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Places to Avoid in Mexico

One question often on the minds of those visiting Mexico for the first time is: how safe is it?While Mexico is typically safe for visitors who are cautious, well-informed, and use common sense, it's important to note that safety conditions can differ significantly from one region to another.

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By Eglė

Published: Oct 26, 2023 min read

Places to Avoid in Mexico

Certain areas in Mexico have risks due to cartels. While some cities might have issues, most tourist spots like Puerto Vallarta and Cabo San Lucas are generally safe. For context, many parts of Mexico are as safe as places in the U.S., like St. Louis. This article will discuss safety in Mexico and list areas perceived as risky, giving insights on whether they're advisable to visit.

Based on Travel.State.Gov recommendations (22nd August, 2023), you should not travel to: 

  • 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

Reconsider Travel (due to crime or/and kidnapping) To :

  • Baja California state 
  • Chihuahua state
  • Durango state 
  • Guanajuato state
  • Jalisco state 
  • Morelos state
  • Sonora state 

Have Increased Caution When Traveling To:

  • Aguascalientes state 
  • Baja California Sur state 
  • Chiapas state 
  • Coahuila state 
  • Hidalgo state
  • Mexico City 
  • Mexico State 
  • Nayarit state 
  • Nuevo Leon state 
  • Oaxaca state 
  • Puebla state 
  • Queretaro state 
  • Quintana Roo state 
  • San Luis Potosi state 
  • Tabasco state 
  • Tlaxcala state
  • Veracruz state 

Safe But Still be Agile When Traveling To:

  • Campeche state
  • Yucatan state

Let's Review Some Places You Should Avoid in Mexico

  • Tijuana, situated on the U.S.-Mexico border opposite San Diego, California, is among Mexico's largest cities. It is known for tales of crime, cartel disturbances, and potential dangers, often marking it as one of Mexico's riskiest places. While it's true that the city has a more pronounced cartel presence compared to other parts of Mexico, this doesn't necessarily make it dangerous for visitors. Cartels typically avoid harming Americans; they have bigger fish to fry. In Tijuana, the primary concern for tourists is falling prey to scams or thefts, rather than facing major cartel violence. And while its reputation as a hazardous city is often exaggerated, it's essential to remain cautious. 
  • Texas Border Cities. Recent incidents have highlighted the risks in the Mexican regions near the Texas border, from tragic misidentifications by cartels to disturbing discoveries. This border area, vital for cartel operations, is among Mexico's more dangerous zones. While daytime activities in larger cities like Monterrey are generally safer, areas like Reynosa and Nuevo Leon have heightened security concerns. It's advisable to exercise caution, especially during nighttime.
  • Once a glittering hotspot for Hollywood elite, Acapulco faced a decline due to its rising reputation for crime and violence. Reports of harrowing incidents led to a significant dip in tourism. Was this reputation warranted? To an extent, yes. There was a time when Acapulco ranked among Mexico's most perilous destinations, with criminal factions causing turmoil. However, this isn't the current scenario. Although certain outskirts remain problematic, the central tourist zones have regained safety. Today, this Pacific Coast jewel attracts numerous visitors. If you're planning a visit, don't miss the beautiful beaches Acapulco boasts of!
  • Sinaloa, famously associated with the Sinaloa Cartel and figures like El Chapo, has a notorious reputation. With its capital, Culiacan, being central to such a renowned criminal organization, one might assume Sinaloa is inherently perilous. However, labeling the entire state as treacherous, same say that it would be an overgeneralization. Indeed, places like the coastal city of Mazatlan stand as safe havens for tourists. Yet, it's undeniable that some areas are risky and might be better sidestepped by inexperienced travelers. Globally, Sinaloa doesn't top danger charts, but in the Mexican context, it's wise to approach with caution, unless heading to tourist spots like Mazatlán's beaches or the Copper Canyon.

Is Mexico Dangerous for Tourists?

In general, Mexican drug cartels do not want to harm tourists. It is bad for business. If anything, they want to appeal to American tourists!

If you visit a popular tourist destination like Los Cabos, Cancun, or Puerto Vallarta, it is very common to be offered illegal drugs by a salesman wandering along the beach. You should always say no, obviously, but these individuals are almost always tangentially related to a major drug cartel, if only at the lowest level of the totem pole. U.S. Citizens, as well as tourists from Europe, Canada, and other countries outside of Latin America are generally very safe in Mexico so long as they don’t seek out illegal activities. Popular tourist destinations are generally not among the most dangerous places but you still must know the places to avoid in Mexico.

Which area in Mexico has the highest risk of crime? 

The region in Mexico most plagued by crime is typically its border with the United States. While there are other high-risk areas in the nation, the U.S. border region consistently ranks highest in danger.

Which cities in Mexico are most heavily influenced by cartels?

 When considering cartel activity, corruption, and organized crime, cities like Tijuana, Ciudad Juarez, Victoria, Reynosa, and Culiacan are often at the forefront.

How many murder cases happen in 2023? 

There are reported 36,579 murders in Mexico in 2023. This equates to a murder rate of 28.37 per 100,000 inhabitants, placing Mexico 4th globally in this grim statistic. The study also highlighted that men face an 8-fold higher risk of being murder victims compared to women.

I hope this helps you understand where it's safe in Mexico. If a place you're thinking of isn't mentioned, it's probably not very dangerous. Nevertheless, always check the official sites to know the most recent and updated info. Just be careful, and you should have a good trip.

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