Is it safe to travel to Mexico, Jamaica, and the Bahamas in 2024?

The U.S. State Department is warning people about traveling to Mexico, Jamaica, and the Bahamas, citing increases in recent reports of muggings and murders in tourist areas.

Here's what the State Department says about these places:

The Bahamas (Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution):  "In Nassau, practice increased vigilance in the 'Over the Hill' area (south of Shirley Street) where gang-on-gang violence has resulted in a high homicide rate primarily affecting the local population. Violent crime, such as burglaries, armed robberies, and sexual assaults, occur in both tourist and non-tourist areas."

Mexico (Other): "Violent crime – such as homicide, kidnapping, carjacking, and robbery – is widespread and common in Mexico. The U.S. government has limited ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens in many areas of Mexico, as travel by U.S. government employees to certain areas is prohibited or restricted. In many states, local emergency services are limited outside the state capital or major cities."

Jamaica (Level 3: Reconsider Travel): "Violent crimes, such as home invasions, armed robberies, sexual assaults, and homicides, are common. Sexual assaults occur frequently, including at all-inclusive resorts. Local police often do not respond effectively to serious criminal incidents. When arrests are made, cases are infrequently prosecuted to a conclusive sentence. Families of U.S. citizens killed in accidents or homicides frequently wait a year or more for final death certificates to be issued by Jamaican authorities. The homicide rate reported by the Government of Jamaica has for several years been among the highest in the Western Hemisphere. U.S. government personnel under COM security responsibility are prohibited from traveling to the areas listed below, from using public buses, and from driving outside of prescribed areas of Kingston at night."

But how dangerous are these places, really? In Outside Magazine's latest travel advice column, a reader asked, "I want to go somewhere warm for spring break, but the places I've been considering—Jamaica, the Bahamas, and Mexico—either have concerning travel-advisory reports or have been making headlines for recent crimes. I can't stop thinking about the tourist who was shot and killed in Tulum. Now I'm nervous. Is this just sensationalist news, or should I really avoid traveling to these destinations?"

Here's what Outside said about each place:

Mexico: Outside suggests travelers exercise increased caution, especially after dark, in downtown areas of popular spring break locations like Cancun, Playa Del Carmen, and Tulum. The advice includes avoiding establishments of ill repute, using official taxis ordered through hotels or trusted sources, and being wary of tainted drinks and synthetic drugs.

"On February 9, the boho-chic Mexican beach town of Tulum, on the Yucatán peninsula, made global news when an American tourist was shot and killed in the crossfire of warring drug cartels… Since August 2023, the State Department's Level 2 advisory for the Mexican state of Quintana Roo, where Tulum is located, has stated: 'While not directed at tourists, shootings between rival gangs have injured innocent bystanders.'"

Jamaica: For Jamaica, Outside recommends checking the U.S. State Department's travel advisory page for specifics on which neighborhoods are safer than others, as the advisory levels vary by parish. It also suggests staying at resort properties, which typically offer increased security measures, and engaging with local culture while respecting social cues.

"In late January, the U.S. State Department renewed travel warnings to Jamaica… The agency rates Jamaica a Level 3 (reconsider travel)—one level below its most severe Level 4 warning (do not travel)—citing in its advisory that 'violence and shootings occur regularly in many neighborhoods, communities, and parishes in Jamaica,' and 'sexual assaults occur frequently, including at all-inclusive resorts.'"

The Bahamas: In the Bahamas, travelers are advised to exercise increased caution due to crime, especially in specific neighborhoods of Nassau and Freeport that tourists rarely visit. Outside advises staying informed about which areas to avoid and suggests that crimes against tourists are relatively rare but can occur.

"The State Department considers the Bahamas a slightly safer destination, with a Level 2 advisory (exercise increased caution), due to crime. The American Embassy there has reported 18 homicides in the capital city of Nassau since the start of 2024, prompting the agency to issue a security warning, cautioning travelers that 'murders have occurred at all hours including in broad daylight on the streets.'"

By the way, the countries that the US state department has issued Level 4: Do Not Travel to are: Burma (Myanmar), Iran, Yemen, Afghanistan, Iraq, Russia, South Sudan, Somalia, Mali, Central African Republic, Burkina Faso, Haiti, Belarus, North Korea, Venezuela, Syria, Libya, Ukraine, and Sudan.

See also: Anthony Bourdain on why you should travel more