- We advise against all but essential travel to Ciudad Juarez and immediate surrounding areas. There has been a recent increase in violent incidents in the northern states of Chihuahua, Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas, including in and around the border areas of Cuidad Juarez, Nuevo Laredo and Reynose. The situation in Ciudad Juarez has worsened significantly, with a particular increase in drug related crime.
- There has also been a rise in car-jackings in the Monterrey metropolitan area and highways leading to the border areas. You should be particularly aware of increased risks outside of peak hours. For more informaton see the Crime and Road Travel sections of this Travel Advice.
- Most visits to Mexico are trouble-free, but crime and kidnappings continue. You should be particularly alert in tourist areas (especially on public transport and when dealing with real or purported policemen) and exercise caution when exchanging or withdrawing money.
- The hurricane season in Mexico normally runs from June to November and can affect both the Pacific and Atlantic coasts. You should monitor weather reports and follow the advice of the local authorities as appropriate. See the Natural Disasters (Hurricanes) section of this Travel Advice and Tropical Cyclones .
- 238,095 British Nationals visited Mexico in 2009 (Source: Instituto Nacional de Migracion). 139 British nationals required consular assistance in Mexico in 2009 for the following types of incident: deaths (20 cases); hospitalisations (18 cases); and arrests, for a variety of offences (24 cases). During this period assistance was also requested with regard to lost or stolen passports (95 cases).
- There is a low threat from terrorism. But you should be aware of the global risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks, which could be in public areas, including those frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers. See the Terrorism section of this Travel Advice.
- We recommend that you obtain comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling. See the General (Insurance) section of this advice and Travel Insurance .
Safety and security
There is a low threat from terrorism. But you should be aware of the global risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks, which could be in public areas, including those frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers. For more general information see Terrorism Abroad.
Street crime is on the increase. Around 100 cases of stolen passports are reported to the Embassy every year. You should dress down and avoid wearing expensive jewellery or watches. You should be particularly alert on public transport, at airports, bus stations and tourist sites. Passengers have been robbed and/or assaulted by unlicensed taxi drivers, particularly in Mexico City. At airports, use only authorised prepaid airport taxi services. In Mexico City, use better regulated “sitio” taxis from authorised cab ranks.
Theft on buses is also common. All bus travel should be during daylight hours and on first-class buses if possible. Although there have been several reports of bus hijackings and robberies on toll roads (“de cuota”), buses on toll roads have a markedly lower rate of incidents than buses (second and third class) that travel the less secure free (“libre”) roads. Although most first-class bus companies perform security checks when passengers’ board buses, armed robberies of entire bus loads of passengers still occur. Be vigilant; watch your hand luggage. Long distance bus travellers should stay alert.
Women travelling on their own should be particularly alert. There have been incidents of rapes on urban buses (micros) on routes in the south of Mexico City. Most attacks have occurred early in the morning or late at night. A number of serious sexual offences have also occurred in tourist areas in Cancun. Care should be taken even in areas close to hotels, especially after dark.
Business travellers should keep a close watch on their briefcases and luggage at apparently secure locations such as the lobby of their hotel. Pick pocketing is common on the Mexico City Metro. Exercise caution when withdrawing money from cashpoints or exchanging money at a Bureau de Change. It is safer to limit withdrawals or currency exchanges to small sums, and to only use cashpoints during daylight hours and inside shops or malls. Be especially vigilant when leaving a Bureau de Change as there have been incidents of people being followed and attacked, particularly following withdrawals at Mexico City airport. Extra police have been drafted in to improve security at the airport as part of a recent government initiative to combat crime.
Be wary of strangers approaching you in person or contacting you by telephone, requesting personal information or financial help. They may be part of a scam operation. In particular, be wary of persons presenting themselves as police officers attempting to fine or arrest you for no apparent reason. There have been instances of visitors becoming victims of theft, extortion or sexual assault by persons who may or may not be police officers. When in doubt, ask for identification and if possible note the officer’s name, badge number, and patrol car number.
Exercise caution when accepting food, drinks or rides from strangers. You are advised not to leave your food and drinks unattended in bars and restaurants. Cases of travellers being robbed or assaulted after being drugged have been reported.
