Is Mexico Safe? From someone who’s been (pt.2)

Is Mexico Safe

This is part 2 of a two-part article looking at the question Is Mexico Safe? 

In Part 1 I look at some of the main fears people have about visiting Mexico and compare those fears to recent (2013-2014) crime statistics in the country. You may want to read part one first.

In this, part two, I will share my personal experiences in Mexico – how safe I felt and how that compares to the Government travel advice (UK and USA) for each of the states I’ve visited.

What do I know about Mexico?

After nearly a year in the country (across three trips) I have visited 11 of Mexico’s 31 states including a the vast majority of the areas that tourists tend to visit, or want to visit, in Mexico.

I’ve stayed on the Caribbean coast including at the beach towns of Playa del Carmen and Cancun, I’ve visited colonial cities like Oaxaca, I’ve hit up surf towns like Puerto Escondido, I’ve taken the train through Copper Canyon, which includes starting and ending your trip in two of the main cartel states, and during each of my trips I’ve visited Mexico City.

Specifically, I’ve been to:

  • Baja California: Tijuana
  • Baja Sur: Cabo San Lucas, San Juan de Cabo, La Paz
  • Chiapas: San Cristobal, Palenque
  • Chihuahua: Chihuahua City and Copper Canyon
  • Colima: Colima City and Manzanillo beach
  • Jalisco: Guadalajara, Tequila
  • Mexico: Mexico City, Teotihuacan
  • Sinaloa: Los Mochis and Copper Canyon
  • Oaxaca: Oaxaca, Puerto Escondido
  • Quintana Roo: Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Isla Mujeres, Cozumel, Tulum, Isla Holbox, Akumal
  • Yucatán: Mérida

I’m not going to serve you anything sugar coated. If I felt like there were risks, I’ll tell you – in fact, for each place I’m going to explain the worst thing that happened while I was there.

Why look at current international travel advice from TWO countries?

Being from the UK, it’s standard practice for me to check the UK Government travel advice before I take a trip to a potentially unsafe destination. And I do that every time I visit Mexico. However, I also look at what the US Government has to say.


Well, two reasons. First, the USA, being that bit closer and more heavily invested in the safety related to it’s bordering country, tends to give more detailed advice about Mexico i.e. on a state by state basis compared to the UK.

Second, it’s not uncommon for two countries to have slight differences in opinion/attitudes towards risk when a situation is unfolding in a country. Events in Egypt were a good example – the UK and German Governments have had different views on holiday travel to Egypt in recent years, so it pays to look at the advice from more than one source. If both Governments give a “hell-no-don’t-go” safety assessment, I’m much more likely to follow that advice. If the advice differs, I’ll dig deeper.

If you want to triple and quadruple check if Mexico is safe, here is the Government travel advice from each of Australia and Canada. 

Is Mexico Safe? My experience, state-by-state

Is Mexico Safe - Creel

In alphabetical order, here are the states I’ve been to in Mexico, the specific destinations I visited and my experience while I was there.

A word on individual experiences

In every country around the world it’s possible for two people to have different experiences in exactly the same place. So, while I may have had a safe visit to many places in Mexico (and in some places I ran into some less than safe moments), ultimately, everyone’s experience can differ and there is no escaping the phenomenon of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

UK Travel advice on drug-related violence and tourist resorts

Instead of listing this advice under each state, I’ll list it just once here. The UK Government offers the following advice on the topic of drug-related violence:

“Drug-related violence is a particular problem in the northern states of Sonora, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo Leon, Tamaulipas, Sinaloa and Durango, and also in Guerrero, Jalisco, Michoacán and Nayarit. Armed clashes between security forces and drug groups can occur at any time without warning. You should exercise extreme caution outside of tourist areas in all of these states.”

And on a more positive note:

The Mexican government makes efforts to protect major tourist destinations like Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Cozumel, Los Cabos and Puerto Vallarta and these areas have not seen the levels of drug-related violence and crime experienced elsewhere”

State: Baja California

Is Mexico Safe

Where I went: Tijuana

Travel advice:

UK: no travel warnings are given for Tijuana and, interestingly, drug-related violence is not noted as a particular problem in this state. 

