Mexico Travel and Security Information

10/12/2019

Travels and excursions to some regions of Mexico increasingly involve the danger of falling into the hands of organized crime or into armed clashes between cartels and gangs and state security forces.

Mexico Travel and Security Information. Image: Pixabay
Mexico Travel and Security Information. Image: Pixabay

Please note the current hot spots and recommendations, especially for regions for which travel is strongly discouraged, regardless of the purpose of your trip and any local knowledge you may have. Only carry out necessary trips to these areas with a viable safety concept for the trip and the stay.

Safety

Travel to the following regions is strongly discouraged:

Border region to the USA for stays exceeding the required minimum for entry and exit

The state of Tamaulipas

The state of Sinaloa, with the exception of Mazatlán, there Zona Dorada and historical center, with direct arrival and departure by plane as well as Los Mochis/ railway line of the "El Chepe".

The state of Colima, with the exception of Manzanillo, when arriving by ship or plane

The state of Guerrero, with the exception of Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo if arriving by plane and the city of Taxco if arriving and departing by daylight.

In the state of Michoacán, the areas west of the state capital Morelia.

Special care is advised:

for trips to the states of Guanajuato, Puebla, Veracruz and the eastern parts of the state of Michoacán as well as the state capital Moralia

on visits to the districts of Tepito, Doctores, Lagunilla, Venustiano Carranza, Gustavo A. Madero and Iztapalapa of Mexico City

on all overland journeys.

Domestic political situation

In many regions, there are armed conflicts between state security forces and organized crime. Violence is particularly pronounced in the northern and western states along the Pacific coast and in large cities such as Tijuana, Acapulco, Victoria, Ciudad Juárez, Irapuato, Cancún, Culiacán, Uruapan, Obregón, Coatzacoalcos, Celaya, Ensenada, Tepic, and Reynosa.

The number of violent crimes is also increasing in the communities of the Estado de México bordering Mexico City. More affluent neighborhoods in major Mexican cities are increasingly affected by violent incidents, some of them with serious impairments or injuries to local residents.

Conflicts between rival drug trafficking gangs or petrol thieves are commonplace in many places. Opposing gang members are brutally murdered, no consideration is given to uninvolved persons. In this respect, even public and frequented places do not always offer security.

Political demonstrations can turn into violent clashes Throughout the country, demonstrators can block the main transport links, sometimes forcibly disbanding them.

In connection with the migration of Central Americans to and through Mexico, disabilities and isolated violent clashes in the vicinity of migrant groups, especially in the border region with Guatemala and the USA, must be reckoned with.

Only carry out necessary trips to the above-mentioned regions and cities with a sustainable security concept.

Inform yourself otherwise about the situation in the respective border regions and limit your stay there to the minimum necessary for entry and exit.

Inform yourself about the local and social media.

Avoid demonstrations and large crowds on a large scale.

Follow the instructions of local security forces.

Crime

Violent crimes as a consequence of the high, increasing and widespread general crime are commonplace, but also robberies, kidnappings, homicides, and acts of revenge in connection with organized crime increasingly take place in central locations and in broad daylight, but especially at night in the vicinity of discos, bars, and restaurants. Even uninvolved persons can be harmed. Due to the widespread presence of organized crime offenders in Mexico, the security situation is very critical in some states and tense in others.

The most common crimes are thefts, robberies, and temporary kidnappings. Police forces or uniformed security personnel or criminals who impersonate them may be involved in criminal activities.

Violence against women has increased, not least in tourist regions. Repeated incidents, including abduction attempts, have been reported in Mexico City's metro.

Firearms are widespread and their use is often uninhibited. This also applies to car theft in stationary traffic, so-called car-jacking, and robberies in public buses. Experience has shown that even verbal replies are answered brutally here.

The risk of robbery is particularly high during overland journeys at night and off the toll motorways as well as at inanimate rest stops and petrol stations. Travellers are moved to stop and then attacked under pretexts, e.g. of a defect or with the request for breakdown assistance.