For more general information see Rape and Sexual Assault Abroad.
Short-term opportunistic kidnapping – called “express kidnapping” – continues in urban areas, particularly in Mexico City. Victims are required to withdraw funds from credit or debit cards at a cashpoint to obtain their release. Where victims have friends or relatives living locally, a ransom may be demanded from them.
Longer-term kidnapping for financial gain also occurs, and there have been allegations of complicity by police officers. You should be cautious and discrete about openly discussing your financial or business affairs.
Drug-related violence affects many states and is a particular problem in Sinaloa, Sonora, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo Leon, Tamaulipas, Baja California (Norte), Michoacán and Guerrero, including Acapulco.
Because of the escalating violence in Ciudad Juarez, we advise against all but essential travel to Ciudad Juarez and immediate surrounding areas.
Early in 2009, more than 1,500 Mexican troops moved into Cuidad Juarez on the US border, which is being fought over by rival drug gangs. Although not specifically targeted, foreign visitors and residents have been among the victims of violent, durg related incidents in this region, including the fatal shooting of two US citizens and one Mexican citizen connected with the US Consulate in Ciudad Juarez on 13 March 2010.
Nuevo Laredo, Reynose, Monterrey
There has been a recent increase in violent incidents and gun battles taking place in and around the cities of Nuevo Laredo and Reynosa, north and east of Monterrey. There have also been incidents where drug trafficking organizations have set up vehicle “checkpoints,” leading to an increase in car-jackings in the cities and on the highways, including on the motorways to Nuevo Laredo and Reynosa.
A review of recent violence suggests that, although criminal acts and violence can occur unexpectedly at any time, it may be safer to travel during the hours of morning and early afternoon.
In July 2009, the Government sent additional police and troops to Michoacán, in response to a series of co-ordinated attacks by cartels against state and federal forces. Travellers to the area should exercise caution and avoid large crowds and demonstrations.
There have been a high number of drug related murders in 2009-10, including the shooting of a number of high ranking, security officials in Mexico City. Attacks are aimed primarily at members of drug trafficking organisations. Mexican police forces, criminal justice officials, prominent Mexican citizens and journalists.
There were a number of attacks aimed at banking institutions in Mexico City in 2009, involving small explosives. The attacks have occurred in the early hours of the morning and are unlikely to affect customers, but we do advise British Citizens to be vigilant.
On 13 March 2010, at least 13 people were killed in an outbreak of drug related violence in the southern Mexican beach resort of Acapulco according to Mexican officals. Acapulco is one of Mexico’s biggests tourist resorts, but in recent years it has been the scene of violent turf wars between rival drug cartels. In June 2009, 18 people were killed iin a shootout between durg gangs and soldiers in the city.
You should stay abreast of media coverage of events in the areas through which you intend to travel.
For more general information see Victims of Crime Abroad.
Mexico Country Profile
Political demonstrations can occur across the country. These can be tense, confrontational and turn violent, and onlookers can be quickly drawn in. You should avoid all demonstrations and monitor local media.
The Mexican Constitution prohibits political activities by foreigners, and participation in activities such as demonstrations may result in detention and/or deportation.
You should exercise particular caution if you have to travel after dark, and keep away from isolated beaches, ruins or trails at all times.
There have been a recent number of unexpected and unpredictable demonstrations across the country particularly in Monterrey and northern border areas. Visitors to these areas should be aware of the potential for disruption to their travel plans and should ensure they follow the advice of local authorities.
There is still tension in parts of the state of Chiapas, where armed groups are present. If you visit the highlands around San Cristobal de las Casas and the municipality of Ocosingo and the jungle area towards the Guatemalan border, you should exercise caution, particularly where crowds are gathered, and should not venture off main roads without seeking local advice.
UK and International Driving licences are valid in Mexico.
The Mexican style of driving and standards are very different from the UK. Be prepared to stop unexpectedly, and beware of potholes, slow moving vehicles, vehicles changing lane without indicating and going through red lights. Many local drivers do not have any form of car insurance. Keep your car doors locked at all times and the windows shut, especially at traffic lights.
