Is it safe to visit Mexico? I get this question a lot. I don’t blame you. Every day, we hear or see something on the media about violence and crime in Mexico. Also, thanks to social media a lot of things grow out of proportion and posts/videos become “viral” with millions of people having access to such content.

As a result, many people become alarmed and avoid traveling to Mexico altogether. The truth is not everything is black or white. I will try my best to be as objective as possible and present you with facts to allow you to make a more informed decision.

Fear of the Unknown

Man with a white blindfold.

I understand there may be people who have never visited and may be hesitant because of what they see on TV. I remember a few years ago when I traveled to Oaxaca City. My boss was getting married at that time. He invited several people and only about half of them showed up. Many of them had never been to Mexico, while others hadn’t been in a long time. Most of them were scared and declined the invitation. Even Mexican Americans were included in this non-attending group, which was hard for me to believe.

Some protests were going on in the city at that time. There was a conflict between the government and the teachers union. The latter would sometimes block the highways as a way of protest. But it was a legitimate request and for the most part, they were pacific demonstrations.

However, many people were scared and decided not to go. It was a pity because they missed out on a great experience. Oaxaca City is a dream destination for anyone and it wasn’t even included in the U.S. Do not travel list.

Having said that, I will share with you my experiences along with things I found out on other travel blogs and comments from other fellow travelers. I hope this will serve to put things in perspective.

Travel Advisory Warnings

The U.S. State Department periodically issues a list of countries, classifying them into 4 categories depending on the safety level they deem. This list constitutes the main reference guide for Americans when choosing where to travel. Many countries have a similar list.

Travel advisory levels in blue, yellow, orange and red.

Mexico map in different colors ranging from yellow to orange to red.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As you can see, Mexico is overall classified as a Level 2 country (Exercise Increased Caution). This simply means you have to be more careful due to increased crime.

There are currently 5 states classified as extremely dangerous, which are:

  • Colima
  • Guerrero
  • Michoacan
  • Sinaloa
  • Tamaulipas

Now, there are some things worth mentioning. Mexico has a vast territory and most of the above states are large as well. I honestly think it’s both unfair and inaccurate to ban a whole state because of incidents in a few parts of its territories. These unsafe areas are contained in small pockets of the country.

Take Michoacan and Sinaloa as examples. Morelia and its nearby pueblos mágicos in Michoacan are safe to visit, not only according to the government but by tourists as well. The same thing applies to Mazatlan and Topolobampo in Sinaloa. Those parts of the state and the highways connecting them are safe for tourists, but because of violence and crime in other parts of those states, they are banned altogether by other country governments. I guess it’s easier to just generalize and not worry about providing more accurate information.

I don’t know how governments make their classifications. They change continually, but in the case of the 5 states mentioned above, they have remained like that since last year. I wonder if there are any political reasons involved. I thought I was the only one who thought of that, but it seems there are many more people out there who share that feeling.

I’m not advising you against government travel advisories at all. However, I recommend you do as much research as you can and not only depend on those advisories.

Drug Cartels, Crime, and Violence

Black firearm, cellphone, drugs and money.

I must confess this is an uncomfortable subject for us Mexicans to talk about. But at the same time, I think it’s important to discuss it and dig deeper into the matter so we can have a better understanding of the whole picture. Our foreign friends deserve to have as much information as possible to decide on visiting our country. That’s one of the main objectives of this site.

Many people automatically associate Mexico with drugs and crime. Unfortunately, they are real but not to the extent they want to make us believe. It’s not like they’re kidnapping or killing people on every corner every 5 minutes. There’s nothing further from the truth. On top of that, Hollywood movies and series don’t help our image with the way they portray us in their productions.

There are definitely some areas where you should exercise extra caution and a few you might want to avoid altogether until further notice, but it’s also true there are many more areas you can visit with peace of mind.

