The 7 Most Dangerous Places in Mexico

Mar, 26, 2023

After living and traveling through most of Mexico, we have been to almost every major city in the country. While there are so many things to love about Mexico, a lot of people worry about their safety in Mexico when planning a trip, and they choose to either avoid the country as a whole or hide on a resort the whole time. Firstly, let me say this: Mexico is not an especially dangerous place for tourists, and you are in no more danger in 99% of Mexico than you are in the United States.

But what about that other 1%?

This post is going to take a look at 7 of the places that people reference as the most dangerous places in Mexico, and analyze whether or not they are safe enough to visit.

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1. Tijuana

sign that reads tijuana

Tijuana, one of biggest cities in Mexico, is located right on the border with the United States across from San Diego, California. Before we ever traveled to Tijuana, all we heard of were risks of crime and pickpocketing, cartel violence, and certain death.

In our experience, this just isn’t the case. While there is a larger cartel presence in Tijuana than there is in many other places in Mexico, that doesn’t necessarily put you at risk. The cartels are smart; they’re not in the business of killing Americans. (At least most of them aren’t.) In Tijuana, your real risk is in getting scammed or pickpocketed by a petty criminal – not so much getting shot and killed by a cartel.

The cartels are smart; they’re not in the business of killing Americans.

While the reputation of danger in the city is definitely overhyped, that doesn’t mean you can let your guard down. Tijuana is not a particularly safe place; it’s just not nearly as dangerous for tourists as people hype it up to be. If you follow the safety steps that I outline in my Tijuana travel guide, you should not have any problems while visiting Tijuana. In fact, we loved it there! It’s one of our favorite places in Mexico because of its incredible food and craft brewery scene.

So, is Tijuana too dangerous for tourists to visit in 2022?

The Verdict

Tijuana is safe enough to visit.

2. The Texas Border

man in yellow shirt with outstretched arms overlooking texas border

Over the past several years, there have been a lot of really bad stories surfacing about things happening on the Mexican side of the Texas border. A family of Americans was accidentally blown up in their SUV by a cartel who mistook them for a rival gang. Massive graves have been uncovered, people have been kidnapped, and tourists’ cars have been surrounded and commandeered by gangs. Is there any truth to this?

Unfortunately, yes there is. While any “dangerous place” isn’t necessarily dangerous all of the time, the Mexican border with Texas tends to be one of the most dangerous places in all of Mexico. The entire U.S. border is prime real estate for the cartels, as they look to find entry points for their illicit products. As a result, there’s a high concentration of bad people here, and an even higher concentration of accidental killings of innocent people that get stuck in the crossfire.

Sadly, the Mexican border with Texas tends to be one of the most dangerous places in all of Mexico.

While passing through during the day on a road trip and staying in the major cities is not especially dangerous, straying away from tourist areas and heading out at night both tend to lead to bad outcomes. The state of Tamaulipas, especially, should be avoided at all costs.

The Verdict

The Texas border is mostly unsafe to visit.

3. Acapulco

swimsuit model in white and blue bikini on Mexico beach with clear blue water

While it was once one of the most glamorous destinations in the Americas and a playground for Hollywood celebrities, Acapulco’s popularity has really decreased. This is largely due to a really bad reputation of violence and crime. Many stories of dead bodies washing up on the shore and body parts being found in the streets started to surface, and tourism nearly reached a standstill.

Is there any truth to this? Yes and no. There definitely used to be. Acapulco went through a period of time where it was truly one of the most dangerous places in Mexico and was not a place you wanted to go. Rival gangs in the area took control of the city and made it practically a warzone. However, this is not the case anymore. While the slums outside of Acapulco are definitely not a place you should go anywhere close to, the tourist areas themselves are once again completely safe. I go into more detail on this in my Acapulco travel guide, but basically if you keep your guard up and take some certain precautions, you can have a really fun and relaxing trip to Acapulco.

This Pacific Coast gem is once again packed by tourists – both Mexican and foreign – and it’s a really cool place to check out. There are also several really great beaches here, and if you decide to go, you should check out my rankings of the best beaches in Acapulco!

The Verdict

Acapulco is safe enough to visit.

4. The State of Sinaloa

aerial view of ocean and tropical forest

The State of Sinaloa is where one of the most infamous criminal syndicates of all time got its name. The Sinaloa Cartel, the group that made El Chapo famous, calls Culiacan its home. Due to being at the very core of one of the most illustrious criminal organizations in history, Sinaloa should be dangerous, right? Traveling here should be a death sentence, right?

There is certainly some truth to the danger rumors of Sinaloa.

Well, sort of. Like most things, making too broad of a generalization is what puts this into a gray area. There are some places in Sinaloa that are very safe; the coastal city of Mazatlan is a great example of this. However, there is certainly some truth to these rumors. While there are more dangerous places in the world, Sinaloa is typically better off avoided unless you have a lot of experience traveling in Mexico. Is Sinaloa dangerous on an international level? Not especially. However, generally speaking, this is still one of the more dangerous places in Mexico and you have no need to go here unless you’re headed to the beach or the Copper Canyon.

