Recently, the US Department of Stateissued a travel warning for American citizens regarding travel to Mexico. Our neighbor to the south has long been a popular vacation spot for Americans, but  some areas of the country have erupted into violence as drug cartels struggle for power over Mexican police forces and each other.

The violence has prompted the Department of State to warn US citizens to use caution while traveling in Mexico. Here’s an excerpt from the travel warning (for the full text of current warnings, go to the Department of State’s website):

It is imperative that travelers understand the risks of travel to Mexico, how best to avoid dangerous situations, and whom to contact if one becomes a crime victim.  Common-sense precautions such as visiting only legitimate business and tourist areas during daylight hours, and avoiding areas where prostitution and drug dealing might occur, can help ensure that travel to Mexico is safe and enjoyable.

So, should you avoid going to Mexico altogether? Not necessarily. As the Art of Backpacking points out, most of the violence is occurring away from the major tourist towns.  However, travelers should be cautious when traveling anywhere in Mexico, as the Department of State has advised.  The lawless northern border towns such as Cuidad Juarez and Tijuana are best avoided altogether until the drug-related violence cools down.

According to the Art of Backpacking post, some tour operators are canceling excursions to areas like Mayan ruins that are off the beaten path and away from main roads, so  check before you go to make sure that you’ll be able to do everything you want to do on your trip.

Flying into Mexico is a great way to avoid the border altogether, but you will need a US passport to get back into the US if you’re traveling by plane.  Also, passport laws are changing on June 1st. After that date, Americans crossing the border by land will also need a US passport. The rule change is already causing delays in some regional passport agencies close to the border.

If you need to get a passport quickly, a private passport expediting company can offer personalized customer service and processing times that can be as low as 24 hours, depending on your needs.

Before traveling to Mexico, plan your trip with safety in mind and make sure you have all the appropriate documents before you go. Apply for a US passport today!

What do you think about the travel warning? Will it affect your plans for visiting Mexico?