Mexico

Latest update

This Advice was last issued on Monday, 01 June 2015.   Elections are to be held in Mexico on 7 June 2015. Australians should avoid all political gatherings and polling stations in the lead up to and during the elections because of the possibility of violence (See Safety and security). The level of the advice has not changed. We continue to advise Australians to exercise a high degree of caution in Mexico.

Mexico overall

Michoacán (except the cities of Morelia and Lázaro Cardenas)

Guerrero (except the tourist areas of Acapulco, Ixtapa-Zihautanejo and Taxco, and the toll roads to Acapulco and Taxco)

Tamaulipas

Summary

  • We advise you to exercise a high degree of caution in Mexico because of high levels of violent crime and drug-related violence. You should pay close attention to your personal security at all times. Monitor the media and other sources about possible new security risks.
  • Elections are to be held in Mexico on 7 June 2015. Australians should avoid all political gatherings and polling stations in the lead up to and during the elections because of the possibility of violence. Incidents of violence have already occurred during campaigning. More frequent demonstrations are expected in the lead up to the elections and isolated incidents of violence are likely. See Safety and security.
  • Australians should be aware of their surroundings and exercise particular caution when travelling or walking alone at night as petty crime is common. Pickpockets have been known to target tourists at airports, bus terminals and on the metro in Mexico City. It is advisable to avoid displaying valuables. Tourists should also be alert to criminals posing as police officers.
  • Travellers may become victims of violence directed against others. You should avoid all large public gatherings, protests and demonstrations as they may turn violent.
  • Since 2006, Mexico has experienced a dramatic increase in drug-related violence. Violent crime related to the drug trade, including murder, kidnapping and carjacking has become widespread, and Australians are advised to be vigilant.
  • The areas most affected by drug-related violence are the northern border states (Baja California, Sonora, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas), the states along the Pacific coast (Guerrero, Jalisco, Michoacán, Nayarit and Sinaloa), the central region states (Durango, San Luis Potosi and Zacatecas), the state of Mexico, and the state of Veracruz on the Gulf coast. See Safety and security.
  • We advise you to reconsider your need to travel to the state of Guerrero, except for the tourist areas of the cities of Acapulco, Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo and Taxco, and the toll roads to Taxco and Acapulco, due to the very high levels of violent crime and the volatile security situation See Safety and security.
  • We advise you to reconsider your need to travel to the state of Michoacán, except the cities of Morelia and Lázaro Cardenas, due to increasing organised crime and the volatile security situation in the state.
  • We advise you to reconsider your need to travel to the state of Tamaulipas due to the high levels of crime, including kidnapping and extortion. See Safety and security.
  • The hurricane season is June to November when landslides, mudslides and flooding may occur. In the event of a hurricane, monitor local media reports and follow the instructions of local emergency officials. See Natural disasters, severe weather and climate section.
  • See Travel Smart for general advice for all travellers.
  • Be a smart traveller. Before heading overseas:
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Entry and exit

Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as customs and quarantine regulations) can change at short notice. Contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Mexico for the most up-to-date information.

Visitors crossing by land at the US/Mexico border or Mexico’s southern borders, must obtain and complete a Multiple Immigration Form (FMM) upon arrival to Mexico from the immigration office (Instituto Nacional de Migración) and ensure their passport is stamped by Mexican immigration officials. This FMM form typically includes permission to visit the country for 180 days. Occasionally, Australians will need to seek out an immigration official in order to complete this process as officials may not always be on duty. Failure to complete this form or have your passport stamped upon entry into Mexico may result in detention and deportation. For Australians entering Mexico by air, an FMM can be obtained on arrival and should be presented with passports for inspection at immigration.

All medication must be transported in its original container and have a clear label. Prescription and controlled medication must be accompanied by a prescription from the prescribing physician on letterhead stationery and include the medication’s generic name. Contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Mexico for a list of restricted medication.

Mexico requires a notarised consent and a specific form (SAM) from the parent(s) or guardian(s) of minors (under 18 years) departing from Mexico alone or with anyone other than a parent or legal guardian. Contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Mexico to obtain the correct form (SAM).

If you are travelling to Mexico through the United States of America, or if you are transiting Honolulu or another US point of entry, you are required to meet US entry/transit requirements. Make sure you check your visa requirements with the nearest US Embassy or Consulate well in advance of your travel. You should also read our travel advice for the United States of America.

Make sure your passport has at least six months validity from your planned date of return to Australia.

