Is it Safe to Travel to Mexico? Your Helpful Health and Safety Guide
What to know before you go: Mexico travel advice
Mexico is an incredibly diverse and exciting country to explore, offering something for every traveler. With its stunning beaches, vibrant cities, ancient ruins, and rich culture, it's no wonder so many Americans choose Mexico as their vacation destination.
Are you planning to travel to Mexico from the U.S. for your next vacation? Our comprehensive travel health and safety guide offers useful information on Mexico travel advice to know before you go, plus important Mexico travel requirements to help ensure you know how to travel safely in Mexico.
From visa and entry requirements, health and safety risks, and local laws and customs, to what to do if an emergency occurs, read on to get prepared well before you even start packing your suitcase.
Important: The information in this guide is subject to change at any time. Please check Travel.State.Gov for current government Mexico travel advice before you depart, as well as our Travel On app if you are an existing Travelex policyholder.
In this Mexico health and safety guide, you'll learn:
- Useful country facts
- Where you can access up-to-date travel advice
- Visa and entry requirements
- Why it's smart to consider travel insurance
- Who to call and what to do in an emergency
- Health risks
- Safety risks
- Crime and scam risks
- Weather and natural disaster risks
- Local laws to learn and abide by
- How to drive safely
- Helpful advice for every type of traveler
- 10 essential tips for your adventure
- How our Travel On app can help keep you safer
Get to know your destination: Useful facts about Mexico
Bordering the southern U.S., Mexico is a fascinating, affordable, and easy-to-access destination for the American traveler, attracting honeymooners, families, backpackers, retirees, and everyone in between – including U.S. citizens visiting relatives in Mexico.
While destinations such as Cabo and Cancun are loved by tourists, Mexico is made up of 31 states, home to a population of over 126 million people, and has many amazing cities for travelers to explore. Yes, it’s as varied as it is vibrant, helping to make it one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world.
Visitors can soak up the sun on the Pacific or Caribbean coasts, feast their way through Oaxaca one mole and mezcal at a time, hop between markets and museums in Mexico City, swim in cenotes in several states, discover ancient Mayan ruins, and dive the coral reef in the Yucatán Peninsula – the options are almost endless.
But before you jump on a plane or drive across the border to Mexico, here are the essentials you need to know.
Essential Destination Information
Location: Like the U.S. and Canada, Mexico is part of the North American continent.
Size: Mexico's land mass is 758,449 mi² – almost three times the size of Texas.
Airports: Mexico City (MEX), Cancún (CUN), and Cabo (LCA) are popular airports for U.S. travelers.
Language: Spanish is the official language of Mexico.
Currency: Mexico’s currency is the Mexican Peso (MXN).
Driving side: Vehicles and bikes use the righthand side of the road in Mexico.
Where to get up-to-date government Mexico travel advice
Before you leave U.S. soil, it’s smart to check Travel.State.Gov – the U.S. government’s travel resource for Americans – for the latest Mexico travel requirements and safety advice. This can help ensure you are informed and prepared for your trip.
Beyond useful information about safety, health, local laws, and local contacts, Travel.State.Gov assigns one of four levels of travel advice to each country across the globe, including Mexico.
Travel Advisory Levels
Level 1: Exercise normal precautions.
Level 2: Exercise increased caution.
Level 3: Reconsider travel.
Level 4: Do not travel.
The travel advice level assigned to Mexico can help you understand any current risks or threats in the country – and whether you should be traveling there or not.
Travelers can also register with the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to stay up to date on any safety concerns and security updates.
Mexico travel requirements: Visa, passport, and entry information
You don’t want your dream vacation to be over before it begins, so make sure you have the right travel documents before you depart the U.S. It might be a short flight, but Mexico has strict entry requirements for tourists and those transiting through the country en route to another destination. Without the right documentation, you could be denied entry.
To avoid any disappointment, check official government information sources before you depart and familiarize yourself with the below entry requirements for travel to Mexico from the U.S.
Entry Requirements for Travel to Mexico
U.S. travelers must have a valid passport at time of entry into Mexico.
A tourist visa is required if you’re visiting for more than 180 days.
The currency limit for entry and exit is a maximum of US$10,000.
