If you’re planning to head to Mexico for spring break, you’ll want to pay attention to the U.S government’s latest travel advisory.
Travelers are encouraged to exercise increased caution in some areas, including several that are popular with Texans such as Cabo San Lucas, Cancun and Cozumel, and avoid others spots altogether.
The travel advisory issued this winter says violent crime such as homicide, kidnapping, carjacking and robbery is widespread and some areas of the country have an increased risk. There are also additional restrictions for government employees in some areas.
The country as a whole has a level 2 rating from the U.S. Department of State, meaning Americans should “exercise increased caution” because of crime concerns. An additional 11 of Mexico’s 31 states have a level 3 warning, which urges people to “reconsider travel” and five have a level 4 or “do not travel” warning.
States under the level 2 warning include Aguascalientes, Chiapas, Guanajuato, Hidalgo, Mexico City, Puebla, Queretaro, Tlaxcala, Veracruz and Tabasco.
The same level applies to Baja California Sur, the state with the tourist areas of Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo and the second-highest homicide rate — 61.6 per 100,000. Also under a level 2 warning: Baja California, where Tijuana is located, and Quintana Roo, which includes Cancun, Cozumel, Playa del Carmen, Tulum and the Riviera Maya.
Baja California state as well as Baja California Sur and Quintana Roo have had an increase in homicide rates compared to the same period in 2016, officials have said.
Most of those slayings appear to have been targeted and the result of turf battles and assassinations between criminal groups, but bystanders have been injured or killed, according to the advisory.
In some areas, such as Campeche and Yucatan states, travelers have been warned that police presence and emergency response is “extremely limited” outside of the state capital, the advisory says.
Travelers are encouraged to reconsider trips to Chihuahua, Coahuila, Durango, Estado de Mexico, Jalisco, Morelos, Nayarit, Nuevo Leon, San Luis Potosi, Sonora and Zacatecas because of crime.
Jalisco is home to the city of Guadalajara, the Puerto Vallarta resorts and the lakeside expat communities of Chapala and Ajijic.
U.S. citizens have been told not to travel to the states of Sinaloa, Tamaulipas, Michoacán, Guerrero and Colima, according to the advisory.
Previously, the State Department had discouraged travel to all or part of those states, but the new warnings are sterner, placing them on the highest level of potential danger.
U.S. government employees are prohibited from traveling to Guerrero state, including to Acapulco, where armed groups maintain roadblocks and may use violence toward travelers.
In Tamaulipas, violent crime is common and gang activity is widespread. Armed criminal groups target public and private buses traveling through the state, often taking passengers hostage and demanding ransom, the advisory said.
Colima has seen homicides skyrocket in recent years due to the growth of the Jalisco New Generation drug cartel, and the state now has Mexico’s highest homicide rate, with 83.3 killings per 100,000 residents, according to figures for the first 11 months of 2017.
People who decide to travel to Mexico should use toll roads when possible and avoid driving at night, be cautious when visiting local bars, nightclubs and casinos, don’t display signs of wealth, and be extra vigilant when visiting banks and ATMs.
Travelers are also told to enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program to receive alerts and make it easier for officials to locate you in an emergency, read crime and safety reports for the country and follow the U.S. State Department on social media.
For the full advisory and additional details about the various risks and restrictions, visit the State Department website.
In August, the State Department advised visitors to exercise caution. But the country’s tourism minister Enrique de la Madrid said then that the warning and figures the advisory was based on didn’t tell the entire story, especially of safety in tourist destinations.
Madrid said that the U.S. advisories covering Mexican states are overly broad and aren’t tourism-focused.
“We take these warnings very seriously,” he said then. “Mexico is a safe country to visit … it is a welcoming place. And we’re working on our issues, but those issues don’t relate to the risk of a foreign tourist in Mexico.”