How to NOT Get Sick in Mexico: 10 Tips to Avoid Montezuma’s Revenge

Feb 25, 2021 | 9 comments

Looking for ways to NOT get sick in Mexico?

You’ve come to the right guide, because I’ve been living in Mexico for three years now — and I’ve both been sick myself, and witnessed plenty of others who have been sick in Mexico. In fact, this question comes up so much, I made it into a podcast episode ⤵

While there aren’t hard and fast rules that will guarantee you don’t get Montezuma’s Revenge, AKA traveler’s diarrhea, Mexico vacation sickness really isn’t something to stress over.

In fact, with the 10 Tips on How to NOT Get Sick in Mexico in this article, you’re going to discover everything you need to know to avoid Mexico water sickness, food poisoning in Mexico, and all the other ways to get sick most travelers aren’t even thinking about.

By the end of this article, you’re going to be an expert in how to avoid getting sick in Mexico — so you can have an amazing trip!

Ready to get all 10 Tips on How to NOT Get Sick in Mexico? Let’s jump in with the #1 question asked regarding not getting sick in Mexico — Can you drink the water in Mexico?


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1. DON’T: Drink the Water in Mexico

Mexico Water FAQ

• Can You drink the water in mexico?

After Is Mexico safe?, the #2 most asked Mexico travel question seems to be, Is the water in Mexico safe to drink?

In short, the answer is NO, tap water in Mexico is not safe to drink for anyone — not locals and not visitors — basically: no one drinks the water. To make Mexico water safe to drink, you’d have to boil it or use a LifeStraw Filterable Water Bottle, which we’re going to get to in the Tip #2.

As not even Mexico locals drink the tap water, it’s pretty easy to avoid unfiltered water while traveling to Mexico. Since locals don’t want to get sick just as much as you don’t, there will be no instance when someone will be serving or offering tap water.

• Why does water in Mexico make you sick?

Before we continue, here’s an explanation of why Mexico water is unsafe to drink. The bacteria in Mexico water, as well as protozoa, viruses and toxins, etc. make it unsafe to consume. In recent years, water filtration standards have improved, but the water is still not safe enough.

While it’s known as Montezuma’s Revenge in Mexico, the medical name of this sickness is Traveler’s Diarrhea, or TD. This means it’s not something that only happens in Mexico, and it can happen to any traveler in any country — in fact, in India, this sickness is called Delhi Belly. 

TD happens because your personal microbiome (gut bacteria) isn’t able to handle whatever’s in the food and water in the country you’ve traveled to. Basically, be cautious in Mexico, but don’t overwhelm yourself as food- and water-borne illnesses can occur in any country — and it’s not necessarily worse in Mexico.

• Should I keep my mouth closed in the shower in mexico?

This comes from an episode of Sex & the City where Charlotte opens her mouth in the shower by accident, swallows a some water, and gets sick.

While you should not drink shower water, if some splashes on your mouth, you will likely be fine.


Some people elect to use bottled or filtered water to brush their teeth. While this may or may not prevent getting sick in Mexico, you can always just avoid wetting the toothbrush before you brush your teeth, which should be enough of a preventative measure.

Now, to rinse your mouth after brushing your teeth, you’ll want to avoid rinsing with tap water.

• Is it safe TO DRINK ice in Mexico? 

As mentioned, locals don’t drink the tap water, and they also don’t make ice with it either. While boiling water does kill off bacteria, freezing it does not. Though plenty of other articles will tell you to avoid ice in your drink, there’s no reason to think anyone’s making ice with tap water.

Now, if you want to avoid ice for your own peace of mind, then go ahead. If you really want peace of mind, however, keep reminding yourself that locals would also get sick from that ice, so it’s more than likely no one’s making unsafe ice.


2. DO: Get a LifeStraw Water Bottle

lifestraw filterable water bottle

Now that you know you should avoid tap water to avoid a Mexico stomach bug, just what do you drink?! The answer is of course, bottled water, which is readily available everywhere. 

As far as bottled water in Mexico, two issues arise:

  1. Not all bottled and filtered water is created equal and of exceptional quality; and
  2. Single use plastics from disposable water bottles are horrible for the environment.