USA: In 2013, homicide rates in Tijuana and Rosarito increased 48 percent and 67 percent compared to the previous year, according to the Baja State Secretariat for Public Security, and both cities experienced further increases in homicide rates during the first half of 2014.  While most of these homicides appeared to be targeted criminal organization assassinations, turf battles between criminal groups have resulted in violent crime in areas frequented by U.S. citizens.  Shooting incidents, in which innocent bystanders have been injured, have occurred during daylight hours.

How was it:

I crossed into Tijuana packing my biggest (mental) bag of street smarts and was taken entirely by surprise. The nightlife was tame, the streets felt incredibly safe and the locals I met were utterly helpful with local craft-brew and restaurant suggestions. I absolutely got the impression that the locals were glad to see some tourists.

Worst thing that happened:

I did get a bit of hassle from street vendors during the day – nothing a polite “no, gracias” didn’t solve. Also, a shifty bait and switch incident occurred in one bar where the drinks that were “included” in the cover charge rapidly changed from a free spirit and mixer to a free small beer when I got inside the bar.

Travel tips:

  • Stick to Zona Centro and Avenida Revolucion, the main tourist area.
  • Cross the border during the middle of the day.
  • Make sure you pick had a safe hotel in the tourist area.
  • If found wikitravel with it’s overview of the different zones helpful when planning my trip to Tijuana

I stayed at Aqua Rio Hotel (around $25 a night) and would highly recommend it. The place was very close to the nightlife, could be booked online and felt very secure (many hotels in Tijuana run a “by the hour” rental service and others are known for robbing their guests). I happened to meet the manager while I was there and he seemed nice and, importantly, legit and trustworthy!

Thinking about visiting Mexico? Check out my related posts

The Best Things to Do in the Yucatan Peninsula

Visiting Tijuana from San Diego – The Ultimate Guide

Guide to Swimming with Whale Sharks in Mexico

Luxury in Los Cabos without Visiting a Resort

Planning an Affordable Copper Canyon Itinerary

The Copper Canyon Travel Guide – Planning Your Trip

How To Drink Tequila Like A Mexican

Quick and Easy Guacamole Recipe from Mexico

State: Baja California Sur

Is Mexico Safe

Where I went: La Paz, Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo

Travel advice:

UK: The Mexican Government makes efforts to protect tourist destinations like this one and this area has not seen the levels of drug-related violence and crime experienced elsewhere.

USA: Cabo San Lucas and La Paz are major cities/travel destinations in the state of Southern Baja California – No advisory is in effect.

How was it:

As the safest state in Mexico, I wasn’t expecting much by way of trouble in Baja Sur and I’m pleased to say that my experience was entirely trouble-free.

La Paz is largely a family holiday/vacation destination for Mexicans. At night the beachfront (malecón) was filled with families strolling and couples rollerblading. I felt completely safe walking along the beachfront alone every night after dinner and overall La Paz turned out to be one of my favourite places in all of Mexico – I went for 3 days and stayed for more than a week.

Cabos San Lucas was so Americanized (they accept dollars and have a whole bunch of US food chains there), I had cause to wonder if I’d somehow inadvertently crossed the border. The only risks were self-imposed – sun stroke and hangovers.

Worst thing that happened:

My travel budget was the only thing that was hurt during my stay in Los Cabos (La Paz was much more affordable).

Travel tips:

  • If you’re on a budget, limit your time in Los Cabos.

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Not sure whether you need travel insurance? Check out my related posts:

10 Times You’ll Realise the Importance of Travel Insurance

 What Does Travel Insurance Cover (and What is Excluded)?

State: Chiapas

Is Mexico Safe

Where I went: San Cristóbal and Palenque

Travel advice:

UK: Outbursts of politically-motivated violence also occur from time to time in certain parts of the country, particularly in the southern states of Chiapas, Guerrero and Oaxaca.

USA: No advisory is in effect.

