The Dallas Morning News
With spring break near, how safe is it to travel to Mexico?
With the kidnapping of four U.S. citizens in the northern Mexico border city of Matamoros, concerns about the safety of travel to Mexico have spiked.
The FBI’S San Antonio Division said in a statement Sunday that the Americans’ vehicle came under fire shortly after it entered Mexico through Brownsville.
“All four Americans were placed in a vehicle and taken from the scene by armed men,” the office said.
The FBI is offering a $50,000 reward for the return of the victims and the arrest of those responsible.
The State Department has a security alert for each of Mexico’s 32 states, and in the case of Tamaulipas, where the kidnapping occurred, U.S. authorities recommend against travel. Tamaulipas borders Texas from Laredo to Brownsville.
Spring break is just a few days away, and the most popular destination for U.S. travelers is Mexico — a country with stunning sandy beaches on the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean.
Some 13 million U.S. tourists visited Mexico last year. The top destination was Cancún and the Riviera Maya, which received 2.4 million people, according to Mexico’s tourism office.
Others travel to inland colonial destinations or big cities like Guadalajara, Monterrey and the nation’s capital, Mexico City.
American Airlines flies to dozens of Mexican destinations from DFW International Airport. Southwest Airlines also offers connecting flights to several resort destinations. Many more visitors enter Mexico by land.
Here are five things to know about visiting Mexico during spring break.
The allure of Mexico
Mexico is known for many things, but its beaches are a magnet for millions of tourists.
Beach resorts include Acapulco, Cancún, Playa del Carmen, Mazatlán, Puerto Vallarta, Huatulco, Los Cabos, the Riviera Maya and the Riviera Nayarit, according to Mexico’s tourism agency.
As for colonial destinations, some of the most popular are San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Taxco, Guerrero and Puebla. Other popular stops are Campeche, Morelia, Zacatecas, Puebla, Oaxaca and Querétaro.
In addition, Mexico has a network of 132 Pueblos Mágicos, small culture-rich towns.
The U.S. State Department recently has issued multiple travel advisories to help visitors plan their visit to Mexico.
In the case of Tamaulipas, the department recommends not going due to the danger of kidnapping and other crimes.
“Organized crime activity — including shootings, murders, armed robberies, carjackings, kidnappings, forced disappearances, extortion and sexual assaults — is common along the northern border and in Ciudad Victoria,” the State Department said in a travel alert. “Criminal groups attack public and private passenger buses and private cars traveling through Tamaulipas, often kidnapping passengers and demanding ransom payments.”
U.S. government employees have many limitations and may not travel between cities in Tamaulipas using Mexico’s interior highways. For them, travel between Nuevo Laredo and Monterrey is limited to Federal
Highway 85D during daylight hours with prior authorization, the State Department said.
According to the department’s advisories, the safest Mexican states to visit are Campeche and Yucatán.
Yucatán is home to Mérida and the Chichén Itzá archaeological zone, known for its Mayan ruins, about 120 miles west of Cancún.
The State Department advises travelers to use “extreme caution” when visiting states like Quintana Roo, where Cancún is located; Baja California Sur, home to Los Cabos; and other tourist destinations such as Oaxaca and Mexico City, because of the risk of violence.
Likewise, the department discourages travelers from visiting states like Colima (Manzanillo) and Guerrero (Acapulco) due to high threat of violence.
In January, a conflict between taxi drivers and Uber drew widespread attention after video of taxi drivers forcing a Russian-speaking family out of their Uber ride-share car went viral, and after taxi unions blocked the main road leading to Cancún’s hotel zone, The New York Times reported.
In response, the U.S. Embassy in Mexico on Jan. 23 issued a safety advisory, warning Americans that similar disputes in the past have turned violent, resulting at times in injuries to Americans.
“Application-based car services such as Uber and Cabify are available in many Mexican cities, and generally offer another safe alternative to taxis,” the Embassy said.
“Past disputes between these services and local taxi unions have occasionally turned violent, resulting in injuries to U.S. citizens in some instances.”
No other incidents have been reported since the January confrontation. The cab driver’s union continues negotiations with local authorities.