RISK LEVEL: HIGH
Acapulco is a major seaport on the Pacific coast in the state of Guerrero and was once a popular tourist destination used as a frequent holiday destination by the rich and famous. However, since 2014 there has been a massive surge in violence involving gangs and cartels which has had a huge affect on the number of foreign tourists that visit the area. Acapulco is now the deadliest city in Mexico, known as the ‘murder capital of Mexico and the third-deadliest city in the world. Guerrero itself is a main growing area for opium poppies, which is then processed into heroin and shipped overseas or north across the border to the US. Recently it is reported that the price for opium paste has dropped due to drug cartels using the cheaper synthetic opioids like fentanyl. Opium production has led to a violent and extreme turf war between cartels and gangs who are each seeking control of the area.
Acapulco suffers from heavy congestion and poor road conditions. Public transport in Acapulco is not safe due to the constant risk of violence and theft. The best way to travel around Acapulco is by a prearranged taxi, or ‘sitio’ taxi, which can be organised by hotels, ensuring that the fare is predefined prior to travel. Taxi drivers themselves have been the target of gangs, with around 2,000 drivers killed in Acapulco since 2009. Taxis are not permitted to go near General Juan N. Alarez International Airport (ACA) but there is a special airport transit service that most travellers use. Rental cars are available but can be expensive and are not recommended due to the poor road infrastructure. A new highway bypass is being built to cut travel times from the western side of Acapulco. ACA is the main airport of Acapulco, located 26 km away from Acapulco itself, flights to and from Mexico City operate on a regular basis. A new terminal was opened in May 2018, which now allows the airport to handle around 1.3 million passengers and also has new technology and advanced earthquake and hurricane resistance.
Acapulco features a tropical wet and dry climate with the warmest areas close to the sea. Travellers should ensure they have appropriate sun protection which can be expensive if bought in the city itself. Tropical storms and hurricanes are threats to Guerrero from May through to November. Acapulco is divided into three areas; the ‘traditional’ area, from Parque Papagayo to the beaches of Caleta and Caletilla, the main area known as ‘Zona Dorada’ and the south end, ‘Diamante’, which houses high-end hotels. Acapulco is located on an active earthquake zone. In September 2017 a magnitude 7.1 earthquake caused a bridge on the Mexico to Acapulco highway to collapse. Guerrero itself is located on the Guerrero gap and there have been fears for years that a huge tremor over 8 on the Richter scale may strike at any time. Travellers should exercise caution if buying food from vendors on the streets as it may not have been stored, cleaned, prepared or refrigerated correctly. Only bottled water and ice cubes made from purified water should be consumed. Travellers should ensure they have current vaccinations for hepatitis A, typhoid, tetanus and measles-mumps-rubella. In 2010, there was an outbreak of Dengue fever in Guerrero, however the risk is generally low in beach areas such as Acapulco.
Tourism is the main economic activity, most of which is centred in Acapulco Bay. Approximately 73% of the population is involved in commerce most of it related to tourism and the port. Acapulco remains popular with tourists despite the ongoing criminal conflicts, however due to the escalation in violence this is now predominantly Mexican nationals rather than foreign tourists.
Due to the insecurity in the city a large amount of waste has built up in the streets of Acapulco, which has led to severe health risks. Around 900,000 residents of Guerrero struggle daily with extreme poverty with many of the small mountain towns outside of Acapulco seeing some of the worst poverty in the western hemisphere.