Upon reviewing tourists’ questions and comments regarding travel to Mexico, the realization is that everyone is concerned about safety. Thanks to the never-ending debate of mega media companies, fear now resides in every traveler’s heart. As for all foreign travel, it is reasonable to worry about traveling to Mexico. However, empower your travel decisions with hard facts and statistics from reputable sources.
Nobody wants to spend time separating fact from fiction and nobody wants to do the research. Preparing for international travel is hard enough. So, let’s chew on some trustworthy facts together. The Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies at the University of San Diego conducted a study on drug related violence in Mexico from the years 2006 – 2009. Here are the key results:
1. Most drug-related violence takes place in states bordering the United States; Chihuahua, Sonora, Coahuila, Baja California North, and in the Pacific coastal states, Guerrero and Michoacán.
2. The least drug-related violence takes place on the Yucatan peninsula next to the Caribbean Sea. This region is popular among tourists and consists of vacation destinations like Cancun, Cozumel and the Riviera Maya. These states include Yucatan, Campeche and Quintana Roo.
3. The reason for the recent spike in drug-related violence is due to an increase in the governmental crack down on organized drug cartels. This means that the violence is mainly between government officials and the cartel members or between cartels. Not tourists.
4. In 2009 the odds of being a victim of a drug-related killing in Mexico was 1 in 16,300. Obviously the risk increases or decreases depending on the state but unless one has ties to a drug trafficker, the chances of being harmed are extraordinarily slim.
No city, region, country or state is one hundred percent safe. In one form or another, violence exists everywhere. What we cannot do is generalize and assume if one person is harmed due to drug-related violence in Mexico that our fate will be the same. The probability is just too low. The violence that every individual person must be wary of is a type of violence that plagues the entire world, mugging and petty theft. Here are some tips on how to prevent such crime while vacationing in Mexico:
1. Don’t flash your credit cards and carry only a limited amount of cash. If a thief sees that you have a card which enables you to withdraw cash from an account, they will see this as an opportunity to hold you hostage until they have received the maximum amount from your account.
2. Keep your most treasured jewelry and watches at home. Keep in mind that when vacationing in Mexico, you are in a poorer country than the United States, Canada or the UK and the minimum wage here is very low. Some, who work for the bare minimum, are tempted to swipe such items for their own financial security. Follow the same rule for clothing and electronics.
3. Never go alone. We all like to have fun while on vacation. If this fun consists of the consumption of alcoholic beverages, remember, never leave the bar or restaurant alone after drinking. Do not even leave momentarily to go to the ATM (see tip 1).
4. When in Rome, do as the Romans do. Yes, it a cliché but it is a good one. Blend in as much as possible and do not attract attention yourself. Attracting attention makes you an easy target. So, be aware of behavior, dress and note any major cultural differences that you may or may not need to adapt to.
With relevant statistics and common sense, it is evident that travel to Mexico is not as dangerous as previously perceived. The risks of encountering drug related violence or being mugged in Mexico is not drastically different from any major city in the United States. Make common sense more common, bring your street smarts and protect yourself with hard facts. Vacationing in Mexico can be a safe decision indeed.