Is Mexico City Safe? According to a Researched Traveler

by | Last updated Apr 12, 2024 | Mexico

Loaded question. According to our parents, the answer is no because they are instantly afraid we will be scooped up by the drug cartels. Ask the TripAdvisor or Reddit community, and the answer will usually be the same. If you are street smart, it’s just as safe as walking around in your U.S. hometown. So, which is it? Is Mexico City safe or not?

My husband and I were in Mexico City for 6 nights as first-time visitors. I’m going to share 1) how we determined if Mexico City felt safe for us and 2) our honest travel experience during our weeklong stay. 

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3 Safety Factors to Consider

I am guilty.

When I first considered Mexico City, my thoughts (just like my parents) immediately went to the drug cartels and episodes of Narcos on Netflix.

I am human after all, and Mexico City was once a dangerous place.

But after seeing recent traveler’s positive travel experiences, I decided it was time to challenge this negative perception.

By the way, I am a middle-aged traveler (yikes, I hate to admit this because in my mind I’m “29” forever, lol!) and have visited 6 continents and 32 countries from Cambodia to Zimbabwe to Chile.

My definition of risk in my 20s is much different than now. I offer this background, so you understand the person sharing this Mexico City safety perspective.

Alright, let’s quickly review the 3 safety factor checklist I used to determine if Mexico City felt safe to visit.

Then we’ll chat about why you probably landed on this post … firsthand travel experience in the 7 most popular Mexico City neighborhoods. 

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01- STATE DEPARTMENT TRAVEL ADVISORY

If you do not know this already, the U.S. Department of State posts travel advisory ratings on all countries that range from a 1-4.

1 = Exercise normal precautions (white)

2 = Exercise increased caution (yellow)

3 = Reconsider travel (orange)

4 = Do not travel (red)

We only travel to destinations labeled a 1 or 2.

It is important to know that different ratings can exist in the same country. For example, Mexico has all the ratings … 1, 2, 3, and 4!

Always look at the whole picture to make your decision. Even in my hometown city, there are places I would walk (and not walk) after dark.

Know your 1, 2, 3, and 4s!

If you look at the map above, you will see Mexico City is yellow and labeled a level 2 (exercise increased caution). But if you go outside Mexico City, it’s labeled a level 3 (reconsider travel).

Stick to the donut hole in the middle.

U.S. Department of State Check: PASS

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#2- LATEST NEWS

Secret Beach at Makena Cove in Maui

Courtesy of Shutterstock 

It’s always important to understand what is going on in a country financially, socially, and politically to help you determine if you should go or out.

Interestingly, a lot of money is being poured into Mexico from the auto industry. Ford opened up a new campus after a huge investment. Other foreign automakers are following suit including the successful Chinese electric automaker BYD.

This financial investment could translate into more jobs and improved quality of life, which potentially means more stability. Of course, this is all speculation.

I also look for any news on crime targeting tourists. It’s one thing if you hear about shootings between drug cartel members, but it’s an entirely different thing if you hear about tourists being shot in well known tourist sections.

The latter situation would be a deal breaker.

For example, we drove all around Tulum, Cancun, and Puerto Morelos years ago and loved it! We even took the boat over to Isla Mujeres to swim with whale sharks, which was a major bucket list item for me (#16 of 77 travel experiences). 

But recently, I heard news about tourists getting caught in the crossfire of drug cartel disagreements in touristy areas.

The situation would need to change if I were to consider traveling to this area again. By the way, despite that news, the Cancun area is still considered a Level 2 (aka safe in the U.S. Department of State’s eyes).

I was surprised then when I found NO recent news of any hard crime against tourists in Mexico City.

Tragically there were a few deaths due to carbon monoxide poisoning occurring in Airbnbs but no hard crimes such as assaults or shootings.

And yes, I am embarrassed to say I did buy a travel carbon monoxide detector for this trip “just in case.” Yes, I am fully aware this could happen at any property in any city without proper ventilation.

Politically, Mexico City has been relatively stable. There are elections though coming up, so it is important to stay updated as things can change.