Travel and group visits usually offer more security than unaccompanied visits, as do sheltered hotel complexes from going out in city centres after dark. There it also comes to the use of narcotics to facilitate a robbery. Organized and guided tours usually take existing security risks into account.

When hiking in nature reserves, e.g. when climbing volcanoes, there is a risk of robbery.

There is not a sufficient number of guarded campsites for camper vans.

ATMs can be manipulated to copy data, and credit card fraud can also occur.

Only drive overland in daylight, avoid driving at night in the above-mentioned states and do not leave motorways there.

Do not resist robberies and car-jacking, not even verbally.

Be particularly attentive in large crowds such as at airports, train stations, in the subway, in the bus and pay attention to your valuables. Preferably move in groups.

Keep money, identity cards, driver's license, airline tickets and other important documents safe, make copies or store them electronically.

Prefer cashless payments and take only the cash you need for the day and no unnecessary valuables or eye-catching jewellery.

Don't visit city centres in large seaside resorts alone after dark, but prefer entertainment in sheltered hotel facilities.

Never leave food and drink unattended outside hotel zones.

Avoid staying in deserted areas and neighborhoods, but also on secluded beaches.

If you are a woman and do not travel alone, especially at night and in lonely areas, report sexual assaults immediately to the nearest office of the "Ministerio Público" (public prosecutor's office).

Only make overland journeys during the day and stay on main routes.

Do not travel by motorhome or camper van if you have not been able to reserve guarded campsites in all places.

Only drive with closed windows and locked doors, park vehicles only in guarded car parks and do not leave any valuables behind.

Limit stopovers to the minimum necessary and stop only at busy rest areas and petrol stations.

Do not drive as a hitchhiker or take hitchhikers with you.

When going on excursions, make sure you know the destination area well in advance and, if possible, travel in larger groups.

Be careful at ATMs and pay attention to possible manipulations.

Do not lose sight of your credit card when paying.

Be sceptical about unfamiliar e-mails, contacts, and requests for help from alleged acquaintances, especially if relatives are allegedly abducted. Keep calm, do not share any information about yourself, but make sure that you are in person or contact the police.

Nature and climate

Tropical storms and floods

At the coasts tropical prevails, I higher situations like in Mexico city mountain climate.

Mexico has a hurricane season from May to November. During this time, tropical storms and intensive rainfall are to be expected, especially on all coasts, which can cause extensive flooding and landslides.

During the rainy season from June to November, floods and landslides can occur and significantly affect the transport infrastructure. Roads can be impassable and bridges damaged.

Earthquakes and volcanoes

Mexico lies in a seismically very active zone, which is why earthquakes, some of them severe, occur regularly. Particularly at risk are the older districts of Mexico City located on the former lake bed, as well as the districts of Condesa and Roma.

The greater Mexico City area and the particularly earthquake-prone federal states on the Pacific coast have so far only been affected in part.

The authorities primarily evacuate to safe zones in the high valley of Mexico City or to safe zones in the affected state.

The Popocatépetl volcano is increasingly active. There is a restricted zone of 12 km around the crater. Also the volcano Colima is still active and closed for visitors.

In the event of natural disasters, expect restrictions at short notice, including in air traffic.

Follow regular weather reports and be aware of storm warnings from the National Hurricane Center.

In the event of a storm warning, follow the instructions on hurricanes abroad.

Always observe prohibitions, signs, and warnings as well as the instructions of Mexican authorities. The Mexican Civil Defence offers daily updated instructions on how to behave and warning levels for volcanoes.

Get familiar with earthquake and volcano behavior notes. In Mexico City, use the 911 CDMX app for Apple or Google, which alerts you 60 seconds before an earth tremor.

Travel information

Infrastructure/Transport

The air traffic network in Mexico is well developed. There are several national airlines serving the entire country. In addition, there are numerous regional airlines.

There is also an extensive and inexpensive intercity bus network. Luxury and 1st class buses meet good European standards.