Level 4 states on the list are compared to Afghanistan and Somalia, but I honestly think it’s a little bit exaggerated. Like I said above, those events are concentrated in specific areas and are not statewide. Generalizing about that is a big mistake. What’s more important, it’s been proven most people in those incidents had participated in illegal activities. Tourists are rarely the target of cartels. There have been a few cases where tourists were involved, but they were isolated cases.

What we need to understand is that even though a city is considered safe, that doesn’t mean nothing bad can happen. Chances are lower, but they’re still there. Pickpocketing and other minor crimes occur in Mexico (even in safe places) just like they do in New York City, London or Tokyo. That’s why we always have to exercise caution regardless of our destination.

Generalizations are never good. How many times have we heard of shootings in the U.S. and its citizens still consider it safe? They don’t generalize about the situation because of those incidents. No travel advisories are issued. The same thing applies to terrorist attacks in Europe. Rich countries seem to have a preferential treatment regarding these travel warnings. What’s different here?

I’m not trying to create any controversy whatsoever. I just wanted to put this out there to make you realize we always have to consider all factors when making a judgment.

Immovable Facts

Man reading a burning newspaper.

Mexico received around 40 million foreign tourists in 2017, making it the 6th most visited country in the world and the most visited in Latin America. That number just keeps growing. So many tourists can’t be wrong.

Mexico has a vast territory. Violence and crime are concentrated in some areas, so it’s easy to visit other places considered safe.

The media will always focus on the worst. There are so many good things in Mexico we could talk about, but what does the media say about that? The bad news is what attracts people and they know it.

Mexico City, Puebla, Queretaro, Los Cabos, and the Yucatan Peninsula are among the safest places to visit. There is a lot of security in those places because of the high influx of tourists. The government knows this and takes special care to protect those areas. You may hear about a few cases happening in safe places, but they’re usually isolated.

Comparing Mexico and the U.S., Mexico has more violent crime murders, especially those associated with the drug trade. However, overall crime levels and property crime levels are very similar in both countries. The U.S. has more illegal drug usage, murders with firearms, hate crimes, rapes, assaults and prisoners than Mexico. I’m pretty sure you didn’t know that, right?

So, statistically speaking, you’re safer in Mexico than the U.S. I’m not saying it. It’s a fact. You can check it out here.

A Few RecommendationsForegroung photo of a woman's palm blocking her face.

Regardless of where you visit, there are some things you should always do.

  • Never leave your drinks/food unattended when traveling solo.
  • Don’t accept drinks from strangers.
  • Always keep your belongings with you.
  • Watch your surroundings when withdrawing money at an ATM or bank.
  • Only use Uber or taxis from a reputable company. Avoid hailing a taxi on the street.
  • If you rented a car and need to load up gas, don’t pay by card at the gas station. Always use cash.
  • Always use toll roads and travel by day.
  • Be careful when using Tinder and other dating apps. This applies to your home country as well!
  • Backpackers and adventurers might differ, but don’t accept rides from strangers.
  • Stay out of dark, shady places.
  • Avoid walking alone at night.
  • Learn as much Spanish as possible. This is out of courtesy and for your own benefit too.

Most importantly, always use common sense! I can never stress this enough. You’re on vacation, you just want to enjoy your time. However, don’t leave your common sense at home. Use it when traveling. It can save your life.

Conclusion

Is Mexico safe to visit? In a word, YES. As long as you don’t go around looking for trouble, you will probably find none. Many tourists have had the time of their lives after visiting for the first time and they continually ask themselves why they hadn’t visited before. I’ve seen so many videos on YouTube about that and I have also seen it personally.

There are still many people who are afraid of visiting because of what they hear and see on the media. It’s a pity. But that’s slowly starting to change. Many other people are starting to realize Mexico is not what you see on TV. There are still many stereotypes out there, but they’re slowly being overcome.

Don’t be afraid of visiting this amazing country. Always do your research when planning your trip. Investigate any travel advisories issued by the government of your country, but don’t let that be your only source. Register with travel groups, check out travel blogs, ask a friend who has visited, etc. This will help you make a more informed decision.