Current News Check: PASS

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03- COMMUNITY FORUMS

St Lucia and view of Pitons mountains

Recent traveler experiences are invaluable.

Although you can get “fake news” or trolls reporting false information, TripAdvisor Forum and Reddit communities are good sources to check on a fellow traveler’s personal experience.

Always check to see if the person posting has other comments and reviews to gauge legitimacy. A one-time poster is always suspicious.

Now usually, you will get the same answer if you ask if a place is safe in these forums. The common reply is to take all the normal precautions like you do back at home, and you’ll be fine.

Occasionally though you will have a traveler reporting a personal incident.

This doesn’t pertain to Mexico City, but I wanted to share an example of how I use these forums.

I had read about a recent case where a traveler had their belongings stolen while staying at an Airbnb on one of the Caribbean islands we were preparing to visit. I will not disclose which one because it was an isolated incident and no one was harmed.

That did not deter us.

Again, it’s the shootings and personal harm in a well-known tourist section that worry me not the isolated cases of petty theft.

When we went to that Caribbean island and stayed at a vacation rental, we took extra precautions like never leaving any personal items outside to invite unwanted visitors. And always making sure our rental car was clear of our gear.

When I researched Mexico City though, I could not find any negative incidents of personal harm.

Community Forum Check: PASS

Firsthand Experience in Mexico City

Arashi Beach in Aruba

CDMX sign in Mexico City

Alright, now the juicy part. We felt we had researched enough to give us a sense Mexico City was safe with the usual precautions. 

Did our research match our experience?

Yes!

We spent 1 week in Mexico City.

Here’s our experience as first-time visitors to Mexico City WALKING around (we walked almost everywhere!) and as an UBER passenger.

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MEXICO CITY BY FOOT

Blue Bayou Bar at Secret Beach Belize

Map of Best Mexico City Neighborhoods

First things first.

Know your neighborhoods. Just like in my hometown, I know where to walk and where not to walk.

If you do not know where the sketchy parts are located, then definitely stick to the tourist sections like we did (minus one uneventful but briefly nerve-racking situation which I’ll discuss at the end where I didn’t follow this advice).  

Here are the 7 neighborhoods we visited in Mexico City:

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01- Roma Norte

Our safari ranger and tracker at Lion Sands River Lodge

Plaza Rio de Janeiro in Roma Norte in Mexico City

Out of all the neighborhoods in Mexico City, Roma Norte was my favorite!

Think romantic intricate Art Deco architecture and tree-lined streets.

We stayed in one of the BEST boutique hotels (in my opinion!) with a foodie secret on the BEST street in Roma Norte … Colima Street.

Our safari ranger and tracker at Lion Sands River Lodge

White mole and fermented carrots at Restaurante Rosetta in Roma Norte

My husband and I felt completely comfortable walking around everywhere in Roma Norte day and night. We visited:

→   Numerous cafes (Café Memorias de un Barista, Buna, Libertario Coffee Roasters (our favorite), etc)

→   Restaurants & bakeries (Restaurante Rosetta, Panadería Rosetta, and Contramar (watch the Masterclass on Contramar’s Chef Gabriela– love her food!) 

→   Cocktail bars (Licorería Limantour, Tlecan (super friendly bar), and 686 Bar).

* If you love a well-crafted cocktail, do not miss my top 6 bars in Mexico City!

Is Roma Norte Safe? YES

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02- Roma Sur

The diving street between Roma Norte and Roma Sur is Coahuila Street.

We did not experience Roma Sur in the late evening, so I cannot speak for that time frame.

However, I can vouch for our experience in the daytime, which was fantastic! 

Our safari ranger and tracker at Lion Sands River Lodge

Enjoying a delicious tamale at Tamales Doña Emi in Roma Sur, Mexico City

In the morning, we walked from our hotel in Roma Norte down to Tamales Doña Emi in Roma Sur for breakfast.

They have some of the best tamales I have ever had! We love tamales so much that we even booked a Tamale Cooking Class while in the city.

