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Is Michoacan Safe To Travel in 2024? What Is the Crime Rate in the State?

Is Michoacan safe to travel in 2024? Michoacan is renowned for its rich culture, mouthwatering cuisine, and big Avocado industry. But Michoacan has also faced turmoil from organized crime and cartel violence. So, if you have to travel to this state, how to do this securely?

Continue reading to uncover an in-depth analysis of the state’s safety situation and learn about 4 common crimes. Also, get to know about the most dangerous and the safest areas. Lastly, what insurance should you buy, and what 7 essential safety precautions to follow? Let’s dive into it!

Is Michoacan Safe to Visit in 2024 – Key Takeaways

  1. Cartel Violence Risk HIGH
  2. Kidnappings Risk MEDIUM
  3. Fraud RiskMEDIUM
  4. Petty Theft RiskHIGH
  5. Level of Danger When DrivingMEDIUM
  6. Hurricane Risk MEDIUM
  7. Earthquake Risk HIGH
  8. Bad Areas – Uruapan, Apatzingan de la Constitucion, Cotija de la Paz, Jacona, Zamora
  9. Safe Places – Morelia, Patzcuaro
  10. Number of crimes in the Michoacan state compared to other states in Mexico:
Do not travel due to crime and kidnapping. Crime and violence are widespread in Michoacan state. U.S. citizens and LPRs have been victims of kidnapping.US Department of State

Is Michoacan Dangerous – Top 4 Crimes in Michoacan

When it comes to visiting Michoacan, the state poses some serious safety concerns to its travelers. Back in 2023, the Government of Mexico recorded a total of 47,853 crimes. What’s more worrying is that these numbers stagger at 4,010 only in January 2024.

Is Michoacan Dangerous
Credit: www.gob.mx

Further, the researchers at Forbes mention that the state’s local political leaders have ties with criminal groups, which creates even more security risks. That’s why the U.S. has even issued a code red with a high crime and kidnapping rate, advising its citizens to not travel here.

For example, there has been an increase of up to 11.48% in tourism in 2023, as per The State Secretary of Tourism (Sectur) in Michoacan. That’s why we need to have a detailed look at the situation with the help of these top 4 crimes:

1. Cartel Violence Risk – High

Michoacan stands as one the most perilous states due to the omnipresent activities of potent criminal cartels and its location along major drug trafficking routes. Global Guardian mentions the following notable groups: 

  1. Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generacion (CJNG);
  2. Other cartels like Los Correa, the Knights Templar, and La Familia Michoacana.

These ruthless organizations are deeply entrenched in drug-related violence, extortion, kidnapping, and homicides. The statistics as per the Security and Citizen Protection Secretary paint a grim picture – in the first month of 2024 alone, Michoacan faced a staggering 274 homicides.

Cartel Violence Risk in Michoacan
Credit: www.globalguardian.com

The condition was even more dreadful in 2023 when there were a total of 2,680 homicides were reported, the Security and Citizen Protection Secretary reported. Another horrible incident took place in December 2023 when CJNG killed 3 locals in different towns of the state, as per Forbes.

However, the government officials is trying to control the situation as they sent 1,200 troops to the state to counter cartels, AP News reported.

2. Kidnapping Risk – Moderate

Kidnapping has become a lucrative enterprise for Michoacan’s criminal syndicates, as they use it to finance their operations. There were 2 and 23 abductions reported in 2024 and 2023 respectively, according to the Security and Citizen Protection Secretary.

Kidnapping Risk in Michoacan

However, if we compare these stats to those of 2022, the total number of reported kidnappings was 39, as per Statista. It shows an overall improvement in the kidnapping situation in the area in 2023. Still, you have to exercise caution like traveling in groups or avoiding dealing with strangers.  

3. Fraud Risk – Moderate

Fraud, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic, has become an issue in Michoacan. Some scams are even linked to criminal drug cartels and used for money laundering and recruitment. According to the Security and Citizen Protection Secretary, Michoacan reported 2,780 frauds in 2023.

These scams may include: 

Scams to Watch Out for in Michoacan
  1. Identity Theft: Safeguard passports, driver’s licenses, and other ID documents. Be cautious of pickpockets or photographers trying to copy your personal information without reason.
  2. Bogus Charities: Individuals may approach tourists asking for donations to fake charities or causes. Verify before giving cash to any unknown people or organizations.
  3. Fraudulent Vaccines: Fake COVID-19 vaccine certificates are being sold in some areas. Only use authorized health facilities and clinics to get vaccinated.
  4. Illegitimate Loans: Shady lenders may offer quick cash loans with hidden fees, high interest, and unrealistic repayment terms. Avoid borrowing from unlicensed individuals and stick to reputable financial institutions. 

4. Petty Theft Risk – High

Petty theft remains a ubiquitous and persistent issue in Michoacan, afflicting both local customs and visitors alike. This problem has now even become more serious. A 2023 report by the Security and Citizen Protection Secretary mentions that total thefts reported were 11,777 in the state. This is quite a high number if we compare it to that of Chihuahua state which only reported 5,601 robbery-related crimes in 2023.

