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12 Most Dangerous Cities in Mexico

Susan Laurent
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by Susan Laurent

Mexico is renowned for its colorful culture, extensive history, and stunning natural beauty. Still, it also struggles with high rates of violent crime, particularly in the cities of Colima, Zamora, Ciudad Obregón, Reynosa, Tijuana, Uruapan, Chihuahua City, Culiacán, Acapulco, Tepic, Juárez, and Salvatierra.

These dangerous cities are the hotspots for some of the most notorious and deadly criminal organizations worldwide. So fellow travelers, fasten your seatbelts as today’s article explores Mexico’s dark side.

Why Are Some Mexican Cities So Dangerous?

To begin with, Mexico is a crucial transit and manufacturing center for illegal narcotics bound for the United States and other foreign markets. The lucrative drug trade has resulted in the formation of powerful cartels and violent territorial conflicts.

Additionally, socio-economic factors play a significant role in why Mexico has such dangerous cities. Some areas have such high levels of poverty that people feel compelled to join criminal organizations because of the allure of “easy money.”

The world of organized crime is also influenced by corruption. The weak legal system in some parts of Mexico has created an epicenter not only for drug trafficking but also for extortion, abductions, and fuel theft.

If you plan to visit Mexico, you should consider focusing on visiting Mexico’s safe cities where beauty and hospitality intertwine. As for the dangerous cities, having up-to-date information before planning your trip is very beneficial.

List of Dangerous Mexico Cities and Places in 2023

Below are the most dangerous places in Mexico:

  1. Colima
  2. Zamora
  3. Ciudad Obregón
  4. Reynosa
  5. Tijuana
  6. Uruapan
  7. Chihuahua City
  8. Culiacán
  9. Acapulco
  10. Tepic
  11. Juarez
  12. Salvatierra


Colima is the capital city of the state of Colima, nestled between the Pacific Ocean and the majestic Colima Volcano. According to statistics, Colima had one of Mexico’s highest homicide rates per capita, with 181.94 homicides per 100,000 residents in 2022.



Zamora is located in the state of Michoacán, Mexico. Situated in the fertile Zamora Valley, the city is often called the “Fruit Basket of Mexico.” However, its substantial agricultural production is overshadowed by organized crime, earning its title of the most violent city in the world.

Ciudad Obregón

Ciudad Obregón

Ciudad Obregón, located in the Mexican state of Sonora, is a lively metropolis that acts as an agricultural hub in the region and the epicenter of the Mexican drug war between cartels. This city is also the hub for the illicit wildlife trade, with many exotic species being smuggled via the city on their route to the United States.


Reynosa, located in northeastern Tamaulipas, is a vital crossing point for clashing cartel routes into the United States. Numerous battles between these opposing criminal organizations have taken place in the city, resulting in high levels of violence. Reynosa is also a key location for human smuggling, with many migrants passing the city on their way to the United States.



Tijuana is located on the border between Mexico and the United States and is known for its bustling nightlife and proximity to San Diego, California. Nonetheless, Tijuana is a key crossroad for trafficking and organized crime. In 2020, the city had a high rate of 138 homicides per 100,000 citizens.


Uruapan, located in the state of Michoacan, is famed for its avocado production but is also a center for underground cartel activities. Uruapan is also a hotspot for illegal logging, with many unique and endangered trees being illegally cut and sold on the black market.

Chihuahua City

Chihuahua, the state capital of Chihuahua, has long been a hub for organized crime. Two major cartels operate in the area, and as a result, the city has seen numerous deadly battles between these opposing gangs. Chihuahua is also notorious for its high levels of corruption, with many officials and law enforcement personnel linked to organized crime gangs.



Culiacán, the state capital of Sinaloa, is known as the base of the Sinaloa cartel, ruled by the legendary drug lord Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman. The city is rife with violence, with regular shootouts between competing cartels and law authorities. According to 2019 statistics, the city’s homicide rate was 49.41 per 100,000 people.


