Safety and security
There is a high threat of terrorist attack globally affecting UK interests and British nationals, including from groups and individuals who view the UK and British nationals as targets. You should remain vigilant at all times.
UK Counter Terrorism Policing has information and advice on staying safe abroad and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack. Find out how to reduce your risk from terrorism while abroad.
Terrorism in Mexico
Terrorist attacks in Mexico cannot be ruled out.
Political demonstrations are common in Mexico City and can happen across the country. These can be tense and confrontational and could potentially turn violent. Onlookers can be quickly drawn in. Monitor local media and avoid all demonstrations.
It is illegal for foreigners to participate in political activities in Mexico. Participation in demonstrations may result in detention and deportation.
Politically motivated violence can happen across the country. Onlookers can be quickly drawn in. You should monitor local media and avoid all demonstrations. If you come across protests, move away from the area.
Crime in Mexico can pose a risk for foreigners, particularly in major cities and tourist resort areas where street crime is a serious issue.
Many Mexican and foreign businesses choose to hire private security. You should:
- research your destination thoroughly
- only travel during daylight hours when possible
- monitor local media
- inform trusted contacts of your travel plans
If you’re the victim of a crime and want to report the incident, do so immediately to the nearest branch of the state prosecutor’s office (‘Agencia del Ministerio Público’). A criminal investigation is not possible without a formal complaint to Mexican authorities. Complaints must be made in person before leaving Mexico.
The Mexico City Command and Control Centre (‘Centro de Atención a Emergencias y Proteción Ciudadana de la Ciudad de México’) has information and advice in Spanish on safety in Mexico City.
Take care when withdrawing money from ATMs or exchanging money at an exchange shop (bureau de change). It’s generally safer to use ATMs during daylight hours and inside shops or malls. People withdrawing money from airport money exchange shops and ATMs in various locations have later been targeted by criminals. Avoid withdrawing large amounts of money and be careful of your surroundings and who is around you while you are using the ATM.
Protecting your belongings
Pickpocketing and theft are common, including on public transport. Avoid wearing expensive clothing, jewellery or watches. Limit the amount of cash or credit/debit cards you carry with you. Watch your briefcases and luggage, even in apparently secure places like the lobby of your hotel.
Be wary of people presenting themselves as police officers trying to fine or arrest you for no reason, travellers driving rental cars have been targeted. Some police officers have extorted money from tourists, for alleged minor offences or traffic violations. If this happens:
- do not hand over money or your passport
- ask for a copy of the written fine, which is payable later.
- ask for identification
- try to take note of the officer’s name, badge number, and patrol car number
Criminals may attempt to contact your friends or relatives to transfer money to Mexico, this can occur following cases of phone theft or hacking, arrange with relatives and friends how you will contact them or how you would arrange to transfer money in advance.
A common scam involves criminals phoning, acting as a distressed member of family, or an employee, claiming to be kidnapped and demanding money for their release. Thieves may also claim that a relative is being detained. If you are threatened over the phone, hang up and check on the safety of your family member or employee.
Drink and food spiking
Do not leave food and drinks unattended in bars and restaurants. Travellers have been robbed or assaulted after being drugged. Tainted alcohol has caused illness or blackouts. If you have any concerns, get advice from your tour operator or the local authorities.
Sexual offences have been reported in tourist areas. Take care even in areas close to hotels, and especially after dark.
Short-term opportunistic kidnapping (called ‘express kidnapping’) can happen, particularly in urban areas. Victims are forced to withdraw money from credit or debit cards at a cash point to secure their release.
Longer-term kidnapping for financial gain also happens, and there have been allegations of police officers being involved. Be discreet about discussing your financial or business affairs in places where you may be overheard by others.
Do not become involved with drugs of any kind. Drug-related violence in Mexico has increased over recent years. Penalties for drug offences are severe, convictions carry sentences of up to 25 years.
