Oaxaca is a beautiful and culturally rich state in southern Mexico known for its archeological sites, colonial architecture, indigenous traditions, artisanal crafts and flavorful cuisine. However, with crime and civil unrest in parts of Mexico, some travelers are questioning if it’s safe to visit Oaxaca right now.
Is Oaxaca dangerous?
The Oaxaca state itself is generally considered safe, especially in tourist areas like the capital city of Oaxaca de Juárez and popular destinations such as San José del Pacífico, Teotitlán del Valle and Puerto Escondido. Violent crime rates in Oaxaca are lower than many other parts of Mexico.
That said, there are areas of concern in the region that travelers should be aware of:
- Highway robberies: Armed robberies have occurred on remote highways in Oaxaca, especially Highway 175 between Oaxaca City and the coast. It’s best to only drive during daylight hours and avoid driving alone at night.
- Demonstrations: As a center of activism and political unrest in Mexico, demonstrations and protests do occur in Oaxaca and have the potential to turn violent. However, they are usually centered around specific issues and confined to city centers.
- Petty crime: As with any tourist destination, pickpocketing and petty theft occurs, particularly in crowded markets, parks and on public transit in Oaxaca City.
- Drug cartel violence: There has been some drug-related violence in Oaxaca, but tourist areas remain very safe and separate from cartel conflicts.
Is Oaxaca City safe for tourists?
Yes, Oaxaca City is considered very safe for tourists. The downtown area is vibrant, beautiful and filled with sights like the Zócalo (main square), Santo Domingo Cathedral, Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca, as well as markets, restaurants and hotels. The majority of visitors to Oaxaca do not experience any safety issues.
Like other large cities, Oaxaca City does have some crime. Tourists should be cautious of pickpocketing and petty theft, especially around the markets. Most crime occurs at night, so it is best to stay in populated tourist areas after dark.
Use basic safety precautions in Oaxaca City like:
- Don’t display expensive cameras, jewelry or smartphones
- Watch your belongings at markets and restaurants
- Avoid deserted areas or poorly lit streets at night
- Only take taxis from official stands or ask your hotel to call one
- Monitor your bank/credit card statements for unauthorized transactions
There is a small police presence downtown which helps deter crime. Tourists very rarely experience violent crime in Oaxaca City.
Is it safe to visit Oaxaca’s ruins and archeological sites?
Yes, visiting famous ruins like Monte Albán, Mitla and Yagul near Oaxaca City is very safe. These sites all have entrance fees, staff monitoring the area, and receive many visitors daily. There is little crime reported at the major archeological zones.
For more remote ruins that require independent hiking or travel, it’s best to go with a guide or tour group for added security. Avoid trekking alone to isolated ancient sites.
Is public transportation in Oaxaca safe?
Public transportation like buses, taxis, collectivos (shared vans) and city transit is generally safe to use during the daytime. At night, it’s best to call a taxi from an official rank or ask your hotel to request one.
When using city buses or collective vans, be watchful of your belongings as pickpocketing occasionally occurs. Don’t travel on empty buses or taxis alone at night.
Is it safe for solo female travelers?
Many women safely travel alone in Oaxaca and have a wonderful experience. However, female travelers should follow common sense safety tips:
- Stay near other travelers or tourists at night
- Dress modestly and avoid drawing excessive attention
- Don’t walk alone in isolated areas
- Use authorized taxis or arrange a private driver through your hotel
- Be cautious at beaches, avoid secluded stretches
Most issues, like catcalling, are not dangerous but can be avoided by staying near populated areas. Violent crime against female tourists is rare.
Is Oaxaca safe to visit during Day of the Dead?
Yes, visiting Oaxaca for the Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos) festival from October 31 to November 2 is very safe. It is a joyous holiday where families gather in cemeteries and public plazas to honor their deceased relatives. The streets are filled with revelers, music, flowers and parades.
There is an increased police presence during the major festivities in Oaxaca City. Petty crime can still occur in large crowds, so keep valuables secure. But violent incidents are extremely rare during the holiday.
Are the Oaxacan beaches safe?
Yes, Oaxaca’s beaches on the Pacific coast like Puerto Escondido, Huatulco and zipolite are very safe to visit. The coastal towns see many Mexican and foreign tourists so there is security and police presence. Violent crime is uncommon.
As when visiting any beach in Mexico:
- Don’t bring valuables to the beach, leave in your hotel safe
- Don’t walk alone on empty stretches of beach at night
- Only swim at beaches with lifeguards present
- Beware of strong waves and riptides if no lifeguards are around
- Arrange an official taxi at night
Use caution and common sense at the beaches in Oaxaca, but tourists rarely encounter problems.
Is it safe to hike and backpack in Oaxaca?
Hiking and backpacking is safe with the proper precautions anywhere in Oaxaca besides remote jungle regions near the Veracruz border. Use these tips when venturing outdoors:
- Don’t hike alone, go with a guide or group
- Tell your hotel/hostel your planned trail and return time
- Stay on marked trails and avoid hiking after dark
- Watch for terrain hazards like falling rocks or crumbling trails
- Bring plenty of water, food, first aid supplies and a cell phone charger
- Be alert for poisonous snakes, scorpions and mosquitos
The main hiking areas near Oaxaca City and Puerto Escondido are considered very safe. Always check latest warnings before heading into remote regions.
Is Oaxaca safe to visit right now?
Yes, Oaxaca remains a safe place to visit for travelers who use common sense precautions. The cultural sights, charming mountain towns, beaches and outdoor adventures can all be enjoyed safely. As with any new destination, it’s best to:
- Stay alert in crowded areas
- Use authorized taxis or tours for transportation
- Monitor government warnings and avoid protests
- Follow local advice about safe areas
- Stay in populated tourist spots after dark
- Watch valuables in hotels and on beaches
Violent crime against tourists is rare in Oaxaca. With basic safety awareness, travelers can fully experience Oaxaca’s rich cultural offerings.
While no destination is completely immune to crime and unrest, Oaxaca remains a largely safe place to visit in Mexico. The main tourist zones in cities and beaches have low crime rates and high security. Like when traveling anywhere, it is wise to remain vigilant of surroundings, avoid isolated areas after dark, only use regulated transportation and leave valuables in your hotel. With sensible precautions, travelers can safely enjoy Oaxaca’s archeological wonders, colonial heritage, indigenous traditions and scenic natural beauty.