Oaxaca is a beautiful state in Mexico, known for its rich culture, exciting nightlife, and vibrant food scene.
But you might be asking yourself “Is Oaxaca safe?”
If you want to explore the lesser-known side of Mexico, Oaxaca is an excellent place to start.
With a strong indigenous culture rooted in traditions, Oaxaca is a magical place with natural beauty and local crafts.
From Oaxaca city, the gastronomy capital of Mexico, to Puerto Escondido and the Oaxaca coast, we have you covered.
In this detailed guide, we provide tips, information, and specific recommendations you’ll need to make your next trip to Oaxaca safe.
Is Oaxaca Safe? The Quick Answer
Oaxaca is one of the safest states in Mexico with a deeply rooted culture and welcoming people.
While some parts of Mexico experience drug related violence, this is not the case in Oaxaca.
First, It is not a state with an abundance of large resorts like in Cancun or Los Cabos. Most of the beach towns are very laid back with fishing villages and surfer spots.
Crime rates are relatively low across the state and most of the crimes reported are about local property vandalism and theft.
While in touristy areas, it is important to be aware of pickpocketing and petty crimes, though most issues can be avoided.
While rare, safety hazards are most likely to come from natural elements like earthquakes or the possibility of catching dengue fever.
Overall, Oaxaca is safe and generally safer than most of the other tourist states in Mexico. While that’s the case, there are some important things to know about safety in Oaxaca.
Things to Do in Oaxaca Highlights
If you’re looking to travel Oaxaca safely, here are a few local experiences and tours that we recommend!
- Traditional Cooking Class- If you want to learn more about Oaxaca through its food, this cooking class is for you. It is hands down one of the best things to do in Oaxaca and is extremely popular amongst travelers.
- Day trip to Hierva el Agua– This awesome day trip will take you to one of Oaxaca’s popular attractions. The day trip includes swimming, hiking, and a trip to a Mezcal factory.
- Oaxaca Handicrafts tour- Want to immerse yourself in the beautiful handicrafts that Oaxaca is known for? Check out this local guided tour where you can find out more about the Zapotec handicrafts.
- Tacos and Secret Bars Food Crawl– Discover the best eats in Oaxaca in this awesome food tour taking you around the best spots in the city.
- Mezcal and Mole tasting– This local tour is with a certified sommelier, giving you a brief history about these two popular foods that Oaxaca is known for.
- Historic Walking Tour– This local led walking tour takes you around the main sights in Oaxaca City, giving you an insight into each attraction.
Safety in Oaxaca Mexico What You Should Know
Oaxaca is located in the southwestern part of Mexico bordering the Pacific Ocean to the south. Being the fifth largest state in Mexico, Oaxaca is a vast state with many diverse areas and attractions worth visiting.
While Oaxaca is one of the poorest states in Mexico, it has some of the richest culture, history, and traditions.
There is something for everyone. From the mountain ranges of Sierra Madre de Oaxaca to the sandy Pacific beaches.
Tourism is the main industry in Oaxaca. Travel + Leisure magazine ranked Oaxaca as the #1 city in its world’s best city award for travelers in 2020.
Oaxaca City has seen a boom in tourism in the last few years as well as the Oaxaca Coast. Encouraged by this recent growth, the tourism industry does everything to keep the area safe.
With that said, petty crime is one of the main safety issues to be aware of while in Oaxaca. Keep your belongings in close proximity and avoid being a target with flashy possessions.
In the Historic Center of Oaxaca, particularly in the Zocalo area, you may see protests from time to time.
Although the large banners and tents are impressive, the protesters are relatively peaceful. The area is also kept safe with the local police who are always keeping a watchful eye.
One thing to keep in mind is that Oaxaca and the surrounding region are prone to earthquakes. In Oaxaca City, you will see safe areas marked on the floors to meet up in case of an earthquake.
In doubt, ask locals to tell you what to expect in case of an earthquake. They will be most happy to help you.
Is Oaxaca Safe Right Now?
With the recent pandemic, Oaxaca has seen a significant decrease in visitors and tourism.
However, the authorities have done everything to welcome visitors safely.
We were impressed by the level of prevention messages and communication provided by the state health authorities.
Everywhere, measures of sanity and social distancing are enforced. Locals are doing everything possible to keep Oaxaca safe.
Before entering, markets temperatures are checked and every person is asked to wash and sanitize their hands.
Markets are popular places to visit in Oaxaca. Check with the local tourism authorities to find out which markets are open as some are closed to visitors.
Restaurants in Oaxaca have implemented additional sanitation and social distancing measures.
Temperature checks, social distancing, hand washing, and face covering are enforced.
In general, locals are very aware of the current circumstances and everyone plays a role to keep Oaxaca safe.
Follow the area requirements when it comes to wearing masks with respect for the local population.
