Crime Prevention Travel Tips in Mexico
Of Mexico’s 32 states, only two have been listed as being completely safe by the U.S. Department of State’s most recent travel advisory—Campeche and Yucatán. While the advisory generalizes, only acknowledging that “crime” and/or “kidnapping” could take place in the listed states, other experts have cast a less critical eye on Cancún and other tourist hot spots in the state of Quintana Roo.
“We currently rate Quintana Roo as a medium-risk destination and advise workforce to limit movement outside designated tourist zones,” says Maricarmen Hinojosa, Mexico security manager at International SOS.
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The U.S. State Department also recommends certain precautions both before and during travel to Mexico, including keeping traveling companions and family back home aware about travel plans—hotel information, any trips outside of the hotel or resort, and all methods of transportation.
“Exercise increased caution when visiting local bars, nightclubs, and casinos,” the travel advisory said.
Specific to Quintana Roo, the State Department separately noted, “Criminal activity and violence may occur in any location, at any time, including in popular tourist destinations. Travelers should maintain a high level of situational awareness, avoid areas where illicit activities occur, and promptly depart from potentially dangerous situations.”
In response to previous active shooter events, the U.S. Embassy advised people in the area to monitor local news and follow directions from officials; avoid crowds; remain aware of surroundings; review personal security plans; and contact the embassy when in need of assistance.
Cultivating increased awareness while traveling is something that Scott Stewart, vice president of intelligence at TorchStone Global, recommends, too. “Develop a nuanced understanding of your environment. This will help ensure that you do not do things that are culturally incorrect,” Stewart says in an email to Security Management. “This part should begin well before your trip as you research the criminal threat, the terrorist threat, local laws and customs, as well as any health concerns or issues.”
Another reason to remain aware of surroundings is due to an increase in petty crime. The State Department recommended avoiding showing signs of excessive wealth to minimize the chance of being a victim of theft.
Timeline: Increased Violence in Mexican Tourism Districts
Cancun remains one of the safest locations for tourists and travelers in Mexico, but recent incidents reinforce the message that violence can happen anywhere, and cartel activity can spill over and threaten bystanders.
“Be mindful of what you wear or carry. …Flashy jewelry or other accessories can quickly attract attention of the wrong kind, so leave them at home,” says Stewart.
Overall, Stewart says that being mindful of your behavior and appearance can mitigate your risk as a tourist. “Try to look like you belong even when you are trying to figure out where you are and how to get where you need to go,” Stewart adds. “Remember that your goal is to present a neutral façade to outside observers so that you are perceived as neither valuable, nor a vulnerable target.”
Sara Mosqueda is assistant editor for Security Management. Connect with her at [email protected] or on LinkedIn. Follow her on Twitter: @ximenawrites.