Best barbacoa tacos at El Hidalguense in Roma Sur Mexico City

Best barbacoa tacos at El Hidalguense in Roma Sur, Mexico City

Later on in the day, we also enjoyed some of the best barbacoa tacos we have ever had at El Hidalguense. Ask to sit on the rooftop overlooking the street.

Mexican cuisine is just incredible. Don’t miss my ultimate self-guided taco tour if you want to experience the best tacos in the city!

No problems at all in Roma Sur.

Is Roma Sur Safe? YES

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03- Condesa

Parque España in Condesa in Mexico City

Parque España in Condesa, Mexico City

Condesa is also another beautiful Mexico City neighborhood with a hipster vibe and leafy parks.

Strolling Avenida Amsterdam in Condesa quickly became one of our favorite activities. This shaded, pedestrian-only pathway is shaped like a horse track. In one section, it is sandwiched in between two beautiful parks, Parque España and Parque Mexico. Incredibly peaceful.

This may be TMI, but Parque España in Condesa has one of the cleanest public restrooms I have been to.

My husband and I had just finished our coffee class, and we started to walk back to the hotel. I hate public restrooms, but it would have been a very uncomfortable walk back. I rolled the dice and was pleasantly surprised.

The bathroom is located right next to a children’s park. The bathroom attendant was friendly and efficient. 5 pesos was well spent. 

Our safari ranger and tracker at Lion Sands River Lodge

Coffee Tasting Class in Condesa, Mexico City

Highlights of the Condesa neighborhood:

→   Enjoying some of our favorite tacos (Tacos Don Juan and El Pescadito)

→   Sipping an Old George Sour at our favorite cocktail bar in Mexico City

→   Participating in a Mexican coffee tasting class hosted in a local’s home who happens to be a coffee tasting judge

Yep, I’d say we felt pretty safe in Condesa!

Is Condesa Safe? YES

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04- Polanco

Parque España in Condesa in Mexico City

Chapultepec Park in Polanco in Mexico City

Polanco is the fancy modern neighborhood of Mexico City. Think luxury car dealerships and high end clothing stores. It’s very nice and safe but does not possess the local charm of Roma and Condesa.

However, if my parents or in-laws asked where they should stay in Mexico City, Polanco is where I would book their hotel. 

Mole Madre at Pujol

Famous 3264 Days Mole Madre at Pujol in Polanco

We enjoyed two great experiences here:

→   Our foodie pilgrimage at Pujol, the restaurant that put Mexico on the culinary world map

→   Wonderful stroll through the large, sprawling Chapultepec Park (known as the Central Park of Mexico City)

Is Polanco Safe? YES, SUPER SAFE

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05- Coyoacan

Fuente de los Coyotes in Coyoacan in Mexico City

Fuente de los Coyotes (Coyote Fountain) in Coyoacan in Mexico City

Awe, Coyoacan, how I love this cute colorful, artsy city.

We did Uber there just because of the distance from our hotel in Roma Norte, but once there, we loved walking around this neighborhood with its cobblestone streets. We always felt safe.

My husband and  I had an incredible coffee from one of the best cafes in Mexico City, Cafe Avellaneda, before strolling past the famous Coyote Fountain.

Our safari ranger and tracker at Lion Sands River Lodge

Frida Kahlo Museum in Coyoacan, Mexico City

Of course, we had to visit the Frida Kahlo Museum to view some of Frida’s classic artwork and her incredible avant-garde dresses. Book tickets in advance! 

If you do not know who Frida Kahlo is, check out the PBS Documentary Becoming Frida Kahlo.

Afterward, we enjoyed a delicious chicken tostado at the well-known food stall, Tostados Coyoacan at the Coyoacan Market.

We loved the vibrant vitality of this cute little Mexico City neighborhood, which had a nice mix of locals and tourists.

Is Coyoacan Safe? YES! 

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06- El Centro

Dream of a Sunday afternoon in Alameda Central in Mexico City

The famous Diego Rivera mural at Museo Mural Diego Rivera: Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in Alameda Central 

El Centro is the business and historic center of Mexico City.

