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Mexico

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Summary

  • 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. Monitor the media and other sources about possible new security risks.
  • Reconsider your need to travel to the State of Guerrero, except for the tourist areas of the cities of Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo and Taxco, and the toll road to Taxco, due to the very high levels of violent crime and volatile security situation. This includes Acapulco. See Safety and security.
  • Reconsider your need to travel to the State of Michoacán, except the cities of Morelia and Lázaro Cardenas, and the Monarch butterfly reserves, due to organised crime and the volatile security situation in the state. See Safety and security.
  • 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.
  • Reconsider your need to travel to the Sierra Madre Occidental Mountains in southern Chihuahua State, north-eastern Sinaloa State, north-western Durango State and south eastern Sonora State, except for the Chihuahua-Pacific Railway, due to very high levels of violent crime and lawlessness. See Safety and security.
  • Homicide rates in the states of Baja California Sur and Quintana Roo have risen sharply in recent years, including in areas frequented by tourists. See Safety and security.
  • Be alert to the risk of violent crime and civil unrest when travelling by road in rural areas. See Safety and security and Local travel.
  • Petty crime is common. Thieves target tourists at airports, bus terminals and on the metro in Mexico City. Some criminals pose as police officers. Avoid displaying valuables. Be aware of your surroundings. Avoid travelling or walking alone at night, where possible. See Safety and security.
  • Travellers can become victims of violence directed against others. Avoid all large public gatherings, protests and demonstrations as they could turn violent. See Safety and security.
  • Violent crime related to the drug trade, including murder, kidnapping and carjacking, is widespread. Be vigilant, particularly in areas most affected by drug-related violence. See Safety and security.
  • Mexico experiences earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic activity, hurricanes and associated landslides, mudslides and flooding. Be prepared for a natural disaster, monitor local media reports and follow the instructions of local emergency officials. See Natural disasters.

Entry and exit

Every country or territory decides who can enter or exit through its borders. The Australian Government cannot intervene on your behalf if you do not meet your destination's entry or exit requirements.

Visas

If you're visiting Mexico for 180 days or less, you generally won't need a visa. But you'll need to complete a Multiple Immigration Form (FMM) and make sure your passport is stamped by Mexican immigration officials on arrival. If you fail to complete this form or to have your passport stamped upon entry into Mexico, you could be detained and deported.

If you're entering Mexico by land, you'll need to complete the FMM in advance online or on arrival in Mexico. You can get a form from the immigration office (Instituto Nacional de Migración) which is usually located adjacent to, and not directly at, a border crossing.

If you're entering Mexico by air, you can either complete the FMM in advance online or on arrival. Present your completed FMM for inspection at immigration.

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

If you are travelling to or from Mexico through the United States, or if you are transiting Honolulu or another US point of entry, you'll need to meet US entry/transit requirements. Make sure you check your visa requirements with a US Embassy or Consulate well before you travel. Allow at least four days to apply for a US transit visa from Mexico.

If you fly to Mexico via Canada, you'll need an electronic Travel Authorisation (eTA) for Canada. Apply via the Visit Canada website.

More information:

Other formalities

All visitors are charged an immigration fee. If you arrive in Mexico on a commercial flight, this fee is included in your plane ticket price. If you enter Mexico by land, the immigration office will arrange for you to pay this fee at a nearby bank. There is no exit tax.

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 an Embassy of Mexico for a list of restricted medication.

Mexico requires a notarised consent 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. A specific form (SAM) is also required for minors with Mexican dual nationality or residency. Contact an Embassy of Mexico to get the correct form (SAM).

If you arrive in Mexico by motor vehicle, you may need a permit for your vehicle. Check with an Embassy of Mexico before you travel.

Passport

Make sure your passport is valid for at least six months from the date you intend to return to Australia.

Your passport is a valuable document and attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. Always keep it in a safe place.

Be aware of attempts to obtain access to your passport by deception. If you are forced to hand over your passport, contact the Embassy for advice.

If your passport is lost or stolen, you must notify the Australian Government as soon as possible.

Money

The official currency is the Mexican Peso (MXN). Declare amounts in excess of USD10,000 (or other foreign currency equivalent) on arrival and departure. The USD is widely accepted in holiday resort areas. Australian currency and travellers cheques are generally not accepted for exchange.

