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Is it safe to visit Mexico? What Canadians need to know about the 2024 travel advisory

Kidnapping is a "serious security risk" throughout much of the country.
Canada has added several updates to its Mexico travel advisory in 2024 for travellers planning to visit destinations such as Cancun.

The Mexico travel advisory has been updated several times over the past year and includes several warnings at the start of 2024.

The Canadian government continues to advise travellers to exercise a high degree of caution in the North American country. Additionally, there are several regions they should avoid all travel to. 

Mexico is the second-largest tourist destination for Canadians after the United States and travellers from Vancouver International Airport (YVR) can enjoy affordable flights to hot spots like Cancun throughout the year. However, violent crime and kidnapping have been rapidly increasing in the country over the past several years.

In November 2023, the United Nations stated that over 100,000 people are currently missing in Mexico, characterizing the mass disappearances as "alarming," according to Reuters.

What do I do if I get kidnapped?

Canada warns that Mexico has one of the highest kidnapping rates in the world; it is a "serious security risk" for people who travel to this country. Although many tourist areas are considered safe, this issue is widespread. 

Many contracted Canadians working for Mexican businesses have been kidnapped but "kidnappers target all classes." They often work in areas that aren't under the control of security forces or police.

If you're kidnapped:

  • comply with the kidnappers’ requests
  • don’t attempt to resist

A second kind of kidnapping, called express kidnapping, occurs in large urban areas. Criminals ask for a small and immediate ransom and often work with taxi drivers (or pose as them). They force victims to use their debit or credit card to withdraw money from ATMs in exchange for their release.

  • Use only a reputable taxi company or a trusted ride-sharing app
  • Book taxis through your hotel or an authorized taxi stand (sitio)

Do not travel to the Guerrero State

Although Hurricane Otis made landfall in Mexico in October 2023, parts of the country are still grappling with damages left in its wake.

People should completely avoid travelling to the Guerrero State due to the precarious security situation. There continues to be a threat of "armed violence, banditry, and looting in cities and on roads."

 The cities of Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo and Taxco are excluded from the advisory.

Updated Mexico travel advisory for Canada in 2024

In 2022, Canada and its neighbours south of the border issued updated advisories for parts of Mexico due to violent crime, including homicide, kidnapping, carjacking, and robbery. 

There continue to be high rates of these types of crime in popular tourist destinations such as the Mayan Riviera (Cancún, Playa del Carmen, Puerto Morelos, and Tulum), and Acapulco. Criminal groups and drug cartels are also present in tourist areas and bystanders can get caught in crossfire. 

Disputes between taxi and ridesharing application drivers may occur in these popular tourist destinations. Drivers generally don't target tourists but you "be caught up in these incidents and harassed or injured."

In Mexico City, government-authorized taxis have licence plates starting with “A” or “B." Other taxis at stands will have both the logo of their company and the plate number stamped on the side of the car. Official taxis in Mexico City are pink and white. Users can validate the pink and white taxis on the CDMX app.

Buses are relatively safe in the capital city but you should use VIP or executive class transportation when travelling to other cities.

Penalties for breaking the law in Mexico can be more severe than in Canada, even for similar offences. Travellers can be held in pre-trial detention with lengthy delays before a trial.

"Many petty crimes (such as public urination, failure to pay a bill or disorderly behaviour) can result in a 72-hour detention by police. Paying a fine can secure an early release from detention."

Smoking is prohibited in all public places except for clearly marked designated smoking areas. Some of the places tourists can no longer smoke in include beaches, parks, hotels, and restaurants. If you are caught smoking in public, you may be fined.

Avoid non-essential travel to these areas in Mexico

The Canadian government warns against non-essential travel to the following areas due to high levels of violence of violence and organized crime.

  • all Chihuahua
  • all Colima, except the city of Manzanillo
  • all Coahuila, except the southern part of the state at and below the Saltillo-Torreón highway corridor
  • all Durango, except Durango City
  • in Guanajuato
    • Highway 45 between León and Irapuato
    • the area south of and including Highway 45D between Irapuato and Celaya
  • all Michoacán, except the city of Morelia
  • in Morelos
    • the Lagunas de Zempoala National Park and surrounding areas
    • the municipality of Xoxocotla
  • in Nayarit
    • the area within 20 km of the border with Sinaloa and Durango
    • the city of Tepic
  • all Nuevo León, except the city of Monterrey
  • all Sinaloa, except the city of Mazatlán
  • all Sonora, except the cities of Hermosillo and Guaymas/San Carlos and Puerto Peñasco
  • all Tamaulipas
  • all Zacatecas

What to do if you need help while you are in Mexico 

In case of an emergency in Mexico, dial 911. 

Contact roadside assistance if you run into an issue on a highway. The Angeles Verdes is a highway patrol service that provides free assistance on all major toll highways from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. local time. 

To contact the Angeles Verdes, download their App on your mobile device. In case of an emergency, you can also dial 078 or 800 006 8839 (toll-free in Mexico) to reach them.

Canadians in need of emergency consular assistance should contact Global Affairs Canada's Emergency Watch and Response Centre by calling 001-800-514-0129 (toll-free from Mexico only), +1 613 996 8885, by text message at +1 613-686-3658, via WhatsApp at +1 613-909-8881, via Telegram at Canada Emergency Abroad or by e-mail

What to do before you leave on your trip to Mexico 

Visit a travel medical clinic before you book a ticket. The healthcare professionals will inform you about what vaccinations you require and what you can expect on your trip. There are risks of contracting several viruses spread by mosquitoes including dengue, Zika, and chikungunya.

Travellers should always check the latest advice from the government before they book a ticket from Vancouver to Mexico. They should also purchase a comprehensive travel insurance policy when they book their ticket, which will cover the cost of your ticket in case you can't leave due to an unforeseeable medical or other emergency reason. It will also cover incidents like missed connections, baggage interruption and loss, and more. 

Canadian travel advisories that have a "level three" or "level four" warning may be claimed under a trip cancellation and interruption plan. However, travellers can't claim insurance if they booked the flights or accommodation after the advisory was issued. 

You must fill out a tourist card to enter Mexico unless you plan to stay under 72 hours within the northern border zone. 

If you don’t obtain a tourist card upon arrival, you may face:

  • fine
  • detention
  • expulsion

Canadians should always register trips that they take online before they leave so that the government can contact them in an emergency.