Going against Government advice

We are planning our winter travels. Mexico was our first choice destination. I’ve spent the weekend researching interesting places in the country. During my research I came across a number of posts about how dangerous it is becoming travelling in this country so, like every responsible traveller should, I looked up our Governments guidelines(UK). The list is long, filled with warnings of shootings, kidnappings, car jacking sand general crooked dealings. We are seasoned long term travellers. Been on the road, sea, ocean for over seven years so we are not easily frightened or put off visiting countries but this has got me worried. They are even being very cautious about the well known tourist destinations.
Does anyone have any first hand recent experience travelling in Mexico? We will be in a large SUV with American number plates.
It would be good to hear of others recent experiences in countries that their Government is being very cautious about visiting.


This has been our experience of government guidelines for Mexico for the past decade. When we set off travelling after selling up in Panama, we bought a big second hand RV in Texas and travelled along the border with Mexico from Del Rio up to El Paso over about 5 weeks before turning inland. I spent the first few weeks in an anxious state having read US guidelines and news reports of shootouts in carparks and other alarming reports of the dangers of Mexico. However, we quickly found the reality very different, especially from talking with other travellers and locals we met along the way. Of course there are problems occasionally and areas to stay well clear of but we didn’t experience any trouble at all on our journey.

Since then we’ve visited Mexico itself several times and again, there are certainly areas that are no-go and some horrific cartel killings, but mostly drug related. We’ve travelled by metro in Mexico City, by bus from the Guatemala border to Guanajuato and on to San Miguel. We’ve house sat all over and plan to make Mexico our home eventually for winters having recently got our residency status.

I did read about the shootings last year and this year along the Quintana Roo coast and that made me a little nervous on our recent 3 week road trip, in a hire car from Cancun. We steered clear of Cancun, Playa del Carmen and Tulum preferring stops outside the resorts, not so much because of the risk of shootings, but because we don’t like the way those places have been affected by over-tourism. There’s no doubt that the cartels have a hand in “managing” tourism along that coast and you’ll read lots on FB expat groups that could make you wary.

We travelled down into remote Campeche this May, across to the west coast, up to Merida with the most dangerous thing to be seen… trucks on the wrong side of the road, and the frequent road bumps to slow vehicles that appear out of nowhere. Dangerous in their own way. Road caution is a must. We saw a truck lose a wheel ahead of us at one point too.

We have always taken local advice not to drive long distance at night in Mexico, and we travel minimally with traveller common sense to the fore, as I’m sure you do with all your travel and sailing experience. Speaking a little Spanish always helps I think.

We have always taken Government Advice with a pinch of salt, not discounting it, but doing our own research, and talking to other travellers who’ve been before. The advice is no doubt there for a reason but my view is they cover every eventuality without giving statistics about frequency, making it sound often a lot worse than it is. But not everyone is travel savvy either, so I guess it makes people a bit more travel aware.


We definitely read both government advice and look up the most common scams in the countries we visit, but then make our own informed decisions on where to go. E.g. in Ecuador kidnappings / muggings are common, so we avoided the most notorious areas and didn’t stay out after dark. In Lebanon there was some unrest in one district of a major city in the northern part of the country. My government advised against all travel in the whole northern region, but it was fine and locals confirmed that the issue was really very much restricted to one small area (which I avoided).

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Just be careful because if you go against government advice your travel insurance will likely be invalidated

With my travel insurance, so long as there is no Canadian govt advisory against non-essential travel, ours is valid. For us, Mexico (and the UK) both say “Exercise a high degree of caution” although there are certain areas of Mexico that are specifically an advisory. I would have to avoid those specific areas.

Normally when you apply for travel insurance they ask where you are traveling and if they offer you coverage to that country you are covered unless you break the terms of the agreement. It is prudent to read in great detail all the fine print.
I am just getting into this with my lost luggage claim. So many little “loops” if this then that kind of thing.

Yes but government advice can change. Sorry to hear your luggage was lost…bummer!

You definitely have to read the fine print of whatever insurance policy you happen to have.

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Great information Vanessa. May I ask did you fly in then rent a car or drive over the border in your own car? If you drove over the border did you have US registration plates?
Getting lots of positive news from recent travellers. The UK Government site may be on over kill.

As long as the advisory is not advising on non essential travel our travel insurance should be valid

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@ElsieDownie In 2015 we crossed by car into Mexico from Arizona, driving on Canadian plates. We were only entering for a week, on a break between sits. There was an office as soon as we crossed where we had to buy Mexican auto insurance. Our homeowners in Arizona bought an annual policy that was only about double what we paid for one week. However, it was just the cost of travel and we were fine with that.

I have done a variety of house sits in Mexico solo, mostly in coastal small towns but one in San Miguel de Allende (with a sizeable ex-pat community). In the smaller areas, my experience is that you can safely walk the streets at any hour of the day. I would not walk after dark in my Canadian home city. In San Miguel my homeowner cautioned me to take a taxi if I was out at night, but my lifestyle when I travel has me home in the evenings so there wasn’t a need. I have volunteered in a small town just 30 minutes from San Miguel and there everyone walked at any hour of the day. Location dictates so much.

There are cities and areas in Mexico where I would not stay, but that holds true for any country. Where you spend your time, and who you spend it with, is often the best safety guide, in my opinion. Of the incidents Vanessa mentions in Playa del Carmen, two this year where unfortunately related to Canadians involved in criminal activity. One was wanted by Interpol. Unfortunately, the media reported them as tourists, which incorrectly slants people’s perceptions.

I have no hesitation in travelling in and through Mexico, but I pack my street smarts. :wink:


Hi Elsie… we flew in to Cancun from the UK, and organised our rental from the UK. It’s very cheap compared to a lot of countries right now, but it pays to get the full insurance package. We did a lot of reading up on this as there are scams where if you don’t buy all the waiver insurances they hit you for a very hefty deposit… as high as $8,000 USD or won’t let you take the car.

I don’t know about crossing border with US plates but I’m sure if you find an expat group focusing on border communities you might get some advice on that. One of our homeowners used to drive back and forth but I don’t know about hire cars. Is the SUV your car? If it is I’m sure it won’t be an issue but obviously check what paperwork you need. Where are you thinking of crossing… I know @KarenS lives in Mexico and travels back and forth to the US… she may be able to help if she sees this tag.

There’s nothing in the gov advice that will affect insurance at moment (or there wasn’t a few months ago), i.e. no advice not to travel, it’s all just as you say “overkill” advice. I know loads of house sitters that stayed in Mexico during Covid and some have made it home now, while many are pursuing residency (record numbers we were told at Merida from US and Canada this year). I think that’s what worries the US government :wink:


True! I have several American friends who have immigrated to Mexico and are very happy with their decision.