Chicago Sun-Times
With Lori Rackl

Mexico: Is it safe?

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The U.S. State Department late last week updated its travel alert for U.S. residents headed to Mexico (which thousands of spring breakers are gearing up to do in coming weeks). The move was precipitated by an increase in violence, especially near the Mexico/U.S. border.

Here's a snippet:

While millions of U.S. citizens safely visit Mexico each year (including thousands who cross the land border every day for study, tourism or business), violence in the country has increased recently. It is imperative that travelers understand the risks of travel to Mexico, how best to avoid dangerous situations, and whom to contact if one becomes a crime victim. Common-sense precautions such as visiting only legitimate business and tourist areas during daylight hours, and avoiding areas where prostitution and drug dealing might occur, can help ensure that travel to Mexico is safe and enjoyable.

For the full alert, click here.

It should be noted that the State Department has labeled this a travel alert, not a travel warning, which is a more severe step aimed at discouraging Americans from traveling to a particular area.

Tourism is an extremely important source of revenue for Mexico, which is why the Mexico Tourism Board has been quick to respond to the State Department's recent alert by pointing out that Mexico is a) the 10th most visited tourist destination in the world, b) the country welcomed 22.6 million international visitors -- a 5.9 percent increase from the previous year -- in 2008, and c) the peso is down against the dollar, making Mexico an especially good value for American travelers at the moment.

Have you been to Mexico recently? If so, where? Did you feel safe?

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I'm going on a Carnival Cruise to Mexico.Manzanillo' Acapulco, And Zihuatanaejo/Ixtapa. Is it safe?

Dorothy Lincoln

I plan to travel to tamasopo Mexico with my four
children to visit my husband. Last time we drove
ourselves was in 2008. Trying to get sound
advise that it is still safe for us on the 8 hour drive
I am getting more freinds and family telling me it is not
I don't know why iam listening to them because they told me
the samething we I went before with my children.
I know that these people would have never drive eight hours
inside Mexico with four children. Mexico does not scare me
just trying to make sure that it's still the same. After all I am white and
it's hard for that fact to blend in

My best friend and I are thinking about going to the Riveira Maya in July...We're 26 year old females...Is it safe since we'll be on a resort?

I am traveling to San Luis Potosi for the first time in many years.
I have a passport. I am traveling by air for a week. Will I need anything else? Thanks.

Hi Lori,

I haven't been to Mexico recently, but am planning to go for Spring Break 2010. My feeling is that you cannot live your life under a microscope, but at the same time it is important to take measures to be safe. As such, when I go down to Spring Break Cancun, I plan on making sure I am with a large group the entire time. I think the worst thing you can do is be alone in a foreign country. I also plan to tour Cancun for the first day to get a better sense of my surroundings. I just cannot wait for some warm weather, especially with the cold Chicago winter looming.


I go often, but have to be sure what I do and who I meet because your safety is what you have to think about. If you have no reason to go such as visiting family then stay home.

Has anyone traveled to Los Cabos, Mexico this year? I am traveling there in 1 week from Chicago, with that said, I am certainly use to crime and am very cautious.

Hi Lori,

I was in Puerto Vallarta two springs ago on vacation from UIC. It was interesting to watch an 18 year old spring breaker who was so drank she could hardly stand. She would jump repeatedly into the ocean thinking that was fun. Other americans at the beach felt ashamed of what this fellow American was doing that they walked away. Eventually she stumbled out and made it to her hotel alive. Legal drinking age in most countries is 18.

Should we make other people or country responsible for her behavior?

I think that if Mexico contributes 1/3 of all non-natural causes of death of U.S. citizens is not because they are attacked or murdered but because there is a large expatriot community in San Miguel de Allende, Ajijic (Chapala lake), Puerto Vallarta, Cabos, Baja, etc. and also is directly proportional to the number of visitor to this country 20 millions each year.

I am sorry for the awareness coalition position but there is an apparent agenda there and I quot ¨With the U.S. economy falling we should consider vacationing within our borders¨

Not that there is anything wrong in promoting local companie$ in our country, is just that we should stop miss informing blaming other people (scape goats) for our own problems.

Violence is all over the world but this fact should not, will not, stop anyone from traveling within or out side our borders, so come on awareness coalition ! Get real !

Hi we have already booked a trip to Playa Del Carmen and we will be going April 13. We are staying in an all inclusive resort there do you think we will be safe?

We go to Mexico every year and have never felt unsafe. I have to admit I am leary each time as I always hear stories before we leave about how THIS year it is bad, but I always get back on the plane oblivious to what all the hopla was. This year we were in Playa and I walked the beach every morn and never saw anything except tourists telling each otther good morning. Many went out at night and enjoyed the night life, but we are more day people. No one saw anything unusual. Personally I am much more leary in downtown Minneapolis as we read the news from there. Bottom line there is crime almost everywhere. Just use a little common sense.

