Places to Avoid in Mexico 2023: A Comprehensive Guide

If you’re craving for an adventurous getaway, Mexico could very well be on your radar – known for its vibrant culture and breathtaking landscapes.

But hang on a second, you might have also heard about the issues concerning safety popping up every now and then in the news, right? Well, that’s what we are here to discuss today – the places to avoid in Mexico.

You might be in two minds, contemplating whether to fully enjoy the Mexican escapade or just stay within the confines of a resort. Let’s clear the air and look into some facts and on-ground realities.

Trouble Areas

To be fair, the dangers associated with drug cartels are primarily confined to specific states. Generally speaking, popular tourist hubs like Puerto Vallarta and Cabo San Lucas remain relatively safe amidst sporadic untoward incidents.

It’s a good idea to have a grasp of the ground realities, and that’s precisely why we have crafted this guide to give you the lowdown on the areas to avoid in Mexico.

Why Is Mexico Dangerous to Travel?

Now, you might be wondering what exactly makes certain parts of Mexico a no-go zone. Having witnessed life in Central Mexico firsthand, let me share some insights into the serious issues the region grapples with.

Sadly, the presence of organized crime rings is a fact, fueled largely by a thriving drug trade reaching across the border into the US. Competition among groups like the Jalisco New Generation Cartel and Sinaloa Cartel leads to violence and other criminal activities, creating pockets of instability.

Despite the government’s earnest efforts to curb these issues, corruption remains a stumbling block, infiltrating various layers of the administrative machinery.

It’s a complex scenario with no black and white answers, making it all the more important to discern the what places to avoid in Mexico.

What Does it Mean for Tourists?

Despite the grim picture painted so far, the good news is that tourists are generally not on the cartels’ radar. Quite the contrary, popular destinations like Los Cabos and Cancun have a vested interest in ensuring the safety of tourists, including those from the US, Europe, and Canada.

Just remember to stay clear of illegal activities, and you’ll find that these touristy locales are not exactly the most dangerous places in Mexico.

List of Places to Avoid in Mexico

Before we jump into specifics, let’s set something straight: not all warnings should be taken at face value. While it is true that the U.S. State Department advises caution, sometimes, their approach can border on being overly cautious.

So, here we are, bringing you a firsthand account of the real deal on the ground, helping you identify the places to avoid in Mexico so that your Mexican adventure remains pleasant and safe. Stay tuned as we unravel the truth from someone who has wandered far and wide across this beautiful country.

  1. Tijuana

Oh, Tijuana, the vibrant border city positioned just a heartbeat away from San Diego, California, often gives off a vibe of being both mesmerizing and infamous, depending largely on who you ask. You’ve probably caught wind of stories accentuating crimes, and the undying association with cartels that sometimes overshadows the city’s true essence.

However, let’s give credit where it’s due. While Tijuana has seen some rough patches, implying a citywide reign of peril is an overstatement. Yes, you ought to be vigilant, steering clear from potential scams and petty thefts, but let’s not cancel out the city just yet.

Most tales of impending doom are widely exaggerated. While the city had its moments clinching titles for unsavory reasons, Tijuana is steadily finding its ground, offering delights like a thriving food culture and exciting craft breweries. So, while caution should be your companion, give the city a chance to surprise you with its warm embrace rather than dismissing it outright due to exaggerated fears.

You’ll find the real Tijuana offers an experience where mirth meets savory delights, all under the Baja California sun.

2. Cities Along the Texas Border

Alright, it seems we have reached a consensus on this: the vicinity bordering Texas has often become a hotbed for notorious stories spiraling out from the region, sending shivers down the spine of even the most seasoned travelers.

Unfortunate incidents involving innocent bystanders being mistaken for something they are not have filled the headlines more often than anyone would like.

Yes, there’s a kernel of truth to the circulating stories depicting it as one of the places to avoid in Mexico, with a heightened prevalence of unsavory characters navigating the border areas searching for opportunities. But it isn’t a universal truth that darkness looms at every corner.

While it’s wiser to stick to well-trodden paths and avoid nightly adventures, cities like Monterrey stand as beacons of relative safety amidst the reputed violence, offering a glimpse of stability in the troubled landscape.

Therefore, as you venture here, it’s wise to prioritize safety and stick to the well-known tourist-friendly areas.

3. Acapulco

A trip down memory lane evokes images of Acapulco being the epitome of glitz, glamour, and the go-to spot for the crème de la crème of Hollywood. Fast forward to the present day, and you find a place grappling with a tarnished reputation, struggling to shake off tales of violence and crime that eclipsed its earlier grandeur.

Now, does that mean Acapulco has forever lost its charm and joined the league of areas to avoid in Mexico? Not quite. While it went through a tumultuous phase becoming a battleground for criminal groups, the good news is, that chapter is in the past. The tourist areas are gradually regaining their luster, offering a safer haven for visitors.