During overland journeys in your own car or rental car, especially during the rainy season from May to November, there may be obstacles due to the poor road conditions.

During the holiday season in particular, demonstrators may block the main roads. The continuation of the journey is partly permitted against a travel allowance.

Vehicles parked at appropriately marked places in the parking prohibition are towed away or fixed with a parking claw and can only be released again after payment of a large amount of money.

Especially in Mexico City, there is a high traffic volume with considerable traffic jams.

When taxis are stopped on the street, there is a considerable risk of being kidnapped and/or robbed, especially after dusk, but also during the day.

In Mexico, there is no comprehensive compulsory insurance for car owners. In many Mexican states, including Yucatán and Mexico City, the driver of a car must also have liability insurance. Violations can result in fines and confiscation of the car.

Avoid 2nd and 3rd class buses for safety reasons.

Only make cross-country journeys during the day and stay on main routes.

Do not deny or discuss the legality of any travel expenses demanded.

Be particularly careful in urban areas because of the many badly marked speed barriers (topes).

Only take official taxis from official taxi stands (Sitios) or order them e.g. via a taxi app or also via Uber, Didi or Cabify.

For the trip to the excavation site in Teotihuacán, in the northeast of Mexico City, do not use scheduled buses, but tourist buses.

Do not undertake individual trips to remote areas without a professional guide, if possible only with an official SECTUR permit, the Mexican Ministry of Tourism.

When renting a car, make sure that you have sufficient insurance cover, in particular, liability insurance.

Driving licence

A valid international driving licence is recommended.

Special instructions for conduct

Except at tourist hotspots, caution is advised when taking photographs. The indigenous population in particular does not like to be photographed, even if people are not directly photographed. In case of doubt, permission should be requested before taking photographs.

Legal peculiarities

Drugs

The minimum custodial sentence for possession of drugs in Mexico is ten years, regardless of the amount. The maximum penalty is 25 years.

Alcohol

Drinking alcoholic beverages and urinating in public, for example on the street, is prohibited throughout Mexico and is punishable by a fine or imprisonment.

Political Activities

Foreigners are prohibited from political activities.

Human rights activities by foreigners require a special permit.

Violations of this lead to arrest and expulsion. The initiation of criminal proceedings with pre-trial detention is not excluded in such cases. The same applies to political activities such as participation in political events and demonstrations.

Protection of species

Even the removal of protected plants (especially cacti) from their natural environment is subject to fines or imprisonment in Mexico; this also applies to attempts to export them from Mexico. Plants offered for sale may also be subject to species protection.

Make a complaint

Persons who become victims of minor offences (e.g. theft, loss of travel documents) have the possibility in Mexico City to report them online to the Procuraduría General de Justicia. The online notification does not replace a personal visit to the competent public prosecutor's office ("Ministerio Público"), but may under certain circumstances facilitate the procedure there because all relevant information is already available.

In addition, in Mexico City and in other parts of the country, there is the possibility of contacting the police directly, who specialise in tourists. These are called Agencias del Ministerio Público especializadas en Atención al Turista and can be found in Mexico City at the following addresses, among others:

Calle Amberes 54, esquina Londres, Zona Rosa, Delegación Cuauhtémoc, Tel. 53455382

Calle Victoria 76, e/ Luis Moya y Revillagigedo, Col. Centro, Delegación Cuauthémoc, Tel. 53468724

Av. Presidente Masaryk 172, Col. Polanco, Delegación Miguel Hidalgo, tel. 55317449.

There, advertisements can be placed directly, there are employees with foreign language skills.

Money/credit cards

The local currency is the Peso ($) = 100 Centavos (¢). It is possible to buy and sell US Dollar and Euro notes in exchange offices and larger hotels.

All major credit cards are widely accepted, but in some cases, there may be connection problems when booking electronically with foreign credit cards. Cash can be withdrawn from ATMs connected to the Maestro system using the appropriate bank card.

