SAFETY TIPS

SAFETY AND SECURITY

CRIME

There was a significant increase in violent crime, including homicides, kidnappings and extortions nationwide in 2018 in Mexico. This includes the states of:

  • Baja California Sur (Los Cabos)
  • Jalisco (Puerto Vallarta)
  • Quintana Roo (Cancun and Playa del Carmen)

Exercise particular vigilance if you’re travelling in those regions and limit your stay to tourist areas. You should also remain extremely cautious if you’re travelling to the eastern parts of greater Mexico City where the crime rate is on the rise. These municipalities include:

  • Coacalco
  • Ecatepec
  • Ixtapaluca
  • Nezahualcoyotl
  • La Paz
  • Solidaridad
  • Valle del Chalco

While most incidents appear to be gang-related, innocent bystanders may be injured or killed. You may be in the wrong place at the wrong time and become a victim of violent crime.

Arrest and detention rates are low and don’t deter criminal activity.  

If you plan on travelling in Mexico:

  • remain vigilant at all times
  • stay in tourist areas
  • be very cautious on major highways
  • avoid travelling at night
  • monitor local media closely

If you are the victim of a crime, you must report it immediately to local authorities. No criminal investigation is possible without a formal complaint. Complaints must be made in person before leaving Mexico.

ORGANIZED CRIME

Criminal groups, including drug cartels, are very active. ‎Clashes between cartels or gangs over territory, drugs and smuggling routes are common, resulting in a high level of violence.

In some parts of the country, military, navy and federal police forces have been deployed to combat organized crime and improve security conditions. They maintain a visible presence by patrolling the streets, setting up roadblocks and conducting random vehicle checks.

BORDERS AND SURROUNDING AREAS

We strongly recommend travelling to Mexico by air to avoid international land border crossings, particularly along the border with the United States. If crossing an international land border, use only official border crossings. Confrontations between organized criminal groups and Mexican authorities continue to pose a risk in border areas. Shootouts, attacks and illegal roadblocks may occur without warning. Exercise heightened caution when crossing state borders within Mexico, as border areas often see higher criminal activity and violence; including in rural areas.

WESTERN STATES

Criminal activity is high in the states of:

  • Colima
  • Guerrero
  • Jalisco
  • Michoacán
  • Nayarit

Illegal roadblocks and demonstrations are common. The deterioration of the security situation is particularly noticeable in the rural areas of Guerrero and Michoacán.

KIDNAPPINGS

Mexico has one of the highest kidnapping rates in the world.

Kidnappers target both the wealthy and middle class. Canadian citizens and contractors working for Canadian businesses have been kidnapped mostly in areas that are not under police and security forces control.

  • If you are kidnapped, comply with the kidnappers’ requests
  • Do not attempt to resist

EXPRESS KIDNAPPINGS

Express kidnappings occur in large urban areas. They are a method of abduction where criminals ask for a small and immediate ransom.

Thieves most commonly work in cooperation with, or pose as, taxi drivers. They force victims to use their debit or credit card to withdraw money from ATMs in exchange for their release.

  • Only use a reputable taxi company or a trusted ride-sharing app
  • Book taxis through your hotel or an authorized taxi centre

VIRTUAL KIDNAPPINGS

Virtual kidnappings also occur in Mexico.

This is a form of extortion where criminals steal a cell phone and then contact the victim’s family claiming that their loved one has been kidnapped. They then demand an immediate ransom for the release. Unable to reach their loved one, the family members assume that the person has been kidnapped.

Criminals use various means of gathering information about potential victims, including using social media sites or eavesdropping on conversations.

  • Do not discuss travel plans, your room number or any other personal information within earshot of strangers
  • Do not divulge personal business details to strangers in person or over the phone, especially when using hotel phones
  • If you are threatened on the phone, hang up immediately

THEFT

PETTY THEFT

Petty crime, such as pickpocketing and purse snatching, occurs in Mexico.

  • Be aware of your surroundings at all times, even in areas normally considered safe
  • Ensure that your belongings, including your passport and other travel documents, are secure at all times
  • Avoid showing signs of affluence, such as flashy jewelry
  • Carry only small amounts of money
  • Be cautious when withdrawing cash from ATMs

VIOLENT THEFT

Armed robbery occurs.

Foreigners have been targets of robberies that sometimes involve assault. Robbers will follow a victim after they exchange or withdraw money at airports, currency exchange bureaus (casas de cambio) or ATMs.

  • Stay in hotels and resorts with good security
  • If you are threatened by robbers, stay calm and do not resist
  • Avoid withdrawing or exchanging money in public areas of the airport

HOME BREAK-INS

Tourists staying in rental homes have been the victims of break-ins and burglaries. Whether you are staying in private or commercial accommodations, make sure you lock windows and doors securely at night and when you are away.

FRAUD

Credit card and ATM fraud occurs in Mexico. Be cautious when using debit or credit cards:

  • pay careful attention when your cards are being handled by others
  • use ATMs located in well-lit public areas or inside a bank or business
  • avoid using card readers with an irregular or unusual feature
  • cover the keypad with one hand when entering your PIN
  • check for any unauthorized transactions on your account statements

More about overseas fraud

SCAMS

Legitimate police officers have extorted money from tourists or arrested tourists for minor offences or traffic violations. Travellers driving rental cars have been targeted.

