Mexico travel guide
As spicy as salsa, intoxicating as tequila and surreal as a Frida Kahlo canvas, Mexico fills the senses, energizes the intellect and nourishes the soul. This huge country encompasses epic landscapes; from northern deserts and snowy peaks of the central sierra, to the jungle highlands of southern Chiapas and the beaches of the Yucatán Peninsula.
Pre-Colombian civilisations made their mark with the vast pyramids of Teotihuacán, stunning temples of Chichén Itzá and countless other archaeological wonders. The Spanish heritage has also been well preserved, with charming towns built around shady plazas and whitewashed churches; San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato and Dolores Hidalgo are treasures of the central Colonial Heartland.
Mexico today is a booming modern economy, led by its gargantuan capital, Mexico City. Once you adjust to the relentless pace of life in this metropolis, you can indulge in world-class museums, dine in exquisite restaurants, cut shapes in clubs and barter at sprawling markets. Beyond the modern cities, lie sleepy villages where age-old customs and ancient beliefs endure. San Cristobal de las Casas is a major hub, ringed by indigenous villages, with churches combining pagan beliefs with Roman Catholicism. Across the country, lively festivals reflect this blending of faiths, most famously at the Day of the Dead ceremony.
For visitors seeking outdoor adventure, Mexico delivers. Nature lovers can go whale watching in Baja California, reef diving off the Yucatán Peninsula and trekking through the jungle to glowing blue lagoons bordering Guatemala. Adrenaline activities are in amply supply too, from canyoning in Veracruz and hang-gliding in Hidalgo to volcano climbing, caving and river rafting.
One of the great joys of a visit to Mexico is its cuisine. Emulated around the world, its crispy tacos, mole sauces and burritos are amongst the mouth-watering specialities on offer. They are best washed down with one of Mexico’s many beers or a shot of mescal if you’re in the party mood, which everyone else here seems to be.
1,964,375 sq km (758,449 sq miles).
128,632,004 (UN estimate 2016).
62 per sq km.
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador since 2018.
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador since 2018.
Last updated: 18 September 2019
The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. 'We' refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.
There are currently large numbers of migrants moving en masse from Honduras through Guatemala to Mexico and beyond. This is having an impact on border crossings. The situation is fluid but borders crossings at Tecun Uman (Guatemala/Mexico), Agua Caliente (Honduras/Guatemala) and Tijuana (Mexico/USA) are currently affected and subject to periodic closures. You’re advised to check with local authorities and tour operators before attempting to cross land borders.
The hurricane season normally runs from June to November and affects both the Pacific and Atlantic coasts. Be aware that effects of tropical storms and hurricanes can span hundreds of miles from the centre of the storm, causing flooding, landslides and disruption to local services, including transport.
Major tourist destinations like Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Cozumel, Los Cabos, Puerto Vallarta and Nuevo Vallarta have mostly not seen the levels of drug-related violence and crime experienced elsewhere in Mexico. However, since 2017 there have been a number of reported shooting incidents and other incidents of violence in the main tourist destinations, including in locations popular with tourists. There is currently an increased police presence in the Cancun area, including in the hotel zone. While tourists have not been the target of such incidents, anyone in the vicinity of an incident could be affected. There has been a recent increase in violence in the State of Veracruz, including the city of Veracruz. Illegal roadblocks have been reported more frequently. If you’re visiting any of these areas, you should monitor local advice, remain vigilant and follow the advice of the local authorities and your tour operator.
UK health authorities have classified Mexico as having a risk of Zika virus transmission. For more information and advice, visit the National Travel Health Network and Centre website.
Protests regularly affect Mexico City and other parts of the country. You should avoid demonstrations and follow the advice of the local authorities if you’re in an area where a protest is taking place.
Over 576,971 British nationals visited Mexico in 2017. Most visits are trouble-free.
The security situation can pose a risk for foreigners. Be alert to the existence of street crime as well as more serious violent crime like robbery, assault and vehicle hijacking. In certain parts of Mexico you should take particular care to avoid being caught up in drug related violence between criminal groups. The emergency number in Mexico is 911. If you’re in Mexico City, you can download the 911 CDMX app.
Although there’s no recent history of terrorism in Mexico, attacks can’t be ruled out.
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission.
