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Is Mexico Safe? How safe is Mexico?

How Safe is Mexico?
by Anne JohnsonSubscribe to Anne Johnson's postsPosted Mar 31st 2010 04:55 PM

Drug-related violence in cities south of the United States-Mexico border
has caused the U.S. State Department to issue a travel warning for Mexico.

But did you know most of Mexico is as safe as ever? Our government is
actually advising against visiting very specific places where drug cartels
are warring over the billions of dollars made yearly trading illegal
substances into the United States, and the efforts by the Mexican
government to put an end to the drug traffic. Unfortunately, after hearing
"warning" and "Mexico," many Americans perceive the advisory for the
country as a whole, which it definitely is not.

There are, of course, caveats about travel in Mexico, just as there are
for visits to any foreign city or resort area, but many of these fall
under the realm of common sense: Don't stray from the well-known tourist
areas, stay alert and don't drink way too much, avoid walking alone at night in dark bad areas.
Don't deck yourself out in expensive jewelry and avoid demonstrations. Have a cell phone
that works on GSM or 3G international networks, and memorize the Mexican
version of our 911, which is 066.                                                                                                     These are just common sense and same rules that apply to any city in the USA or any place in the world.


The Most Dangerous Places In Mexico

Despite the increase in drug-related violence, a closer look at Mexico
shows that the country is actually safer than what headlines suggest. As a
whole, Mexico's murder rate is surprisingly low: 12 homicides for every
100,000 inhabitants. When compared to Washington, D.C.'s 31 people per
100,000 inhabitants and New Orleans 64, the numbers aren't cause for
concern if you know where to avoid.

According to the State Department's warning, these are the places you
should take extra caution:

Ciudad Juarez

Gomez Palacio, Durango, and Torreon

Chihuahua, Sinaloa and Northern Baja California
These areas have seen spikes in the number of robberies, homicides, petty
thefts, and carjacking.

Tijuana and Nogales

Nuevo Laredo and Matamoros

Monterrey & Highway Travel
Travelers on highways from Monterrey and other parts of Mexico to the U.S.
have been targeted for robbery.
"The news media prefer to report horrible events rather than address the
reality; Mexico is, in general, a very safe country -- with the notable
and news-making exception of Juarez and other border towns -- and has far
less violent crime than any large U.S. city," says Barbara Erickson, one
of more than a million Americans who lives safely in Mexico.

According to Erickson, a San Miguel de Allende resident, "one would have a
greater chance of being hit by lightning than being shot or kidnapped by a
drug load's gang."

Another plus to our relations with those living south of the border is
American companies successfully conduct business in Mexico. "I have
clients traveling to Mexico regularly to film and to do photo productions
and we have never had any problems," says Clare Beresford of World
Locations in Hollywood, a company that scouts locations for movies,
commercials and photo shoots." World Locations has sent people to Mexico
City, Merida, Zihuatenejo, Manzanillo, Puerto Vallarta and Careyes, among
many destinations.

Tourism from North America is a significant part of Mexico's economy. In
2008, foreign visitors (22.6 million of them, 80 percent of whom were from
the U.S.) spent $13.3 billion in Mexico, making up 13.8 percent of the
country's GDP.

But in 2009, Mexican tourism was hammered by the U.S. recession and the
swine flu epidemic. Cruise ships briefly canceled trips to the country,
and many restaurants and archaeological sites were briefly closed. The
revenue from foreign tourism dropped 15 percent to 11.3 billion. This
year, tourism is expected to rebound. But 2010 could be another bad year
if fear keeps U.S. citizens away.

We've drawn up a list of Mexico's most popular tourist destinations and
rated them one to five, 1 being the highest cause for concern, and 5 being the safest.

Fear Factor: 1

The State Department listed several cities as not advisable to visit,
including Ciudad Juarez, Tijuana, Nogales, Nuevo Laredo, Monterrey and
Matamoros. The worst of the bunch of Ciudad Juarez, across the border from
El Paso, Texas. The city has been the site of some of the most gruesome
murders in an already shocking drug war. In January, 15 teenagers at a
party were slain, and in March, three people with connections to the U.S.
consulate were murdered in two separate incidents while riding in cars
with their children, two of whom were wounded. Over the past ten years,
the city has uncovered the bodies of over 400 women whose bodies were
dumped in ditches or vacant lots, victims of sexual homicides. Until
things get under control, this is not the time to venture over the border
for some shopping or pozole.

