mexico federal police in nogales

U.S. State Department Issues 2016 Mexico Travel Warning


The State Department issued its annual Mexico travel warning on January 19, 2016. This yearly scare bulletin serves to let American travelers know about the dangers and risks that could be present south of the border.

The travel warning is useful in understanding the types of events that could occur in Mexico, and what states are safer than others for international travelers.

But it also lacks detail that could help those thinking about traveling to Mexico properly assess a threat. For example, it mentions that carjackings have occurred, but does not say where, when, how often or other circumstances involved. Actual statistics, links to stories and more complete information would definitely make for a better warning letter.

As for Sonora, the risk assessment is exactly the same as the May 2015 State Department Mexico Travel Warning, word for word. The report does not mention the cartel conflicts that have been occurring on the border in Sonoyta, Mexico, but instead recommends it as the best way to get to Puerto Peñasco. Well, it is basically the only way to get to Rocky Point, short of taking a long drive in Mexico from Nogales or San Luis/Yuma. And it does mention not to drive through there at night, which is good advice.

As for Nogales, previous warnings have cautioned travel to the southern portions of the city, but it was not mentioned in 2015 or 2016. By the time the report was issued there had already been two murders in public locations in Nogales, Mexico, but they were far from the generally safe tourist zones near the border in Nogales.

We have started sharing local news reports to our Planeta Nogales Facebook page – they are in Spanish, but usually have photos or video, so you can get the idea of the current environment in the city. And we also include positive things that are happening in the city.

If you would like to get more insight into the Mexico travel warnings, we provided some additional commentary on our post for the 2015 State Department Travel Warning.

Is Nogales safe? After having written various risk assessments for private industry, I can tell you that our own bathroom is not safe – everything has its own level of risk.

Is there an acceptable level of risk in visiting Nogales? Definitely. It is a foreign country, but the border tourism districts are well patrolled and considered to be generally safe. And a word of advice – if you see an information source that insists and continually repeats “Nogales is safe! Nogales is safe!,” you have a biased source that you can probably not trust for an honest and accurate safety assessment.

Following is the Sonora travel warning from the 2016 State Department Mexico Travel Warning:

Sonora: Nogales, Puerto Peñasco, Hermosillo, and San Carlos are major cities/travel destinations in Sonora – Sonora is a key region in the international drug and human trafficking trades and can be extremely dangerous for travelers. Travelers throughout Sonora are encouraged to limit travel to main roads during daylight hours. Defer non-essential travel to the region west of Nogales, east of Sonoyta, and from Caborca north (including the towns of Saric, Tubutama, and Altar), and the eastern edge of Sonora bordering Chihuahua, as these are known centers of illegal activity. Travelers should also defer non-essential travel to the eastern edge of the state of Sonora, which borders the state of Chihuahua (all points along that border east of the northern city of Agua Prieta and the southern town of Alamos), and defer non-essential travel within the city of Ciudad Obregon and south of the city of Navojoa. You should exercise caution while transiting Vicam in southern Sonora due to roadblocks that can be instituted ad hoc by local indigenous and environmental groups. U.S. citizens visiting Puerto Peñasco should use the Lukeville, Arizona/Sonoyta, Sonora border crossing, and limit driving to daylight hours. Please see above for general conditions for travel in Mexico.

Be safe.