As you embark on a journey through Mexico and explore its vibrant landscapes and rich culture, navigating wisely is key to a secure and enjoyable journey.
Think of this guide as your personal safety compass, steering you away from the lesser-explored facets of this beautiful country, unveiling the 15 places to avoid in Mexico.
Mexico has a lot to see, from pristine beaches to picturesque landscapes, but underneath all the charm lie concerns ranging from cartel activities to high crime rates.
Now, let’s make your Mexican holiday safe first, and adventurous second!
15 Places to Avoid When Visiting Mexico
1. Los Cabos – Tourists Are Targets
Despite its long-standing appeal to visitors worldwide, tourists have started to show concern about safety in recent years, deterring them from visiting. An increasing number of reports of crime and violence, particularly targeting tourists, have contributed to their perception.
When visiting, tourists are advised to steer clear of areas known for drug trafficking and stick to populated, well-lit areas when venturing outside their resorts.
2. La Paz – Increased Presence Of Gangs
Located on the Baja California Peninsula, La Paz is the capital of Baja California Sur. It is known for its beautiful beaches, parks, and vibrant art by local artists.
Unfortunately, the city’s tranquility has been disrupted by a recent surge in gang activity and crime rates. Venturing out to remote areas beyond the famous tourist hotspots significantly increases the risk of encountering a crime.
To ensure your safety, it is best to refrain from wandering in these less frequented areas, especially at night. While exploring La Paz, be vigilant, take care of your belongings, and exercise common sense to stay safe.
3. Chihuahua – Highest “Do Not Travel” Warning In All Of Mexico
Chihuahua City is the capital of the Northwestern Mexican state of Chihuahua. The city is known for its old-world charm with a Baroque Cathedral and a rich history of pivotal Mexican events.
Despite being so culturally significant, it unfortunately holds the current distinction of being the “Do Not Travel” city in Mexico. The whole region faces major safety issues due to the ongoing territorial disputes among the cartels.
Disturbing reports include a tourist’s daylight robbery at gunpoint in the city’s downtown area. Such incidents highlight the city’s underlying issue of precarious safety and how it should be avoided at all costs.
4. Ciudad Obregón – Unsafe For Non-Locals
Ciudad Obregon is the second-largest city in the northern Mexican state of Sonora near the U.S.-Mexico border in Arizona. Unfortunately, it sits on the list of most dangerous parts of Mexico.
Reports suggest that it has the fourth-highest murder rate per capita, averaging around 101.13 per 100,000 inhabitants annually. The city’s population is slightly over 430,000, which means there are about 435 murders each year.
This is a result of a mix of violent, petty, and organized crimes, especially targeting non-locals. So, it is best to avoid this destination when traveling to Mexico.
5. Reynosa – Tourists Must Be Very Cautious
On the northern Tamaulipas border, Reynosa is a key crossing point into Texas, USA. Despite the city’s many cultural attractions, the city grapples with its dangers like frequent kidnappings, carjackings, and extortion.
While its murder rate of 41.48 homicides per 100,000 residents may not seem strikingly high when compared to other cities in Mexico. The local gangs and cartels specifically target visitors and immigrants passing through the border. It is important to be cautious while considering visiting Reynosa, given the prevalence of criminal activities in the area.
6. Irapuato – Rival Cartel Groups
Irapuato, in the central region of Mexico’s state of Guanajuato, is located at the base of Arandas Hill and surrounded by two rivers. The city is known for its cultural richness. And despite its alluring appeal, the whole state grapples with a complex dynamic of eleven major criminal groups in the area.
There are constant inter-group and cartel conflicts, particularly intense cartel turf wars, which result in significant safety issues for all the residents and visitors.
Notably, Irapuato has a high violence and homicide rate, with 81 cases per 100,000 people. Travelers are always advised to prioritize their safety and avoid this part of the country.
7. Tijuana – High Homicide Rate
Located just south of California, Tijuana is a famous border city in Mexico. Most authorities advise against visiting the city, especially after recent events between the United States and Mexico.
Though violent crimes against tourists are less common, petty theft and robbery are still on a high. People are advised to avoid walking around in the city, especially at night.
Despite the local government’s initiative to make it safer for visitors, it still tops the list of areas to avoid in Mexico due to gang activity, extortion schemes, and kidnapping targeting both locals and visitors.