How was it: 

I didn’t see a single Zapatista rebel while I was in San Cristobal and I wasn’t surprised given the uprising was 20 years ago and most of the activity these days, such that it exists, seems to be concentrated in the indigenous villages outside of the centre. As such, I felt safe the entire time in San Cristóbal, including walking around the historic centre alone at night. Sure, there might be the teeniest chance that another rebellion will kick-off while you’re there, but you’re not the subject of the battle.

I didn’t get out much while I was in Palenque because I was sick with what I suspected was malaria (you can read about that here), so I can’t comment too much. However, I did feel safe during my short period of wellness. Downtown Palenque is pretty ugly but apart from the car fumes, it seemed safe enough.

There are concerns about hijacked buses, particularly at night in a lot of areas of Mexico, including in Chiapas but there are a lot of road-blocks and military checks to counteract the risk.

Worst thing that happened:

Watching a six-year-old boy (who’d been sent out to sell handicrafts) watching the Lion King at 11pm through the window of an electrical store. Youth isn’t something the local children get to enjoy for too long in San Cristóbal.

Travel tips:

  • If you’re worried about highway robbery, take day buses or if you’re covering a long distance, it’s often as cost-effective to fly.
  • Be alert in San Critóbal and steer clear of any protests.
  • Don’t photograph indigenous people without their permission (which you’re unlikely to get – I asked many times and was refused without exception).

State: Chihuahua

Is Mexico Safe

Where I went: Chihuahua City and Copper Canyon (Creel, Divisadero)

Travel advice:

UK: Drug related violence is a particular problem in this state.

USA: Exercise caution in traveling to the business and shopping districts in the northeast section of Ciudad Juarez and its major industrial parks, and the central downtown section and major industrial parks in Chihuahua City.  U.S. citizens should defer non-essential travel to other areas of these cities and anywhere else in the state of Chihuahua and travel during daylight hours between cities.

Crime and violence remain serious problems throughout the state of Chihuahua, particularly in the southern portion of the state and in the Sierra Mountains, including Copper Canyon.  U.S. citizens do not, however, appear to be targeted based on their nationality.

How was it:

I was in Chihuahua to catch the Copper Canyon train but instead of breezing through, I took a few days to explore the city. There were not many tourists in Chihuahua – I didn’t see a single other gringo during my stay – and that seemed to make the locals all the more welcoming rather than suspicious, which flew in the face of my expectations.

People in Chihuahua went out of their way to help me with directions and food ordering (picking the right burrito is very important). I didn’t explore much late at night because I was being cautious of the travel advice but I walked around during the day with my camera and iPhone out without any concern.

On the Copper Canyon route, I chose two very safe places to stay – Divisadero and Creel. I avoided the places where there are some safety warnings (due to drug gangs) e.g. Batopilas. Creel felt incredibly safe and Divisadero is little more than a train stop with a hotel with a view so not many people were around.

Worst thing that happened:

It felt like the taxi drivers were the biggest criminals in Chihuahua and I got severely ripped off with every single taxi I took. The drivers point-blank will not negotiate and they’re brutal in their pricing.

Travel tips:

  • Stay in a centrally located hotel in Chihuahua.
  • Stick to the historic centre and limit your sightseeing to daytime hours.
  • If you’re really worried about Chihuahua, limit your stay to one night and leave for the Copper Canyon the next day (get your hotel to arrange a taxi to the train station for you).
  • If you’d rather skip an overnight stay in Chihuahua altogether, fly in and then take a bus and start your Copper Canyon trip in Creel.

In Chihuahua I stayed at Ibis. Quality Inn and Hotel Plaza are a bit more expensive but have even better locations in the very centre.

A word on Ciudad Juarez

Located within the state of Chihuahua, here’s the advice from each of the UK and USA on Ciudad Juarez:

UK: The FCO no longer advise against all but essential travel to Ciudad Juarez. You should, however, take care, travel during daylight, inform relatives or friends of your travel plans and use reputable hotels only.

USA: Although homicide rates in Ciudad Juarez have decreased markedly from a peak several years ago, the city still has one of the highest homicide rates in Mexico.

