Nestled in the northeastern region of Mexico, Monterrey is a city that boasts a rich culture, surreal nature scene, and a bustling economy. Also known as the “Sultan of the North,” Monterrey is Mexico’s third-largest city and serves as the capital of the Nuevo Leon state.
If you’re planning a trip to the city, you might be wondering if it’s safe to visit Monterrey. And you’re not alone — safety is a common concern among travelers visiting Mexico. It’s true that the city has experienced crime in the past, but several improvements have been made to ensure the safety of visitors planning to visit this city of Mountains.
Ahead, we’ll delve into the safety situation in Monterrey and provide you with some helpful tips, so you can experience this beautiful city without issues. Read on to learn more!
Is Monterrey Safe?
Monterrey is generally a safe destination for tourists. If you’re careful, you can’t really go wrong with popular tourist areas. For example, San Pedro Garza Garcia is a popular and safe place to stay, known for its luxury shopping malls and attractions such as Cerro de Chipinque and Chipinque Ecological Park.
When venturing out of the urban areas, you can go visit Grutas de Garcia, which is another safe spot located within an hour’s drive from the city. The central area of Monterrey, El Centro and Barrio Antiguo, are also pretty safe.
However, there are some non-tourist neighborhoods and residential areas that can pose potential safety concerns. If you can stick to the more tourist-y areas, you’re likely going to have a safe and enjoyable trip to Monterrey. That said, it’s still important to exercise caution, no matter where you’re in the city.
Crime in Monterrey
Monterrey falls somewhere in the middle of the safety spectrum when it comes to Mexican cities. While it’s not as safe as Cozumel, the crime rate is much lower than in cities like Tijuana, Juarez, and Acapulco.
Here are some of the most common crimes in Monterrey:
Transport & Taxis Risk: MEDIUM
When it comes to transportation, Monterrey has a moderate risk. Public transportation areas such as bus and railway depots are the most common places where people fall victim to pickpocketing. It’s advisable to keep an eye on your belongings and not leave them unattended.
It’s always a good idea to call ahead for a taxi instead of hailing one on the street. There have been some reports of express kidnappings, where victims are abducted and forced to withdraw money from ATMs. These incidents are rare, but it’s always better to exercise caution and use trusted transportation services.
Pickpockets Risk: MEDIUM
Pickpocketing is common in Monterrey, particularly in public places such as stations, streets, and airports. You should be aware of your surroundings at all times and keep your belongings secured and close to your body.
You should avoid carrying large sums of cash or wearing expensive jewelry in public. As mentioned above, pickpockets can also target you in buses and railway depots, so keep a watchful eye.
Natural Disasters Risk: LOW
Monterrey is not particularly susceptible to natural disasters, and the overall risk is considered low. However, the city is located near a river that runs through its main thoroughfare, making it susceptible to flooding during heavy rainfalls. Although not serious, it is still important to be cautious during inclement weather.
Scams Risk: MEDIUM
Scams can occur in any city, and Monterrey is no exception. It’s important to be aware of common scams and take precautions to avoid them. One prevalent scam in Monterrey is the “picture scam,” where a local will ask you to take their picture with their camera and then claim that you damaged their camera, demanding payment. To avoid this, it is best to kindly refuse taking anyone’s picture or only take pictures for people you know.
Another scam to watch out for is taxi drivers overcharging by not turning on the meter, so make sure to ask them to do so before starting your journey.
And finally, beware of friendly strangers offering to help you with ATM machines, as they may be trying to scan your debit or credit card with a card skimmer to steal your information. Always cover the number pad when entering your PIN code and travel with credit cards that have no foreign currency fees and cash that can be exchanged at local banks in Monterrey.
Mugging Risk: LOW
Monterrey has a low mugging risk, but as with any big city, you should still exercise caution when out and about. It is recommended to stay in well-lit and populated areas, especially at night. Traveling in groups can provide an added layer of safety. If you are carrying a purse or bag, keep it close to your body and be aware of your surroundings.
Terrorism Risk: LOW
Monterrey has not experienced any terrorist attacks in recent history. However, as with any destination, it’s important to remain aware and cautious in today’s unpredictable world.
For example, in 2011, a high-end casino in Monterrey was attacked by armed men who set it on fire, killing at least 52 people. The incident was described by Mexico’s President as an act of terrorism, and he ordered the deployment of 1,500 troops to the city over the next three days to help local authorities fight drug trafficking and organized crime. While rare, incidents like these can happen.
Keep up to date with local news and any security alerts that may be issued. It’s always wise to follow any guidance or instructions provided by local authorities, particularly in areas where security measures have been heightened.
Women Travelers Risk: MEDIUM
Monterrey is relatively safe for women travelers, but it’s still important to take necessary precautions to ensure safety. Traveling in a group or with a partner is always recommended, and women should avoid local clubs and bars where they could be exposed to sexual and violent predators.
If they must travel alone, it’s best to stay within a close radius of their hotel or another source of accommodation. If they experience a threat, they have the safety net of a 24-hour hospitality staff nearby.
Areas to Avoid in Monterrey, Mexico
To ensure a safe trip to Monterrey, you should avoid certain areas known for criminal activity. One such area is the Colonia Independencia in northwestern Monterrey, which is known for drug-related crimes.