We lived in Puerto Morelos, Mexico in the state of Quintano Roo from 2004-2005 and have traveled there frequently. It is located 20-miles south of Cancun in the Mayan Riviera.

We absolutely love this area and have not witnessed any unusual crime, with the exception of a beheading 1-mile from our house near a local spa.

This is a 3rd world country. If you can learn how to coexist with the Mexican community is perfectly safe.

My company Green Edventures host high school students for week long environmental programs in southern Baja. I am upset with the media's portrayal of Mexico during this travel alert issued by the State Department. Headlines are misleading and untruthful "US Warns Students NOT TO GO TO MEXICO"...ect. That is not true. The headline should say, "US Warns College Students Not To Get Drunk In Mexico Because You May Ruin It For Everyone Else. If you listen closely to news reports they interview people who say they are not going to Mexico because of the violence but then they say that tourism numbers are actually on the rise to particular destinations. Drama and fear sells, everyone. The media (especially respected news sources) should have to abide by an ethic and responsibility to broadcast accurate information. I have traveled extensively throughout Mexico. I have felt more afraid walking down an alley in Chicago than I do in the jungles of the Yucatan. Be smart when you travel to any where in the world. Know your facts before you let the media scare you into not going to a wonderful place with friendly people and beautiful natural wonders.

Here is another good source to read. They put alot of the current stats into perspective:

Hi Lori,

I was just in Cancun in mid-February with my husband and some friends. We were actualy there when the army general was killed. We heard about the incident on the news while in our hotel room. It was surprising to hear, but of course there was no mention of it at our resort.

We stayed at an all-inclusive and felt very safe since it was all tourists. I even went running a few times along the main road in Cancun, but given all of the safety concerns now, I would recommend working out on the beach or using a fitness room.

Katie Fitzpatrick
Minneapolis, MN

Hi Lori,
I like your note a lot... very factual! I visit Mexico every year (Cancun, Playa Carmen and Huatulco) and I’d always felt very safe. Yes things are very different there and that is the main reason why I love it: its food, its colorful towns, its traditions and particularly its friendly people. We have to remember to take precautions every where we go, just as we do it here at home when we visit certain Chicago neighborhoods… which I don’t think need be mentioned.
Andy Barratt

I have traveled the last several years to Cancun and further South flyfishing, staying in nice resorts, but yes on occasion you are vulnerable, and are at risk whether you like it or not, right now people need to understand things are progressingly getting worse by the day. I have heard horror stories in Cancun, Kidnapping, drugs slipped to teens on spring break, rape and violence and unfortunately death, please look further into the web and the different stories and facts on Mexico you will be surprised and horrified of just how many people have been kidnapped, held for ransom and slain, not just on the borders, policia now are leaving area to protect to protect there own lives. So where does that leave you. Really unprotected, We will not return.

This State Dept memo has been blown completely out of proportion. I just returned from a trip to Mexico last month and I felt completely safe. I was in San Luis Potosi, in the heart of Mexico far from the border or any vacation spot. Please do not frame this country into a 3rd world alien landscape filled with suspicious people. I'm sorry for your loss Awareness Coalition, but blaming an entire country for several tragedies is counterproductive to your need for closure.

This is an important article to read. Mexico also has growing problems with safety and security issues inside resorts of popular tourist destinations(Cancun,Playa del Carmen,Acapulco. Mexico contributes 1/3 of all non-natural causes of death of U.S. citizens (,a fact that neither Mexico or U.S. travel industries wants exposed. It is certainly in the best interest for all to travel elsewhere. Do not be mislead by those who are only interested in revenue$$ and profit at the expense of your well being. No matter how vigilant you are you may become a victim...simply, it is not worth the risk. With the U.S. economy falling we should consider vacationing within our borders.

Hi Lori, My wife and I have visited Mexico twice in the past four years. We never felt unsafe; however, I did notice security guards armed with submachine guns patrolling the outskirts of a resort we stayed at in 2004. The guards seemed to want to stay out of sight but if you were watching you’d see them. I wondered if that was common in Mexico. – T.D.

Hi Lori,

I think it is important to keep in mind that the areas where the major violence involving the drug cartels (the impetus for the warning) has happened at the border and not near the popular Spring Break destinations, such as Cancun and Acapulco. Taking certain precautions such as not flashing expensive jewelry or portable electronics and always traveling in groups is always a good idea when visiting other countries.


Patrick Evans
Marketing Communications @ STA Travel

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This page contains a single entry by Lori Rackl published on February 26, 2009 3:33 PM.

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