More helpful Mexico travel requirements to know:
- Passport stamps: While U.S. citizens can stay in Mexico for up to 180 days without a tourist visa, your passport will generally be stamped with a “valid date” that indicates when your vacation ends. For example, if you advise the border agent that you will be in Mexico for 10 days until you take a flight home, the stamp in your passport will generally reflect that 10-day period only.
- Entering Mexico by air: A valid passport book is required. Those attempting to enter at an airport with a U.S. passport card only may be denied entry.
Entering Mexico by land (driving): A valid passport book or card is required. You must stop at a National Migration Institute (INM) office to obtain an entry permit. You will also need a temporary vehicle import permit to bring a U.S.-registered vehicle beyond the border zone. For more information, check out the driving section of this guide.
Important: At Travelex, we are unable to offer collision coverage for driving in Mexico (whether in your own car or a rental car).
- Bringing in valuable items: Travelers bringing goods into Mexico beyond their personal effects worth US$300.00 or more must declare those goods with Mexican customs (SAT) or risk having them confiscated. This also applies to used goods or clothing, including items for donation.
- Criminal records: Mexican immigration authorities may deny foreigners entry into Mexico if they have been charged with or convicted of a serious crime in Mexico or elsewhere.
- Traveling with kids: A parent or legal guardian departing Mexico with minor children should carry a notarized consent letter from the other parent if traveling separately.
Do I need travel insurance for Mexico?
Our most important Mexico travel advice for U.S. travelers? Consider protecting your trip with travel insurance. Why? If the unexpected happens, travel insurance can provide much needed financial support and assistance.
“We do not pay medical bills. Be aware that U.S. Medicare/Medicaid does not apply overseas.”
U.S. government via Travel.State.Gov
Many foreign medical facilities and providers require cash payment up front and do not accept U.S. health insurance plans, and Medicare does not provide coverage outside of the United States.
The U.S. government suggests that your travel insurance policy should provide coverage for all overseas medical costs (including medical evacuation), as it will not pay for any overseas medical costs you incur while traveling overseas.
Travel insurance can protect you financially from a lot more than medical-related costs such as illness and accidents, though. From lost or stolen luggage and travel delays to adventure activities and inclement weather, travel insurance can offer protection while you’re abroad.
“Make sure your health insurance plan provides coverage overseas ... We strongly recommend supplemental insurance to cover medical evacuation as well.”
U.S. government via Travel.State.Gov
Discover our three travel protection plans that may be suitable for your trip to Mexico below – because everyone’s vacation itinerary and travel needs are a little different.
Travel Protection Plans for Mexico
Travel Basic: This plan can provide essential coverage – including emergency medical expenses – for U.S. travelers to Mexico for trips up to 30 days.
Travel Med: This plan can provide on-trip coverage only to assist with post-departure benefits such as emergency medical, trip interruption/delay, lost baggage, and more.
Travel Select: This plan can provide more extensive coverage for travelers on trips up to 364 days thanks to its higher benefit limits. “Kids-included pricing” is also available with this plan.
Want more information? Visit our travel insurance for Mexico page →
Important phone numbers and contacts: Discover who to call for help
Travel can be unpredictable and – even when you’re in a country that neighbors the U.S. – the unexpected can happen at any time. If something goes wrong on your trip, you’ll need to know who to call, fast.
If you’re looking for important phone numbers when researching Mexico travel advice, we recommend keeping the below numbers handy during your trip so you know who to contact in an emergency – and how to do so.
Who do I call in a medical emergency in Mexico?
Police or Emergency: 911
Travelex 24/7 Emergency Assistance: 1-647-775-8042
Should you encounter a critical emergency while in Mexico, you should promptly contact local emergency services. Like the U.S., Mexico's 911 emergency line provides immediate assistance by connecting you to the necessary authorities such as the police, fire department, or search and rescue team.
If you’re a Travelex customer, it is recommended that you reach out to our 24/7 assistance team once it's safe to do so. Our team can help liaise with Mexican hospitals and doctors and can also assist in connecting you with English-speaking healthcare professionals if needed.
What do I do if I lose my passport in Mexico?
Step 1: Retrace your steps
Double check your hotel, luggage, and recent places you have visited.
Step 2: Report it to the police
Report your lost or stolen passport ASAP and obtain a police report.
Step 3: Call your travel insurance provider
Our Travelex 24/7 emergency assistance team is here to help.
