The recent high-profile kidnapping and murder of American tourists in Mexico have sparked fears and travel warnings around trips to the country, leaving travelers wondering if it’s safe to visit Mexico right now.
Tourists should keep in mind that Mexico is a large and diverse country. Advising someone against traveling to Cancún because of violence in Matamoros would be similar to warning against travel to New York because of an incident in California. To find out how safe an area in Mexico is before you book a trip, consult the US State Department’s Mexico Travel Advisory page for the most accurate and up-to-date travel warnings.
State Department Travel Warnings: Mexico
The State Department issued a Spring Break 2023 Travel Alert on March 13, 2023, which warns, “U.S. citizens should exercise increased caution in the downtown areas of popular spring break locations including Cancun, Playa Del Carmen, and Tulum, especially after dark.” Read the travel alert before traveling, and heed the agency’s advice.
The State Department has also escalated advisories for a number of Mexican states due to an increased risk of crime or kidnappings.
The State Department has a “Do Not Travel” warning for the following regions of Mexico:
Do Not Travel
- Colima state due to crime and kidnapping.
- Guerrero state due to crime.
- Michoacan state due to crime and kidnapping.
- Sinaloa state due to crime and kidnapping
- Tamaulipas state due to crime and kidnapping.
- Zacatecas state due to crime and kidnapping.
The State Department advises travelers to “reconsider travel” to the following states:
- Baja California state due to crime and kidnapping.
- Chihuahua state due to crime and kidnapping.
- Durango state due to crime.
- Guanajuato state due to crime and kidnapping.
- Jalisco state due to crime and kidnapping.
- Morelos state due to crime.
- Sonora state due to crime and kidnapping.
Some popular tourist destinations, like Cancún, Playa del Carmen, and Tulum are located in states with less elevated warning levels. Quintana Roo, for example, has the State Department advisory of “Exercise Increased Caution” which is the same warning level as France, Italy, and Germany.
Two states in Mexico, Campeche and Yucatan, have the State Department’s lowest warning level, “Exercise Normal Precautions.”
Mexico Safety Tips
No matter where you travel in Mexico, there are some basic safety tips that everyone should follow.
Only use a reputable taxi service, such as one booked through your hotel, a legitimate taxi stand, or a ride-sharing app. The State Department warns, “Mexico experiences robberies, typically in cities, in which abductors force victims to use their debit or credit card to withdraw money from ATMs in exchange for their release. Perpetrators commonly work in cooperation with, or pose as, taxi drivers.”
Never accept a drink from a stranger and never leave your beverage unattended. Reports of criminals drugging tourists’ drinks in order to assault or rob them are fairly common in Mexico, and can happen even at your resort.
Be cautious of the types of drinks you order. The State Department says that there have been incidents of counterfeit alcohol being sold in Mexico, and cautions, “Unregulated alcohol may be contaminated, and U.S. citizens have reported losing consciousness or becoming injured after consuming alcohol that was possibly tainted.”
Share Your Itinerary
Share your itinerary with close friends or family (and not on social media, which could make it easier for criminals to find you), so that they can alert authorities if you go missing.
Before your trip, register with the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, a free service that will help the State Department get in touch with you in the event of an emergency. Enrollees will also receive important safety alerts from the Embassy about safety conditions in their destination country.
Before visiting Mexico, check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) website to determine if you have all the recommended vaccines and prescriptions for your trip.
Tap water in Mexico is not safe to drink, so stick to bottled beverages and avoid raw fruits and vegetables (unless you can peel them yourself). Skip the ice in your drinks, and use bottled water to brush your teeth.
Mosquito-borne diseases, such as Zika and Dengue are prevalent in Mexico, so take precautions to avoid getting bitten.
Exercise caution when entering the water in Mexico, as undercurrents and rip tides are common at beaches. Be especially careful if swimming in an area without a lifeguard.
Choose Your Hotel Wisely
Phillip Ballard, an Executive at HotelPlanner, and a former anti-terrorism and Pentagon Force Protection Officer, recommends “booking as nice a hotel as you can afford in the popular business/entertainment district.” Ballard explains that these hotels will likely be safer due to a more visible police presence.
The State Department advises against driving on highways at night in Mexico due to poor road conditions and a high risk of crime.
Keep a Low Profile
As soon as you arrive in Mexico, Ballard advises travelers to keep a low profile. “Criminals will often spot American tourists the minute they deplane. Don’t wear or say anything that identifies you easily as an American tourist.” Ballard recommends travelers leave flashy jewelry and other valuables at home to decrease the chance of theft.
Know What to Do in Case of an Emergency
The emergency services number in Mexico is the same as in the United States (911). Purchase travel insurance before you go so that you’ll be covered in the event that you need medical care. Save the locations of the nearest hospitals and the US Embassy into your phone in case you need help.
Download the Guest Assist app if you are traveling to Quintana Roo. The app, provided by the Mexican government, offers provides emergency resources for tourists.
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