Traveling Safely in Mexico

by Kitty Bean Yancey

Source

Ten tips to make your vacation a fiesta vs. a fiasco

En español | The image of Mexico as a dangerous country with a drug cartel on every corner is far from the truth. The government puts a priority on making tourist areas safe. Still, it’s never a bad idea to take a few precautions — before you leave and while you’re traveling — to minimize the chances of something going wrong.

1. Choose your destination carefully

Drug runners, carjackers and kidnappers are active in a number of areas, which caused a spike in 2016 homicides and prompted the U.S. State Department to issue a travel warning for certain locales. (Get the latest updates at travel.state.gov.) When it comes to personal security, there’s a world of difference between, say, Acapulco (which U.S. government employees may now visit only on official business) and Cancun’s well-secured hotel zone. Typically, areas such as the Riviera Maya south of Cancun — as well as inland cities popular with Americans, including San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato and San Cristóbal de las Casas — are considered low risk. The tourist areas of Cabo San Lucas in Baja California also belong in this category.

2. If you’re a trepidatious traveler, consider an all-inclusive resort or a cruise

In addition to having a single fee cover all your meals, most alcoholic beverages and most activities, all-inclusives typically allow only guests and employees inside a gated area. And cruise ships generally call at well-guarded ports.

3. Think twice about renting a car

Driving can be risky in Mexico. It’s possible to be stopped by police demanding bribes, slangily called mordidas (Spanish for “bites”). If that happens and you don’t want to pay, act as if you don’t understand. Alternatively, politely ask to follow the officers to the police station. Chances are, they’ll move on to another victim. The State Department strongly recommends buying auto insurance in Mexico that includes bail. If you’re involved in a serious car accident, both drivers can be detained — and even jailed — until fault is determined. Also, most experts advise against driving at night, given the greater chance of robbery, carjacking or hitting an animal (or even a person) on a dark road.

4. Monitor what you eat and drink

Whether it’s the mild inconvenience of turista (traveler’s diarrhea) or a more serious case of food poisoning, no one wants to spend their vacation in the bathroom. To head this off, drink only water that you know has been filtered or purified. Water in a bottle with an unbroken seal is safest.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises eating food that is cooked and served hot. That means you should avoid salads or uncooked vegetables, which could have been rinsed in contaminated water or prepared by someone who didn’t properly wash their hands. It’s not a bad idea to stick to fruit you peel (such as bananas). Avoid ice unless you’re sure it was made from filtered water. Wash your hands often, or pack some hand sanitizer.

To stave off the effects of contaminated food or drink, the CDC advises Mexico travelers to get a hepatitis A vaccine. It also suggests a typhoid vaccine, especially for adventurous eaters and those traveling to small cities or rural areas. Bring an over-the-counter antidiarrheal medicine. Savvy travelers should also carry an antibiotic, such as Cipro, to treat a debilitating bacterial attack. And if you do get sick, take care to stay hydrated in order to avoid hospitalization and possible IV treatment.

5. Bring more cash than you think you’ll need

Should you require emergency medical attention, it’s not unusual for a doctor or a hospital to demand payment in cash. The peso is the official currency, but U.S. dollars are often accepted.

6. Leave the bling at home

Flaunting costly watches and jewelry is an invitation to be relieved of them.

7. Be cautious of cabbies

Try to use only taxis that are official. If in doubt, ask a front desk staffer at your hotel to call a cab or have a restaurant call one. Before you get in the vehicle, ask how much the trip will cost; again, hotel and restaurant staffers should be able to give you an estimate. Cabs aren’t always metered, so if a quoted fare strikes you as unreasonable, bargaining is worth a try.

8. Don’t leave valuables in your hotel room

This is a good rule of thumb no matter where you travel, but with poverty rife in Mexico, iPads, diamond earrings and pricey headphones make tempting targets. And, of course, always stash your passport in your hotel’s safe (room or front desk).