Safety and security

Civil unrest/Political tension

Elections are to be held in Mexico on 7 June 2015. Australians should avoid all political gatherings and polling stations in the lead up to and during the elections because of the possibility of violence. Incidents of violence have already occurred during campaigning. More frequent demonstrations are expected in the lead up to the elections and isolated incidents of violence are likely.

Protests, demonstrations and strikes are common in Mexico. They have the potential to cause major traffic congestion and restrict movement around the affected areas. You should avoid all large public gatherings, protests and demonstrations as they may turn violent.

Large protests affected Guerrero State, Mexico City and many other parts of the country in October and November 2014. Though smaller, these protests continue in 2015. You should avoid all demonstrations as they may turn violent unexpectedly. Travellers should monitor the local media for developments and follow the advice of local authorities.

The Mexican constitution expressly prohibits political activity by foreign nationals while they are in Mexico. This includes participation in protests or demonstrations. Such activity may result in detention or expulsion from Mexico for up to 10 years.

Crime

We advise you to exercise a high degree of caution in Mexico because of high levels of violent crime and drug-related violence. Pay close attention to your personal security at all times and monitor the media for information about possible new safety or security risks.

Violent crime, including murder, armed robbery, sexual assault and kidnapping occurs in Mexico, including in popular tourist destinations and beach resorts, and the risks increase after dark. Petty crime, such as pickpocketing and bag snatching, is prevalent in tourist destinations, airports, hotels, bus stations and on public transport.

There have been reports of sexual assault, extortion and robbery being committed by individuals presenting themselves as police officers, sometimes driving automobiles resembling police vehicles.

Incidences of kidnapping are common and there have been allegations of complicity by police officers. You should be cautious and discreet about discussing your financial or business affairs. See our Kidnapping threat bulletin.

'Express kidnappings' where victims are forced to withdraw funds from ATMs to secure their release, continue to increase, particularly in urban areas. People travelling on the metro and public transport in Mexico City have been among those targeted. The use of ATMs located inside shopping centres during daylight hours may reduce the risk.

It is increasingly common for extortionists to call prospective victims by telephone, often posing as law enforcement or other officials, and demand payments in return for the release of an allegedly arrested family member. This is known as “virtual kidnapping”. Avoid divulging personal information to strangers over the phone and if you receive such calls you should contact local police.

Incidents of drink and food spiking have occurred in bars and restaurants. Do not leave your drinks unattended in bars or nightclubs and do not accept drinks from new acquaintances.

Thieves often work in cooperation with or pose as taxi drivers. Travellers have been robbed when using taxis hailed from the street. You should only use radio-despatched taxis or taxis based at designated stands (sitios), particularly in Mexico City. Use only official taxis from airports after pre-paying the fare inside the terminal building. Official taxi company booths are located in the arrivals hall at airport terminals.

You should avoid changing money at the airport if possible, or change only small amounts to avoid attracting attention. A number of travellers have been attacked by organised gangs after changing money at airports.

Crime levels on inter-city buses and on highways are high, and the risks increase after dark. It is recommended travellers use first class buses and travel during daylight hours. There have been a number of reported robberies of tourists travelling by bus along the Pacific Highway, including from Acapulco to Ixtapa and Huatulco.

Using toll (cuota) roads may reduce the risk of crime when driving, but you should remain vigilant, particularly when travelling on toll roads in Sonora, Sinaloa, Tamaulipas and border regions as tourists have been attacked on highways in these areas. Avoid driving at night outside of major cities, including on major highways. Incidents of violent carjackings have increased significantly, particularly in northern border areas, but also along the Pacific coast. On occasions these attacks have been carried out by heavily armed gangs posing as police officers.

Visitors travelling in large camper vans or sports utility vehicles (SUVs), on roads in and out of the United States, have been targeted by organised crime groups.

Drug-related violence

Since 2006, Mexico has experienced a dramatic increase in drug-related violence. Violent crimes related to the drug trade, including murder, kidnapping and carjacking, have become widespread. Shoot-outs, grenade attacks and car bombings have occurred in public places, and targeted attacks on military personnel, government officials and journalists have increased. Travellers may become victims of violence directed against others.

The Mexican government has deployed large numbers of military personnel and federal police in an effort to deal with the increasing levels of drug-related violence.

The areas most affected are the northern border states (Baja California, Sonora, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas), the states along the Pacific coast (Guerrero, Jalisco, Michoacán, Nayarit and Sinaloa), the central region states (Durango, San Luis Potosi and Zacatecas), the state of Mexico and the state of Veracruz on the Gulf coast. Major cities along Mexico’s border with the United States, including Tijuana, Ciudad Juarez, Nuevo Laredo, Matamoros, Nogales, Piedras Negras and Reynosa have been particularly affected. Visitors should remain within tourist areas and avoid road travel in affected states, especially at night.

