Whether you are a new traveler or a seasoned snowbird, you should know the places to avoid in Mexico. Mexico is a wonderful place to visit, but it is both a place with a disparity in socioeconomic makeup and also one that attracts a tremendous amount of tourism, owing to its incredible vistas, world-class seascapes, and hospitable culture. Unfortunately, both of these ingredients make for occasional unsavory activities, which we want to help you avoid.
Where in Mexico should I not go?
Mexico is a beautiful country with many safe destinations; however, like any destination, there are hotspots that should be avoided. Some of the most problematic areas are Culican, Juarez, and Tijuana, based on travel advisories and traveler feedback.
While most of Mexico is safe to travel in, there can be particular routes, neighborhoods, and areas that should be avoided. In the same vein, there are perfectly safe resorts that can be located in the surrounding areas that are not.
Using data from the World Population Review and current United States Travel Advisories, we will detail some of the most troubled areas. Based on crime rates, homicide rates, and travelers reports, we will list ten places to avoid or exercise high caution in Mexico.
We have lived and traveled in Mexico over the course of many decades. In our experience, the safety rating of specific areas can change over time, sometimes becoming safer with tourism board support or less safe with degenerative infrastructure or if visitors do not take the proper precautions.. The same can be said in many areas of first-world countries.
Below you will find a list of places that should not be at the top of your travel list without caution.
Where Should You Not Go In Mexico
In our experience, travel warnings about where not to travel in Mexico often come from the locals themselves. Mexicans are exceptionally proud people, and the vast majority do not want the reputation that a few unsavory areas bring to the whole country. The country as a whole is vibrant, beautiful, and welcoming. However, it never hurts to do research before traveling.
Number of homicides per 100,000 residents: 45.54
With its white sandy beaches and azure sea, Cancun has long been one of the most popular tourist destinations in Mexico. It also boasts rich Mayan heritage and hosts many historical sites to visit.
However, a fresh wave of crimes with tourists in the literal crossfire has landed a fresh warning from The United States Travel Advisory Board. The board notes that criminal activity may occur in any location at any time. They further warm to exercise extreme caution even within popular tourist areas.
Recently tourists have encountered crimes in progress on the resort beachfront and have ended up in the crossfire. The vast amount of corruption here is fueled by the drug trade, where foreign money is aplenty.
While this type of brazen violent crime is not as common as in some other cities in Mexico, it is on the rise. More frequently encountered crime involving tourists includes pickpockets and petty theft. It is highly recommended to stay on the resort’s property at night and avoid adventuring alone.
In this location, as in all tourist locations, it is best to follow the sound principles of any big city. Do not wander alone. Stay out of less savory neighborhoods. Don’t contribute to any illicit activities, and you will be fine.
Number of homicides per 100,000 residents: 48
Coatzacoalcos is located in the state of Veracruz. It is a major port city known for business tourism. It also has some very scenic beach areas and tourist attractions.
The entire state of Veracruz is currently given the warning to “exercise extreme caution” by the United States Travel Advisory Board due to increasing crime trends.
It is reported that despite its beachy atmosphere, even the locals do not feel safe at times. Due to rising organized crime in the area, the government has stepped up its dispatch of numerous protective forces to ensure the safety of both locals and tourists.
If you do travel to Coatzacoalcos, it is advised to stay within your resort, especially at nighttime.
Number of homicides per 100,000 residents: 49.41
Visit Mexico touts Culiacan as a city that is rich in culture, nature, and delicious cuisine. However, the capital city of Sinaloa, Culiacan, has the unfortunate claim to fame as the Mexican city where the cartels overtook the military, known as The Battle of Culican.
While this sounds like something that might have happened a hundred years ago, it was actually only In 2019 when a large convoy of military vehicles entered the city to capture a drug kingpin but was pushed back by cartel fire.
That anecdote alone should tell you whose city you are in if you choose to visit. The Sinaloa cartel has a remarkable ability to mobilize rapidly here when they feel threatened.
The United States Travel Advisory has put Sinoloa on its highest Level 4 designation due to the ongoing threat of kidnapping, violent crime, and gang-related activities. Unfortunately, this destination ranks high on a list of places to not visit. Period.
Number of homicides per 100,000 residents: 71.61
Acapulco is an extremely popular tourist destination for Mexican residents and foreigners alike. It was likely Mexico’s first beachside resort town and has been well known to host tourists on its beaches year-round.
Unfortunately, the “Riviera of Mexico” has gained a sore reputation over the years for attracting an immense amount of crime along with the tourists. If fact, the United States has issued its highest level of advisory, “do not travel,” to the entire state of Guerrero, where Acapulco resides.
This Level 4 warning is due to the high incidences of kidnapping and violent crimes. To put this in perspective, the same Level 4 warning was extended to Afghanistan, Syria, and Iraq.
