Is Acapulco Safe in 2021? | A Gringo's Guide!
Updated: Jan 22
I had recently made a trip to Acapulco, I was fortunate enough to take a tour with some family and friends of my Mexican girlfriend, and everything was booked really fast, thankfully, I got to sit this one out, in regards to the planning, but here is some helpful information about my personal experience and the current safety situation in the city.
It was literally a last-minute thing, I had no idea which hotel I was going to be staying in, I had no clue as to what area of Acapulco I was going to be in, and I also had no idea what we were going to be doing during this weekend getaway.
It was booked on a moment's notice and then the holiday was right around the corner.
To be honest, I didn't really know anything about Acapulco, I only knew this was a regular trip amongst the family that happened once a year, very quickly after hearing the news about our trip I started to research different topics and things about the city, it wasn't long after that I found out Acapulco was the murder capital of Mexico.
Immediately I began to think this was a mistake, what have I gotten myself into, I'm literally going to be visiting the most dangerous place in Mexico in less than 2 weeks, and everything was already booked and paid for, it was a done deal I was definitely going, so here's what happened.
Driving Through Guerrero
To begin, I was a little worried about driving through the state of Guerrero, I've heard some terrible things that happen on the roads there, I was especially concerned about the paramilitary and gangs setting up roadblocks, but to be fair all of that worrying and fear just made the long drive from Mexico City to Acapulco a miserable journey.
There was literally nothing for me to be worried about, nothing in the slightest! We were driving on the toll roads from midday, didn't make any stops and didn't take any backroads or other available routes.
In the end, the journey was rather pleasant, filled with beautiful landscapes, scenery and Mexican nature along the way. So if you are travelling to Acapulco by car or bus, make sure to stick to the toll roads, and your journey should absolutely be fine!
Obviously, you can fly there too, and if you choose to do so, I would confidently say that it is the safest way for you to arrive in the city.
My First Impressions of Acapulco
It was getting kind of dark when I was arriving in the city centre, so there really wasn't much to see, and my bus was taking me directly to the resort in which I was going to be staying, so I can pretty much only speak for the tourist areas in Acapulco, but if you are going to be visiting for a vacation I highly doubt you will be staying in a rough area of the city.
Only from getting a glimpse of the city when passing through it on the bus, I could tell the place was more beautiful and well kept, In comparison to where I am currently living in Mexico City, which is Iztapalapa.
So things are off to a great start so far, I couldn't see any gangs hanging around, the streets were clean, there was less vandalism, and I felt pretty safe thus far, I have no complaints about this city as of yet, I was just arriving of course, so I was still waiting to find something wrong in my mind.
Just like I expected it to be, the Mexican people here are very friendly! Many of the staff in restaurants, hotels and shops really go out of their way to help you if need be. You most certainly won't have any trouble here with the locals unless you are looking for trouble.
With all of the recent negativity in the media and the multiple stories I have heard about the ongoing problems that the city is suffering from, I was expecting the place to be somewhat dull and dead with a lousy atmosphere, once again I was wildly mistaken!
Despite all of the negativity and stories I have heard, this doesn't have seemed to stop the tourists and locals here from having a good time, there were literally parties every night and day, where tourists and locals alike would come out and be merry together, this city really never sleeps!
This city was buzzing, the atmosphere was electric, and I loved every minute of my stay here! I will definitely be looking to make a return visit sometime in the new year.
I was expecting to find and possibly meet other tourists vacationing here, even with the terrible stories, you can always expect to find people who really just don't care or know better, so it came as no surprise to me when I met people visiting from the states.
However, what did come as a surprise to me was how many gringos there were wandering around the place, there were much more white people here than I've ever seen in Mexico City.
Is Acapulco Safe?
Absolutely yes, without question! Despite what mainstream media would like you to believe, Acapulco is completely safe for tourists, there are very rarely if ever any reported incidents of innocent bystanders or tourists being harmed in any way.
Tourists are not targeted by gangs, cartels or many of the other criminals here in the city, you do however have to be careful of pickpockets, muggers and scam artists, just like you would in any other popular city in the world.
Just below I dive a little deeper into the criminal activity and the city's ongoing problems, so if you would like to know why Acapulco is Mexico's murder capital, be sure to continue reading.
