Four Tips for Greenhorn Travelers Destined for Mexico

Katie Kapro
Published on: 17th August 2016
Mexico and the United States share a tenuous relationship. Obviously. Officially, the US has issued a travel warning for its Southern neighbor because of drug cartel activity, but even the wordage in that warning has a touch of dualism. On the one hand the Department of State points out, “crime and violence are serious problems and can occur anywhere, and U.S. citizens have fallen victim to criminal activity, including homicide, gun battles, kidnapping, carjacking, and highway robbery.” Yet in the same paragraph it’s noted that “tourist destinations in Mexico generally do not see the levels of drug-related violence and crime that are reported in the border region.” Mexico isn’t unsafe per se, it’s just best not to walk around the streets at night wearing a blindfold and waving your cash and US passport in the air.
Tips for Greenhorn Travelers Destined for Mexico
So how does that affect my travel plans? Honestly, should I avoid Mexico?

No way.

I suppose it should come as no surprise that the Mexican tourism industry isn’t doing so hot right now. But if anything, in this writer’s opinion, that fact encourages travel to Mexico. Think of it like hiking: people go to the far reaches of the world to find solitude hikes where they can experience the natural world completely unaffected by human industry. Why not experience Mexico with those same, fresh eyes? Mexico is raw right now. A traveller will find a culture that’s not presuming to be something it’s not. It just is: struggling, thriving, and everything in-between. It’s a real gift to be given an opportunity to witness that. The places that change us the most are the ones experiencing change themselves.

Following up on the “no blindfolds” suggestion, here are a few helpful tips - more helpful than don’t wave your cash in the air - that will keep you safe in your travels.

Be Prudent in Your Choice of Transportation

There are countless ways to travel around Mexico. The most important factors to keep in mind are the social and natural landscapes of your environment. Biking, for example, can be a great way to get around in certain areas, but try zipping down the side of, say, a highway on your bicicleta and you could find yourself in an uncomfortably unresponsive state.

Renting a car is often the best way to get to destinations outside of city limits that are not accessible by public transportation. The downfall of car rental is that you’ll have to contend with the bureaucracy of licensure and insurance. Things only get stickier if you get into an accident, or even stop at a scene of an accident to help. “You may want to consider the gravity of the situation before getting involved,” warns Rough Guides. “Witnesses can be locked up along with those directly implicated to prevent them from leaving before the case comes up – so consider if your involvement is necessary to serve justice.” If you’re looking for a travel adventure that begins after you reach your destination, you can always book a private car service. This option is especially good for weddings and occasions when you’d rather not be fussing with the daily stresses of driving. Private cars: not just for the hoity-toity anymore.

Keep Your ID Nearby

If you encounter local authorities during your travels, it’s likely they will request ID and travel papers. Be sure you can prove to them that you’re in the country legally and that you are who you say you are.  

It’s good practice to keep your passport on your person during your travels. Passports are highly valuable to thieves though, so take the utmost care. In some instances, locking it in the hotel safe is ok, just be sure and carry with you copies of the pertinent travel pages. It’s never a bad idea to have another form of picture ID on you just in case.

Respect Nature

Not all dangers are human-created. The beautiful Mexican coasts make for stunning travel destinations. But visitors must be respectful of the sheer power of the natural world: ocean riptides don’t care if you’re in vacation.

According to Cabo San Lucas aficionado Cara Gourley, in 2009 all of the non-natural US tourist deaths in the region were caused by drowning. I’m all for adventure but just because an area is known, doesn’t mean it’s not going to kill you. If you’re needing any more convincing, read this harrowing review of Land’s End Beach on the southernmost tip of Baja California. There are simple tactics for staying safe near the ocean. Gourley recommends heeding signs, black flags, and red flags that warn of riptides. Don’t jump into any tumultuous water. A good rule of thumb she also imparts is that if the waves break on the beach, they are more likely to cause dangerous undertow. So avoid them. All that being said, a little caution goes a long way to enjoying the natural splendor that is Mexico. Don’t Get Wrapped up in the Drug Scene

It goes without saying. But hey, I’ll say it anyway. If you’re running drugs in Mexico, you’re more likely to get caught up in cartel-related violence. Be smart. And as a reward, if one was so inclined, one could always book a long layover in Colorado for the flight home.

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