With Punxutawney Phil predicting an early spring (forget that El Nino has not even surfaced as predicted) it is high time to plan spring break if you intend to travel!
One of the most popular spring break places, Mexico, has definitely seen a rocky road in recent years… but is rebounding tremendously.
In Cabo San Lucas, new roads have been built and the international airport has been upgraded since 2014’s Hurricane Odile…Tourism was up by 14.7 percent in 2015 from 2014 according to travelmarketreport.com, & there are a plethora of enticing hotels opening all over the country this year to motivate even the most hesitant of border crossers to take the leap.
A new “W” in Punta Mita… One&Only Mandarina along the Riviera Nayarit … and Mar Adentro by Encanto in San Jose del Cabo are just a few properties that are opening this year or the next.
But, let’s not forget, the US State Department still has a travel warnings out for areas of Mexico. El Chapo may be behind bars again, but there were more than 100 US citizens murdered in Mexico in 2015, and plenty of crimes and violence committed against travelers. It’s funny how what was seemingly a sketchy place two years ago, has now receded in our memories because of threats and acts of terrorism from ISIS in other countries like Paris, and Turkey.
But millions of people still travel to Mexico safely – and Mexico offers so much to travelers – tropical weather, outdoor activities, a different culture – and fabulous food. So how to make sure you are safe? Especially traveling with a family? Exercise common sense.. and remember there are locations within Mexico where the traveler should exercise extreme caution or avoid if possible.
I consulted with Tom Bochnowski , Vice President with Redpoint Resolutions – a company that offers high end individual services and travel insurance to enhance client safety – including evacuating clients from high danger situations, medical consulting services, and web-based intelligence sharing. The photo below is from a 2015 excavation after the Nepal earthquake.
Here is our advice for anyone traveling or contemplating travel to Mexico based on what Bochnowski’s group within Redpoint – Ripcord Travel Protection – has seen, along with my own observations.
1) We sometimes hear of the “Federales” pulling over people roadside, or foreigners getting kidnapped or robbed out of their cars. So what are some precautions? Attempt to schedule your arrival in Mexico during the day so any ground transfer from airport will take place when it is light. If possible, always book airport transfers and other transportation ahead of time with a reputable company. The hotel or resort concierge can be a good transportation resource. Avoid flagging a simple taxi from the street or the airport. If taxi is the only option, get the name and, if you can, photo of the driver, never share a taxi with people you do not know, and never enter a vehicle if you’re uncomfortable with the driver.
When renting a car, again, try to keep a low profile. Flashy cars like expensive off-road vehicles will earn you the wrong kind of attention in Mexico. And yes, staying on well lit, major roads is good advice, but even then – stay alert.
2) Understand the geography so you can make sense of the travel warnings and the news about regional dynamics. For example, know the Mexican state of your destination so you know if you are close to any dangerous area. Seriously – we don’t often say “I’m going to Jalisco” but that is the state where Puerto Vallarta is located, and some of travel warnings refer to Jalisco.
3) The drug cartels are responsible for most of the violence in Mexico. They are trying to move drugs north into the United States..so the border areas between the two countries are the most dangerous. Bochnowski says because of the high cartel concentration there, fighting for access, travelers have gotten caught up on cartel violence accidentally. It’s advised that travelers avoid the Mexican side of the Mexico / US border region whenever possible.
4) Don’t attract unwanted attention. Many travelers have been attacked and robbed by attracting attention beforehand. Here’s one recent example: A group of SCUBA divers were traveling by bus from Tikal, in the southern Yucatan, to Guatemala City. As they waited at a bus stop cafe in broad daylight, the three young men accidentally tipped over a table of empty beer bottles when the bus arrived, causing a loud crash and drawing everyone’s attention to them. The divers handed off thousands of dollars’ worth of new dive gear to the driver to be loaded into the luggage hold and boarded the bus. When they arrived in Guatemala City, surprise! Their gear was gone.
At cafes, restaurants and night clubs in particular, it’s easy for seemingly wealthy and careless foreigners to stand out and attract the attention of those with criminal intentions. Have fun, but keep a low profile and do not display wealth.
5) Is it safe to rent a house after that 2012 incident where Spanish tourists were raped and robbed at a rental home right near the hotels in Acapulco? For every one tragic and publicized incident such as the one in Acapulco, there are dozens of less dramatic incidents, usually involving theft. For example, thieves regularly steal passports and currency from rental homes in popular resorts, especially Cabo San Lucas. Even though the chances of being robbed are low, when preparing for a trip to Mexico, travelers should prepare ahead of their trip. Ask about security in any rental home before deciding which to choose, use common-sense measures such as locking windows and doors when on vacation. Have a solution for a stole passport or lost medication.
Experienced travelers always think ahead and leave a copy of their passport photo page, birth certificate, plane ticket, backup photo ID, medication prescriptions, and insurance card with a reliable and trustworthy person back home that can quickly email or fax the documents in an emergency. Before travel they also purchase travel insurance with primary medical expense coverage and medical evacuation services to their home country hospital of choice that do not require local attending physician authorization.
Large hotel chains are usually safer in Mexico because they provide security staff and other precautions. However, no hotel can guarantee the safety of its occupants. Here are a couple of basic tips: pick rooms away from the hotel foyer and other public spaces, meet visitors in the lobby, and only open the door to your room when you know someone is supposed to be there.
In times of dangerous events, sometimes the US embassy closes first. If you are going to regions where you have any concerns, purchasing travel insurance or evacuation services is always an option.
Remember these tips, exercise basic common sense, and be alert and most travelers will stay safe. To check the latest government warnings, which can change with world events, go to https://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/alertswarnings/mexico-travel-warning.html
For more about Ripcord’s services: www.ripcordtravelprotection.com