Exterior of church in MexicoTemplo de Santo Domingo, Oaxaca | Photo credit: Journey Mexico


February 18, 2020

Mexican travel safety has been in the news, making some travelers wonder, “Is it safe to travel to Mexico?”

Note:  This information does not reflect current safety conditions resulting from COVID-19.

According to Rich Biswell, marketing director for Journey Mexico, a Mexico-based tour operator specializing in experiential trips and tours throughout the country, “we feel confident in saying that Mexico is safe for vacationers and travelers.”  Just like travel anywhere else, travel to Mexico requires you to be smart, prudent, and vigilant, and take some precautions before you leave and while you travel. 

2022 Update: That’s still the best advice for travel to Mexico. The State Department has a long list of travel advisories and cautions for Mexico, some related to COVID and others related to crime, and while most resort areas are explicitly noted as safe, Mexico is not a country made for carefree wandering. It’s best to stick to the safe areas for the time being.

"There has been a little misinformation [regarding travel safety in Mexico]."



Regardless of what you may have read in the headlines, incidents in Mexico involving tourists are extremely few and far-between.

“There has been a little misinformation [regarding travel safety in Mexico],” said Ana Sofia Lanczyner, former Midwest director of the Mexico Tourism Board.

Photo of boat on beach in Isla San Francisco, Baja California Sur, Mexico

Isla San Francisco - Baja California Sur | Photo credit: Journey Mexico

Lanczyner noted a news story from a very well-known publication stated the U.S. Department of State had done an update to their travel warnings and Mexico was far more dangerous to travel to, which was completely false.



In its December 2021 update to travel advisories for Mexico, the State Department actually gave Mexico level-three (reconsider travel) status, while noting that outside of COVID most Mexican states and many of the most popular resort areas – like Mexico City, Cancun, Cozumel, Playa del Carmen, Tulum, Chichen Itza, and the Riviera Maya – are relatively safe for travelers.

However, the State Department specifically recommended that travelers not go to or reconsider travel to the following states:

Photo of people on guided rock mountain adventure in Copper Canyon, Mexico

Adventure in Copper Canyon | Photo credit: Journey Mexico


According to a U.S. State Department official speaking on background, the main reasons behind the travel advisories are:

  • An increase in homicides, mostly gang- and cartel-related killings
  • Limited police presence and poor emergency response outside of major cities
  • Drug and human-trafficking activity in some level-three or level-four (do not travel) states
  • Roadblocks on highways in level-three or level-four states set up by criminal groups looking to kidnap bus passengers and hold them for ransom


"Almost 40 million international visitors come to Mexico each year, and we have only had a handful of incidents."

None of these activities specifically target tourists, and as Lanczyner said, “I would cordially invite anyone to do the math. Almost 40 million international visitors come to Mexico each year, and we have only had a handful of incidents. That’s a pretty good ratio.”   

Still, Lanczyner said, “we take every single case very seriously.” You should too – and that means covering your trip with travel insurance.

"Stuff can happen in tourist destinations in Mexico, but when it does, tourists generally aren't involved."


Biswell said it best: “Stuff can happen in tourist destinations in Mexico, but when it does, tourists generally aren’t involved.”
Here’s how to lessen your chances of being involved:

Ask someone who knows Mexico

Know – or ask – about the safe parts of town, the safest ways of getting around, and which clubs are okay. “Have someone you can trust – whether it’s a concierge at the hotel or a guide from Journey Mexico or another reputable operator – give you that advice,” Biswell said. “They’re not going to send you someplace bad.”

Baby sea turtle being held in person's hands

Turtle in Riviera Maya | Photo credit: Journey Mexico

Don’t walk alone at night

Don’t walk the streets alone late at night. “I live in Puerto Vallarta, and there are some neighborhoods that I wouldn’t visit at four in the morning,” Biswell added. “But I wouldn’t go to most neighborhoods in major US cities at four in the morning, either.”

Leave the bling home

Flashy jewelry attracts the wrong kind of attention.

Girl putting colorful shawl on woman

Zincantan, Chiapas | Photo credit: Journey Mexico


Trust your instincts

Never take your eyes off your personal belongings. If a situation or place makes you nervous, exit stage right by the safest means possible. Use common sense.

