Mexico Travel Warning
Issued by U.S. Department of State
Apr 15, 2016
The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens about the risk of traveling to certain places in Mexico due to threats to safety and security posed by organized criminal groups in the country. U.S. citizens have been the victims of violent crimes, such as homicide, kidnapping, carjacking, and robbery by organized criminal groups in various Mexican states. For information on security conditions in specific regions of Mexico, which can vary, travelers should reference the state-by-state assessments further below. This Travel Warning replaces the Travel Warning for Mexico, issued January 19, 2016, to update information about the security situation and to advise the public of additional restrictions on the travel of U.S. government (USG) personnel.
General Conditions: Millions of U.S. citizens safely visit Mexico each year for study, tourism, and business, including more than 150,000 who cross the border every day. The Mexican government dedicates substantial resources to protect visitors to major tourist destinations, and there is no evidence that organized criminal groups have targeted U.S. visitors or residents based on their nationality. Resort areas and tourist destinations in Mexico generally do not see the levels of drug-related violence and crime that are reported in the border region or in areas along major trafficking routes.
Nevertheless, U.S. travelers should be aware that the Mexican government has been engaged in an extensive effort to counter organized criminal groups that engage in narcotics trafficking and other unlawful activities throughout Mexico. Crime and violence are serious problems and can occur anywhere, and U.S. citizens have fallen victim to criminal activity, including homicide, gun battles, kidnapping, carjacking, and highway robbery. While many of those killed in organized crime-related violence have themselves been involved in criminal activity, innocent persons have also been killed. The number of U.S. citizens reported to the Department of State as murdered in Mexico was 100 in 2014 and 103 in 2015.
Gun battles between rival criminal organizations or with Mexican authorities have taken place in towns and cities in many parts of Mexico and have occurred in broad daylight on streets and in other public venues, such as restaurants and clubs. During some of these incidents, U.S. citizens have been temporarily prevented from leaving the area. Criminal organizations have used stolen cars, buses, and trucks to create roadblocks on major thoroughfares, preventing the military and police from responding to criminal activity. The location and timing of future armed engagements is unpredictable. We recommend that you defer travel to the areas specifically identified in this Travel Warning and exercise extreme caution when traveling throughout the other areas for which advisories are in effect.
U.S. citizens are encouraged to lower their personal profiles and to avoid displaying indicators of wealth such as expensive-looking jewelry, watches, or cameras. U.S. citizens are encouraged to maintain awareness of their surroundings and avoid situations in which they may be isolated or stand out as potential victims.
Kidnappings in Mexico have included traditional, "express," and "virtual" kidnappings. Victims of traditional kidnappings are physically abducted and held captive until a ransom is paid for release. "Express" kidnappings are those in which a victim is abducted for a short time and forced to withdraw money, usually from an ATM, then released. A "virtual" kidnapping is an extortion-by-deception scheme wherein a victim is contacted by phone and convinced to isolate themselves from family and friends until a ransom is paid. The victim is coerced (by threat of violence) to remain isolated and to provide phone numbers for the victim's family or loved ones. The victim's family is then contacted and a ransom for the "kidnapped" extracted. Recently, some travelers to Mexico staying at hotels as guests have been targets of such "virtual" kidnapping schemes.
Of particular safety concern are casinos, sports books, or other gambling establishments, and adult entertainment establishments. U.S. government personnel are specifically prohibited from patronizing these establishments in the states of Coahuila, Durango, Zacatecas, Aguascalientes, San Luis Potosi, Nuevo Leon, Tamaulipas, Jalisco, Colima and Nayarit.
Carjacking and highway robbery are serious problems in many parts of the border region, and U.S. citizens have been murdered in such incidents. Most victims who complied with carjackers' demands have reported that they were not physically harmed. Carjackers have shot at vehicles that have attempted to flee. Incidents have occurred during the day and at night, and carjackers have used a variety of techniques, including roadblocks, bumping/moving vehicles to force them to stop, and running vehicles off the road at high speeds. There are indications that criminals target newer and larger vehicles, especially dark-colored SUVs. However, even drivers of old sedans and buses coming from the United States have been targeted. While violent incidents can occur anywhere and at any time, they most frequently occur at night and on isolated roads. To reduce risk when traveling by road, we strongly urge you to travel between cities throughout Mexico only during daylight hours, to avoid isolated roads, and to use toll roads ("cuotas") whenever possible. U.S. government personnel are prohibited from intercity travel after dark in many areas of Mexico. In remote areas, cell phone coverage is limited or non-existent.