The High Crime Rate
Yes, there is an outstandingly high crime rate here in Acapulco, but as I mentioned before, most of the criminal activity and crimes happening, only happen to those who are getting involved in such unlawful activities.
I mean if you go looking to buy drugs or even worse sell drugs, you are most definitely putting your life at some sort of risk, the majority of the problems here are drug-related.
Guerrero is a haven for drug farmers in Mexico, it has the highest concentration of Opium poppy farmers than anywhere else in the country, because of this, there is a lot of rival gangs, vigilantes and cartels all killing each other, thus making Acapulco the Mexican murder capital.
Cartel, Paramilitary & Gang Violence
This is not such an Acapulco problem as it is a Guerrero problem, I know what you are thinking, that Acapulco is in Guerrero, but this isn't something that you should concern yourself with too much.
A lot of the mainstream media in the U.S goes out of its way to make Acapulco look bad, as this is the city that catches headlines and most tourists will flock too. But the truth is that a lot of the information you hear on the news is simply incorrect.
There are a lot of small towns just outside of Acapulco, and this is where a lot of the violence happens, but because nobody really cares or pays attention to a small town that nobody has ever heard of, the media will just say Acapulco, the biggest city nearest to the violence.
It's in these small towns and federal backroads where you will find most of the Cartels, Gangs and Paramilitary, not to say Acapulco is entirely free from them because the city is not! It's just not as common as the media would like you to believe it to be.
Everyone knows that the majority of Mexican officials are corrupt, the country is notoriously famous for it! But this does not mean every police officer is out to get you, just because you are white.
The majority of officers are corrupt because they have to come home with lousy wages, barely make a living while also having to deal with the stress and pressure of doing a high-risk job in dangerous places.
While I don't condone what happens here, I do understand it, and for the most part, they will only be looking for a bribe if they catch you doing something wrong in the first place, this can kind of work in your favour.
If you are caught driving without the correct papers, drinking in pubic places, being indecent or any doing any other small crime for that matter, it's much better to pay the officer $20 or $30 USD than having to go to a jail cell in Mexico.
Butttt!!! It's much better to stay out of trouble in the first place, you should respect the culture, people and local laws when visiting.
The Mexican government knows that Acapulco was one of the highlights of the country before, attracting the likes of presidents, actors and celebrities, they would like to bring Acapulco back to its glory days, and they only way they can do that is by assuring foreign nationals that the city is, in fact, safe to visit.
Over the last few years, the Mexican government has deployed hundreds of armed guards, police and military in the city to assure everyone that this is a safe place to visit, it gives people ease of mind to know that a trained, armed official is never far away.
While it might seem disheartening to think that there are armed guards everywhere, this really is just an extra precaution to help you feel safer, I would say that the majority of the guards do not even need to be there, another thing worth mentioning is that they stay discrete, you hardly even notice them.
Tips for Staying Safe
You mainly need to stay aware and be mindful of pickpockets, thieves, scam artists and shady criminals lurking around, just like any other city, Acapulco has got these slimy criminals looking to ruin your vacation.
I'll list all of the tips just below, they are all just pretty basic stuff that most of you should know about already, it's pretty much common sense stuff that if you apply and do, you will severely reduce the chances of encountering any criminals looking to scam or steal from you.
Don't stand out too much like a tourist! i.e. No camera, no photographs and no guidebooks after dark!
Don't be flashy! Take off the watch/jewellery, and don't carry your phone around in your hand.
Pack the laptop and other expensive electronics away safely out of sight.
Plan carefully, don't arrive in the late hours to dangerous neighbourhoods.
Take the toll roads and avoid the small towns in Guerrero.
Do not take any surveys from anyone on the street, those are scam artists.
Stay away from drugs and try not to get too intoxicated in strange places.
Acapulco is a city that is currently in the process of trying to rebuild its reputation, and there should be little to no concern on whether or not the city is safe for you to visit, unless of course you are looking to sell/buy drugs or get involved in other shady criminal activities.
Take everything here with a grain of salt, this is just my personal opinion from visiting this September. I hope I shed some light on the current situation for you. If you like the content feel free to share it with your friends, family or on any of your social networks just below.