Like I said above and always say, crime and violence in Mexico are real. But keep in mind the victims are usually people who were involved in illegal activities. Tourists are rarely attacked in this sense.

The media will always focus on the negative. You may have heard that we were rapists, murderers, bad hombres and whatnot. Sensationalism makes big money. Keep that in mind.

I hope this article helped clear things up a bit. Take that step. Plan your trip. Put your fears away. You won’t regret your decision.

I would like to read your comments below. I’m always down for answering any questions. I hope will all my heart you found this useful. See you soon!

 

References:

https://www.exceptionalvillas.com/blog/safest-places-in-mexico

https://www.smartertravel.com/safest-places-in-mexico/

https://www.thetravel.com/10-safest-places-to-travel-to-in-mexico-and-9-to-avoid

https://passportsandgrub.com/mexico-travel-warning-safety-and-is-it-safe

https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/traveladvisories/traveladvisories/mexico-travel-advisory.html

https://www.panoramas.pitt.edu/news-and-politics/newest-mexico-travel-advisory-crosses-line

https://www.nationmaster.com/country-info/compare/Mexico/United-States/Crime

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24 Replies to “Is It Safe to Visit Mexico? – Debunking the Myths”

  1. hello there, i just came to your website with the interest of knowing what to expect in a country like mexico because it is so close to us and i’ve thinking of going there and your post did open my eyes on a lot of things that i didn’t know about mexico in the first place, thank you for these information

    1. Hi, Trevor,

      Unfortunately, there is so much misinformation out there scaring people away. The truth is once they visit, they ask themselves why they hadn’t visited before.

      I’m glad this post served to shed some light on the subject. Let me know if you have any questions. Thanks for commenting.

  2. Traveling to Mexico is truly something that most people don’t consider to be good, if I’ll be sincere, i am guilty of it too. Its very good that you dedicate time to get this information together and I must say you’ve touched every important area needed. Caution is truly important and crucial, to be safe is to be vigilant. Thanks

    1. Hi, Andrea,

      I don’t blame you. Negative information always has more impact on society. However, there are so many good things about Mexico we could talk about, but I guess it’s not that interesting.

      Thank you very much for your comments. It really motivates me to continue. Thank you for commenting.

  3. Wow! This is like a whole new level of explanation done on what mexico truly entails and it feels that I have been lied to all my life. Thank you so much for explaining all these here. Thank you so much for sharing all these about Mexico. I must say that you have successfully clarified all my misconceptions about it. Thanks

    1. Hi, Rodarrick,

      I’m glad my post helped to clarify things a bit. There is so much misinformation about Mexico out there that we need to clarify.

      I hope you visit someday. You will love it. Let me know if you have any questions or need any recommendations.

  4. Not long ago I was surprised to find that Acapulco has become one of the most dangerous cities to visit according to US homeland security. Growing up it was one of the hottest vacation destinations. I appreciate your objective approach here as I am not really sure whom to trust when it comes to travel advice. It is becoming increasingly difficult to trust the main stream media, that much at least is known. I agree that it’s unfair to ban a whole state and I’m glad to hear that it’s inaccurate as well. I appreciate your travel tips and I’m really glad to hear that Mexico is safe to visit. Mexico has some beautiful cities and I think the world is a better place with comfortable Mexico travel in it. Great piece of advice here and keep fighting the good fight!

    1. Hi, Pentrental,

      Yes, unfortunately Acapulco has seen an uprise in violence in recent years. It’s not what it used to be.

      I follow many travel bloggers on YouTube and there are mixed opinions about the subject. However, most seem to agree the touristy area is relatively safe, although you still need to take caution. 

      I also have some friends who visited earlier this year and said everything was fine.

      I haven’t been in a long time, so I cannot give you my opinion. I hope to visit soon and be able to provide you with an accurate opinion on the subject.

