If you’re fancying a trip to Mexico and want to know where to avoid, this post will help you!
Let’s be clear, though, danger can be on any corner of the globe and despite its reputation, being in Mexico is no more dangerous than being in the U.S. 99% of the time.
That said, it’s still good to know where the danger hotspots are so you can be mindful of where you visit and what you do if you go there.
Most dangerous places in Mexico
Here are the places that are generally considered to be the most dangerous in Mexico.
Tijuana is one of Mexico’s largest cities and, being on the U.S. border, means it sees a lot of transit.
We’ve even mentioned Tijuana border crossing in our post about visiting Valle de Guadalupe.
Unfortunately, Tijuana does have a bad rep.
If you’re familiar with the song ‘Welcome to Tijuana’ by Manu Chao, it’s not advertized in a good light either:
- “Welcome to Tijuana, Tequila, sexo, marihuana, (Welcome to Tijuana, tequila, sex and marijuana)”
- “Miren los basureros (look at the rubbish dumps)”
- “Y el mal gobierno pone cárceles y tumbas (and the bad government put prisons and graves)”
- “y el mal gobierno se llena de criminales y asesinos (and the bad government is filled with criminals and murderers)”
Does this mean you should avoid Tijuana at all costs?
No. Though there is a strong cartel presence in this city compared to other Mexican cities, you’re not particularly at risk.
The cartels aren’t looking out to kill random tourists!
The biggest risk here is petty crime – pickpocketing and scams.
So, while you’re unlikely to get murdered, Tijuana still isn’t the safest place for tourists. With due care and attention, there’s no reason why you can’t visit this place.
After all, it has an incredible craft brewery and food scene.
2. The Texan Border
So far, we seem to be focusing on the Mexican-U.S. border.
Unfortunately, one of the most dangerous places in Mexico is the border with Texas.
The border areas are prime locations for cartels looking to get illicit products over the border.
Because of this, there’s a higher concentration of dangerous people here and a higher murder rate as a result.
What’s more, there have been many accidental killings, including a few stories of American families being gunned down mistakenly by the Mexican cartel believing them to be rival gang members.
Should you avoid the area altogether?
If you’re passing through the border during the day and heading on to a major city, you’re probably going to be fine.
Passing through at night and not sticking to tourist spots might lead you into hot water.
What was once the most glamorous of destinations in the Americas, Acapulco hasn’t maintained its good reputation.
A Hollywood playground once upon a time, it’s now known for its crime and violence, and bodies washing up on its beautiful beaches.
All of this has meant tourism isn’t so big here as it once was.
Has much changed recently?
Quite possibly. Though, it will likely take time for it to recover its reputation.
There was a long period of time when you really should have avoided Acapulco as gangs took over and turned it into a warzone.
Nowadays, though, the tourist areas are springing up again and as long as you don’t visit the slums, you’ll be fine.
Sinaloa state is home to the infamous Sinaloa Cartel, the well-known criminal syndicate that made the drug lord “El Chapo” famous.
As such, the State of Sinaloa has a bad reputation for being home to one of the world’s most dangerous criminal organizations.
Does this mean you should avoid it completely? Not necessarily.
The state covers 22,500 square miles and calling this whole area dangerous is a broad generalization.
Sinaloa has some very safe areas. Mazatlán on the coast, is an example of a really safe place.
5. Ciudad Juarez
We’re back up the Texan border and this time, in Ciudad Juarez, just across from El Paso.
In the past, the city was notorious for being like it was in a warzone with huge amounts of indiscriminate violence.
It also had one of the world’s highest murder rates – it even peaked higher than the city of Damascus during the Civil War in Syria.
Is it still that bad? Not really.
Though Ciudad Juarez does still have its problems, it is much safer than it used to be. Provided that you don’t go out after dark and you’re on your guard, you’ll be fine.
6. Mexico City
The sheer size of Mexico City means that you’re bound to find places to avoid.
It’s the 2nd largest city in the whole of the Americas and so it’s hard to talk about it as a whole and better to talk about its parts.
Like all large cities, there are places you’ll be much safer than others.
Places like Polanco, the Historic Center, Hipodromo, Condesa, and Roma, are fine for tourists.
These places are just like other big cities in North America or Europe.
Avoiding the areas with a bad reputation is best. You can make yourself even safer by using the subway or Uber to get around. Buses aren’t considered to be as safe.
Final thoughts on the most dangerous places in Mexico
Let’s be clear, Mexico has some dangerous places.
But as a tourist, you’re highly unlikely to encounter problems and danger provided that you’re sensible and don’t go around places you shouldn’t.
Mexico relies heavily on tourism for its economy and so you’ll find the tourist hotspots very safe and welcoming.
Do what you’d normally do when visiting any city: have your wits about you and don’t go out alone at night.
Finally, if you’re just going to be worried about your safety all of the time, it’s perhaps not the best destination for a trip!