Lots of history and culture! It is known for the Zocalo square, world-class museums, and incredible local restaurants that are foodie institutions.

Our safari ranger and tracker at Lion Sands River Lodge

Enjoying a pastry from Pasteleria Ideal in front of the Palacio de Bellas Artes in El Centro in Mexico City

We walked all over El Centro but stuck to the touristy areas. There is a lot to see, and you should dedicate a full day to take it all in. Highlights we enjoyed …

→   Zocalo (main city square)

→   National Palace (the Diego Rivera murals are truly masterpieces!)

→   Museo Mural Diego Rivera (it is worth it to see this one iconic art piece)

→   Palacio de Bellas Artes (great place to sit and enjoy a pastry, check out the fine art, or attend a concert)

→   Alameda Central (beautiful park)

→   Foodie stops including Tacos de Canasta Los Especiales (incredible basket tacos), Pasteleria Ideal (the pastry choices are overwhelming!), Taquería Los Cocuyos (Bourdain-approved taco shop), and El Cardenal (amazing breakfast in a beautiful building).

We Ubered to/from El Centro. Doctores is a neighborhood in between Roma Norte and El Centro that I didn’t feel comfortable walking near.

When I had researched the Is Mexico City Safe? question before our visit, I found a local who shared her perspective.

What I really appreciated is she shared what Mexico City neighborhoods to avoid. This included Iztapalapa, Tepito, Neza, Ecatepec, and Doctores. That’s the info tourists are craving to know, so thank you!

So, yes, I avoided walking anywhere near Doctores, and Ubered to/from El Centro.

Once in El Centro though, I felt completely comfortable walking in between the tourist sites. However, we did not venture too far off the beaten path.

Again, if we were touring with a local guide, no problem since they know the good streets and the not-so-good streets.

Petty crimes such as pickpocketing are a possibility here, much like in Barcelona, Spain (known as one of the world’s top pickpocketing cities, a fact my sister can unfortunately attest to), so be aware of your surroundings.

Is El Centro Safe? YES, WITH CAUTION

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07- Juarez

Fuente de los Coyotes in Coyoacan in Mexico City

Bazar Fusion in Juarez, Mexico City

Situated a short 15-minute walk north of Roma Norte, this Mexico City neighborhood has more of a local eclectic hipster vibe.

It is located south of Paseo de la Reforma and north of Avenida Chapultepec. Refer back to my Mexico City Neighborhoods Map for orientation.

Enjoying a leisurely afternoon wine tasting at Wine Bar by CMB in Juarez Mexico City

Enjoying a Mexican wine tasting at Wine Bar by CMB in Juarez, Mexico City

There are several wonderful sights we explored in Juarez:

→   Chocolateria La Rifa (great Mexican hot chocolate where you pick your % of cacao)

→   Bazar Fusion (cute little shops where I found some beautiful handpainted mezcal cups)

→   Tamale Cooking Class (where we learned to make salsa and delicious homemade tamales in a local’s home!)

→   Wine Bar by CMB (where we tried award-winning Mexican wine)

→   Hanky Panky (one of the World’s Best Bars!)

→   Handshake Speakeasy (another top cocktail bar, #11 to be exact according to the World’s Best Bars)

Is Juarez Safe? YES! 

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In Between Neighborhoods

Sunday bike ride on Paseo de la Reforma Street in Mexico City

Bike riders out on a Sunday near Angel of Independence  in Mexico City (so sad we missed doing this!)

I have one other experience to share, which occurred somewhere in between the southern end of the Juarez neighborhood and the far northern end of the Roma Norte neighborhood.

Quick story. My husband and I love fun bike rides.

When we were in Lima, Peru years ago, we found out the city shuts down certain roads to pedestrians and bikers on Sundays. We rented a bike and had a blast buzzing away on the streets normally reserved for cars.

We discovered Mexico City offers a similar experience. They shut down Paseo de la Reforma Street on Sunday from 8 am to 2 pm.

