|Still current at: 25 April 2011
Updated: 07 April 2011
This advice has been reviewed and reissued with amendments to the Travel Summary (earthquake on 7 April) and Entry Requirements (Departure Tax). The overall level of the advice has not changed; we advise against all but essential travel to Ciudad Juarez.
(see travel advice legal disclaimer)
At 08:11 local time Thursday 7 April (14:11 GMT) an earthquake measuring 6.7 hit Mexico. We have not received reports of serious damage. But would advise any British nationals affected by the earthquake to contact the British Embassy in Mexico City (+52) (55) 1670 3200).
We advise against all but essential travel to Ciudad Juarez, where there is a high level of drug-related violence and criminal activity. British nationals should also be aware there has also 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 Ciudad Juarez, Nuevo Laredo, Reynosa and in Tampico - you should exercise caution in these areas. See Safety and Security -
and Safety and Security -
Street crime is on the increase. Around 100 cases of stolen passports are reported to the Embassy every year. Dress down and avoid wearing expensive jewellery or watches. 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. The majority of crimes involving taxis in Mexico City occur in Ixtapalapa.
Theft on buses is also common; only use them during daylight hours and then only first-class buses if possible. There have been several reports of bus hijackings and robberies on toll roads ("de cuota"), but 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. Most first-class bus companies perform security checks when passengers' board buses, but 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. See our Rape and Sexual Assault Abroad page.
The vast majority of British businesses have not been prevented from operating in Mexico by the security situation although many Mexican and foreign businesses choose to hire private security. Business travellers should keep a close watch on their briefcases and luggage even 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 ATMs or exchanging money at a Bureau de Change; it is safer to limit withdrawals or currency exchanges to small sums, and to use ATMs only during daylight hours and inside shops or malls. Avoid ATMs when they are being refilled, as there has been a recent increase in the number of armed robberies during these transactions. 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 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.
Foreign visitors and residents can be targeted by scam artists. The scams come in many forms, and can pose great financial loss to victims. If you or your relatives or friends are asked to transfer money to Mexico make absolutely sure that it is not part of a scam and that you have properly checked with the person receiving the money that they are requesting it.
Exercise caution when accepting food, drinks or rides from strangers. Do not leave your food and drinks unattended in bars and restaurants. Cases of travellers being robbed or assaulted after being drugged have been reported.
Safety and Security - Kidnapping
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 cash point 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. Where practicable, you should try to be discreet about discussing your financial or business affairs in locations where you may be overheard by third parties.
Safety and Security - Serious Violence
Drug-related violence in Mexico has increased over the past year. In 2010, there were 15,273 victims of drug-related violence in Mexico compared with 9,614 in 2009. A detailed state-by-state breakdown of homicide figures can be found in a new official database on the Mexican Presidency website http://www.presidencia.gob.mx/?DNA=119 (in Spanish only).
Drug-related violence is a particular problem in the states of Chihuahua, Sinaloa, Sonora, Coahuila, Nuevo Leon, Tamaulipas, Durango, Baja California (Norte), Michoacán, Morelos and Guerrero. There has been an increase over the past 12 months in the number of crimes, murders, firefights and roadblocks linked to drug turf wars, including in areas away from the US border. The security situation is fluid and armed clashes between security forces and drug groups are commonplace in certain areas, and can occur at any time without warning.
Drug-related violence, however, is concentrated in specific areas in Mexico and some regions are almost completely spared. According to official figures, approximately 70% of the homicides committed since December 2006 have taken place in only 85 of the 2,438 municipalities around Mexico. At least 89% of the fatalities are suspected gang members killed in turf wars between the different organisations that compete for control of trafficking routes into the US.
Sporadic outbursts of politically motivated violence also occur from time to time in certain areas of the country, particularly in the southern states of Chiapas, Guerrero and Oaxaca. Travellers could get caught up in incidents.