The Mexican government has deployed federal police and military personnel throughout the country as part of its efforts to combat organized criminal groups. U.S. citizens traveling on Mexican roads and highways by car or bus may encounter government checkpoints, staffed by military or law enforcement personnel. In some places, criminal organizations have erected their own unauthorized checkpoints, at times wearing police and military uniforms, and have killed or abducted motorists who have failed to stop at them. You should cooperate at all checkpoints.
Demonstrations are common and occur in all parts of the country. Even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and escalate into violence. Protesters in Mexico may block traffic on roads, including major thoroughfares, or take control of toll booths on highways. Protestors may also block access to gas stations, and their presence at airports may cause flights to be delayed or suspended. U.S. citizens are urged to avoid areas of demonstrations, and to exercise caution if in the vicinity of any protests. Travelers who encounter protestors demanding unofficial tolls are generally allowed to pass upon payment. Travelers are urged not to exit from major highways. U.S. Citizens should avoid participating in demonstrations and other activities that might be deemed political by the authorities as the Mexican Constitution prohibits political activities by foreigners; such actions may result in detention, imprisonment, and/or deportation.
The Department imposes restrictions on U.S. government employees' travel in Mexico. Since July 2010, USG employees are prohibited from driving on non-official travel from the U.S.-Mexico border to or from the interior of Mexico or Central America. Personal travel by motor vehicle is permitted during daylight hours on Highway 15 toll road between Hermosillo and Nogales, on Highway 45 between Ciudad Juarez and Chihuahua City, and on the main roads between Palomas, Chihuahua and Nuevo Casas Grandes, Chihuahua.
U.S. government personnel and their families are prohibited from personal travel to all areas to which it is advised to "defer non-essential travel.” When travel for official purposes is essential, it is conducted with extensive security precautions. U.S. government personnel and their families are allowed to travel for personal reasons to the areas where no advisory is in effect or where the advisory is to exercise caution. While the general public is not forbidden from visiting places categorized under "defer non-essential travel," U.S. government personnel will not be able to respond quickly to an emergency situation in those areas due to security precautions that must be taken by U.S. government personnel to travel to those areas. Travel at night is prohibited for U.S. government personnel in some states as indicated below.
For more information on road safety and crime along Mexico's roadways, see the Department of State's Country Specific Information.
Below is a state-by-state assessment of security conditions throughout Mexico. Travelers should be mindful that even if no advisories are in effect for a given state, crime and violence can still occur. For general information about travel and other conditions in Mexico, see our Country Specific Information.
Aguascalientes: Intercity travel at night is prohibited for U.S. government personnel.
Baja California: Tijuana, Rosarito, Ensenada and Mexicali are major cities/travel destinations in the state of Baja California - Exercise caution in the northern state of Baja California, particularly at night. According to the Baja State Secretariat for Public Security, Tijuana and Rosarito continued to experience an increase in homicide rates from January to October 2015compared to the same period in the previous year. 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.
Baja California Sur: Cabo San Lucas and La Paz are major cities/travel destinations in the state of Southern Baja California – Exercise caution in the state capital of La Paz. According to the Department of Interior of Mexico, Baja California Sur registered its highest homicide rate ever as of October 2015. Many of these homicides have occurred in La Paz, where there has been an increase in public acts of violence between rival criminal organizations.
Campeche: No advisory is in effect.
Chiapas: Palenque and San Cristobal de las Casas are major cities/travel destinations in Chiapas - No advisory is in effect.
Chihuahua: Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua City, and Copper Canyon are major cities/travel destinations in Chihuahua - Exercise caution in traveling to: the business and shopping districts in the northeast section of Ciudad Juarez and its major industrial parks, the central downtown section and major industrial parks in the city of Chihuahua, the town of Palomas, the urban area of the city of Ojinaga, and the towns of Nuevo Casas Grandes and Casas Grandes and their immediate environs. Travel to the Nuevo Casas Grandes area should be through the Palomas port of entry (POE) on U.S. Highway 11, continuing south until reaching Mexico Highway 2 west to Nuevo Casas Grandes. Travel to Ojinaga should be on the U.S. side via U.S. Highway 67 through the Presidio POE. Defer non-essential travel to other areas in the state of Chihuahua and travel between cities only on major highways and only during daylight hours. 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.
