Michael Strickland's blog on all things travel: news, deals, destinations, dreams and more.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Travel to Mexico still safe

I've been intending to blog about the safety of travel to Mexico, but this editorial pretty much covers what I would have said. My friend Francisco Ussel, a Tijuana resident and business owner, has told me the same things that the Rosarito Beach mayor says in the editorial: that the violence, while serious, is largely taking place between rival drug gangs, and that tourists are not targets. Yet media reports and the general perceptions of Mexico by Americans have been tremendously damaging to Mexico's tourism industry.

Let's be honest: it has never been 100% safe to travel to Mexico. The federal police, or federales, have a well-earned reputation for corruption. The current problems with drug gangs have highlighted the reasons: they can stay uncorrupted, earn $5,000 a year, and get killed by the gangs; or they can work with the gangs, make more money, and stay alive. There are systemic things behind the corruption that need to change. But it has never been 100% safe to travel anywhere.

The same rules of travel that apply elsewhere (even to travel within the U.S.) apply to Mexico as well: Stay alert, be aware of what's going on around you, try to blend in as much as possible. And if you're going to Baja, try to avoid driving after dark (common sense advice that applied long before the drug violence erupted last year). Put things in perspective: as the Frommers article points out, New Orleans had far more murders per capita than any city in Mexico last year.

I'm not necessarily advocating travel to the border towns of Tijuana (sorry, Francisco) or Ciudad Juarez, but if I lived in San Diego again, I'd still spend the occasional weekend driving through Tijuana for points further south. There's just too much natural beauty, great food and adventure to be had, and by all accounts that I trust, it's as safe as it ever was.

Overlooking the bay of La Bufadora, near Ensenada

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