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Planning on traveling to Mexico? Here are the warnings issued by the State Department

Spring Break is approaching and with four Americans just kidnapped across the border, it is important to know what is going on if you plan on taking a trip south.
Credit: 3NEWS

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Travel warnings for Mexico are in the spotlight after four Americans who crossed the border into Matamoros were reportedly kidnapped in broad daylight. 

A "Level 4-Do Not Travel" warning, the highest travel warning given by the State Department, is in effect for Tamaulipas state, where Matamoros is located. U.S. government employees have been instructed to avoid the area until further notice. 

The reason for the travel warning to Tamaulipas state is crime and kidnapping, according to the U.S. Embassy and Consulate in Mexico. Officials said organized crime activity-- which can include gun battles, murder, armed robbery, carjacking, kidnapping, forced disappearances, extortion, and sexual assault – is common along the northern border.  

"Criminal groups target public and private passenger buses, as well as private automobiles traveling through Tamaulipas, often taking passengers and demanding ransom payments," the warning said. 

This warning was first issued in 2022, and officials re-issued warnings March 3, the day four Americans were kidnapped in Matamoros.

"In these areas, local law enforcement has limited capacity to respond to incidents of crime," a statement on the travel advisory said. "Law enforcement capacity is greater in the tri-city area of Tampico, Ciudad Madero, and Altamira, which has a lower rate of violent criminal activity compared to the rest of the state."

Other travel warnings in Mexico include Quintana Roo, where the popular vacation spot Cancun is located. This travel advisory, which is a "Level 2- Exercise Increased Caution" warning, was issued in January after clashes between taxi and Uber drivers in the area. 

Violence across Sinaloa has closed in-person consular services at the U.S. Consular Agency in Mazatlán. Sinaloa is classified as "Level 4 – Do Not Travel" as "violent crime is widespread and can occur without warning, affecting access to transportation, airports, utilities, and/or hospitals." 

While these three states have had warnings issued in 2023, several other states have travel advisories stemming from previous years. 

Here is a full list of travel warnings in Mexico:

Do Not Travel To:

Reconsider Travel To:

Exercise Increased Caution When Traveling To:

Exercise Normal Precautions When Traveling To:

The State Department strongly warns against traveling to these areas, but did offer some guidance for those who will travel to one of the warned areas: 

Be Aware

  • You are subject to the laws and the legal system of the country you are visiting. 

  • We cannot help you in many high-risk areas. This may be due to a lack of a functioning government, the ineffectiveness or policies of local authorities, armed conflict, or poor governance. 

  • In many countries where the United States does not maintain diplomatic or consular relations, we cannot provide consular services. In countries where the United States has an official protecting power arrangement, limited assistance may be available. 

  • During a crisis in a high-risk area, we may have to rely on local resources to resolve matters. Please refer to our webpage on what we can and cannot do. 

Before You Go to a High-Risk Area

After careful consideration, if you decide to go to high-risk areas, we strongly encourage you to: 

  • Enroll your trip in the State Department's Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). 

  • Draft a will and designate appropriate insurance beneficiaries and power of attorney. 

  • Discuss a plan with loved ones regarding care and custody of children, pets, property, belongings, non-liquid assets (collections, artwork, etc.), funeral wishes, etc. 

  • Share important documents, login information, and points of contact with loved ones so that they can manage your affairs if you are unable to return as planned to the United States. 

  • Learn how to use your phone or other smart devices to share your location with your friends and family while you are abroad.  

  • Establish a personal security plan in coordination with your employer or host organization or consider consulting with a professional security organization. 

  • Develop a communication plan with your family, employer, and host organization so that they can monitor your safety and location. This plan should specify who you would contact first, and how they should share the information. 

  • Identify key sources of assistance for you and your family in case of an emergency, such as the local U.S. embassy or consulate, FBI, the State Department’s Office of American Citizen Services, your employer (if traveling on business), and local friends and family in the high-risk area.  

  • Appoint one family member to serve as the point of contact with hostage-takers, media, U.S. and host country government agencies, and Members of Congress if you are taken hostage or detained. 

  • Establish a proof of life protocol with your loved ones, so that if you are taken hostage, they will know specific questions (and answers) to ask the hostage-takers to be sure that you are alive (and to rule out a hoax). 

  • Leave DNA samples with your medical provider in case it is necessary for your family to access them. 

  • Erase sensitive photos, comments, or other materials from your social media pages, cameras, laptops, and other electronic devices that could be considered controversial or provocative by local groups. 

  • Leave your expensive or sentimental belongings behind. 

Before You Leave, Check This Out