Some areas of Mexico have a high crime rate due to the fighting between rival organised crime gangs. In these areas, there is a risk of being caught in the crossfire or of being mistaken for a member of a rival gang. Whilst risks are lower in tourist areas, you should:
- take advice from local authorities or your hotel
- be aware of your surroundings at all times
- use reputable tourism or transport companies
- travel during the daytime where possible
Stay away from isolated roads and use toll roads (‘cuotas’) whenever possible. Keep car doors locked and windows closed, especially at traffic lights.
Violent car-jackings and robberies happen along the Pacific Highway, if you suspect you’re being followed or watched, drive to a police station or other safe place. Targets have included large camper vans or sports utility vehicles (SUVs).
There have been incidents of criminals deliberately causing traffic accidents in order to make insurance claims or request cash from the other party. They are sometimes accompanied by threats of violence or intimidation. Contact the authorities for support where necessary.
Be alert on public transport, at airports and in bus stations. Theft on buses is common, so always keep your belongings safe.
Buses have also been hijacked. Try to travel on first-class buses using toll roads, which have a lower rate of incidents than second and third-class buses travelling on the less secure free (‘libre’) roads. Most first-class bus companies perform security checks when passengers board the bus.
Women travelling alone on public transport have been targeted with harassment, robbery and sexual assault.
Laws and cultural differences
If you require information on procedures, local laws, development of current events or social services you can contact Mexico City’s public telephone service LOCATEL on 5658 1111. They have English-speaking staff available.
If requested by Mexican authorities, you will need to provide your passport and stamp to prove your entrance and stay, copies and photos are not accepted. To demonstrate your visa status, you can get a digital registry of your entry documents from the Portal de Servicios INM. If you are unable to produce these documents, you may be questioned by Immigration officers and held in a detention centre while the authorities check your immigration status. Depending on the outcome, you can be deported.
The Mexican Police have the authority to ask for proof of legal status in Mexico at any time. Several British people have been detained for not having the relevant documentation on them. If you are a resident, you may be asked to provide your residency card issued by the Mexican government.
Smoking and e-cigarette bans
It is illegal to bring electronic cigarettes, vaping devices and solutions into Mexico or to buy and sell them. If found in your belongings by customs officials, these will be confiscated; resulting in being fined or being detained.
You can be fined up to £150 for smoking or vaping in public places.
Illegal drugs and prison sentences
Do not become involved with drugs of any kind. Penalties for drug offences are severe and convictions carry sentences of up to 25 years.
Same-sex relations in Mexico are generally tolerated, rather than accepted. Civil unions between same-sex partners are legal in Mexico. Public displays of affection between same-sex couples may be frowned upon. Read more advice for LGBT+ travellers.
Assisted human reproduction, including surrogacy, is only legally recognised in some Mexican states. If you’re considering a surrogacy arrangement in Mexico, familiarise yourself with the relevant laws and regulations and make sure you meet all legal requirements to take the child out of Mexico before you start the process. Seek independent legal advice before entering into any surrogacy arrangement. For more information see our guidance on surrogacy overseas.
Main tourist destinations
The Mexican government makes efforts to protect major tourist destinations like:
- Los Cabos
- Nuevo Vallarta
- Playa del Carmen
- Puerto Vallarta
British travellers have been physically and sexually assaulted. In some cases, hotel employees, taxi drivers and security personnel at popular tourist destinations were involved. On occasion, hotel staff have not been helpful and tried to dissuade victims from pursuing the incident with police.
Cancun and Tulum
There have been several clashes between rival criminal gangs in popular tourist destinations in Cancun and surrounding areas.
While tourists have not been the target, anyone in the vicinity of an incident could be affected. Since 2021, there have been several cases of tourists being affected by shootings.
Exercise increased caution after dark in downtown areas of Cancun, Tulum, and Playa del Carmen. Remain in well-lit pedestrian streets and tourist zones. If you are visiting any of these areas, monitor local advice, remain vigilant and follow the advice of the local authorities and your tour operator.
In some hotels, balcony balustrades may not be as high as you expect and there could be a risk of falling.
Outdoor activities and adventure tourism
If you take part in adventurous sports (including paragliding, skydiving, scuba diving and jet-skiing), make sure safety precautions are in place. Equipment may not meet UK safety and insurance standards. British nationals have been injured and, in some cases, killed participating in extreme sports.
