Zacatecas is a city situated in north-central Mexico. Built on the slopes of a valley, Zacatecas is known for its historic ruins and buildings. The city was popular for being a silver mining hub in the 16th century.
The history of mines can be seen through various pink stone ornated churches and buildings, for example, Palacio de Gobierno Estatal and the Catedral de Zacatecas. With all the history, and being a city in Mexico, Is Zacatecas safe to travel?
The silver mining hub helped the city gather wealth, so it became one of the most significant cities in north-central Mexico. Parts of Zacatecas that once were colonial are now World Heritage sites, attracting tourists worldwide.
There are tons of interesting and beautiful sites to visit in Zacatecas, which could be one of the reasons this city witnessed a footfall of over 650,000 tourists in 2018.
Even after being a city rich with history, Zacatecas is suffering from increasing crimes—from mass killings to kidnapping and mugging— criminal occurrences are often making news headlines.
So if you plan to travel to Zacatecas for a quick getaway or vacation, we have created this article for you. We have covered the potential risks, how to avoid them, cultural considerations, and other safety concerns you must avoid to have a cheerful vacation.
Is Zacatecas Safe to Visit?
Zacatecas was once a haven but now has become a competing ground for cartels and gangs fighting to take control of the drug route. The city sharing borders with eight others could be one of the reasons why crime is peaking. In fact, the crime rate is so high that the U.S Department of State has issued a travel advisory stating “Do Not Travel.” This travel advisory makes Zacatecas one of the 6 states to get a “Do Not Travel” warning.
Also Read: Is Isla Mujeres Safe?
Zacatecas is getting infamous for severe and petty crimes, including cartels and gang wars to control drug routes, mugging, kidnapping etc. Tourists do sometimes get into the crosshair. One of the reasons you wouldn’t find many travellers in the city. But with some precautions and mindfulness, you can avoid many bad things and return with great memories. There are some other safety concerns that you must also take into consideration:
- Bad Water
- Tourist Scams and thievery
- Dry climatic conditions
- Taxi Scam
Crime in Zacatecas
Zacatecas is witnessing high crime rates. Being a historical site that attracts tourists, the authorities have failed to maintain peace and protection of the locals and tourists. The uptick in crime makes travellers avoid this place, ripping the city off tourism income. Here are some of the most common violent crimes in Zacatecas.
One of the most common crimes worldwide, especially in touristy areas, is pickpocketing.
It is not uncommon for tourist places to have pickpockets. They disguise and hide their presence among the crowd and sneak on vulnerable people to steal their belongings. Sometimes they use different kinds of tricks, like distracting tourists while their counterparts steal stuff. Or simply engage tourists in conversation, and while they’re distracted, pickpockets would steal and run away.
The best way to prevent getting pickpocketed is to stay aware of your surroundings, be suspicious of strangers and not trust anyone easily. Use a strap wallet or satchel bag to store your documents and cash safely.
Thieves are also pretty common in Zacatecas. They can steal or snatch pretty much anything they see with you. It could be your luggage, backpack, mobile phone, or camera. They use distractions to divert your attention or use crowds as a disguise.
Among many distractions, one is the bird poop method which is very common throughout Mexico. Strangers will tell you about bird poop and try to clean it and then steal your items. Try not to fall for any tricks or distractions; even if you do, due diligence may save you.
Cartel and Gang Violence
In the past couple decades, Zacatecas has gone from a relatively safer destination to a highly dangerous one. In 2006, the homicide rate in Zacatecas was 3.45 per 100,000 inhabitants. The homicide numbers have risen to 142 per 100,000, one of the highest in Mexico, and more than 97% than the national average.
The city is now at a crossroads with criminals; gangs, and cartels fighting over the dominion of drug routes. Not just that, Zacatecas has one of the highest numbers of extortion cases. Although the government has deployed nearly 500 federal soldiers in the state, the crime isn’t subsiding.
In January 2023, a U.S. citizen, her fiancee, and two other family members were killed. The man was visiting her fiancee during the holidays. In 2022, criminals dumped the body of 10, beaten and murdered people in front of the governor’s house in Zacatecas.
There’s no knowing when a crime will occur and who will be the victim. You could become a victim of violent crime. However, if you stick to touristy areas and with other tourists, the chances of you having a good vacation might increase.
Robbery is another possibility in Zacatecas and is increasing in numbers. Perpetrators rob people at gunpoint, assaulting and beating them. In 2019, 3 people, including a 52-year-old man, her 19-year-old daughter, and an older man 81 years old, headed towards Jalisco, where they were attacked by a group of robbers in Zacatecas.
The attackers shot a 52-year-old man 3 times while others were beaten. Their belongings, including passports, were stolen.
If you find yourself in such situation, do not try to fend off robbers or use your wit unnecessarily. Give them your stuff and escape to a safe place. Once safe, you can call the cops to report the robbery. Don’t wear expensive accessories like a watch, ring, bracelet, or chain; only carry a little cash.