9. Pack a copy of your passport and credit cards

Keep tabs on credit- and debit-card transactions; fraudulent charges or withdrawals can be a problem, the State Department reports. Learn the location of the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate beforehand in the event that you need help.

10. Don’t let tequila drown your judgment

Keep your wits about you. Never accept a drink from a stranger, and be wary of unsolicited attempts to befriend you. That said, be reassured that the overwhelming majority of Mexicans are friendly and hospitable to Americans — even in the wake of recent friction between the two governments. “Everyone we’ve encountered has been welcoming,” says Wisconsin native Laura Bly, who lives part of the year in San Miguel de Allende. So clap in time with every mariachi band — and enjoy your stay.

Travel writer Kitty Bean Yancey has been visiting Mexico for three decades.

Also of Interest

WHY TULUM DOESN’T DESERVE ITS BAD REPUTATION

The former holiday darling is getting more than its fair share of bad press recently – but it could be for the best, says Liz Dodd

Liz Dodd Monday 25 February 2019

I am lying on warm, white sand, at that perfect point when it has adjusted to fit me like memory foam, listening to the tide break near my feet. Listening to the tide, and to the cluster of tourists standing behind me. “We can’t stay here,” one has just said. “This is awful.”

It feels like a war is being waged against Tulum, Mexico, by the same affluent bohemians who made it an aspirational destination in the first place. The short stretch of jungle and beach on the Caribbean coast, close enough to Cancun for convenience and far enough for its ugly resorts to be a distant memory, made its name as a hippy hangout in the Nineties. Surrounded by Mayan ruins, its quasi-mystical atmosphere turned the sleepy Mexican town into a meeting place for yogis and crystal-hoarding meditators of all varieties.

As with so many backpacker destinations – think anywhere on the “banana pancake trail” in southeast Asia – Tulum soon went mainstream. Now, people come to buy a week in paradise – which is where it starts to go wrong.

Recently, the beaches of Tulum have been overwhelmed by a kind of seaweed called sargassum. For a Brit used to the pebble beaches of Brighton and Essex, it is really not that big a deal: the sea is tinged a light red, and you have to wade through some weeds to get to clearer water.

“I thought that’s just what the sea looked like,” I told an incredulous American tourist when they wondered how I could bear a holiday in such intolerable conditions. But because of it tourism in the region has dropped by an astonishing 35 per cent: in desperation, richer resorts now pay locals to wheelbarrow it away from their pristine beachfronts. Some of the more enterprising locals have started building houses and hotels out of bricks made from the dried seaweed.

“Tulum goes from beach paradise to eco-nightmare,” a recent headline warned. The environmental impact of the tourist boom – seen in landfill overflow and water contamination – is undeniable, but is the solution really to abandon the region?

“Tulum goes from beach paradise to eco-nightmare,” a recent headline warned. The environmental impact of the tourist boom – seen in landfill overflow and water contamination – is undeniable, but is the solution really to abandon the region?

When I was there last, for a month in off-season (which runs late August-December, but is really any time outside the peak seasons of Christmas and mid-April), it was paradise. The beach road, a bumpy track that runs between the sea and the jungle, from Tulum town to the beach strip, was almost silent; you could walk into the hottest restaurants on a whim; hotels that usually charged $10-20 (£7.50-15) a day for a spot on the beach let me lounge all day for the price of a coffee or bowl of nachos. My twice-daily yoga classes were often one-on-one, held in an open walled shala set back in the jungle 20 paces from my bedroom. Including breakfast, this set me back £40 a night. Between classes I dived in cenotes – giant, cool, underwater pools and cave systems; one day I pottered up to the Mayan Clay Spa, and because it was 40 per cent off for low season, treated myself to a 90-minute massage that almost made me melt through the table. At night I dragged friends from my yoga classes to jungle raves; in the mornings we nagged our yoga teacher into leading us in restorative classes that always stretched long past the allocated hour and a half.