Step 4: Report it to the government
You will have to replace the passport before returning to the U.S. Contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate for assistance.
All travelers are required to have a passport to re-enter the United States. If you lose your passport abroad, you will need a replacement before you can return home.
If your passport is lost or stolen, contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate as soon as possible, as they can assist in coordinating a replacement passport or emergency passport. If you have been the victim of a serious crime, be sure to tell a consular officer about it as soon as possible so they can provide appropriate assistance.
When you report the loss or theft of your passport, you must complete a statement describing the circumstances under which it was lost or stolen. You can use the U.S. Department of State form DS-64 for this purpose.
Important: While a police report is not mandatory for the U.S. government to assist you in getting a new passport, it may be required by your travel insurance provider to claim any expenses incurred as a result of a lost or stolen passport. If you’re a Travelex policyholder, please check your policy wording for information.
What do I do if I’m robbed in Mexico?
Step 1: Aim to stay calm
Nothing is worth risking your life over, so try not to panic or fight back.
Step 2: Call the police on 911
Contact local authorities to report the incident and file a police report before departing Mexico.
Step 3: Cancel your bank cards
Freeze or cancel all credit cards or travel cards stolen and report the robbery to your bank back home in the U.S.
Step 4: Secure your devices
If your smartphone is stolen, use Activation Lock or Find my iPhone (Apple) or Find My Device (Android) to remotely secure your device and linked accounts.
Step 5: Call your travel insurance company
Our Travelex 24/7 emergency assistance team can provide support if you’re involved in a robbery in Mexico.
Step 6: Inform the embassy
U.S. citizens should inform the U.S. embassy or consulate if they are robbed or become a victim of crime while in Mexico.
Remember: If you’re a Travelex policyholder and want to make a claim for a robbery in Mexico, you must report the loss or theft to the police or relevant authority and obtain an incident report.
Mexico health risks: Useful tips to help you stay healthier on vacation
Want to have a trip to Mexico that’s memorable for all the right reasons? Understanding the potential health risks you may encounter while traveling to Mexico from the U.S – and how to protect yourself – could help you avoid foreseeable incidents while you’re away from home.
“U.S. citizens traveling to and residing in Mexico should not expect public health and safety standards like those in the United States. Even where such standards exist, enforcement varies by location. Travelers should mitigate the risk of illness or injury by taking standard health and safety precautions.”
U.S. government via Travel.State.Gov
A common health issue for tourists in Mexico is traveler's diarrhea. This condition often results from consuming improperly prepared or washed food, drinking contaminated water, or exposure to various germs during your travels.
Other current health risks when traveling to the region include contracting rabies from local animals and mosquito-borne diseases. In more remote areas of Mexico, diseases such as typhoid and Zika virus are also present.
Thankfully, there are many things you can do to reduce the chance of suffering from a health issue in Mexico – and ensure you have the right support if something does go wrong. At Travelex, our expert assistance team is here to provide financial support and medical assistance to our customers who run into trouble during their travels to Mexico from the U.S.
REAL-LIFE TRAVEL STORIES
One of our Travelex travelers suffered heart failure on their trip and required medical evacuation from Mexico back to a U.S. hospital, which resulted in a medical, evacuation, and repatriation claim cost of over $68,000.
Another Travelex traveler visiting Mexico from the U.S. became ill after scuba diving and was hospitalized while in Mexico, which resulted in a claim for medical expenses, trip interruption, and trip delay that totaled over $11,000.
What diseases are prevalent in Mexico that I should be aware of?
According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the following diseases and illnesses are prevalent in Mexico:
- Typhoid fever
- Traveler's diarrhea
- Zika virus
- Rocky Mountain spotted fever
- Parasitic infections
- Chronic respiratory disease
For more Mexico travel advisory information and details about specific health issues that may affect tourists in Mexico, visit Travel.State.Gov.
What vaccinations are recommended if I’m traveling to Mexico from the U.S.?
There are no mandated vaccination-related Mexico travel requirements for U.S. citizens; however, the U.S. government recommends travelers are up to date with the vaccinations listed on the CDC website to best protect themselves from disease outbreaks in Mexico.
Here are the suggested vaccinations that the CDC recommends before traveling to Mexico:
- Hepatitis A and B
Tip: Visit your doctor 6-8 weeks before you’re due to travel to ensure you’re fit to travel and protected against health risks in Mexico with the recommended vaccinations.