I was seriously contemplating crossing into the USA via Ciudad Juarez and was reasonably comfortable with my decision to go there. However, my route after the Copper Canyon naturally spat me out closer to the Baja Peninsula. If/when I do make it to Ciudad Juareze, I’ll update this article.

State: Colima

Is Mexico Safe

Where I went: Colima City and Manzanillo beach

Travel advice:

UK: No travel warning given. 

USA: Defer non-essential travel to the areas of the state of Colima that border the state of Michoacán, including the city of Tecoman.  The security situation along the Michoacán border continues to be the most unstable in the state, with gun battles occurring between rival criminal groups and with Mexican authorities.  Intercity travel at night is not recommended.

How was it:

I had no problems in either Colima or Manzanillo. However, I was the only gringo for miles around and I was with a local, so it’s hard to give an objective view. That said, there wasn’t a huge amount of tourist attractions in Colima – the city has a nice centre and a cute park with a lake but otherwise operates on a functional grid system that reminded me a lot of Phoenix.

The beaches were nice but were too harsh for swimming – so you’re average traveller is unlikely to want or need to visit the beaches in this state.

The worst thing that happened:

My flip-flops got swept away by a pretty fierce wave at the beach. Gutted.

Travel tips:

  • You’ll probably want to a local friend or decent Spanish to get by in this state.
  • Beware of the strong waves and currents in this area.

State: Jalisco

Is Mexico Safe

Where I went: Guadalajara and a trip to Tequila

Travel advice:

UK: Drug related violence is a particular problem in this state.

USA: Defer non-essential travel to areas of the state that border the states of Michoacán and Zacatecas.  The security situation along the Michoacán and Zacatecas borders continues to be unstable and gun battles between criminal groups and authorities occur.  Concerns include roadblocks placed by individuals posing as police or military personnel and recent gun battles between rival criminal organizations involving automatic weapons.  You should exercise caution in rural areas and when using secondary highways, particularly along the northern border of the state.  Except for the areas of the state that border Michoacán, there is no advisory in effect for daytime travel within major population centers or major highways in the state of Jalisco.  Intercity travel at night is not recommended.  There is no recommendation against travel to Guadalajara and Puerto Vallarta.  There is also no recommendation against travel on principal highways in Jalisco between Guadalajara including the portions that cross into the southern portions of the state of Nayarit

How was it:

I went to Guadalajara for a weekend and stayed for weeks. I wandered aimlessly around the city and got lost plenty of times and I explored the nightlife. However, I had my wits about me a few times as certain areas were dense with people (and ripe for pick-pocketing) and a few streets had groups of guys handing around on them – probably innocuous, but my instincts always made me turn and walk the other way. Also, I always went out with travel friends and I’m not sure I’d stray too far alone at night.

I took a day tour to the town of Tequila and had no concerns or issues (other than the obvious hangover the following day)

Worst thing that happened:

Ok, brace yourself – a few bad things happened (to other people) while I was there.

A guy in my hostel got drugged in a club and woke up in the back of a taxi without most of his clothes. On the plus side (?!) they did deliver him back to his hostel without injury and he later found his wallet tossed outside – minus his money but complete with everything else.

And…there was…errr…a bit of an armed robbery at my hostel while I was there. Ok, calm down (mum). I wasn’t even aware of it until the next day. The hostel was having “tequila” night. Meanwhile, someone forgot to properly close the door. In walked an armed guy. He demanded money. The staff gave it to him. He left. Nobody was any the wiser.

Travel tips:

  • Watch your drink if you’re out at night.
  • Make sure you explore the nightlife with friends and you watch each others’ backs.
  • Take out little by way of money, valuables and bank cards.
  • Stay in a place that has good security and always make sure the door to your accommodation is closed behind you.

State: Mexico City

Is Mexico Safe
The scariest thing in Mexico City was probably Frida Kahlo’s death mask…shudder.