Only ATMs inside secure buildings such as banks, hotels or shopping centres should be used. There, too, travellers should lookout for people in the immediate vicinity who might spy on them or follow them.

Money can be transferred from Germany at short notice via "Western Union". Due to the long duration of the transfer, it is not advisable to make any other bank transfers.

Travel documents

Entry is possible for nationals with the following documents:

Passport: Yes

Provisional passport: Yes

Identity card: No

Temporary identity card: No

Child passport: Yes

Remarks/Minimum validity:

Travel documents must be in good condition and valid for at least six months at the time of entry.

Damaged travel documents (e.g. frayed outer cover, loose binding of pages) can lead to refusal of entry.

A passport that was reported stolen to a passport authority but later found should no longer be used, as the alert cannot be reversed in the international property search. This can lead to difficulties during the onward journey.

Tourist card FMM

Upon entry into Mexico, you will receive a tourist card (called "FMM") for a maximum of 180 days (exception: entry by land for a tourist stay of fewer than 7 days). The cost is 558 MXN (Tariff 2019). This fee is already included in the cost of the air ticket if you arrive by plane (international flights). If you arrive by land, this fee is payable in cash in MXN on receipt or at a bank branch.

The card will be stamped at the border crossing and the validity period will be entered. The period of validity should be taken into account in order to avoid later efforts to extend the validity. A later extension up to 180 days can be applied for at the Instituto Nacional de Migración in Mexico. However, there is no claim and the procedure is lengthy.

The remaining copy of the tourist card should be kept in a safe place, it must be presented when leaving Mexico. Personal checks to check the legal stay in Mexico are frequent, so you should always carry a copy of passport and tourist card plus proof of payment or air ticket.

In the event of loss, a new card must be purchased for a fee (see above) at the latest on departure (e.g. at the airport). When entering by plane and leaving by land, it is advisable to present a copy of the flight ticket, with which the payment of the fees can be proven. If this is not presented, the fee may have to be paid again.

Tourists are not allowed to carry out any other activities. It is not possible to apply for a residence permit for another purpose (e.g. gainful employment) after entry, e.g. as a tourist.

Pre-entry visa

If a longer stay or employment, voluntary service, humanitarian aid or human rights activity in Mexico is intended, the Mexican embassy or consulate general should be contacted before departure regarding the visa requirements. More detailed information can be obtained from the Mexican missions abroad and the Instituto Nacional de Migración.

Volunteer services should preferably be carried out within the framework of established programmes.

It is strongly discouraged to travel on through Mexico without a valid tourist visa. There is a risk of being taken into deportation custody during a check and expelled quickly.

Entry and exit via the USA

When entering by land via the USA, it may happen that tourist cards are not stamped. In this case, this must be done at the Instituto Nacional de Migración of the border town, e.g. on presentation of the bus ticket. In Tijuana, this can also be done at the INM office at the airport.

Identity card requirement

In the case of identity checks, not only the identity card is required, but also the Mexican residence permit (tourist card FMM or long-term residence permit FM 2/3). Foreigners should keep a copy of their Mexican residence permit with them at all times. Otherwise, there is the risk of being taken into custody by the immigration authorities and, if necessary, deported.

Minors

Minors entering alone or accompanied by a parent should carry a permit from the parent(s) and/or parent(s) not travelling with them and copies of the parent's passport; however, it is recommended that an informal permit be issued and accompanied by copies of the parent's passport on entry/exit.

Minors residing in Mexico who are travelling alone and are not accompanied by a holder of parental custody need a notarized declaration of consent from the holders of parental custody to leave Mexico. This does not apply to minors who are in Mexico with tourist status.

More detailed information can be obtained from the Mexican missions abroad and the Instituto Nacional de Migración.

Some airlines require proof of the consent of the other parent for the departure of a minor with only one parent.

Children with a Mexican parent have Mexican citizenship, even if they were not born in Mexico. Even if they entered Mexico with a passport of another nationality, they do not actually have tourist status in Mexico, which can lead to problems when leaving without a Mexican passport. Parents travelling with Mexican minors are also required to carry an original birth certificate.