How do I avoid traveler’s diarrhea while in Mexico?
Traveler’s diarrhea is extremely uncomfortable and can often impact your travel plans. Usually, the symptoms go away fairly quickly, but if you're still feeling off after a few days, it’s a good idea to get checked out by a doctor.
7 ways to avoid getting diarrhea:
1. Wash your hands regularly with soap and use hand sanitizer when out and about.
2. Drink bottled water only and ask for no ice when ordering drinks. When buying bottled water, check that the seal is in place correctly.
3. Choose popular and reputable stands if eating street food, and ensure the food is cooked fresh to order in front of you (not pre-prepared).
4. Only eat fruit you have peeled yourself.
5. Avoid raw or partially cooked foods, especially fish and uncooked dairy products.
6. Avoid using tap water to wash your fruits and vegetables.
7. Avoid unpasteurized milk.
Can I drink the water in Mexico?
To avoid illness, you shouldn’t drink water out of the tap in Mexico – even the locals drink bottled water. We recommend that you stick to bottled water and canned drinks and avoid ice in drinks if it’s made from tap water.
Many travelers don’t even use the tap water to brush their teeth to help prevent illnesses and upset stomachs, so make sure you always have bottled water on hand for various uses. And try not to accidentally drink water while you’re in the shower, too!
How do I avoid mosquito-borne illnesses in Mexico?
Bugs like mosquitoes and sand flies aren’t just known for their annoying itchy bites – they can actually carry diseases, too.
If you're planning to travel to Mexico, there are several illnesses transmitted by mosquitoes that you should be aware of:
- Dengue fever
- Chagas disease (American Trypanosomiasis)
- Leishmaniasis (from sand fly bites)
Our best Mexico travel advice to avoid contracting these diseases? Do your best to avoid getting bitten. In some areas this is easier said than done, but here are some important tips.
How to minimize your chance of getting mosquito bites – and falling ill from them:
- Ensure you’re up to date with relevant vaccines before traveling.
- Take preventative anti-malarial medication.
- Wear long sleeves, long pants, and hats.
- Use tropical strength mosquito repellent containing DEET – and spray it on your clothing, too.
- Sleep under mosquito nets and/or in air-conditioned rooms.
If you become ill, seek medical attention quickly by calling the local emergency line on 911. Travelex customers can also call our 24/7 assistance line for additional support.
Travel tip: Bugs and mosquitos are more prevalent in Mexico during the “wet season”, which is typically May – October each year, depending on the region. This means it can be more comfortable to travel during the dry season, which runs from November to April.
How do I avoid contracting rabies in Mexico?
Rabies is widespread in Mexico and tourists can contract it via contact with an infected animal – such as being scratched or bitten. Mexico has a high number of stray dogs who carry the disease, as well as other wildlife.
How to avoid contracting rabies in Mexico
Get vaccinated: Consider visiting your doctor before you visit Mexico to ensure your rabies vaccination is up to date or check if you need a booster.
Avoid animals: Yes, they’re cute, but it’s important to avoid stray animals in Mexico as they may bite or scratch you, which can lead to a rabies infection.
Seek medical attention: If you’re bitten or scratched by an animal while on vacation in Mexico, immediately wash the wound with soap and water for 15-20 minutes and seek urgent medical attention.
How do I avoid altitude sickness in Mexico?
While all-inclusive beachside resorts are extremely popular among those tourists who travel to Mexico from the U.S., many destinations – such as Mexico City – are situated at high altitudes. This can lead to altitude sickness for those who are not used to traveling at high altitudes.
Tips on how to avoid altitude sickness – and how to spot it – include:
- Wherever possible, ascend gradually to help give your body time to adjust to the lower oxygen levels experienced at higher altitudes.
- If your itinerary doesn’t allow for gradual travel to higher elevations, talk to your doctor about medicines you can get before you leave home so you can help prevent or treat altitude sickness.
- Avoid alcohol or intense exercise for the first 48 hours after you arrive at an elevation above 8,000 ft.
- Learn about the symptoms of altitude sickness – such as headaches, tiredness, nausea, and lack of appetite – and know when you may need to seek medical attention.