Acapulco was once a popular tourist destination with some of the world’s most beautiful beaches. Plus, the nightlife there was known to be unlike anything else. But, Acapulco also has a lengthy reputation for violence and crime. Located in Guerrero, Acapulco’s major crime issue is trafficking and the violence that comes with it. Not only that, but Acapulco is also a hotspot for human trafficking and underage prostitution.


Tepic, the state capital of Nayarit, is notorious for its severe violence, with a homicide rate of 229 per 100,000 residents in 2010. The city is situated on a major route for the transportation of narcotics and is controlled by one of the most dangerous criminal groups in Mexico — the Jalisco Cartel New Generation (JCNG).


The two main cartels in charge of Juarez are the Juárez cartel and the Sinaloa cartel. The city has been the site of numerous drug-related homicides, with a homicide rate of 104 per 100,000 inhabitants in 2019. Juárez also has a lengthy history of corruption and organized crime, as well as links to abductions and human trafficking in the United States.

Learn more: Juarez Travel Safety Information.


Salvatierra is a city in Guanajuato located in the center of the country. It serves as a sort of hub city for the rural region surrounding it, and unfortunately, the cartels have gained control of it. Over 60 bodies of missing people were discovered in the town’s woodland region in 2020. In 2019, Salvatierra had a homicide rate of 83 per 100,000 people.

Essential Tips for Staying Safe in Mexico

Given Mexico’s reputation for having some of the most dangerous cities in the world, it’s crucial to keep a few things in mind for a safe trip.

  1. Plan your travels appropriately, prioritizing safer areas. Conduct extensive research on your destination, and if by some chance your tourist destination has high crime rates, look for other places to visit. A beautiful tourist destination isn’t worth it if your life’s on the line.
  2. Stay at hotels or resorts with good security features like guarded entrances, security, and surveillance cameras. Choose well-rated lodging options and read reviews from reliable sources.
  3. Don’t stray from tried-and-true modes of transportation, such as licensed taxis. Ask the householder or someone from the security staff to organize transportation for you rather than hailing down taxis on the street, especially at night.
  4. Don’t attract attention by carrying excessive cash or expensive jewelry. Bring as little cash as you need for that day, if possible, and keep your cherished goods in a safe place in the hotel, apartment, or room where you are staying.
  5. Avoid nighttime excursions and never go out alone at night.
  6. Learn some fundamental Spanish words and phrases to help you converse with the locals. This can be especially useful in emergencies.
  7. Keep in touch with your loved ones: let them know where you are and what you have planned to do. Ensure you have a stable phone and internet services so you can call for help if necessary.
  8. Exercise caution while interacting with strangers, especially if they come to you with offers or some kind of help that you didn’t ask for or need. Refuse their proposals politely but firmly.


Mexico is a land of spectacular landscapes, sun-kissed beaches, heart-warming cuisine, and historic ruins that whisper tales of old civilizations. However, behind Mexico’s charm hides an unsettling reputation that compels travelers and citizens to be cautious.

The reality is that Mexico is home to some of the world’s most dangerous cities. These cities are notorious for their high homicide rates, cartels, organized crime, and corruption.

Remember that safety conditions can vary within a city and over time. While some cities in Mexico have higher crime rates than others, other regions are generally safe and friendly to tourists. Travelers should do their homework, stay current on safety issues, and be cautious when visiting potentially dangerous locations.

In the end, every country has an underground brimming with crime and violence, and the very least we can do is stay informed about these places and try to avoid going there at all costs. Mexico offers a variety of breathtaking places for those who exercise caution! So stay informed, stay alert, and follow local guidance — not just in Mexico but in all your travel destinations.

About Susan Laurent
Susan Laurent
I'm passionate about world cultures, travel, and discovering amazing new places. I've spent years traveling the globe, very often alone, so I focus on providing important information about travel safety to travelers that I've gathered from first-hand experience.
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