Earlier this month, the State Department rolled out a revamped travel advisory system. Every country is rated on a scale of one to four. A level one rating is the lowest level of risk and means that travelers should “exercise normal precautions.” Level four is the highest level, and the State Department recommends that travelers “do not travel” to any areas with this risk level.
While the country of Mexico at large is currently rated level two – “exercise increased caution” – five states in Mexico have been given the highest risk rating of level four. The State Department is advising that travelers not travel to these states for any reason due to serious safety concerns. Countries that currently have a level four rating include Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria.
The five Mexican states that US travelers should steer clear of are Colima, Guerrero, Michoacan, Sinaloa, and Tamaulipas. The reason is rampant crime and gang activity.
In Tamaulipas, for example, gun battles are a regular problem, and local law enforcement is stretched too thin to respond in every case. Evidently travel by both public and private bus is warned against in this state because criminal groups have been known to take riders hostage and demand ransom for their return.
Sinaloa is considered particularly dangerous in large part because it is the home of the Sinaloa drug cartel.
Likewise, Guerrero is said to have armed groups that control various areas, acting independently of the government. Guerrero is the state that Acapulco is found in. Not long ago, Acapulco was a favorite resort destination, but today it has one of the highest murder rates in the country.
Numbers are not final yet, but it’s believed that Mexico may have had a record number of murders in 2017, the most since 2011, largely due to activity in these five states.
That said, it’s worth remembering that Mexico is a very big country with 31 states, and these five states do not represent the whole country. We of course agree with the State Department’s warnings, but it would be a mistake to categorize the entire country as unsafe or not worth visiting.
Mexico is a beautiful country with a rich culture, beautiful architecture, idyllic beaches, and some of the nicest people you’ll meet anywhere in the world. Be safe, be smart, and do your research before you travel to Mexico, but don’t write the whole country off. To do so would mean missing out on some absolutely amazing travel experiences.
If you are traveling to Mexico, double check the State Department advisories before you leave, and make sure you and your friends bring your passports. (Even though Mexico is our neighbor, you’ll have a very tough time coming home if you forget your US passport.) Avoid driving at night, leave expensive jewelry and any flashy signs of wealth at home, and generally practice good common sense, just like you would on any trip. And as always, if you have any questions, contact the Swift team!
Rob Lee is co-founder of Swift Passport and Visa Services. Originally from Michigan, Rob is an avid fisherman and SCUBA diver who enjoys adventure travel.