ATMs are widely available in cities and towns. Take care as credit card fraud occurs. If you're travelling to rural areas, carry cash.

Credit cards and debit cards are accepted at most international hotels and tourist facilities. Consult your bank to find out whether your ATM card will work in Mexico.

Safety and security

Civil unrest and political tension

Protests, demonstrations and strikes are common in Mexico. They can cause major traffic congestion and restrict movement around affected areas.

Protestors sometimes blockade roads and demonstrations can become violent. A 2016 protest in Oaxaca State resulted in at least six deaths. Private property can also be affected, particularly in rural areas. In 2016, a number of tourist buses were set alight by protestors at a roadblock in Chiapas State.

There are ongoing demonstrations in Mexico City. Further protests in the states of Oaxaca, Chiapas, Guerrero and Michoacán are expected.

It is illegal for foreign nationals to engage in political activity, including protests and demonstrations, in Mexico. See Laws.

  • Avoid large public gatherings, protests and demonstrations.
  • Monitor local media for news of planned or possible protests or other unrest.  Verify the source of the news. Avoid affected areas.
  • Follow the advice of local authorities.

Crime

Violent crime

Mexico has high levels of violent crime.

Murder, armed robbery, sexual assault and kidnapping are risks, including in popular tourist destinations and beach resorts. Risks increase after dark.

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

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. There have been a number of reported robberies of tourists travelling by bus along the Pacific Highway, including from Acapulco to Ixtapa and Huatulco.

Incidents of violent carjackings have increased significantly, particularly in northern border areas and along the Pacific coast. On occasions, these attacks have been carried out by heavily armed gangs posing as police officers.

Tourists have been attacked when travelling on toll roads and highways, particularly in Sonora, Sinaloa, Tamaulipas and border regions.

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

Incidents of drink and food spiking have occurred in bars and restaurants. If your drink is spiked, you're at increased risk of sexual assault and theft.

  • Exercise a high degree of caution throughout Mexico.
  • Pay close attention to your personal security at all times.
  • Avoid travelling at night outside of major cities, including on major highways.
  • Avoid changing money at the airport if possible, or change only small amounts to avoid attracting attention.
  • Use only official taxis from airports. Pre-pay your fare at one of the official taxi company booths located in the arrivals hall at airport terminals.
  • Use only radio-despatched taxis or taxis based at designated stands (sitios), especially in Mexico City.
  • Use only first-class buses.
  • Using toll (cuota) roads may reduce the risk of crime when driving.
  • Don't leave your drinks or food unattended, especially in bars or nightclubs.
  • Don't accept food, drinks, gum or cigarettes from new acquaintances.
  • Monitor the media for information about possible new safety or security risks. Verify the source of the information. Avoid trouble spots.

More information: Partying safely

Theft

Petty crime, such as pickpocketing and bag snatching, is a problem in tourist destinations, airports, hotels, bus stations and on public transport.

Thieves often work in cooperation with or pose as taxi drivers. Travellers have been robbed when using taxis hailed from the street.

  • Don't tempt thieves – avoid displaying valuables such as jewellery, phones, cash and cameras.
  • Carry only what you need. Leave other valuables, including your passport, in a secure location.
  • Avoid carrying bags that are easy to snatch.
  • Take care of your belongings, especially in crowded places. Don't place valuables in overhead bins or under your seat on buses. 
  • Only use ATMs during daylight hours and inside shopping malls.

Kidnapping

Incidences of kidnapping are common and there have been allegations of complicity by police officers.

'Express kidnappings', where victims are forced to withdraw funds from ATMs to secure their release, occur, particularly in urban areas. People travelling on the metro and public transport in Mexico City have been targeted.

You could also encounter 'virtual kidnapping', where extortionists call prospective victims by telephone or contact them by email, often posing as law enforcement or other officials, and demand payments in return for the release of an allegedly arrested family member.

  • Be cautious and discreet about discussing your financial or business affairs.
  • Use ATMs located inside shopping centres during daylight hours to reduce the risk of express kidnapping.
  • If using the internet in public, check for and avoid any cameras directed at your screen or keyboard.
  • Avoid divulging personal information to strangers over the phone or electronically.
  • If you receive a message or call like 'virtual kidnapping', contact local police.

More information: Kidnapping

Drug-related and gang violence

Violent crimes related to the drug trade, including murder, kidnapping and carjacking, are 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. Australians can become victims of violence directed against others.

