MEXICO

Mexico Flag
Country Description: Mexico has a rapidly developing economy. Luxury accommodations in major cities are widely available. Tourist facilities in more remote areas may be limited.

Passport and/or Visa Requirements: Proof of citizenship and photo identification are required for entry by all U.S. citizens. A passport and visa are not required for a tourist/transit stay of up to 180 days. A tourist card, issued by Mexican consulates and most airlines serving Mexico, is required. Minors require notarized consent from parent(s) if traveling alone, with one parent, or in someone else's custody. Mexican regulations limit the value of goods brought into Mexico by U.S. citizens arriving by air or sea to $300 per person and by land to $50 per person. Amounts exceeding the duty-free limit are subject to a 32.8 percent tax. Upon arrival in Mexico, business travelers must complete a form (FM-N 30 days) authorizing the conduct of business, but not employment, for a 30-day period. If the business traveler departs and re-enters, the 30-day period begins again. For further information concerning entry requirements, travelers may contact the Embassy of Mexico at 1911 Pennsylvania Avenue N.W., Washington, D.C. 20006, telephone (202) 736-1000, or any of the Mexican consulates in major U.S. cities. In response to the increased interest in immigration matters in the U.S., Mexican authorities may scrutinize more closely the visa situation of U.S. citizens residing or working in Mexico. U.S. citizens planning on working or living in Mexico should apply for the appropriate Mexican visa (FM-2 or 3).

Visitors intending to participate in humanitarian aid missions, human rights advocacy groups or international observer delegations should contact the nearest Mexican Consulate or Embassy for guidance on how to obtain the appropriate visa before traveling to Mexico. This is particularly relevant in light of the tension and polarization in Chiapas and the international interest the situation there has attracted. (For additional information, see paragraph on "Security in Chiapas.")

Taxicab Crime: U.S. citizens visiting Mexico City should absolutely avoid taking any taxi not summoned by telephone or on their behalf by a responsible individual or contracted in advance at the airport. Robbery assaults on passengers in taxis have become more frequent and violent, with passengers subjected to beatings and sexual assault. In December 1997, a U.S. citizen was murdered in a taxi robbery. When in need of a taxi, telephone a radio taxi or "sitio" (pronounced "C-T-O"). Ask the dispatcher for the driver's name and the cab's license plate number. If you walk to a "SITIO" taxi stand, use only a driver known to you. Ask the hotel concierge or other responsible individual calling on your behalf to write down the license plate number. Passengers arriving at Mexico City's Benito Juarez International Airport should take only airport taxis (yellow, with an airport symbol on the door) after pre-paying the fare at one of the special booths inside the airport. Radio taxis may be called at tel. 271-9146, 271-9058, and 272-6125. U.S. citizens should avoid taking taxis parked outside the Bellas Artes theater, in front of nightclubs, restaurants or cruising throughout the city.

Additional Travel Warnings, Advisories and Areas of Instability: Crime continues at 1997's high levels. In Mexico City, crime has reached critical levels. Low apprehension and conviction rates of criminals contribute to the high rate of crime. Metropolitan areas other than the capital are considered to have lower but still serious levels of crime activity. Travelers to Mexico should leave valuables and irreplaceable items in a safe place. All visitors to Mexico are encouraged to make use of hotel safes when available, avoid wearing obviously expensive jewelry or designer clothing, and carry only the cash or credit cards that will be needed on each outing. Travelers are discouraged from bringing very large amounts of cash into Mexico, as officials may suspect money laundering or other criminal activity. During 1998, criminal activity in Mexico City continued at 1996 and 1997's high rates, with marked increase in the level of violence of the crimes committed, including what appears to be a significant incidence of sexual assaults in crimes committed against women. The most frequently reported crimes involve taxi robberies, armed robbery, pickpocketing and purse snatching. In several cases, tourists report that uniformed police are the crime perpetrators, stopping vehicles and seeking money or assaulting and robbing tourists walking late at night. The area behind the U.S. Embassy and the Zona Rosa, a restaurant/shopping area near the Embassy, are frequent sites of street crime against foreigners. Caution should be exercised when walking in these areas, especially at night. Any U.S. citizen victims of crime in Mexico are encouraged to report the incident to local police authorities and to the nearest U.S. consular office.