If you visit Tulum in high season the jungle road will roar with taxis, the beach loungers will be reserved, the restaurants heaving. But the playa will still have soul, because that is preserved in the noises from the jungle that startle you when you’re walking home at night; at the bottom of the dark cenotes when you explore them with a diving torch; when a yoga teacher you trust coaxes you into a pretzel-like pose you could never do at home.

Of course Tulum’s soul will evade you if you’re only in it for Instagram, or if a clump of seaweed can ruin your holiday. Hopefully a brief drop in tourism will give local businesses room to breathe and new pro-environment policies a chance to have an impact. If high season becomes the new low season, the backlash against Tulum could be the best thing to happen to it.

Eat

It’s a bit of a walk to Charly’s Vegan Tacos but well worth it: the Chicharron Prensado tacos, crackling with pepper sauce and garlic aioli, are out of this world.

Drink

The noisy and enjoyably un-hip Ice Cream Bar serves michelada – glasses of beer seasoned with hot sauce and lime – and generously filled $2-$3 tacos

Stay

Yoga Shala is one of the cheapest places to stay on the playa, offers twice-daily yoga classes and a range of accommodation. Double with shared bathroom from £45, B&B.

At the luxe end, Dos Ceibas offers a genuinely eco-friendly stay. Entirely solar-powered, it sources its own water from a well to avoid contributing to traffic, and strives for zero-waste. Doubles from £180.

Getting there

British Airways flies to Cancun from £362 return. Tulum is two hours’ drive away.

 

 

 

Mexico Vacations: 10 Things to Know Before You Take Off

More Americans visit Mexico more than any other international destination, and Canadians are not far behind. It’s no surprise seeing as this country boasts sunny skies, clear warm waters, beautiful weather and a slew of resorts and activities to choose from. In order to make your trip to Mexico a little more enjoyable, there are a few things you should know before taking off. Here are 10 of our best suggestions on how to make the most out of your vacation to the beautiful country of Mexico.

10. Tequila is NOT the only Drink of Choice

We get it, when you travel to Mexico you are going to drink Tequila, and probably a lot of it. But that is not the only choice in this awesome country. Before the fire of tequila there was another beverage fermented from agave nectar: pulque. This ancient liquor has been making a comeback in recent years and those familiar with the drink tell you that it won’t get you intoxicated, well not exactly. While you can sit there and drink pulque for hours, chances are your legs won’t want to work when you get up, but your mind will be clear. Mezcal is another alternative to tequila, a cousin to the popular drink and is meant to be sipped, straight up. Acolytes claim that is a much purer tipple than tequila and that it never betrays you with a hangover, however its up to you to test that theory.

9. You Have to Pay to Leave

The Mexico departure tax is overwhelmingly complicated, thanks to a lack of information available regarding it. Our best advice, make sure you keep at least 900 Mexican Pesos on hand when you arrive at the airport. Depending on whether you drive or fly in, depends on who asks for your money. Some airlines include the departure tax in their ticket price, some don’t. It is possible to go to any bank before you depart and pay the tax, just show them your tourist card, essentially a visa that allowed you into the country and they will give you a receipt to show the border officials when you leave. Yes, you have to pay to leave, or as others would say, you have to pay to get in. Either way, keep 900 Pesos handy and you’ll be just fine.

8. Don’t Drink the Water

As a general rule, stay away from all tap water in Mexico. It’s pretty simple actually considering locals themselves find the idea of drinking the tap water repulsive. The water is indeed purified at the source but it’s the distribution system that allows the water to be contaminated en route to the tap. Most Mexicans buy water in five gallon jugs called garrafones which are delivered to their homes and recycled. If you are staying at a hotel they should be providing bottled water or large jugs of purified water for you to refill your bottle. This goes for brushing your teeth as well, make sure you are using the purified water. And don’t forget about the ice cubes that are put into your drink at the restaurants, we suggest asking for any drink “without ice” or inquiring if the cubes are made from tap water or purified water.

