The U.S. State Department has issued severe travel warnings for the Mexican states of Sinaloa and Sonora.
Sinaloa is at the highest alert — a Level 4, "do not travel to" warning — and Sonora is now at a Level 3, the second-highest warning.
Mexico has seen a jump in the murder rate from this same time last year. The Mexican Interior Ministry reports that the primary reason for the increase in murders has to do with increased activities by cartels involved in drug and human trafficking.
Under a revamped system of determining "do not travel" advisories, five states in Mexico now have the sternest "do not travel to" advisories. This puts them on the same level as war-torn countries like Afghanistan, Syria, Somalia and Yemen.
The five Mexican states are Tamaulipas, on the Texas border; Sinaloa; Colima; Michoacán; and Guerrero, on the Pacific coast. All the states are hotspots of drug cartel activity.
Felipe Garcia from the Visit Tucson office says the safest road to travel is the Highway 15 toll road that is monitored 24/7 by Mexican local and federal police. And, as with any travel, he advises traveling during the day.
"Not because I'm concerned about violence on the highway at night, I'm concerned about getting a flat tire at night," Garcia said.
Travel to the popular Rocky Point beach community is still safe and poses very little danger from cartel activities, he said.
U.S. State Department travel warnings
Level 1 - Exercise Normal Precautions: This is the lowest advisory level for safety and security risk. There is some risk in any international travel. Conditions in other countries may differ from those in the United States and may change at any time.
Level 2 - Exercise Increased Caution: Be aware of heightened risks to safety and security. The Department of State provides additional advice for travelers in these areas in the Travel Advisory. Conditions in any country may change at any time.
Level 3 - Reconsider Travel: Avoid travel due to serious risks to safety and security. The Department of State provides additional advice for travelers in these areas in the Travel Advisory. Conditions in any country may change at any time.
Level 4 - Do Not Travel: This is the highest advisory level due to greater likelihood of life-threatening risks. During an emergency, the U.S. government may have very limited ability to provide assistance. The Department of State advises that U.S. citizens not travel to the country or leave as soon as it is safe to do so. The Department of State provides additional advice for travelers in these areas in the Travel Advisory. Conditions in any country may change at any time.
Source: Department of State