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How to Plan a Safe Trip to Mexico
Worried about visiting Cancun in light of the recent travel warning? Here's what you need to know.
The warning highlights an uptick in kidnapping, robbery and carjacking in certain parts the country, but notes that popular resort areas generally do not see the same level of crime as large trafficking routes.(Getty Images)
Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of State expanded its travel warning in Mexico to include some of the country's most popular tourist regions. Destinations such as Cancun and Quintana Roo, which includes Cozumel and Tulum, are included in the warning. Why the extended travel warning? A recent surge of violent crime and drug-related activity sparked this new set of warnings, which has left many Americans wondering if they should proceed with their vacation or pivot their plans. The alert highlights cases of kidnappings, homicide, carjacking and highway robberies in certain destinations across the country.
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However, there are a variety of states across Mexico where no advisory is in effect. So, if you want to explore the country's diverse cultures, superlative beaches and snorkel and dive in crystal-clear waters, there are of areas beckoning for exploration. And in spite of the extended travel warning, tourists are still as safe as they were before in select parts of Mexico, as long as they take the proper precautions ahead of time and during their trip. If you're thinking of visiting Mexico in the near future, follow these strategies and expert precautions.
Choose Your Destination Wisely
While some Mexican destinations like Tijuana have long been on the State Department's warning list for tourists, other destinations are still considered safe for American tourists. Los Cabos, for example, is experiencing a record surge in visitor traffic. In 2017 alone, tourism to Los Cabos is up 20 percent, says Rodrigo Esponda, managing director of the Los Cabos Tourism Board. The U.S. brings in 83.2 percent of all international visitors to Los Cabos, he adds. If you're aching to get back to Mexico, but you're concerned about the uptick in crime, it's helpful to keep in mind that cities like Los Cabos are still very much open for business and offer a safe place to enjoy culture, food, nightlife and beautiful beaches.
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Stay Informed on Up-to-Date Safety Measures
Before you choose a vacation destination in Mexico, look into safety initiatives put in place to protect both locals and tourists. You can usually find this information online with local tourism boards. Los Cabos is at the forefront of this effort, having taken swift and aggressive measures to intensify security measures across the destination. This year alone, Los Cabos has invested more than $47 million to increase security personnel, equipment and infrastructure, Esponda says.
Take the Same Precautions You Would Take Elsewhere
Staying within the main tourist areas can go a long way to ensure safety, as can other common measures like not talking to strangers, avoid going out alone at night and keeping your personal belongings secure. Other steps you can take for a safe trip include scanning a copy of your passport and bringing it with you, making sure you use credit rather than debit when you make purchases to take advantage of zero fraud liability and leaving a copy of your itinerary with a loved one or friend at home.
Learn Some Basic Spanish Phrases
It can help to learn a few key Spanish phrases before your trip. That way, you can easily communicate with locals, and get help faster in the event you're the victim of a crime. Of course, learning some Spanish can also help you avoid misunderstandings with local police or anyone else. There are plenty of apps that can help you learn some basics of any language, but one of the easiest is Duolingo, which you can install on your phone. If you don't have time to learn Spanish, buying a small phrasebook to bring with you can also help you navigate the language barrier.
The Bottom Line
If you decide to travel to Mexico in spite of newly released travel warnings, don't let fear spoil your trip. The reality is, most tourists who visit Mexico never see or witness a crime, nor are they in danger. Stay in the popular and secure tourist and resort areas, and it's likely you'll never be at risk for any crime other than petty thievery. Mexico is a beautiful country with a wide range of climates, landscapes and things to do and see. The country is home to ancient ruins, clear cenotes you can swim in, some of the best whale-watching spots in the world and gorgeous beaches galore. Is Mexico safe? All signs point to yes provided you are smart about your destination, do your research and take proper safety precautions.
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About En Route
Practical advice on the art of traveling smarter with tips, tricks and intel from En Route's panel of experts.
Contributors have experience in areas ranging from family travel, adventure travel, experiential travel and budget travel to hotels, cruises and travel rewards and include Amy Whitley, Claire Volkman, Holly Johnson, Marsha Dubrow, Lyn Mettler, Sery Kim, Kyle McCarthy, Erica Lamberg, Jess Moss, Sheryl Nance-Nash, Sherry Laskin, Katie Jackson, Erin Gifford, Roger Sands, Steve Larese, Gwen Pratesi, Erin Block, Dave Parfitt, Kacey Mya, Kimberly Wilson, Susan Portnoy, Donna Tabbert Long and Kitty Bean Yancey.
Edited by Liz Weiss.
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