The kidnapping and murder of four Americans in the Mexican city of Matamoros, just across the border from Brownsville, Texas, highlighted the violence in a country where millions of international visitors flock each year.
And now that spring break begins at popular beach resorts hundreds of miles away in the west and south of the country, the question of security is probably one of the main concerns
There are 32 states in Mexico, and the US State Department has “no travel” warnings in six of them, including the state of Tamaulipas, where Matamoros is located.
Zachary Rabinor, founder and CEO of travel company Journey Mexico, points out that this week’s violence occurred far from some of Mexico’s most coveted tourist destinations, in a state that has long upheld a State Department warning. of the US “no travel”.
“To put things in perspective, Matamoros is about 2,188 kilometers from Cancun; it’s roughly the equivalent distance from the Texas side of the border to Chicago (in the state of Illinois),” explains Rabinor, whose company creates bespoke luxury.
Seven Mexican states are listed one notch below in the State Department’s “reconsider travel” category and 17 in “extreme precautions.”
“Crime and kidnapping” is the cause of warnings in some states in each of those three categories, including Tamaulipas. The rest of the advisories list “crime” as the reason not to travel, reconsider, or exercise caution
Be aware of the situation everywhere
Both receiving an influx of travelers for spring break in the United States, Playa del Carmen and Cancun are in the state of Quintana Roo, where the State Department advises travelers “to exercise caution due to crime and kidnappings”.
Rabinor highlighted other popular destinations that carry the “extra caution” warning, including France and the Bahamas. France receives the warning due to possible terrorism and civil unrest. In the Bahamas, the reason for caution is crime.
The State Department notes in its advisory on Quintana Roo that violence and criminal activity can occur anywhere, “even in popular tourist destinations.”
“Travellers should maintain a high level of situational awareness, avoid areas where illegal activity occurs, and move quickly away from potentially dangerous situations,” the advisory warns.
The most popular tourist areas remain reasonably safe, says Jaime López-Aranda, director of security at travel risk management company International SOS.
“It is relatively safe for travelers to head to tourist destinations and major urban centers, such as Mexico City, Guadalajara and Monterrey,” López-Aranda told CNN Travel.
López-Aranda lives in Mexico City, where petty crime is a persistent risk and precautions must be taken, he said, “but the more popular places are relatively safe for all kinds of travelers.”
Journey Mexico has more than 50 employees based in the country who are always watching for potential risks, Rabinor said.
“We are confident that with the proper preparation and information, traveling to Mexico and within the country continues to be a great option,” he said.
If January international flight arrivals are any indication, the risks associated with travel to some parts of Mexico are not keeping visitors away from the country as a whole.
Passenger arrivals on international flights increased 13% in January compared to January 2019, before the pandemic gripped the world.
Precautions and planning
Maintaining caution and situational awareness are key across the country, and around the world.
For travel in Mexico, López-Aranda says precautions could include:
- Travel with a trusted driver in a private vehicle
- Travel only during the day outside urban centers or in high-risk places
- Avoid hot spots in big cities
- Avoid traveling alone
- Stay up to date with government news and alerts
- Make sure the mobile device is charged
All of these tips are steps that need to be taken at the destination, but much of the work needed to ensure the safest possible trip is done before you book.
Research the medical and security risks of the destinations you’re considering, and make sure you’re confident in your accommodation, transportation, means of communication, and security measures, López-Aranda says.
On the way to 8M, women prepare to march and make history“It’s important to share all plans with friends and family back home. During the trip, you should also maintain constant communication to ensure safety and discuss any potential risks that may arise,” he says.
And you should carry copies of your documents, contact information for your country’s embassy or consulate, and the location of the nearest hospital. Insurance that covers you at your destination is also key.
trust your gut
Journey Mexico links on its website to notices from the United States Department of State, as well as travel guides for citizens of other countries, such as the United Kingdom and Australia.
The company also points to conflicts between rival criminal organizations in various parts of Mexico in its own security assessment, titled “Is Mexico Safe?”
“Although these conflicts can be unpredictable, they almost always take place between organized crime groups” and are very rare in tourist areas, says the publication.
The site also includes precautions travelers can take to avoid pickpockets or robberies, such as using ATMs only in safe places, hiring reliable private transportation, not wearing expensive jewelry, and avoiding deserted and dark areas.
If you feel uncomfortable, try to immediately remove yourself from the situation or setting, López-Aranda says.
Because “intuition is usually right.”