Given our close ties and shared border, thousands of Americans visit Mexico annually. It’s one of the most popular international destinations for U.S. travelers. Nevertheless, international travel always brings risks along with it. You are going to go to a place you don’t visit every day, and likely are not familiar with. New sights, sounds, people and customs will likely greet you. However, you have to have your street smarts about you.
Certain areas of Mexico are extremely welcoming for any tourist or visitor. Yet, other areas have negative attributes that make them unsafe or even threatening. It’s important to know where to go, and where to avoid, during your travels south of the border.
Before You Go: Check with the U.S. State Department
It’s the U.S. government’s responsibility to see to the safety of its citizens whether they are at home or abroad. A lot of work goes into researching the safety of various destinations.
Wherever you plan to travel, including Mexico, you can likely find comprehensive safety information on the U.S. State Department's country pages. Learning more about where you plan to go can help you better plan for your own security when you get there.
Be on the Lookout for Travel Advisories
As you plan to travel to Mexico, you’ll likely encounter recommendations on where and where not to visit. One of the best ways to get a general idea on places to avoid is to look at travel advisories. The State Department periodically issues travel advisories for foreign travel. These advisories might alert Americans to possible safety hazards in their destinations. Crime statistics, public safety, and even health and weather data allows the U.S. to better advise its citizens on how to keep themselves safe.
Currently, the U.S. issues four levels of travel advisories. Level one is the lowest while four is the highest. If a destination has an elevated level, this means the area is somewhat or very unsafe for visitors. In 2018, Mexico has an overall advisory level of 2. This means there’s a slight amount of danger present wherever you go. You should use increased discretion when traveling. However, with the right care, you can still feel secure.
However, certain Mexican regions and states have elevated levels of 3 and 4. These areas have very high safety risks present for Americans. The state department advises travelers to reconsider travel to level three states and not to travel to level four states. A lot of these safety risks come from violent crime, gang activity, and the international drug trade in these areas. Though these risks might not be present in all areas, consider them clear and present dangers.
Specific Areas to Avoid During Your Travels
You should only travel to risky areas of Mexico at your own risk. Knowing places to avoid might help you stay safe if you must visit an unfamiliar environment.
- In large Mexican cities, seek out the areas safe to tourists. You should keep to those areas as much as possible and never venture out alone.
- Most of the border states and towns have high safety risks. Nevertheless, they serve as valuable sources of international trade with the U.S. Therefore, use extreme caution if you travel across the border frequently. Keep track of your vehicle and belongings at all times. Learn what areas you need to avoid in these areas.
- When driving throughout Mexico, use toll roads or federal highways whenever possible. These roads are often safer than local roadways. Regardless of where you travel, it is usually a good idea not to drive at night. Poor lighting, loose animals and even highway bandits might all pop up in different areas.
- Rural areas, including mountainous regions, might be extremely dangerous. A lack of infrastructure and certain criminal activity might pose safety risks. Usually, it’s best to visit these areas during the daytime and return to a safe area at night.
When you travel, it’s a good idea to have the proper identification with you at all times. Your passport, visas, insurance and more might come in handy if you encounter trouble. Furthermore, keep an eye out wherever you go for any signs of trouble. Leave any area that makes you feel unsafe. Secure your valuables at all times. These are precautions that you should take every day in your own community. Consider them even more valuable when you travel.
Never assume that every location in Mexico is rife with crime and unsafe communities. That’s the furthest thing from the truth. But, remember that your unfamiliarity with an area might make you more susceptible to existing risks. Before you go, do your research. The state department and multiple travel websites can help you learn what and what not to do whenever you go south of the border.