Mazatlan is home to many high-ranking resorts and hotels as a top tourist destination in Mexico. In 2021, the city within the Mexican state of Sinaloa was awarded the honor of top tourist destination in the country.
When in Mazatlan, you can spend your days on glorious beaches and feast on the freshest seafood. The beautiful weather remains year-round, and the gorgeous resorts provide you with an escape from reality.
Even with the popularity surrounding the resort town, is Mazatlan safe? The images associated with the area show an incredible and tranquil environment to relax in, but does the crime level correspond with its appearances?
We have compiled a list of travel tips and safety concerns for you to ponder before hopping on a plane for Mazatlan.
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Is Mazatlan Safe to Visit in 2022?
Unfortunately, recent events in the state of Sinaloa and neighboring Sonora have made conditions unsafe for travel to the area.
Due to the recent arrest of a top drug dealer in Mexico, certain areas of the country are seeing a massive uptick in kidnappings and violent crimes. Mazatlan is one of the top areas experiencing this problem.
The circumstances in Sinaloa are so dire that United States government employees that reside in the state have strict guidelines to follow. These individuals can only travel to the area by sea or air.
Additionally, they can only be in two distinct regions of Mazatlan when in the state and are only permitted to travel on designated routes between the two allowed areas, including the airport and sea terminal.
In addition to the above, the concerns for visiting Mazatlan have typically included:
- Cartel Activity
- Drug Use and Sales
- Theft and Armed Robbery
- Corruption and Bribery
The levels at which these crimes have occurred have ebbed and flowed in the past. Currently, the most significant concerns concerning Mazatlan are kidnapping and violent crimes.
Crime in Mazatlan
There are varying levels of crime that take place in Mazatlan. Tourists can become victims of petty theft that include pickpocketing or bag snatching. However, there are more severe instances where armed robbery, assault, or kidnapping can occur.
The current and most significant threat to the state is the high potential for kidnapping and violent assault due to the repercussions of Rafael Caro-Quintero’s arrest.
However, there have been security concerns in Mazatlan for many years, albeit not at the severity level it’s at today. With a considerable cartel presence in the area, the amount of drug use and sales have been a staple in the Mexican state for many years.
As an offshoot of this, assault, theft, robbery, and corruption have been commonplace. The levels at which these crimes occur have fluctuated throughout the years.
Avoiding Bad Neighborhoods
There are many ways to provide the safest experience for yourself and the rest of your travel group. However, one of the best ways to avoid questionable activity in Mazatlan when advisory levels permit travel to the state is to avoid bad neighborhoods.
These areas are typically where the dangerous activity occurs and where the most considerable potential for harm exists.
When you check into your hotel, have a conversation with the front desk staff or the concierge about which places you should avoid during your time in Mazatlan and which are safe for tourists.
While most people stick to their resort when visiting the city, others may want to explore what Mazatlan offers. Like the city’s crime levels, the neighborhoods considered dangerous can change throughout the years.
At times you can see a revitalization of the community, and the crime rate decreases as a result. For this reason and many others, getting the most up-to-date information from your hotel staff can provide you with real-time data.
When it comes to Mazatlan, the places that travelers to the region should avoid are those removed from the beaten path. During your visit, stay within the tourist destinations with a significant police presence.
Mazatlan is one of the predominant areas for Mexican cartels in the country. The city has been referred to as the “Drug Capital of Mexico.” The cartels and gangs run in tight-knit communities throughout the region.
The imprisonment of a top cartel co-founder is why the crime rate has increased so dramatically in Mazatlan. It’s important to note that the sale of drugs and the illegal activity within cartels requires the money earned to be moved and utilized elsewhere.
Although resorts in Mazatlan are considered the safest places for tourists to be, they aren’t exempt from cartel activity. As an individual does, the money they earn ends up being spent in one way or another.
While you may not know that you’re in the company of cartel members, they may be within the resorts of Mazatlan. They may visit the restaurants within the resorts, take in the spa, or just treat themselves to some time away.
Although it’s unlikely that you’ll ever know they are there, it does leave the potential for a dispute if something comes up. Whether that’s a conflict between cartels or a heightened chance of trafficking, issues can come up that you wouldn’t expect.
The Mexican state of Sinaloa, which houses the city of Mazatlan, has a significant amount of corruption and bribery. Most of this comes from the cartels and their interaction with the government. When in Mazatlan, the risk of being kidnapped is higher than in other areas.
Retaliation is the reason for most of these cases. However, with Mexico holding the city with the title of Sex Trafficking Capital of the World, it’s not hard to understand what can become of those who are kidnapped.
Drug Use and Sales
Sinaloa’s state ranks highest for manufacturing fentanyl and other drugs. However, the issue doesn’t end with production. Run by the cartels, the drugs are then sold on the streets, including in the tourist destination of Mazatlan.
Because Mazatlan includes Federal Highway 15, which is a major thoroughfare for vehicle traffic throughout Mexico, they operate as a hub. Once manufactured, the drugs are farmed out to other areas, but many remain in Sinaloa and are pushed out to locals and tourists.
Theft and Armed Robbery
Tourism is a top money earner in the city of Mazatlan. Therefore, the reduction in tourism when countries like the United States issue strict travel advisories profoundly impacts the local’s economy.
