Is It Safe to Travel to Mexico?

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Acapulco, Guerrero, one of the most famous beaches in Mexico.

Around ten years ago, someone asked me if it was safe to travel to Mexico. My answer was quickly: Yes, of course it is!

Three or two years ago, some people from different parts of the world asked me the same. Then I had to think twice before I answer! I wasn’t sure about what to say, but finally I answered: Yes, well, like in any country in the world, you have to be careful. That was my answer, totally polite, but insecure.

A few weeks ago, someone asked me about the insecurity in Mexico. This person is thinking about traveling to Puerto Vallarta, and maybe to Guadalajara. I told him that it’s safe to travel to some states and cities of Mexico.

I have to confess that I’m not happy with my answer! It’s hard to accept that Mexico could be a dangerous place to go to, even for the Mexican people. This is not a joke, less a racist expression.

Two weeks ago, the Australian surfers Adam Coleman and Dean Lucas disappeared when they were driving from Canada to Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico. Their truck was found charred in Novalato, Sinaloa, where Pacific cartel drug operates. Two bodies were found in the truck, but the authorities did not confirm yet whether it was for Adam and Dean or not. They had plans to live in Mexico, in different states; they loved its beaches.

During 2015, the State Department of the United States announced that Sinaloa is one of the most dangerous states in Mexico. The authorities just recommended visiting Mazatlan, no other places, as Novalato.

“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”. This information is available on travel.state.gov.

Is the insecurity in Mexico is caused by the cartels? The answer is yes, mostly, because these groups are not only trafficking drugs, but they also commit kidnappings, robberies and other crimes against the civil population, just like any crime organization.

In the following list, I will focus on the crime organizations activities, because other kinds of crimes, as a robbery for example, are common in all countries. The complementary information was taken from a document published by Animal Politico, who asked for the data from the Federal General Attorney in Mexico.

The following states are definitely not safe:

  1. Chihuahua: It is not safe, mostly Ciudad Juarez and Chihuahua city. The Mexican Government confirms that in this state the Pacific and Carrillo Fuentes cartels are operating. The Canadian Government also has this state in its alert.
  2. Coahuila: It is not safe. Nuevo Laredo and Piedras Negras are the most dangerous areas. The Pacific and Los Zetas cartel are operating in this state. The Canadian Government also has this state in its alert.
  3. Durango: It is not safe. The Pacific cartel is operating in this state also. The Canadian Government also has this state in its alert.
  4. Estado de Mexico: It is not totally safe. It is fine to travel to Toluca or Tehotihuacan, but the U.S. Government recognizes the presence of the organized crime. The Mexican Government reveals that La Familia Michoacana and Los Caballeros Templarios are operating in this state.
  5. Guerrero: It is not safe. The alert is focusing in Acapulco and Zihuatanejo. The Mexican Government confirms that La Familia Michoacana, Los Caballeros Templarios, Jalisco Nueva Generacion and Beltran Leyva cartels are also operating in this state. There is Ayotzinapa, where 43 students disappeared in 2014.
  6. Michoacán: It is not safe; mostly drive on the high ways. The tourists can arrive by plane to Morelia, the capital. La Familia Michoacana, Los Zetas, Los Caballeros Templarios and Jalisco Nueva Generacion are operating in this state.
  7. Morelos: It is not safe, even Cuernavaca, its capital, where also operate La Familia Michoacana, Los Caballeros Templarios and Jalisco Nueva Generacion. The Canadian Government also has this state in its alert.
  8. Nayarit: This state is safe, but it is better not to drive close to the borders with Sinaloa and Durango. The Mexican Government indicates the presence of Jalisco Nueva Generacion cartel in the state. The Canadian Government also has this state in its alert.
  9. Nuevo Leon: It is not safe. Monterrey, the capital, has more security but the U.S. Government considers that it is not safe. The Mexican Government doesn’t indicate the presence of cartels, but the Mexican newspapers have been publishing cases where Jalisco and Golfo cartels were involved. The Canadian Government also has this state in its alert.
  10. Sinaloa: It is not safe. The Pacifico cartel is operating in this state.
  11. Sonora: Definitely is not safe. The U.S. Government considers this state as a “key of the region in the international drug and human trafficking trades and can be extremely dangerous for travelers”. The Pacifico and Beltran Leyva cartels operate here. The Canadian Government also has this state in its alert.
  12. Tamaulipas: It is not safe. The U.S. State Department says: “Throughout the state violent crime, including homicide, armed robbery, carjacking, kidnapping, extortion, and sexual assault, pose significant safety risks”. The Mexican Government confirms the presence of Zetas and Golfo cartels. The Canadian Government also has this state in its alert.
  13. Veracruz: It is not safe. The U.S. Government indicates that the violence is growing here. The Mexican government recognizes the presence of Zetas, Jalisco, Jalisco Nueva Generacion and Golfo cartels. The Canadian Government also has this state in its alert.
  14. Zacatecas: The alert is focused on the high ways, where it is better not to drive between 1:00 to 6:00 a.m.

The Federal District or Mexico City is safe, said the U.S. Government, but the Mexican government recognizes the presence of the Jalisco Nueva Generacion cartel. Recently there were some crimes in the borders with Estado de Mexico which are possibly related with more cartels. So, the capital is the most important city in Mexico, but it is not exempted of the organized crime.

The Canadian Government has an interactive map about the most dangerous countries in the world and Mexico is one of them, not the worse, but with yellow alert, what means “avoid some areas”, as Baja California, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Durango, Jalisco, Morelos, Nuevo Leon, Nayarit, Sonora, Tamaulipas and Veracruz . The complete map can be checked here.

However, the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office revealed the list of the most dangerous 18 countries for its tourists. Mexico is not there. But France considers that Estado de Mexico and Mexico City are dangerous for visitors, as Reforma published.

Besides, Human Rights Watch included Mexico as a country where it’s dangerous for women.

The tourism represents almost 15 percent of the Gross Domestic Product in Mexico, because this country has wonderful natural areas and small and big cities.

The problem is, as the World Tourism Organization published in 2014 that Mexico is losing positions because of the insecurity… or the perception that the visitors have about the insecurity

So, the facts are there. The Mexican government is trying to protect the tourists. I really hope they do what they have to do.

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