Coahuila: Defer non-essential travel to the state of Coahuila. When traveling through the state, U.S. government personnel are allowed to travel only on toll highway 40 to highway 57 and only during daylight hours. Violence and criminal activity along the highways are continuing security concerns, particularly along the northern border between Piedras Negras and Nuevo Laredo. Please see above for general conditions for travel in Mexico.
Colima: Manzanillo is a major city/travel destination in Colima - Defer non-essential travel to the areas of the state of Colima that border the state of Michoacán, including the city of Tecoman. U.S. government personnel are generally prohibited from traveling within 12 miles of the Colima-Michoacán border. Intercity travel at night is prohibited for U.S. government personnel.
Durango: Exercise caution in the state of Durango. Violence and criminal activity along the highways are a continuing security concern. U.S. government personnel may travel outside the city of Durango only during daylight hours on toll roads and must be in their hotel in the city of Durango to abide by an Embassy-imposed curfew of 1 a.m. to 6 a.m.
Estado de Mexico: Toluca and Teotihuacan are major travel destinations in Estado de Mexico - Exercise caution in the State of Mexico. Due to high rates of crime and insecurity, defer non-essential travel to the municipalities of Coacalco, Ecatepec, Nezahualcoyotl, La Paz, Valle del Chalco, Solidaridad, Chalco, Ixtapaluca, and Tlatlaya, which are 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. Defer non-essential travel on any roads between Huitzilac, Morelos and Santa Martha, Estado de Mexico, including the Lagunas de Zempoala National Park and surrounding areas. Please see above for general conditions for travel in Mexico.
Guanajuato: San Miguel de Allende and Leon are major cities/travel destinations in Guanajuato - No advisory is in effect.
Guerrero (includes Acapulco, Ixtapa, Taxco, and Zihuatanejo) - Travel to the state of Guerrero, including Acapulco, is prohibited for U.S. Government personnel with the exception of travel to Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo by air. In Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo, US Government personnel must exercise caution and remain in tourist areas. The state of Guerrero was the most violent state in Mexico in 2015 for the third year in a row, with a murder rate of 57 per 100,000 residents, according to the Mexican Secretariado Ejecutivo Nacional de Seguridad Publica. Self-defense groups operate independently of the government in many areas of Guerrero. Armed members of these groups frequently maintain roadblocks and, although not considered hostile to foreigners or tourists, are suspicious of outsiders and should be considered volatile and unpredictable.
Hidalgo: No advisory is in effect.
Jalisco: Guadalajara, Puerto Vallarta, and Lake Chapala are major cities/travel destinations in Jalisco – Exercise caution throughout the state, particularly in rural areas and when using secondary highways. 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. U.S. government personnel are authorized to use Federal toll road 15D for travel to Mexico City; however, they may not stop in the town of La Barca or Ocotlan for any reason. Use of Highway 80 between Cocula and La Huerta is prohibited for personal travel by U.S. government personnel. U.S. government personnel are prohibited from personal travel to areas of Jalisco that border Zacatecas, and are prohibited from intercity travel at night. Please see above for general conditions for travel to Mexico.
Mexico City (also known as the Federal District): No advisory is in effect. See also the discussion in the section on Estado de Mexico for areas within the greater Mexico City metropolitan area.
Michoacán: Morelia is a major city/travel destination in Michoacán - Defer non-essential travel to the state of Michoacán except the cities of Morelia and Lázaro Cardenas, and the area north of federal toll road 15D, where you should exercise caution. U.S. government employees are prohibited from traveling by land in Michoacán except on federal toll road 15D during daylight hours. Flying into Morelia and Lázaro Cardenas is permitted for U.S. government personnel. Please see above for general conditions for travel in Mexico.
Morelos: Cuernavaca is a major city/travel destination in Morelos - Exercise caution in the state of Morelos. Defer non-essential travel on any roads between Huitzilac in the northwest corner of the state and Santa Marta, Estado de Mexico, including the Lagunas de Zempoala National Park and surrounding areas. Please see above for general conditions for travel in Mexico.
Nayarit: The Riviera Nayarit coast, including the cities of Tepic, Xalisco, and San Blas, is a major travel destination in Nayarit - U.S. government personnel may travel to Riviera Nayarit, San Blas, Santa María del Oro, Tepic, and Xalisco using major highways. Intercity travel at night is prohibited for U.S. government personnel. Defer non-essential travel to other areas of the state.