Federal police and military personnel use roadblocks and random vehicle checks as part of efforts to deal with the very high level of drug-related violence. Drug cartels also set up roadblocks in the northern areas of Mexico to hinder military and police movement. Motorists who don't stop at roadblocks are sometimes killed.

The risks are particularly acute in the areas most affected by drug-related and gang violence. These are the northern border states (Baja California, Sonora, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas), the states along the Pacific coast (Colima, 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, are particularly affected.  

Although Mexico's Federal Government is reinforcing security, the level of violent crime is high, and the security situation is volatile throughout the State of Guerrero. Kidnapping is common, particularly inland and in rural areas. Violent criminal gangs are active, particularly in rural areas. Acapulco is not immune – violent crime levels are high, particularly outside tourist areas, including murder and shootings in public places. Risks to Australians exist but are lower in the tourist areas of the cities of Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo and Taxco, and on the toll road Taxco, than in the remainder of Guerrero. Toll booths along the toll road to Taxco are occasionally disrupted by local protest groups, causing traffic delays.

The level of crime in the states of Colima and Jalisco is increasing, particularly on roads outside major cities.

Federal authorities assumed full control of public safety in the State of 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. Risks to Australians exist but are lower in the cities of Morelia and Lázaro Cardenas and the Monarch butterfly reserves on the State of Mexico border than in the remainder of Michoacán.

The State of Tamaulipas has wide-spread criminal activity linked to drug trafficking and high levels of kidnapping and extortion. In May 2014, the Mexican government took control of security in the state in response to a sharp increase in violent crime that year.

There are very high levels of violent crime and lawlessness in the Sierra Madre Occidental Mountains in southern Chihuahua State, north-eastern Sinaloa State, north-western Durango State and south eastern Sonora State. Organised crime gangs operate extensively in this region. The Chihuahua-Pacific Railway is less affected.

There is a high level of violent crime in the State of Mexico, particularly murder, assault, armed robbery, extortion and kidnapping.

Drug-related violence, particularly murder, has increased significantly in Baja California Sur and Quintana Roo, according to mid-2017 Mexico Government statistics.

If you travel to areas most affected by drug-related violence, despite the risks:

  • remain within tourist areas
  • restrict evening activities to well-known and well-frequented public establishments where access to safe transport is available
  • avoid road travel, especially at night
  • avoid isolated locations
  • pay close attention to your personal security and be alert to possible threats around you
  • follow the advice of the local authorities
  • monitor the media for information about possible new safety or security risks.

Terrorism

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. More information: Terrorist threat worldwide

Local travel

Tours and adventure activities

The safety standards you might expect of transport and tour operators, including for adventure activities such as scuba diving, are not always met. Recommended safety precautions and maintenance standards may not be followed. Safety equipment such as lifejackets and seatbelts may not be provided. Standards maintained by search and rescue services may not be as high as those in Australia. Search and rescue services may not be available in some locations.

If you plan to participate in adventure activities:

  • first talk to your travel insurer to check if the activity is covered by your insurance policy
  • check operators' credentials and safety equipment before booking
  • don't be afraid to ask about or insist on minimal safety requirements
  • always use available safety equipment, even if others don't
  • use another provider if appropriate safety equipment is not available.

Beaches

Undertows and currents can endanger even strong swimmers at beaches on both the Pacific and Caribbean coasts of Mexico. Follow the warning flags.

Road travel

You are twice as likely to be killed in a motor vehicle accident in Mexico than in Australia.  Driving on rural roads in Mexico is particularly dangerous due to poor road conditions, the presence of pedestrians and livestock on roads, and inadequate street lighting and signage.

Vehicles generally don't stop for pedestrians nor indicate when they are turning. Intersections can often be confusing, with vehicles coming from unexpected directions.

There are strict laws regarding insurance cover and the reporting of accidents. See Laws.

Criminals regularly target vehicles, including campervans and SUVs, especially in rural areas.

  • Familiarise with local driving laws and practices before driving.
  • Drive defensively.
  • Make sure there is enough room between your vehicle and those around you in case you have to change direction quickly.
  • Don't drink and drive.
  • Always keep doors locked and windows closed.
  • If you are a victim of roadside robbery, do not resist – comply with the demands.
  • Be careful when crossing the road in Mexico – look in all directions.

