Where Not to Go in Mexico: The 16 Most Dangerous States

Due to "violent crime and gang activity," the State Department has warned people from traveling to the following Mexican states: Colima, Guerrero, Michoacán, Sinaloa and Tamaulipas. Eleven more states (Mexico has 32) have travel advisories in effect.

A Level 1 warning means "excercise normal precautions." A Level 2 warning means "exercise increased caution." A Level 3 warning means "reconsider travel." A Level 4 warning means "do not travel." 

No state has a Level 1 warning. Sixteen states have Level 2 warnings.

A total of 28,200 people were killed in Mexico in 2021, a decline of nearly 20% from 2020 when 34,523 people were killed, which was down slighty from 35,000 killings in 2019. In 2018, there were 33,500 killings. A total of 126 million people live in Mexico, By comparison, 330 million people live in he U.S. There were 19,600 homicides in the U.S. in 2021, an increase of 3% since 2019.

The seven most violent Mexican states are: Guanajuato (2,823 murders in 2021), Baja California (2,656), Mexico State (2,346), Michoacán (2,234), Chihuahua (2,056), Jalisco (1,826) and Sonora (1,600). In 2020, California recorded 2,368 homicides.


Incidents of Concern

• On March 5, 2022, four bodies of four men were found "dumped near a housing development" in a "gangland-style killing" in Playa Del Carmen.

• On October 20, 2021, two foreign tourists were killed in a cartel-related shooting at a restaurant in Tulum. Three others were also shot. Tulum is in Qunitana Roo, which has a Level 2 warning.

• On September 8, 2020, the dead bodies of two Americans (a male and a female couple) were found in a well south of Ensenada in the state of Baja California. On September 5, the dead body of a male ex-pat was discovered on a beach in Cabo Pulma in Baja California Sur. He'd been stabbed. Both Bajas are Level 2 states.

• On April 23, 2020, an American couple quarantining in Mexico were killed in Juarez. The New Yorkers were in their car when it was fired upon.

• On January 6, 2020, an American family returning from Mexico was ambushed in Ciudad Mier in Tamaulipas. The assailants killed one family member, a 13-year-boy, and shot three others. Ciudad Mier borders Texas. Tamaulipas is a Level 4 state.

• On November 30, 2019, 21 people, including four police officers, were killed when the Cartel del Noreste staged a gun battle in the small town of Villa Union in Coahuila, about a hour from the U.S. Coahuila is a Level 3 state.

• On November 4, 2019, nine American Mormons living in Northern Mexico, including six children, were killed by gunmen while they drove from Sonora to Chihuahua, both Level 3 states.

• On October 18, 2019, a deadly gun battle broke out in Culican in the state of Sinoloa when Mexican authorities tried to arrest Ovidio Guzmán, one of infamous cartel leader El Chapo's sons. Several people were killed and Guzmán went uncaptured. Sinoloa is a Level 4 state.

• On January 6, 2019, seven people were killed in a bar shooting in Playa del Carmen in Quintana Roo, which is a Level 2 state.

• On January 1 2019, an attendee of the Flying Circus rave party in south of Tulum  in Quintana Roo was shot and killed near the Zamna Cenote.

Attending festival and concert events on the so-called Riviera Maya can be dangerous. There were more than 700 murders committed in the state of Qunitana Roo – where Cancun, Playa del Carmen and Tulum are – in 2018. Howeover, there are no U.S. travel restrictions for the state at this time.

• On Feb. 21, 2018, an explosion on a ferry docked on the Playa del Carmen pier injured 25 people; a second bomb that didn't detonate was found on another ferry.  

• On Dec. 19, 2017, a bus taking tourists to ruins in Quintana Roo state crashed, killing 12 people and injuring 18.

• Also in 2017, there were shootings at two clubs in Playa del Carmen. One person was killed in a cartel-related shooting at a club there on July 2 when three gunmen opened fire on the crowd. This followed the Jan. 16 club shooting in Playa that killed five and injured 15. 


Mexico's Level 3 and Level 4 States

Chihuahua (Level 3): "Violent crime and gang activity are common."

Coahuila (Level 3): "Violent crime and unpredictable gang activity are common in parts of Coahuila state."

Colima (Level 4): "Violent crime and gang activity are widespread."

Durango (Level 3): "Violent crime and gang activity are common in parts of Durango state."

Guerrero (Level 4): "Crime and violence are widespread. Armed groups operate independently of the goverment in many areas of Guerrero. Members of these groups frequently maintain roadblocks and may use violence towards travelers."

Jalisco (Level 3): "Violent crime and gang activity are common in parts of Jalisco state." 

Mexico State (Level 3): "Both violent crime and non-violent crime are common throughout Mexico State."

Michoacán (Level 4): "Crime and violence are widespread in Michoacán state. Do not travel due to crime."

Morelos (Level 3): "Violent crime and gang activity are common in parts of Moreles state."

Nayarit (Level 3): "Violent crime and gang activity are common in parts of Nayarit state."

Nuevo Leon (Level 3): "Violent crime and unpredictable gang activity are common in parts of Nuevo Leon state. Reconsider travel due to crime."

San Luis Potosi (Level 3): "Violent crime and unpredictable gang activity are common in parts of San Luis Potosi. Reconsider travel due to crime."

Sinaloa (Level 4): "Violent crime is widespread. Criminal organizations are based and operating in Sinoloa. Do not travel due to crime." 

Sonora (Level 3): "Sonora is a key location used by the international drug trade and human trafficking networks. Reconsider travel due to crime."

Tamaulipas (Level 4): "Organized crime activity - including gun battles, murder, armed robbery, carjacking, kidnapping, forced disappearances, extortion and sexual assault - is common along the northern border and in Ciudad Victoria. Criminal groups target public and private passenger buses as well as private automobiles traveling through Tamaulipas, often taking passengers hostage and demanding ransom payments. Do not travel due to crime and kidnapping."  

Zacatecas (Level 3): "Violent crime and gang activity along are common in parts of Zacatecas state.."

The states with Level 2 warnings are: Aguascalientes, Baja California, Baja California Sur, Campeche, Chiapas, Guanajuato, Hidalgo, Mexico City (Federal District), Oaxaca, Puebla, Queretaro, Quintana Roo, Tabasco, Tlaxcala, Veracruz and Yucatan.

This article was originally posted in 2014. It has been updated numerous times.



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Steve Bloom

Steve Bloom

Publisher of, former editor of High Times and Freedom Leaf and co-author of Pot Culture and Reefer Movie Madness.