Nuevo Leon: Monterrey is a major city/travel destination in Nuevo Leon – Exercise caution in the state of Nuevo Leon. U.S. government personnel and their dependents may travel outside the city of Monterrey only during daylight hours on toll roads, and must return to the city of San Pedro Garza Garcia municipal boundaries to abide by a curfew of 1 a.m. and 6 a.m., except for travel to the airport after 5 a.m. Please see above for general conditions for travel in Mexico.
Oaxaca: Oaxaca, Huatulco and Puerto Escondido are major cities/travel destinations in Oaxaca - In Oaxaca city, U.S. citizens should avoid hiking around the auditorium and observatory at Cerro del Fortin, as foreigners are routinely held up at knifepoint and robbed in that area.
Puebla: No advisory is in effect.
Queretaro: No advisory is in effect.
Quintana Roo: Cancun, Cozumel, Playa del Carmen, Riviera Maya and Tulum are major cities/travel destinations in Quintana Roo - No advisory is in effect. Exercise caution when traveling south of Felipe Carrillo Puerto or east of Jose Maria Morelos as cellular and internet service are virtually non-existent.
San Luis Potosi: Exercise caution in the state of San Luis Potosi. U.S. government personnel may travel outside the city of San Luis Potosi only during daylight hours on toll roads, and must be in their hotel in the city of San Luis Potosi between 1 a.m. to 6 a.m.to abide by an Embassy-imposed curfew.
Sinaloa: Mazatlan is a major city/travel destination in Sinaloa - Defer non-essential travel to the state of Sinaloa except the cities of Mazatlan, Los Mochis, and the Port of Topolobampo, where you should exercise caution. 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 in Mazatlan should be limited to Zona Dorada and the historic town center, as well as direct routes to and from these locations and the airport. Travel in Los Mochis and Topolobampo is restricted to the city and the port, as well as direct routes to/from these locations and the airport. Please see above for general conditions for travel in Mexico.
Sonora: Nogales, Puerto Peñasco, Hermosillo, and San Carlos are major cities/travel destinations in Sonora - Sonora is a key region in the international drug and human trafficking trades and can be extremely dangerous for travelers. Travelers throughout Sonora are encouraged to limit travel to main roads during daylight hours. Defer non-essential travel to the region west of Nogales, east of Sonoyta, and from Caborca north (including the towns of Saric, Tubutama, and Altar), and the eastern edge of Sonora bordering Chihuahua, as these are known centers of illegal activity. Travelers should also defer non-essential travel to the eastern edge of the state of Sonora, which borders the state of Chihuahua (all points along that border east of the northern city of Agua Prieta and the southern town of Alamos), and defer non-essential travel within the city of Ciudad Obregon and south of the city of Navojoa. You should exercise caution while transiting Vicam in southern Sonora due to roadblocks that can be instituted ad hoc by local indigenous and environmental groups. U.S. citizens visiting Puerto Peñasco should use the Lukeville, Arizona/Sonoyta, Sonora border crossing, and limit driving to daylight hours. Please see above for general conditions for travel in Mexico.
Tabasco: Villahermosa is a major city/travel destination in Tabasco- No advisory is in effect.
Tamaulipas: Matamoros, Nuevo Laredo, Reynosa, and Tampico are major cities in Tamaulipas. Defer all non-essential travel to the state of Tamaulipas. Throughout the state violent crime, including homicide, armed robbery, carjacking, kidnapping, extortion, and sexual assault, pose significant safety risks. State and municipal law enforcement capacity is limited to nonexistent in many parts of Tamaulipas. Violent conflicts between rival criminal elements and/or the Mexican military can occur in all parts of the region and at all times of the day. Violent criminal activity occurs more frequently along the northern border. Organized criminal groups sometimes target public and private passenger buses traveling through Tamaulipas. These groups sometimes take all passengers hostage and demand ransom payments. In Tamaulipas, U.S. government employees are subject to movement restrictions and a curfew between midnight and 6 a.m. Matamoros, Reynosa, Nuevo Laredo, and Ciudad Victoria have experienced numerous gun battles and attacks with explosive devices in the past year. The number of reported kidnappings in Tamaulipas is among the highest in Mexico. Please see above for general conditions for travel in Mexico.
Tlaxcala: No advisory is in effect.