So, while it’s a strict no-go to venture into the outskirts, Acapulco invites you with open arms to experience its revived, safer tourist zones, encouraging you to forge new pleasant memories here.

4. The State of Sinaloa

Picture this: the state that birthed the infamous Sinaloa Cartel, a name synonymous with El Chapo and criminal legends. Now, with such a backstory, it would be natural to assume venturing into Sinaloa equates to stepping into the lion’s den, right?

Well, the scenario is a bit more nuanced. Despite the state housing notorious cartels, it isn’t entirely devoid of peaceful corners. Take Mazatlán, for instance, a coastal city offering a tranquil retreat, defying the state’s generalized violent reputation.

So, while traversing Sinaloa comes with its own set of risks, it’s not an outright danger zone on the global map. Nonetheless, if you aren’t a seasoned traveler with a deep understanding of where to avoid in Mexico, it might be best to save this destination for a later time when you are more experienced.

5. Ciudad Juarez

As we delve into Ciudad Juarez’s narrative, we find a city that once echoed with turmoil, earning titles that would send chills down anyone’s spine. There was a time when Juarez mirrored a battleground more than a city, witnessing violence that surpassed even the highest global benchmarks.

But fast forward to today, and what we have is a city rising like a phoenix, endeavoring to cast away the scars of its past. Yes, it bears rough edges, with areas reminding of its turbulent history, but it is embarking on a journey to safer days.

Should you decide to visit, remember, blending in is your best strategy.

Adopt a low profile, steer clear of late-night outings, and trust your instincts to enjoy a trouble-free experience in a city that is learning to smile again.

6. Mexico City

If you’re pondering over the safety of wandering around Mexico City, you’re not alone. Many find themselves tangled in the web of contrasting opinions about this bustling city, which stands as a juggernaut in the American continent, dwarfing even New York City in comparison.

The safety dynamics here are pretty layered; it’s not just a matter of it being safe or not, but where you plant your feet in this expansive city. Neighborhoods like Roma, Condesa, Hipodromo, the Historic Center, and Polanco have cultivated a reputation for being tranquil and secure, presenting a delightful contrast to the riskier pockets of the city.

So, while enjoying the aesthetic avenues and the vibrant culture in these safe havens, maintaining a usual level of caution, just like you would in any other major city worldwide, should keep your experience pleasant.

7. Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Tulum, and the Riviera Maya

Despite the beautiful beaches and the allure of historic ruins like Chichen Itza drawing in tourists in droves every year, recent reports cast a shadow of doubt over the tranquility of the most celebrated tourist stretch in Mexico, the Riviera Maya.

Yes, Cancun and Tulum have had their fair share of troubles in the recent past, including sporadic violent incidents. But it’s essential to sift the fact from fiction here. Not every corner of this tourist paradise is a haven for cartels. Much of the violence is organized and targeted, meaning the typical family enjoying their vacation is highly unlikely to witness or experience any violence.

While being prudent and staying vigilant can never hurt, the perceived danger is amplified far beyond the reality for most visitors. So, your Cancun family selfies don’t necessarily need to be swapped for a safer destination just yet!

8. Ciudad Victoria and the Rest of Tamaulipas

When the conversation shifts to Tamaulipas and particularly its capital, Ciudad Victoria, the concerns hold more weight. Owing to its geographical position adjoining the Gulf of Mexico, it unfortunately finds itself in the crosshairs of high criminal activity.

With travel advisories painting a rather grim picture and discouraging visits, it might be a place to bypass in your travel itinerary for now, given that tourist attractions are scanty at best.

However, if you’re steering your vehicle from Texas to Monterrey, a brief traverse through Tamaulipas is inevitable but generally not considered perilous.

Venturing deeper into the state, though, is frowned upon, considering the prevailing circumstances.


What place in Mexico has the highest crime?

The hotspots of criminal activity tend to cluster around the border regions adjoining the United States, though isolated incidents do occur elsewhere.

What are the most dangerous states in Mexico 2023?

Recent data points to Baja California, Coahuila, Sonora, Chihuahua, and Tamaulipas being the riskiest. However, this doesn’t brand the entire state as unsafe — it’s more about specific regions bearing the brunt.

What are the worst cartel cities in Mexico?

Cartel activities have notably affected cities such as Tijuana, Ciudad Juarez, Victoria, Reynosa, and Culiacan, making them the focal points of criminal enterprises.

How many murders in Mexico in 2023?

According to a study on, there were 36,579 reported murders, resulting in a rate of 28.37 per 100,000 individuals, ranking Mexico fourth globally in this grim statistic. The data also revealed a pronounced gender bias with males being eight times more likely to be victims.

I'm Santiago, a devoted traveler, husband to Karol and father of two beautiful children. As co-founder and writer of Itinerant Horizons, I share what I've learned from my adventures with other explorers. Let's embark together on an exciting journey to discover captivating destinations!
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