Travellers should be prepared for roadblocks and random vehicle checks by the police or military. Drug cartels also set up roadblocks in the northern areas of Mexico to hinder military and police movement. Motorists who have not stopped at the roadblocks have been killed.

If you travel to the areas mentioned above, we advise you to be aware of your surroundings, pay close attention to your personal security, avoid isolated locations, and monitor the media for information about possible new safety or security risks. Evening activities should be restricted to well-known and well-frequented public establishments where access to safe transport is available.

An upsurge in violence in the state of Jalisco occurred over the weekend of 2 and 3 May 2015. Clashes between security forces and an organised crime gang took place in various locations, including parts of Guadalajara. Roads were blockaded, businesses and vehicles burnt, armed clashed occurred in public places, and a military helicopter was shot down. Further violence is possible. Australians in Jalisco should stay in tourist areas and follow local media closely.

Guerrero: We advise you to reconsider your need to travel to the state of Guerrero, with exception of the tourist areas of Acapulco, Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo and Taxco, and the toll roads to Taxco and Acapulco, due to high levels of violent crime and the volatile security situation. The level of violence in Acapulco remains high, particularly outside tourist areas, including murder and shootings in public places. Kidnapping is common throughout the state, particularly inland and in rural areas. Violent criminal gangs operate throughout the state, but particularly in rural areas. Mexico’s Federal Government is reinforcing security. If you do decide to travel to Guerrero, you should exercise extreme care. Pay close attention to your personal security at all times and monitor the media and other local sources of information about new security and safety risks.

We assess that the risk to travellers is lower in the tourist areas of the cities of Acapulco, Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo and Taxco. You should remain alert to any suspicious activity and adopt appropriate security measures in these areas.

Toll booths along the toll roads to Acapulco and Taxco are occasionally taken-over by local protest groups, causing traffic delays. Motorists should exercise a high degree of caution in the areas surrounding these toll booths.

Michoacán: We advise you to reconsider your need to travel to the state of Michoacán, except the cities of Morelia and Lázaro Cardenas. Federal authorities assumed full control of public safety in Michoacán in early 2014 due to increasing organised crime-related activity and the presence of a large number of so-called self-defence groups in the state. The actions of these self-defence groups are unpredictable and the security situation is volatile. If you do decide to travel to Michoacán, you should exercise extreme care. Pay very close attention to your personal security at all times and monitor the media and other local sources of information about new security and safety risks.

State of Mexico: In recent years, violent crime has increased in the state of Mexico, where crimes such as murder, assault, armed robbery, extortion and kidnapping occur. The state has a very high murder rate. You should pay close attention to your personal security at all times, and monitor the media and other local sources of information about new security and safety risks.

Tamaulipas: We advise you to reconsider your need to travel throughout the state of Tamaulipas due to wide-spread criminal activity linked to drug trafficking and the high levels of kidnapping and extortion. In early 2014, levels of violence in Tamaulipas increased significantly. In May 2014, the Mexican government took control of security in the state in an effort to control the violence. If you do decide to travel to Tamaulipas, you should exercise extreme care. Pay close attention to your personal security at all times and monitor the media and other local sources of information about new security and safety risks.

Terrorism

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. See our Terrorist Threat Worldwide bulletin for more information on terrorism.

Money and valuables

Before you go, organise a variety of ways to access your money overseas, such as credit cards, travellers cheques, cash, debit cards or cash cards. Australian currency and travellers cheques are not accepted in many countries. Consult with your bank to find out which is the most appropriate currency to carry and whether your ATM card will work in Mexico. US dollars are widely accepted in holiday resort areas of Mexico. For security reasons, you should only use ATMs during daylight hours and inside shopping malls.

Your passport is a valuable document that is attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. It should always be kept in a safe place. You are required by Australian law to report a lost or stolen passport. If your passport is lost or stolen overseas, report it online or contact the nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate as soon as possible.

Australians may be issued with an emergency travel document if their passport is lost or stolen, and will need to get a US transit visa should their return travel be via the United States. This process requires a minimum of 48 hours.

Local travel

You should be careful when crossing the road in Mexico. Vehicles generally do not stop for pedestrians nor indicate when they are turning. Intersections can often be confusing, with vehicles coming from unexpected directions.

