Perhaps you’re planning a warm weather getaway yet this winter. Or maybe you’re looking for a place to spend spring break. You may have heard reports of increasing violence in Mexico and wondered whether or not the country was safe to visit.
Relax. While there are legitimate safety concerns regarding travel to Mexico that you should be aware of, by using a little common sense you can be among the millions of Americans who safely enjoy Mexican vacations each year.
A few simple rules
First, do your homework. If you’re planning to visit a resort, check out reviews of hotels by fellow travelers on sites like Trip Advisor. Do a Google search for your destination to see if there is any recent news about it. Make sure you understand all of the transportation connections that will get you to and from that destination. Your flight may involve a connection at Benito Juarez International Airport in Mexico City, likely involving a trip from Terminal 1 to Terminal 2.
Second, be aware that getting into trouble in Mexico is really easy if you don’t practice a little self-restraint. For example, alcohol and swimming do not mix well, particularly if you’re swimming in the ocean. Each year, dozens of Americans drown while on vacation in Mexico. Alcohol is not always involved in these deaths, but it is a contributing factor in too many of them.
Third, understand that your are in a different country with different laws and social norms. Mexico is not the 51st state. You may have heard, for example, that Mexico recently decriminalized usage of small amounts of marijuana and cocaine. But if you light up a joint on the street, police can still arrest you and haul you before a judge who will determine whether or not you were engaged in trafficking. If the judge determines you were, you could spend four to eight years in a Mexican prison.
Fourth, the old adage that there’s safety in numbers holds true. While I have wandered around alone in Mexico and felt perfectly safe doing so, having more people around looking out for one another is generally a good idea.
The bottom line
After producing a three-part series on Mexico travel safety last year, I made two trips to the country. I spent time in Cancun and Manzanillo and also tried to get a feel for conditions in the nation’s capital by using the Mexico City Metro system during a brief stopover. The bottom line from these trips was the conclusion that Mexico is as safe or dangerous as you make it.
Granted, there have been and will continue to be exceptions to this generalization; people have been random victims of violence, corruption, or neglect. It’s difficult to statistically determine whether or not this is more prevalent in Mexico than other countries.
In Cancun, I saw people repeatedly ignore red warning flags to swim in the ocean. In Manzanillo, I was fortunate to escape injury while operating an ATV a bit too haphazardly. In Mexico City, I saw people foolishly standing in the doorway of a Metro train and watched as a boy got his backpack caught on the wrong side of the door as it closed. Fortunately, no injury resulted and the boy didn’t even lose the backpack.
Mexico affords it citizens and visitors alike with a good deal of freedom to enjoy life’s adventures as they see fit, with the implicit understanding that they are personally responsible for their own actions. They may or may not be warned about specific dangers while parasailing or snorkeling or riding an ATV. There may or may not be a lifeguard around to rescue them when they are struggling in the water. There may or may not be a warning that the train doors are about to close.
Mexico is a marvelous country with beautiful scenery, a vibrant culture, and warm, welcoming people. Be smart and you can have a safe and wonderful visit.
Related: A Manzanillo sunset cruise