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Suzanne Barbezat

The Reality of Travel to Mexico

By April 13, 2011

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Headlines announcing the latest drug war casualties, the U.S. State Department's warning about travel to Mexico, and the Texas Department of Public Safety's recommendation to spring breakers to avoid Mexico, all add to the popular perception of Mexico as a country rife with violence. But this isn't the whole picture. 22.4 million people visited Mexico in 2010, and the vast majority of those visitors, when asked if they would return, said they would. These visitors to Mexico's fabulous beach destinations and picturesque colonial cities tell a far different story from the one we glean from the media headlines about violence in Mexico.

While vacationing in Cancun with his wife, John Aldrich from Washington State said: "We don't have any fear or any reservations about coming down to this area of Mexico at all. It's very secure here. We feel very safe here." Barbara Kienbaum of Indiana stated: "I would say for people to come to Cancun, come to Mexico, and not listen to the people in the United States that say you should be afraid to come to Mexico because of all the bad press, because it certainly does not apply for the Yucatan or for Cancun. I feel very safe here." Their experience, and that of the majority of visitors to Mexico, belies the commonly-held notion that Mexico as a whole is unsafe.

The reality is that Mexico is a large and diverse country. Stretching over 758,500 square miles (1,964,375 square km), Mexico is roughly three times the size of the state of Texas, and is home to 31 UNESCO World Heritage sites, 174 protected natural areas, and 180 archaeological sites which are open to the public. Many would-be visitors don't realize the incredible size of Mexico and the great distances between popular tourist destinations and the areas experiencing violence.

I personally have traveled over 3000 miles by car in Mexico in the past year, as well as a few trips by air, and have visited a wide variety of beach destinations and colonial cities including Guadalajara, Morelia, Guanajuato, San Miguel de Allende, Huatulco, San Cristobal de las Casas, Campeche, Merida, Cancun, Cozumel, and Playa del Carmen, besides the city of Oaxaca, where I live. Most of these places I visited with my family. During my travel I saw no evidence of any violence whatsoever and experienced no hassles or trouble besides the occasional police or military roadblock. At no time did I ever fear for my safety or that of my children. On the contrary, even though I've traveled extensively in Mexico since 1997, time and time again I'm bowled over by the beauty of this country and the warmth of its people.

Family in Guanajuato
The writer with her family in Guanajuato

Certain locations in Mexico have seen increasing levels of violence in the past few years, but the vast majority of Mexico's interior cities and beach towns remain safe and worthwhile vacation destinations, offering gorgeous landscapes, rich culture, and warm hospitality.

Read about how to have a safe trip to Mexico, or share your opinion: Is Mexico a safe travel destination?

April 14, 2011 at 11:38 am
(1) Mark Wise says:

Dear Suzanne,

Very accurate article! I’m retired US military living near Cuernavaca and can attest that Mexico is still a great vacation spot!

I feel safe wherever I go!

Thanks for setting the record sraight!

Mark Wise

April 14, 2011 at 12:18 pm
(2) EddieMex says:

Great article. I work in the Mexican Auto Insurance business and we get a ton of questions regarding Safety In Mexico. I’ll be sharing this article with them.

Keep up the the good work.


April 14, 2011 at 10:27 pm
(3) Kim and Mike says:

I can honestly say we’ve been to Mexico a lot..especially Oaxaca which we consider a second home. Never felt like we were ever in danger. We do agree that the media has blown this way out of proportion. The only real problem that we ever see or read about are the boarder cities (mostly surrounding Texas). Unfortunately all of Mexico has suffered.

Well said Suzanne…keep writing the truth!