Where I went: I’ve visited most of the main areas that tourists will want to visit – the historic centre, Chapultapec, Coyoacán, Condesa and Roma, and Tiotihucan

Frommers has a good guide to the various areas in Mexico City.

Travel advice:

UK: Passengers have been robbed and assaulted by unlicensed taxi drivers including in Mexico City. In Mexico City, use the better regulated ‘sitio’ taxis from authorised cab ranks. At airports, use only authorised pre-paid airport taxi services.

Women travelling on their own should be particularly alert when travelling on public transport. There have been incidents of rape on urban buses (‘micros’) on routes in the south of Mexico City. Most attacks have occurred early in the morning or late at night. Several serious sexual offences have also occurred in tourist areas outside of Mexico City. Take care even in areas close to hotels, and especially after dark.

USA: No advisory is in effect for Mexico City or nearby Puebla.

For the greater metropolitan state of Mexico City: Defer non-essential travel to the municipalities of Coacalco, Ecatepec, Nezahualcoyotl, La Paz, Valle del Chalco, Solidaridad, Chalco, and Ixtapaluca, which are eastern portions of the greater Mexico City metropolitan area, located just to the east of the Federal District of Mexico and Benito Juarez airport, unless traveling directly through the areas on major thoroughfares.  These areas have seen high rates of crime and insecurity.  You should also defer non-essential travel on any roads between Santa Marta in the southeast portion of the state and Huitzilac in the state of Morelos, including the Lagunas de Zempoala National Park and surrounding areas.

How was it:

The first time I visited Mexico City I was like a rabbit in the headlights, in complete fear that something bad would happen – after all, so may people had told me that I’d be raped, robbed and shot (and not necessarily in that order) if I visited Mexico’s capital. However, after several visits to the city, I can honestly say that DF (as it’s know to the locals) is one of my favourite places in Mexico.

Sure, you shouldn’t take yourself down a dark, quiet street on your own late at night, I’m generally cautious with my camera when I’m there (as I am in all big cities) and the street taxis should be absolutely avoided (more on that here), but I have taken myself for dinner alone late at night in the historic centre and strolled home happily.

Worst thing that happened:

I sat in blind panic for an entire 20 minutes in a street taxi coming home from a bar one night. Although the driver didn’t do anything bad (apart from over charge me), it was a pretty nerve-wracking ride and not one I will repeat soon.

Travel tips:

  • Avoid the street taxis in Mexico City – take the Sitio radio taxis instead.
  • Usual street smarts apply.

State: Oaxaca

Is Mexico Safe
The nightlife in Puerto Escondido is fun – just be careful.

Where I went: Oaxaca City and Puerto Escondido

Travel advice:

UK: Outbursts of politically-motivated violence also occur from time to time in certain parts of the country, particularly in the southern states of Chiapas, Guerrero and Oaxaca.

USA: No advisory is in effect.

How was it:

I was relatively new to Mexico when I visited Oaxaca and my hostel was a 10-minute walk down a fairly quiet street to the historic centre. For those reasons, I spent a large amount of time feeling nervous in Oaxaca. In hindsight, it was completely due to my anxiety and nothing to do with anything that happened during my visit.

I was also pretty nervous turning up in Puerto Escondido. Despite visiting three years after my first trip to Mexico and being much more confident as a traveller, a travel blogger friend had been robbed at gun point on the beach just a few months earlier. As a result, I nearly passed Puerto Escondido by.

However, after taking advice about where to go and where not to, I ended up having an amazing stay in Puerto Escondido – it was another place I went for three days and ended up staying for weeks, and, overall, I felt safe…enough…

The worst thing that happened:

Obviously, there’s the story of my travel blogger friend who got held up at gunpoint (you can read about that here).

A travel friend had her drink spiked in Puerto Escondido and a local guy was about to take her home (his home, not hers) when we spotted her.

Another travel friend got robbed coming back from the local shop after dark, also in Puerto Escondido, but out in a residential district.

And another travel friends ran into some more unusual trouble – he had a reaction that caused his mouth and throat to swell up when he tried the deep-fried grasshoppers that are so popular in Oaxaca.

