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February 14, 2017
Travel safety is an extremely important issue wherever you may roam in this big, beautiful world. At times there is absolutely nothing you can do to prevent a dangerous situation from occurring. Unfortunately, you do hear of tourists who were minding their own business, and yet they end up being in ‘the wrong place at the wrong time’. Unless you avoid listening to the news these days (and who could blame you), you likely have heard of the recent rise in traveler safety issues, specifically in areas of Mexico and the Caribbean. Innocent tourists have been injured or killed as brazen criminals fight to guard their ‘turf’ in the drug trade, with no regard for the lives of innocent bystanders. Many Caribbean islands have high murder rates per capita and, of course, the drug trade and the violent activities that come with it are increasing in these spectacularly beautiful islands as well.
This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t travel to either Mexico or the Caribbean. There are still so many wonderful things they have to offer – sun, sand, surf, aromatic hibiscus and other extraordinary flora, friendly people and, don’t forget…tequila and rum :-). What is necessary though, is that you need to be extra vigilant, take precautions, and be aware. There are basic travel safety measures that you can take to make yourself as safe as possible when traveling to these regions. Here are 10 travel safety tips to add to your repertoire in addition to relying on a ‘gut feeling’, using common sense….and not drinking the water in Mexico.
1. Don’t backpack across Mexico. Backpacking makes you far too vulnerable in a country where the authorities have lost a great deal of clout over the past decade. If the criminals know there will be no repercussions for their crimes, they are far more likely to commit them. And, if you are away from populated areas, you make yourself a ‘sitting…or walking….duck’ if you are backpacking around the country. Obviously, everything of value that you are carrying would be stowed in that knapsack, and thieves know it!
2. No matter where your travels take you….never leave your drink unattended. Too many horror stories are told of a tourist being drugged without their knowledge, then ending up in a strange place, robbed, or worse.
3. If you get the sense that a situation may be unsafe, follow your gut and GO! Nine times out of ten, our own intuition gives us the best advice we could ask for. Listen to it.
4. Read the reviews and experiences of other travelers for the area to which you wish to travel. You will learn the safest areas to visit as well as those areas that are to be avoided.
5. Avoid walking late at night. If you are on your own, or with friends, keep to the well-lit, populated areas. If you hail a cab, ensure it’s a legitimate taxi before you get in. Illegal taxis in Mexico are called ‘taxis pirata’ or pirate taxis. The car does not have a meter, and the driver is not licensed to carry paying passengers. Of course, not all of these drivers are out to do you harm, but it’s best not to take the chance. Hire a bona fide cab instead. Your travel safety needs to take priority over saving a couple bucks.
Make sure that you only ride legit cabs
6. Ask the hotel Concierge for areas that you should visit and he will likely advise you of the areas to steer clear of as well. If he doesn’t volunteer this information, politely ask if there are areas that would be considered unsafe, especially to tourists.
7. Ciudad Juarez, Mexico – just across the border from El Paso, TX – is a particularly violent city due to narco-related crimes, and that violence is spreading to other cities as drug gangs fight over new turf. So far, the east coast of Mexico remains fairly safe from drug-related crimes, as do Cancun, Puerto Vallarta, and many other resort areas.
8. Stick to the ‘tourist’ areas. Whether in Mexico or the Caribbean, there are areas that are not safe, particularly for tourists who look the part. In fact, that tip applies to anywhere you may travel.
Stick to the ‘Tourist’ areas
9. Don’t seek out, sell or buy drugs, or get yourself involved with any other illicit activity. If you do, your chances of serious consequences increase exponentially. In other words, if you go looking for trouble, it will find you!
10. Research any area of Mexico or the Caribbean that you wish to visit. Check the latest foreign travel and safety advice given at the US Department of State website.
Relax with a Dos Equis…or two, or a delightful Caribbean rum concoction, soak up the sun and enjoy the beauty of your surroundings. Don’t wear expensive jewelry or ‘flash cash’ in public. Follow these tips and, in the majority of resort cities in Mexico and on the Caribbean Islands, you should be just fine….’no problem, mon’.
Written by Emma Ghattas