Mexico is an amazingly diverse country with so many things to do, and eat, and see. But it’s hard not to be inundated with endless stories from the media about gang activity, killings & kidnappings, and petty theft. We’d be lying if we said weren’t a bit nervous when coming to Mexico for the first time. But is Mexico as dangerous as the media portrays?
In short, YES, Mexico can be dangerous…but only if you don’t take the proper safety precautions and are looking for trouble.
The Good News: In large part, Mexico is extremely safe and friendly for tourism. In our 15 months traveling in Mexico, we’ve never had a single dangerous encounter or experienced any theft.
However, traveling safely in Mexico does include several important caveats, which we will discuss here in this post.
Are There dangerous Areas In Mexico?
As much as we love Mexico and it’s people, the reality is also that personal safety can be a serious issue here.
In fact, according to statistics, several of the most dangerous cities in the world are in Mexico.
However, much of this crime is concentrated on border towns close to the USA and mostly involves ‘gang on gang’ crime. Tourists are largely left alone.
To combat crime, there is a strong military and police presence on the streets to keep the Mexican communities safe. It can be quite an overwhelming sight to see so many military vehicles and assault weapons!
But even with all these increased security measures, foreign travelers would be wise to take certain basic precautions.
- Don’t drive or walk around at night
- Avoid arguing or physical confrontations
- Learn to leave an area if you don’t feel safe
However, most gang and cartel members have no interest in tourists. So as long as you’re not looking for trouble and being respectful, you’ll be fine.
Any Issue With Thieves and Scammers in Mexico?
Petty theft will probably be the #1 issue tourists will encounter during their travels to Mexico.
But we want to emphasize that in our 15 months in Mexico, we’ve never been a victim of theft or scams. Our wallets, backpacks, and even our campervan have remained safe.
- Keep your valuables out of sight from curious eyes.
- Wallets and phones are always kept in the front pockets.
- Don’t flash expensive camera equipment in busy, touristy places when they’re not in use. Keep them in backpacks.
Have We Ever Been Ripped Off?
Have we been overcharged before? PROBABLY.
Blatantly ripped-off? NO.
This was one of our primary concerns before entering Mexico. How much will we be overpaying for the same products and services that locals buy.
We can understand overpaying a bit here and there, but being price gauged on a daily basis was definitely a worry.
But looking back, we feel quite foolish for thinking that! It turns out that most local business are surprisingly honest. We may have paid a few dollars more every once in a while, but more often than not, we’ve been charged honest prices for the vast majority of the goods and services.
Uber Works In Mexico!
We think taxis provide one of the largest issues in this regard and it’s easy to get a taxi who overcharges their rates to unsuspecting foreingers.
Luckily, Uber works great in many metropolitan cities in Mexico and we take advantage of this service to zip around town at affordable rates.
Is There Police Corruption in Mexico?
Because we’ve driven in Mexico in our own campervan, technically speaking, we’re always getting pulled over by the police and military. But it’s simply for safety and standard drug checks. We’ve gotten used to them and their standard questions.
- “Where are you going?”
- “Where are you from?”
- “What’s in your vehicle?”
In reality, although police and government corruption does happen in Mexico, these instances are few and far between. And throughout our time we have come across only two instances of attempted corruption.
Don't Be Naive, Having Street Smarts Goes A Long Way In Mexico
Common sense goes a long ways in life, and that is especially true in Mexico.
Reduce your chances of getting scammed or robbed by being careful with your money.
- Ask clearly for the product’s price beforehand.
- Keep your bags and wallet out of sight.
- Don’t flash your expensive camera and electronic gear in local areas.
- Be discreet with yourself and your things.
Lastly, don’t be afraid to just say “no”. If you don’t want to buy something or you simply don’t want their service just be polite and say “no”.
Don’t let anyone steer you into a direction you don’t want to go.
Just Be A Kind & Courteous Traveler!
Last but certainly not least, when interacting with people around you, just be courteous and respectful.
Being relaxed, amicable, and smiling goes a long way when traveling in any country, especially in Mexico.
If you have tension, they’ll have tension.
If you bring trouble, they’ll bring it as well.
Being kind and respectful is the perfect recipe to have a safe and enjoyable travel experience here in Mexico.
Why Mexico is Safer than you think
The simple truth is that local Mexicans are some of the friendliest and honest people we’ve met in our travels in Latin America.
Every day we are greeted by strangers with “Buenos Dias” (Good Morning) and “Buenos Tardes” (Good Afternoon).
We’ve had wait staff at restaurants run after us on the streets to return belongings we’ve left behind at our table.
We’ve parked our camper van during the day and overnight on urban streets all throughout Mexico without a single break-in.
To be sure, past experiences does not equal future expectations. But it’s important to mention that friendly, honest, and hard working people do exist all over Mexico!
Read our Mexico Travel Guide to learn more about traveling this beautiful country!
Thousands of Current Travelers & Road Trippers in Mexico
It didn’t take long for us to realize that we were not the only foreign plated vehicle in Mexico.
Far from it, there are literally thousands of tourists driving foreign camper vans and cars every day in Mexico. Everything from small, beat-up Opel Sedans, to flashy Mercedes Sprinter 4×4 motorhomes, to the mega head turning Unimog Campers.
And currently, as we sit in an RV campsite in southern Mexico, we are surrounded by six other campervans.
- 2 USA motor homes
- 2 European vans
- 1 Argentinian van
- 1 Chinese couple (with a USA-plated truck camper)
- and us!
Our campsite currently is a hodgepodge of international travelers.
And so here’s the reality:
Traveling, whether it be backpacking, vacationing, or even driving your own camper van, is flourishing in Mexico.
Check out Mexico’s annual tourism statistics to see more about how visitors are increasing every year.
If you want to travel in Mexico, but take it slowly. Visit our Baja California Travel Guide for some great ideas.
Foreigners Are Choosing To Retire In Mexico
All throughout Mexico are communities of foreigners who choose to retire and live in the country. Many of them are legal, permanent residents of Mexico and own property (and even businesses) here.
Several famous towns with large foreign communities are:
We’ve driven through multiple towns with large foreign enclaves and if you love trendy cafes, craft beer breweries, organic farmer’s markets, and fine dining, then Mexico will suit you just fine!
It’s always a good idea to stay on top of current events in Mexico to understand the current events going on here. These are the resources we use.
We hope you enjoyed reading about our opinions and experiences on safety while traveling in our camper van here in Mexico.
Is Mexico Dangerous?
We don’t think so.
But we don’t want our readers to come away thinking that Mexico is 100% safe, because it isn’t and it would be incorrect to suggest that it is.
But by taking the above precautions, we feel reasonably confident that camper van and van life travelers will experience predominantly positive experiences in Mexico.
There is so much that Mexico has to offer.
We encourage anyone who has an interest to plan a road trip through Mexico do start without hesitation and enjoy the trip!