With headlines warning of crime and violence in Mexico’s northern border states, it’s no wonder that some people feel uneasy about traveling to Mexico. Boasting an extensive video surveillance system and a ratio of 1 police officer for every 100 people, however, Mexico City is safe for tourists and locals alike. In fact, the crime rates in Mexico City are lower than in some major U.S. cities, such as New Orleans, Detroit, and Washington D.C.
As always, common sense and general safety measures should be followed when traveling. This is especially true when it comes to money, because nobody wants to find themselves in a foreign country without it! We’ve compiled a guide to safely managing your money in Mexico City. Continue reading to learn what to expect, where to exchange your money, and more.
We recommend bringing a credit or debit card along for larger purchases and to access more funds. You should always notify your bank of your travel plans beforehand. Failure to do so could result in foreign transactions being declined if the bank deems them to be suspicious.
Credit and debit cards are not accepted in all establishments, however, so plan to carry cash as well.
You’ll need to carry cash with you for expenses like dining, admission fees, taxi rides, bottled water, and tipping.
Carry small bills and coins with you, because change can be hard to come by in Mexico City. Many businesses and vendors frown upon paying for small purchases with large bills, because they don’t begin their business day with a “cash float” and depend on their customers to provide them with change throughout the day. Paying with a large banknote depletes their store of change for future transactions.
You’ll also need change for tipping, which is expected in many areas in Mexico City. When dining in restaurants, a 10 percent tip is customary. You can leave the money on the bar or table just like you would in the U.S. Street vendors and metered taxi cabs don’t require a tip.
Many Mexican establishments no longer accept the U.S. dollar (USD). The peso is the accepted form of currency in Mexico City, so you’ll need to exchange some of your money. You can visit any of the following places to exchange money in Mexico City:
- ATMs (foreign ATMs dispense cash in that country’s currency)
- Case de Cambio (Exchange houses)
In 2010, regulations changed to limit the amount of US dollars that can be exchanged for pesos to $1500 per person per month. Many banks and exchange houses limit these transactions to $300 per day per person. You’ll need to present your passport when exchanging money.
Don’t carry all of your cash with you at once. Carry only as much cash as you need, and store the rest in a safe place, such as your hotel’s safe or even a money belt under your clothes.
Don’t flash your cash. When making a purchase or withdrawing money from an ATM, always put your money away as discreetly and quickly as possible.
Be aware of your surroundings. Only visit ATMs in well-lit, public places.
Make a list of important phone numbers. Write down and store the telephone number(s) to your bank in the event that your credit or debit card is stolen. Make sure to record the international phone numbers, because the toll-free numbers won’t work when you’re traveling abroad.