As a result, the occurrences of theft and armed robbery increase. Over the years, the detail that criminals have gone to in their quest to steal and rob specific individuals has reached new levels.
A recent notification from a Mazatlan newspaper informed residents that there had been instances where criminals dug through people’s trash to gauge if robbing them would be worth the time.
If these prospective victims had bank statements, evidence of recent high-priced shopping trips, or other bits of information that led the criminals to believe that they had money, those staking out the residence or hotel room would later rob them.
At times this would occur when nobody was home or in their hotel room, but other times the victims were present for the attack.
As one can imagine, being in a location that sees its fair share of drug use, kidnapping, and corruption will also present physical and sexual assault.
While we previously mentioned that Mexico is also home to the “Sex Trafficking Capital of the World,” that doesn’t mean that all assaults remain on that side of the country. Unfortunately, due to the amount of conflict within the city of Mazatlan, instances of assault are common.
For all individuals in the city, regardless of local or tourist status, it’s critical to remain diligent about your surroundings and exercise appropriate travel precautions while out and about.
While it’s safest to stay in a resort during your time in Mazatlan, this doesn’t allow you to tune out your surroundings. Unfortunately, there have been situations of sexual assault that involve hotel staff and tourists.
Things to Consider
If you’re planning a trip to Mazatlan, it’s crucial to consider the following items before entering the city:
- For safety purposes, traveling in groups or with at least one other person is best. It’s not safe to travel alone.
- Keep your personal items close to your body, whether by a forward-facing fanny pack or an under-clothing belt.
- Stick to tourist areas when in Mazatlan due to the current travel advisories in place
- If you’re unsure which areas are safe, ask the staff at your resort’s front desk or the concierge.
- Don’t go outside after dark. Primarily this pertains to non-touristy areas and the beach.
- Travel with a fully charged cell phone at all times, as well as necessary emergency numbers.
- Be conscious of everyday events happening around you at all times, even if you’re relaxing at your resort.
- Be aware of the average costs for goods, services, and attractions, as locals sometimes raise the price for foreigners.
- Don’t throw away distinguishing materials that give an idea of how much money you have or who you are until you check out of your resort.
- Stay at a resort that has a significant security presence.
- Take taxis when you can avoid entering unsafe neighborhoods accidentally while on foot.
While Mazatlan currently has heavily restricted advisories in place, it’s essential that you implement safety protocols anywhere you visit. These types of guidelines aren’t limited just to areas that are currently deemed unsafe.
Frequently Asked Questions
Traveling internationally always comes with many questions, everything from the planning components to the activities available at the destination. Below we outline some of the top inquiries about safety in the city of Mazatlan.
Is there a lot of crime in Mazatlan?
Unfortunately, the amount of crime in Mazatlan has seen a drastic increase recently due to the arrest of Caro Quintero, a well-known drug lord in the area.
However, the presence of many cartels in the state and a significant amount of drug production have always contributed to an elevated crime rate in Mazatlan.
The United States has issued various advisories throughout the years, informing prospective tourists to either exercise extreme caution or avoid travel to the area altogether.
Is Mazatlan safe at night?
When visiting Mazatlan, the safest time to explore is during the day. While some areas (primarily touristy destinations) are more likely to be safe at night than other areas of the city, it’s still best to stay inside and avoid being out after dark.
The night is a typical timeframe for kidnapping to occur, as well as assault and armed robbery. Taking proper steps to avoid being a victim of these crimes is critical.
Additionally, you should never go out alone at night. If for some reason, you must venture out by yourself, you need to alert hotel staff as to your whereabouts and take a taxi if at all possible.
Is there a cartel in Mazatlan?
Several cartels have a presence in Mazatlan. However, the most prominent group is the Beltrán Leyva Cartel, which has enforcement by way of the local gang Los Mazatlecos. While some of the group has been captured, the presence remains.
The cartels in Mazatlan have their hands in many aspects of the government, including regulations and laws that benefit them. The amount of corruption and bribery in the state of Sinaloa is primarily due to cartels.
Many of the crimes that occur in Mazatlan are also at the hands of cartel members and the gangs that defend them. Kidnapping is a common occurrence as of late, but drug manufacturing and sales, and assault are also at the top of the list.
Is Mazatlan safe to retire?
The circumstances in Mazatlan in regards to safety frequently change. That said, the city isn’t a safe place to retire at this point. While this may change in the future, keeping a sharp eye on the situation is critical.
At some times, the amount of crime and who it’s targeted towards can put foreigners in danger. If you find yourself in this situation, it’s best to contact the embassy and make arrangements to relocate to a safer area until circumstances change.
Is Mazatlan worth visiting?
The city of Mazatlan has suffered from a common misconception throughout the years that the tourist destination reached its prime many years ago. However, the city was recently labeled as the top tourist destination in Mexico.
With that said, there are a lot of similarities between Mazatlan and other resort towns. The city is often compared to Acapulco and Puerto Vallarta. If you aren’t comfortable visiting Mazatlan, you may want to consider either of those to get a similar experience.
So, Is Mazatlan Safe to Visit?
If you’re considering a vacation to Mazatlan, it’s best to call it off and visit when circumstances are safer. The current uproar over the arrest of a prominent drug lord and the presence of many cartel members in the area have led to unfavorable conditions. It’s in the best interest of safety to plan a trip to the region at another time. Happy travels!