So what can you do? Enter the LifeStraw Refillable Water Bottle, your secret weapon in how to avoid Mexico sickness during travel, and practice responsible, sustainable travel in Mexico!

Wondering What is a LifeStraw?

Never heard of LifeStraw? Since 1994, this company has been a global leader in bringing clean drinking water to everyone on the planet 🌍 Check out the video below, and prepare to be amazed.

Actual footage of me watching that video: 😳 🤯

If that guy can drink out of a random pond using the LifeStraw, and continue on this merry way through the forest, hopefully your mind is a whole lot more at ease about drinking water in Mexico. Beyond that, you’re practicing responsible travel and sustainable tourism in Mexico.

In the Why does water in Mexico make you sick? question above, you learned the bacteria, parasites, protozoa, viruses and toxins in water are the culprits. According to the LifeStraw website, the microfilters in their straws filter 99.999999% of that out, so if there’s one thing you’ll want to pack for Mexico — for your health and to not waste plastic water bottles — it’s the LifeStraw Water Bottle.

♻️ Mexico Travel Tip: You don’t have to order bottled water in restaurants, as they will serve you filtered water for free from the old school water cooler five-gallon jug, called a garafon in Mexico. As not all filtered water is created equal, remember to pour the garafon water into your LifeStraw Bottle.


3. DON’T: Avoid Street Food Altogether

If you don’t go to Mexico and eat street tacos — You didn’t really go to Mexico! This country has a serious street food culture, and it would be a shame to miss out on enjoying as much of it as you can. 

In Tip #4 you’re going to learn what to look for in choosing the right street food stand. However, for now, keep in mind getting food poisoning, Mexico or anywhere on Earth, is a bit of the luck (or unluck) of the draw… and just because food is cooked on a street and not in a building, doesn’t necessarily make it bad or unsafe.

In my years living in Mexico, I’ve seen people who only eat in high end restaurants and avoid salads like the plague (another way people say to avoid getting sick in Mexico) get Montezuma’s Revenge, Mexico diarrhea, and everything else that’s not cute. I have also seen people who exclusively eat street food and 25¢ tacos, and have the trip of their lives.

The reality is, leaving your home country to travel to another is a bit of risk on your stomach, as you’re not acclimated to what’s in that country’s food and water. To some extent, all food and water have bacteria, but your body knows how to handle the ones you come in contact with often.

As millions of people visit Mexico each year — about 45 million in 2019, actually — only a small fraction got sick in Mexico, and most people do eat the delicious street food! For tips on which street food stands and taquerias (taco shops) to eat at, head to the next tip.


4. DO: Choose the Right Street Food

While you will see many other articles telling you that avoiding street food stands and salads is a surefire way of how to avoid food poisoning in Mexico, this simply isn’t true. If it were, Mexico wouldn’t be one of the street food capitals of the world, and no one would be eating salads.

As there’s simply no way to know if someone’s going to get sick in Mexico or not, here are 5 Tips on picking the best street food in Mexico. These aren’t an exact science, but they’re a good line of defense to help ensure you’re one of the ones NOT getting sick in Mexico.

  1. Look for long lines: Long lines mean a good reputation for both their food, and their hygiene.
  2. Look for taxi cabs: Cab drivers drive around all day, so they can eat anywhere they want — because of this, they also know where all the delicious, inexpensive, hygienic, places are.
  3. Look for two employees: Make sure there are at least two people working, and that the one cooking the food is not the one handling the money.
  4. Look for hand sanitizer: If you don’t see a bottle of hand sanitizer, skip that stand for one that has some.
  5. Look at yourself: Remember that your own hands are one of the dirtiest parts of your body, and you’re about to use those to eat! When possible, wash your hands before eating, and/or use hand sanitizer.

🧴 Mexico Travel Tip: A hand sanitizer holder that clips onto the outside of your purse is ideal. Rather than going inside your purse where you won’t see it, a holder clipped on the outside means you’ll constantly see it — and constantly be reminded to use sanitizer throughout the day.