As per the Security and Citizen Protection Secretary, 456 pedestrians have also filed theft-related cases in 2023. This could be a big concern for tourists who want to explore the area walking. The major crimes of Michoacan are home theft, vehicle theft, or minor incidents like purse snatching. 

5 Bad Areas to Avoid in Michoacan

Although Michoacan state is known to be dangerous, some areas pose more threats than others. The following are 5 major cities that you specifically need to avoid during your visit:

Bad Areas to Avoid In Michoacan
  1. Uruapan: This city grapples with a disturbingly high homicide rate, with a staggering 217 homicides in 2023, as per Elcri. Uruapan’s situation is further compounded by its status as a hotspot for drug trafficking and extortion by the notorious Cartel CJNG. 
  2. Apatzingan de la Constitucion: According to Elcri, this municipality has reported 111 deaths in 2023, with a homicide rate of 82. Moreover, it is also a stronghold of the Knights Templar and La Familia Michoacana, who are involved in drug trafficking, murder, and other crimes.
  3. Cotija de la Paz: The risks here were underscored when the town’s mayor was brazenly kidnapped in 2023 by armed groups in Zapopan. The homicide rate of the area staggers around 70.7 per 19,799 population, Elcri mentions.
Cotija de la Paz homicide rate
Credit: www.elcri.men
  1. Jacona: A place famous for trafficking and killing, Jacona has reported killing 66 in 2023, as per Elcri’s map. The locals have reported frequent firing and high fraud in this area. 
  2. Zamora: Zamora has been the world’s most violent city as per the 2021 report of Mexico City News Daily. The evidence of this thing was the 2023 map of Elcri. It showed a total of 197 killings in the area with a homicide rate of 93.1, which is quite high. Moreover, Fraud and robbery are also quite common in this city, and you should avoid visiting it by all means.

How Dangerous Is It to Drive in Michoacan? Moderate Risk

Driving in daylight hours is easy as compared to night due to fewer chances of crimes like homicides or kidnappings. But the serious risk of mugging or robbery is always there. According to the Security and Citizen Protection Secretary’s 2023 report, 103 cases of robbery in public transport were reported. Moreover, the following are the roads that the U.S. advises its employees to avoid while traveling here:

  1. Federal Highway 15D;
  2. Lazaro Cardenas.
How Dangerous Is It to Drive in Michoacan

On the other hand, if you want to explore worthwhile places like Morelia or Lake Zirahuen, you can take a ride via private taxi, book Uber, or use public transport. Busbud is a great option if you want to use public transportation. There are also various taxi services in the state such as Welcome Pickups or Discover Cars. Remember that don’t show off your precious belongings and beware of mugging or scams.

Risk of Natural Disasters in Michoacan

Apart from facing crimes, you also have to deal with natural disasters in Michoacan. This state is situated in a seismically active zone, where Cocos Plates are present. These plates often generate high-risk earthquakes.

Moreover, it is also located near the Pacific Ocean, which houses many of the heavy cyclones. So, there is always a natural disaster risk in the area. Let’s have a detailed look at these natural disasters:

1. Hurricane Risk – Moderate

Michoacan faces a significant threat from hurricanes due to its location along the Pacific Coast. The risk of hurricanes is higher from May 15 to November 30 each year, with peak activity from July to October. The following is a table of some notable incidents of hurricanes in the area over the past few years:

HURRICANE NAME

TYPE

INCIDENT YEAR

Eugene

Category 2

July 1987

Winifred

Category 3

October 1992

Virgil

Category 4

October 1992

Nora

Category 4

September 1997

Olaf

Category 1

October 2001

Kenna

Category 5

October 2002

Vicente

Tropical storm

October 2018

Rick

Category 2 hurricane

October 2021

Note: According to the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, hurricane strength ranges from 1 to 5. Category 1 hurricanes are the weakest while category 5 are the most violent.

If you are receiving hurricane alerts, keep an eye on warnings. You can also check the updates from the National Hurricane Service. Moreover, follow the given measures as per FEMA to minimize the damage:

  1. Stay informed about the Hurricane via local news channels such as Ground News, Mexico Daily Post, or EL PAIS.
  2. Prepare an emergency supply kit containing essential items like food, water, medications, and batteries. 
  3. Identify the nearest designated shelter and map out multiple routes to reach it from your residence. 
  4. Comply with instructions from authorities and local media outlets. Never disregard evacuation orders.
  5. Stay connected with your travel agent or embassy. If any problem arises, let them know first so that they may plan an evacuation for you.

