Let’s get straight to the point – there is a drug war in Mexico, and it has affected tourism.
Everyone from the media to your neighbor has an opinion on the subject, but is it safe to travel to Mexico alone?
Many people argue that U.S. media outlets have discouraged travel with outrageous claims and the installation of fear. Others say they are unwilling to visit until their safety can be guaranteed.
There is some risk involved in traveling to Mexico, since drug-related deaths have increased since the beginning of the war in 2006. According to the U.S. Department of State, most casualties of the war have been directly involved in narcotic trafficking. Out of about 34,000 total deaths, 111 of those have been U.S. and foreign citizens; that’s about .003 percent, a minute figure, but present nonetheless.
On the other hand, one could argue that there is always risk in visiting foreign countries. As a tourist, you could be a potential target for theft and other petty crimes – it comes with the territory – but if you’re alert and smart, you can avoid these potentially unsettling confrontations.
If you plan to head to Mexico, here are some tips on how to stay safe from the U.S. Department of State.
1) Travel during the day
Violence occurs most often at night. If you’re crossing between cities, do so at night. Be vigilant about where you go at night, and try to stay in groups.
2) Stick to tourist destinations and away from the U.S./Mexican border
The U.S/ Mexico border is where incidents of violence are the highest.
3) Stop at all road checkpoints and do your best to cooperate with Federalis, or Mexican policeman.
We’re not sure if this tip always works, but one friend who owns property in Mexico said that if you offer a policeman an ice-cold Coca Cola as a friendly gesture, most will let you be on your way. Understand that you may be asked for a bribe. If you can, pay it. The police in Mexico are corrupt and it is best to do whatever you can to continue on your way and avoid any sort of jail time.
4) Fly to your destination to avoid crossing the border
If flying is out of the question, make sure to stick to main highways, toll roads, and avoid isolated or smaller roads whenever possible.
5) Don’t do drugs while in the country
We shouldn’t have to say this, but when in Mexico, avoid doing drugs. Avoid being around drugs. Certainly don’t ever have drugs on you. Absolutely don’t drive with drugs on you or in the car you are in. Don’t get into the car with anyone you don’t trust.
6) Stay off beaches at night
This is a golden rule that should always be abided by no matter where you are in the world. Stay off the beaches at night, they are never patrolled and you are not safe.
7) Become familiar with your surroundings and hotel/hostel staff, and always go with your gut instinct
If something feels out of place or unsettling to you, go back to where you feel relaxed. That’s what vacation is all about!
Details on areas in Mexico that are to be avoided can be found here.
I plan to visit Sayulita, Mexico, this December for Christmas and New Years, and can’t wait to surf, paddle board, and lay in the sun while much of the rest of the world is up to their eyeballs in snow. Many people have discouraged me from going, however.