7. Learn some Española

It is always a good idea to learn the local language when you travel, always. It is no different when you are traveling to Mexico, especially if you are planning on traveling around the country. With the availability of free language programs available, there is no real excuse for not knowing simple phrases. A couple key phrases include dónde está el baño (where is the bathroom), una cerveza porfavor (one beer please), and gracias (thank you). Make sure you have google translate enabled on your phone or have a phrase book handy in order to connect with the locals. Before you know it you will be speaking Spanish to everyone you come across.

6. There is More to Mexico Than the Drug Cartel, But it is Still Dangerous

Like the title suggests, this country is not all drug cartels and smuggling operations. But there are drug groups openly battling law enforcements as well as each other in certain parts of Mexico. And the number of tourists murdered here has risen in the past few years. But that doesn’t mean you have to stay away from this country all together, traveling here can be safe. It is recommended to read travel advisories before booking a trip here, as there are some undesirable states, especially near the U.S border. The good news is that the most popular tourist spots are deemed safe to visit. If there is one piece of advice to take with you when you travel to this country, it is to know what car you are getting into, and only get into registered taxis. Use common sense and stay in the safe tourist areas, don’t withdraw large amounts of money from the ATM and don’t wear a ton of jewelry if you are off of a resort.

5. Mexico is a Nature Lover’s Paradise

From the deserts of the north to the tropical forests of the Pacific to the feeding ground of the Sea or Cortez to the pine forests in the Mexican Central Plateau, this is one of the most biologically diverse countries in the world. Mexico is home to the second highest number of mammal species, more than a thousand species of birds and more reptile species than any other country. You know what this means? Visitors should expect to be blown away by nature here. The eastern perimeter of Michoacán state is home to 30 billion butterflies, the winter home of the Monarch butterflies. The mystical state of Chiapas is overflowing with brilliant shades of green and vertical jaw-dropping cliffs. The Caribbean coastline of the Yucatan is home to the 2nd largest barrier reef, littered with manatees, whale sharks and turtles. Copper Canyon, four times the size of the Grand Canyon stands in the heart of the Sierra Madre and offers breathtaking views and incredible adventure opportunities.

4. Buses are Safe…and Cheap

If you are planning on making your way around different parts of the country, we suggest hoping on a bus. Not only are they safe and cheap but they generally run on time. Hop on one of the executive or first class busses for a great experience that includes air condition, reclining seats and movies. These generally run on express routes and can take you from Cancun to Chichen Itza for under $20. Second class buses normally make more stops, perfect for those who are looking to make local stops. Buses here are a great way to avoid the touristy tours and sightsee independently.

3. Mexico is Loaded with UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Mexico has 28 cultural sites, 5 natural sites and one mixed site of UNESCO’s list of world heritage sites, more than any other country in the America’s. Chichen Itza is perhaps the most well-known of these sites and no one will argue that these ancient ruins are awe-inspiring, but there are so many more sites to discover in this country. The historic centre of Mexico City and Xochimilco is home to five Aztec temples, the largest cathedral on the continent and floating gardens. The islands in the Gulf of California are loaded with high cliffs, sandy beaches and brilliant turquoise waters. The Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve is located on the east coast of the Yucatan Peninsula and is home to tropical forests, mangroves and marshes, along with a large marine section, and is home to over 300 species of birds. The Monarch Butterfly Reserve is where the billions of butterflies call home in the wintertime and is located 100km northwest of Mexico City. There is so many natural wonders, ancient ruins and historic cities that deserve a visit when you are here.

2. Two Words: Linen and Cotton

It is HOT here. All the time. No matter when you come. Remember this. The humid climate and climbing temperatures are especially uncomfortable in the summer months. How you will stay cool in this country is by wearing natural fabrics such as linen and cotton, or your bathing suit- although we don’t suggest leaving the resort in just a swimsuit. Many locals will wear long pants made out of linen as it allows the body to breathe. Stay away from polyester. You can thank us later.