More information: Road safety and driving 

Motorcycles

Check with your travel insurer whether your policy covers you when using a motorcycle, quad bike or similar vehicle. Your policy may not cover you for accidents that occur while using these vehicles. Wear, and ensure your passenger wears, a correctly fastened and approved helmet.

Driver's licence

You can drive in Mexico with a valid Australian driver's licence or an International Driving Permit (IDP). You must obtain your IDP before departing Australia.

More information: Australian Embassy Mexico City

Taxis

Only use registered taxis and limousines, preferably those arranged through your hotel.

Public transport

Crime levels on inter-city buses and on highways are high, and the risks increase after dark (see under Crime for more detailed information on areas affected by violent crime). In 2016, a number of tourist buses were set alight by protestors at a roadblock in Chiapas State. In March 2018, two explosive devices were found aboard ferries in Playa del Carment.

Women traveling on public transport should be particularly vigilant.

Air travel

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

More information: Air travel

Laws

You're subject to all local laws and penalties, including those that appear harsh by Australian standards. Research local laws before travelling, especially for an extended stay.

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.

Drug laws

Penalties for drug offences are severe and include lengthy prison sentences in local jails. Controlled medications can be illegal drugs if they are not purchased with a legal prescription.

More information: Carrying or using drugs

Other laws

Property laws and time-share agreements can be complex. If you plan to buy property or invest in a time-share, research thoroughly and get advice from a qualified lawyer before making any financial commitments.

If you rent or borrow a vehicle in Mexico, you'll be legally responsible for any illegal items found in the vehicles, even if you're unaware of their presence.

While perhaps legal in some countries, the following activities are illegal in Mexico:

  • political activity by foreign nationals, including participation in protests or demonstrations
  • possession of Mexican archaeological artefacts
  • possession of firearms and/or ammunition without a permit, including in Mexican waters – this permit can only be issued by a Mexican Embassy or Consulate prior to your arrival
  • driving a car without appropriate insurance
  • failing to report a road accident in accordance with the road rules.

Australian laws

Some Australian criminal laws apply overseas. If you commit these offences, you may be prosecuted in Australia. Laws include those relating to:

  • bribery of foreign public officials
  • child pornography
  • child sex tourism
  • female genital mutilation
  • forced marriage
  • money laundering
  • terrorism.

More information: Staying within the law

Dual nationals

Read Dual nationals.

Local customs

Mexico passed laws allowing same-sex marriage in 2015. However, conservative attitudes prevail in parts of the country. Public displays of affection between members of the same sex may not be socially acceptable in some areas.

More information: LGBTI travellers

Health

Travel insurance

Take out comprehensive travel insurance before you depart to cover overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation. Make sure your policy includes adequate coverage for any pre-existing conditions.

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 your medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs. This can be very expensive and cost you many thousands of dollars upfront.

Confirm:

  • what circumstances and activities are and are not covered under your policy
  • that you are covered for the whole time you will be away.

More information: Travel insurance

Physical and mental health

Consider your physical and mental health before travelling, especially if you have an existing medical condition.

  • At least eight weeks before you depart, see your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and implications for your health.
  • Get vaccinated before you travel.

More information:

Medication

Not all medications available over the counter or by prescription in Australia are available in other countries. Some may even be considered illegal or a controlled substance, even if prescribed by an Australian doctor.

Before you leave Australia, check if your medication is legal in each country you're travelling to and find out if any quantity restrictions or certification requirements apply. Consult your doctor about alternatives well in advance of travel

Take legal prescription medicine with you so you remain in good health. Carry copies of your prescription and a letter from your doctor stating what the medicine is, how much you'll take and that it's for personal use only.

More information: Prescription medicines

Health risks

Insect-borne diseases

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.

There is widespread transmission of Zika virus in Mexico. The Australian Department of Health advises pregnant women to discuss any travel plans with their doctor and defer non-essential travel to affected areas. The Department of Health's Zika virus bulletin includes other advice for male and female travellers on how to minimise Zika virus risks. There is no vaccination available for Zika virus.

Protect yourself against mosquito-borne illnesses:

  • ensure your accommodation is mosquito proof
  • take measures to avoid insect bites, including using insect repellent and wearing long, loose fitting, light coloured clothing
  • consider taking prophylaxis against malaria.

More information:

Other infectious diseases

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.

