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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 and other crime rates in the states of Baja California, Guanajuato, Jalisco, Veracruz, Colima and Quintana Roo have risen sharply in recent years. This includes 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 large public gatherings, protests and demonstrations as they could turn violent. See Safety and security
  • Violent crimes often related to the drug trade - including murder, kidnapping and carjacking - are 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 for 180 days or less, you generally won't need a visa. You must complete a Multiple Immigration Form (FMM) and make sure your passport is stamped by immigration officials on arrival. If you fail to complete this form or to have your passport stamped, you could be detained and deported.

If you're entering by land, you can complete the FMM in advance online or get a form from the immigration office (Instituto Nacional de Migración) usually located near, not directly at, a border crossing.

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

Keep the FMM safe as you’ll need to present it when you depart.

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're travelling or transiting through the United States, 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 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 on a commercial flight, it's included in your plane ticket. If you enter by land, the immigration office will arrange for you to pay it at a nearby bank. There is no exit tax.

All medication must be in its original packaging and clearly labelled. Prescription and controlled medication must be accompanied by a prescription from your doctor on formal letterhead and include the medication's generic name. Contact an Embassy of Mexico for a list of restricted medication.

Children under 18 departing alone, or with anyone other than their parent or legal guardian, must carry their notarised consent. 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).

You may need a permit if you arrive in Mexico by motor vehicle. Check with an Embassy of Mexico before you travel.

Passport

Check the expiry date of your Australian passport before you travel. Some countries won’t let you enter unless your passport is valid for six months from when you plan to leave that country.

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 access your passport by deception. If you're forced to hand over your passport, contact the Embassy for advice.

If it's lost or stolen, notify the Australian Government as soon as possible.

Money

The official currency is the Mexican Peso (MXN). Declare amounts above USD10,000 (or equivalent) on arrival and departure. USD is widely accepted in holiday resort areas. Australian currency and travellers cheques generally can't be exchanged.

ATMs are widely available in cities and towns. Credit card fraud occurs. Carry cash if you're travelling to rural areas.

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

Safety and security

Civil unrest and political tension

Protests, demonstrations and strikes are common. 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 caused 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's illegal for foreigners 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, especially after dark. Crime rates have been increasing in recent years and are now at their highest level on record. The states of Baja California, Colima, Jalisco, Tabasco and Veracruz have seen particular increases.

Murder, armed robbery, sexual assault and kidnapping are risks. These crimes may occur in popular tourist destinations and beach resorts.

Criminals posing as police officers have committed  sexual assault, extortion and robbery. They may drive a fake police car.

When travellers have changed money at airports gangs have attacked them.

To protect yourself from violent crime:

  • avoid travelling at night outside major cities, including on major highways
  • monitor the media for new safety risks
  • don't change large amounts of money at the airport.

Crime on inter-city buses and highways is common.

Thieves have robbed tourists on buses along the Pacific Highway, including from Acapulco to Ixtapa and Huatulco.

Violent carjackings have increased. The northern borders areas and along the Pacific coast are high-risk areas.

Criminals have attacked tourists on toll roads and highways. TheSonora, Sinaloa, Tamaulipas and border regions are high-risk areas. Organised crime groups have targeted large camper vans and SUVs travelling in and out of the US. The risk is greater on roads outside major cities.

To reduce the risk of crime when travelling by road:

  • use official taxis from airports, and pre-pay your fare at an official taxi company booth in the airport terminal
  • use radio taxis or taxis at assigned stands (sitios), especially in Mexico City
  • use first-class buses
  • use toll (cuota) roads.

Watch out for drink and food spiking. If your drink is spiked, you're at higher risk of sexual assault and theft. 

More information: Partying safely

Theft

Petty crime, such as pickpocketing and bag snatching is common. Take car on public transport and in tourist spots, airports, hotels and bus stations.

Thieves often work 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.
  • Avoid carrying bags that are easy to snatch.
  • Only use ATMs during daylight hours and inside shopping malls.