- Those with pre-existing medical conditions like heart or lung disease and diabetes may be more susceptible to altitude sickness. Pregnant people may also experience more symptoms. If this is you, talk to your doctor before you travel.
Mexico safety risks: Helpful tips on how to travel safely in Mexico
One of the most common questions tourists ask is, “Is Mexico safe to visit?” Overall, Mexico is generally a safe place for travelers – after all, it’s the most popular international vacation destination for U.S. travelers, with over 39 million U.S. residents visiting Mexico in 2019.
However, there is a high crime rate in Mexico, which affects the country in different ways. Popular tourist areas can be quite safe for travelers, while other regions present greater risk to health and safety. The U.S. government offers a helpful interactive map outlining the risk level throughout Mexico which can help travelers make informed decisions before departure.
DID YOU KNOW?
Our Travel On app can provide you with safety advice and alerts as you travel, all in the palm of your hand, including current safety risks in Mexico.
While stories of drug cartels and violent crime may dominate news headlines, safety in Mexico for tourists also includes other risks, such as being impacted by natural disasters and weather events – or getting robbed.
When considering how to stay safe in Mexico on vacation, we recommend you stay alert to the following risks:
Political unrest: Protests, demonstrations, and political unrest can occur in Mexico. Avoid strikes and demonstrations where possible for your own safety and know it's against the law for foreigners to participate in political activities.
Crime and theft: Tourists can be targeted for petty and violent crimes, including muggings, street robberies, kidnapping, carjacking, and sexual assault. These crimes can occur at tourist spots and resorts, so stay alert when exploring.
Natural disasters: Weather events and natural disasters such as earthquakes, hurricanes, tsunamis, and volcanic activity do happen from time to time in Mexico, so keep an eye on the weather, mass media sources, and travel alerts from the government and your travel insurance provider.
Swimming safely: Both coasts of Mexico can be at risk from strong currents and undertows. Many Americans spend time at the beach when visiting Mexico on vacation, so it’s important to obey all beach warning flags and signs to remain safe in the water.
Before booking travel to Mexico from the U.S., it’s recommended that you read the government’s Mexico Travel Advisory for information about safety and security concerns affecting the country. Alerts are listed on a state-by-state basis so you can check your intended destination.
Mexico travel advice for protecting yourself from crime
While the majority of those who vacation in Mexico bring home only good memories, it’s important to be aware of the crime risks at this destination.
“Crime in Mexico occurs at a high rate and can be violent, from random street crime to cartel-related attacks.”
U.S. government via Travel.State.Gov
Tourists can be attractive targets for petty crimes like pickpocketing, credit card, ATM and internet fraud, snatch-and-grab thefts, scams, assaults, and vehicle theft in urban areas. However, there is also the threat of being caught up in cartel-related attacks – simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time. These types of attacks are far less common in tourist resort areas, but they can occur.
Here are five key travel risks in Mexico to be aware of:
Theft, robbery, and bag-snatching can be common in Mexico. Often, thieves on motorcycles are the main culprits and the theft happens extremely quickly. Help avoid this scenario by keeping bags and valuables out of sight.
More common in cities, abductors force victims to use their debit or credit card to withdraw money from ATMs in exchange for their release. Perpetrators often work with, or pose as, taxi drivers.
Violent attacks and sexual assault are serious problems in some resort areas. In some cases, assailants spike the drinks of victims before assaulting them. Pay attention to your surroundings and keep a close eye on your food or drink.
Scam artists target tourists all over the world, and Mexico is no exception. Internet romance and financial scams are prevalent in Mexico, as are offers for “free” trips or help with luggage before demands for payment are made.
5. Kidnapping and extortion
Kidnapping is more common in rural areas and country highways; however, “express kidnappings” target travelers on public transport in major destinations like Mexico City, and the kidnappers force victims to withdraw funds from ATMs before they are released.
How to stay safe in Mexico and avoid becoming a victim of crime
Sometimes unfortunate things do happen while you're on a trip.
Here are some ways you can reduce the likelihood of falling victim to petty crimes:
- Be aware of your surroundings.
- Be alert in crowds, on public transport, and at tourist hotspots.
- If traveling by foot, walk on the footpath away from the curb and hold your bag away from traffic.
- Avoid walking alone at night.
- Avoid walking in isolated or dark areas, even during the day.