Safety and security
Drug-related violence in Mexico has increased over recent years. The violence is concentrated in specific areas, and some regions are almost completely spared. Make sure you research your destination thoroughly.
Outbursts of politically-motivated violence can occur across the country, with a recent increase in the states of Guerrero and Mexico City.
North and west
Many fatalities are suspected gang members killed in turf wars between the different organisations that compete for control of trafficking routes into the US. Drug-related violence is a particular problem in the northern states of Sonora, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo Leon, Tamaulipas, Sinaloa and Durango. Armed clashes between security forces and drug groups can occur at any time without warning. You should take extreme care outside tourist areas in all of these states.
You should take precautions in the state of Baja California, including Tijuana. There has been a rise in drug-related crime in Baja California Sur, including Los Cabos. You should take extra care when travelling to these areas.
You should take care when travelling to Ciudad Juarez or other cities in Northern States. Travel during daylight hours when possible, inform relatives or friends of your travel plans and use reputable hotels only.
There have been reports of increased security incidents in the states of Tabasco and Veracruz. There has been a recent increase in violence in the State of Veracruz, including the city of Veracruz. Illegal roadblocks have also been reported more frequently. You should take extreme care.
West and south
Illegal roadblocks have been reported more frequently, particularly in the states of Guerrero, Oaxaca and Chiapas. If you’re driving in these states, travel during daylight hours and use toll roads where possible, although you may still encounter disruptions.
Drug-related violence is also a problem in Michoacán, Guerrero, Jalisco and Nayarit. See the main tourist destinations section below for further details.
Main tourist destinations
The Mexican government makes efforts to protect major tourist destinations like Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Cozumel, Los Cabos, Puerto Vallarta and Nuevo Vallarta. These areas have mostly not seen the levels of drug-related violence and crime experienced elsewhere in Mexico. However, since 2017 there have been a number of reported shooting incidents and other incidents of violence in these areas, including in locations popular with tourists. There is currently an increased police presence in the Cancun area, including in the hotel zone. While tourists have not been the target of such incidents, anyone in the vicinity of an incident could be affected.
On 21 February 2018, an explosive device detonated on a tourist ferry operating between Playa del Carmen and Cozumel, Quintana Roo. The explosion injured 20 people, including tourists. On 1 March, local authorities found an undetonated device on another ferry operating on the same route. The Mexican authorities are continuing to investigate the incident.
If you’re visiting any of these areas, you should monitor local advice, remain vigilant and follow the advice of the local authorities and your tour operator.
There have been several instances of armed crime both within and outside tourist areas in Acapulco. If possible, travel by air if you’re visiting a major tourist destination in Guerrero. Due to an increase in violent crime in recent months, you should be extra vigilant in Acapulco and surrounding areas.
Crime and violence are serious problems in Mexico and the security situation can pose a risk for foreigners. Many Mexican and foreign businesses choose to hire private security. You should research your destination thoroughly and only travel during daylight hours when possible. Monitor local media and inform trusted contacts of your travel plans.
If you’re the victim of a crime and wish to report the incident, you should do so immediately to the nearest branch of the state prosecutor’s office (Agencia del Ministerio Público). No criminal investigation is possible without a formal complaint to Mexican authorities. Complaints must be made in person before leaving Mexico.
When driving, avoid isolated roads and use toll roads (‘cuotas’) whenever possible. Keep car doors locked and windows closed, especially at traffic lights. There have been a number of violent car-jackings and robberies along the Pacific Highway and you should be careful when travelling on this route. Those travelling in large camper vans or sports utility vehicles (SUVs) have been targeted in the past. If you suspect you’re being followed or watched, drive to a police station or other safe place.
Be particularly alert on public transport, at airports and in bus stations. Theft on buses is common so keep an eye on your belongings at all times. Buses have also been hijacked in conflict areas. Where possible, 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.
Passengers have been robbed and assaulted by unlicensed taxi drivers including in Mexico City. In Mexico City, use the better regulated ‘sitio’ taxis from authorised cab ranks or ask your hotel concierge to order you a taxi. At airports, use only authorised pre-paid airport taxi services.
Women travelling on their own should be particularly alert when travelling on public transport. Several serious sexual offences have also occurred in tourist areas outside of Mexico City. Take care even in areas close to hotels, and especially after dark.
