Is Oaxaca Safe?

A reader writes: We were thinking of renting a house outside of Oaxaca this April. Heard some rumors that it may not safe? Also does one need your own transportation? Are there enough buses around and frequent enough to be taken places? Thanks. –D Churpa answers:

Stone ruins of Mitla and old church


For as long as I can remember, Oaxaca has been a politically charged state, with more strikes and demonstrations than most other parts of Mexico. However, this agitation doesn’t tend to be aimed at visiting gringos. The 2013 Mexico Peace Index (conducted by the Institute of Economics and Peace) notes that Oaxaca is now one of the most peaceful states in Mexico. In fact, along with Yucatan and Chiapas, Oaxaca has the most improved levels of peace in the past decade. To create this index, analysts looked at homicide rates, violent crime, incarceration, police funding, efficiency of the justice system, and organized crime. According to this data, Oaxaca now rates as one of the top six most peaceful states in Mexico.  Oaxaca is not the only state that’s getting safer: the surveys found that in the past two years Mexico has seen a 7.4 percent “increase in peace.” That said, exercise caution. Talk with locals or local gringos to get a feel for which neighborhoods and villages are safe and friendly.

I have not personally traveled to Oaxaca this year, but my husband and I were there for about a month last winter and I didn’t feel threatened at any point. We even did some camping on remote beaches and accidentally engaged in some ill-advised night driving. Our friends Billy and Kaki just sent us positive dispatches from their recent trip; they didn’t report any problems. For more info on Oaxaca, check out our most recent Oaxaca adventures or visit the website Oaxaca Calendar for upcoming events. You can also read my Oaxaca recommendations at As to your question about public transportation. Oaxaca has a fairly extensive system of buses and colectivos, or group taxis. Colectivos will also take you to surrounding villages. I think you could get around Oaxaca fine without a car, though you may want to consider getting one, depending on where you live. Hope this helps. Do we have any readers in Oaxaca who can give us an update on the current situation? If so, we’d love to hear from you in the comments section.

9 Responses to “Is Oaxaca Safe?”

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  1. -El Codo- says:

    “Someone said xxxxx had their bicycle taken (a mile distant) so I am going to watch your house more” So said Amparo, my neighbor. A built-in neighborhood “watch” is one of the best protections a person can have. My recollection of Oaxaca exactly match Churpa’s, If you are really worried about laptops, radios, binoculars, cameras, etc., go to AMAZON.COM and search for intruder alarms. A 120 db alarm can be heard through walls 100 feet away by a neighbor.

    Positively the BEST door anti-intrusion device ever made is a rubber wedge door stop. I carry two. There are also tiny screamingly loud window alarms which are also battery powered.

    The bicycle turned out to be borrowed by a friend. The guy forgot he had offered the use of it.

  2. Don Cuevas says:

    We recently spent 13 days in Oaxaca city with no serious crimes encountered, other than being scammed by a fake (?) taxi driver who feigned a broken finger when I opened the door of the cab. At the end of the ride he asked for $3000 pesos, and in a weakened state of mind, we gave him $500. He played us for fools, and we were sickened by what we thought was a real injury. (Even though there were no cries of pain, no blood or signs of crush.)

    Don Cuevas

  3. -El Codo- says:

    What a freakin’ bummer señor Don :(

    If I may be nosy, what you enjoy most about your stay? Are you a repeat traveler to Oaxaca? Go to the mercado municipal? Hotels? Food? OK, OK, I’ll leave it at that :)

  4. Susannah says:

    I just wrote an article about safety in Mexico with a focus on Oaxaca that you might find helpful.

  5. churpa says:

    You nailed it, Susannah.

  6. My wife and I have lived east of Oaxaca (about a forty minute drive) for almost two years. I hear stories about locals having necklaces and earrings ripped off when they go into the city. I was in a crowded market once when a young boy pushed by while yelling was going on. Turns out he’d grabbed a woman’s earrings. That being said we do not fear a trip to the city. We are cautious. Our biggest problem is the blocking of the roads by protesting groups. We’ve had to figure out how to get around them several times. There is a large police presence in the city. We are not city people and imagine I would take the same precautions in a large US city. There are hotels in Tlacolula if you want to be that far from the city. Buses run regularly between Tlacolula and Oaxaca. We have a truck but sometimes choose to take the bus. The are plenty of taxis in the city. We usually pay about four dollars for a ride. Finally I’ve never felt safer than in the area around our home.

  7. churpa says:

    Thanks for the info Everette!

  8. John Doran says:

    I appreciate all of your postings, and love reading them.

    Does anyone have any suggestions for a clean, safe, economical traditional Mexican hotel to stay in in Tlacolula or within no more than 10 miles of Oaxaca? I’m planning on being there from Dec. 16 until Boxing Day after Christmas.

    I don’t need hot water, microwaves, irons, coffee makers or cable (none of which I’ll use anyway with the exception of hot water, but the lack of hot water isn’t a deal-breaker for me). As long as it’s clean and secure, and has a bed with bedding, table and chair or a place to write somewhere in the hotel or nearby I am happy. I am glad to hear any suggestions and how to arrive via public transport, if you are able. Many thanks in advance!

  9. churpa says:

    Thank you! Hmmm…I’ve never stayed in Tlacolula…We stayed in a serviceable place in Oaxaca centro that meets your description. It was called El Atrio and was supposedly a “bed and breakfast” though we never saw any breakfast out of the deal. But it was clean, safe, and relatively cheap, especially considering the downtown location.