You should seek advice from local contacts, avoid travel off the beaten track, stay abreast of media coverage of events in the areas, to or through which, you intend to travel, and ensure that trusted contacts are aware of your travel plans. Be aware of your surroundings at all times and of the risks of travelling to certain areas, and should include security measures in all of your travel plans. While British nationals are unlikely to be specifically targeted, there is a risk of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
See our Victims of Crime Abroad page.
Safety and Security - State- specific Guidance
Baja California (Norte)
There were over 470 drug-related murders in the state in the first six months of 2010, an increase of 69% on the same period last year. Media reporting indicates that 25% of murder victims in Tijuana are innocent bystanders. Public shootouts during daylight hours in shopping centres and other public venues as well as large firefights have occurred in Tijuana.
Sporadic outbursts of politically-motivated violence occur from time to time in Chiapas. You should exercise caution if you visit the highlands around San Cristobal de las Casas, the municipality of Ocosingo, and the jungle area towards the Guatemalan border, and should not venture off main roads without seeking local advice. Due to local land disputes, you may encounter unofficial roadblocks, including on main roads, manned by local groups, who are generally seeking money for an unofficial local toll.
Because of the escalating violence in Ciudad Juarez, we advise against all but essential travel to Ciudad Juarez. Over 6,000 people have lost their lives in drug-related violence in the city since December 2006.
Foreign visitors and residents have been among the victims of violent, drug related incidents in this region.
On 15 July 2010, a car bomb containing 22lbs of explosives was detonated in Ciudad Juarez, killing two police officers and two medics, and injuring at least 16 other people. Police suspect the attack was carried out by drug cartel members.
On 13 March 2010, two US citizens and one Mexican citizen connected with the US Consulate in Ciudad Juarez were shot dead.
Coah uila /Durango
The area known as “La Laguna” in the state of Coahuila, which includes the city of Torreon, has experienced sharp increases in violence.
On 18 July 2010, an attack on a party in the northern Mexican city of Torreon left 17 people dead and more than a dozen injured. Torreon has seen a number of violent attacks, many of which are carried out in bars and restaurants. We advise British Citizens to be particularly vigilant when they are socialising in bars and restaurants in Torreon, and to avoid large social gatherings.
We advise British nationals travelling in this area to maintain extreme vigilance, and to avoid travelling at night.
The cities of Durango and Gomez Palacio in the state of Durango have experienced sharp increases in violence, including in popular restaurants and bars.
Guerrero (including Acapulco)
There continues to be a high level of drug-related murders and violent acts in Acapulco and the state of Guerrero more generally. Sporadic outbursts of politically motivated violence occur from time to time in Guerrero.
On 18 and 19 February 2011, nine taxi drivers and three passengers were killed in various incidents in Acapulco which occurred outside the city's tourist area. It is not known whether the passengers were specifically targeted or if they were victims of drug-related violence directed at the taxi drivers.
On 8-9 January 2011, 26 people were killed in Acapulco in drug-related violence, including 15 young men whose decapitated bodies were dumped outside a shopping mall in Llano Largo, away from the central tourist areas.
In mid October 2010, a group of 20 young male Mexicans described as tourists were kidnapped a few blocks from the main coastal tourist area. 18 bodies were subsequently discovered on 6 November 2010.
On 15 June 2010, 15 people were shot dead in a gun battle in Taxco between a drug cartel and Mexican Armed Forces.
On 22 January 2011, one police officer was killed and three others were injured in an explosion in which a car was detonated in the town of Tula. Officials believe the explosion was a retaliatory act by a local drug cartel following the deaths of two of its members in a police shootout.
Guadalajara - Mexico's second largest city - has seen a sharp rise in drug-related violence in recent months. In early February 2011, a series of road blockades were set up in various sections of the Guadalajara metropolitan area. The blockades consisted of buses, trucks and cars being forcibly commandeered by drug cartel members and set on fire. One of the blockades was installed on the Chapala highway between Guadalajara and the international airport.
Due to the increasing violence in the Guadalajara metropolitan area, you should avoid travelling between the hours of midnight and 0600 and should remain vigilant and aware of your surroundings at all times.
