Safety and security
- Drug-related violence in Mexico has increased over recent years, with homicide rates in 2017 the highest since record keeping began. The violence is concentrated in certain areas. Make sure you research your destination thoroughly.
- Due to high levels of violence, mainly linked to organised crime, we advise against non-essential travel to the states of Michoacán (except Morelia), Guerrero (except for Acapulco, Taxco and Ixtapa-Zihuatenejo), Colima (except Manzanillo), Chihuahua, Coahuila (except Saltillo), Durango, Nuevo Leon (except Monterrey), Sinaloa (except Mazatlán), Sonora (except Hermosillo and Guaymas/San Carlos) and Tamaulipas.
- Although tourists are not targeted directly, the popular tourist destinations of Acapulco, Los Cabos, Taxco, Tijuana and Zihuatenejo are now classified as amongst the most dangerous locations in Latin America due to their homicide rates.
- Visitors should not drive at night and should monitor the media and other local sources of information about security incidents and safety risks.
- Irish tourists or students who consider it necessary to visit Tijuana should remain in the Zona Río and Av. Revolución areas of the city and avoid the Zonas Norte and Oriente. There are high levels of crime in Rosarito.
- There have been a number of violent incidents on the main road between San Cristobel and Palenque, Chiapas, which have affected European tourists. Visitors should exercise extreme caution when visiting this area.
- Air travel should be favoured for travel to and within the northern border and Pacific states unless the safety of your preferred road route has been confirmed.
Demonstrations and protests
- Demonstrations and protests occur regularly throughout the country. Demonstrations and roadblocks are common in Mexico City (including to and from the airport) and in the states of Chiapas, Guerrero, Michoacán and Oaxaca. You should avoid demonstrations and follow the advice of the local authorities if you’re in an area where a protest is taking place.
- Protests and illegal road blocks have affected the Oaxaca-Puebla highway in the municipality of Nochixtlán and a number of people have been killed in violent clashes between police and protesters. Travel by road on the Oaxaca-Puebla highway is not advised until further notice and all but essential travel to Istmo de Tehuantepec should be avoided.
There is a high level of violent crime in Mexico. Pay close attention to your security at all times and monitor the media for information about possible new safety or security risks. Be aware that street crime is on the increase and take sensible precautions:
- Don’t carry your credit card, travel tickets and money together - leave spare cash and valuables in a safe place
- Don’t carry your passport unless absolutely necessary and leave a copy of your passport (and travel and insurance documents) with family or friends at home
- In general, you should withdraw or exchange money at automated banking machines or bureaux de change (casas de cambio) during daylight hours only, and inside shops and malls rather than on the street. Keep your credit card in sight when paying. It is safer to limit withdrawals or currency exchanges to small sums. Check no one has followed you after conducting your business
- Keep a close eye on your personal belongings and hold on to them in public places such as internet cafes, train and bus stations
- Avoid dark and unlit streets and stairways, arrange to be picked up or dropped off as close to your hotel or apartment entrance as possible
Kidnapping is a risk to be taken seriously, including in the main cities. Victims tend to be Mexican citizens rather than foreign tourists but basic precautions will reduce the risk of opportunistic targeting. For your own safety when travelling in Mexico, you should:
- Get advice from your local contacts about staying safe
- Follow advice below regarding use of taxis,, including in the main cities
- Be cautious and discreet about openly discussing your financial or business affairs
- Avoid travelling at night, particularly inter-city
- Avoid travelling alone
- When driving, ensure all car doors are locked and windows rolled up
- Vary your routes and departure times – avoid patterns which could be tracked
- Pay careful attention to local media for reports of kidnapping activities
There have been incidents of ‘express kidnappings’, where people are forced to withdraw funds from ATMs to secure their release. If you’re the victim of such an attack, you should comply with all the demands of the perpetrator.
- Although the threat from terrorism in Mexico is low, there is still a global risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks, which could be against civilian targets, including places frequented by tourists and expatriates.
Passengers have been robbed and/or assaulted by unlicensed taxi drivers, particularly in Mexico City. Do not hail taxis on the street. Either book taxis through Uber, hotels or by phoning a reputable taxi company, or taxis based at stands (sitios). At airports, use only authorised prepaid airport taxi services; official taxi company booths are located in the arrivals hall at airport terminals. It is strongly recommended not to accept water, food or sweets from taxi drivers in Mexico.
Assault and robbery
There have been reports of foreigners being violently targeted for assault and robbery at Benito Juarez International Airport in Mexico City. Victims are followed after exchanging or withdrawing money in the arrival areas the airport. We recommend that you avoid withdrawing or exchanging money in the public areas of the airport. If you need to do so, make sure your financial transactions are done before you leave the customs area. The Mexican public security authorities have set up the following dedicated telephone number to deal with reports of illegal or unusual activities in Benito Juarez International Airport - 01 52 55 5533 5533 (if calling from an Irish mobile phone) or 5533 5533 (if calling from a landline in Mexico City).
Pick-pocketing is common on the Mexico City Metro. Avoid travel during the rush hour if you can. Remain vigilant on long-distance bus journeys and pay attention to your hand luggage. It is advisable to use first-class bus services and travel during daylight. Crime levels on inter-city buses and on highways are high, and the risks increase after dark.
Lost or stolen passports
If your passport is lost or stolen, you’ll need to travel to the Embassy in Mexico City to get a replacement, which can take up to three weeks, due to time and distance factors. So please take extreme care with your passport and other personal documentation. Getting a replacement passport will be easier if you are able to provide a copy of the lost or stolen one, so keep photocopies of your passport.
