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How Safe is Mexico for Travel Right Now? Experts Weigh in

Google searches related to the safety of traveling to Mexico are at “breakout” after the kidnapping and killings of U.S. medical tourists on March 7 in Matamoros, Mexico. The incident is receiving widespread media attention and raising concerns about visiting the country, especially as spring break — when a quarter million students head to Mexico — is at its peak.

Additionally, searches related to the safety of Cancún are trending after the rideshare app Uber won a court decision earlier this year for the right to operate in the city. Conflict ensued after some taxi drivers began harassing Uber drivers in videotaped incidents that garnished more widespread attention. Following this, the U.S. Embassy in Mexico issued a security alert for Quintana Roo state.

We requested the advice of two travel experts deeply familiar with traveling in Mexico and overseas travel safety about how concerned U.S. travelers should be with visiting the country right now.

Here is a breakdown of everything you will learn on this page:

Mexico Travel Advisory Map

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Mexico Travel Advice Cancún, Mexico
Credit: Cancún, Mexico by Jonathan Ross via Dreamstime

Mexico Travel Advice

Zach Lazzari, the owner of Mexican tourist auto insurance company, Cross Border Coverage, points to the statistics demonstrating that very few incidents of violence against U.S. travelers occur yearly. 

“The killings are tragic but should not influence plans to destinations like Cancun or Guadalajara,” Lazzari advised. “Cancun is largely insulated as a resort destination, and the cartel violence that caused these killings isn’t targeting tourists in general.”

It’s worth remembering that Mexico is a massive country with safe and dangerous places like any other. Major tourist destinations in Mexico are mostly far from the areas the U.S. State Department advises travelers not to go. However, just like when traveling anywhere, including the U.S., tourists must be vigilant, use common sense and take precautions.

“Visiting Cancun is plenty safe, but spring break does escalate the energy and potential for conflict, Lazzari said. “Drugs and alcohol factor into the equation as well. I recommend avoiding the late-night scene and clubs.”

Understanding what U.S. Travel Advisories mean and what actions or precautions you should take with that information is vital when planning a trip to Mexico or if you are reconsidering a trip you already have planned.

Mexico Travel Advisories Mexico City, Mexico
Credit: Mexico City, Mexico by Arturoosorno via Dreamstime

Mexico Travel Advisories

The U.S. State Department separates Mexican states into four travel advisory levels. U.S. citizens are advised not to travel to six states, to reconsider travel to seven, and to exercise increased caution when traveling to another 17. Only two states have the “exercise normal precautions” label.

Paul Green, the founder of the travel and relocation consultation company, My Mexico Move, emphasizes the importance of remembering that the incident on March 7th is not representative of Mexico’s security as a whole.

“Many popular destinations for Americans in Mexico have an exercise increased caution advisory, which is not uncommon for countries around the world,” Green said. “It is important to note that these advisories do not necessarily mean that a particular destination is safe or unsafe. It simply means that travelers should exercise caution and be aware of their surroundings. Therefore, it is up to the individual traveler to determine whether or not they feel comfortable traveling to these areas.”

For perspective, The Netherlands, The United Kingdom, France, and even Sweden all have “exercise increased caution when traveling” designations by the State Department, the same level of designation that the majority of Mexican states have.

“While there are certain safety concerns to be aware of, travelers can take certain precautions to ensure a safe and enjoyable trip,” Green said. “Popular tourist destinations such as Cancun, Los Cabos, Puerto Vallarta, and Playa del Carmen are generally considered safe. Mexico City is safe for tourists, but it is important to exercise caution, especially in certain areas. Tourists should avoid certain neighborhoods, such as Tepito and La Lagunilla.”

If travel advisories are still of primary concern, the states of Yucatán and Campeche on the Yucatán Peninsula have the lowest, level 1: exercise normal cautions designation by the State Department. However, even in places like Cancún, where the Uber-Taxi union conflict occurred earlier this year, most of Mexico’s most popular destinations are all systems go for visitation, according to Green.

“It is important to note that the situation has been resolved,” Green said. “Cancun remains a safe destination for tourists, including those on Spring Break.”

Mexico Safety and Precautions Los Cabos, Mexico
Credit: Los Cabos, Mexico by Delbars via Dreamstime

Mexico Safety and Precautions

Knowing why a state or country has a travel advisory higher than level one will help you take the appropriate precautions and safety measures during your travels. We asked our experts what safety concerns tourists should pay attention to most while traveling to Mexico and advice on best precaution practices.

“The top three safety concerns that travelers should be aware of when visiting Mexico include petty crime, transportation safety, and natural disasters,” according to Green. “Petty crime, such as pickpocketing and theft, can occur in busy tourist areas. It is important to keep a close eye on your belongings and avoid displaying signs of wealth.”

Green emphasized that transportation safety is also high on the list, especially bus or taxi travel. 

“It is important to use reputable transportation services and avoid traveling alone at night,” Green advised. “Lastly, natural disasters such as hurricanes and earthquakes can occur in Mexico. It is important to stay informed and follow the instructions of local authorities.”

Lazzari, who visits Mexico yearly and frequently drives through large swaths of the country, laid out some basic precautions travelers should follow.

“Learn basic Spanish to help communicate with the locals, police, and military officials,” Lazzari said. “Road stops are not uncommon with military checkpoints and police interactions. Ask them about the safest routes to your destination. Always drive during the day only for general safety, find lodging with secure parking, and don’t carry excessive amounts of cash or valuables.”

Of course, Lazzari also recommends getting a solid travel insurance policy

Beyond the general State Department advice of “Be aware of heightened risks to safety and security” associated with a level 2 “exercise increased caution” travel advisory designation, additional advisements for each state in Mexico are on the State Department Travel Advisory page.

Green recommends one more precaution to keep in mind: the impact of your behavior and interactions with locals. 

“It is important to be respectful of the local culture and customs when visiting Mexico,” Green said. “Mexicans are friendly and welcoming, and tourists should take the time to learn about the local customs and traditions and connect with the local people… Mexico remains a safe and popular destination for tourists. While there are certain safety concerns to be aware of, travelers can take certain precautions to ensure a safe and enjoyable trip.”

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