On 12 February 2011, six people were killed and at least 20 people wounded in a shooting and grenade attack at the Butter Club nightclub in Guadalajara. Unidentified gunmen fired bullets into the bar and threw a hand grenade before driving away. Police believe the attackers had entered into an earlier dispute with other drinkers.
According to local authorities, a grenade exploded in the Pink Cheladas bar located near the intersection of Francisco Villa and Las Gaviotas avenues in Puerto Vallarta on 26 August 2010. We understand that a number of people in the bar were injured in the explosion, some seriously. The police do not however, believe that the explosion was intentional – but rather an accidental detonation by a patron who was carrying a grenade on his person.
High levels of violence and disruption were experienced in several locations across the State of Michoacan throughout the day on 9 December 2010 due to armed clashes between federal security officials and drug cartel members.
On 14 June 2010, gunmen killed 12 federal agents in an ambush in Zitacuaro.
There are high levels of organised crime in Michaocan. Exercise caution in remote rural areas and major cities such as Morelia. Incidents have occurred on major highways so caution should be exercised when travelling by road.
There has been an increase in drug-related violence mainly concentrated around Cuernavaca.
The number of drug-related murders in Nayarit has increased dramatically over the past year. In the first six months of 2010, there were over 100 murders in the state, a 489% increase on the same period last year.
In May 2010 there was a multi-vehicle carjacking incident along the highway between Tepic and Puerta Vallarta involving an armed gang. One of the carjacking victims was shot.
Nuevo Leon (including Monterrey)
There has been a recent increase in violent incidents and gun battles taking place in and around the city of Nuevo Laredo, to the north of Monterrey. There have also been incidents where drug trafficking organizations have set up vehicle “checkpoints” and roadblocks leading to an increase in car-jackings in Monterrey and other major cities in the state, including on the main road to Monterrey airport. There have also been similar “checkpoints” set up on the major highways in the state, including on the motorways to Nuevo Laredo and in other border areas in the state of Nuevo Leon.
Due to increasing violence in the Monterrey metropolitan area, you should avoid travelling between the hours of midnight and 0600 and should remain vigilant and aware of your surroundings at all times.
On 17 January 2011, six people were killed - including two bystanders - during a shootout between rival gang members in front of a convenience store in Monterrey. According to security officials, cartel-related violence has already accounted for 63 killings in Monterrey in 2011 (up to and including January 18). All but one of the victims was either cartel-related individuals or law enforcement officials.
In October 2010 a civilian was killed in crossfire during a shoot-out at a shopping mall in the centre of Monterrey.
Visitors should be aware there have been recent grenade attacks against police and government security officers in Monterrey. An attack in the municipality of Guadalupe in Monterrey on 2 October 2010 resulted in a dozen civilian injuries.
On 20 August 2010, a criminal group and a security detail from a leading company were involved in a shootout outside the American School Foundation in Monterrey. Two of the security detail from the company were killed in the incident. You should remain alert to any suspicious activity near schools or colleges in light of the current security situation in Monterrey. Two elected officials (local mayors) have been assassinated in the State of Nuevo Leon this year.
Sporadic outbursts of politically motivated violence occur from time to time in Oaxaca. A convoy of human rights activists were ambushed near the town of San Juan Copala in Oaxaca on 27 April 2010. Two members of the convoy were killed. An investigation is ongoing and the Mexican Authorities caution against travel to the area.
Quintana Roo (including Cancun & Riviera Maya)
On June 19 2010 police found 12 bodiesinside sink hole caves near Cancun. Local law enforcement authorities suggest that these are the result of drug-related killings.
San Luis Potosi
On 15 February 2011, two US immigration and customs agents were shot - one fatally - in an attack on their car near the city of San Luis Potosi. US officials state that the agents were driving along Highway 57 between Mexico City and Monterrey. The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) is working with Mexican authorities to investigate the shooting.