RELATED ARTICLE 🌮 50 of the Best Tacos in Mexico City + Free Map


What foods to avoid in Mexico

As mentioned, there’s no exact formula on how not to get sick in Mexico, but this is a good saying to keep in mind: Hot food should be hot, and Cold food should be cold. Makes sense, right? Still, let’s break that down a little further for clarity.

When you’re ordering a food that’s supposed to be served hot, make sure it’s hot, and not warm. When in doubt at a street food stand, seek out places where they are cooking and serving on the spot. If something looks like it’s been sitting around, skip it.

With cold foods or beverages, you’ll want to use the same rule. If you’re ordering a smoothie or agua fresca (fresh fruit water), make sure you’re getting it cold, not cool. While agua frescas are refreshing, you might want to skip them from a street stand under the midday sun, as they might not be super cold.

Are salads safe in Mexico? 

You’re likely to come across info saying salads are the #1 what not to eat in Mexico food, and if not eating them makes you feel better, then don’t. However, there’s no evidence this is true.

The thinking here is that since raw veggies are usually only run under tap water to clean them in the U.S., and Mexico tap water is not safe, these veggies would now be unsafe since they are cleaned under tap water.

However, in Mexico, produce isn’t just cleaned with water, because you can’t clean anything with not-so-clean water. Rather, many use a vinegar-water mixture, warm soapy water, and even store-bought produce cleaners to clean fruits, veggies and eggs.

If you’re planning to prepare a lot of your own foods, and eat a lot of fresh veggies and fruits, you’ll want to add Produce Wash to your Mexico packing list.

🧳 Related Article: The Ultimate Packing List for Mexico + FREE Printable Checklist


5. DON’T: Assume Mexico Diarrhea is the Only Sickness

When most travelers think about getting sick in Mexico, they think stomach bugs and food poisoning. In reality, many Mexico travel horror stories often end up being about all the other types of sickness that no one’s prepared for. Here are three other things to consider to avoid getting sick in Mexico:

• Altitude sickness in Mexico City

Most people don’t know this, but Mexico City is about 1.5-miles above sea level. If you’re not used to high altitude like that you can easily get altitude sickness, which feels like the flu. Many have great success with an Anti-Altitude Sickness Acupressure Bracelet, while others need Anti-Altitude Sickness meds.

• Dehydration in Mexico’s heat

If you didn’t already add the LifeStraw Water Bottle to your cart, here’s your second reason to purchase one. The refillable bottle will not only help you prevent getting sick in Mexico from the water, it will also help keep you hydrated. A cute sun hat also helps to keep you cool, both in cities and on the beach.


Mexico produces all kinds of yummy adult beverages — from mezcal in Oaxaca City, to red wine in Valle de Guadalupe, Mexico’s wine country in Baja California state.

If you’re planning to go hard with booze, bring these hangover cure pills with you and take one before going out.

The antioxidants, herbs and homeopathic ingredients make sure you’re not hungover the next day, and missing out on precious travel time.


6. DO: See A Doctor if You’re Sick in Mexico

Unlike in the U.S., going to the doctor in Mexico is inexpensive and quick.

If you’re sick in Mexico, head to one of the big chain pharmacies, namely Farmacia Similares, Farmacia Yza and Farmacia Guadalajara, to their walk-in clinics, or consultorios.

Usually within 15 minutes or so, a doctor will see you, assess your symptoms, and since you’re already at a pharmacy, you can get any meds you need right then and there.

If you require further medical assistance, the doctor will let you know after the exam.

Dr. Simi of the Farmacia Similares chain.

As a reference point on how much Mexico doctor visits cost at a consultorio, here’s my most recent experience with them… I was bit by a spider while in Bacalar, Mexico. It took me about five minutes to see a doctor, and the exam, antibiotic pills and a skin cream for the bite cost about $8USD.

👩‍⚕️ Mexico Travel Tip: If your Spanish isn’t great, download the Google Translate app. With this app, you and the doctor can speak into your phone, and the translation is spoken back to you both.