Travel tips:

  • If you’ve not reached a stage of travel confidence, I’d recommend choosing a place to stay right in the heart of the historic centre of Oaxaca.
  • In Puerto Escondido avoid going to The Point early in the morning or late at night.
  • Be super careful with your drink and make sure you go out with friends who can keep an eye on you.
  • Have some anti-histamines on you if you plan to dine on grasshopper…and perhaps know where the nearest hospital is! 

State: Quintana Roo

Is Mexico Safe
Even with a storm coming (it as hurricane season), Isla Mujeres looks stunning.

Where I went: Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Isla Mujeres, Tulum, Cozumel, Isla Holbox, Akumal

Travel advice:

UK: “The Mexican Government makes efforts to protect tourist destinations like this one and this area has not seen the levels of drug-related violence and crime experienced elsewhere.

USA: No advisory is in effect.

How was it: 

I don’t have the slightest hesitation recommending Quintana Roo as a safe travel destination in Mexico. In fact, I’ve been to less safe places in Europe and the USA.

The worst thing that happened:

I slipped down the steps of a hot tub in Cancun and badly bruised myself (you can see the picture and read about that here).

Travel tips:

  •  If you’re going in a hot-tub with steps, remember, wood and water don’t mix!

State: Sinaloa

Is Mexico Safe
Los Mochis – not the prettiest place I’ve been in Mexico.

Where I went: Los Mochis

Travel advice:

UK: Drug related violence is a particular problem in this state.

USA: Defer non-essential travel to the state of Sinaloa except the city of Mazatlan, where you should exercise caution, particularly late at night and in the early morning.  One of Mexico’s most powerful criminal organizations is based in the state of Sinaloa, and violent crime rates remain high in many parts of the state.  Travel off the toll roads in remote areas of Sinaloa is especially dangerous and should be avoided.  We recommend that any travel in Mazatlan be limited to Zona Dorada and the historic town center, as well as direct routes to/from these locations and the airport.

How was it:

Sinaloa is one of the “drug cartel” states and I freaked myself out with paranoia while I was in Los Mochis (you can read about that here). I was there because Los Mochis was the last stop on the Copper Canyon route and I stayed in the city two nights to catch up on work after several days with intermittent wi-fi.

Even though I wound myself up into a state of twitchiness, nothing bad actually happened and the people I met were actually really nice and helpful. But reading about the infamous month where 142 people were killed in August 2011 did little to settle my imagination or my nerves.

That said, the town holds very little for tourists. Apart from a main square, which is twee, this is another functional town that’s best skipped or given no more than a night’s stay.

Worst thing that happened:

(Apart from freaking myself out) I realised that they have their own heat scale in Sinaloa and even with my fierce chilli tolerance, I sniffed, hiccupped and spluttered my way through my spicy chicken with spicy sauce and did, for at least 3 minutes, contemplate the possibility that I might die.

Oh, and the taxi drivers are as criminal here as in Chihuahua. After negotiating a $40MXN ride in a shared taxi, the driver later changed the price to $50MXN and swore blind I’d misunderstood him. I know my numbers in Spanish and he only decided to up the price when I handed over a $50MXN note.

Travel tips:

  • If you’re concerned, minimise your stay in the city. Two nights felt like way too much, even with a busy work schedule to catch up on.
  • Limit your exploration to the main centre.
  • Stay in a well-located hotel.
  • Plan the end of your Copper Canyon trip – arriving after 11pm into Los Mochis you won’t be able to catch the ferry to the Baja Peninsula but you might be able to catch a bus out of town.
  • Take the right money/change for your taxis and write the numbers down on a piece of paper before you get in to avoid post-trip inflation.
  • If you want to avoid Los Mochis altogether, end your Copper Canyon trip in El Fuerte.

I stayed at Hotel Fenix. It felt very safe, was across the road from an OXXO (Mexican version of 7-Eleven), had a restaurant attached and came with a 2pm check-out (handy if you’re taking the night ferry to La Paz).