      Thank you very much for commenting.

  5. Thank you for the useful article about traveling into Mexico. Although I could guess what your conclusion would be (that it is overall safe to travel there) I still admit that I have been too influenced by the media and movies. It is good to get an “insider’s” view and accurate information about things like crime and danger spots. I have only been into Mexico once, in the Yucatan peninsula. Although I saw extreme poverty, I had no problem in the area. It is always good to check for one’s self before going into a foreign country.

    1. Hi, Jack,

      I totally understand you. We tend to fear the unknown. I’m not saying it’s all rainbows and butterflies, but the picture the media paints is quite exaggerated. 

      The Yucatan Peninsula is one of the safest regions in Mexico. You can visit Merida, Cancun, Campeche, Tulum… it’s one of my favorite places.

      I’m glad you’ve visited and seen the situation with your own eyes. Let me know if you need any recommendations when visiting Mexico.

      Thanks for dropping by.

  6. You have thoroughly researched this subject extensively. It has changed my attitude about visiting Mexico. Of course, there are places in the United States that I don’t have any desire to visit because of the crime level.

    I know that Hollywood movies do make things appear worse than they really are. They are wanting to make money with exaggerated activities of violence. But, don’t the film companies have to get permits to film there? Why can’t the government quit issuing permits allowing them to film in Mexico unless they (the film company) film like it really is. Does Mexico make a lot of money in this to help it’s people?

    Is Cozemel considered part of Mexico. I am taking a 5 day cruise there next year in the fall and am really excited about going there to see the beauty of the country. I will be stopping at another location but I don’t remember right off the top of my head where.

    I think you have done well in dissolving some of the myths that have plagued Mexico, but there will always be some just like any other country.

    1. Hi, Charlotte,

      Thank you very much for your words. This motivates me to continue with my work.

      You brought up an interesting point. Honestly, I hadn’t even given it a thought. I know some Hollywood films are shot in Mexico, but I don’t know if they’re required to present the whole script to the government when requesting a permit. That is an excellent topic for an investigation.

      Answering your question, yes, Cozumel is part of Mexico. It’s an island close to Cancun.

      I’m glad to hear you’re visiting next year! I sincerely hope you enjoy your trip.

      Once again, thank you very much for your words. I will continue doing my best to provide everyone with as much information as possible.

  7. Thank you Enrique for answering a very important question that was on my mind, is it safe to visit Mexico.

    I first visited Mexico around 40 years ago and I loved the place, now I want to visit Mexico again to see how it has changed. However, hearing all the bad news about Mexico and being told by friends it was not safe to go I became a little confused!

    Sadly, the media and now Social Media don’t help, so much fake news that gets spread very quickly.

    After reading your article I feel more relaxed and will go ahead and plan my trip early part of 2020. Thank you for putting my mind at ease.

    1. Hi, Moni,

      Yes, unfortunately bad news abound on TV and the Internet. But now, thanks to technology, we have more access to information in real time. We can connect with other people who live or have visited those destinations and get firsthand information.
      I hope you visit soon. Let me know if you need any recommendations.
      Thanks for commenting.

  8. This is great to know, I am planning a trip Cancun sometime next year and this helps ease my nerves about the trip. I will take these words into consideration when I get there.

    1. Hi, Carlton,

      Glad to hear you’re visiting Cancun next year. Who are you traveling with if you don’t mind my asking?
      Let me know if you have any questions. Thanks for dropping by.

  9. Hi Enrique,
    I had the pleasure of visiting Cancun, Mexico back in December 2016 on a company trip. We primarily stayed in the Hard Rock Hotel for most of the trips while a few of us ventured out to a local bar for a couple of nights. I enjoyed everything from the food to the hospitality and of course, the weather for that time of year.