U.S. citizens should be very cautious in using ATM cards and machines in Mexico. If an ATM machine must be used, it should be only during the business day at large protected facilities (preferably inside commercial establishments, rather than at a glass-enclosed, highly visible ATM machine on streets where criminals can observe financial transactions.)

U.S. citizens are advised to be careful when ordering beverages in local nightclubs and bars, especially at night. Some establishments may contaminate or drug the drinks to gain control over the patron. Victims, who are almost always unaccompanied, have been robbed of personal property and abducted and held while their credit cards were used at various businesses and ATM locations around the city.

U.S. citizens should not hitchhike or accept rides from strangers anywhere in Mexico.

Kidnapping, including the kidnapping of non-Mexicans, is increasing. U.S. businesses with offices in Mexico or concerned U.S. citizens may contact the U.S. Embassy to discuss precautions to take.

Travelers to Mexico should exercise caution when traveling on all highways in Mexico. Of specific concern are Highway 190 (Tuxtla to Tapachula), Highway 195 (Tuxtla to Villahermosa), Highway 186 (Chetumal to Villahermosa), Highway 15 (Sinaloa), Express Highway 1 (Sinaloa), and the highway from Altamirano to Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo. These highways have seen particularly high levels of criminal assaults recently. Reported incidents include robbery, kidnapping and the 1998 murder of an Egyptian diplomat. The U.S. Embassy advises its personnel to exercise extreme caution and not to travel on Mexican highways after dark for safety reasons.

All bus travel should be done during daylight and on first-class conveyances. These buses travel on "toll" roads that have a markedly lower rate of incidents than buses (second and third class) that travel the less secure "free" highways. While many of the assaults have occurred in daylight, the Embassy nevertheless encourages daytime travel to lower the chance of auto accidents.

Tourists should exercise caution by not walking on lightly frequented beaches, off-the-path ruins, or trails. Additionally, visitors should not carry excessive cash or valuables and place travel documents in a safe place. In March 1998, a U.S. citizen woman was raped and murdered in the vicinity of Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca.

Security in Chiapas: The Embassy strongly recommends that American citizens traveling to Chiapas exercise extreme caution. The Mexican military has reestablished authority in rural towns and villages in the State of Chiapas. However, there is still an armed rebel presence in more remote mountainous areas of the state. The situation remains unstable and in a number of areas local conflicts have resulted in violence, such as the December 1997 massacre at Acteal, in which 45 Mexican nationals were killed. Increasing resentment against foreigners by some segments of the local population has resulted in cases of extreme hostility and occasional assaults.

Mexican immigration law prohibits foreigners from engaging in political activity. U.S. citizens have been detained in Chiapas and expelled or deported from Mexico for violating their tourist visa status. Tourists should avoid demonstrations and other activities that may be deemed political by Mexican authorities. Visitors who anticipate participating in any activity other than tourism should contact the nearest Mexican Consulate about obtaining the appropriate visa before traveling to Mexico. U.S. citizens traveling to Chiapas are encouraged to contact the U.S. Embassy or Consulates for further security information prior to traveling to the region.

In 1996, armed individuals claiming to be members of the Popular Revolutionary Army (EPR) launched a series of small attacks and/or propaganda actions in seven states, including Chiapas, Guerrero, Oaxaca, Puebla and the state of Mexico. The EPR continues to engage in such activities. There was no evidence of U.S. citizens or other tourists having been targeted. However, several Mexican military police and civilians were killed or injured in the incidents. While Mexican government authorities have taken steps to prevent further incidents, they may occur again. Military roadblocks may be encountered while traveling, and tourists should be prepared to show identification and have vehicles searched. Army roadblocks are most common in the states of Chiapas, Guerrero and Oaxaca.