Kidnapping

Kidnapping is a serious risk in Mexico. It's common in inland and rural areas, including in Mexico City. 

Some victims claim police officers are involved in kidnapping.

Express kidnappings target travellers, including those on metro and public transport in Mexico City. Kidnappers force victims to withdraw funds from ATMs before they're released.

Virtual kidnappings target people over the phone. Kidnappers pose as an official, and demand payments for the release of an allegedly arrested family member. If you receive a call or message, contact local police on 911 or 088.

To reduce the risk of express or virtual kidnapping:

  • avoid talking about your money or business affairs
  • use ATMs inside shopping centres during daylight hours
  • check for cameras directed at your screen or keyboard if you're using the internet in public
  • avoid giving personal details to strangers online or over the phone.

The Australian Government doesn't make payments or concessions to kidnappers.

More information: Kidnapping

Drug and gang violence

Violent crimes related to the drug trade are widespread in Mexico.

Shoot-outs, grenade attacks and car bombings have occurred in public places.

Targeted attacks have increased on the military, government officials and journalists.

You may become a victim of violence directed against someone else.

Federal police and the military use roadblocks and random vehicle checks to deal with drug-related violence.

Drug cartels set up roadblocks in the northern areas of Mexico to obstruct military and police movement.

Stop at all roadblocks or you risk being killed.

  • Risks are higher in those areas most affected by drug-related and gang violence, including:
  • Northern border states: Baja California, Sonora, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas
  • Pacific coast states: Colima, Guerrero, Jalisco, Michoacán, Nayarit and Sinaloa
  • Central region states: Durango, Guanajuato, San Luis Potosi and Zacatecas
  • State of Mexico and the states of Tabasco and Veracruz on the Gulf coast
  • Major cities along Mexico's border with the United States: Tijuana, Ciudad Juarez, Nuevo Laredo, Matamoros, Nogales, Piedras Negras and Reynosa.

State of Guerrero

The government has increased security in Guerrero but the violent crime rate remains high and the security situation is volatile.

Violent criminal gangs are more active in rural areas than cities.

Acapulco has high levels of violent crime, such as murder and shootings. The resort city is unsafe, especially outside tourist areas.

Crime risks are lower in the tourist areas of Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo and Taxco, and on the toll road to Taxco, than in other parts of Guerrero.

Protesters can disrupt toll booths along the road to Taxco, causing delays.

State of Michoacán

Federal authorities took full control of public safety in Michoacán in early 2014. Organised crime had been increasing.

Many 'self-defence' groups formed in the state. They are unpredictable and the security situation is volatile.

Crime is lower in the cities of Morelia and Lázaro Cardenas and the Monarch butterfly reserves on the State of Mexico border than in other parts of Michoacán.

State of Tamaulipas

Tamaulipas has widespread criminal activity linked to drug trafficking. Kidnapping and extortion are also common.

The government took control of security in May 2014 after a sharp increase in violent crime.

Other violent areas

High levels of violent crime and lawlessness occur in:

  • the Sierra Madre Occidental Mountains in southern Chihuahua State
  • north-eastern Sinaloa State
  • north-western Durango State
  • south-eastern Sonora State.

Organised crime gangs operate in these regions. The Chihuahua-Pacific Railway is less affected.

The State of Mexico has a high level of violent crime. Murder, assault, armed robbery, extortion and kidnapping are common.

Baja California, Chihuahua, Guanajuato, Jalisco, Michoacan, Quintana Roo and Veracruz have reported large increases of drug-related violence, particularly murder, according to Mexico Government statistics.

To reduce your risk in violent areas:

  • stay in tourist areas
  • stay in well-known and well-frequented public areas in the evenings, with good access to safe transport
  • avoid road travel, especially at night
  • avoid isolated locations
  • pay close attention to your personal security
  • stay alert to possible threats around you
  • follow the advice of local authorities
  • monitor the media for safety or security risks.

Terrorism

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

Local travel

Tours and adventure activities

Transport and tour operators, don't always follow recommended safety precautions or maintenance standards. They may not provide safety equipment, such as lifejackets and seatbelts. Search and rescue services may not be available in some locations and may not meet Australian standards.

