Is it safe to travel to Mexico? Inside the State Department’s warnings

Recent cartel activity has concerned travelers about their safety.
Published: Mar. 12, 2023 at 10:29 AM MST|Updated: Apr. 5, 2023 at 11:26 AM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) — The kidnapping of four Americans south of the border near Brownsville, Texas, again raised concerns about whether it’s safe to travel into Mexico. The U.S. State Department’s travel advisories for much of Mexico remain heightened for Americans, which is the status they’ve been in for years.

Of Mexico’s 32 states, the US State Department maintains its “Do Not Travel” advisory for six of them. They include the states of Sinaloa and Tamaulipas, where the recent kidnappings occurred.

Seven Mexican states are categorized as “Reconsider Travel,” including Sonora, which is south of Arizona and home to Rocky Point’s sandy beaches. The State Department lists “criminal activity and kidnapping” as reasons to “reconsider travel” to Sonora. At the same time, their advisory notes: most of the crime occurs away from the touristy areas and away from the highway many Arizonans drive between Sonoyta and Rocky Point.

The Mexican state of Jalisco, which is home to Puerto Vallarta, is also listed as a destination where Americans should “Reconsider Travel,” according to the U.S. State Department. Again, reading deeper into their advisory, the concerns about crime in Jalisco refer to cartel crime farther inland, as opposed to the tourist destinations on the coast.

The Yucatan Peninsula, including Cancun and Tulum, comes with a more moderate safety warning from the State Department. Americans are advised to “Exercise Increased Caution” in the state of Quintana Roo, which is generally good advice to follow no matter where you travel.

Cancun suffered from a string of high-profile shootings in December of 2021. They were largely turf wars between drug gangs, and local and federal authorities stepped up the police presence. The Yucatan, including Cancun, is widely considered safe for tourists to visit. The State Department says Americans should use general caution while driving through the Yucatan, visiting its natural and man-made wonders, like Chichen Itza and the Suytun Cenote.

Mexico City also falls in the “Exercise Increased Caution” travel category, according to the State Department.

They cite “crime and violence,” which you’ll find in any large city in the world. Again with Mexico City, the full advisory indicates: most of the crime, aside from petty crime, occurs outside the tourist areas.

For comparison, France, Italy, Germany, Spain, the United Kingdom, and most European countries all fall in the same category of “Exercise Increased Caution.” For Europe, the U.S. State Department cites “terrorist plots and civil unrest,” which are the same risks you’ll run into in any city in the United States.

You can check out the State Department’s color-coded travel advisory map here.