Mexico Travel: 5 Tips for Ensuring Your Safety
If you have grown up north of the border, you might have grown up thinking that Mexico is quite dangerous compared to the United States. However, after traveling to many countries in addition to Mexico, I have learned that every country has its dangers no matter what they are, and there is no use comparing them.
Take for instance the United States. Okay, so maybe the police aren’t as ‘corrupt’ as they seem to be in places like Mexico or India, but you can bet anything that most people aren’t walking into schools or movie theatres with the intention of shooting up dozens of innocent people (not to put that lightly).
That being said, it is of course important to understand what the specific dangers are when traveling to a new country so that you can be prepared and avoid any potentially bad situation as much as possible. So without further ado, here are my best tips when it comes to traveling to or living in Mexico.
1. Protect your personal belongings.
If there is one thing that inclined Mexicans are good at, it is pickpocketing. They will certainly target people that stand out–which could be anybody that appears to not be from Mexico. My good friend was pickpocketed during her first time in Mexico City, but believed it was most likely because her wallet was in the outermost pocket of her backpack. Also, her blond hair probably didn’t help.
The best advice I can give is protect your stuff as best as possible, without looking TOO obvious that you are trying to conceal something–because that could maybe lead to something much worse. Don’t take credit cards around with you that you don’t need, leave your passport at home if you can, and place cash in different parts of your bag (or bra!).
2. Don’t go out alone.
Like most places in the world, it isn’t always a good idea to walk around alone, especially at night. Mexico is no different. That being said, walking around in a pair or threes of women might not be advisable either, but it is certainly a better decision than being alone. If you need to go from point A to point B by yourself, make sure you know exactly where you are going, and make sure a close friend knows when you left and when you are expected to be home. (There are also many apps out there that do the job for you.)
I had a friend who went into a taxi in broad daylight on the way to work. She speaks Spanish perfectly, but the taxi driver pretended he didn’t understand her and drove all over the place, eventually charging her three times more than what she normally pays. She had left her phone at home and had no way of contacting anybody.
Depending on where you live in Mexico, it might be safer to go out alone than in other places. For example, the city I live in, Pachuca, is completely safe about 90% of the time-but like anywhere, anything can always happen at any time. Be aware, be smart, and let others know where you are. Travel in groups (with men) as much as possible.
3. Don’t let random men get too close.
Most of us girls who have traveled know that sometimes western girls (especially Americans) can get a bad reputation–specifically that we are “easy.” Mexican men (not all of them, of course), might think the same. Even though I live here with my boyfriend (who is also Hispanic), generally in Hispanic culture, it is normal to give hugs and a kiss on a cheek when you see someone. However, a hug and a kiss should be IT.
Don’t let a man get away with giving you an inappropriate hug or touching you too much to the point where you feel uncomfortable. The culture is not an excuse, and those who do these actions will think that you believe it is okay since it is Mexico–even though they probably know perfectly well that they shouldn’t. It is NOT okay. My best advice for this is to not initiate a hug and kiss greeting unless you really know the person and you feel comfortable with them.
4. Guard your belongings on public transportation.
Compared to the rest of Central America, Mexico’s roads aren’t so bad. However, they can certainly get bumpy and be uncomfortable. One way that Mexicans travel within a small city or town is on a comvee or a small bus. You pay 7 pesos (about 50 cents) to go where you need to go. They are generally very safe, however drivers will try to squeeze in as many people as they possibly can, so if personal space is important to you, opt for a cab instead.
Mexico City has a Metro system, which is very similar to the Subway in New York City–hot and crowded. If you ride the public transportation within Mexico, be sure to be aware of your belongings at all times (see #1). It is not unheard of to have stuff stolen from underneath a coach bus or while you are sleeping. Carry small items as much as possible so that you can always have them with you or at least keep an eye on them.
5. Beware of street food.
Street food is very popular in Mexico, and for a good reason. The tacos, chilaquiles, tortas, and quesadillas are all absolutely delicious, and even taste better when they are made behind a truck on the side of a popular street. However, street food is not for everyone’s stomach. Many people, if they are not used to the food, will react in all sorts of ways–from diarrhea to nausea to even parasites that can cause problems long term.
Know yourself and know your stomach. If you are going to be living in Mexico for a while, give yourself a chance to gradually get used to the street food. If it is still not working for you, don’t bother. A taco is not worth hours of stomach problems, even if it is scrumptious.
So, live it up–the safe way!
Safety in Mexico: 5 Tips for Ensuring Your Safety, Travel Information