Traveling to Ciudad Juarez: Juarez has in recent years become the focal point for narcotics smuggling along this stretch of the border. Several U.S. citizens have been murdered, others kidnapped and scores imprisoned after involving themselves in drugs. U.S. citizens are advised to avoid any contact whatsoever with controlled substances or those who deal in them. U.S. citizens should also avoid disreputable bars and nightclubs and exercise caution when visiting the entertainment district to the west of Avenida Juarez.

Drug Penalties: Penalties for drug offenses are strict, and convicted offenders can expect lengthy jail sentences and fines. Sentences for possession of drugs in Mexico can be as long as 25 years plus fines. Just as in the U.S., purchase of controlled medication requires a doctor's prescription. The Mexican list of controlled medication differs from the U.S., and Mexican public health laws concerning controlled medication are unclear. The U.S. Embassy recommends that U.S. citizens exercise caution when purchasing pharmaceuticals in Mexico. Even though a physician may provide a prescription and a pharmacist fills it, U.S. citizens, especially in Nuevo Laredo, have been arrested and their medicines have been confiscated. Possession of excessive amounts of a psychotropic drug such as Valium can result in arrest if the authorities suspect abuse. Travelers should check with the nearest Mexican consulate before traveling to Mexico to purchase medication.

Firearms Penalties: Possession of any gun, rifle, or ammunition without proper authorization by the Mexican authorities is considered a "Firearms Offense" in Mexico and carries stiff penalties. Possession of a single non-assault weapon carries a penalty of up to five years in Mexican prison. Sentences for possession of firearms in Mexico can be as long as 30 years. A permit from a Mexican consulate in the U.S. is required to import firearms or ammunition into Mexico, regardless of whether the firearm is legally registered in the U.S. The U.S. Embassy has noted an increase of U.S. citizens being detained for illegally smuggling arms into Mexico. U.S. citizens should comply with all Mexican laws on arms, including any arms used for hunting. Travelers should check with the nearest Mexican consulate before traveling to Mexico with firearms. Some Mexican cities have ordinances prohibiting the possession of knives or anything that might be construed as a weapon.

Alien Smuggling: U.S. citizens should not offer rides to strangers. This is especially true when approaching Mexico's northern and southern borders. U.S. citizens who aid in transporting aliens out of Mexico may be prosecuted by Mexican authorities for alien smuggling. Alien smuggling and harboring aliens is a serious felony offense under both Mexican and U.S. law.

Medical Facilities: Adequate medical care can be found in all major cities. Health facilities in Mexico City are excellent. Care in more remote areas is limited. U.S. medical insurance is not always valid outside the U.S. In some instances, supplemental medical insurance with specific overseas coverage and medical evacuation coverage has proven useful. Air pollution in Mexico City and Guadalajara is severe, especially from December to May. For additional health information, travelers may contact the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention international traveler's hotline at 1-888-232-3228, the CDC autofax service at 1-888-232-3299 or via the Internet http://www.cdc.gov.

Volcanic Activity: Since December 1994, the Popocatepetl volcano, located 38 miles southeast of Mexico City, has registered varying levels of seismic activity including the release of vapor, gas, ash, and incendiary material. Depending on the levels of activity, the Mexican National Center for Disaster Prevention has restricted access or closed parks and hiking trails on the mountain's slopes. U.S. citizens planning to hike in the area should be alert to any warnings or signs posted, and should contact the Embassy for the latest information about seismic activity. Updated information may also be obtained at website http://www.cenapred.unam.mx./~jfg/cgi-bin/reporte/repo.sh.cgi

Driving Information: U.S. driver's licenses are valid in Mexico. Mexican insurance is required. Travelers should obtain full coverage insurance when renting vehicles in Mexico.