April 19, 2011 at 8:29 pm
(4) Dave Wells says:

I’ve made maybe 12 trips to Mexico in recent years, often for several months each time, and I have never felt afraid or in danger. Clearly there is violence in some areas, mainly between drug gangs. There are some criminals who commit property crimes — I was fooled by the old “mustard on your pants” trick; but that sort of stuff happens in the U.S. and everywhere else too. On the other hand, my wife and I misunderstood a bus attendant last spring, left her purse on the bus and our luggage below, and the bus left without us. The bus people phoned ahead, put us onto the next bus (no charge), and her purse and our bags were safe and waiting for us when we arrived — they were careful to make us identify ourselves and tell them what was inside the bags before they would release them to us. Now that’s service! I expect to go back to Mexico many more times.

April 22, 2011 at 11:04 am
(5) James says:

I have lived in Mexico for over 11 years. Currently, I live in Guadalajara, the second largest city in Mexico. In the 4 years that I have lived here, I have participated in many cultural affairs, traveled all over the metropolitan area, have been out late at night with friends, and more. Never, have I felt threatened or in danger. (Leaving traffic aside). I have found that if you conduct yourself wisely and don’t go looking for trouble, you are perfectly safe. In fact, using the same sense that we would in any large US city, I would say that Guadalajara is safer than most cities in the US of comparable or even smaller size.

April 23, 2011 at 12:22 pm
(6) Rich says:

Nice article. It is true of most of Mexico but not the border states. I’ve been traveling by car to Mexico from Texas for the last 15 years and always felt safe. But now, I no longer drive through the border states to get to my destinations. The main reason I don’t drive through the border states is because my Mexican friends recommend that I don’t. They don’t feel safe driving in the northern border states either. But, that has not stopped me from visiting Mexico. Today I fly to my destination and feel much safer for doing so. The major tourist areas are as safe or maybe even safer than where I live in San Antonio. I hope and pray that the border states become safe again.

April 27, 2011 at 11:33 pm
(7) Market.Travel says:

For me however I can’t imagine safety trumping many of my goals in a holiday. Not that I’m a risk taker or looking for thrills, it’s just that for me if I wanted total safety I could just stay at home!

May 2, 2011 at 1:39 pm
(8) Laura says:

I definitely agree. I’ve been living in Mexico City for over a year and have traveled to destinations throughout central and southern Mexico without any issues. I hope more people will read articles such as this one and not be afraid to visit.

August 10, 2011 at 12:32 am
(9) Jennifer says:

My husband may get sent to Silao for a 2 year work stay. We are nervous about this as we have 4 young children; 2 daughters ages 11 & 9 and 2 sons ages 5 & 2. This helps but I must admit I am still uneasy.

January 16, 2012 at 12:23 pm
(10) Susan says:

My husband and I went to Mexico this past October and the only thing we saw was a bit of the presence of Mexican military and that was only in the port itself where the ship docked. Other than that, nothing. We had a wonderful time and the people were great.

February 14, 2012 at 9:08 am
(11) Peter says:

I have lived in Monterrey for 8 years and work in the oil fields of south Texas. The nature of my work requires that I cross the border about every 3-4 weeks.

Once, when crossing the border to return home to my family of of four, a Federal agent told me that it’s dangerous to go to Mexico. My reply was that I feel safer in Monterrey than I would in New Orleans or Houston, especially New Orleans.

Viva Mexico!!

July 3, 2012 at 11:02 pm
(12) Sherry Williams says:

This is absolutely irresponsible to tell people that it is safe to travel to Mexico. I have lived Mexico for 32 years and it is not safe. Read the US Consul’s travel advisorys. Simply to tell you to never travel at night, to always take the toll roads and that they are not safe. To see the border guarded now with high calibre weapons is to see it is not safe. If you are taking a vacation, do not put yourself and your family in danger traveling to Mexico.

July 19, 2013 at 2:06 pm
(13) Peggy Stein says:

I just returned to the U.S. after spending 4 peaceful weeks in Michoacan, which I do every year. We traveled all over the Morelia/Patzcuaro area plus up into the mountainous Meseta Purepecha. I was there when the State Dept. issued its new warning, and I and all of the American ex-pats I have met had a good laugh. We all feel safer in Mexico than in many American cities. Unfortunately the warnings from our government have really hurt the artisans and others who depend on tourists for their income.

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