Import regulations

Amounts over 10,000 US dollars carried on entry must be declared. The export of the local currency is permitted up to a value of 10,000 US dollars, which is from foreign currency to the amount declared on entry.

The export of gold (except gold jewellery), antiques, archaeological finds, cacti, corals and other protected animals is prohibited.

Further information can be found on the Mexican Customs website.

Pets

SENASICA is the Mexican authority responsible for issuing entry and exit permits for pets. The Servicio Nacional de Sanidad, Inocuidad y Calidad Agroalimentaria offers the current requirements and costs for the import and export of pets.

You can also find additional information at the Mexican customs office or at the Mexican representative in your home country.

Health and safety

In January 2019, WHO declared the delay or omission of vaccination a threat to global health. In particular, the lack of protection against measles against vaccination poses a high risk in view of the increasing number of cases internationally. As part of your travel preparations, check your and your children's vaccination against measles and have it supplemented if necessary.

Vaccination

Make sure that the standard vaccinations for you and your children are up to date according to the vaccination calendar.

Vaccinations against hepatitis A are recommended as travel vaccinations, as well as against hepatitis B, typhoid fever and rabies for long-term stays or special exposure.

Zika virus infection

The infection with Zika viruses, which is primarily transmitted by diurnal Aedes mosquitoes, can lead to malformations in the child during pregnancy and cause neurological complications in adults.

Dengue fever

Dengue viruses are transmitted in many parts of the country by day-active Aedes mosquitoes. The disease is usually accompanied by fever, skin rash and severe pain in the limbs and is increasingly affecting travellers. In rare cases, children, in particular, suffer from serious complications, including possible death. Overall, however, complications are rare in travellers. There is neither vaccination nor chemoprophylaxis nor a specific therapy against dengue fever, see leaflet dengue fever.

To avoid dengue fever, protect yourself consistently against mosquito bites as part of exposure prophylaxis, especially during the day.

Chikungunya fever

Chikungunya viruses are transmitted by day-active Aedes mosquitoes. The disease is characterized by high fever and possibly prolonged joint and muscle pain. The symptoms can often not be clearly distinguished from other diseases transmitted by mosquitoes. Chikungunya fever does not always heal without consequences, rarely it comes to long-lasting rheumatism-like complaints. There is neither a vaccination or chemoprophylaxis nor a specific therapy, see leaflet Chikungunya fever.

To avoid Chikungunya fever, protect yourself consistently against mosquito bites as part of exposure prophylaxis, especially during the day.

Malaria

Malaria is transmitted by twilight and nocturnal Anopheles mosquitoes. If untreated, the dangerous malaria tropica in particular is often fatal for non-immune Europeans. The disease can still break out weeks to months after staying in the risk area, see leaflet Malaria.

If a fever occurs during or even months after a trip to a malaria risk area, present yourself to your doctor as soon as possible and inform him or her that you are in a malaria risk area.

There is a medium risk of transmission throughout the year (p. falciparum less than 1%) in rural areas below an altitude of 1,000 m in the southern border regions or a minimum risk in other areas.

Besides altitudes (approx. more than 1,000 m), larger cities and the Yucatan peninsula are considered malaria-free.

To avoid malaria, protect yourself consistently against insect bites as part of exposure prophylaxis. You should pay particular attention to the following points:

Wear body-covering, light-colored clothing (long trousers, long shirts).

Repeatedly apply insect repellent to all free body parts, during the day (dengue) as well as in the evening and at night (malaria).

If necessary, sleep under an impregnated mosquito net.

Depending on your travel profile, chemoprophylaxis (taking tablets) may be useful in addition to the necessary exposure prophylaxis. Various prescription drugs (e.g. atovaquon-proguanil, doxycycline, mefloquine) are available on the market for this purpose.