1. Mexico is a Foodie Lover’s Dream

We understand that everyone thinks Mexico and immediately thinks tacos, but come on people, that is clearly not the only food in this country! Mexican cuisine is indeed so good that UNESCO has put it on the cultural heritage list. Make sure to visit the stalls in the markets where you will find succulent dishes at ever turn, think meat with purple corn topped with avocado ice cream. It is a must to try mole when you visit Mexico and enjoy the rainbow sauce of bitter chocolate and spice that often accompanies it. Each region in this country is known for it’s own local specialties. In the Yucatan make sure you try the slow roasted pork with bitter orange marinade and lime soup, also called the cochinita pibil. And for dessert, one word- churro- a fried dough covered in sugar and cinnamon, found all over the country.

 

 

Mexico introduces bill to to legalise medical and recreational cannabis use

It is a controversial proposal in a country fighting a drug war

Kristin Hugo New York

A Mexico senator has introduced a bill that would legalise recreational marijuana.

Andrés Manuel López Obrador is the president-elect of Mexico, and his soon-to-be interior interior minister Olga Sanchez Cordero proposed a bill to legalise marijuana.

If it passes, each person will be allowed to have up to 20 plants at a time for personal consumption. The bill would also include regulating and monitoring production, sales, and consumption.

In five separate court cases, Mexico’s supreme court has ruled in favour of private citizens suing for their rights to consume recreational marijuana. If this law passes, it would no longer require a lawsuit for each citizen to smoke.

Individuals can also partake in public places and produce no more than 480 grams per year if the law passes.

Ms Obrador also suggested negotiating peace and amnesty for some involved in the drug trade who security forces are currently targeting, Reuters reports.

Mexico famously struggles with the violence of drug cartels, and the government has been viciously fighting a “war on drugs” since 2006. Thousands have died in the drug war. Former Mexican president Michael Vincente Fox has argued that legalisation would reduce profits for dangerous Mexican cartels, and in turn, would reduce drug-related violence.

Globally, laws regarding marijuana are slowly relaxing. The only other countries that have formally legalised cannabis are Uruguay and, as of June, Canada. Slowly, US states are legalising medical or recreational marijuana as well.

The recent midterm election involved several marijuana-related propositions, as long as sales are still regulated and documented. North Dakota’s proposition failed, but Missouri and Utah voted to allow medical marijuana. Michigan voted to allow it recreationally as well.

MEXICAN CRIME WAVE Is it safe to travel to Cancun Playa del Carmen resort in Mexico issued with a US State Department warning after murder spree

Escalating drug cartel violence has rocked the popular Mexican holiday hotspot of Cancun

By Jon Lockett

ESCALATING drugs cartel violence rocked the Mexican holiday hotspot of Cancun after nine people were murdered in a 36-hour period in April 2018.

More than 100 people have now been killed in the popular beach resort since the start of 2018. Here’s what you need to know before you pack your bags for a holiday there…

Is it safe to travel to Cancun and other tourist spots in Mexico?

Drug-related violence in Mexico has increased massively in recent years with murders now commonplace.

Morgues even closed down in the Mexican state of Guerrero after they were inundated with gangland victims.

Many fatalities are those killed in turf wars between the different gangs competing for trafficking routes into the US.

Cops are trying to protect tourist destinations like Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Cozumel, Los Cabos, Puerto Vallarta, Acapulco and Nuevo Vallarta.

However, in the first three months of 2018 more than 100 people were killed in Cancun alone.

In one 36-hour spell in April 2018 NINE PEOPLE were murdered.

On April 21, gunmen on water scooters shot at a beach vendor in Cancun’s hotel zone, though nobody was hurt.

The following month a beach vendor was killed in a double shooting on a Cancun beach by a gang on a speedboat.

And in August, eight bodies were found after a cartel murder spree – with two of the victims dismembered and found in separate plastic bags.

US authorities issued a “Level 2” advisory warning to travellers to “exercise increased caution”, adding “violent crime such as homicide, kidnapping, carjacking and robbery is widespread”.

