Safety in Mexico City
I want to take this time to speak about safety in Mexico City. Regardless of whatever political affiliations you possess, it is safe to say that our current presidents relationship with Mexico has made travel to the area more difficult. We had no issues when passing through Mexican Customs, but we had a few incidents during our stay that were a jarring reminder of how tense things really are between the two countries. We visited in early March of 2017, so early that the full impact of a Trump White House had yet to be felt. However, even then, tension was high if we left any of the typical, high volume tourist areas. I had been to Mexico twice before this trip, and I can tell you I have never experienced that level of tension before. This is not a political diatribe, or an opinion piece on Trump’s politics. It’s simply a friendly reminder that Americans traveling in Mexico should stick to the beaten path. In a city of 21 million, that should go without saying.
We had absolutely no problem in the tourist regions, but when we were in the open- air markets, the subways and the streets, the response was different. The emotions aimed at us varied – sometimes, we were ignored, sometimes looked at with disgust, sometimes stared at with something bordering on awe, sometimes people just seemed confused as to why we were there, and once we were yelled at and told to go away. However, the overwhelming majority of folks we interacted with were kind, warm, welcoming, open, and helpful. In my opinion, and the opinion of our travel group, we were treated far better as Americans in Mexico than most Mexicans are treated in America. Most people bent over backwards to help us, and went out of their way to make us feel welcome.
It may also be helpful to hear that I was treated better in Mexico City than I’ve ever been treated in New York or Los Angeles. Keep in mind that if you don’t have the same skin color as the majority of those who live in Mexico City, you’re going to notice more because you’re naturally going to be a little more on edge. You already feel like you stand out, so it’s really easy to pick up on social cues you would miss in a country you’re familiar with. It’s a big city. Big cities have pitfalls. Big cities have crime and homelessness and poverty. You need to treat Mexico City with the same care you’d treat any large city you’re unfamiliar with. Don’t go exploring, make sure you have some grasp of the language, and stay in high volume tourist areas. We all came to the consensus that when using guide books about Mexico City that are not recent editions, it’s best to presume that the level of danger for any given region in the guidebook is understated. Because Mexico City is such a confluence of bodies and traffic and smog and beggars, it’s best to keep a wary eye on your belongings. Keep small change for bathrooms, admission tickets, and donations to cathedrals, etc., in a separate pocket from your larger bills and I.D. Purses and billfolds are a recipe for disaster- it’s just too easy to get robbed. Spread out your larger bills among the group so if one person is robbed you don’t all suddenly become broke. Trust your gut. If you think that an area doesn’t look legitimate, it probably isn’t. In the higher volume areas, there are armed security guards on every corner. It makes going out at night for dinner a good deal easier and extends the time you have each day. We noticed these guards in all of the major tourist districts, and they tended to center in the hotel/restaurant regions of each district. It’s really hard to gauge an area by a visit of just a few days- you can only get a feel for a place at best. I’d love to hear from anyone else who has traveled to the area to see if they had the same experiences or something totally different. In the meantime, I hope this helps all of you who are considering travel to Mexico City.