Survival Tips for South-of-the-Border Travel

31 January 2013
Survival Tips for South-of-the-Border Travel
Survival Tips for South-of-the-Border Travel

Anyone thinking of heading to Mexico – for business or pleasure – needs to be very aware that no part of the country, whether a trafficking route or no, is immune to the effects of organized crime. A few statistics to note from Stratfor, a geopolitical  intelligence firm providing strategic analysis and forecasting:

  • Acapulco, February 4, 2013 – a group of Spanish tourists were attacked in their private bungalow. The men were tied up and the women sexually assaulted.
  • The number of murders in Mexico has exploded from 11,600 in 2006 to 20,600 in 2012.
  • Unfortunately, tourists cannot assume that law enforcement will protect them as they are routinely victims themselves and many are on the drug cartel’s payroll.
  • The cartel groups are unconcerned about interfering with the tourism industry – in fact many of them rely on hotels and resorts for laundering cash.
  • In February 2012, 22 tourists ventured off a Carnival Cruise ship to stroll around El Nogalito, near Puerta Vallarta, and were held up and robbed.

Note: Spring Break season is soon upon us and many students spend their break in Mexico. If you know a teen headed to one of the popular tourist spots, please share these tips with them before they go and see 7 Steps to Keep a Teen Safe Abroad.

Top 10 Tips for Staying Safe South of the Border

The following are the top recommended tips for staying safe south of the border if you do choose to travel there this year:

  1. Do not drive or walk outside at night.
  2. Only use pre-arranged hotel transportation.
  3. Stay within the resort boundaries – don’t go into outlying towns.
  4. Don’t walk on the beach at night.
  5. Stop at all roadblocks.
  6. Travel with a buddy or in groups.
  7. Don’t wear or carry anything you don’t mind having stolen.
  8. Don’t bring any ATM cards linked to your bank account (kidnappers love them).
  9. Don’t get drunk or accept drinks you didn’t see being made.
  10. Be aware of pickpockets – often, they are children our groups of kids.

Some of these are common sense tips that we would give to any traveler, but a few of them bear reminding given the current levels of violence and risk in Mexico.

The following are a few additional travel safety tips to keep in mind.

Check Your Passport

Your passport is the definitive identification and while some people do cross the border at certain spots and do not have to show a passport, it will be required at some border crossings and certainly at customs in the airport.

Since March 1, 2010, all US citizens – including minors – have been required to present a valid passport or passport card for travel into Mexico.

This restriction does not apply to U.S. citizens staying for less than 72 hours within the 20-30 kilometer “border zone”.

Another important point: even if your passport is valid now, Mexico requires your passport to be valid for a full six months. In addition, customs agents want a blank passport page for the entry stamp. No visa is required to enter Mexico for stays less than 180 days.

See our 7 Passport Travel Safety Tips for more details and information.

Check Your Travel Insurance

The US State Department often issues travel warnings for Mexico. Some travel insurance providers often limit their liability by excluding coverage for losses that occur in countries with active travel warnings and/or alerts. In many cases, travel delay coverage is in effect even if a travel warning is issued, but other coverage including medical, rental car, cancellation, and others are invalid if you are traveling in a country where a travel alert or warning has been issued (often within the last six months).

If you already purchased a travel insurance plan, contact your travel insurance provider’s 24/7 assistance services number with your plan details and ask if your coverage is still in effect for your trip.

Damian Tysdal

Damian Tysdal is the founder of CoverTrip, and is a licensed agent for travel insurance (MA 1883287). He believes travel insurance should be easier to understand, and started the first travel insurance blog in 2006.

Damian Tysdal is the founder of CoverTrip, and is a licensed agent for travel insurance (MA 1883287). He believes travel insurance should be easier to understand, and started the first travel insurance blog in 2006.