Health & safety
Mexico City is generally portrayed as an extremely crime-ridden city, so first-time visitors are often surprised at how safe and human it feels. While the incidence of street crime remains too significant to deny the risks – four kidnappings, 70 car thefts and 55 muggings a day in 2006 – there is no need to walk in fear whenever you step outside. A few precautions greatly reduce any dangers.
Robberies happen most often in areas frequented by foreigners, including the Bosque de Chapultepec, around the Museo Nacional de Antropología and the Zona Rosa. Be on your guard at the airport and bus stations, and remember to keep your bag between your feet when checking in. Avoid pedestrian underpasses that are empty or nearly so. Crowded metro cars and buses are favorite haunts of pickpockets. Stay alert and keep your hand on your wallet and you’ll be fine.
Unless absolutely necessary, avoid carrying ATM cards, credit cards or large amounts of cash. Most importantly, if you become a robbery victim, don’t resist. Give the perpetrator your valuables rather than risking injury or death.
A far more immediate danger is traffic, which statistically takes more lives in the capital than street crime, though things have improved slightly in recent years with the installation of timed crossing signals at major intersections. Obvious as it sounds, always look both ways when crossing streets. Some one-way streets have bus lanes running counter to the traffic flow, and traffic on some divided streets runs in just one direction. Never assume that a green light means it’s safe to cross, as cars may turn left into your path. It is useful to take the ‘safety in numbers’ approach, crossing with other pedestrians.
Despite efforts to remove them, ambulantes (mobile street vendors) still clog many downtown streets, impeding movement along the sidewalk and forcing you to walk in the street. Attempting to move through the throngs makes you more susceptible to pickpockets. Metro riders have to contend with the blaring speakers of vendors of pirated CDs.
Expect to be approached by beggars almost anywhere in town, but especially in the Zona Rosa, Condesa, or wherever disposable income is conspicuously spent.
For recommendation of a doctor, a dentist or a hospital, call your embassy or Sectur (078), the tourism ministry. An extended list of Mexico City hospitals and English-speaking physicians (with their credentials), in PDF format, is available on the website of the US embassy (www.usembassy-mexico.gov/medical_lists.html). A private doctor’s consultation generally costs between M$500 and M$1000.
Hospital ABC (American British Cowdray Hospital; 5230-8000, emergency 5230-8161; www.abchospital.com; Sur 136 No 116, Colonia Las Américas; Observatorio) One of the best hospitals in Mexico, with an outpatient section and English-speaking staff.
The pharmacies that are found inside Sanborns stores are among the most reliable, as are the following:
Farmacia de Ahorros (5264-3128; Yucatán 40; 24hr; Metrobus Álvaro Obregón)
Farmacia París (5709-5349; República de El Salvador 97, Centro; 8am-10:30pm Mon-Sat, 10am-9pm Sun; Isabel La Católica) Offers allopathic, homeopathic and herbal remedies.
Médicor (5512-0431; Independencia 66; 10am-8pm Mon-Fri, to 6:30pm Sat; Juárez) Specializing in homeopathic medicines.
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