  • Boil all drinking water or drink bottled water.
  • Avoid ice cubes.
  • Avoid uncooked and undercooked food.
  • Seek medical attention if you suspect poisoning, if you have a fever or suffer from diarrhoea.

Environmental issues

High altitude and air pollution, which is at its peak during the winter months, can cause health issues for some people. If you have heart, lung or respiratory problems, consult your doctor about these risks before you travel.

Medical facilities

The standard of medical facilities provided by private hospitals in Mexico City 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 will rarely agree to work with your overseas travel insurance company. They usually expect cash payment before they'll provide medical services, including for emergency care. You'll need to pay in cash and seek reimbursement later. 

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

Natural disasters

In September 2017, a number of major earthquakes struck Mexico affecting Mexico City, the states of Morelos, Oaxaca, Puebla, Guerrero and the State of Mexico. These earthquakes have resulted in a number of deaths, damage to infrastructure and interruptions to essential services.

Mexico experiences severe weather, hurricanes, earthquakes and tsunamis and has several active volcanoes.

If there is a natural disaster:

  • secure your passport in a safe, waterproof location or carry it on you at all times (in a waterproof bag)
  • contact friends and family in Australia with regular updates about your welfare and whereabouts
  • closely monitor the media, other local sources and the Global Disaster Alert and Co-ordination system
  • follow the instructions and advice of local authorities.

After a major earthquake, aftershocks are common and can cause further damage to already weakened structures.

Hurricanes

The hurricane season is from June to November. Landslides, mudslides and flash flooding may occur, including in Mexico City.

If you are travelling during the hurricane season, monitor local weather reports and the National Hurricane Center website throughout your stay. 

The direction and strength of hurricanes can change with little warning. Flights in and out of affected areas could be delayed or suspended. Hurricanes can 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 choose to stay.

If a hurricane is approaching, follow the advice for all natural disasters above and:

  • identify your local shelter
  • be ready to follow your hotel or cruise ship evacuation plans.

More information:

Earthquakes and tsunamis

Mexico experiences a number of earthquakes and tremors each year. Aftershocks are common and can cause further damage to already weakened structures. Power and telecommunications systems can also be affected.

Mexico and the Pacific Ocean region's susceptibility to earthquakes means Mexico is also susceptible to tsunamis.

  • Make sure you know the safety exits in your hotel or accommodation.
  • Take official warnings seriously.

If you are near the coast, move immediately to the nearest high ground or as far inland as you can if you experience any of the following:

  • feel a strong earthquake that makes it hard to stand up, or a weak rolling earthquake that lasts a minute or more
  • see a sudden rise or fall in sea level
  • hear loud and unusual noises from the sea.

Do not wait for official warnings.

More information:

Volcanoes

There are several active volcanoes in Mexico, including the Popocatepetl and Colima volcanoes. For updates on volcanic activity at these and other volcanoes in Mexico, visit the Disaster Prevention Centre of Mexico or Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System websites.

Where to get help

Depending on what you need, 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.

Emergency phone numbers

  • Fire: 911
  • Medical emergencies: 911 or go direct to the hospital
  • Criminal issues, contact police: 911 or go to your local police station

Tourism services and products

For complaints relating to tourism services or products, contact your service provider directly.

If you are not satisfied with the response you receive, you can lodge a complaint with the Mexico government's consumer protection agency PROFECO.

Australian Government

Read the Consular Services Charter for what the Australian Government can and can't do to assist you overseas. For consular assistance, contact the Australian Embassy in Mexico City.

Australian Embassy, Mexico City

Ruben Dario #55
Corner of Campos Eliseos, Polanco
Colonia Bosque de Chapultepec
11580 Mexico DF Mexico
Phone: (52 55) 1101 2200
Fax: (52 55) 1101 2201
Email: consularpassports.mexico@dfat.gov.au
Website: mexico.embassy.gov.au

Limited consular assistance is also available from the Australian Consulate in Cancun.

Australian Consulate, Cancun

Avenida Nader #28, tercer piso (third floor)
Popol Na Corporate Offices
Manzana 1 Supermanzana 2
Cancun, Quintana Roo
77500, México
Phone: (52 998) 898 1900 x 213
Email: asis.consul.australia@gmail.com

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

If you're unable to contact the Embassy in a consular emergency, contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre in Canberra on +61 2 6261 3305 from overseas, or 1300 555 135 within Australia.

Additional information

Additional resources