2. Earthquake Risk – High

Since the region is heavily centric on tectonic plates, Michoacan experiences a lot of earthquakes. In fact, it has received over 2100 earthquakes from May 2022 – Jun 2023, out of which 1 was with a magnitude of 7.7. Volcano Discovery also mentions that the state has received 128 minor earthquakes in the first 2 months of 2024, ranging from a magnitude of 2 – 4

Earthquake Risk in Michoacan

The following are some major quakes that affected the state over the years: 

  1. 1985 Michoacan Earthquake (M8.0): One of Mexico’s deadliest, killing over 10,000 people and causing catastrophic damage across multiple states. This quake has the epicenter in Michoacan, as per Britannica
  2. 2022 Coalcoman Earthquake (M7.6): One of the strongest earthquakes that killed 1 person, as per CBS News. It places the epicenter at Michoacan and also affected over 3000 homes.
  3. 2023 Zirandaro Earthquake (M6.9): This quake was felt strongly in Michoacan, causing moderate damage, power outages, and communication failures. However, no deaths were reported.

If you are in Michoacan and observe any earthquake, immediately follow safety precautions like lying down on earth and moving away from doors/windows. Contact local emergency services such as 911 and 800-123-2890 (Michoacan Civil Protection Agency). 

What Are The Safe Places to Visit in Michoacan?

Despite high safety concerns, Michoacan houses some secure tourist areas. To discover the natural beauty of the area, visit the following places:

The Safest Cities to Visit in Michoacan
  1. Morelia: It is known for its mild and spring-like climate. You can visit the impressive Morelia Cathedral. Moreover, the city is also famous for its delicious Mexican cuisine, like carnitas, uchepos (corn tamales), and atole (a warm corn drink). The city has also been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site as it has 200 historical buildings.
  2. Patzcuaro: Patzcuaro is a charming lakeside town with a rich cultural heritage. It offers a safe and engaging destination to soak in indigenous culture. You can enjoy top activities including a boat ride to Janitzio Island, exploring the local markets, and visiting Our Lady of Health. 
Note: For safer beach vacations with lovely scenery, opt for destinations like Cancun and Cabo San Lucas. These coastal resort towns allow you to relax on white sand beaches. With their wealth of resorts and entertainment options, they provide the Mexican coastal experience with significantly less risk.

Safety Tips for Michoacan Mexico

If you are visiting Michoacan, I have jotted down some personal safety tips. These will help you enhance your travel experience and increase personal security: 

  1. Get a Mexican SIM card: If you are first time visiting Michoacan, you must buy a Mexican SIM card like AT&T Unidos and Telecel. They both offer wide coverage and reliable service. Moreover, this will help you contact the local authorities in case of any mishap.
  2. Avoid excessive alcohol consumption: Drinking too much alcohol can affect your consciousness and judgment. You may even become more vulnerable to violent crime or accidents. Drinking in a limited quantity can protect you from various crimes.
  3. Choose safe areas: Opt for major tourist rural areas like Morelia and Patzcuaro with reputations for safety. Avoid remote or isolated places, especially at night. 
  4. Transportation safety: Avoid street taxis; rather use Uber or licensed cabs. Also, beware of pickpockets on public buses.
  5. Money and valuables: Only carry essentials, leave excess cash and valuables in a hotel safe. Use hidden money belts. Carry up to 4000 pesos cash to use in an emergency.
  6. Health precautions: Stay hydrated and use sun protection. Consult a travel clinic for vaccinations and health advice pre-trip. Additionally, get valid insurance such as Novamar Insurance Mexico to cover any accidental medical expenses.
  7. Emergency contacts: Save local emergency numbers in your phone such as 911 for police presence, 066 for ambulance, and 080 for fire service. Also, know the location of the nearest hospital/medical facility.

FAQ

What Cartel is in Michoacán?

The famous cartel of Michoacan is Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generacion (CJNG). Other cartel groups include Los Correa, Knights Templar, and La Familia Michoacana.

What is the Safest City in Michoacan?

The safest city in Michoacan is Morelia. This is because it has a stronger police presence and a great focus on tourism. Moreover, it also has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to the presence of 200 historical buildings.

How Safe is Michoacan Right Now?

Michoacan is not safe to travel right now unless you take necessary precautions. In fact, the U.S. State Department has even guided its citizens not to visit this state with a level 4 travel advisory

How Many Kidnappings Are There in Michoacan?

There were a total of 2 and 23 kidnappings in Michoacan in 2024 and 2023 respectively, as per the Government of Mexico. However, these cases were much fewer than in 2022 when the total number of abductions was 39.

Conclusion 

Let’s revise, is Michoacan safe for travel? The state is the 8th most dangerous state with a level 4 advisory guide. The U.S. has warned its citizens not to travel to this state due to high organized crime activity and kidnappings. The state has seen 2680 homicides and 23 kidnappings last year.

If you are traveling here, try to avoid areas like Uruapan, Apatzingan de la Constitucion, and Cotija de la Paz. Also, keep a check on Hurricanes and earthquakes as the state is quite prone to natural disasters due to its geographical location.

The notable yet safe tourist areas of the Michoacan are Morelia and Patzcuaro. Here you can relax on white beaches, soak in native culture, and enjoy Mexican cuisine like carnitas. Finally, follow precautions like buying valid insurance, avoiding drugs, traveling in groups during the day, and observing local laws.