Don’t be a hero

Don’t resist if somebody tries to rob you; hand over what they’re asking for. This is no time to play the hero.

Be on guard for pickpockets

Watch out for pickpockets if you’re taking public transport. Split up your money and valuables, minimize your cash on hand, and keep copies of important documents in a safe place at your hotel.

Historic ruins near coastal beachTulum, Quintana Roo | Photo credit: Journey Mexico

Use authorized taxis

Take only authorized taxis – “Taxis Autorisados.” They cost more, but their registered numbers can be traced. Don’t get antsy and opt for an unauthorized taxi. You may get taken for a ride – literally. 

Bring a map

When driving to a destination, Lenczyner recommends that you “make sure you have a map – and make sure you’ll have cell service throughout [your trip].”


Be beach- and water-smart too

Not all beaches have signs clearly stating the dangers of strong currents, riptides, and heavy waves. Get the scoop on water safety in Mexico from your travel professional or tour guide, the local tourism board, or online resources.

Historic ruins featuring tall central structureUxmal, Yucatan | Photo credit: Journey Mexico


The State Department official speaking on background added these tips, from the page on travel.state.gov that has safety recommendations on travel to Mexico:

In addition, the State Department reminds travelers to:

  • Pack lightly and bring appropriate clothing.
  • Be aware of the effects of:

-  Different food
-  A new climate
-  More strenuous physical activity 
-  Changes in routine and schedule  

  • Apply for a passport at least three months before you travel. If you have one, check the passport’s expiration date and entry requirements for Mexico.  
  • Work with the nearest consulate or embassy if you have problems. They can help you:

-  Contact relatives or friends 
-  Find medical care
-  Report a crime
-  Find accommodation and arrange flights home
-  Replace a stolen or lost passport

Luxury villa with lit patio and large poolLuxury Casa Koko, Punta Mita | Photo credit: Journey Mexico

Medical issues: Look for approved providers and hospitals

If you get sick or are injured while on a Mexican vacation, note that there have been cases of medical billing abuses. Make sure your provider is on the State Department’s list of approved providers and hospitals.

Most Mexican hospitals don’t accept U.S. domestic health insurance or Medicare/Medicaid and require payment upfront by cash, credit card, debit card, or bank transfer.

While most U.S. medical plans aren’t accepted in Mexico, travel health insurance from a company like Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection is – one more reason why travel medical insurance is a must-have on any Mexican vacation.

Contact your travel insurer as soon as a situation arises; they’ll work with you and providers to coordinate care and payment.

Aerial view of luxury house next to tropical beachHacienda, Chekul | Photo credit: Journey Mexico

Weather: Hurricanes are very rare, yet make travel cheaper

Generally, weather on the Mexican coasts is ideal – sunny and warm, with gentle breezes custom-made for lazing by the beach.

However, from June through November there’s a risk of tropical storms. Hurricanes and tropical depressions can hit Mexico’s Caribbean, Gulf, and Pacific coasts, disrupting flights and cruises in addition to resort stays.

"Hurricanes are so hit-and-miss, you shouldn't not travel to mexico and block out those five months."

If you travel to Mexico during these months, check the long-term forecast. On the other hand, as Biswell said, “Hurricanes are so hit-and-miss, you shouldn’t not travel to Mexico and block out those five months.”

Furthermore, according to Lanczyner, “Every single one of our structures are required by law to have a shelter, so I would not hesitate to travel to Mexico during hurricane season.”

And here’s a bonus: Travel to Mexico can be cheaper during these times, so you could get a lot for your money if you’re willing to take a calculated risk.

Mi casa es su casa: Mexico’s vested interest in keeping you safe

“Even with the continuous negative press about Mexico, tourism has continued to grow and grow and grow and grow,” Biswell said. “That speaks a lot for the destination, for travelers, and for the people of this amazing country.”

Around 20 million Americans vacation in Mexico every year, so everyone has a vested interest in making travel to Mexico fun, exciting, memorable, and above all safe.

“There are 9.5 million people in Mexico employed in the tourism industry,” Lanczyner said. “That means 9.5 million families depend on you having a wonderful time in Mexico – and we take it personally. We say – and we believe – that ‘Mi casa es su casa’ – our house is your house.” 

And it’s a house that’s safe … and getting safer.

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