    On the resort property, everyone was fluent in english, but outside the resort, when visiting the bars, I stayed very close with my group – only because my spanish is very limited (although the bartenders knew what drink I wanted). Though we did stay out rather late into the morning hours, I remained sober and alert to keep with my group at all times – but I behave the same way here in the states as well, as I’ve quit going out with friends who want to stay out late drinking in the wrong parts of town. Also, I’m always cautious of my surroundings, in any city, so this behavior naturally follows me everywhere.

    You are right about the media and how Hollywood portrays some places in the wrong, misguided way. But as you said earlier, a person has to go looking for trouble for it to find them. I’m naturally cautious and alert whenever I travel, but I still don’t let that stop me from enjoying the experience.

    Thanks for the post!

    1. Hi, Isaiah,

      I’m glad to see you’re open-minded. Many people just freak out and decide not to go because of what they heard. It’s certainly a pity because they miss out on a lot.
      Touristy areas in Cancun and Los Cabos have a lot of people who speak fluent English, so communication is no problem if you don’t speak Spanish. However, I always recommend you learn some Spanish. It’s the best way to experience the culture and it also benefits you.
      You’re an example to others. It’s not a good idea to get drunk and not know what happens around you. That applies to Mexico and any other destination as well.
      Thanks to the Internet, people have access to more information than ever. There are many travel blogs and YouTube channels showing the world what Mexico is really like. I hope the perception others have about us changes for the better.
      Thanks for commenting.

  10. Hi Enrique, thanks for sharing this post to verify if Mexico is safe to visit. I have heard a lot about Mexico and I have watched several movies featuring crime and drugs. It really gives me some concern. However, you have cleared my fear since you said it is safe to visit.

    Afterall, crime is everywhere. There are both good and bad people everywhere. Your recommendations are sure ways to ensure the safety of our lives and properties.

    All the best!

    1. Hi, Biizy,

      I couldn’t have said it better. There’s crime everywhere. It’s very unfortunate, but it’s the truth.

      I understand many people might be concerned about Mexico because of the bad press, but I think it’s important to have one’s own criteria instead of just following others’ actions.

      If you haven’t visited Mexico yet, I sincerely hope you do someday. You’ll love it.

      Thanks for dropping by.

  11. Very good article on debunking the travel myths in Mexico. I have traveled to Mexico several times, but recently have scratched it off my list as a possible travel destination due to the increased crime, and drug activity, as you have described in your post. It is good to know that much of this information has been exaggerated, and that if one uses caution, and travels to the right areas, that there is little to worry about. I really enjoy Mexico, and thanks to your information, will reconsider travelling there in the future. Tom

    1. Hi, Tom,

      Yes, unfortunately all these bad news have scared people away. Many believe we are in a war zone when in reality those events are concentrated in small parts of the country.
      I’m glad to hear you will reconsider visiting. Let me know if you need any recommendations.

  12. Hi, Enrique,

    I really liked how you have put all of the nuances of Mexico as a tourist destination.

    I agree with you that the media is too focused on negative things and this is one of the reasons why I watch TV nowadays very very rarely.

    Luckily, today’s world of informational technology gives us so many possibilities to be properly informed on any issues we might have.

    Your site is really a great source of information for anyone planning a trip to Mexico and I will be recommending it whenever I will have the chance.

    Thank you for your safety tips while on vacation, and btw, I didn’t know it’s better to not use the credit card in gas stations, could you please elaborate more why it’s better to use cash?

    Regards,
    Ionut

    1. Hi, Ionut,

      Thank you very much for your feedback. It’s much appreciated.

      Yes, like you pointed out, we have access to more information now in real time. We don’t have to depend on traditional media like the TV and radio.

      I’m glad to see you have found this useful and worthy of sharing.

      Answering your question, there have been reports of credit card fraud at gas stations. Gas stations in Mexico are not self-serve like the ones in the U.S. When you pay by card, they usually have their terminals out of sight and you don’t see when they’re making the transaction. So it’s recommended to pay in cash instead.

      Let me know if you have any other questions. Thanks for commenting.

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