by Michael J. Shapiro | January 11, 2018
The U.S. State Department's latest travel advisory for Mexico, dated Jan. 10, 2018, names five Mexican states as "do not travel" destinations, the strictest advisory level in the new system the department unveiled yesterday. 
Overall, the travel advisory gives the country of Mexico a Level 2 warning, meaning "exericse increased caution" due to crime - essentially the same as previous reports. But the states that received the highest warning in the four-level system, advising against travel entirely due to increased crime, were the Pacific coastal states of Colima, Guerrero, Michoacán and Sinaloa, as well as the Gulf Coast border state of Tamaulipas. Each of those states has been battered by violent incidents related to cartels and organized crime.
Eleven of Mexico's 31 states were given a Level 3 warning, meaning "reconsider travel." Those were the states of Chihuahua, Coahuila, Durango, Mexico, Jalisco, Morelos, Nayarit, Nuevo Leon, San Luis Potosí, Sonora and Zacatecas. 
Planners and potential travelers should take into consideration, however, that the simplified, state-based labeling system introduced by the State Department obscures a number of geographical exceptions. For instance, citizens who read the detailed state-by-state breakdown below the highest-level warnings will note that in the State of Colima - which received a "do not travel to" advisory - U.S. government employees face no restrictions in traveling on major thoroughfares to the resort of Manzanillo in that state. U.S. government employees are typically subject to the most stringent of travel restrictions, so the fact they are permitted to travel there is significant.

The advisory offers similar exceptions in many of the states that were scored as Level 3 or 4. It notes, for instance, that there are no restrictions on government-employee travel to Guadalajara, Puerto Vallarta, Chapala and Ajijic in Jalisco, or to Riviera Nayarit, Santa Maria del Oro or Xalisco in the state of Nayarit.

"The U.S. Department of State advises to 'reconsider travel' to select Mexican states, but then exempts the tourist destinations within those states," reads a statement from the Mexico Tourism Board. "This exception to tourism destinations highlights the fact that the vast majority of crimes in Mexico do not occur in areas frequented by international tourists. And even in the rare cases of crime within tourist areas, incidents involving international tourists are incredibly rare."
Resort destinations such as Cancún and the Riviera Maya in Quintana Roo, and Los Cabos in Baja California Sur, face no additional restrictions beyond the advice to exercise increased caution. The same is true of Mexico City. Overall, 16 states face no additional, specific restrictions.
As of press time, a State Department spokesperson had not responded to questions regarding the potential for confusion with the new ratings system.