7. DON’T: Pack the Whole Medicine Cabinet

General medicines are easy to get in Mexico, so you don’t have to pack too many over-the-counter meds. If you need antibiotics or other meds, those tend to be readily available, and less expensive than in the u.S

You will want to bring anything prescribed that you need, and anything you know will come in handy where you’re going — like Anti-Altitude Sickness Meds in Mexico City, and Anti-Hangover Meds in Cancun.

If you’re brand-specific, and for example, only take Advil, you’ll want to bring your Advil. While there will be headache and pain medications, there might not be Advil.


8. DO: Come Prepared with These Items

• Stomach Meds

Beyond your prescriptions, consider bringing antidiarrheal medications and stuff for an upset stomach, like Tums or Pepto. While you can buy these at most farmacias, it’s more convenient to have them on hand should you at any time not feel well.

• Tampons

In larger cities, tampons are readily available. However, in smaller, rural areas and off the beaten path Mexico destinations, this isn’t always the case. If you’re partial to a certain brand of tampon, or need a particular size, make sure to pack those.

• Menstral Cup

On a personal note, my travel life and real life changed for the better when I switched to a reusable menstrual cup.

Since you can safely leave them in for up to 24-hours, you’re not scrambling to find (clean) bathrooms while traveling, which can sometimes be difficult.

Menstrual cups are also good for the planet, as you’re not creating tampon or pad waste. For some, there’s a learning curve to using them, so do practice before your trip.

• Hand Sanitizer

This used to be a suggestion, but now feels like a mandatory travel item. To make sure you’re using it throughout the day, get a hand sanitizer pouch that will clip on to the outside of your purse, so you’re constantly seeing it, and constantly using it.

 • Travel-Sized Pack of Tissues

In pueblos (small towns), rural areas, and gas station and mercado (market) bathrooms, toilet paper is sometimes missing in action. As it’s better to be safe than sorry, carry around a small pack of tissues because they’ll come in handy for many things.


9. DON’T: Spend Your Whole Vacation Worried

As mentioned, getting sick in Mexico is a bit of a crap shoot. It can happen whether or not you’re obsessing over it, so there’s definitely no point to doing so. You now have several tips on how NOT to get sick in Mexico, so make good choices, but also enjoy your Mexico trip to the fullest.

Thanks to Tip #6, you now know what to do if you get sick in Mexico — go to the inexpensive walk-in clinic (consultorio). Ask a passerby or use Google Maps to find the Farmacia Similares, Farmacia Yza or Farmacia Guadalajara closest to you, and head there for quick and inexpensive medical assistance.


10. DO: Wash & Sanitize Your Hands Often

Known to be one of the least-clean parts of the body, remember to keep hand cleanliness in mind at all times.

As preventing a Mexico stomach virus and/or Montezuma’s Revenge is clearly on your mind — or you wouldn’t have read this article — remember to wash your hands anytime you’re passing by a sink.

While this may seem like overkill, you really never know when the next opportunity to do so will come, so take advantage of every time the opportunity presents itself.

As you won’t always have access to a sink, be sure to pack your Travel Bottle Keychain Holder and hand sanitizer.


Mexico Travel FAQ

Can you travel to Mexico right now?

Yes, travel between the U.S. and Mexico is open. As you’ll see below, there are virtually no travel restrictions for Americans traveling to Mexico right now. Because of this, many Americans are flocking to Mexico for a respite in these tough times as a coping mechanism of how to fight Covid-19 fatigue.

Do I need a negative Covid test to travel to Mexico?

No, you do not need to arrive in Mexico with a negative Covid test. However, once you arrive, authorities in the airport will likely take your temperature and not let you enter the country if it’s elevated. After leaving the airport, masks and temperature checks are often required to enter indoor spaces.

Is there a quarantine period in Mexico?

No, you’re not required to quarantine upon arrival in Mexico. It is one of only a handful of countries that allows U.S. travelers in, and/or don’t require a two-week quarantine period for visiting Americans.

Do I need a negative Covid test to return to the U.S.?

As of January 26, 2021, you are required to have a negative Covid test to return to the U.S. The negative test results must be dated within three-days of your flight. For now, only an Antigen Test/NAAT Test is required, according to the CDC

To accommodate for this, many airports in Mexico are offering rapid testing, so be sure to check with the airport you’re flying out of. If not, there are clinics throughout Mexico, particularly in the main tourist areas, offering rapid Antigen Tests for about $20; the PCR test is more expensive.


