La Paz is the capital city of the sunny Mexican state of California Baja. Though usually used as a home base for discovering the state’s popular coastal regions, La Paz has bags of character of its own accord. A vibrant seaside city with a distinctly youthful feel, La Paz is a brilliant – yet sometimes overlooked – place to visit in Mexico. But is La Paz safe?
On the whole, Mexico gets a bad rap when it comes to the question of personal safety. The gang-related violence that dominates media headlines skews people’s perceptions of just how safe the country is. While Mexico certainly has its dangerous parts, the violent crime that the country has become famous for rarely implicates tourists. The crime rates in La Paz are fairly low, making it safe to visit for tourists and nomads alike. Of course, no destination is without its dangers, but it’s easy to keep oneself safe in La Paz providing some basic, safety rules are followed.
So, join us as we break down all you need to know about staying safe in La Paz: from whether to drink the tap water, to the best tips for staying safe at night.
Is La Paz Safe right now?
Generally speaking, La Paz is one of Mexico’s safer destinations. According to Numbeo, the city has a low crime rate of 39.29. For context, this is considerably safer than the American cities of New York (50.35) and Los Angeles (55.70). With its coastal location and proximity to nature, La Paz feels more like a small, seaside city than a sprawling urban metropolis.
While keeping one’s wits about them is essential in any new place, the level of threat in La Paz is much lower than some of Mexico’s more notoriously dangerous destinations, such as Mexico City which scores 79.61 on Numbeo, and Tijuana, which scores 81.57.
Is La Paz safe for tourists?
Is La Paz safe for tourists? The simple answer is yes – so long as you keep your wits about you and use some basic common sense.
Anywhere where there is a tourist scene, there’s likely to be petty crime. And while data from Numbeo suggests that there’s a low chance of being mugged or robbed in La Paz – scoring 33.04 – it’s nonetheless important to remain vigilant. Be sure to keep an eye on your possessions while in La Paz. That means not leaving handbags or rucksacks under tables in restaurants, or smartphones hanging out of back pockets. Flashing large quantities of cash could attract unwanted attention, as could wearing expensive jewelry, so it’s advisable to keep your valuables secure by locking them away in your hotel or hostel or simply not bringing them on holiday here. Like we said, common sense right?
The one type of crime that La Paz scores highly on is corruption and bribery (62.50 according to Numbeo). Unfortunately, corruption from police officers can be a problem here, with tourists sometimes targeted. Rental cars or those with US license plates have been known to become the targets of shakedowns by dishonest policemen in search of bribes. If threatened with arrest or a considerable fine for a crime you didn’t commit, resist requests to simply ‘pay off’ an officer to make the problem go away. It’s likely a police officer will drop charges, or get an ‘urgent phone’ call and move on if their accusations are not legitimate. This type of crime is particularly prevalent on Saturdays, when police stations are closed, or on the route to the airport, when tourists are usually in a rush.
Is it safe to live in La Paz?
In recent years, La Paz has become a popular spot for those looking to settle in Mexico in the long term. With a good infrastructure, low-cost living, and uncrowded beaches, many ex-pats and digital nomads have chosen to call the city home. Its low rates of crime mean that La Paz is a safe place to live.
One thing to note is that blending in could help you stay safer in La Paz. If you’re obviously not from Mexico – you have very pale skin and blonde hair, for instance – you could be mistaken for a tourist and be more likely to be targeted by petty crimes, such as pickpocketing and scamming. Having a good grasp of Spanish is always helpful for putting people off messing with you!
Is La Paz safe at night?
While La Paz is generally safe at night, it’s important to take extra safety precautions during this time.
With the vast majority of muggings and assaults happening in secluded and unlit areas, it goes without saying that tourists should stick to busy and well-lit streets. Luckily, La Paz is a well-lit city, giving confidence to those walking alone at night. However, if you’re unfamiliar with a particular area, it’s always advisable to take a registered taxi when walking alone at night. Nine out of ten times you’re sure to be fine, but why not avoid any unnecessary risk? Another top piece of guidance is to never venture onto any beaches at night time.