Discuss the selection of medications and their personal adaptation as well as side effects or intolerances with other medications with a tropical medicine specialist or travel medicine specialist before taking them.

It is recommended that you take a sufficient supply with you.

HIV/AIDS

Sexual contact, drug use (unclean syringes or cannulae) and blood transfusions all pose a high risk of HIV transmission.

Always use condoms, especially when making casual acquaintances.

Diarrhoeal diseases

Diarrhoeal diseases are frequent travel diseases. However, by maintaining appropriate food and drinking water hygiene, most diarrhoeal diseases and cholera can be avoided. For the protection of your health, please observe the following basic instructions:

Drink only water of safe origin, never tap water. Buying carbonated bottled water makes it easier to identify a bottle that has already been opened.

If possible, use drinking water for dishwashing and brushing your teeth on the way.

If no bottled water is available, use filtered, disinfected or boiled water.

Cook or peel food yourself.

Keep flies away from your food.

Wash your hands with soap as often as possible, but always before preparing food and before eating.

If possible, disinfect your hands with liquid disinfectant.

Cholera

Cholera is transmitted via insufficiently purified drinking water or raw food and can, therefore, be well avoided by appropriate food and drinking water hygiene. Only a small proportion of people infected with cholera suffer from the disease, the majority of whom have a comparatively mild course. The indication for a cholera vaccination is very rare, as a rule only in the case of special exposures, e.g. working in a hospital with cholera patients.

If necessary, seek advice from a tropical or travel physician regarding your risk profile.

Leishmaniasis

The cutaneous and mucocutaneous form occurs in many parts of the country. The unicellular parasites are also transmitted by mosquitoes.

To avoid leishmaniasis, protect yourself against mosquito bites as part of exposure prophylaxis, especially during the day.

Leptospirosis

Throughout the year, leptospirosis can be transmitted sporadically by water contaminated with rodent excrements. This bacterial infection usually runs like a mild flu-like infection, but in rare cases can also lead to serious involvement of the liver and kidneys, see leaflet Leptospirosis.

If exposure is to be expected in an individual case, consider, after careful risk assessment, drug prophylaxis with doxycycline or by a trip or tropical physician.

Trypanosomiasis ("Mal de Chagas")

In Mexico, the American trypanosomiasis (Chagas) can be transmitted by excreta of predatory bugs living in cracks of simple dwellings in rural regions. These can be absorbed either by the bite of infected bugs or more rarely by contaminated fruit or sugar cane juices.

In the acute phase of the disease, flu-like symptoms and possibly swelling of the eyelid are in the foreground. Up to years after the infection, serious organ changes can occur in the heart and digestive tract. All in all, the risk of Chagas infections for travellers is very low.

Use correctly fitted bed nets to protect against bites.

Air pollution

High levels of air pollution are particularly prevalent in Mexico City.

Find out about current air values, e.g. the World Air Quality Index and the AirVisual smartphone app.

Medical care

The costs for medical treatment (in principle also in emergencies!) as well as for medicines must be paid in cash (credit card payment is also possible), especially in the private sector.

For the duration of your stay abroad, take out a travel health and repatriation insurance policy.

Before you start your journey, you should seek personal advice from a tropical medical counselling centre, tropical medical practitioner or travel medical practitioner and adjust your vaccination cover, even if you already have tropical experience from other regions.

Disclaimer

Travel and security instructions are based on information from the Federal Foreign Office that is available at the specified time and deemed to be trustworthy. A guarantee for the correctness and completeness as well as liability for possible damages cannot be assumed. Hazardous situations are often confusing and can change quickly. It is your sole responsibility to decide how to carry out your trip. References to special legal provisions abroad always concern only a few selected questions. Legal regulations can also change at any time without the Federal Foreign Office being informed. It is therefore recommended that you contact the relevant diplomatic or consular representation of the country of destination.

The Federal Foreign Office strongly advises you to observe the recommendations contained in the travel and safety instructions and to take out appropriate insurance cover, e.g. health insurance abroad with return insurance.