Don’t leave food and drinks unattended in bars and restaurants. Travellers have been robbed or assaulted after being drugged.There have also been reports of tainted alcohol causing illness or blackouts. If you have any concerns, seek advice from your tour operator or the local authorities.
Street crime is a serious problem in major cities and tourist resort areas. Pick-pocketing is common on the Mexico City Metro. Dress down and avoid wearing expensive jewellery or watches. Limit the amount of cash or credit/debit cards you carry with you. Keep a close watch on briefcases and luggage, even in apparently secure places like the lobby of your hotel.
Take care when withdrawing money from ATMs or exchanging money at Bureau de Change. It’s generally safer to use ATMs during daylight hours and inside shops or malls.
Be wary of people presenting themselves as police officers trying to fine or arrest you for no apparent reason. If in doubt, ask for identification and if possible note the officer’s name, badge number, and patrol car number.
Foreign visitors and residents may be targeted by scam artists. Be wary of strangers approaching you or contacting you by phone asking for personal information or financial help. If you or your relatives or friends are asked to transfer money to Mexico make absolutely sure that it is not part of a scam and that you have properly checked with the person receiving the money that they are requesting it.
Short-term opportunistic kidnapping - called ‘express kidnapping’ - can occur, particularly in urban areas. Victims are forced to withdraw funds from credit or debit cards at a cash point to secure their release. Where victims have friends or relatives living locally, a ransom may be demanded from them. You should comply with requests and not attempt to resist such attacks.
Longer-term kidnapping for financial gain also occurs, 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.
You can drive in Mexico using a UK licence or an International Driving Permit. Driving standards are very different from the UK. Roads can be pot-holed. Be prepared to stop unexpectedly and beware of vehicles moving slowly, changing lane without indicating and going through red lights. Many local drivers don’t have any form of car insurance.
To reduce air pollution, Mexico City and some other parts of the country have introduced restrictions on driving. Cars may be forbidden from entering certain areas on particular days, based on their number plates. These regulations are strictly enforced and offenders face heavy fines and temporary confiscation of their vehicle. This only applies to older vehicles and not to newer models which are often used for car hire. Please double check with your car hire company directly.
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 5:00am and 11:00am, and Saturday between 5:00am and 10:00pm. 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, manned by local groups seeking money for an unofficial local toll.
If you take part in adventurous sports (including paragliding, skydiving, scuba diving and jet-skiing), make sure adequate safety precautions are in place. Equipment may not meet UK safety and insurance standards. Only use reputable operators, and satisfy yourself that the company is using the most up-to-date equipment and safety features, and that they are fully licensed and insured. Check that you’re covered by your travel insurance for all the activities you want to undertake. British nationals have been injured and in some cases killed participating in extreme sports.
Swimming and water sports
Shark attacks are relatively 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 don’t walk too close to the water. Tourists have been seriously injured in crocodile attacks in the past.
In some hotels, balcony balustrades may not be as high as you expect and there could be a risk of falling.
Foreign nationals have been caught up in property scams. Before making financial commitments and buying property in Mexico, you should seek independent qualified legal advice.
Mexico has an established multiparty democracy. Political demonstrations are common in Mexico City and can occur across the country. These can be tense and confrontational and could potentially turn violent. Onlookers can be quickly drawn in. You should monitor local media and avoid all demonstrations.
The Mexican constitution prohibits political activities by foreigners. Participation in demonstrations may result in detention and deportation.
The Mexico City Command and Control Centre (Centro de Atención a Emergencias y Proteción Ciudadana de la Ciudad de México) has information and advice on safety in Mexico City.
Although there’s no recent history of terrorism in Mexico, attacks can’t be ruled out.
There’s a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.
Local laws and customs
The Mexican Police have the authority to ask for proof of legal status in Mexico and, on occasion, have detained British nationals without documents. You should carry photocopies of the relevant pages of your passport and of the stamped ‘Forma Migratoria Múltiple’ (FMM) given to you on arrival in Mexico at all times. If you’re a resident you may be asked to provide your residency card issued by the Mexican government.
If you’re travelling between states or near international borders, you may be stopped by Mexican immigration authorities for immigration checks. You’ll need to be able to provide your passport and FMM slip. Copies are not accepted. If you’re unable to produce these documents, you may be detained, held at an immigration holding centre, and ultimately deported.
