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.

 

 

 

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.

Assuremex Full Coverage Mexican Auto Insurance

Mexico automobile Tourist insurance coverage that meet all of your insurance needs.

Mexico automobile Tourist car insurance policy: Daily policy coverage,6 month up to one year. Significant discounts for six month and annual polices. Coverage Territory:

The entire Republic of Mexico. Coverage’s include: Collision, Fire, Total Theft, Glass; subject to optional low fixed deductibles or 2% deductible all covered claims except 5% deductible in event of a Total Theft; Liability available up to $500,000 U.S. Combined Single Limit; Medical payments to vehicle occupants from $5,000 up to $75,000. it varies from your insurer selection. For an immediate quote for Mexico automobile tourist and car insurance coverage –

Click Here. Want to know more about insuring you vehicle when traveling to Mexico

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Assuremex Full Coverage Mexican Health Insurance

Annual Multi-Trip Medical Insurance for Individuals and Families. Designed for those that take multiple trips throughout the year outside their home country.
AssureMex offers the ease and convenience of purchasing a single annual plan at an affordable annual premium.
Highlights:

  • Short-tern travel medical insurance
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  • Children traveling for a period of 12 months
  • Two plan designs — one for U.S. citizens and one for Non-U.S. citizens Maximum Limit $1,000,000 / $2,000,000 — for Patriot Maximum is $8,000,000 Individual Deduction Varies from 0 — $2,500 Annual premium

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Insured’s Important information while traveling and staying to Mexico

Insured’s Important information  while traveling  and staying to Mexico. Use these to help your client stay informed for travel.

1. U.S. State Department International Travel Information
2. Vehicle import permits at the Banjercito website.
3. Mexico Border Crossing Wait Times
4. Mexico Entry & Exit Requirements
5 . Driving Distance to Popular Mexico Destinations
6. Gas Prices in Mexico
7. Dollars to Peso Conversion

Growth in the Mexico Tourist Auto Insurance Niche

For the last several months we have been talking about the growth in the Mexico Tourist auto insurance niche. September was another up month, and the carriers in the market are aggressively looking for market share. Consequently, we are seeing moves that benefit you as the agent and your customers. Below are some of the important changes you should be aware of:

1. GNP and ACE are offering $300,000 CSL in liability at the $100,000 CSL price. In short, this means that you can get higher limits for your clients at the same price. From a value stand point it puts our program in a very competitive place in terms of coverage and price.

2. MexVisit, our exclusive travel assistance coverage, has taken a 40% rate decrease, making the cost available from MexVisit on par with the cost of roadside assistance available from the carriers themselves. However, the coverage and service available from MexVisit is far beyond anything the carriers offer, making MexVisit an unbelievable value for your client.

3. GNP took a rate decrease in the Spring that they have continued to modify and perfect their rates recently. The combination of these changes has made GNP extremely competitive from a price stand point.

Better coverage, better price, better value. This year more people are headed to Mexico, so make sure you provide the best value to your customers by going to http://www.assuremex.com for all your Mexico Insurance needs.