Acapulco is an example of a place where the resorts can be quite safe, but it is not. It is not recommended to travel off the property. It is recommended to use credit cards instead of cash machines, where petty theft could turn violent.
There is a definite effort to clean up the area to keep its tourist economy intact, but it still has a way to go to be considered as safe as other tourist destinations.
Number of homicides per 100,000 residents: 80.72
Obregon is the second-largest city in the state of Sonora, which is to the Mexico border where it meets Arizona. Obregon is known for its business tourism and agricultural industry.
Despite being a storied gateway for indigenous culture, Obregon was recently named by Business Insider as one of the 50 most violent cities in the world. A United States Trave Advisory has also issued a “reconsider travel ” warning on Obregon due to its high rates of homicide, carjacking, and robbery.
The Mexican state of Sonora is known to host an exceptionally high rate of international drug and human trafficking. Where some Mexican states have a crime that is focused between gangs, Obregon’s violence has started to bleed over to foreigners as well. Armed thefts and kidnappings have been reported by foreigners.
Number of homicides per 100,000 residents: 80.74
Irapuato is located in the state of Guanajuato in a central area of Mexico. It is sandwiched between two rivers and is surrounded by sprawling vistas on all sides. It holds the special designation of being the “World’s Strawberry Capital.”
Although it can be charming, the Irapuato area has seen rising crime for a number of years due largely to gang member disagreements about drug territory. Crime here is mostly targeted toward other gangs and residents who get in the way and includes; fuel theft, extortion, and kidnapping.
While Irapuato is rich in history and culture, it is advisable to stay in the more secure tourist areas and to go with a guide if possible.
Number of homicides per 100,000 residents: 85.54
Famous for its coffee crops and avocado trees, Uruapan (Uruapan Del Progresso) is the second-largest city in the state of Michoacan and an economically important one due in part to its location. It is notable for its Spanish colonial architecture and colorful lacquerware which is popular with tourists.
A combination of the drug trade moving in and poverty increasing has made an unfortunate recipe for violent crimes here. Kidnapping, drug trafficking, and robberies of hotels and taxis are not uncommon. Mexico News Daily recently called it one of the “cartel capitols of Mexico.”
A safe bet would be to restrict sightseeing to guided tours in tourist zones in the daytime.
Number of homicides per 100,000 residents: 104.54
Juarez is a desert town that borders Texas. Intermingling modern with ancient, it is rich in Mexico’s history and culture. There are an exhaustive amount of museums and markets that are popular with people making day trips from the Texas border.
However, there is a well-known corruption of government officials that has allowed crime to flourish in recent years.
The crime in Juarez centers around drug trafficking and narco operations where violence can happen out in the open. Women are especially vulnerable and experience a high rate of human trafficking, rape, and abuse. Crime here tends to be especially violent and often without prosecution.
However, Juarez is typically safe to experience in the daytime and within tourist areas. The violence is mostly contained in the slums of the city and mostly targeted gang activity. Tourists are not the primary targets.
Number of homicides per 100,000 residents: 109
Located in Guanajuato, Celaya is known for its gastronomic traditions and ornate temples. A few years ago, Celaya was not mentioned on the most dangerous cities in Mexico list. However, in 2018 Celaya shot up the list of 30 places.
By 2020 it graduated to being the most dangerous city in the world, according to a report by Mexican NGO Seguridad, Justicia y Paz.
Recently there have been battles between rival cartels over oil theft and drug trafficking, both of which also lend themselves to governmental and police corruption as well.
It is noted that there is a central square that is beloved by tourists that are considered quite safe—as with anywhere, exercising caution is paramount.
Number of homicides per 100,000 residents: 134.24
Tijuana is a city located in Baja, Califonia, whose peninsula is notorious for seeing crossover crime as a border region. As a city, Tijuana is young, creative, and evolving. On paper combines many facets of what Mexico could be; a global city with museums, markets, and fresh ideas.
However, it has never fully been able to shake its reputation as housing transient crime. The most common types of crime revolve around the drug trade.
For the past several years, Tiajuana has held the title of most violent city in the world, with the highest ratio of murders per resident compared to any other city in the world. The United States has issued a travel advisory for Tijuana and the state of Baja California over the uptick in crime in general and, more specifically, the kidnapping of foreigners to attract bribes.
Tijuana certainly has its attractions, and it is advisable if you do decide to visit to stay in safer areas such as Playas de Tijuana or Zona Rio, which have more abundant security. Using a well-protected tour guide service would also be a very practical decision.
The United States Travel Advisory also warns travelers to stay on well-traveled roads and avoid remote locations.
Commonsense will also serve you well here. If you avoid wearing expensive jewelry, pursuing the purchase of illicit drugs, or otherwise looking to engage in illegal activity, you will lessen the odds of becoming a statistic.