A State Department spokesman said: “While most of these homicides appeared to be targeted, criminal organisation assassinations, turf battles between criminal groups have resulted in violent crime in areas frequented by U.S. citizens. Shooting incidents injuring or killing bystanders have occurred.”

Current Foreign Office advice says visitors should follow local advice and be vigilant, and tourists should take particular care not to be caught up in violence between criminal groups.

 

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What can I do to stop falling a victim to crime?

The chances of a tourist being murdered are still very slim as most killings are gang related.

However, crime and violence are serious problems in Mexico and the security situation can still pose a risk for foreigners.

You should research your destination thoroughly and only travel during daylight hours when possible.

Monitor local media and inform trusted contacts of your travel plans, advises the UK Foreign Office.

When driving, avoid isolated roads and use toll roads (cuotas) whenever possible.

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How can I beat the pickpockets?

Street crime is a serious problem in major cities and tourist resort areas.

Pick-pocketing is common on the Mexico City Metro and other tourist hotspots.

Dress down and avoid wearing expensive jewellery or watches and limit the amount of cash you carry with you.

Keep a close watch on briefcases and luggage, even in apparently secure places like the lobby of your hotel.

Take care when withdrawing money from ATMs or exchanging money at Bureau de Change.

Be wary of people presenting themselves as police officers trying to fine or arrest you for no apparent reason.

If in doubt, ask for identification and if possible note the officer’s name, badge number and patrol car number.

21 Things Not to Do in Mexico

Most travel guides will give you lists of things to do in a destination, but often the “what not to dos” are just as important considerations. Whether you are going to a Baja beach, a Yucatan resort, a small mountain village, or a big city south of the border, there are certain things to keep in mind when visiting this great country. We would hate for you to commit a social faux pas or put yourself in grave danger, so here’s our list of 21 things NOT to do in Mexico to ensure you have the safest, most memorable trip ever.

1. Don’t Hitch a Ride in a Libre Taxi

Taxis are extremely popular amongst tourists, but when it comes to getting around Mexico, you’ll definitely want to avoid this mode of transportation. Many taxi companies are unlicensed, resulting in their drivers being unmonitored and unsupervised. Before hopping into the back of any ol’ vehicle and potentially putting your life in danger, make sure the taxi has clear and proper signage. Your hotel should also be able to vouch for which companies are legit. And as a bonus tip: negotiate your fare before getting into the cab.

2. Don’t Flaunt Your Valuables

This one is a no-brainer, but we thought we’d add it as a friendly reminder just in case you’re planning on packing all of your fancy duds for your Mexican vacay. Walking around with blinging jewelry, an expensive camera dangling from around your neck, and an expensive handbag hanging from your shoulder will make you an easy target for thieves. To play it safe, try to blend in with the locals by taking a less-is-more approach when it comes to your clothing and accessories.

3. Don’t End Your Night Without Going to Dietrich Roma

Taking inspiration from German actress Marlene Dietrich, Dietrich Roma in Mexico City is a mansion-turned-cocktail bar where the who’s who of the city convene. After a day of exploring and enjoying some of the country’s finest cuisine, Dietrich Roma is the perfect place to get a nightcap, from their fruity Lily Tequila or their rum-filled Man by the Roadside. And don’t forget to take a picture in their on-site photo booth before heading out!

4. Don’t Over-Plan

Leave some room for serendipity and spontaneity. That is when the magic of travel happens, not on a pre-scheduled tour bus or around the hotel pool. Get out there and explore Mexico a little. You never know when you’re going to find a cozy cafe, stumble upon a street performance or get swept up in a zocalo fiesta.

5. Don’t Use the Metro System During Rush Hour

When hora pico (rush hour) comes around, the streets and highways of the major cities in Mexico turn into parking lots. During the peak hours of 7-10 a.m. and 5-8 p.m., you’ll want to refrain from using the metro system – that is unless you don’t mind getting stuck in traffic and being crammed inside a packed bus.

See The Rest Here

 

 

 

 

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