Driving on rural roads in Mexico is dangerous due to poor road conditions, the presence of pedestrians and livestock on roads, and inadequate street lighting and signage. Criminals have targeted vehicles. When driving always keep doors locked, windows closed and do not leave valuables in vehicles even when locked. When driving in towns and cities, ensure there is enough room between your vehicle and those around you in case you have to change direction quickly. For further advice, see our road travel page.

There are strict rules regarding foreigners driving in Mexico, especially in relation to the reporting of accidents and having a relevant insurance policy. If you intend to drive within Mexico, you should ensure that you are well-informed of these laws.

Visitors intending to travel to Mexico in an owned or rented vehicle should ensure they have all the appropriate permits to enter Mexico. Check with the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Mexico prior to your travel.

The standards maintained by diving schools, dive operators and other adventure activity companies may not be high or comparable to those in Australia. Carefully check the operator's credentials beforehand and ensure that your travel insurance policy covers you for all activities that you undertake. If appropriate safety equipment is not available, you should use another provider. Always use available safety equipment, such as lifejackets or seatbelts, even if others don't.

Standards maintained by search and rescue services may not be as high or comparable to those in Australia. These services may not be available in some locations.

Visitors to beaches on both the Pacific and Caribbean coasts of Mexico should follow the warning flags. Undertows and currents may endanger even strong swimmers.

Airline safety

The Australian Government does not provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths. See instead the Aviation Safety Network website for information on aviation safety in Mexico.

Please also refer to our general air travel page for information on aviation safety and security.

Laws

You are subject to the local laws of Mexico, including ones that appear harsh by Australian standards. If you’re arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you under our Consular Services Charter. But we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail. Research laws before travelling, especially for an extended stay.

The Mexican constitution expressly prohibits political activity by foreign nationals while they are in Mexico, including participation in protests or demonstrations. Such activity may result in detention or expulsion from Mexico for up to 10 years.

Mexico City has passed a law allowing same-sex marriages. Same-sex civil unions are legally performed in Mexico City and the state of Coahuila. More conservative attitudes prevail in parts of the country and public displays of affection between members of the same sex may not be considered socially acceptable in some areas. See our LGBTI travellers page.

Penalties for drug offences are severe and include lengthy prison sentences in local jails. This may also include controlled medications if not purchased with a legal prescription.

People who rent or borrow cars in Mexico are responsible for any illegal items found in those vehicles, even if they were unaware of their presence. There are strict rules regarding foreigners driving in Mexico especially in relation to the reporting of accidents and having a relevant insurance policy. If you intend to drive in Mexico, you should make sure you are well-informed of these laws.

You can be arrested for possession of Mexican archaeological artefacts.

It is illegal to enter Mexico, including Mexican waters, with firearms and/or ammunition without having a permit. This permit has to be issued by a Mexican embassy or consulate prior to your arrival. It cannot be done once you arrive. Mexican authorities strictly enforce these rules at all land borders, airports and seaports.

Australians residing in Mexico and planning to acquire property or invest in time-share agreements should undertake thorough research and seek the advice of a qualified lawyer before making any financial commitments.

Some Australian criminal laws, such as those relating to money laundering, bribery of foreign public officials, terrorism, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, child pornography, and child sex tourism, apply to Australians overseas. Australians who commit these offences while overseas may be prosecuted in Australia.

Australian authorities are committed to combating sexual exploitation of children by Australians overseas. Australians may be prosecuted at home under Australian child sex tourism and child pornography laws. These laws provide severe penalties of up to 25 years’ imprisonment for Australians who engage in child sexual exploitation while outside of Australia.

Information for dual nationals

Our Dual nationals page provides further information.

Health

We strongly recommend that you take out comprehensive travel insurance that will cover any overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation, before you depart. Confirm that your insurance covers you for the whole time you'll be away and check what circumstances and activities are not included in your policy. Remember, regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government will not pay for a traveller's medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs.

It is important to consider your physical and mental health before travelling overseas. We encourage you to consider having vaccinations before you travel. At least eight weeks before you depart, make an appointment with your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and any implications for your health, particularly if you have an existing medical condition. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides information for travellers and our health page also provides useful information for travellers on staying healthy.

The standard of medical facilities provided by private hospitals in Mexico and other major cities is reasonable. Outside major cities, however, facilities can be very limited. Treatment at private clinics and hospitals is expensive. Doctors and hospitals expect cash payment prior to providing medical services, including for emergency care. Island resorts may lack comprehensive medical facilities.

Hyperbaric chambers are available in major cities and in resort towns where scuba diving is popular.