Do Americans need a visa for Mexico?

No, U.S. passport holders don’t need a visa to travel to anywhere in Mexico. This no-visa-necessary rule is another reason why Mexico is one of the best travel destinations from the U.S.

When you arrive in Mexico and go through Customs and Immigration, you’ll receive a 180-day (6 month) FMM tourist card. Though called a “card,” it is really just a small piece of paper — but you need to hold on to it so you can give it back to Immigration when you leave the country.

There is no charge for the FMM, but if you lose yours, there is a charge of about $600 pesos ($30USD) to replace it. You’ll also have some paperwork to fill out at the airport before you can leave the country. In short: Don’t lose your FMM!

💡 Mexico Travel Tip: Keep track of your FMM by storing it in a secure place like this travel wallet, along with all your other important travel documents.

Colorful buildings in downtown Oaxaca City, Mexico

RELATED BLOG ✈️ Traveling to Oaxaca: Here’s Everything You Need to Know


Is it safe to travel to Mexico right now?

This answer depends on who you ask!

The World Travel & Tourism Council’s global travel safety program, Safe Travels, has certified all of Mexico’s big travel destinations, including Playa del Carmen, Cancun and Puerto Vallarta, as safe for travel. To qualify for this program, countries must follow rigorous cleaning and hygiene protocols.

However, the U.S. State Department and the CDC say to reconsider all international — for now!

Is Mexico safe for travel?

Short answer: Yes!

Longer answer: Safety is a tricky subject because safety is a feeling, not a fact, and no place on Earth is 100% safe. As a larger country, Mexico has good and bad parts. As tourism is the country’s biggest industry, the Mexican government does take measures to make sure the country is safe for its visitors.

While traveling to Mexico, and really anywhere else, you’ll want to follow the 10 General Travel Safety Tips below, and register your trip with the STEP Program, a free travel safety initiative for U.S. citizens.

10 General Travel Safety Tips
  1. When walking home alone at night stick to 5th Avenue, the main street in Playa del Carmen, as it’s well-lit and monitored by police.
  2. Always listen to your intuition because your intuition is always right.
  3. If you get a sketchy or uneasy feeling about a person or place, get away from that person or place asap. Don’t worry about making a kind, nice or politically correct exit from a creepy person or bad situation — Just get away fast.
  4. Don’t keep your phone, keys, wallet, passport, or anything valuable in your back pocket.
  5. Learn some basic Spanish. If you can’t learn it, save this infographic as an image on your phone so you have something to use even if you’re off-WiFi.
  6. Take all of your belongings into the bathroom with you, rather than asking a cafe/bar neighbor to watch your things. This is annoying, for sure, but it works to not get your stuff stolen.
  7. Speaking of bar neighbors, don’t take drinks from strangers and/or leave your drink unattended with one.
  8. Don’t wear flashy clothes, expensive jewelry, designer sunglasses, etc.
  9. Keep some cash in your pocket so you don’t have to pull your whole wallet out every time you need to pay.
  10. This should be a no brainer since you’re traveling during a pandemic, but get Travel Insurance!
Register for the STEP Program

Make sure you enroll in the free STEP Program before your trip. The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, or STEP, allows U.S. citizens traveling to Mexico to document your trip with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate — which happens to be the Consular Agency in Playa del Carmen.

After you’ve registered, a U.S. Embassy or Consulate can contact you in the event of an emergency, including natural disasters, civil unrest, etc. STEP can also put you in touch with your family and friends back home in the event of an emergency while abroad.

Is it safe to drive in Mexico?

Is it safe to drive in Mexico?

Short answer: Yes!

Longer answer: As a general rule, driving in Mexico is considered safe, however, there’s the obvious caveat to that. Since you will be driving in another country, you should take the time to familiarize yourself with Mexico driving laws, or ask the agent at your car rental company for advice.

Renting a Car in Mexico

🚗💨 Head to this article, Renting A Car in Mexico: Everything You Need to Know, to learn everything you need to know about how to rent a car in Mexico.