Veracruz: No advisory is in effect.
Yucatan: (includes Merida and Chichen Itza) - No advisory is in effect.
Zacatecas: Exercise caution in the state of Zacatecas. U.S. government personnel may travel outside the city of Zacatecas only during daylight hours on toll roads. In the city of Zacatecas, U.S. government personnel must abide by an Embassy-imposed curfew of 1 a.m. to 6 a.m.
For further information:
See the State Department's travel website for the Worldwide Caution, Travel Warnings, Travel Alerts, and Country Specific Information for Mexico.
Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive security messages and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.
Contact the U.S. Embassy in Mexico, located at Paseo de la Reforma 305, Colonia Cuauhtemoc, at +52-55-5080-2000 x4440, (5080-2000 for calls in Mexico City, 01-55-5080-2000 for long distance calls in Mexico) 8:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. After-hours emergency number for U.S. citizens is +52-55-5080-2000.
Call 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada or 1-202-501-4444 from other countries from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).
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Consulates (with consular districts):
Ciudad Juarez (Chihuahua): Paseo de la Victoria 3650, telephone. +52-656-227-3000.
Guadalajara (Nayarit, Jalisco, Aguas Calientes, and Colima): Progreso 175, telephone +52-333-268-2100.
Hermosillo (Sinaloa and the southern part of the state of Sonora): Avenida Monterrey 141, telephone +52-662-289-3500.
Matamoros (the southern part of Tamaulipas with the exception of the city of Tampico): Avenida Primera 2002, telephone +52-868-812-4402.
Merida (Campeche, Yucatan, and Quintana Roo): Calle 60 no. 338-K x 29 y 31, Col. Alcala Martin, Merida, Yucatan, Mexico 97050, telephone +52-999-942-5700 or 202-250-3711 (U.S. number).
Monterrey (Nuevo Leon, Durango, Zacatecas, San Luis Potosi, and the southern part of Coahuila):Prolongacion Ave. Alfonso Reyes No. 150, Col. Valle Poniente, Santa Catarina, Nuevo Leon, 66196, telephone +52-818-047-3100.
Nogales (the northern part of Sonora): Calle San Jose, Nogales, Sonora, telephone +52-631-311-8150.
Nuevo Laredo (the northern part of Coahuila and the northwestern part of Tamaulipas): Calle Allende 3330, Col. Jardin, telephone +52-867-714-0512.
Tijuana (Baja California Norte and Baja California Sur): Paseo de Las Culturas s/n Mesa de Otay, telephone +52-664-977-2000.
All other Mexican states, the Federal District of Mexico City, and the city of Tampico, Tamaulipas, are part of the Embassy's consular district. The U.S. Embassy is located in Mexico City at Paseo de la Reforma 305, Colonia Cuauhtemoc, telephone from the United States: 011-52-55-5080-2000; telephone within Mexico City: 5080-2000; telephone long distance within Mexico: 01-55-5080-2000.
Acapulco: Hotel Emporio, Costera Miguel Aleman 121 – Suite 14, telephone +52-744-481-0100 or +52-744-484-0300.
Cancún: Blvd. Kukulcan Km 13 ZH Torre La Europea, Despacho 301 Cancun, Quintana Roo, Mexico C.P. 77500, telephone +52-998-883-0272.
Los Cabos: Las Tiendas de Palmilla Local B221, Carretera Transpeninsular Km. 27.5, San José del Cabo, BCS, Mexico 23406 telephone, +52-624-143-3566 Fax: +52-624-143-6750.
Mazatlán: Playa Gaviotas #202, Zona Dorada, telephone +52-669-916-5889.
Oaxaca: Macedonio Alcalá no. 407, interior 20, telephone +52-951-514-3054, +52-951-516-2853.
Piedras Negras: Abasolo #211, Zona Centro, Piedras Negras, Coah., telephone, +52-878-782-5586.
Playa del Carmen: "The Palapa," Calle 1 Sur, between Avenida 15 and Avenida 20, telephone +52-984-873-0303 or 202-370-6708(U.S. number).
Puerto Vallarta: Paradise Plaza, Paseo de los Cocoteros #1, Local #4, Interior #17, Nuevo Vallarta, Nayarit, telephone +52-322-222-0069.
San Miguel de Allende: Centro Comercial La Luciernaga, Libramiento Manuel Zavala (Pepe KBZON), telephone +52-415-152-2357.