- Some areas of Mexico are more dangerous than others – do your research.
- Never leave food and drink unattended at bars and restaurants.
- Shield your PIN when using ATMs and avoid using ATMs at gas stations or bars.
- Don’t wear expensive jewelry or clothing, and don’t carry large amounts of cash.
- Secure valuables in a hotel safe – or leave them at home in the U.S.
- Be aware when using taxis and travel only in official taxis (license plate number will start with A or B). Travelers have been robbed when using taxis hailed from the street.
- In most cities it is safer to use ride-share apps such as Uber and Cabify than to hail a taxi.
- Do not hitchhike or accept rides from strangers.
- If driving, only travel during daylight hours and drive via toll roads (cuota).
- Avoid public transport late at night or early in the morning when it is less safe.
- If you’re driving, be sure to stop at all checkpoints set up by the National Guard, military personnel, or state and local police, and cooperate and avoid any actions that may appear suspicious or aggressive.
What are the most common scams in Mexico?
It’s essential to learn about common tourist scams when researching Mexico travel advice ahead of a trip. This will help ensure you can recognize a scam if – or when – a scammer approaches you while on vacation.
10 common travel scams include:
1. Taxi drivers with a “broken” meter or who overcharge.
2. Traffic police who target tourists – even if they haven’t done anything wrong.
3. Fake currency exchanges charging the wrong rate or miscounting cash.
4. Unofficial “guides” at tourist attractions who charge an entrance fee.
5. Scammers dressed as police officers.
6. Counterfeit souvenirs and goods.
7. Timeshare “free” gifts.
8. Illegitimate vendors for water sports.
9. Shopkeepers using sleight-of-hand to give incorrect change.
10. Card skimming at ATMs.
Want to learn more about travel scams? Discover how to avoid nine travel scams here.
Mexico's weather and natural disaster risks
Mexico lures U.S. travelers with its warm weather, sunshine, and luxurious beachside resorts as much as it does with its vibrant culture and authentic cuisine. But Mother Nature can be unpredictable, so it’s helpful to know when the best time to visit might be.
Weather in Mexico
Unlike most parts of the U.S. that experience four seasons, most of Mexico has two seasons: wet and dry.
Seasons in Mexico
Wet season: May - October
Dry season: November - April
But it’s not only wise to check which season Mexico will be in during your planned visit before you book your trip to avoid imperfect weather; it’s also smart to check the temperature at your chosen destination within Mexico.
Why? Depending on where you travel in Mexico, you might encounter significantly different temperatures.
For example, Mexico City is much cooler year-round than other parts of the country, ranging from 40 °F to 75 °F daily averages. Whereas on the coast, places like Cancun and Cabo San Lucas have 70 to 90 °F daily averages.
So, plan your vacation timing for the destinations you are visiting, as it can be much colder and wetter in higher mountainous areas in comparison to those by the ocean that are closer to sea level.
Common natural disasters in Mexico
Mexico does experience natural disasters and severe weather events from time to time, as the country is located in an active earthquake zone and is also subject to tropical storms throughout parts of the year along the Pacific and Caribbean coasts.
Here are some natural disasters that can occur in Mexico:
Volcanic activity and earthquakes
Hurricanes (more common June – November)
Flash flooding, mudslides, and landslides
These extreme weather and natural disaster events can disrupt travel plans, result in canceled flights, make roads impassable, and pose a threat to your safety. If you are caught up in a weather event, always follow the advice of local authorities.
Tip: If you want financial protection against unforeseen events like these, consider protecting your trip with travel insurance that provides coverage for events such as hurricanes. Discover our Travelex travel protection plans now →
REAL-LIFE CLAIM STORY
One of our Travelex travelers had their trip to Mexico interrupted because of severe winter weather in the U.S., resulting in a claims cost of nearly $2,000 for unused pre-paid hotel expenses and additional airfare to rejoin the trip after the storm passed.
Before booking a trip to Mexico, it is important to understand that local emergency services are often poorly equipped to deal efficiently with natural disasters compared to in the U.S., particularly outside major metropolitan centers. This can result in slow response times during major disasters and lower standards of health infrastructure in comparison to what you’re used to at home.
If you're involved in a natural disaster:
- Secure your passport in a safe, waterproof location.
- Keep in contact with your friends and family.
- Monitor local media and other sources.
