Is travel to Mexico safe?
In view of the recent headlines about killings of Canadian tourists and other crimes and violence in several different areas, and the federal government travel warnings concerning travel to Mexico, many people are wondering about the safety of visiting that country.
Crime, violence and protests can put a damper on your vacations, but you don’t have to cancel your vacation or travel somewhere else just because the headlines are nasty.
Mexico is a big country and it’s incredibly diverse, so violence in many parts of the country shouldn’t have any effect on your vacation in, for example, the Rivera Maya or Cancun any more than an earthquake in California would affect people in Chicago.
Most of the violence that has taken place is in areas that are not popular tourist destinations. The beating of a Canadian woman at a five-star Mazatlan resort brought to light the fact that there are exceptions. One wonders why she was alone at night in an elevator while her husband slept in their hotel room. Did she use common sense in wandering around the hotel at night on her own? and travel alerts regarding safety issues for travelers.
- As you’re packing, think twice about taking valuables with you. If they’re not essential, they’re probably better off left at home. This will also make for lighter bags, allowing you greater ease of movement, which can deter potential thieves.
- Scan your passport and travel documents and email them to yourself. That way, if your documents are lost or stolen, you can easily access copies from your email.
- Take your bank or credit card’s international telephone number with you (the 1-800 number used in Canada and the United States don’t work in Mexico).
- Leave a copy of your itinerary with someone at home, but don’t share details of your travel plans with others you meet while travelling.
- Buy a money belt (not a fanny pack) to carry your money and passport underneath your clothing.
- Credit or debit cards are the most convenient way to access your money while traveling, but losing your card (or having it swallowed by a cash machine) can be a great inconvenience, so have a back-up plan. Take some travelers cheques (or a small amount of cash) just in case.
WHILE YOU’RE THERE
- I don’t recommend renting a car in Mexico as tourists have often been hijacked. And it is always safer to travel with a group of people than alone.
- Choose ATMS in malls or stores if possible. Avoid using ATMS at night or in deserted places. When you withdraw money from an ATM put it away immediately.
- Carry only the cash you need for the moment in your pocket or purse. Carry your passport, credit card and extra money inside your clothes in a money belt, or leave them in your hotel’s safe. When you need to get something out of your money belt do it in a private place.
- Exercise particular caution when in crowds, markets or on public transportation. Pickpockets can be very crafty and sometimes work in pairs – one person will distract you while another takes your wallet.
- Ask your hotel manager or another knowledgeable person if there are some areas of the city you should avoid.
While Mexico has always been a popular holiday and beach destination, 2012 is set to become a stellar tourism year for the country, despite the recent crime wave, thanks to a little Mayan mythology predicting either an ending to the world (supposedly on Dec. 21) or a spiritual rebirth and the beginning of a new era for mankind.
Either way, the Mexican tourism board is showcasing the country’s Mayan heritage to its advantage. So if you’re going, be sure to visit the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza, which is said to be the physical embodiment of the Mayan calendar.
Georgina Parsons is a retired travel agency owner/manager and travel, tourism and hospitality instructor.