Fear Factor: 5

Cancun is one of Mexico's most popular beach resorts, which average around
four million American visitors per year. Last year a retired Mexican
general investigating corruption was assassinated by drug traffickers, but
that's been an isolated event. Over-consumption of alcohol by younger
tourists is a problem, and there have been rapes. But on the whole, Cancun
is extremely safe. "The leading cause of foreign tourist deaths in Cancun
is heart attacks, car accidents and accidental drowning," says Canadian
writer Marlo-Renay Heresco, a Cancun resident who blogs about her life in
Mexico on her website, atravelartist. com. "The key to success when
traveling or living abroad is exercising common sense." The Riviera Maya
(the Yucatan coast stretching south from Cancun) has little to fear beyond
sunburn. The island of Cozumel off the Riviera Maya is a popular, very
safe destination for cruise ships, where problems are the occasional
purse-snatching or picked

Fear Factor: 5

Although many people visit Chichen Itza on day-trips from Cancun, Merida
is the gateway to comprehensive exploration of Uxmal and other significant
Mayan ruins scattered across the state of Yucatan. Merida is a quiet,
charming city, and the main ruins have well-organized tours and visitor's
centers, as well as guards. In addition to hotels in Merida, the Yucatan
has a number of colonial-era haciendas that have been converted into small
resorts. Mayan villagers are welcoming. Here again, it's not a good idea
to drive on unlighted roads at night, but central Merida's busy
colonial-era streets are safe to stroll at night. "Mexico is a large
country... deciding not to travel "to Mexico" because of violence is like
saying you won't go to New York because of a murder in Denver," says
Merida resident Ellen Fields. " Yes, there are places in Mexico where
violence is on the rise. Where I live, Merida on the Yucatan Peninsula,
and the nearby Mayan Riviera, has not
seen this violence and is a very safe place to visit or to live."

Fear Factor: 4.75

No one thinks twice about visiting our nation's capital, and the same
should go for Mexico's capital. In 2008, Mexico City had a homicide rate
of nine for every 100,000 people, while Washington D.C. had a rate of more
than 30 per 100,000 -- over three times higher. Visitors to Mexico City
should exercise the same precautions taken in any of the world's big
cities; sticking to busy, central areas and remaining aware of one's
surroundings. It's very important to take only radio-issued taxis or taxis
from official stands, never the "libre" (independent) or Volkswagen cabs,
as there have been many instances of robbery and kidnapping. Don't walk at
night except short distances on busy streets. This is an exciting city
full of museums, art galleries and fabulous restaurants, not to be missed.
Most people include a visit nearby to the majestic ruins of Teotihuacan,
which are well patrolled and perfectly safe, with a visitor's center and
organized guides.

Fear Factor: 5

"I feel as safe here as anywhere I have ever lived and so do my neighbors
and friends," says Barbara Erickson, who's lived in San Miguel de Allende
a number of years. "San Miguel is as lovely as ever." This arty town is
popular with Americans, who stroll its lovely colonial streets, dine out
and browse the art galleries without worries. This is true of all of
Mexico's stunning colonial cities. In some cases the countryside around
them may be iffy (the state of Michoacan, for instance, has had troubles,
but its capital, Morelia, is lovely and safe, as is Patzcuaro).
Guanajuato, Queretaro, Zacatecas and the rest of the colonial cities are
well worth visiting.

Fear Factor: 4.75

Mexico's sophisticated second city is both a colonial gem and a major
center for shopping that's regularly combed over by interior decorators
from the southwestern U.S. There's also a lively art scene to enjoy, with
art galleries and museums. But Guadalajara is a very large city, with the
attendant need for caution, and it's best to stick to the central city
tourist areas and leafy upscale neighborhoods like the Zona Rosa. A
popular side-trip is past fields of blue agave to the town of Tequila,
where tequila distilleries can be visited and the wares sampled from such
famous brands as Cuervo and Herradura. This is completely safe, but again,
don't over-indulge.