There has been a notable spike in the number of robberies, murders, thefts and car-jackings in Sinaloa over the past year. In the first six months of 2010 there were over 1,040 drug-related murders in Sinoloa.
There have been several incidents of vehicles on Highway 15 in Sinaloa being stopped at checkpoints and money being extorted. One of these incidents also led to a sexual assault on a female passenger. All of these incidents occurred at night. The Head of Public Security for Sinaloa State has advised Mexican Citizens to travel in convoy on the Pacific Highway where possible. We advise British Citizens to exercise caution along this route, to travel in convoy where possible and to avoid travelling at night.
In the first six months of 2010, there were over 280 drug-related murders in Sonora. The crossings at Nogales and Agua Prieta in Sonora are known drug routes into the US, and should be treated with extreme caution.
There has been a recent increase in violent incidents and gun battles taking place in and around the cities of Nuevo Laredo, Reynosa, Matamoros, and in and around Tampico. There have also been incidents where drug trafficking organizations have set up vehicle “checkpoints” and roadblocks leading to an increase in car-jackings in the cities and on the highways, including on the motorways to Reynosa and in other border areas in the state of Tamaulipas.
A Mexican politician who was running for governor in Tamaulipas and who had made the fight against drug-related violence his central campaign promise was shot dead along with a number of his supporters by gunmen near Ciudad Victoria on 28 June 2010.
Safety and Security - Sea travel
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.
Shark attacks are relatively rare in Mexico. However, caution should be taken in coastal areas, particularly when surfing.
For more general information see River and Sea Safety.
Safety and Security - Political Situation
Mexico Country Profile
Millions of foreign visitors, including approximately 250,000 British nationals safely visit Mexico each year. This includes tens of thousands who cross the border with the US every day for study, tourism or business and at least one million foreign residents who live in Mexico. The Mexican government makes a considerable effort to protect foreign visitors to major tourist destinations. Resort areas and tourist destinations in Mexico do not see the levels of drug-related violence and crime reported in the border region and in areas along major drug trafficking routes. Nevertheless, crime and violence are serious problems. While most victims of violence are Mexican citizens associated with criminal activity, the security situation poses serious risks for British nationals as well. See the travel advice for individual states.
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.
Tourists are not permitted to undertake voluntary (including Human Rights) work, or activity, or any form of paid employment. If you wish to carry out this type of work it is essential that you obtain the correct visa. Your nearest Mexican Embassy can provide further information.
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. See our Your trip page.
Entry Requirements - Visas
If you are visiting Mexico as a tourist you do not need a visa, but you do need a tourist card which can be obtained by completing an immigration form available at border crossings or onboard flights to Mexico. Alternatively they can be obtained from Mexican Consulates prior to travel.
Tourists are not permitted to undertake voluntary (including Human Rights) work, or activity, or any form of paid employment. If you wish to carry out this type of work it is essential that you obtain the correct visa. Your nearest Mexican Embassy can provide further information.
Certain adventure or eco-tourism activities (e.g. 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, check carefully with the Mexican Embassy well in advance of your visit and request written confirmation if necessary.
Entry Requirements - Passport validity
Your passport should be valid for at least six months from the intended date of entry.
E ntry Requirements - Travelling with children
It is no longer a requirement 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.
Entry Requirements - Travelling to or via the US
British nationals 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://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.
The US Government does not currently accept British Emergency Travel Documents without a visa. If you lose your passport and need emergency travel documentation, contact the British Embassy in Mexico City as soon as possible.
On 30 July 2010, the US Federal aviation administration (FAA) downgraded its air safety rating for Mexico from Class 1 to Class 2, indicating that it is not in compliance with international standard. The downgrading is believed to be because of concerns over the number of aviation inspectors that the Mexican Aviation authority employs to ensure safety minimums are being met.
Until the downgrade is lifted, code sharing between US and Mexican airlines is discontinued and travellers with existing tickets are advised to verify their travel plans with travel agents and airlines.
Further information can be found on the FCO’s US Travel Advice.
