Is It Safe to Travel to Mexico?

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In August 2017, the United States Department of State issued a travel warning for Americans traveling to Mexico. Americans are permitted to enter the country but they run the risk of being attacked.

While there is no formal ban on travel to Mexico for citizens of the United States, the U.S. government warns there have been a number of crimes committed against American citizens in 2016 and 2017. The travel warning issued by the United States Department of State (DOS) says some places in Mexico are safer for Americans than others, which are primarily the resort areas and tourist-friendly cities. Americans who travel outside of the safer places in Mexico run the risk of falling victim to drug-related crimes, which include kidnapping, carjacking, robbery and homicide. The DOS has also forbidden non-essential travel for U.S. government personnel and their families in certain states in Mexico due to the high risk of crime.

Travel Advisories by State
In its travel advisory issued in August 2017, the DOS provides a state-by-state assessment of violence and crime to help Americans determine which areas to visit. There is currently no travel advisory for the following places: Campeche, Guanajuato, Hidalgo, Mexico City, Puebla, Tabasco, Queretaro, Tlaxcala and Yucatan. Americans can travel to other states, including Veracruz and Zacatecas, with restrictions, such as staying only in tourist areas and traveling only during the daylight hours. Americans are also forbidden from using public transportation in Veracruz. U.S. citizens are advised to avoid non-essential travel in the states of Tamaulipas, Sinaloa, Michoacan and Guerrero. In some states, including Jalisco and Sonora, Americans are allowed to visit certain cities and regions. In addition to listing the safety status of each state, the DOS notes what kinds of criminal activities have occurred in each state with violence, including attacks carried out on tourists.

Drug Violence
Of all types of violence that Americans can encounter in Mexico, drug-related violence is the most prevalent. Drug lords and drug cartels have established a strong presence in Mexico, and they often engage in criminal activities against each other and with Mexican authorities. The DOS reports gun battles have even taken place between criminal organizations and Mexican officials in broad daylight.

Although the Mexican government is taking steps to help foreigners visit the country safely, there is still a high risk of crime against tourists. Tourists are especially easy targets because they are generally affluent, and the DOS adds that tourist-related crimes take place against all foreign visitors, not just Americans. Among the various types of crimes, kidnapping is one of the most common. Kidnapping occurs in several forms, including traditional, express and virtual. Traditional kidnappings are when the kidnapper physically holds a victim hostage, and then demands a ransom payment. A kidnapping is called "express" when the kidnappers hold the victim hostage against his or her will until the victim gets access to, and withdraws money from, an ATM machine or a bank. After satisfying the kidnappers' demands, the victim is typically released. The last type of kidnapping is virtual. Using this method, kidnappers contact the victim by phone or email. Using threats of violence, they demand the names and contact information for the victim's friends and family members. Victims are usually forced to pay the kidnappers money under the threat of harm. This type of kidnapping is most common in hotels and resorts.