6 Tourist Scams in Mexico – The Common Issues and Ways to Avoid Them

When you are traveling to Mexico, you should also be prepared for the tourist scams in Mexico. It seems that all popular tourist destinations in the world have shared the same scam issues.

In Mexico, with the crowded buses and metros, it would be easy for criminals to grab unattended bag from innocent tourists. Or thieves may target individuals in public transportation stations and airports for the sake of convenient surrounding that benefit them.

Want to avoid such a scam? It doesn’t hurt to learn some of the most common scams and how to avoid them.

You can travel around safely and you can even spot a scam from the look of it.

Fake Taxis

It is quite common for local criminals to borrow taxis and then drive it around the city, targeting innocent tourists.

It would be a good idea to rent a taxi from an official service. Be careful that such a fake taxi can be a part of express kidnapping.

To avoid such a thing, it would be a good idea to have someone else with you (preferably someone who knows the area around, able to speak the language, and someone strong).

It is also a good idea to contact someone else when you are going to use the service. When you enter the taxi, call someone else (your friend, your family, etc) and tell them the plate number.

Talk to them in details, don’t ever hang up. Talk to them along the way.

Shady drivers would think twice about doing mischievous things when you are still communicating with other people.

If you are ordering online taxi, send them the screenshots of your order containing the plate and name of the driver. Before you get into the taxi, make sure that the plate and the driver are similar to the order receipt.

And again, call someone else before getting into the taxi, along the trip, and until you get off the taxi.

Always keep everything documented and don’t delete them until you are back home safely.

Try as best as you can to avoid this tourist scams in Mexico by not traveling alone. At least have someone else with you.

Xochimilco Floating Gardens Boat

Mexico City Floating Gardens of Xochimilco is one of the most popular tourist destinations where tourists would go on a boat.

However, street touts or boat peddlers would offer you the price of $1500 peso per hour – and they may show you the (seemingly) official price list stating so.

However, the true rate from the official site is only $350 peso per hour. But the fair rate is around $500 peso per hour.

If you still want to go on a ride, you only have two options: taking a tour or you need to bargain hard.

If you want the effortless way, without confrontation or whatsoever, go with the first option.

At least, it is easier. If you want to do the bargain, make sure to do it politely without offending them.

You can still enjoy a satisfying outcome if you know how to haggle in a fun way.

Fake Souvenirs

All tourists like to buy souvenirs, right?

But such an opportunity is often misused by shady and mischievous people to take advantage of their own.

If you go to travel hotspots, you may find vendors selling illegitimate souvenirs, relics, and handicrafts.

Not only you will get fake items, but you may pay a little too much for them.

The best way to avoid one of the common tourist scams in Mexico is to look for the artists’ name when you are buying handicrafts.

You want to avoid buying an overly cheap item because they are being mass produced. That’s why find the name. What if you buy a limestone carving? Find a hidden spot (the one that is less obvious) and then give it a (gentle) scratch.

Naturally, do this when the seller isn’t looking. If it doesn’t scratch, it is fake. Real one doesn’t.

If you want to buy jewelry, especially the beautiful silver type, make sure that it has a 925 hallmark stamp.

You should be able to find one easily at established and reputable jewelry store. What about the guy wanders off the beach and sells the piece? Well, it is likely to be fake. If you are still interested in buying one, go ahead.

But make sure to bargain. Don’t go with the price offered by him. It doesn’t mean that all the beach items are always fake.

Some of them are real but the price has been marked up, as opposed to the price for locals.

Let’s say that you want to have the beautiful and colorful Mexican poncho or blanket, and a beach vendor is offering you one. Feel free to bargain.

But remember, they also need to earn some money for living, so don’t be too cheap. Go with the reasonable price.

Timeshare Scams

These scams are one of the most common tourist scams in Mexico,

and they do come in various forms. Those unsuspecting and innocent tourists may fall victim to such a scheme.

In the first version, the scam may come in free ticket or scratch card. It is common for well-dressed salespeople to approach you and then offer you discounted or free tickets to tourist attractions.

It is also possible that they will give you a scratch ticket that ensures winning. Seems like too-good-to-be-true system, right? Because it is! You will have to attend a (timeshare) pitch to be able to redeem the prize.

Or in the most common scheme, you are allowed to take home something with a price that is claimed to be lower than the standard one.

Everything that is too-good-to-be-true is never real.

The second method is that you are asked to join a survey about the holiday experience. You are asked to leave the contact details so they can inform you later that you have won something – a prize.

When you want to redeem it, it is a must that you go with a timeshare pitch. Or, they will constantly contact you and cause spam.

What happens during the pitch, anyway? You will have to face sales tactics and all of them are high in pressure. They will ‘force’ you to buy – even when they have to make misleading claims.

Often times, the prize isn’t something worth claiming for. They often come with huge conditions and terms. In the end, you are always the loser and they will be the winner. 

The best way to avoid such a scam is never to take part in it at all.

From the beginning, tell them no, thanks – in the calmest and most polite way possible. And then walk away.

Such a scam usually takes place in Stone Island of Mazatlan (Isla de las Piedras), Malecon Boardwalk Puerto Vallarta, San Lucas international airport, Quinta Avenida Playa del Carmen, La Isla Shopping Village and Cancun International Airport.

Fake ATM

This is one of the most common tourist scams in Mexico that may happen to unsuspecting tourists.

You find an ATM on the side of the street or inside a minimarket, and then find out that the machine swallows your card.

NEVER ever use an ATM in any location, except in banks. 

Only go to the banks and then make use of the ATM there.



There are some shady cafes and restaurants that are making extra money from innocent tourists.

They may surcharge the prices, adding items (that you weren’t asking for), or giving visitors different menu.

The menu is different from the local ones because all the prices are already hiked up.

There are ways to avoid such a thing. Observe the place. If you don’t see any locals, the place is likely targeting visitors and tourists.

Go to places that are filled by the locals. Go to places that are promoted by the touts or not included in chains. When you see the menu, the price should be listed there.

Walk away if they don’t list the price. And make sure that it is reasonable. A $30 pancake is ridiculous! If you are about to pay, check the receipt.

Make sure that you have everything in order and make sure that the price is the same as written on the menu.

You can avoid such scams if you are educated and you have done your research thoroughly.

As long as you are careful, you can spot these tourist scams in Mexico and stay away from them.

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