Health - Malaria
Malaria is common in low-lying rural areas of Mexico and outbreaks can occur throughout the year. Take all precautions against mosquito bites whenever possible.
Health - Dengue
Dengue fever is common to Latin America and the Caribbean and can occur throughout the year. Dengue is a mosquito-borne infection that causes a severe flu-like illness, and sometimes a potentially lethal complication called dengue haemorrhagic fever. Global incidence of dengue has grown dramatically in recent decades.
Dengue is found in tropical and sub-tropical climates worldwide, mostly in urban and semi-urban areas. There is no specific treatment for dengue, but appropriate medical care frequently saves the lives of patients with the more serious dengue haemorrhagic fever.
The only way to prevent Dengue virus transmission is to avoid being bitten by the disease-carrying mosquitoes. For more information on prevention, see the National Health website pages http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/dengue/Pages/Introduction.aspx
Health - Trichinellosis
There have been reports of an upsurge of Trichinellosis in Oaxaca. Trichinellosis is caused by eating raw or undercooked meat of infected animals. Nausea, diarrhoea, vomiting, fatigue, fever, and abdominal discomfort are the first symptoms of Trichinellosis. Infection occurs commonly in certain wild carnivorous (meat-eating) animals but may also occur in domestic pigs. The outbreak in Oaxaca has been found in domestic pigs.
To avoid this disease, ensure meat products are well-cooked. If you think you may have contracted this disease you should contact a health professional immediately.
Health - Rickettsia
The Ministry of Public Health of Sonora State reported a total of 44 people have been infected with Rickettsia in Sonora in 2010. Most of the cases have appeared in the south of the state. This strain of the disease, which can be fatal, is spread by the bite of lice, tick, flea and mite, carried by household pets such as dogs and cats.
Health - General health in Mexico
Hygiene standards vary in Mexico. Drink or use only boiled or bottled water and avoid ice in drinks. If you suffer from diarrhoea during a visit to Mexico seek immediate medical attention. Exercise caution before purchasing food and unbottled drinks from street vendors.
On arrival in Mexico City and other high altitude areas, you may feel a lack of energy, shortness of breath or headaches. Allow for a short period of adjustment when making your travel plans.
In the 2008 Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic the UNAIDS/WHO Working Group estimated that around 200,000 adults aged 15 or over in Mexico were living with HIV; the prevalence rate was estimated at around 0.3% of the adult population. This compares to the prevalence rate in adults in the UK of around 0.2%. You should exercise normal precautions to avoid exposure to HIV/AIDS. See our HIV and AIDS page.
Seek medical advice before travelling to Mexico and ensure that all appropriate vaccinations are up-to-date. For further information on vaccination requirements, health outbreaks and general disease protection and prevention you should visit the websites of the National Travel Heath Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) and NHS Scotland's Fit For Travel or call NHS Direct on 0845 46 47.
See our Travel Health page.
General - Consular Assistance Statistics
238,095 British Nationals visited Mexico in 2009 (Source: Instituto Nacional de Migración). 85 British nationals required consular assistance in Mexico in the period 1 April 2009 - 31 March 2010 for the following types of incident: 20 deaths; 26 hospitalisations; and 23 arrests, for a variety of offences. During this period assistance was also requested with regard to lost or stolen passports (83 cases).
General - Language
English is not widely spoken outside the main cities. Basic Spanish phrases are essential.
General - Safety in hotels
Building specifications are different in Mexico. In some hotels, balcony balustrades may not be at the same height as you would find in the UK or elsewhere in Europe and there is a risk of falling.
General - Purchasing property
Before buying property in Mexico, you should seek advice from a reputable and professionally qualified lawyer.
General - Money
American Dollar travellers' cheques and notes are more easily exchanged throughout Mexico than sterling equivalents. But UK debit and credit cards are widely accepted, including by ATMs. It is not possible to exchange American dollars in cash at hotel receptions – this can only be done at banks and Bureaux de Change. See the Crime section of this travel advice for more details about using ATMs and Bureaux de Change.