Oaxaca is very welcoming and locals can’t wait to have you visit their state safely. The good news is that no quarantine is required to enter Mexico at this time.
However, you’ll want to keep abreast of the ever evolving situation by checking the travel advisory notice for US travelers.
For more in-depth information on traveling to Mexico, go to our Mexico Travel Tips page!
Travel Insurance while in Oaxaca
For some peace of mind on your Oaxacan adventures, purchase travel insurance beforehand. Accidents happen, no matter how cautious you are, so it’s a good idea to be covered in case of a mishap. We recommend World Nomads or SafetyWing, depending on the type of traveler you are.
At the moment, we are preferring Safety Wing as they have better Covid-19 coverage.
Is Oaxaca Safe For Female Travelers?
Oaxaca is a welcoming state for female travelers. The coast offers areas to relax and unwind in either Puerto Escondido, Mazunte, or Huatulco.
While Oaxaca City, a charming colonial town, has the perfect low-key vibe for enjoying a laid back vacation.
More and more activities are now tailored for women including wellness, meditation, and yoga retreats.
That said, there are a few things to keep in mind about safety as you travel in this large state.
We layout here some key safety tips for any female travelers in Oaxaca.
Keep The Bling Home And Dress Appropriately
While petty crime is relatively low in Oaxaca, you want to avoid bringing too much attention to yourself.
Don’t wear any fancy watches or jewelry, just keep it simple.
Oaxaca being a traditional state, consider blending with locals and dressing modestly.
Stick To Lively and Well-Lit Areas
When exploring the city of Oaxaca, it is best to stay near the areas that are the most lively.
The areas in the Centro, by Templo Santo Domingo, the main church, and near the main markets are bustling places.
Convenient and easy to navigate, you can walk safely pretty much anywhere in the main center of town.
That said, make sure you watch out for your belongings and take the minimum with you.
Watch Out on Mezcal
Oaxaca is the birthplace of Mezcal, Tequila’s cousin. You will find many bars specializing in mezcal or mezcalerias throughout the city.
While it can be fun to sample mezcal and mezcal cocktails, watch out for how much you drink.
With this strong alcohol, it is easy to get tipsy. Make sure you know your limits to avoid exposing yourself to serious risks.
Take Taxis at Night
It is recommended to take taxis at night. Especially if you have to walk by areas that are poorly lit.
You can easily hail a taxi down on the streets. Or, the restaurant or bar you are about to leave can easily call one for you.
My advice is to always ask for the pricing prior to getting in the taxi to avoid any surprises. Taxis are relatively cheap in Oaxaca and safe to travel while in town.
Is Oaxaca Safe for Solo Travelers?
In the compact city of Oaxaca, it is easy to meet up with other travelers or strike up conversations with locals.
The low-key and small town vibe makes it the ideal place for solo travelers.
Here are some top safety tips for solo travelers in Oaxaca:
Choose Accommodations Wisely
Whether you are in the city of Oaxaca or by the beaches at the coast, choose centrally located accommodations.
Remote locations might seem attractive though are less desirable if you are by yourself. Choose the security of being surrounded by other travelers and locals.
Looking for a safe place to stay on your trip? Check out our list of recommended places to stay in Oaxaca!
Celebrate Festivities Vigilantly
Oaxaca City is a festive town with colorful celebrations. There is always an excuse to party in this colonial town.
In particular, weddings are celebrated throughout the city for days at a time. You’ll more than likely come across calendas with the parade of giant puppets.
These large animated traditional processions move from the church through the city accompanied by music and offering alcoholic beverages to everyone.
It is easy to get lost in the dancing crowd and lose sight of where you are. Keep track of your location and how far you move in the city.
While this is a fun way to meet people, watch out for high alcohol levels in the drinks.
You don’t want to be vulnerable, without your belongings in an unknown part of town.
Keep Locals Informed
Let your Airbnb host or hostel know where you are going and what you are planning to do for the day.
Locals can provide you with some guidance on what is best to do as well as offer some safety tips.
It is also a good idea to have a contact person in case something happens and you need some help. They can always contact the local authorities on your behalf if needed.
Take Care Of Your Belongings
Oaxaca is relatively inexpensive so you won’t need a lot of cash for the day. Leave your extra cash securely in your hotel, hostel, or Airbnb room.
Keep what you take with you for the day to a minimum. And take special care of your wallet, camera, and phone, and have them close to you at all times.
Make sure that your documents are secure at your accommodation as you won’t need to have them on you while sightseeing.
Is Oaxaca Safe for Families?
Oaxaca has many historic sites and craft villages that are kid-friendly and will keep the family entertained.
You can enjoy the beach as a family or visit some of the main archaeological sites in the state.
With Oaxaca City being a celebrated gastronomy destination, make sure to enjoy traditional Oaxaca foods. Children will especially love the unique local ice-cream flavors.