If you feel comfortable about the rental process and just need a rental car in Mexico, book here with Discover Cars. They search ALL Mexico car rental companies at once to get you the bet rates, and offer low-cost, full coverage insurance for your Mexico trip.


…if I had a peso for every time someone’s asked me, Is Mexico safe? In all seriousness, the answer to this question is quite complex; but from my experience as a solo female traveler in Mexico — Yes, it has been safe for me.

Check out the podcast episode below, and this article, SAFE Solo Female Travel in Mexico: 20 Tips & Safe Destinations, for a much more in depth look at the complex topic of Mexico solo travel safety.

RELATED BLOG ✈️ 20 Unique Things to Do in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico


Do I need Mexico Travel Insurance?

Legally; no, you don’t need to purchase travel insurance for Mexico. However, after years of travel in Mexico, I will say there is one certainty with travel — Something will go wrong!

For this reason, there’s a whole page of this website dedicated to travel insurance, because it’s just that important. If Mexico travel safety is on your mind, get your free quote below from World Nomads, one of the biggest names in travel insurance for Mexico and beyond.


Final Thoughts: How to NOT Get Sick in Mexico

Please, please, please don’t come to Mexico and not eat the street food over fear you’ll get sick! Just look around and you’ll see many people eating street food, because it’s such a big part of Mexican culture. 

In fact, Mexicans joke about getting their daily dose of Vitamin T, of which the T stands for tacos, and those tacos more than likely come from a street stand. While their stomachs are more acclimated than yours, maybe go easy — but please don’t street food avoid entirely!

As you now know, no one drinks the water in Mexico, so that fact, plus your new LifeStraw Water Bottle, which filters 99.999999% of bacteria, viruses and toxins, covers your water safety. That water bottle will also prevent dehydration, one of the sicknesses most don’t plan for.

Hopefully you see that there are simple steps you can take to prevent getting sick in Mexico. While there are no guarantees, these 10 tips definitely will come in handy for your Mexico trip.

Have questions on how to avoid getting sick in Mexico?

If we missed anything in this article, please ask away in the comments below!

Enjoy these related Mexico blogs!

Please join me on my Solo Travel & Mexico Travel adventures

¡Hola Chicas!

I’m Shelley, a former Miami travel magazine editor who ditched the office for the world!

I started this Blog and Podcast to help women like you cross Solo travel and Mexico travel off your bucket list… Read more

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  1. Diane

    This is the BEST advice! Don’t constantly worry, follow some practical tips and voila! Don’t end up like Charlotte (love that movie and that was a fabulous scene)

    • Shelley

      Hi Diane: Thanks for writing! Believe me — I’ve seen the most cautious people get reallllly sick & the people who have taken no precautions have the best trip of their life 🤷‍♀️ In the end, I think you prepare a bit, then roll the dice & hope for the best! No sense worrying over if you may/may not get sick!

  2. Jumana

    I wish to visit Mexico sometime soon, thanks for the tips.

  3. Jen Nilsson

    This is really good advice! I’ve got the lifestraw and produce wash in my Amazon cart for my girlfriend who is moving to Mexico but doesn’t use single-use plastic. Thanks so much for this!

    • Shelley

      Hi Jen: You’re a really good friend to get her that stuff! There’s produce wash all over Mexico, but little change she’d find a lifestraw bottle, so that’s great she’s coming with one. I hope she loves living in Mexico 🇲🇽

  4. Josy A

    Lol I have never heard of it being called Montezuma’s Revenge – i sort of love that! These are good tips. I don’t think I could possibly visit Mexico and not eat the street food, so this is all good to hear.

    p.s. I love the idea of vitamin T for daily tacos!! 😀

  5. Megan

    This is so helpful! We often wonder about how to avoid getting sick, and visit Mexico often. We do all the things you mention, but I love hearing the explanation of why!

  6. Krista

    So many great tips here and things I didn’t know about travelling to Mexico! I had heard about the tap water though!

  7. Marquita

    These are excellent tips! Like many other countries, small precautions can help prevent you from getting sick.


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