The Verdict

Some places are safe enough to visit, others are too dangerous.

5. Ciudad Juarez

white road sign that reads juarez

Ciudad Juarez, located right across the border from El Paso, Texas, has certainly earned itself quite the bad reputation. During the peak of its infamy, it was considered to be a literal warzone. There was excessive indiscriminate violence, it was known as one of the femicide capitals of the world, and it had one of the highest murder rates in the world – higher than Damascus at the peak of the Syrian Civil War.

People were being killed left and right, and there weren’t enough ambulances to pick up the bodies. It was honestly a horrible place to be. But is that still the case?

Nah, Not really.

While Juarez is still a bit rough around the edges (quite literally), it is definitely safe enough to visit. We visited and split our time between Juarez and El Paso, Texas, and we really had an awesome time. While you definitely need to take safety precautions in Juarez, the odds of something happening to you aren’t particularly high anymore. If you don’t draw attention to yourself, don’t go out after dark, and keep your wits about you, you shouldn’t have any issues. I’d advise reading my guide to staying safe in Juarez before you go, though, just to make sure you know everything you need to know!

The Verdict

Ciudad Juarez is safe enough to visit.

6. Mexico City

Palacio de Bellas Artes in the Historic Center of Mexico City

Mexico City is one of the biggest cities in the entire world, and depending what you read, it’s either a safe haven or a no-go zone. There’s a lot to unpack here, because the answer to this is a little bit more complex. Mexico City is giant – it’s the second biggest city in the Americas and makes New York City look like a village. The city absolutely sprawls, and as a result, you can’t really refer to the city as a whole when answering this question. It really all comes down to what part of the city you’re talking about, as it has bad areas just like any other big city.

The truth is that if you stick to the “good” areas and touristy areas of Mexico City – like Roma, Condesa, Hipodromo, the Historic Center, and Polanco – you’re going to feel like you’re in a perfectly safe, upscale place. And frankly, that is true. While you need to take general big city precautions even in these nice neighborhoods, they’re still just as safe as any big city in Europe or North America.

The truth is that if you stick to the “good” areas and touristy areas of Mexico City, you’re going to feel like you’re in a perfectly safe, upscale place.

To stay safe in Mexico City, the plan is pretty simple – don’t go into the bad areas, and stick to Uber and the subway system instead of buses and local means of transportation. While using public transportation is a favorite of mine, sticking to Uber and the subway in Mexico City is a great strategy for avoiding danger. I’ve heard of schemes where robbers enter buses and demand that everyone hands over their wallets and phones by gunpoint. This kind of floors me, because I’ve never had anything but good experiences in Mexico City. Regardless, sticking to good areas and certain kinds of transportation will make you feel not just perfectly safe, but also will set you up to have a really enjoyable trip to Mexico’s capital.

The Verdict

Some places are safe enough to visit, others are too dangerous.

7. Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Tulum, and the Riviera Maya

The Riviera Maya is the most popular tourist zone in Mexico. This area encompasses the entire Caribbean coast, from Cancun all the way down to the Belize border. While millions of vacationers visit this stretch of immaculate coastline every year, recent headlines have painted an entirely different image of the region.

It is true that there have been shootings and other horrible things in the Cancun and Tulum area over the past couple of years. The massive flow of tourists into the region makes it a very alluring area for cartels to operate, as many of these visitors are interested in purchasing illicit drugs during their Mexican vacation.

However, it is important to realize that the violence that occurs here is usually contained, targeted, and organized. If you are on a family vacation to a resort in Cancun, there is an incredibly slim chance that anything violent will occur around you during your trip.

While there is a chance of violent encounters on any trip to the Riviera Maya, the threat is not as large as the media portrays it to be. As an American, you are likely to hear just about every violent event that goes on in Cancun. This portrayal makes it seem incredibly dangerous. But what if your local news network reported on every violent crime that occurred in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago?

My point is that anywhere you travel comes with inherent risks. In my 10+ trips to various places all around Mexico’s Caribbean coast, I have never even sniffed a trace of danger. In most cases, it you don’t go looking for danger in Cancun, you won’t see any.

The Verdict

There’s a chance, but you’re highly unlikely to witness any violent crime.

Thanks for reading my post determining if “the 7 most dangerous places in Mexico” really are that dangerous. Hopefully my advice helps you when you’re planning your next trip to Mexico. If a place you’re wondering about didn’t make this list, odds are you don’t need to worry about going there! Just take basic precautions and you should be fine.

 If you decide to go to any of these places, let us know! If you have any questions or thoughts, either drop a comment below.


Greg is a seasoned traveler who has lived in Mexico, Italy, China, and the United States. From New Year’s in Dubai to epic sunset hikes in Panama, his journeys have taken him to almost 50 countries all around the world.

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Greg | The Author

Greg is a seasoned traveler who has lived in Mexico, Italy, China and the U.S. From New Year’s in Dubai to epic sunset hikes in Panama, his journeys have taken him to almost 50 countries.

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