Is it safe to travel to Mexico? Here’s what you need to know

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The kidnapping and killing of American travelers this week in the Mexican city of Matamoros, just over the border from Brownsville, Texas, has cast a glaring light on the violence in a country to which millions of international visitors flock each year.

And as spring break begins at popular beach resorts hundreds of miles away in the west and south of the country, the question of safety is likely to be front and center.

Here’s what you need to know about travel insurance in Mexico:

There are 32 states in Mexico, and the US State Department has “do not travel” notices in effect for six, 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 the most sought-after tourist destinations in Mexico, in a state that has long had a US State Department warning ” don’t travel.” .

“To put things in perspective, Matamoros is about 1,360 miles from Cancun. that’s roughly the equivalent distance from the Texas side of the border to Chicago, Illinois,” said Rabinor, whose company creates custom luxury travel.

Seven Mexican states are ranked one notch lower in the State Department’s “reconsider travel” category, and 17 are listed in the “heightened caution” category.

“Crime and kidnapping” are listed as the cause for advisories in some states in each of these three categories, including Tamaulipas. The rest of the advice cites “crime” as the reason either not to travel, to reconsider or to be careful.

“Exercise normal precautions” is the guidance for the states of Campeche and Yucatán on the Yucatán Peninsula.

Countries such as Canada and the United Kingdom also have detailed travel warnings related to Mexico.

Playa del Carmen and Cancún, which are welcoming an influx of spring break travelers, are in the state of Quintana Roo, where the State Department is advising travelers to “exercise increased caution due to crimes and kidnappings.”

Rabinor highlighted other popular destinations that carry the “heightened caution” advisory, including France and the Bahamas. France is receiving attention due to possible terrorism and civil unrest. Crime is cited as a cause for concern in the Bahamas.

The State Department notes in its Quintana Roo advisory that violence and criminal activity can occur anywhere, “including popular tourist destinations.”

“Travelers should maintain a high level of situational awareness, avoid areas where illegal activities are occurring, and immediately remove themselves from potentially dangerous situations,” the advisory warns.

These popular resort areas are still fairly safe, says Jaime Lopez-Aranda, who is senior director of security at travel risk management firm International SOS.

“It is relatively safe for travelers to head to tourist destinations and major urban centers like Mexico City, Guadalajara and Monterrey,” Lopez-Aranda told CNN Travel.

Lopez-Aranda lives in Mexico City, where petty crime is a persistent risk and precautions must be taken, he said, “but the more popular locations are relatively safe for all kinds of travelers.”

Journey Mexico has more than 50 employees based in the country and are always watching for potential dangers, Rabinor said.

“We are confident that with proper preparation and information, travel to and within Mexico continues to be a great option,” he said.

If January’s international flight arrivals are any indication, the risks associated with traveling to parts of Mexico aren’t keeping visitors away from the country as a whole.

Passenger arrivals on international flights increased by 13% in January compared to January 2019, before the pandemic took hold around the world.

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Attention and situational awareness are critical across the country – and the world for that matter.

For trips to Mexico, Lopez-Aranda says precautions could include:
• Traveling with a trusted driver in a private vehicle
• Traveling only during daylight hours outside urban centers or higher risk locations
• Avoiding problem spots in big cities
• Avoid traveling alone
• Stay informed through news and government alerts
• Make sure your mobile device is charged

All of these tips are steps you should take at a destination, but much of the work needed to ensure the safest trip possible will be done before you even book anything.

You’ll want to research the safety and medical risks of the destinations you’re considering and make sure you’re confident in your accommodations, transportation, means of communication, and security arrangements, Lopez-Aranda says.

“It’s important to share all plans with your friends and family at home. While travelling, you should also maintain constant communication to ensure safety and discuss any potential risks that may arise,” he says.

And you should bring 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 important.

Journey Mexico links to US State Department advisories on its website, as well as travel advice for citizens of other countries, including the United Kingdom and Australia.

The company also notes conflicts between rival criminal organizations in various parts of Mexico in its “Is Mexico Safe?” safety assessment.

“While these conflicts can be unpredictable, they are almost always between and among organized crime groups” and are very rare in tourist areas, the post said.

The site also includes precautions travelers can take to avoid pickpocketing or robbery, including using ATMs only in secure locations, hiring reliable private transportation, not wearing expensive jewelry, and avoiding deserted, unlit areas.

If you feel uncomfortable, try to remove yourself from the situation or environment immediately, says Lopez-Aranda.

Because “intuition is often right.”

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