FAQ: Travel Safety

Is it safe to drive from xxx to yyy?

While there are true reports of people being stopped at roadblocks and robbed, this is certainly not a common event. When it has happened, it’s been primarily in localized areas. You can prepare for and avoid this by joining some travel groups and keeping up to date on current events. Ask about your proposed route of travel. You may find that while there is no criminal activity, there is something that’s more common — road washouts from flash flooding. In tropical climates prone to hurricanes and storms, this can happen very quickly. It’s always good to keep up to date before traveling any distance.

Is it safe to drive at night?

Driving in Mexico does pose some challenges that you may not be used to. Although there are always uninformed paranoid stories on the internet, the real dangers of driving in Mexico have nothing to do with crime or criminals. The number one danger especially when driving at night, is free range livestock, which is very common in Mexico. Herds of goats or cows or horses could be lurking just around the next corner. Cows have an especially bad habit of laying down on warm pavement at night. Any of these obstacles is enough to pose a real danger, so it’s generally not advised to drive at night unless it’s unavoidable.

Are toll roads safer?

This is debatable. One thing for certain, they will cost more. There are many toll highways (cuotas) in Mexico and tolls can add up very quickly on a long trip. People use them for several reasons. One of these is perceived safety, although you should recognize that flash floods and livestock don’t differentiate between toll roads and free roads. However, you generally will have a better driving experience with wider, better maintained highway and you also benefit from the fact that your toll includes added insurance and roadside service if needed. The Mexican government provides this roadside emergency service through an organization called the Angeles Verdes (Green Angels) and you will often see them patrolling the highways in their service trucks. If your car overheats or runs out of gas, or breaks a fan belt or has a flat tire, they will take care of it right there on the spot, at no charge. They also patrol some of the libramientos (free roads) but almost always are seen on toll roads.

What should I expect at roadside checks?

Again, a common sight here in Mexico but one you may not be used to, is the roadside check. These checkpoints can be staffed by military personnel, police, immigration, or agriculture officials. They are set up in both permanent and temporary locations and serve more than one purpose. Primarily they are designed to check for and detect drugs, stolen goods, and fugitives. Due to that primary purpose they are staffed by armed police or military who can sometimes be intimidating. But their job is not to harass the innocent tourist or traveler, so just smile and answer their questions and you should be on your way. There are rare occasions where some of these officials over step their authority and because of that, there is usually a sign posted at every checkpoint with a phone number that you can call to report them. Some foreigners think it’s necessary to offer gifts in exchange for an easy passage but that’s like feeding the animals at the zoo – not necessary and not recommended. In fact it can foster a culture of expectation that makes it harder for everyone. Just cooperate if they need to look in your vehicle, allow only one person at a time to do so, and keep an eye on them or perhaps video them while the check is being carried out. Only Federal police or Immigration officials are authorized to check your immigration documents but you should always have these available when traveling, along with your vehicle and drivers licenses and other related documents.

Is air travel safe in Mexico?

Mexican airlines follow strict international safety standards just like any others. If there is any danger to you while traveling by air, it’s probably going to be in the airports. There’s nothing like an extremely crowded airport filled with dizzy, hurried passengers, to provide opportunities for pick pockets. Always keep your important travel documents and cash on your person and always keep your baggage in sight. Again, this is not a Mexican problem, it is worldwide. An unattended bag can not only be stolen, it can also be used to smuggle things without your knowledge. Be aware of your surroundings and your belongings.

Is there a place I can get travel information from?

In our Links section we will publish links to many reliable sources of information for driving and other forms of travel.