The Mexican Enigma: Popular but Dangerous

As Mexico continues to attract Canadian vacationers in record numbers (1.6 million visits last year), Canada’s official travel website has stepped up its warnings about growing dangers in ever larger areas of this massive country of over 125 million residents.

Though travel.gc.ca (an agency in the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development) has maintained its “Exercise a High Degree of Caution” warning level for Mexico as a whole, it has increased the geographic areas that tourists should, or must, avoid. (See the full warnings here.)

Some highlights:

The good news first: The Yucatan Peninsula, which includes Cancun, Cozumel, Riviera Maya, Merida, and Progreso, has not been significantly affected by violence or insecurity. And that’s it for the good news.

Other municipalities popular with tourists, including Guadalajara, Puerto Vallarta, and Chapala, are experiencing an increase in drug-related violence, and “as Mexican security forces battle against organized criminal groups, criminals have engaged in retaliatory actions such as arson attacks against businesses, gas stations and banks, shootouts, and blockades using burning cars.”

Travel.gc.ca long ago issued its “Avoid Non-Essential Travel” warning for the northern states abutting Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California due to continuously high levels of violence linked to organized crime. It also notes that criminals especially target sport utility vehicles and full-size pickup trucks for theft and carjacking. Bottom line is: “Avoid inter-city road travel in the northern states.”

Its advisory for the southwestern states is not much better as this area too is under the “Avoid Non-Essential Travel” advisory. In addition, criminal activity has significantly increased in the states of Jalisco, Guerrero (including Acapulco), and Michoacán, where illegal roadblocks and demonstrations are being reported frequently. The advisory warns of rapid expansion of vigilante militias firing at vehicles that don’t adhere to their roadblocks.

Related: Heed International Travel Warnings—But Don’t Stop Travelling

And of special interest to Canadian “Winter Texans,” snowbirds nesting along the Rio Grande valley, who used to enjoy day trips across the river: “Heavily armed gangs have attacked travellers driving  through Matamoros, Reynosa, and Nuevo Laredo (border towns) in the state of Tamaulipas,” as well as the states of Nuevo Leon, Coahuila, Durango, and Sinaloa.

If you have travel insurance you need to be especially cautious about travelling into, or through, areas under “Avoid Non-Essential Travel” or “Avoid All Travel” advisories. Most travel insurance plans issued in Canada or the US may limit or exclude benefits if you are injured, become ill, or are stranded in areas you have been told to avoid by your government. And if you are planning to travel anywhere into Mexico, by motor vehicle or by air, you should discuss these limitations with the agent providing your travel policy, and that agent should be a specialist in travel coverage. This is “fine print” you cannot afford to neglect.

One more proviso from travel.gc.ca: sign up with the Registration of Canadians Abroad (ROCA) service if travelling to or residing in Mexico. That’s good advice to follow if you’re travelling almost anywhere.

Over the course of the summer, we’ll be spotlighting other locations to which you might be travelling. Let us know where you would like us to shine our light and we’ll do our best to accommodate you.

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