Where Not to Go in Mexico: The 13 Most Dangerous States

Due to violent crime and kidnappings, the U.S. State Department warns Americans from going to six Mexican states and suggests to reconsider visiting seven others. Thirty of Mexico's 32 states 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." 

The Level 4 states are: Colima, Guerrero, Michoacán, Sinaloa, Tamaulipas and Zacatecas.

The Level 3 states are: Baja California, Chihuahua, Durango, Guanajuato, Jalisco, Morelos and Sonora.

The Level 2 states are: Aguascalientes, Baja California Sur, Chiapas, Coahuila, Hidalgo, Mexico City, Mexico State, Nayarit, Nuevo Leon, Oaxaca, Puebla, Queretero, Quintana Roo, San Luis Potosi, Tabasco, Tlaxcala and Veracruz.

The Level 1 states are: Campeche and Yucatan.

A total of 32,323 people were killed in Mexico in 2022, a small increase from the 31,127 people killed in 2021. In 2020, the death toll was 34,523 people, slighty down 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 the U.S. There were 21,570 homicides in the U.S. in 2020, an increase of 24% from 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). 

Mexico Travel Advisories Map via the State Department and Datawrapper


Incidents of Concern


• On May 3, two Australian brothers and an American from San Diego, all surfers, were found dead in a well in Baja Mexico south of Ensenada. Mexican authorities believe the assailants saw their camping tents and tried to steal the surders' - ranged from 30 to 33 – truck. 


• On June 15, two American tourists were found dead in their hotel room in El Pescadero in Baja California Sur. The cause of death is believed to be carbon monoxide poisoning.

• On Apr. 15, seven Mexicans were killed when gunmen "opened fire at a public swimming pool" in Cortazar in the state of Guanajuato,

• On Apr. 12, a Mexican tourist was shot and killed in Tulum, located in Quintana Roo.

• On Apr. 7, three Mexican tourists on ATVs were chased down and shot by unknown assialants in Acapulco. Two died. Acapulco is on the Pacific Coast in Guerrero, a Level 4 state for American travelers. 

• On Apr. 6, police reported the body of Wilmer Trivett, an 80-year-old American who lived near Lake Tahoe, had been found in a burial pit in Todos Santos on the Pacific Coast of Baja California. He'd been on a camping trip with his truck when an accident happened. Trivett allegedly paid two locals $2,500 for damages to their vehicle, then was abducted and killed by the duo on Feb. 23, plus his truck was torched. The suspects were arrested on homicide charges.

• On Mar. 29, an American tourist was shot in the leg in Puerto Morales in Quintana Roo,

• On Mar. 3, four Americans were kidnapped in Matamoros in the state of Tamaulipas. They were in Mexico for medical procedures and to purchase medicine. Their vehicle was fired at and then the passengers were detained. Several days later, the captives were found in a shack with two dead and two aliive. The Gulf Cartel apologized and surrendered members of the cartel who committed the kidnapping to the authorties. Tamaulipas is a Level 4 state.

• On Jan. 5, an Aeromexico plane at the airport in Culiacán, Sinoloa (en route to Mexico City) was hit with gunfire while on the ground. No one was hurt. This followed the arrest of Ovidio Guzman, son of notorious cartel jefé El Chapo, by Mexico authorities in Sinaloa.


• On Dec. 31, 2022, a bus carrying holiday trevelers crashed in Nayarit state, killing 15 resdients of Leon.

• On Oct. 30, three Americans were found dead in an Airbnb in Mexico City. The cause was carbon monoxide poisoning.

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


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

• On Jan. 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

Baja California: "Violent crime and gang activity are common. Travelers should remain on main highways and avoid remote locations. Of particular concern is the high number of homicides in the non-tourist areas of Tijuana."

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

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."

Guanajuato (Level 3): "High number of murders in the southern region of the state associated with cartel-related violence."

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." 

Michoacán (Level 4): "Crime and violence are widespread in Michoacán state."

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

Sinaloa (Level 4): "Violent crime is widespread. Criminal organizations are based and operating in Sinoloa." 

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

Tamaulipas (Level 4): "Organized crime activity 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."  

Zacatecas (Level 4): "Violent crime, extortion and gang activity along are widespread in Zacatecas state.."

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


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Steve Bloom

Steve Bloom

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