Don’t become involved with drugs of any kind. Penalties for drug offences are severe. Convictions carry sentences of up to 25 years.
Although civil unions between same-sex partners are now legal in Mexico City and the state of Coahuila, homosexuality in Mexico is generally tolerated, rather than accepted. Public displays of affection between same sex couples may be frowned upon. See our information and advice page for the LGBT community before you travel.
Mexican law on surrogacy is under development. Assisted human reproduction, including surrogacy, might only be recognised in some Mexican states. If you’re considering a surrogacy arrangement in Mexico, you should familiarise yourself with the relevant laws and regulations and make sure you’ll meet all legal requirements to take the newborn child out of Mexico before you start the process. You should seek independent legal advice before entering into any surrogacy arrangement. For more information see our guidance on surrogacy overseas.
If you require more information on procedures, local laws, development of current events or social services you can contact LOCATEL at 5658 1111. They have English-speaking staff available.
The information on this page covers the most common types of travel and reflects the UK government’s understanding of the rules currently in place. Unless otherwise stated, this information is for travellers using a full ‘British Citizen’ passport.
The authorities in the country or territory you’re travelling to are responsible for setting and enforcing the rules for entry. If you’re unclear about any aspect of the entry requirements, or you need further reassurance, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.
You should also consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.
Your passport should be valid for the proposed duration of your stay in Mexico.
If you’re visiting Mexico as a tourist you don’t need a visa, but you’ll need to complete an immigration form and have this with you when you enter and leave Mexico. You can get one either when you arrive (forms are available at border crossings or on-board flights to Mexico) or online in advance from the National Institute of Immigration website. Please note that due to the requirements of the online system, the advance option is only possible if your passport is valid for at least 6 months from your intended date of entry to Mexico. Immigration officials at the port of entry may ask to see proof of your departure plans from Mexico before allowing you entry to the country.
If you’re crossing the border into Mexico from the US, there won’t be an immigration officer at the port of entry, but you’ll need to identify the nearest immigration office and clear your immigration status before you continue your journey into Mexico. The immigration office can usually be found close to the border area, and customs officials at the border should be able to tell you where to find it. If you fail to clear immigration at this point, it is often more complicated to do so once you have left the border area.
You need an immigration form to leave the country. If you lose your immigration form you can get it replaced at the immigration office at any international airport in Mexico. The cost of a replacement is $500 Mexican Pesos, which is payable at a bank.
There have been reports of bogus immigration officers operating within international airports. You should always refuse offers of help and head directly to the immigration office.
Tourists are not allowed to undertake voluntary (including human rights) work, or activity, or any form of paid employment. If you wish to carry out this type of work you must get the correct visa from the Mexican Embassy before you travel.
You may need a visa to undertake certain adventure or eco-tourism activities like caving, potholing or entomology, especially if they involve any scientific or technological research. The Mexican authorities may define scientific or technological research activities far more broadly than other countries. If you’re in any doubt, check with the Mexican Embassy in London well in advance of your visit and ask for written confirmation if necessary.
It is no longer possible to switch immigration status in-country. You can’t enter Mexico on a tourist visa and then change it for a work visa. You must apply at the Mexican Consulate of your normal place of residence in plenty of time before you are due to travel.
Travelling with children
The Mexican authorities have suspended the rules which came into effect in May 2011 requiring children under 18 years of age travelling alone, or accompanied by an adult who is not the parent or legal guardian, to apply for a special permit to leave the country. These rules now only apply to Mexican nationals or foreigners with dual Mexican nationality. The accompanying adult may, however, be asked to provide evidence of his or her relationship with the child.
Although there is currently no specific requirement for authorisation by an absent parent, single parents who are not, or who appear not to be, the child’s parent (eg if they have a different family name) may be asked to show evidence of their relationship with the child and the reason why they are travelling with the child. This evidence could include a birth or adoption certificate, divorce or marriage certificates, or a Parental Responsibility Order.
Travelling to Mexico via the US
If you’re travelling to Mexico via the US, even if you’re only transiting, check the US entry requirements with the US Embassy in London. If you don’t have the correct authorisation you will not be allowed to travel to or transit through the US.
Further information can be found on the FCO’s US Travel Advice.
Importing meat or dairy products
You can’t bring meat or dairy products into Mexico from the EU.