You should make sure:
- you only use reputable operators
- the company is using the most up-to-date equipment and safety features
- the company are fully licensed and insured
- you’re covered by your travel insurance for all the activities you want to undertake
Shark attacks are rare in Mexico, but you should take care particularly when surfing, research the local area and follow the advice of the local authorities.
Crocodiles are present in Mexico, most commonly in lagoons and coastal areas. Sightings have been reported near tourist areas, including Cancun and resorts on the Pacific coast. There are signs warning about crocodiles around many lagoons in these areas. Respect the warnings and do not walk too close to the water. Tourists have been seriously injured in crocodile attacks in the past.
Driving standards are very different from the UK. Roads can be pot-holed, and driving conditions can be unpredictable. Be prepared to stop unexpectedly and beware of vehicles moving slowly, changing lane without indicating and going through red lights. Many local drivers do not have any form of car insurance.
Licences and permits
To reduce air pollution, Mexico City and some other parts of the country have driving restrictions. Cars may be banned from entering certain areas on particular days, based on their number plates, Check the Hoy no Circula programme for further details.
These regulations are strictly enforced and offenders face heavy fines and temporary confiscation of their vehicle. Check if this applies with your car hire company.
There is an additional driving restriction in Mexico City, where vehicles without registration plates from the State of Mexico (‘Estado de Mexico’) or Mexico City are not allowed to enter Mexico City from:
- Monday to Friday between 5am and 11am
- Saturday between 5am and 10pm
If air pollution is high, generally between February and June, further driving restrictions may apply.
In remote areas, you may come across unofficial roadblocks, including on main roads. They are manned by local groups seeking money for an unofficial local toll, they can become violent and deny entry.
Passengers have been robbed and assaulted by unlicensed taxi drivers including in Mexico City. Use the better regulated ‘sitio’ taxis from authorised taxi ranks or ask your hotel to order you a taxi. At airports, use only authorised pre-paid airport taxi services.
Licensed taxi drivers have been blocking roads and targeting Uber taxis in Cancun’s Hotel zone, in protest against Uber. Tourists have been affected, including being pulled from Uber taxis and experiencing long delays because of roadblocks, sometimes leading to missed flights. Protests can happen without notice. Listen to local announcements and follow the advice of your hotel on how best to avoid any protests.
Extreme weather and natural disasters
Monitor local and international weather updates from the US National Hurricane Center and follow the advice of local authorities and your tour operator including any evacuation orders.
In the aftermath of a hurricane, there can be flooding, high winds and continued rainfall. See the extreme weather and natural hazards for further advice about how to prepare for travel during hurricane season, what to do ahead of a storm and what to expect in the aftermath of a hurricane.
The hurricane season in Mexico normally runs from June to November and can affect both the Pacific and Atlantic coasts. The effects of tropical storms and hurricanes causes flooding, landslides and disruption to local services, including transport networks.
Earthquakes can occasionally happen in most parts of Mexico. Tremors happen regularly, particularly in the states of Oaxaca and Guerrero.
If you’re travelling in Mexico City you can download the 911 CDMX app (accessible only by local phone numbers: Download on iOS or Android), which warns you an earthquake will happen 60 seconds before the movement starts. Although these alarms are useful, they cannot detect every kind of earthquake there can be.
The Popocatepetl and Colima volcanoes are active and closed to the public. There are danger zones around both volcanoes, the size of which can change depending on the current level of activity. A 7-mile (12km) exclusion zone is currently in place around Popocatépetl volcano, which is 57 miles (92 km) from Mexico City centre and 39 miles (64km) from Puebla. The alert level at Popocatépetl is Level 2 of the Amber tier. Check with your tour or flight operator or follow Benito Juárez international airport on twitter. Information about the alert level and other Government advice can be found at @SGIRPC_CDMX on Twitter.
Exposure to falling ash and toxic fumes from active volcanoes can affect your health, especially if you suffer from a respiratory condition.
For more updates on both the Popocatepetl and Colima volcanoes and the tier system, visit the website of the Mexican Disaster Prevention Centre.