Is Mexico safe?
After so many news about crimes, kidnappings, gang-related violence, and drug cartels, it is normal to ask yourself if Mexico is a safe country to travel to.
According to the results of the Expat Insider Survey, made on 20,000 expats living in 187 countries or territories, covering personal safety, political stability, quality of life, Mexico ranked less dangerous compared to countries like Colombia, Peru, Turkey or Brazil.
But of course, it isn’t the safest country either.
Unfortunately, Mexico also has its fair share of dangerous areas that travelers should avoid. The most dangerous area that must be avoided is the north part of Mexico and cities like Colima, Guerrero and the border with the USA.
The Yucatan peninsula is a small part of Mexico and has three states: Yucatan, Quintana Roo and Campeche and it is considered one of the safest places in Mexico.
We drove all over the Yucatan Peninsula and we didn’t feel unsafe, but we took a lot of precautions like driving during the daytime, limit the amount of money and valuables carried with us and we were very strict on following the driving rules. And we were completely safe.
Best time to visit
Mexico is a huge country and the weather can be very different from region to region. But there are some general weather conditions applying to the entire country:
– December-April is the best time to visit Mexico, especially Riviera Maya. Little to no rain and perfect weather.
– May-November is the hurricane season. It will be extremely hot and rainy.
It is better to scan your passport and travel documents and e-mail them to yourself. That way, if your documents are lost or stolen you can easily access copies from your e-mail account.
Citizens of most EU countries may enter Mexico without a visa and stay there for 180 days. Just make sure that your passport is still valid for six months upon entry.
On the plane, you will receive two forms: an entry form and a Customs form. It has to be filled, signed and showed to the Mexican authorities.
The entry form remained in our passports and must be used to exit Mexico. If lost there is a fee that has to be paid.
At the same time, when you show this paper, you will also have to pay the exit Mexico Fee: 1,490 pesos.
The tap water in Mexico is not drinkable pretty much anywhere, so never drink straight from the tap.
Money in Mexico
In Mexico, we used Mexican pesos. And you should carry only the cash you need for that day in your pocket. The rest of the money, passport or credit cards carry them inside a money belt in a private place, like under your clothes.
Be cautious when in crowds, markets or on public transportation. Pickpockets can be very crafty and sometimes work in pairs – one person will distract you while another takes your wallet.
We had most of our money on credit cards and once in Mexico, we withdraw pesos from banks’ ATMs.
Only where we considered to be safe, we paid with credit cards.
Credit cards and the theft of your data
Credit cards are not used in many places in Mexico. They accept cash in most of the gas stations, cenote entrances, restaurants or other places. But there are places where you can use your credit cards like renting a car, pay entrance to Chichen Itza. You should pay attention to where you use it because of data theft and skimming.
Or try to use ATMs in bank branches during business hours to reduce these threats, and keep an eye on your bank statements so you can notify your bank immediately of any unknown charges.
In Mexico, a socket of type A and B is used. These have flat contacts and are the typical US type.
Internet on the Yucatán Peninsula
Wi-Fi is available in most hotels. The connection is usually fine, but in isolated locations (such as Holbox) it won’t work.
We bought a SIM Card from Telcel and recharged it with 500 pesos for 6.5 GB of traffic.
Telcel is one of the operators (4G).
Prices at Telcel
- 1 GB: 100 Pesos (valid for 17 days)
- 3.5 GB: 300 Pesos (valid for 33 days)
- 6.5 GB: 500 Pesos (valid for 33 days)
- + one-time fee for SIM card: 100 Pesos
We were not happy with the signal or internet connection. In touristic places, it was working fine, but on the roards between those places a lot of times we did not have any reception. Not even for calling.
Our 6.5 GB wasn’t enough for 1 week. We used Google maps, Instagram and email and it finished after about 6 days.
Toilets in Mexico
Restroom Doors Marked with an “M” are for the Ladies. The Spanish word for women is “mujeres.”
Instead, the ones marked with “H” (for “hombres”) or a “C” (for “caballeros”) are for men.
The fastest and most convenient way to get around the Yucatan Peninsula is by rental.
To rent a car in Mexico is very cheap, can be even 3 USD/day, but you shouldn’t get fooled. You will need insurance and that can be very expensive.
In order to drive on Mexican roads, you need a Mexican Insurance.
We rented our car in advance and used rentalcars.com, and paid about 40 EUROS/day with all the insurances included and we didn’t have any problem.
Traffic on the roads and road conditions
Except for the road between Tulum and Cancun, on the other roads in Mexico, there is relatively little to no traffic. The road conditions are good.
The speed limits are always well written. On country roads they are usually between 80 and 100 km/h, on highways they are at 110 km/h – but never more.
The highway is not that different compared to other roads. We were surprised to see one line highway and with an expensive toll.
So we tried to avoid these highways.
Most of the roads on the Yucatan Peninsula don’t have tolls (“libre”). There are only two toll roads (“cuota”). The most famous is that of Cancun/Playa del Carmen to Mérida.
We didn’t feel the difference comparing them to the other roads, but the price of the toll was quite high.
Playa del Carmen – Valladolid 266 pesos/one way.
There are no parking meters in Yucatan, but there are a lot of parking places where you can pay to park and pay directly to the people. We suggest you park there. It can be safer for your car.
Always remove valuables and lock the car whenever you park.
The sign for parking in Yucatan is an “E” – abbreviated from “Estacionamiento”. A crossed out “E” means parking is prohibited.
Military Checkpoints and Police Checks
Something you have to get used to the numerous military controls along the roads. The military is sent here to secure the Yucatan peninsula because it is the most touristic place in Mexico and brings a lot of money to the state.
The military’s job is to detect and prevent drug smugglers.
On the other hand, the police can stop you only because you are a tourist.
We don’t recommend to keep all your money in the wallet. If you are stopped by corrupt police, you will have to pay, and it is better not to lose all your cash.
One liter of Petrol currently costs 20 pesos, which is about 90 cents.
The majority of gas stations are state-owned, called PEMEX. But in tourist places, you can find also other different gas station companies.
Usually, the staff will come and help you fill-up. You should pay attention to the meter, at the money that you will have to pay. A common scam that can happen at gas stations is not to close the meter and to ask you the money for the customer that was filling the tank before you.
Taxi is not a very good alternative here. It is very expensive and in most cases will overcharge you.
Mexican food is very good. And the Mexican Street food is safe and delicious to eat.
You should avoid going to the clubs in Playa del Carmen or Cancun
Although Cancun is very famous for nightlife, you should skip these places. They are not the safest places to be.
Try to avoid tours
Except for the fact that these tours are expensive, you should explore the local and beautiful, authentic Mexico by yourself.
Learn basic Spanish
Try to learn some basic Spanish. It will help you a lot to connect with local people and it is a very nice experience.