Fear Factor: 5

Oaxaca city was the site of a teachers' strike in 2006 that led to some
violence and, unfortunately, the shooting of an American freelance
journalist. As a result, the city has been tarred as unsafe, although
nothing could be farther than the truth. The colonial city center, the
nearby ruins at Monte Alban and the surrounding crafts towns like
Teotitlan del Valle are well-traveled and very safe. "There is a lot of
hysteria in the US about everything from drugs to flu in Mexico, but after
five years in Oaxaca with my husband and daughter, I have to say that
these issues have not even remotely affected us," said an American expat.
Oaxaca has a thriving art scene and one of Mexico's most highly-regarded
cuisines. The Oaxaca coast, including beautiful, well-developed Huatulco
and the little surfing mecca of Puerto Escondido is very safe, although
swimming along the coast must be done with caution (check with your
hotel), as some areas have rip-tides.

Fear Factor: 5

Ixtapa is a resort area developed by the Mexican government, and its big
resorts are extremely safe. Neighbor Zihuatenejo is a former fishing
village that reeks charm and has some upscale hotels and lovely outdoor
restaurants. Many Americans live in "Zi" including famous American fashion
designer Betsey Johnson. This is another spot where your biggest problem
will be sunburn.

Fear Factor: 5

The lovely cobble-stoned hillside fishing village that was "discovered"
after the filming of Night of the Iguana has spread at a dizzying rate, so
that there are many Vallartas, including the original (still charming)
town, the Marina and Nuevo Vallarta. Puerto Vallarta is filled with art
galleries, which regularly throw open houses, gourmet restaurants and
hotels in every price range. There are also the kinds of bars which
encourage patrons to over-indulge, and that's never a good idea. Downtown
Puerto Vallarta is safe to stroll, but never late at night after the
festivities are over, and it's not a good idea to venture too far off the
beaten track. Thousands of Americans live here, and love it. The
Costalegre coast, stretching from Puerto Vallarta to Manzanillo in the
south, is very safe, as is the newly-named Costa Nayarit (a series of
bucolic fishing villages) to the north.

Fear Factor: 4.5

Acapulco in recent years has undergone a major revival. Once Mexico's most
fashionable resort, it had gone a bit seedy, but now has regained much of
its glamour. Unfortunately, it has recently been touched by drug-related
violence, and although most has been on the edges or outside of town, some
bodies have been found on a street lined with nightclubs, including the
bodies of police officers. It's especially important these days to be
alert to your surroundings here, and stay away from nightclubs known to
attract the narcotraficantes. That said, the possibilities of being caught
in a drug shoot-out are on the extreme end of slim to none.

Fear Factor: 5

Cabo San Lucas, San Jose del Cabo and the "Corridor" of resorts that
stretch between them are like a backyard for residents of the southwestern
U.S. Thousands of Americans live here on the southern tip of the Baja
Peninsula (light years away from Tijuana's troubles) and the artsy little
town of Todos Santos 45 minutes up the Pacific coast from Cabo San Lucas.
Some visitors complain it's too American in Cabo. The region is very safe,
with good highways and busy downtowns. Visitors should stay out of
unlighted side streets and stick to the well-traveled tourists areas,
where shopping, art galleries and a big choice of restaurants make
straying unnecessary. Swimmers must exercise extreme caution -- the waters
are treacherous and it's important to know where it's safe to swim and
where not to even wade very far.

On a personal note.

We live with our families, children and pets in Puerto Vallarta, we operate 2 business's Pacific Paradise Realtors and Paradise Mortgage. We have never felt concern or threat. We have over the course and as recent as March 2010 crossed border in Tijuana, November 2008 drove down to vallarta after crossing the border in Nogales. Prior to those trips many many more, never ever any concerns. But just as driving in USA you must have brain engaged. Many issues that get reported are many times foreigners that seem to leave their brain at the border. I have felt far more threatened working and driving in the California Bay Area. Many of the offices I managed were in cities with shootings, gang violence, rapes, muggings, robberies etc.

Mexican culture is that of spending time with family and friends, happy go lucky, low to no stress attitude. Something we should embrace and work on duplicating.   

See you in Paradise,

Published Monday, April 26, 2010 10:31 AM by Jonas Soder

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