Is it safe to drink the tap water in La Paz?
No, the tap water is not drinkable in La Paz. Water from taps here has high quantities of harmful contaminants that can make you unwell. Unless the place you’re staying at purifies their own tap water system, you’re better off drinking bottled water (even the locals often drink it).
To be extra cautious, it’s probably a good idea not to ask for ice in your drinks and to keep your mouth closed in the shower. You should remember to wash any fresh fruit and vegetables with filtered water, too.
However, relying solely on bottled water is terrible for the environment in terms of plastic pollution. It’s worth considering buying some sort of portable water filtration system. For example, the SteriPen water purifier is a great on-the-go solution to ensure that you have access to filtered, drinkable water wherever you go. Or there’s the LifeStraw bottle, which filters out bacteria, parasites, chemicals, and microplastics as you drink.
Is public transport safe in La Paz?
As a fairly small city, La Paz is largely accessible by foot. That being said, there are four main forms of public transportation: taxis, public buses, colectivos (large shared taxis), and tour services. All of these options are safe to use by tourists, but there are a couple of things to note. Firstly, always check that a taxi is registered before getting into it. Secondly, keep an eye on your possessions in public buses and colectivos, as tourists can be targeted by pickpockets on public transport.
Is it safe to walk alone in La Paz?
With low crime rates, it’s generally safe to walk alone in La Paz. Numbeo finds that it is very safe to walk alone in Puerto at night, scoring 72.32. This contrasts with an even higher score of 90.18 when walking alone during the daytime. That being said, it’s always important to get your bearings before venturing out alone. Speaking to locals about the areas of the city that might be best avoided is a good way to ensure that you don’t wander into danger when out and about. As in many places in Mexico, women walking alone are likely to attract unwanted attention from men in the form of catcalls. However, incidences of attacks are low in this city.
Top 7 La Paz Safety Tips
In summary, La Paz is a safe place to visit. Every year, tourists and digital nomads from around the world enjoy the city’s beautiful waterfront location and vibrant culture without coming in harm’s way. But it’s always important to use a bit of common sense and take some fairly obvious precautions. Here’s a list of seven useful tips to make sure you have a safe and worry-free trip to La Paz.
- Keep your valuables out of sight. This one is fairly obvious, but it’s so important that it’s worth repeating. Don’t draw attention to yourself by wearing flashy jewelry (even if it’s not expensive jewelry), using smartphones, tablets, or expensive-looking cameras in plain view of others, or carrying large amounts of cash. Be conscious of the way you carry your possessions, too. For example, don’t walk around with your smartphone in your back pocket, or use a bag without a secure zip.
- Never head out without sunscreen and water. Sun protection and water is a must in Baja California. La Paz can be unbearably hot from the months of July to mid-October. Sun-induced illnesses, such as sun stroke, are among the biggest safety threats you’ll encounter here so always arm yourself in defence!
- Speak to locals. People with local knowledge are always the best-placed to offer up to date and accurate safety advice. Seek advice from your hotel or hostel owner about the areas of the city to steer clear of.
- Avoid unlit areas at night. While it can be tempting to take a dip by moonlight, the beach isn’t always safe at night.The same goes for quieter, unlit and isolated areas of the island. It’s likely that nothing will happen, but wouldn’t you rather be safe than sorry?
- If you’re mugged, don’t resist. While mugging and robberies aren’t common in La Paz, it’s worth knowing that should you be mugged, it’s not wise to struggle. While no one wants to hand over their possessions, it’s always the safer option than risking angering a potentially-armed criminal.
- Don’t swim in the sea while intoxicated. La Paz has many beautiful and fairly uncrowded beaches. While we’re all a fan of a mojito on the beach, if you end up drunk, it’s best to avoid the sea.
- Don’t buy drugs. A large proportion of crime and corruption in Mexico is centred around drug cartels. Tourists that seek out drugs make themselves extremely vulnerable. Avoid at all costs.