Violence Against Female
According to a report by Yucatan Times, Zacatecas is the most dangerous place for women, with 25 cases per 100,000 women. Sexual assaults against women are increasing, meaning the city/state is unsafe for women travelers, especially those traveling solo.
Even if you’re traveling with your partner or a group of friends, you’re not immune to sexual assault. To prevent it, dress moderately and do not visit bars, pubs, or clubs. Do not go outside at night and don’t indulge in conversation with total strangers. The more you keep to yourself in Zacatecas, the safer you’ll be.
Bad Neighbourhood In Zacatecas
Zacatecas has no good or bad neighbourhoods. The whole city is a ground for criminal activities. The best way to stay safe is to remain near touristy areas, see places during the bright daylight and avoid going out at night. Avoid bars and clubs and eat in good restaurants. You can also feast on the scrumptious Mexican street food; however, do so in areas with people.
Safety Concerns When Visiting Zacatecas
Zacatecas is one of the only 6 states the U.S. Department of State says not to travel to. If you’re still hell-bent on visiting this state, here are some safety concerns for you:
Zacatecas has better tap water quality than many other states, yet we won’t recommend drinking it. It could contain arsenic minerals, pathogens and other microbes unseen by the naked eye. The best way to go about this is to buy and drink bottled water, which is readily available and costs between $0.50 to $1.41.
Insect Borne Diseases
Mexico is known for insect-borne diseases like malaria, dengue, and others and are caused by mosquitoes. When in the state, carry insect repellents with you if you don’t want to get sick during your vacations.
Tainted Drugs or Alcohol
Drinking is a fun part of the vacation when done within limits, but it can also be a medium of getting in trouble if you don’t buy alcohol from a good store. Sometimes perpetrators taint alcohol with chemicals. It can get you in trouble or cause harm to your health. And yeah, don’t buy or get involved with drugs. It is illegal, plus there are dealers who work with cops to get you caught buying drugs and later extort you for money.
Safety Concerns When Visiting Zacatecas
Zacatecas is among the most dangerous state in Mexico. Knowing the risks, If you still want to explore the beauty and rich culture history, you should consider these safety tips for your uttermost safety.
- Stay near the tourist areas as those spots tend to be safer due to the large number of tourists and police. Chances of standing out among natives are higher; hence, staying with other visitors will make you even out the odds.
- Do not roam aimlessly or alone. Again, this is a dangerous place to be, and being alone will make you an easy target. Be in a group or with a couple of other tourists.
- Avoid flashing expensive items. Keep subtle and put away your expensive watch, ring, or any item to avoid becoming a target.
- Use a satchel, knapsack, or strap bag to keep your belongings safe. We recommend leaving all your important documents at your hotel/accommodation and carrying a copy of essential documents.
- Don’t show too much cash in your wallet. Only carry enough amount to get by, like buying lunch and transportation. If you keep a wad of cash in your pocket or wallet, someone might notice and try to mug you.
- General Hospital: 492 923 3004
- Tourist Informations (INFOTUR): 492 924 4047, 800 712 4078
- Federal Preventive Police: 492 922 5288
- Hospital San Agustín – Guadalupe Municipality 492 899 4900, 492 491 43 00
- Emergencies: 911
- Red Cross: 065, 01 (492) 922 3323
Cultural Consideration in Zacatecas
Like the rest of Mexico, Zacatecas is deeply rooted in cultural history. From Mayan Ruins to monuments left by Spanish colonization, there’s a lot of history to see. Natives respect their culture and traditions and you’re expected to respect them as well.
You must respect their diversity and eccentricities as it will help you build relations with locals and maintain a positive outlook. Dress moderately when visiting historical monuments; don’t force your language on others. Not all people in Zacatecas speak fluent English, so you must learn basic Spanish to get by.
The Bottm Line: Is Zacatecas Safe?
Zacatecas has one of the highest homicide, sexual assault, and kidnapping cases in Mexico. Tourist footfall has been reducing over time since they fear for their lives. Shooting, aggravated assault, and kidnapping often make news, and the US Department of State has a Do Not Travel travel advisory for this state.
Yet, thousands of tourists visit Zacatecas to witness its historical glory. If you avoid doing things like flashing expensive items and cash and do not wander alone anywhere or at night, you just might have a good time in Zacatecas. Remember, exercise extra caution, keep your wits to a minimum, and watch your actions.
What is Zacatecas Most Known For?
Zacatecas is a historical city built on the slopes of a narrow valley mostly known for religious and civil monuments. It is also one of the most significant mining places of New Spain, majorly producing silver.
Will I Be Safe in Zacatecas?
Zacatecas has one of the highest crime rates in Mexico, yet many tourists go there. As long you exercise extra caution, don’t go out alone or at night and be sutble, you will be safe during your vacation in that state.