Go to Mexico!: When it’s okay to ignore travel warnings

We all know Mexico is a dangerous place.

Just like we all know that New York City is a dangerous place.  Does that mean we don’t travel there out of fear for our lives?  Despite all of the warnings and Mexican horror-stories-waiting-to-happen that are currently being broadcasted to every home in America, I am here to tell you that it is ok to go to Mexico.

Yes, that’s right, you heard it from me.  It is OK to go to Mexico.  Just don’t be stupid.

Of course there are dangerous areas of the country that should be avoided (just like there are dangerous parts of ANY large city that should be avoided).  Any Mexican living in the interior of the country will be happy to tell you that after befriending you and graciously welcoming you to their town.  They will tell you that it is the border towns where the majority of the cartel and drug violence occur.  Are you planning on Spring Breaking in Juarez?? What about Chihuahua?

Didn’t think so.

I went to Mexico for Spring Break in 2009 with my Mom.  Yep, we went to Mexico smack at the beginning of the Swine Flu outbreak, which also happened to be in the midst of strongly advised travel warnings to stay away from Mexico because we would most likely be kidnapped.  The day before I left I was in an Ancient History class and my teacher innocently asked what people’s spring break plans were. “Is anyone going to Mexico?” she asked.

I was the only person to raise my hand.  Everyone looked at me.

“Don’t go.”  My teacher said.  I’m not kidding, the day before Spring Break she asked me to change my travel plans.  “You should absolutely not go to Mexico.  Have you heard about all the danger?  People are being kidnapped and murdered by cartels.  Don’t go.”

We went anyway of course.  What we found in Mexico stood in stark contrast to the nightmarish pictures painted by the American media.  We were welcomed in the most genuine way by every single person we met.  People went out of their way to thank us for coming to their country, and were so friendly it just about made me want to cry.

“We know what they are telling Americans about Mexico” they would say, “it has affected our tourism so negatively, even though the majority of the country is excluded from the drug violence.”

Here’s the thing.  I’m telling you it’s ok to go to Mexico.  But I’m also telling you not to be stupid.  Just like in any third world country, or any big city, there are rules you should follow to keep yourself safe.  Here are a few ways to not be stupid.

1.  Don’t deck yourself out in bling.  People steal things.  Not just in Mexico, people are sketchy everywhere.

2.  The same goes for your purse.  Keep it zipped, carry it in front of you, and ALWAYS be aware of what is going on with it.

3.  Stay away from big crowds.  Two reasons for this.  First, being in a sea of people makes it so much easier for a pickpocket to snatch up your stuff.  With all those people touching you you would never notice someone sticking their hand in your bag.  Second, you never know what can happen with a crowd.  Protests are a huge thing in many Latin American countries… and I promise you you do NOT want any part in that.  You don’t want to be associated with those people when the police come, and you do not want to be in the middle of a bunch of people if a riot breaks out.  Stay away from big groups, period.

4.  Be careful who you get rides from.  Again, big duh on this one.  Ask people at the airport or at your hotel (people that can be trusted) which cabs are safe and legitimate.  If the cab driver doesn’t have credentials, or if he can’t give you a price, or if there is no meter, do not get in that car.

5.  Make sure that someone you trust in the US (or your home country) has a copy of your passport and all of your information.  When you are out and about in the country you are visiting, always carry a copy of your passport with you, and leave the original at the hotel in the safe (make sure the safe is actually bolted down in your room, it doesn’t do any good if someone can just walk out with it.)  If anything happens, you will be able to call that person that is keeping your information.

6.  Follow your instincts.  Unless you have bad instincts.  This is the biggest one.  If something doesn’t feel right, get out of there.  If someone seems sketchy, get away from them.  Easy enough.

These are the rules you would follow anywhere, and they apply just the same in Mexico.  It pretty well broke my heart to see that they are issuing travel warnings against going to Mexico again, because we went there and had such a great trip.  The people were amazing, the food was great, the archaeological sites were captivating, the culture was inspiring.  If you choose to follow these warnings, you will be missing out on the trip of a lifetime… I’m so glad that we didn’t.

And that’s all I have to say about that.

 

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10 Comments

  1. Great post. I just had this discussion with a frequent Mexico traveler the other day. She’s been about 6 times in the last year and feels safe (otherwise she wouldn’t go so much. The common sense comment made me laugh.

    • payjeb@gmail.com says:

      Thanks! I’m glad to hear that you and your friends feel the same way… it really is a shame that it gets so blown out of proportion here, honestly I feel like Albuquerque is just about as unsafe as Mexico, and I live here haha!

  2. GREAT POST- pack your commonsense, use it when you get there, you’ll have a MAGNIFICO time!

  3. I loved this post. I’ve never been and looking forward to planning a trip there. Tell your mom I said hello!

    • payjeb@gmail.com says:

      Mexico is AWESOME! We had such a great time! We went to Mexico City and Oaxaca… we did sooo much stuff in the time we were there and it was all super cool… where are you thinking about going?

  4. I feel like every single year around Spring Break the U.S. issues a travel warning to Mexico. Pshaw. You’re totally right – as long as you’re smart, it’s totally fine! The problem is that most spring breakers aren’t exactly being smart, lol.

  5. Ayngelina says:

    So funny I am in the middle of writing a post about not being afraid of Mexico and other people should not be either.

    Two years ago I started my RTW there and did not speak a lick of Spanish and I was totally fine. Its a beautiful country and it is unfortunate that the only press we hear is negative.

  6. So true. I frequent Mexico often, and your safety tips have nothing to do with the cartels… they are just common sense for travelers anywhere. And that makes sense.

    When people like your professor ask / lecture me about Mexico, I always ask them about the source of their information… someone you trust? someone who has traveled there? or someone looking for headlines and getting viewers..

    thanks for sharing,
    stay adventurous, Craig

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