To keep your family and kids safe in Oaxaca, here is what you should know.
Choose Kid-Friendly Accommodations
There are several styles of accommodations for every budget in Oaxaca. Look for hotels, hostels, or Airbnb that provide extra services for families to make the most of their stay.
Services like references for babysitters or English-speaking doctors in case of emergency can be really useful.
While not all hotels or guest houses have pools, some can arrange for their guests to use nearby hotel pools.
These details can make a difference for an enjoyable stay as a family in Oaxaca.
Take Reputable Tours
With tourism being the main activity in Oaxaca, you will find many people offering their services to guide you.
You might be approached by locals particularly in the Zocalo area for tours to the surrounding historic sites.
Don’t get lured by the relatively cheap price and promising visits. Most of the tours are crowded and will send you to tourist trap locations.
Pack Sun And Mosquito Protection
Oaxaca enjoys a mild climate all year round with lots of sunshine. While warm, the weather stays relatively pleasant and it is easy to forget how much sun you can get.
Don’t forget to use sunscreen when appropriate and protect your kids from sunburns whether at the beach or in town.
Oaxaca also sees mosquitoes during the humid season typically from May to August. During the rainy months, dengue is quite common.
The local government does its diligence to mitigate this issue by having scheduled spraying. However, make sure to protect yourself and your children from mosquito bites.
Is Oaxaca Water Safe To Drink
Keep in mind that Oaxaca tap water is not safe to drink. If you are staying at an Airbnb, ask your host to deliver filtered water or portable water to your accommodations.
Most places are equipped to receive large 20 gallons of water bottles for a few pesos per week. Some accommodations might have a water filter that you just have to replenish as needed.
If you are staying at a hostel or hotel, they will typically provide filtered water or bottled water.
There are many convenient stores across the state where you can find bottled water and even tasty local mineral waters.
If you buy fruits or vegetables at local markets, make sure to wash them with filtered water before eating.
You will have no issue at restaurants or bars. These establishments serve filtered water and safe to drink ice-cubes.
The agua fresca or fruit flavored water commonly served at restaurants is safe to drink. However, if you want water, simply order bottled or mineral water for your table.
Top Tips for Staying Safe in Oaxaca
In general, there are a few things to keep in mind to stay safe in Oaxaca. No matter what type of traveler you are here is our top tips for staying safe in Oaxaca.
Avoid Isolated Areas
Oaxaca offers some rugged, mountainous, and isolated terrain. Although the natural beauty is alluring, avoid going there without a trustworthy guide or people who know the area.
Keep Valuables Off Sight
Petty crime and theft are most likely to be the main issues you will encounter in Oaxaca. Make sure not to flash money around and keep your wallet in a safe pocket.
Avoid carrying fancy bags and choose simple and casual designs that blend in. If you are by the coast, don’t leave your valuables unattended on the beach. Take the minimum on you and leave everything else in your room.
Learn Basic Language
Learning some Spanish language before you visit Oaxaca goes a long way. This will make it easier to negotiate your taxi rides or order at local food joints. Ultimately, it allows you to make better connections with locals and experience Oaxaca in a more meaningful way. Making an effort in learning the language also equates to better food recommendations from locals so it’s a win-win!
Stay In Control
Avoid drinking too much while in Oaxaca. While you don’t want to miss on Mezcal and other local drinks, don’t indulge in binge drinking that might put you at risk.
Do Your Research
Before going to any place, do your research. Study a map before leaving to help you orient yourself. Inquire about local transportation or guided tours at your accommodation or the tourist office, they will be happy to help you.
Using a local SIM card is really useful while in Oaxaca. It allows you to stay connected while roaming around. You can visualize the local maps and find reviews about venues you want to visit. Keep the contact information of where you are staying in case you need to reach out. Local SIM cards are very inexpensive and come with preloaded data packages.
Choose ATM In Public Zones
When you need to withdraw money, make sure to find an ATM in trusted areas. Use machines in places where people are withdrawing money or where there are security guards.
Don’t Share Where You’re Staying
In Oaxaca, it is easy to connect with foreigners and locals alike. The casual and friendly atmosphere makes it easy. That said, this should not prevent you to stay cautious and not sharing the exact location of your lodging. Wherever you are staying should be your safe place.
Travel Must: At the risk of sounding like your parents, make sure you get travel insurance before hitting the road. Trust us, it’s one of those things you don’t want to leave home without. We recommend either World Nomads or Safety Wing, depending on the type of traveler you are.
Use Common Sense
While you are in Oaxaca to have fun and spend your time relaxing, don’t leave behind your common sense. Stay mindful and aware of your surroundings. When in doubt, ask locals or trustworthy authorities. And at the same time, don’t be obsessed with safety risks.
Hopefully, this article will help you have a safe and enjoyable trip around Oaxaca!
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