State: Yucatán

Is Mexico Safe

Where I went: Mérida 

Travel advice:

UK: No advisory is in effect.

USA: No advisory is in effect.

How was it:

Mérida is a hard-working town and there’s nothing particularly sparkly about it…until you start to chat to the locals, eat the food and take in the live music in the square each night. I felt safe wielding my camera and walking alone at night around the main square. I didn’t and wouldn’t head to the market area alone after dark…but there’d be no reason to unless you’re looking for trouble.

Worst thing that happened:

I got lost around the market area during the day and was paranoid I was going to a) be pickpocketed and b) never find my way back. Neither happened.

Travel tips:

  • Stick to the historic centre at night.

Well, that’s the states I’ve visited and my experience in each. Hopefully, together with Part 1, you now have a better understand of Is Mexico Safe?

Have you visited any of the states above? How was your trip? Have you visited any other states? Please share your experiences in the comments below.

If you liked this article, you might be interested to read my related articles:

Best Things to Do in Yucatán Peninsula, Mexico

Guide to Swimming with Whale Sharks in Mexico

How to Drink Tequila Like A Mexican

Luxury in Los Cabos without Visiting a Resort

Quick and Easy Guacamole Recipe from Mexico

Travel Insurance: Don’t Get Screwed by the Small Print

Article written by

Jo Fitzsimons is a freelance travel writer who has visited over 60 countries. is the place where she shares destination details, travel itineraries, planning and booking tips and trip tales. Her aim: to help you plan your travel adventure on your terms and to your budget.

22 Responses

  1. Maria
    Maria at | | Reply

    Hi Jo. Very well-researched and level-headed article. Mexico is very safe for millions of tourists every year. Thank you for stopping the scare-mongering.

    But I think the situation has gotten worse from when you wrote the article, and it’s worth updating. In fact, I’d say that crime is even worse now – February, 2019 – than it was in the exchange you had with Laura in the previous comment in June, 2018.

    The really unfortunate part is that the crime has spread into areas that were safe before. My family and I have lived in a few places in the Yucatan Peninsula for 3 years, and in this period the safety situation in the Yucatan has changed from “totally safe” to “take lots of precautions”.

    Cancun in particular is now gripped by a violent war between two cartels. In the last month, there have been 37 murders (!) in downtown Cancun. Five men killed in a bar a few days ago, seven people killed at a home two weeks ago, several drive-by shootings near banks by men on motos, etc. Last month was a particularly grisly scene where dead bodies were sliced and diced in gruesome ways and left out in a public area, with a sign on them accusing the governor of the state and his people of not honoring the promises they had made in exchange for bribes from a drug cartel. Playa del Carmen has similarly seen a raft of murders in the last two months and a big wave of muggings.

    As a tourist not involved in drugs or bribing government officials, you’re probably safe in the main tourist areas. With Cancun in particular, the local talk is that the hotel zone is safe because the cartels sell there and have incentive to not scare away tourists; the murders all occur instead in downtown Cancun (a few kilometres from the hotel zone) where the cartels have their business operations, and which is also where all the cartel members’ favorite bars and prostitute clubs are located.

    But tourists aren’t always spared. In Playa del Carmen, a lot of the violent crime has occurred in the main tourist areas in the last months. Outside of the Yucatan, a particularly sad murder occurred in Cuetzalan (Puebla state) a year ago: a family of 3 tourists (father, mother, adult son) were robbed and killed by a gang while going on a hike. The crime was organized by the tour guide who the family had hired to lead them on the excursion.

    As for kidnappings, I personally know several people who suffered express kidnappings in the retirement-haven of Ajijic, an area which had previously been considered fairly safe. One of these cases resulted in the murder of a local Mexican resident who tried to negotiate a solution. None of these kidnappings show in the official crime statistics, nor does the murder.

    At this point in 2019, I think the tone of your article is still correct: Mexico is a huge country full of tens of millions of great people, and safety is fine for most tourists in most places. But I think the crime wave is spilling more and more into areas that tourists do visit. It’s still a great country to visit and I wouldn’t avoid it because of crime, but tourists and foreign residents should be more cautious than even just a year or two before.

