Growing Concern About Travel to Mexico

Thinking about vacationing in Mexico this winter? Before you make any arrangements, check out the Canadian government safety advisories about high-risk areas, and make sure you know what your travel insurance will cover if you stray into dangerous territory. 

Over the past decade, Mexico has been the most favoured destination for Canadian winter vacationers, next only to the United States. But according to recent surveys by the Conference Board of Canada, Canadians’ enthusiasm for travelling to Mexico is cooling, largely because of concerns about safety and the continuing drug cartel violence.

Related: Another Canadian Killed in Mexico

Each year the CBoC surveys Canadian travellers about their forthcoming winter travel intentions. In the June 2013 survey, the CBoC found that 18 percent of respondents were “not at all interested in visiting Mexico,” compared to only 13 percent who were “not at all interested” in the 2012 survey. And it showed also that Canadians made 1.5 percent fewer visits to Mexico during the winter of 2012/13 compared to the previous winter—a total of just over 1.2 million.

The main reason given by respondents for avoiding Mexico was that they “do not feel safe enough to visit Mexico at this time.”

Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) regularly issues travel warnings about countries, even specific areas within a country, and it has for several years warned travellers to maintain a “high degree of caution” throughout Mexico. But it has also issued advisories to “avoid non-essential travel” or “avoid all travel” to specific areas, among them the northern states bordering the US (drug trafficking areas), as well as Mexico’s south-west Pacific coast.

These advisories have implications for you and your travel insurance—which you need to be aware of. If DFAIT issues an advisory or warning for any given country or region prior to your visit, you may not be fully covered for injuries or other damages sustained during that part of your trip.

Some policies exclude all expenses incurred in a place for which there is a DFAIT warning against travel, while others simply exclude expenses related to the reason(s) for which the warning was issued.  It is also likely that your coverage will exclude expenses related to criminal violence, riots, and other violent acts if you are a participant in the violent activities.

Related: Is Travel Insurance Cheaper for Travel Outside the US?

If a DFAIT travel warning is posted only after you arrive at your destination, your coverage should be in effect, but some policies will give you a short time to get out of harm’s way if you are inadvertently caught in a danger zone. Some will also continue to cover you if the injury, illness, or other incapacity had nothing to do with the violence or riots. These are important issues to consider if you are travelling to dangerous parts of the world. Since not all insurers handle them these issues the same way, you need to make a point of asking your agent to verify your benefits and exclusions if your travels will take you to a region susceptible to violence or civil disruption.

So if you are intending to travel to Mexico this coming winter, check out the DFAIT Travel Reports and Warnings, and then discuss the possible limitations on your coverage with you insurer. To keep up to date on DFAIT advisories, check the Country Travel Advice and Advisories page on the Canadian government’s website for travellers.

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