Visiting Mexico's Border Towns - How Safe Is It Now?

We've taken a fresh look at Mexican towns along the notorious border and we like what we saw!


Photo © Brian Rapsey

We took a fresh look at Mexican towns along the notorious border while commissioning content for our Mexico: Where Nomads Go travel guide and found there’s a renaissance that should not be missed by the thoughtful adventure traveler.

Reputations are easily lost and hard to recover. This is probably no truer than when it comes to the towns on the Mexico side of the US border.

When the terrible, and yet unfinished, drug war was at its peak, there were more than 12,000 organized crime homicides A YEAR in Mexico, and the border areas where the cartels shifted their product to the lucrative US market were a battleground.

Sensibly, travelers stayed away in their tens of thousands, and those towns are probably still not the place for cruise ships and resorts.

The Mexican Border Revisited

A journalist who spent years living along the US-Mexico border and reporting on the drug war has revisited some of the towns with the bloodiest reputations and looks at how things have changed in a piece he has contributed to

“Given the scaremongering that has accompanied recent calls for The Wall to be built along the US-Mexico border, one might be forgiven for thinking that the towns south of that line must be no-go zones, with nothing to offer the traveler but villainy and violence. But the truth is a more complicated beast.” He writes

Mexico: Where Nomads Go, the 23rd edition in the popular travel guide series published by, is now available.

In the guide, Joseph Furey says he can recommend several destinations in good conscience, but with a caveat – "If you break the law in Mexico, the law may not be your biggest problem."

His recommendations:


“Its search for a new identity, as part of a bilingual cross-border tech hub with serious cultural cred, has paid off. It sees itself as San Diego’s strategic partner, not its poor relation.”

Baja Norte

“Just outside the spring-break hot spot of Rosarito is Popotla, a cheerfully anarchic fishing village that sits in the shadow of Baja Studios, the oceanside movie lot that was built for the filming of Titanic. Seafood stands and raw bars pepper the beach. Don’t leave until you’ve eaten your body weight in pismo and pata de mula clams, kumiai oysters and live sea urchin.”

Sonora state

“Mexico’s second-largest state, Sonora is also its least explored. When I was last there, based in Puerto Peñasco, I was told that locals had partied with the Apollo 11 crew, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins, and the astronauts had sampled bootleg mezcal. NASA has confirmed that the reserve, on account of its otherworldly appearance, has been used several times for moon-landing training, but wouldn’t give specifics.”

About the author

Joseph Furey describes himself as a Narrative Journalist, arts reviewer, and travel writer. He writes features covering areas including American subcultures, the industrial-prison complex, deviant globalization, alternative travel, natural history, and the arts.

He was a correspondent in the drug-wars and his beat covered all 1,954mi (3,145km) of the US/Mexico border.

Travel insurance

Travel to Mexico does not come without risk and we encourage you to take precautions to ensure your safety. The US State Department lists Mexico as a Level 2 risk for the country overall advising “exercise increased caution” (the same as the UK and South Africa). Some parts of the country have level 3 “reconsider your need to travel” and even level 4 “Do not travel” advisories. Read the advice here. Be aware that travel contrary to official advice is likely to impact your travel insurance coverage.

All of the information we provide about travel insurance is a brief summary only. It does not take into account your personal needs and does not include all terms, conditions, limitations, exclusions and termination provisions of the travel insurance plans described. Coverage may not be available for residents of all countries, states or provinces. Please carefully read the policy wording available at for a full description of coverage.

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