Is travel to Mex­ico safe?

The Southern Gazette - - FRONT PAGE -

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.


- 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.

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