Adventure in Copper Canyon | Photo credit: Journey Mexico
How safe is it to travel to Mexico? Do the math
According to a U.S. State Department official speaking on background, the main reasons behind the travel advisories are:
- An increase in homicides, mostly gang- and cartel-related killings
- Limited police presence and poor emergency response outside of major cities
- Drug and human-trafficking activity in some level-three or level-four (do not travel) states
- Roadblocks on highways in level-three or level-four states set up by criminal groups looking to kidnap bus passengers and hold them for ransom
None of these activities specifically target tourists, and as Lanczyner said, “I would cordially invite anyone to do the math. Almost 40 million international visitors come to Mexico each year, and we have only had a handful of incidents. That’s a pretty good ratio.”
Still, Lanczyner said, “we take every single case very seriously.” You should too – and that means covering your trip with travel insurance.
Tips for travelling safe in Mexico
Biswell said it best: “Stuff can happen in tourist destinations in Mexico, but when it does, tourists generally aren’t involved.”
Here’s how to lessen your chances of being involved:
Ask someone who knows Mexico
Know – or ask – about the safe parts of town, the safest ways of getting around, and which clubs are okay. “Have someone you can trust – whether it’s a concierge at the hotel or a guide from Journey Mexico or another reputable operator – give you that advice,” Biswell said. “They’re not going to send you someplace bad.”
Turtle in Riviera Maya | Photo credit: Journey Mexico
Don’t walk alone at night
Don’t walk the streets alone late at night. “I live in Puerto Vallarta, and there are some neighborhoods that I wouldn’t visit at four in the morning,” Biswell added. “But I wouldn’t go to most neighborhoods in major US cities at four in the morning, either.”
Leave the bling home
Flashy jewelry attracts the wrong kind of attention.
Zincantan, Chiapas | Photo credit: Journey Mexico
Trust your instincts
Never take your eyes off your personal belongings. If a situation or place makes you nervous, exit stage right by the safest means possible. Use common sense.
Don’t be a hero
Don’t resist if somebody tries to rob you; hand over what they’re asking for. This is no time to play the hero.
Be on guard for pickpockets
Watch out for pickpockets if you’re taking public transport. Split up your money and valuables, minimize your cash on hand, and keep copies of important documents in a safe place at your hotel.
Tulum, Quintana Roo | Photo credit: Journey Mexico
Use authorized taxis
Take only authorized taxis – “Taxis Autorisados.” They cost more, but their registered numbers can be traced. Don’t get antsy and opt for an unauthorized taxi. You may get taken for a ride – literally.
Bring a map
When driving to a destination, Lenczyner recommends that you “make sure you have a map – and make sure you’ll have cell service throughout [your trip].”
Be beach- and water-smart too
Not all beaches have signs clearly stating the dangers of strong currents, riptides, and heavy waves. Get the scoop on water safety in Mexico from your travel professional or tour guide, the local tourism board, or online resources.
Uxmal, Yucatan | Photo credit: Journey Mexico
Mexico safe-travel tips from the State Department
The State Department official speaking on background added these tips, from the page on travel.state.gov that has safety recommendations on travel to Mexico:
In addition, the State Department reminds travelers to:
- Pack lightly and bring appropriate clothing.
- Be aware of the effects of:
- Different food
- A new climate
- More strenuous physical activity
- Changes in routine and schedule
- Apply for a passport at least three months before you travel. If you have one, check the passport’s expiration date and entry requirements for Mexico.
- Work with the nearest consulate or embassy if you have problems. They can help you:
- Contact relatives or friends
- Find medical care
- Report a crime
- Find accommodation and arrange flights home
- Replace a stolen or lost passport
Luxury Casa Koko, Punta Mita | Photo credit: Journey Mexico
Medical issues: Look for approved providers and hospitals
If you get sick or are injured while on a Mexican vacation, note that there have been cases of medical billing abuses. Make sure your provider is on the State Department’s list of approved providers and hospitals.
Most Mexican hospitals don’t accept U.S. domestic health insurance or Medicare/Medicaid and require payment upfront by cash, credit card, debit card, or bank transfer.
While most U.S. medical plans aren’t accepted in Mexico, travel health insurance from a company like Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection is – one more reason why travel medical insurance is a must-have on any Mexican vacation.
Contact your travel insurer as soon as a situation arises; they’ll work with you and providers to coordinate care and payment.
Hacienda, Chekul | Photo credit: Journey Mexico
Weather: Hurricanes are very rare, yet make travel cheaper
Generally, weather on the Mexican coasts is ideal – sunny and warm, with gentle breezes custom-made for lazing by the beach.
However, from June through November there’s a risk of tropical storms. Hurricanes and tropical depressions can hit Mexico’s Caribbean, Gulf, and Pacific coasts.
If you travel to Mexico during these months, check the long-term forecast. On the other hand, as Biswell said, “Hurricanes are so hit-and-miss, you shouldn’t not travel to Mexico and block out those five months.”
Furthermore, according to Lanczyner, “Every single one of our structures are required by law to have a shelter, so I would not hesitate to travel to Mexico during hurricane season.”
And here’s a bonus: Travel to Mexico can be cheaper during these times, so you could get a lot for your money if you’re willing to take a calculated risk.
Mi casa es su casa: Mexico’s vested interest in keeping you safe
“Even with the continuous negative press about Mexico, tourism has continued to grow and grow and grow and grow,” Biswell said. “That speaks a lot for the destination, for travelers, and for the people of this amazing country.”
Around 20 million Americans vacation in Mexico every year, so everyone has a vested interest in making travel to Mexico fun, exciting, memorable, and above all safe.
“There are 9.5 million people in Mexico employed in the tourism industry,” Lanczyner said. “That means 9.5 million families depend on you having a wonderful time in Mexico – and we take it personally. We say – and we believe – that ‘Mi casa es su casa’ – our house is your house.”
And it’s a house that’s safe … and getting safer.
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