US Embassy issues travel advisory for Mexico to Spring Breaker


US authorities are sending a series of warnings to travelers on spring break to Mexico: be vigilant about criminal activity, watch out for counterfeit medicines, avoid unregulated alcohol, and don’t possess or use drugs.

But for the most part, officials aren’t advising people to stay away from the country, noting that “thousands” of Americans spend spring break in Mexico each year and “the vast majority travel safely.”

The information comes from a spring break travel warning issued by the US embassy and consulates in Mexico this week – and it follows several high-profile outbreaks of disorder or violence across the country this year. Recently, earlier this month, four Americans who were coming to Matamoros from Brownsville, Tex. were abducted; two were killed and a third was injured.

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“Crime, including violent crime, can occur anywhere in Mexico, including in popular tourist destinations,” said the latest travel alert, which mirrors a similar alert issued last year. “Travelers should maintain a high level of situational awareness, avoid areas where illegal activity is taking place and exit potentially dangerous situations immediately.”

The embassy’s warning directs travelers to the US State Department’s travel advisory for Mexico, which is broken down by state and was last updated in October. Tamaulipas, where the Americans were kidnapped, is one of six states that carry a “Do Not Travel” warning.

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Most Mexican states — including those with tourist hotspots like Cancún, Cozumel, Cabo San Lucas, and Oaxaca — fall into the lower Level 2 category, which asks travelers to “exercise increased caution.” But the alarm warns visitors not to be on their guard, even in these less risky areas.

“U.S. citizens should exercise increased caution in downtown popular spring break locations like Cancun, Playa Del Carmen and Tulum, especially after dark,” it said.

In addition to crime, the travel advisory warns of the risks of unknown substances or beverages, warning that unregulated alcohol could be tainted, counterfeit medicines contain dangerous ingredients, and drug use could lead to arrest, illness or worse.

“US citizens have become seriously ill or died in Mexico after taking synthetic drugs or counterfeit prescription pills,” the alert said.

Travelers should limit the amount of cash they carry, be careful when withdrawing money, stick to regulated taxi services or app-based ride-sharing services, and stay with a group in clubs and bars or get around at night, the embassy says. The alert recommends participation in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, which provides information on security policies and contact information for the US government.

Understand the Department of State’s travel advice

Another U.S. jurisdiction issued a much stronger warning last week when the Texas Department of Public Safety urged Texans to avoid travel to Mexico altogether during spring break and after.

Incidents of violence in Mexico continue to make headlines — and travelers are wondering if a everyone’s favorite destination is safe to visit. (Video: Hannah Sampson, Jillian Banner/Washington Post)

“Drug cartel violence and other criminal activity pose a significant security threat to anyone entering Mexico,” the department’s director, Steven McCraw, said in a statement. “We have a duty to educate the public about safety, travel risks and threats. Due to the volatile nature of the cartel activity and the violence we are seeing there, we urge individuals to avoid travel to Mexico at this time.”

The department wrote that “many people travel to Mexico without incident,” but said “the serious risks cannot be ignored.”

Dale Buckner, CEO of security services company Global Guardian, told the Washington Post last month that vacation destinations tend to be in “some kind of bubble” where the government has put in extra security and violence isn’t usually directed at visitors.

“If you’re at one of those hubs at a high-end resort, you’re going to see security guards and guys with guns on the beach,” he said. “They intentionally create a safer environment; for the most part it works.”

He urged travelers to take the kind of preparation they should make before traveling anywhere in the world: illness or injury and the need to return home in an emergency; know how to get out of a natural disaster; and anticipate what to do if they are hacked or kidnapped. And he said tourists must also plan their activities with safety in mind and avoid unnecessary risks.

“We strongly encourage people to go to Mexico and enjoy it,” he said last month. “You just have to do some homework.”

Those who work in the travel industry in Mexico say the country is vast and cannot be painted with a single brush. Zachary Rabinor, founder and CEO of travel planning company Journey Mexico, said in an email last month that his staff monitor safety situations and work where there are no travel restrictions.

“We’re confident that with the right preparation and information, travel to and within Mexico remains a great option,” he said last month. “While there is no 100% guarantee of complete safety when traveling, even within the US and Europe, working with a trusted and professional travel specialist minimizes risk and keeps travelers in the right place at the right time.”

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