Canadian Snowbirds in Texas: Persistent, But Still at Risk

Canadians make more than two million leisure trips to Mexico annually, more than to any other country after the United States, even though the governments of Canada, the US, Britain, and other nations continue to issue travel warnings regarding certain sectors of the country.

For Canada’s travel industry, especially insurers, this presents something of a quandary because travellers who encounter unexpected health problems or other disruptions to their travel plans while in certain areas of Mexico under travel warnings may find severe limitations on their coverage benefits. And sometimes it doesn’t take much to wander into such areas—as happens often to Canadians who winter in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley and walk over a footbridge into the state of Tamaulipas—an “Avoid Non-essential Travel” zone.

Fortunately, the small, circumscribed tourist zone that Canada’s “Winter Texans” frequent daily is well fortified, and relatively free of crime or other disturbances. But wander beyond, and the risks of violent crime perpetrated by criminal organizations and drug gangs multiply exponentially.

Currently, Canadian government travel advisors (and their counterparts—the US State Department and UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office) have branded all Mexican northern states abutting the US  border, and many of the western Pacific coast states (including Acapulco), as “Avoid Non-essential Travel” or “Don’t Travel” zones.

Even Quintana Roo, the state that encompasses Cancun and Playa del Carmen (areas that account for about half of all Canadian trips to Mexico), is designated by the US State Department as requiring heightened caution due to crime.

To keep up-to-date on travel warnings in Mexico, all travellers should closely monitor the Canadian government’s advisories (see the Safety and Security tab).

We also advise travellers to monitor the US State Department advisories as they are more precise and better detailed—giving you state-by-state warnings down to specific details for local areas.

An added concern about travel to Mexico this winter is the influx of migrants from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador, some of whom have already reached the US border in Tijuana. It may be best to avoid the Tijuana area, which even under normal conditions encompasses the busiest land border crossing in the world.

Another area of growing concern is the Rio Grande Valley, where the number of Canadian and American Winter Texans (mostly from northern Midwest states) has shrunk from some 140,000 in 2010 to only 100,000 in 2018 (according to surveys by the University of Texas-Pan American).

A recent UTPA survey shows that 71 per cent of Winter Texans go to the valley for its cost of living advantages and 81 per cent for the climate. In a 2016 survey, only 46 per cent cited lower cost of living and 92 per cent cited the climate. And almost 40 per cent of those surveyed had previously wintered in other southern states, predominantly Florida and Arizona—higher living-cost areas.

Interestingly, besides the advantages of lower costs of living and always salubrious climate, many of the Winter Texans claim their freedom to cross the river to Mexico for lunches, shopping, and music are sufficient inducements to keep on coming—regardless of risk. They also say they feel secure as the tourism area they visit across the river is well protected and one in which they feel safe. These “remainers” are a tough, persistent lot, and 90 per cent of those surveyed said they intend to keep going back.

However, as tough as they claim to be, snowbirds in vulnerable areas could well benefit from precautionary information about possible limitations to their travel insurance coverage benefits, as well as the limitations of what their own governments can or cannot do to assist them, if they encounter unforeseen difficulties in areas they were warned to avoid.


Travel freely, travel blissfully. We cover Canadian Travellers with travel medical insurance and non-medical travel insurance such as trip cancellation, trip interruption, and baggage worldwide. We’ve got it all taken care of. For more information, visit https://www.ingleinternational.com/en/travel-insurance/canadian-travellers, call us at 1-800-360-3234 or email us at helpline@ingleinternational.com.

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