UK Emergency Travel Documents
UK Emergency Travel Documents (ETDs) should be valid for a minimum period of 6 months from the date of entry into Mexico and are accepted for entry, airside transit and exit from Mexico.
You may need to pay a departure tax when leaving Mexico by air or land. The cost can vary and some airports or border crossings only accept payment in cash. Most airlines include the cost within the ticket price. If in doubt, check with your airline or tour operator.
At least 8 weeks before your trip, check the latest country-specific health advice from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) on the TravelHealthPro website. Each country-specific page has information on vaccine recommendations, any current health risks or outbreaks, and factsheets with information on staying healthy abroad. Guidance is also available from NHS (Scotland) on the FitForTravel website.
General information on travel vaccinations and a travel health checklist is available on the NHS website. You may then wish to contact your health adviser or pharmacy for advice on other preventive measures and managing any pre-existing medical conditions while you’re abroad.
The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or purchased in the UK can be different in other countries. If you’re travelling with prescription or over-the-counter medicine, read this guidance from NaTHNaC on best practice when travelling with medicines. For further information on the legal status of a specific medicine, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.
While travel can be enjoyable, it can sometimes be challenging. There are clear links between mental and physical health, so looking after yourself during travel and when abroad is important. Information on travelling with mental health conditions is available in our guidance page. Further information is also available from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC).
Not all hospitals will agree to deal directly with medical insurance companies. You should be prepared to pay for treatment yourself up front and then seek a refund. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation.
UK health authorities have classified Mexico as having a risk of Zika virus transmission. For more information and advice, visit the National Travel Health Network and Centre website.
On arrival in Mexico City and other high altitude areas, you may feel a lack of energy, shortness of breath or headaches. This NaTHNaC factsheet includes advice on how to reduce the risk of altitude sickness and what to do if you develop symptoms.
High levels of air pollution can occur in Mexico City and may aggravate heart, lung or respiratory conditions. Children, the elderly and those with pre-existing medical conditions may be especially affected. You can check the pollution index levels for many cities in real time.
Drink only boiled or bottled water and avoid ice in drinks.
In the last 3 years there has been an increase in reported cases of a food and water bug, cyclospora, affecting travellers returning from Mexico, particularly from the Riviera Maya region between the months of May and June. You should follow the advice of the National Travel Health Network and Centre.
There have been cases of cholera in Quintana Roo.
Cases of Chikungunya virus have been confirmed in Mexico. For more details about this outbreak, see the website of the National Health Network and Centre. You should take steps to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes.
If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 911 and ask for an ambulance. In Mexico City, you can also use the emergency buttons on CCTV cameras visible across the city which will immediately connect you to the emergency services. You should contact your insurance/medical assistance company promptly if you are referred to a medical facility for treatment.
The hurricane season in Mexico normally runs from June to November and can affect both the Pacific and Atlantic coasts. Be aware that effects of tropical storms and hurricanes can span hundreds of miles from the centre of the storm, causing flooding, landslides and disruption to local services, including transport. Monitor local and international weather updates from the US National Hurricane Center and check with the local authorities or your tour operator for any changes to your travel plans.
See our tropical cyclones page for information and advice about what to do if you’re caught up in a storm.
Most of Mexico is occasionally subject to earthquakes. Tremors occur regularly, particularly in the states of Oaxaca and Guerrero.
If you’re travelling in Mexico City you can download the 911 CDMX app, which warns you an earthquake will happen 60 seconds before the movement starts. Although these alarms are very useful, they can’t 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. The latest information on the current status of the Colima volcano can be found on the website of the University of Colima’s Volcano Observatory. For updates on the Popocatepetl volcano, visit the website of the Mexican Disaster Prevention Centre.
The local currency is the Mexican Nuevo Peso, known colloquially as ‘Peso’. It’s easier to exchange US dollar travellers’ cheques and notes into local currency than Sterling. UK debit and credit cards are widely accepted for payment and in ATMs. It’s not usually possible to exchange cash at hotel receptions - this can only be done at banks and bureaux de change.
Travel advice help and support
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London on 020 7008 1500 (24 hours).
Foreign travel checklist
Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.
The FCO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we can’t provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.
When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.
Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.
Refunds and cancellations
If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or can’t offer a refund to their customers.
For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.
Registering your travel details with us
We’re no longer asking people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.
Previous versions of FCO travel advice
If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry.We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.