  2. Laura
    Laura at | | Reply

    I’m curious to know how you feel about this now that Mexico had its worst year on record in 2017. I’m afraid the country is getting worse, not better. Sad, because it’s such a wonderful country full of amazing people. 🙁

  3. Spa in Chennai
    Spa in Chennai at | | Reply

    Mind blowing blog, I just loved the pics in it. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Rex V. Ingram II
    Rex V. Ingram II at | | Reply

    Nice blog and tips. I’ve been to all 31 states in Mexico including the D.F. (which is called a state entity, making 32 states altogether). I have driven solo from Nogales in Arizona down to Chiapas and into Guatamala. I rode buses for thousands of miles, flew several times, and hitchhiked several times including one 1,200 mile trip with my dog Linda, including an 1,100 mile ride back up North from a trucker. I hitched to Los Mochis and another trip took the train through to Chihuahua and recommend seeing Copper Canyon. I’m planning another hitch down below the border soon for a brief trip. I’m 68 now and still alive to tell about it. I have not had any bad experiences associated with Mexico and truly love the place, the people, and especially the food and the prices, (exchange rate of 14 pesos to 1 USD). Be scared of failure, not Mexico.

  5. The Copper Canyon Travel Guide: Planning Your Trip | Indiana Jo
    The Copper Canyon Travel Guide: Planning Your Trip | Indiana Jo at |

    […] Having travelled through nearly half of Mexico’s states, I have a decent feel for the safety concerns in the country and I’ve written about Mexican travel safety here. […]

  6. Bina
    Bina at | | Reply

    Interesting isn’t it, with the recent shootings in Cancun and Playa del Carmen it seems that nowhere is 100% safe and it can’t ever be guaranteed. Whether it’s Mexico, or France or Turkey.

    I’ve been to Paris and Barcelona about 2 dozen times and never experienced any muggings or violence, but many people I know have. Is it wrong place at the wrong time? Is it being careless? Is it not knowing the place? So many variables.

    I definitely appreciate this post though, and think the tips will help me when I’m planning my trip to Oaxaca later this year 🙂

  7. Jon
    Jon at | | Reply

    Direct information from a narco in Mexico, do not go to the same place twice; always mix it up. Example, you find a little coffee shop around the corner from your hotel and decide to go each morning of your 3 day visit. Don’t. You are being watched and profiled and any type of repeatable pattern increases risk. Also, avoid wealthy hangouts that are not a part of the standard tourist spots. Those are typically reserved for the cartels and their families.. and if you do venture off, don’t be a loud American that draws attention.

    1. Kevin Bates
      Kevin Bates at | | Reply

      there’s probably about 100 times more people who claim or imply to be part of el Chapo’s inner circle than who really are..bragging rights I suppose .

      just as so many people with Italian surnames claim/imply to be in the Cosa Nostra

      in reality the big time criminals don’t talk about it

  8. Mary Ellen
    Mary Ellen at | | Reply

    If traveling on the Copper Canyon Railroad, most say skip Los Mochis and instead stay in El Fuerto which is a pretty little town.

    1. Kevin Bates
      Kevin Bates at | | Reply

      it is el Fuerte ..the Fort in English.

      .there are some words in Spanish that do NOT end in “o”

  9. Jonathan
    Jonathan at | | Reply

    Nothing will get in my way of taking a spontaneous food tour of various Mexican cities! Mexico City is great in both quality and quantity of things on offer, Tijuana served me well with fish tacos and jai alai and one of these days, I’ll get to Puebla and Rosarito…

  10. Yarlini
    Yarlini at | | Reply

    Hey Jo!

    Love your blog! I’ve just started my very own travel blog and have heaps to catch up on as well as keep up with my upcoming trip. Would love it if you could check it out


  11. Elaine Masters
    Elaine Masters at | | Reply

    Thanks for a very informative post. I love travelling in MX but haven’t been to many of the regions you cover. The culture, people, food are wonderful. Helps to have an international perspective too.

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