In order to reduce air pollution, Mexico City and some other regions of the country have introduced restrictions on driving such as forbidding cars from entering certain areas on particular days, based on their number plates. This applies equally to permanent, temporary and foreign plates. These regulations are strictly enforced and offenders face heavy fines and temporary confiscation of their vehicle.
There is an additional driving restriction in Mexico City, where vehicles without plates from the State of Mexico (Estado de Mexico) or the Federal District (DF) are not permitted to enter Mexico City from Monday to Friday, 05:00 to 11:00. For more information (only in Spanish) visit http://www.sma.df.gob.mx/.
Incidents of car-jackings have increased significantly in and around the San Pedro Garza Garcia and Monterrey areas in the state of Nuevo Leon. Reports indicate that over four dozen vehicles have been stolen by force in January 2010 alone. You should remain vigilant and be aware of your surroundings at all times. If surveillance is detected or suspected, you should call the local police, then proceed to a police station, fire station, or other public safehaven.
For more general information see Driving Abroad.
If you visit Mexican beach resorts, you should be aware that sports and aquatic equipment may not meet UK safety standards and may not be covered with any accident insurance. This applies particularly to scuba diving, parasailing and using jet-skis. Check that your own travel insurance covers these activities if you decide to rent equipment or take classes.
There were shark attacks along the Pacific coast in 2008. The three attacks, all involving surfers, took place close to Pantla and Troncones beaches near Zihuatanejo and approximately 150 miles from the Pacific resort of Acapulco. Two of the attacks were fatal, one involving a foreign tourist. Shark attacks are relatively rare in Mexico. However, caution should be taken in these coastal areas, particularly when surfing.
For more general information see River and Sea Safety.
Local laws and customs
Do not become involved with drugs of any kind. Penalties for drug offences are severe. Convictions carry very long sentences – up to 25 years. The police sometimes ask foreigners to show some form of identification. You may wish to carry photocopies of the relevant pages of your passport and important documents and leave the originals in a safe place.
Although civil unions between same sex partners are now legal in Mexico City and the state of Coahuila, homosexuality in Mexico is generally tolerated, rather than accepted. Public displays of affection between same sex couples may be frowned upon. For more general information for different types of travellers see Your trip.
If you are visiting Mexico as a tourist you do not need a visa. You do need a tourist card (known as the “FMT”), which can be obtained by completing an immigration form available at border crossings or onboard flights to Mexico. Alternatively they can be obtained at a Mexican Consulates prior to travel. Certain adventure or eco-tourism activities (eg caving, potholing, entomology) may also require visas, especially if they involve any scientific or technological research. Be aware that the Mexican authorities may define scientific or technological research activities far more broadly than other countries. If in any doubt, you should check carefully with the Mexican Embassy well in advance of your visit and request written confirmation if necessary.
Your passport should be valid for at least six months from the intended date of entry.
Travelling with children
Families with children should note that since January 2005, it is no longer required that minors travelling alone or with only one parent needing to have a notarised letter from their parents. Minors only need a valid passport to fulfil the general migration requirements applied to their nationality.
Travelling to or via the US
British citizens travelling to the US under the Visa Waiver Programme (VWP), which allows most British passport holders to visit the US for up to 90 days without a visa, must first get an authorisation via the Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA) prior to their journey. Visitors should register through the ESTA website at https:www.esta.cbp.dhs.gov and are advised to do so at least 72 hours prior to travel. If you do not have an ESTA you will be refused travel to the US.
Further information can be found on the FCO’s US Travel Advice.
Working in Mexico
Tourists are not permitted to undertake voluntary work or any form of paid employment. If you intend to work in Mexico you should obtain the proper visa before travelling.
You should not bring meat or dairy products to Mexico. The importation of these products from the EU is prohibited.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has raised its Pandemic Threat Alert phase to level 6. See the WHO website for further details.
The latest figures from the Mexican Ministry of Health show over 59,000 confirmed cases of (A)H1N1, with 452 deaths, since the outbreak in April. The highest number of cases has been recorded in Mexico City, followed by the states of Chiapas, Yucatan, Nuevo Leon and San Luis Potosi.
Travellers arriving at and departing from Mexican airports may be required to complete a health questionnaire detailing whether they are suffering any ‘flu-like symptoms. Travellers are also required to pass in front of a thermal imaging camera to check their body temperature.