8. Culiacán – Cartel Overtook The Military
The largest city and the capital of Sinaloa in the northwestern region of Mexico, Culiacán, is infamous for its notorious cartel influence. They even overpower the military and cause turmoil in the city.
Despite having some spectacular inland attractions like nightclubs and parks, visitors are generally advised to steer clear of this place unless they have a specific purpose for visiting.
There are frequent reports of armed robberies and assaults, resulting in a high crime rate of 61 homicides per 100,000 residents. It’s best to think twice before visiting such areas.
9. Uruapan – Spike In Cartel Crimes
Located on the western edge of Mexico, Uruapan is the second-largest city in the state of Michoacan. It holds economic significance but is also infamous for being a cartel hub in the country.
The city has lush greenery with stunning Spanish architecture, ass of 2022, the city had a population of 356,786. Unfortunately, the city’s surrounding area grapples with the issue of persistent violence and drug trafficking as a result of active gang activities.
While Uruapan thrives economically, the prevalence of criminal activities, the city tops the list of bad places in Mexico.
10. Tepic – Travel Advisory
As the capital of the Nayarit state in western Mexico, Tepic is known for its Neo-gothic Tepic Cathedral and numerous museums home to some significant pre-hispanic artifacts. It is considered the state’s urban center of thriving agriculture, producing sugarcane and tobacco.
Home to 425,924 residents, Tepic is notoriously full of gang activity, ranking as the 36th most dangerous city in the world. It has a concerningly high reported homicide rate of 45 per 100,000 people. Both residents and tourists are advised to avoid this dangerous area as much as possible.
11. Acapulco – Dangerous Outside Of Resorts
Acapulco is a renowned beach resort town on Mexico’s Pacific coast. It is also famous for its stunning cliffs and Sierra Madre del Sur mountains. Despite the thriving resort industry, travelers are urged to confine themselves to its premises for safety reasons.
This is because of the city’s alarming number of mysterious incidents. There have been multiple reports of dead bodies washing ashore and body parts lying on the streets. This has resulted in a significant decline in tourism.
Most governments caution their citizens against traveling to Acapulco due to its alarmingly high crime rate of about 111 homicides per 100,000 residents.
12. Coatzacoalcos – Travelers May Feel Unsafe
Nestled in the northern part of Veracruz, Coatzacoalcos is a significant port city on the river estuary in the Gulf of Mexico. It has stunning beach views and a vast coastline. Despite being so scenic, it is not considered safe for residents and tourists.
The city has cultural gems such as museums and delectable restaurants, but the dark side tends to overpower with violent crime and gang activity. With a high homicide rate of 48 cases per 100,000 residents, caution is strongly advised to those considering visiting this city.
13. Celaya – State-Wide Corruption
Celaya is a bustling city in central Mexico located northwest of Mexico City. It is renowned for its architecture and colonial grandeur. Despite its cultural attractions, the city has major corruption issues.
With a population of 767,104, Celaya has museums, picturesque architecture, and a vibrant candy manufacturing scene. However, the uprise in violence linked to the Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel defending its interests has been concerning.
The city has an alarmingly high rate of corruption and bribery. Hence, tourists are advised to exercise caution and be vigilant to avoid scams if they visit.
14. Ciudad Juárez – Increasing Crime Rate
South of El Paso, positioned on the Rio Grande, Ciudad Juarez is steeped in history with museums highlighting Mexico’s revolution. But the city also has a long-standing history of excessive, indiscriminate violence.
It is also recognized as a global femicide capital; the city has one of the highest femicide rates, surpassing even Damascus during the peak of the Syrian Civil War.
15. Mazatlan – Don’t Venture Out Alone At Night
Mazatlan is a famous resort town on the Pacific coast in Sinaloa with serene sandy beaches and an undertone of being a dangerous neighborhood. While tourist zones offer relative safety, stepping out alone at night poses risks like many other tourist destinations worldwide.
Beyond common petty crimes, tourists are also at an increased risk of cartel violence like murders and kidnappings. If you visit Mazatlan, remember to maintain a low profile and refrain from flashing your valuables.
These are the 15 places to approach with caution when visiting Mexico. It is essential to pinpoint these places on the map to avoid them during your travel escapades. If you’re looking for more safe alternatives to enjoy your vacation, check out my article on the safest cities in Mexico.
I hope your travels through Mexico are filled with unforgettable moments and that you stay safe throughout your vacation.