If you prefer watching a video of me talking about this topic you can scroll down below this article
My first day in Mexico my bicycle broke down in the alleged lawless border town of Nuevo Laredo. Surrounded by moms walking their kids to school, people smiling and trying to help me out of my jam I was scared. After fixing my bike I was riding down the highway scanning every one I saw as if they might potentially want to kidnap me and take all my money. Considering what I had been told by people in Laredo, Texas (”Don’t do this”, ”You might get lucky and survive”) I don’t think this thought pattern was unwarranted.
That was 4 months ago, I have since bicycled (sticking out like a soar thumb with my setup) through 13 of the Mexican states including some that are considered to be more ”dangerous” such as Nuevo Léon, Coahuila, Durango, Sinaloa, Jalisco, Michoacan etc. During this journey I have spent significant time in various environments from well protected tourist areas, big cities and remote wilderness. Never have I felt that I was in real danger. That being said, Mexico isn’t 100% safe (most places aren’t) but there are precautions you can take to further reduce the chances of something unfortunate happening.
- Mexico is a developing country and most people don’t have alot of money. To avoid being robbed it’s wise to not flash large amounts of cash, wear jewelry or expensive clothing.
- It’s better to see things during the day. Crime is often committed under the veil of darkness so it’s best to avoid wandering around excessively late especially if you’re inebriated making you a seemingly easy target.
- Avoid travelling at night because livestock often wonders into the road, Mexico is littered with speed bumps and the road conditions can vary wildly.
- When taking public transportation or visiting crowded areas in big cities or tourist areas be aware that this is where getting your pick-pocketed is the most common (not that it’s very common). Also, it’s a good idea to not have all your cash, cards and important documents in one place so that if you are robbed you still have a second recourse.
- Learn some Spanish! Speaking the local language makes you stick out less and therefore you’re less likely to look like a clueless tourist. Also it allows you to have a richer experience. Mexicans are kind and fun loving people, talk to them as much as you can!
Although all of my experiences with the Mexican Police have been very pleasant, I have talked to people who have traveled extensively in Mexico and the most common source of robbery that I’ve heard is the Police. Usually in the form of asking for a bribe. This happens because police officers like most Mexicans aren’t paid very well. It’s common they will ask for a bribe to resolve the issue (traffic violation, drug possession, etc.) here and now or offer to take you to the station. I’ve heard of people saying they would like to be taken to the station and the officer giving up and driving off. I’ve also heard people have had success discouraging police officers by pretending to not be able to speak Spanish. Although most people don’t want to encourage corruption, the Mexican judicial system is currently still Napoleonic which means you’re guilty until proven innocent. Your choice.
The Cartels (Drug Wars)
Although the Cartels are largely responsible for people thinking that Mexico is unsafe the reality is that they’re the last thing you need to worry about. This is because the violence that you may have seen on the news or heard about is usually drug business related (cartel on cartel violence). This violence occurs because of the millions of dollars that are in play regarding selling drugs. So unless you’re a billionaire flaunting his wealth in Mexico, it’s unlikely that you have a drug cartel’s attention.
Although I might be more versed in this topic than the average non-mexican resident I am by no means an expert. Feel free to correct, add or ask about anything you feel was missed in the comment section below.
To see a map of where I went and what I saw you can click here to go to my website’s homepage.
Have a great one!
Here’s the video version of me addressing this topic