want to do harm and take from the foreigner who has more than them. So just be careful and try your best to avoid those people/situations.
Here’s an extra tip: Wash your hands. Carry some hand sanitizer on you. Many places you go people don’t wash their hands thus it’s a lot easier for a foreigner to contract some type of “traveler’s diarrhea”, known here in Mexico as “Montezuma’s Revenge”. Although you can’t do everything to avoid it, taking steps such as eating at places that appear clean, cleaning your own hands, and not drinking any of the local tap water can help you avoid most of it.
– M TingTang
Have any tips or comments you would like to add? Leave them below!