You should be very cautious if approached by people who present themselves as police officers and try to fine or arrest you for no apparent reason. Visitors have become victims of theft, extortion or sexual assault by those who may or may not be police officers. When in doubt, ask for identification and if possible take note of the officer's name, badge number, and patrol car number. If you’re stopped in these circumstances, try to remain in a busy area.
Crossing the US-Mexico border
Students in the US on J1 visas are strongly advised against leaving and re-entering the United States during your J1, unless there are compelling reasons for doing so. Students have encountered particular difficulties crossing the US-Mexico border, which has sometimes led to deportation and an end to their J1 visa. This will permanently impact on your ability to travel to the US in the future. Participants in a J1 programme must also ensure that their sponsor permits temporary travel outside the United States while on a J1 programme.
If you travel to Mexico and lose your passport here, you may in real difficulty – immigration controls have tightened considerably and you won't be allowed re-enter the US without a valid machine readable passport. There is no Irish Consulate in Tijuana and Mexico City is a 3 hour flight away. Irish citizens who travel outside the US while participating in a J1 programme should expect to be subject to standard immigration procedures on re-entering the US.
There have been reports of kidnappings, muggings, and drink-spiking of people crossing from the US into Mexico – particularly the city of Tijuana. This type of crime appears to be increasing, and you should be extremely careful and avoid putting yourself in vulnerable situations. Be aware that alcohol and drugs can lead to you being less alert, less in control and less aware of your environment.
Reporting a crime
If you’re the victim of a crime in Mexico, report it immediately to the Agencia del Ministerio Público nearest to the crime scene – you’ll need to present photo identification. No criminal investigation is possible without a formal complaint to the authorities.
It’s especially important to report the loss or theft of your identification documents (to Mexican authorities and to the Irish Embassy in Mexico), in order to protect yourself should the documents later be misused at the scene of a crime. Minor fees may apply to get a copy of a document. For emergency services, dial 060 or 066.
And you can contact us at the Irish Embassy in Mexico City or the Honorary Consulate in Cancún if you need help.
Road conditions in Mexico vary and can be poor in some areas. Dangerous curves, poorly-marked signs and construction sites, roaming livestock, slow-moving or abandoned vehicles, and other obstacles pose hazards. Illegal roadblocks have been reported, particularly in the states of Guerrero, Oaxaca and Chiapas. If you’re driving in these states, travel during daylight hours and use toll roads, although you may still encounter disruptions.
Mexican styles of driving and road safety standards are very different from those in Ireland so be prepared for vehicles that fail to observe speed limits or indicate lane changes and that do not stop at red lights.
If you want to drive:
- Bring your full Irish driving licence and make sure you have adequate and appropriate insurance
- Road travel should be limited to daylight hours throughout the country and where possible use toll (cuota) roads rather than free (libre) roads
- Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is against the law and you risk being detained, fined or banned from driving if caught
- Keep your vehicle doors locked, windows rolled up and your bags kept out of sight to prevent opportunistic bag-snatching if you are stopped at traffic lights
- There have been incidents of drug-trafficking organisations setting up vehicle ‘checkpoints’ in northern border states and Pacific states, leading to an increase in car-jackings in cities and on highways
- People who rent or borrow cars in Mexico are responsible for any illegal items found in those vehicles, even if they were unaware of their presence
Vehicle emergency assistance
In case of a vehicle breakdown or roadside emergency, a highway patrol service offered by the Mexican Ministry of Tourism (SECTUR) called the Green Angels (Angeles Verdes) provides free assistance on all major toll highways from 8am to 8pm. The emergency number to request assistance from the Green Angels is 078.
Pedestrians should be extremely cautious at all times as fatal hit-and-run accidents happen.
Hiring a vehicle
If you’re hiring a vehicle, we advise you not to hand over your passport as a form of security. If you’re allowing your passport to be photocopied, keep it in your sight at all times.
Check that you have adequate insurance and read the small print of the vehicle hire contract (particularly any waiver that will come into effect if the vehicle is damaged).
The hurricane season in Mexico extends from June to the end of November and can severely disrupt transportation and utilities. Landslides, mudslides and flooding may occur. In the case of a hurricane, monitor local media reports and follow the instructions of local emergency officials. You should also monitor local and international weather updates for the region and check the Weather Channel or the National Hurricane Centre in Miami.
If you go to Mexico during the hurricane season you should leave a detailed copy of your travel plans with a family member or friend. You should also register with the Irish Embassy in Mexico City. In the event of an approaching hurricane, identify your local shelter. Flights in and out of affected areas could be delayed or suspended and available flights may fill quickly so contact your airline for the latest flight information.
The hurricane could also affect access to sea ports in the region. In some areas, adequate shelter from a severe hurricane may not be available to all who may choose to stay. You should familiarise yourself with your hotel or cruise ship evacuation plans. Carry your travel documents at all times (i.e. passport, picture identification, etc.) or secure them in a safe, waterproof location. You should also contact friends and family in Ireland with updates about your welfare and whereabouts.
Mexico is in an active earthquake zone and is subject to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. If you’re travelling to or living in Mexico, make sure you know what to do in the event of an earthquake.
There are several active volcanoes in Mexico, including the Popocatepetl and Colima volcanoes. Be aware that volcanic ash can cause serious disruption to travel services.
Tue, 19 Jun 2018 16:18:15 BST