Sign us up!

Our plan was to rent bikes and cycle from the Angel of Independence to Chapultepec Park in Polanco.

Unfortunately, we failed at our attempt. We read about how to rent bikes from Ecobici and downloaded the app. It just wasn’t our day.

The app was glitchy and was not accepting payment. We called our credit card company, who said it wasn’t them. They authorized the charge on their end.

We went to the Ecobici Service Center near the Angel of Independence and through Google Translate explained our situation. Apparently, we were not the only ones because there were two other American couples with the same problem.

The Service Center was not able to help us but suggested purchasing a Mexico City Metro Card at a metro station to use as payment.

I put “metro station” into Google Maps, and we followed the route.

The route Google took us was a little dicey. The only thing I remember was at one point we were the only tourists walking up a ramp to find this metro station. We turned the corner, and two guys seemed genuinely shocked to see us there.

There were several homeless makeshift tents in the direction we needed to pass under to get to the metro station. It didn’t feel right, so we walked right back out. Gotta listen to those spidey senses, whether it’s warranted or not. It’s good until it’s not.

Since this was not my hometown and I was not with a local guide, I had no idea if this section was safe or not. Just like in any city including mine … one street is fine and the next one over … not so much.

Would something bad have happened? Most likely not, and it was probably safe. Why chance it though and ruin a perfectly good vacation?

Walking on Paseo de la Reforma Street in Mexico City

Walking on Paseo de la Reforma Street in Mexico City (this was my favorite section besides the one with the Angel of Independence)  

We abandoned our Sunday bike ride idea and decided instead just to walk the 2.5 miles on Paseo de la Reforma Street to Chapultepec Park. Beautiful walk!  All the locals were out and enjoying that fresh air, and we felt completely safe.

I hope Ecobici has resolved their glitchy app because we really want to do that bike ride when we come back to Mexico City!

Check with a LOCAL to determine SAFETY in non-tourist sections

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MEXICO CITY BY UBER

Our safari ranger and tracker at Lion Sands River Lodge

Courtesy of Shutterstock: Driving in an Uber

Taking Uber in Mexico City was a very pleasant experience. We had excellent drivers all with great ratings.

It was fast and affordable. It reminded us of our Uber experience in Cape Town, South Africa, another city where travelers often question is it safe.

Here is where we Ubered either because of distance or out of precaution:

→   Mexico City International Airport to/from hotel: DISTANCE

→   Hotel to/from Coyoacan: DISTANCE

→   Hotel to/from Pujol: DISTANCE

→   Hotel to/from Centro: DISTANCE + PRECAUTION

→   Handshake speakeasy to Hotel: PRECAUTION (due to later hour)

→   Hanky Panky cocktail bar to Hotel: PRECAUTION (due to later hour)

→   Baltra Bar to Hotel: PRECAUTION (due to later hour)

→   Hotel to/from Pujol: DISTANCE

Otherwise, we walked everywhere!

Is Uber Safe? YES!

Final Thoughts

In summary, did we feel safe in Mexico City?

Yes!

But as first-time visitors …

✔️   We stuck to the tourist areas only (besides that one situation)

✔️   Did not wear flashy clothing or jewelry

✔️   Kept our valuables like our phone well hidden

✔️   Took Uber when we felt we needed to especially at night

✔️   Accomplished our sightseeing in the day

✔️   In bed by 9/10 pm (hey, we’re also older-ish)

Always use common sense, and remember to check a destination’s current events since things can change.

We went to Mexico City for the food and culture, and it SURPASSED our expectations. Even the Michelin Guide is taking notice and will be announcing their top foodie picks in early 2024!

If you decide to book that trip, I strongly suggest making Roma Norte your home base, particularly on Colima Street. Stay at Casa Izeba, an incredible boutique hotel with an amazing rooftop.

And if you love Mexico City, you are going to LOVE Oaxaca for these 19 reasons.

I hope this perspective helps as you make your own travel safety decision.

Safe and happy travels!

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