If you’re anticipating a trip to Mexico’s interior this winter, or if you’re a snowbird living close to the Mexican border in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona or California, be warned that your travel insurance may not cover you in many parts of the country now under Canadian or American government “Avoid Travel” warnings.
Over the summer,Mexico’s drug wars have worsened, and federal, state and local police forces have simply lost control of huge chunks of territory to the drug cartels that continue to murder not only their own operatives, but thousands of innocent bystanders—including tourists. There are now few parts of the country that are free of the carnage.
What this means to you, is that if you encounter an emergency while in one of the zones which your government has designated as one to which you should “Avoid Non-Essential Travel,” your insurer could invalidate or limit coverage while you are in that area. The rule of thumb followed by most insurers is that if your government issues such a warning before the effective date of your insurance, your coverage to that area may be voided. If the warning is issued after your coverage has kicked in, your coverage may be continued, or you may be given a short time to get out of the area.
Following is the official warning now in place from the Canadian government. A similar one has been issued by the U.S. government.
OFFICIAL WARNING: Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada advises against non-essential travel to the border areas between Mexico and the United States, due to continuously high levels of violence linked to drug trafficking in those areas.
Canadians should avoid crossing Mexico’s northern border by land, as shootouts, attacks, and illegal roadblocks may occur at any time. Criminals especially target SUVs and full-size pickup trucks for theft and carjacking along highways of the states of Nuevo León, Tamaulipas, Baja California, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Durango, Sonora, and Sinaloa. Travellers are advised to reconsider their need to travel by land to or through these border states and should do so only if it is absolutely necessary, and after making appropriate arrangements to ensure their personal safety.
In addition to these official government warnings, you need to be aware that the drug-related violence over the past few months has penetrated virtually every tourism sector in Mexico: Acapulco, Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta, Merida. Taxco, Guadalajara, Cuernavaca, Baja California, and even Cancun (now one of Mexico’s largest drug trans-shipment terminals) is riddled with police and civic corruption investigations.
Regardless of the limitations on your travel insurance benefits, be careful wherever you go in Mexico. Losing your insurance benefits is one thing: losing your life quite another.
According to the Mexican government’s own figures, 34,612 people have been killed in drug-related incidents in the four years leading up to 2011—most of them innocent bystanders. The year 2010 was the bloodiest of all with 15,273 deaths recorded officially.
Though there are parts of Mexico you can be relatively safe, they don’t always coincide with the main tourist areas: example Acapulco, where lethal violence flares up regularly, right in the main tourism areas.
If you must go Mexico, stay within the confines of your hotel or resort, avoid “going native,” take short side trips only with officially recognized guides and tour companies, avoid being taxied around by your bellhop’s “cousin,” and at all costs avoid cross-country or long distance highway travel on your own. Both the Canadian and U.S. governments have issued very strong warnings against such travel.
For detailed reports, go to our homepage and click on the most recent warnings and advisories issued by the Canadian, U.S., and UK governments. All are up to date and should be required reading for anyone thinking about travel to Mexico, even snowbirds accustomed to taking short day trips across the border for lunch, cheap medications, or shopping.