It’s the question of the week. Is Mexico safe right now?
For American travelers, Mexico has long been the “easy” option for a family beach vacation. Mexico’s beaches are close and generally in the same timezone, offers amazing beaches, easy flight access, warm, kid-loving culture and sooooo many options of where to stay and what to do there is literally something for everyone.
So of course with all the negative press around Mexico this week, I wasn’t surprised to begin fielding calls from worried families who have plans to travel to Mexico in the coming months.
Having spent my entire career in the travel industry, including about a decade working in Africa, I have plenty of experience with destinations getting bad press, understanding what travel warnings actually mean and helping travelers understand what’s really happening on the ground.
If you’re wondering is Mexico safe right now, here are a few things you need to know (but likely won’t see in other articles).
Every New Administration Updates Travel Warnings
The U.S. State Department is in charge of writing and keeping travel warnings and advisories current. These advisories are primarily meant for government employees and anyone traveling on government business. Often these employees are traveling in remote and off the beaten path areas around the world, not major tourist resort areas, so it’s important to have an easy and reliable resource for these government employees and contractors. It’s important to keep this content in mind.
The “Mexico Travel Warning” isn’t new. It’s always existed with content that changes and is updated fairly regularly, the last update being on August 22, 2017.
These warnings and advisories are always managed by the current administration in the White House. It’s very common to see a flurry of travel advisories updated in the months immediately following the swearing in of a new president, particularly for countries that have featured prominently during political campaigns. The State Department’s advisory for Mexico has been updated since January 20, 2017, removing nearly all of the positive or favorable verbiage and giving significantly more real estate to Mexico’s most popular tourist destinations.
So, the fact that the State Department’s advisory was updated is not unusual or uncommon, it happens regularly. There are of course certain areas of Mexico where drug and gang-related activity are a significant threat and should definitely be avoided, and of course the U.S. government works hard to keep their employees out of these areas. The majority Mexico’s drama we hear about in the news is largely limited to areas of the country where tourists simply do not go.
Travelers Are in the Best of Hands
And this is true anywhere in the world. If you have booked your trip with a reliable travel agent who works with the only the best people and properties on the ground, you’re going to be well looked after. Make sure your travel agent has a personal contact at the resort and has worked with them regularly. Of course I have my favorite resorts I book all the time and my clients are always taken care of – in good times and in bad.
In the Riviera Maya (Cancun, Playa del Carmen), the resorts take security very seriously and there has long been a “tourist police” presence (you may not have noticed but they have always been around). As a region and country, they understand just how important tourism is to their livelihood and prosperity and the people are not going to mess with that.
Should something go horribly wrong, as a tourist you have a team of people there to help you. The conflict mentioned in these travel warnings almost exclusively impacts locals in very specific locations, not tourists in major tourist areas as is the case in Mexico.
The Elephant in the Room
Ok, so we have 2 issues involving tourists. The tainted alcohol and the beach incident in Cabo. Let’s discuss.
First the tainted alcohol. These reports are clearly stunning and very serious. The resorts most seriously implicated are from the Iberostar brand, which personally I do not sell.
Traveling or not, it’s important to always be aware of what is being put in your glass before consuming it. Ask the bartender to open bottles in front of you, and avoid drinks that involve pouring from a tap or pre-mixed bottles. Beer and wine served in unopened bottles remains a safe choice anywhere in the world.
Now, for that horrific incident in Mexico’s Baja on the Pacific Coast where gunmen opened fire on a beach. Southern Baja California has seen a surge in violence this year, though mostly outside tourist areas. Analysts blame much of the bloodshed on fighting among factions in the Sinaloa drug cartel and also clashes with the rival Jalisco New Generation cartel. So for the time being and erring on the side of caution, it’s probably best to avoid the Cabo area and instead look to the Riviera Maya on Mexico’s Caribbean coast for your beach vacation in the coming months.
I’m putting my money where my mouth is.
Mexico isn’t my top selling destination (Belize, Costa Rica and Nicaragua are in case you were wondering!) but I happen to have 2 trips planned to Mexico this fall (September and October) and I intend to stay the course for both trips (my 7 year old is joining me on one of those trips as well.) I’ll be sure to provide real time updates on the situation there and am very much looking forward to both of these trips!
There is never a guaranty of complete safety when traveling anywhere, even within the US and Europe, yet by working with a trusted and professional travel agent, you minimize your family’s risk.