Malaria is a risk throughout the year, particularly in the state of Chiapas, in rural areas of Nayarit, Oaxaca and Sinaloa, and in some parts of Chihuahua, Durango and Sonora. Dengue fever and other insect-borne diseases (including chikungunya, Chagas' disease and leishmaniasis) are also a risk to travellers. You should consult your doctor or travel clinic about prophylaxis against malaria and take measures to avoid insect bites, including using insect repellent at all times, wearing long, loose fitting light coloured clothing and ensuring your accommodation is mosquito proof.

Water-borne, food-borne and other infectious diseases (including hepatitis, typhoid, tuberculosis and rabies) are prevalent with more serious outbreaks occurring from time to time. We advise you to boil all drinking water or drink bottled water, and avoid ice cubes and raw or undercooked food. Seek medical advice if you have a fever or are suffering from diarrhoea.

Visitors to Mexico City may experience health problems caused by high altitude as well as air pollution, which is at its peak during the winter months. Visitors with heart, lung or respiratory problems are advised to consult their doctors before travelling.

Where to get help

Depending on your enquiry, your best option may be to first contact your family, friends, airline, travel agent, tour operator, employer or travel insurer. Your travel insurer should have a 24 hour emergency number.

If the matter relates to criminal issues, contact the local police. The national emergency telephone number is 066.

If the matter relates to complaints about tourism services or products, contact the service provider directly. If you are not satisfied with the response you receive, then you may lodge a complaint with the Mexico government’s consumer protection agency PROFECO.

The Consular Services Charter explains what the Australian Government can and can not do to assist Australians overseas. For consular assistance, see contact details below:

Australian Embassy, Mexico City

Ruben Dario #55
Corner of Campos Eliseos, Polanco
Colonia Bosque de Chapultepec
11580 Mexico DF Mexico
Telephone: (52 55) 1101 2200
Facsimile: (52 55) 1101 2201
E-mail: consularpassports.mexico@dfat.gov.au
Website: www.mexico.embassy.gov.au

See the Embassy website for information about opening hours and temporary closures that may affect service provision.

If you are travelling to Mexico, whatever the reason and however long you'll be there, we encourage you to register with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. You can register online or in person at any Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate. The information you provide will help us to contact you in an emergency whether it is a natural disaster, civil disturbance or a family issue.

In a consular emergency if you are unable to contact the Embassy you can contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305, or 1300 555 135 within Australia.

Additional information

Natural disasters, severe weather and climate

Hurricanes

The hurricane season is June to November when landslides, mudslides and flash flooding may occur, including in Mexico City. In the case of a hurricane, monitor local media reports and follow the instructions of local emergency officials.

In the event of an approaching hurricane, you should identify your local shelter. Flights in and out of affected areas could be delayed or suspended. Available flights may fill quickly. You should contact your airline for the latest flight information. The hurricane could also affect access to sea ports in the region. In some areas, adequate shelter from a severe hurricane may not be available to all who may choose to stay. Familiarise yourself with your hotel or cruise ship evacuation plans. You should carry your travel documents at all times (i.e. passport, photo identification, etc.) or secure them in a safe, waterproof location. We also suggest that you contact friends and family in Australia with updates about your welfare and whereabouts. For further information, see our Severe Weather page.

The direction and strength of hurricanes can change with little warning. You can check the latest hurricane information at the National Hurricane Center website.

Earthquakes and Tsunamis

Mexico experiences a number of tremors/earthquakes each year. Visitors should ensure they are aware of the safety exits in their hotel or accommodation.

All oceanic regions of the world can experience tsunamis, but in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, there is a more frequent occurrence of large, destructive tsunamis because of the many large earthquakes along major tectonic plate boundaries and ocean trenches. See the Tsunami Awareness brochure.

Volcanoes

In Mexico there are several active volcanoes, including the Popocatepetl and Colima volcanoes. The Popocatepetl volcano varies between a Yellow Phase Two and Yellow Phase Three alert, depending on its activity. Information on volcanic activity can be obtained from the Humanitarian Early Warning Service.

If a natural disaster occurs, you should monitor the media and follow the advice of local authorities.

Additional Resources



While every care has been taken in preparing this information, neither the Australian Government nor its agents or employees, including any member of Australia's diplomatic and consular staff abroad, can accept liability for any injury, loss or damage arising in respect of any statement contained herein.

Maps are presented for information only. The department accepts no responsibility for errors or omission of any geographic feature. Nomenclature and territorial boundaries may not necessarily reflect Australian Government policy.