If this occurs:

  • Don’t hand over your money or your passport
  • Ask for the officer’s name, badge and patrol car number
  • Ask for a copy of the written fine, which is payable at a later date

ASSAULT

Canadians travellers have been physically and sexually assaulted. In some cases, hotel employees, taxi drivers and security personnel at popular tourist destinations were involved.

  • Avoid walking after dark, especially alone
  • Avoid isolated or deserted areas
  • Stay in hotels and resorts with good security
  • Avoid excessive alcohol consumption

In cases of sexual assault, police authorities will order a medical examination.

WOMEN’S SAFETY

Women travelling alone may be subject to some forms of harassment and verbal abuse.

Some incidents of assault, rape and sexual aggression against Canadian women have occurred, including at beach resorts and on public buses. 

  • Exercise caution when dealing with strangers or recent acquaintances
  • Be wary of rides or other invitations
  • Avoid excessive alcohol consumption

Safe-travel guide for women

SPIKED FOOD AND DRINKS

Never leave food or drinks unattended or in the care of strangers. Be wary of accepting snacks, beverages, gum or cigarettes from new acquaintances. These items may contain drugs that could put you at risk of sexual assault and robbery.

UNREGULATED ALCOHOL

Counterfeit alcohol could be served in bars, restaurants and resorts. Some travellers have reported getting sick or blacking out after drinking alcohol.

  • Be cautious if you choose to drink alcohol
  • Seek medical assistance if you begin to feel sick

Alcohol, drugs and travel

BALCONIES

Height standards for balcony railings in Mexico can be considerably lower than those in Canada. Falls have resulted in deaths and injuries.

  • Exercise caution when standing close to balcony railings
  • Avoid excessive alcohol consumption

DEMONSTRATIONS

Demonstrations take place regularly throughout the country. It is illegal under the Mexican constitution for foreigners to participate in political demonstrations. Offenders may be detained, deported and denied re-entry into the country.

Protests and roadblocks are common in Mexico City, including to and from the airport, and in the states of Chiapas, Guerrero, Michoacán and Oaxaca. Such incidents may last a long time, leading to shortages of fresh food, medicine and gasoline. They can also lead to disruptions to traffic and public transportation.

  • Avoid areas where demonstrations and large gatherings are taking place
  • Follow the instructions of local authorities
  • Monitor local media for information on ongoing demonstrations

More about mass gatherings (large-scale events)

WATER ACTIVITIES

Coastal waters can be dangerous. Riptides are common.

Many beaches do not offer warnings of dangerous conditions and they don’t always have lifeguards on duty.

Rescue services may not be consistent with international standards. Several drownings occur each year.

Water safety abroad

RENTALS

Many operators do not conduct regular safety checks on their sporting and aquatic equipment. Also, Canadians have been involved in accidents where operators of recreational vehicles, such as watercrafts, have demanded compensation exceeding the value of the damage caused to the vehicle or equipment.

  • Ensure that sporting and aquatic equipment is safe and in good condition, especially for scuba diving.

ROAD SAFETY

Road conditions and road safety can vary greatly throughout the country. Dangerous curves, poorly marked or hidden road signs, construction sites, roaming livestock, slow-moving or abandoned vehicles and other obstacles pose hazards. Toll highways are typically safer and better maintained than secondary highways. Mexican driving styles are very different from those in Canada. Many drivers do not respect traffic laws; which are not strictly enforced by police. Drivers often drive at excessive speeds and may be aggressive or reckless. Drinking and driving laws are not strictly enforced. Accidents causing fatalities are common. Police do not regularly patrol the highways.

Heavily armed gangs have attacked travellers on intercity highways. Criminals especially target sport utility vehicles and full-size pickup trucks for theft and carjacking.

The military searches for drugs and firearms at military checkpoints throughout the country.

  • Avoid road travel at night between cities throughout the country
  • Ensure that you only stop in major centres, at reputable hotels or at secure campsites.
  • Keep your car doors locked and the windows closed, especially at traffic lights
  • Avoid hitchhiking which is not a common practice in Mexico
  • Do not leave valuables in the vehicle
  • Rent cars that do not have stickers or other advertisements for the rental company on them
  • Ensure operators provide insurance and helmets if renting scooters
  • Always ask the dispatcher for the driver’s name and the taxi’s license plate number, model and colour
  • Consider traveling on toll roads, which lowers the risk of targeted roadblocks and robberies

PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION

Public transportation is relatively safe. Remain vigilant in airports, at bus stations and on buses.

METRO

The Mexico City metro is often very crowded and a popular place for pickpocketing. There are metro cars located at the front of the trains dedicated to women and children during rush hours.

BUSES

When travelling to other cities, use bus companies that offer first or executive class transportation. These buses only travel on toll roads, which lower the risks of targeted roadblocks and robberies.

TAXIS

In Mexico City, all government-authorized taxis have licence plates starting with “A” or “B.” Taxis from designated stands have both the logo of their company and the plate number stamped on the side of the car.

When arriving at an airport in Mexico, pre-pay the taxi fare inside the airport and ask to see the driver’s official identification. You can also hire a taxi from a reputable online transportation network company.

  • Avoid hailing taxis on the street
  • Use reputable taxi companies only or a trusted ride-sharing app

AIR TRAVEL

We do not make assessments on the compliance of foreign domestic airlines with international safety standards.

General information about foreign domestic airlines