- Follow the advice of local authorities.
- Contact your tour operator or airline and reach out to your travel insurance provider for assistance.
Mexico laws: Rules to know and follow
For American travelers, visiting a different country means you can not only experience a different language, religious practices, and traditions – it can mean abiding by drastically different local laws, too.
When visiting Mexico, it’s important to understand what you can’t do to stay safe and avoid unexpected legal action. While the country is just a quick “hop across the border” for many U.S. travelers, doing the wrong thing can land you in serious trouble.
What laws do I need to know about in Mexico?
Many laws in Mexico differ from what you might be used to in the U.S. – and, often, the penalties for breaking the law can be much harsher.
If you violate local Mexican laws, even unknowingly, you may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. It is your responsibility to understand and abide by all local laws while visiting Mexico, which includes understanding what you can and cannot bring into the country.
If you are arrested or detained, ask police or prison officials to notify the U.S. Embassy or nearest consulate immediately. The U.S. government cannot get U.S. citizens out of jail, but you can find more information about what to do here.
11 rules to be aware of:
- It is illegal to purchase or possess drugs.
- Smoking is banned in all public places in Mexico.
- It is illegal for travelers to bring electronic cigarettes (vaping devices) and all vaping solutions to Mexico.
- The legal drinking age is 18 years.
- You must carry your ID at all times, along with immigration documents.
- Drivers must carry a valid driver's license, proof of insurance, and registration when driving.
- Failing to report a road accident is illegal.
- It's against the law for foreigners to participate in political activity.
- Firearms, ammunition, and explosives are strictly prohibited.
- Hunting is illegal in most of Mexico's national parks and reserves.
- Taking photographs or videos of military or government sites is prohibited.
How to drive safely in Mexico
Can I drive a car in Mexico?
It is common for those who travel to Mexico from the U.S. to drive while in Mexico; however, that doesn’t mean it is the safest way for tourists to move around Mexico.
“Motor vehicle accidents are a leading cause of U.S. citizen deaths in Mexico.”
U.S. government via Travel.State.Gov
Even if you’re an experienced driver, it’s important to know traffic conditions in Mexico are more chaotic than in the U.S. and the road rules are different. This combination can heighten your chances of being involved in an accident.
Reminder: At Travelex, we are unable to offer collision coverage for driving in Mexico (whether in your own car or a rental car).
Helpful Mexico travel advice for those driving on vacation
We are unable to provide coverage for rental cars in Mexico, but if you’re going to drive in Mexico, it’s important to educate yourself as much as possible.
If you plan to drive in Mexico:
- Learn local road use and driving rules.
- Keep doors locked and windows up, even when moving.
- Always travel with a charged and working mobile phone in case of emergencies.
- Only travel during daylight hours and allow enough time to get to your destination before dark.
- Use toll roads (cuota) to reduce the risk of crime.
- Ensure you have the correct insurance coverage.
- Traffic stops by the police are common: always obey their instructions.
- If you're a victim of roadside robbery, do as you're asked.
Understand that driving on rural roads in Mexico can be dangerous because of:
- Poor road conditions.
- Pedestrians and livestock on roads.
- Inadequate street lighting and signage.
- Criminals who target vehicles, including campervans and SUVs, especially in rural areas.
Useful Mexico travel advice for every type of traveler
Whether you’re in search of the best surf breaks on the Pacific Coast, feasting your way through the cities, taking a long-awaited family resort vacation, or spending spring break in the sunshine, Mexico offers a melting-pot of adventures for American travelers.
No matter what’s on your itinerary, keep these tips in mind if you’re wondering how to stay safe in Mexico.
Travel tips for families visiting Mexico
Many families may wonder, “Is Mexico safe to visit?” even though the country is a fantastic destination for traveling families thanks to its many family-friendly resorts with kids clubs and fun activities for all ages.
While Mexico is a relatively safe destination for families in certain areas, it’s worth knowing:
- Some resorts and condos may not have pool fences, so check this when booking accommodation.
- Tourists should watch out for hotel balconies with low railings, which may be unsafe for children.
- Taxis typically don’t have car seats; bring one from home or find a private driver and rent a safety seat at your destination.
- Highchairs are rare at restaurants and cafes, so children may need extra care when eating out.
- Children can be more susceptible to food-borne illnesses or upset stomachs from changes in diets.