If you plan to participate in adventure activities:

  • check your travel insurance covers the activity
  • check operators' credentials and safety equipment before booking
  • ask about and 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 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 die in a motor vehicle accident in Mexico than in Australia.  Driving on rural roads in Mexico is particularly dangerous due to poor road conditions, pedestrians and livestock on roads, and inadequate street lighting and signage.

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

There are strict laws regarding insurance cover and accident resporting. See Laws

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

  • Keep doors locked and windows closed.
  • If you're a victim of roadside robbery, don't 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 if your travel insurance covers you when using a motorcycle, quad bike or similar vehicle. Always wear a 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.

Taxis

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

Public transport

Crime levels on inter-city buses and highways are high, and the risks increase after dark (see 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 early 2018, authorities found explosive devices aboard ferries in Playa del Carmen.

Women traveling on public transport are at higher risk than men are.

Air travel

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade doesn't 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. 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're legally responsible for any illegal items found in the vehicles, even if you're unaware of their presence.

The following activities are illegal in Mexico:

  • foreigners participating in political activity, including protests or demonstrations
  • possessing Mexican archaeological artefacts
  • possessing firearms and/or ammunition without a permit, including in Mexican waters. You must get a permit from a Mexican Embassy or Consulate before you arrive
  • failing to report a road accident.

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

Same-sex marriage is legal in Mexico. However, parts of the country are conservative. Homosexual displays of affection may not be socially acceptable in some areas.

More information: LGBTI travellers

Health

Travel insurance

Take out comprehensive travel insurance before you leave to cover overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation. Make sure your policy covers 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 won't 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're 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 leave, see your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up. Discuss your travel plans and implications for your health.
  • Get vaccinated before you travel.

More information:

Medication

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

Before you leave Australia, check if your medication is legal in Mexico and find out if any quantity restrictions or certification requirements apply. Consult your doctor about alternatives before you travel

Take enough legal prescription medicine with you to last your trip. Carry copies of your prescription and a letter from your doctor stating what the medicine is, how much you take and that it's for personal use only.

More information: Prescription medicines

Health risks

Insect-borne diseases

Malaria is a risk, 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's widespread transmission of Zika virus in Mexico. If pregnant, the Australian Department of Health advises discussing travel plans with a doctor and deferring 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
  • use insect repellent and wear long, loose fitting, light coloured clothing
  • consider taking malaria-prevention medication.

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 have a fever or suffer from diarrhoea.

Environmental issues

High altitude and air pollution, which peaks during winter, can cause health issues. If you have heart, lung or respiratory problems, talk to your doctor 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 affected Mexico City, the states of Morelos, Oaxaca, Puebla, Guerrero and the State of Mexico. These caused a number of deaths, damage to infrastructure and interruptions to essential services.

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

If there's a natural disaster:

  • secure your passport in a safe, waterproof location or carry it
  • contact friends and family in Australia with regular updates about your welfare
  • monitor the media, other local sources and the Global Disaster Alert and Co-ordination system
  • follow local authorities' instructions.

Aftershocks are common after earthquakes and can cause further damage to already weakened structures.

Hurricanes

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

If you travel during hurricane season, monitor local weather reports and the National Hurricane Center website. 

Hurricanes can change direction and strength with little warning. Flights and seaports could be affected. In some areas, adequate shelter may not be available to everyone.

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

  • identify your local shelter
  • 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 at risk of tsunamis.

  • Make sure you know the safety exits in your hotel or accommodation.

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

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

Don't 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, crime or medical emergency: 911

Or go direct to hospital or a police station.

Tourism services and products

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

If you aren't 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

Parque Maya Tours
Blvd. Kukulcán Km. 16.2
Zona Hotelera
77500 Cancún, Q.R.
Phone: (52 998) 234 0840
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 can't contact the Embassy in a consular emergency, call the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre in Canberra on +61 2 6261 3305 from overseas, or 1300 555 135 within Australia.

Additional information