In addition, bordering communities such as Tamaulipas in the northeast, Coahuila to the west, and San Luis Potosi to the south have also been advised to be avoided by the US State Department due to ongoing violence and crime.
Other areas to be cautious of include the Zona Rosa, which is known for its nightlife but can be dangerous. The area surrounding the Cerro de la Silla mountain range is also relatively high-risk.
While wealthy businesspeople tend to be targeted for extortion and kidnapping, you can also be at risk. So it’s essential to remain vigilant and avoid walking alone at night. We also recommend you take official taxis and avoid unlicensed taxis in less populated areas.
Safety Tips for Travelers Visiting Monterrey
Take the following precautions when visiting Monterrey:
- Avoid traveling alone at night and always stay in well-lit areas.
- Be aware of your surroundings and avoid displaying expensive items like jewelry, electronics, or large amounts of cash.
- Use only licensed taxis with official logos and registered license plates, and avoid taking taxis from unmarked or unlicensed providers.
- Keep important documents such as passports and travel visas in a secure location and make copies in case of theft or loss.
- Avoid carrying all your valuables in one bag or pocket and keep them spread out among your belongings.
- Stay informed of local news and events, especially related to crime and violence in the area.
- Do not leave your drink unattended while at bars or clubs, as drinks can be spiked with drugs.
- Avoid walking in areas that are poorly lit or secluded, especially after dark.
- Use common sense and trust your instincts. If you feel unsafe or uncomfortable in a situation or area, leave immediately.
- Always have emergency contact numbers saved in your phone and keep a backup of these numbers in case of phone loss or theft.
In case of an emergency, here’s a list of important contacts that might come in handy:
- Ambulance: 065
- Highway Assistance and Tourist Help: 078, 81 8340 2113
- Fire Department: 81 8342 0053
- Emergencies (Red Cross, Civil Protection, and Police): 066
- Federal Highway Police: 81 8343 2576
- Radio Patrols: 81 8345 5419
- Preventive Police: 81 8125 9494
When traveling to Monterrey, it’s essential to consider and respect the local culture to avoid any misunderstandings or uncomfortable situations. Here are some cultural considerations to keep in mind:
- Language: While many locals speak English, it’s still important to learn basic Spanish phrases to communicate with locals. Speaking the local language can help you understand their culture better and make your interactions with them more meaningful.
- Dress code: Dress modestly and appropriately, particularly when visiting religious sites. Avoid wearing revealing clothing or shorts and tank tops in public places. In addition, it’s best to avoid wearing expensive jewelry or accessories that could draw unwanted attention.
- Tipping: Tipping is customary in Monterrey, just like in many other parts of the world. Generally, tipping 10-15% of the total bill in restaurants and bars is standard.
- Punctuality: Punctuality is highly valued in Monterrey. If you’re meeting someone, try to arrive on time or a few minutes early to show respect for their time.
- Personal space: In Monterrey, personal space is highly respected. Avoid standing too close to people or touching them without permission, as it could be seen as invasive.
- Religious and cultural practices: Be respectful of the local customs and religious practices. For example, if visiting a church, be mindful of the dress code and avoid taking photographs during the services or events.
- Social interactions: Social interactions in Monterrey are typically formal and polite. It’s customary to address people by their title and last name, such as “Señor” or “Señora” followed by their last name.
When visiting Monterrey, you should drink bottled or purified water to prevent stomach illness. It’s also recommended to avoid street food and eat only at reputable restaurants. Dengue fever and Zika virus are present in the area, so you should take precautions to prevent mosquito bites.
Bring insect repellent and wear long sleeves and pants during peak mosquito activity times. It’s always a good idea to consult with your doctor before traveling to ensure that all necessary vaccinations are up to date.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Monterrey Mexico safe for US tourists?
Yes, Monterrey is generally safe for US tourists, but as we said, it’s important to remain vigilant and aware. You should stick to well-lit tourist areas and avoid walking alone at night. Also, be cautious in crowded places where pickpocketing and theft can occur.
Plus, you should be aware of potential health risks and take necessary precautions such as staying hydrated and protecting against mosquito-borne illnesses.
What is the crime rate in Monterrey?
According to Numbeo, Monterrey’s crime index is 47.93, which means the risk for crime is moderate. For context, the crime index in San Francisco is 68.44 and 49.55 in New York City. This means that Monterrey is safer than both SF and NYC.
It’s important to note that the Crime Index and Safety Index (which you see in the graph above) are two different things. A safe city has a low crime index and a high safety index.
Is Monterrey a good place to live?
Yes. It’s a vibrant city with a booming economy, modern infrastructure, and excellent educational institutions. It’s a great place to live for those looking for a dynamic urban lifestyle. The city also offers plenty of cultural and entertainment options, including museums, galleries, and parks.
Monterrey is a vibrant and exciting city that has a lot in store for you. While it’s true that there are some safety concerns to keep in mind when traveling here, exercising caution and taking some basic safety measures can help ensure a safe and enjoyable trip.
As with any city, it’s always a good idea to stay informed about current events and to be aware of your surroundings. If you can do that, you can have a wonderful and memorable experience in Monterrey.