Travel tips for solo travelers visiting Mexico
Mexico is a well-established destination on the backpacker route, and increasingly has become a hotspot for solo digital nomads. Despite great tourism infrastructure in popular destinations, it’s important to plan ahead to help ensure your safety.
When visiting Mexico as a solo traveler:
1. Research your accommodation thoroughly to ensure you’re staying at a quality hostel or hotel.
2. Book activities through your accommodation provider so you can participate in local experiences with others.
3. Avoid walking alone late at night.
4. Share a copy of your itinerary with friends or family back home.
5. Utilize travel safety apps like our Travel On app to stay in-the-know about potential safety risks.
Travel tips for students visiting Mexico
Making your way to Mexico for spring break?
Here are some tips on how to travel safely in Mexico as a student:
- The legal drinking age is 18 years old. Take caution when consuming alcohol, as being drunk in public puts you at greater risk of harm.
- Steer clear of cheap cocktails, shots, and spirits – these often contain homemade or unregulated spirits, which can cause methanol poisoning.
- Order drinks at bars where you can watch them being made in front of you.
- Never accept drugs from anyone – they are illegal and the penalties of being caught are extreme.
- You might be on a budget, but don’t sacrifice when it comes to safety. Travel in groups, avoid public transport late at night, and travel in official taxis and rideshare vehicles.
Travel tips for seniors visiting Mexico
It’s never too late to experience Mexico for yourself – no matter what your age.
If you’re over 65, follow these Mexico travel tips:
- If you have mobility issues or special requirements, research accommodation options carefully and choose reputable resorts or condos. Some accommodations won’t have elevators, handrails on stairs, or other safety features you may be used to in the U.S.
- Learn about common tourist scams so you don’t fall victim to “helpful” locals, who may be more likely to target older travelers.
- Be aware of heat stroke. Avoid spending time in the sun during the hottest times of the day and be sure to drink plenty of bottled water while out and about.
- Bring any medications you need from home, along with a doctor's certificate and original packaging to avoid any issues upon entering or exiting the country.
10 extra tips to help you travel safely in Mexico
Here’s some more useful information on how to stay safe in Mexico to help you bring back only positive memories from your vacation!
1. Share your itinerary with family or friends, including your hotel contact details.
2. Consider buying travel insurance as soon as you book any element of your trip, so you can have coverage for several benefits, including cancellations.
3. Make digital copies of your passport, ID, and applicable visa permits in case of emergency. Consider making physical copies if you’re traveling where access to technology is limited.
4. Save local emergency phone numbers in your phone.
5. Notify your bank that you’re traveling abroad.
6. Arrange multiple sources of money in case you lose a card or have it stolen.
7. Do your due diligence and research tour companies and accommodation thoroughly before booking.
8. Avoid illegal drugs and refuse them if offered.
9. Learn some simple phrases in the local Spanish language, including common greetings and any useful safety terms such as, “I need help,” and “Where is the police station?”
10. Check Travel.State.Gov for any new threats to your travel plans before you depart and sign up for critical alerts that may affect your destination.
Discover our Travel On app
Want to travel safely and more confidently through Mexico? Try our Travel On app – the 24/7 travel companion that monitors worldwide events and sends useful risk intelligence straight to your smartphone while you’re on-the-go, helping to keep you safe and supported on your trip.
With Travel On, Travelex customers on Mexico vacations can receive:
- 24/7 access to travel advice, risk ratings, and security alerts for their destination(s).
- Real-time safety notifications based on their location while traveling.
- Tap-to-call emergency assistance from anywhere in the world.
How do I download the Travel On app?
Protect your Mexico trip with travel insurance
The information in this article is correct at the time of writing on October 3, 2023, and may change at any time. The product descriptions provided here are only brief summaries and may be changed without notice. The full coverage terms and details, including limitations and exclusions, are contained in the insurance policy. If you have questions about coverage available under our plans, please review the policy or contact us at +1-800-228-9792 or [email protected]. The claims stories used in this article represent real-life Travelex customer claim scenarios and the corresponding claim payments made, but the names and other identifiable information have been withheld to respect the privacy of the traveler(s).
Travelex Insurance Services, Inc. CA Agency License #0D10209. Travel Insurance is underwritten by Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance Company; NAIC #22276.