Dual Citizenship: As of March 20, 1998, Mexican law recognizes dual nationality for Mexicans by birth, those born in Mexico, or those born abroad to Mexican parents. U.S. citizens who are also Mexican nationals should be aware that they will be considered Mexican by local authorities and that their dual nationality status may therefore hamper U.S. government efforts to provide consular protection. Dual nationals will not, however, be subject to compulsory military service. Travelers possessing both U.S. and Mexican nationalities must carry with them proof of their citizenship of both countries. Under Mexican law, dual nationals entering or departing Mexico must identify themselves as Mexican or face a stiff fine. Under U.S. law, U.S. citizens must enter U.S. territory with documents proving U.S. citizenship.

Time-Shares and Real Estate: U.S. citizens who become involved in time-share or other real estate purchases should be aware that Mexican laws and practices regarding real estate are markedly different and far more complicated from those in the U.S. Foreigners purchasing real estate or time-shares in Mexico have no protection under Mexican law and should be aware of the high risks involved. Foreigners may be granted the right to own real property only under very specific conditions. The U.S. Embassy strongly recommends the use of competent local legal assistance for any significant real property or business purchase. A list of local attorneys can be obtained from the U.S. Embassy or nearest U.S. Consulate in Mexico.

Tips for Travelers: Additional information pertaining to Mexico is provided in the Department of State pamphlet "Tips for Travelers to Mexico" which is available from this web site or from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402.

Aviation Oversight: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Mexico's Civil Aviation Authority as Category 1 -- in compliance with international aviation safety standards for oversight of Mexico's air carrier operations. For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the U.S. at 1-800-322-7873, or visit FAA Internet home page at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa.htm. The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact the Pentagon at (703) 697-7288.

Registration: U.S. citizens may register at the U.S. Embassy or a consulate and obtain updated information on travel and security within Mexico.

Embassy and Consulate Locations: The U.S. Embassy is located in Mexico City at Paseo de la Reforma 305, Colonia Cuauhtemoc, telephone (52-5) 209-9100.

There are also U.S. Consulates General in:

Ciudad Juarez at Avenida Lopez Mateos 924-N, telephone (52-16) 113000

Guadalajara at Progreso 175, telephone (52-38) 25-2998

Monterrey at Avenida Constitucion 411 Poniente 64000, telephone (52-83) 45-2120

Tijuana at Tapachula 96, telephone (52-66) 817400.

Hermosillo at Ave. Monterrey 141, telephone (52-62) 172375

Matamoros at Ave. Primera 2002, telephone (52-88) 124402

Merida at Paseo Montejo 453, telephone (52-99) 25-5011

Nuevo Laredo at Calle Allende 3330, Col. Jardin, telephone (52-871)4-0512.

There are Consular Agencies in:

Acapulco at Hotel Acapulco Continental, Costera M. Aleman 121-Local 14, telephone 52-74-840-300/52-74-690-556.

Cabo San Lucas at Blvd. Marina Y Pedregal #1, Local No. 3 Zona Centro, telephone (52-114) 3-35-66

Cancun at Plaza Caracol Two, third level, no. 320-323, Boulevard Kukulcan, km. 8.5, Zona Hotelera, telephone (52-98) 83-02-72

Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo at Local 9, Plaza Ambiente, telephone (52-755) 3-11-08.

Mazatlan at Hotel Playa Mazatlan, Rodolfo T. Loaiza #202, Zona Dorada, 82110, telephone (52-69) 134-444 ext. 285

Puerto Vallarta at Edif. Vallarta, Plaza Zaragoza 160-Piso 2 Int-18, telephone (52-322)2-0069

San Luis Potosi at Francisco De P. Mariel 103-10, telephone (52-481)2-1528

Oaxaca at Alcala 201, Deps. 206 telephone (52-951)4-3054;

San Miguel de Allende at Dr. Hernandez Macias #72, telephone (52-415)2-2357/2-0068;

No. 98-47

This replaces the Consular Information Sheet dated June 18, 1997, to add and update the paragraphs concerning volcanic activity, security, alien smuggling, traveling to Ciudad Juarez, taxicab crime, additional crime information, dual citizenship, FAA, and Embassy and Consulate locations.

To find the latest updates and information, visit our websites at: http://www.state.gov and http://travel.state.gov

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