Headlines grab the attention of people the world over in regards to Mexico. All too often the perception of people is that Mexico is a very dangerous place to live. Yet, when a common sense approach is taken, one can see that, like many different nations, the safety situation in Mexico is diverse and more complex than the headlines. Some mainstream newspaper have placed an asterisk next to this contention. As USA Today wrote:
…A closer look at the latest official statistics indicates that much of Mexico has modest murder rates. The horrific violence that is jacking up the national death toll is largely in nine of Mexico’s 31 states.
The article highlights some very safe places in Mexico, like the Yucatán (with cities like Playa del Carmen and Cancun), where the murder rate is 2 per 100,000. This is similar to the murder rate of Wyoming and Montana. Washington DC’s murder rate, as well, is almost four times Mexico City.
In 2009, in DC, the murder rate was 31.4 per 100,000 people, and in Mexico City it was 8. Mexico City is larger than New York, Paris and London. The city of Chicago endures the highest rate of homicides in the United States. In 2012 there were 506 deaths in Chicago and 364 in Tijuana. UN based data does not list Mexico in the top 36 nations where the murder rate is highest. The assault rate in the US is almost 5 times higher than in Mexico, according to a Prominix report no longer online but linked to in various places on the web such as How Safe Is Mexico.
Which Mexican States & Regions are safe?
The states in Mexico where there are currently no advisories are as follows: Baja California Sur; Campeche; Chiapas; Estado de Mexico; Guanajuato; Hidalgo; Mexico City DF; Oaxaca; Puebla; Queretaro; Quintana Roo; Tabasco; Tlaxcala; Yucatan. In the US, assault happens at a rate 5 times higher than in Mexico, where violent crime rates for assault, kidnapping and rape are also lower than in Canada.
Mexico Travel Warning
The U.S. State Department issues warnings regularly:
“Millions of U.S. citizens safely visit Mexico each year for study, tourism, and business, including more than 150,000 who cross the border every day. The Mexican government makes a considerable effort to protect U.S. citizens and other visitors to major tourist destinations, and there is no evidence that Transnational Criminal Organizations have targeted U.S. visitors and residents based on their nationality.
Resort areas and tourist destinations in Mexico generally do not see the levels of drug-related violence and crime reported in the border region and in areas along major trafficking routes.”
At the end of the day, what is true is that one is no more likely to die by lethal violence in Mexico than in Detroit, Chicago or New Orleans. Just 27 States and Mexico City have no warning or advisories even outside of tourism areas. Just 4 states carry travel advisories.
So How to stay safe in Mexico?
- Knowing as much as possible about your destination is important. World Travel Watch serves as a great tool to learn about what is going on in your vacation destination.
- What sort of valuables do you actually need? It is important to pack how you feel you would best fit in. Do you really need anything flashy? Probably not. The less you have on you, moreover, the more nimble and free-moving you are, which will make thieves think twice.
- Have a copy of your travel documents and passport in case any of this is lost or stolen. That way you can get the copies from your e-mail. Know your bank or credit card’s international phone number.
- Let someone at home know your plans, but don’t share your plans openly with people you meet along the way.
- Money belts might look nerdy, but they can be extremely helpful underneath your clothing.
- Credit or debit cards make accessing money easiest. Ensure you have a backup plan in case you lose this card, like travelers’ cheques and a small amount of cash.
- Once there, blending in is important. What do the locals wear? Dress like them.
- When possible, use well-lit ATM’s in well-trafficked parts of the city where you are traveling, like in malls or stores. Put the money you withdraw away immediately.
- Carry your cash, passport, credit card inside your clothes in a money-belt. Always use the hotel’s safe. Use your money belt in private places, like well lit public restrooms.
- Ask your hotel if there are some places in the city you should avoid.
- Ask your hotel to call a cab, don’t flag one down.
[For more travel trips, follow MexResorts’ reports here.]