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Spring Breakers Warned About Travel to Mexico

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Here are tips for staying safe.

It's spring-break time ... and thousands of American students are headed to Cancun, Cabo and other Mexican beaches for fun in the sun.

Spring break in mexico

But over the weekend, 50 people were killed in Mexico due to drug violence. Two Americans -- Lesley Enriquez and Arthur Redelfs -- were shot and killed in Ciudad Juarez with their 6-month-old baby in the car. (The baby survived.)

Thirteen people were killed over the weekend in Acapulco -- allegedly by members of Mexico's drug cartel. Some of the victims were beheaded. MTV is hosting its spring-break coverage in Acapulco this week.

Now the U.S. State Department is warning travelers to delay travel due to increased violence.

They have also issued spring-break guidelines for students traveling across the border.

Here is an excerpt:

Over 100,000 American teenagers and young adults travel to resort areas throughout Mexico over spring break each year. While the vast majority enjoys their vacation without incident, several may die, hundreds will be arrested, and still more will make mistakes that could affect them for the rest of their lives. Using some common sense will help travelers avoid these unpleasant and dangerous situations.

Alcohol and Drugs

Excessive alcohol consumption and unruly behavior can lead to serious problems with Mexican authorities. Alcohol is involved in the vast majority of arrests, accidents, violent crimes, rapes and deaths suffered by American students on spring break. Disturbing the peace, lewd or indecent behavior, littering, driving under the influence, drinking on the street or on public transportation, using public transportation without payment or making obscene or insulting remarks are all considered criminal activities by Mexican authorities. The importation, purchase, possession or use of drugs can incur severe penalties, including imprisonment without bail for up to a year before a case is tried, and imprisonment of several years following a conviction. All individuals 16 years of age or older are tried as adults.

Safety and Security

Standards of security, safety and supervision may not reach the levels expected in the United States. This has contributed to the deaths of U.S. citizens in automobile accidents, after falls from balconies or into unmarked ditches, by drowning in the ocean as well as in hotel pools and in water-sports mishaps, among others.

Warning flags on beaches should be taken seriously. If black or red flags are up, do not enter the water. Strong undertow and rough surf are common along beaches throughout Mexico, especially on the Pacific coast, and drownings have occurred when swimmers have been overwhelmed by conditions. Swimming-pool drain systems may not comply with U.S. safety standards and swimmers should exercise caution. Do not swim in pools or at beaches without lifeguards. Do not dive into unknown bodies of water, because hidden rocks or shallow depths can cause serious injury or death. If you choose to swim, always exercise extreme caution.

Use only the licensed and regulated "sitio" (SEE-tee-oh) taxis. Some illegitimate taxi drivers are, in fact, criminals in search of victims; users of these taxis have been robbed, kidnapped and/or raped. Hotels, clubs and restaurants will summon a sitio taxi upon request.

Renting and Operating Vehicles and Other Equipment

Visitors should exercise caution when renting vehicles, including Jet Skis and mopeds. Many are not serviced and are in poor condition, and many are uninsured or underinsured. Read rental contracts carefully to be sure your own insurance will cover you in the event of an accident, if the rental company's insurance is not adequate. Drivers of any vehicle, including Jet Skis and mopeds, should exercise extreme caution and ask the rental agency about local laws and procedures before operating the vehicle. The Department of State has received reports of equipment-rental operators using locals to form a "mob" to intimidate customers into paying exorbitant amounts for damage to rented equipment.

Operators of any vehicle that causes damage to other vehicles or injuries to other people may be arrested and held in custody until full payment is made, either in cash or through insurance.

Know Before You Go

The following cities and areas are some traditional destinations in Mexico for travelers on spring break. While other resort areas may not be as well-known for this type of travel, the advice contained here still applies:

Acapulco: Drug-related violence has been increasing. Although this violence is not targeted at foreign residents or tourists, U.S. citizens in these areas should be vigilant in their personal safety.

Avoid swimming outside the bay area. Several American citizens have died while swimming in rough surf at the Revolcadero Beach near Acapulco.

Cabo San Lucas: Beaches on the Pacific side of the Baja California peninsula at Cabo San Lucas are dangerous due to riptides and rogue waves; hazardous beaches in this area are clearly marked in English and Spanish.

Cancun, Playa del Carmen and Cozumel: Cancun is a fairly large city, approaching 500,000 inhabitants, with increasing reports of crime. Crimes against the person -- such as rape -- commonly but not exclusively occur at night or in the early-morning hours, and often involve alcohol and the nightclub environment. Therefore, it is important to travel in pairs or groups, be aware of surroundings and take general precautions. To protect against property crimes, valuables should be left in a safe place or not brought at all. If you are a victim of a crime, immediately notify the U.S. Consular Agency in Cancun, Playa del Carmen or Cozumel, or the U.S. Consulate in Merida.

If you rent a moped or other vehicle in Cancun, it is advisable to purchase third-party insurance, as the insurance offered on some credit cards will not cover you in Mexico. Should you have an accident or cause damage to the vehicle, you may be required to pay the full amount of any repairs, in cash, as determined by the rental agency -- or face arrest.

In Cancun, there is often a very strong undertow along the beach from the Hyatt Regency all the way south to Club Med. Already this season, several U.S. citizens have drowned when overwhelmed by ocean conditions. In Cozumel, several drownings and near-drownings have been reported on the east coast, particularly in the Playa San Martin-Chen Rio area.

Matamoros/South Padre Island
: The Mexican border cities of Matamoros and Nuevo Progresso are located 30 to 45 minutes south of the major spring-break destination of South Padre Island, Texas. Travelers to the Mexican border should be especially aware of safety and security concerns due to increased violence in recent years between rival drug-trafficking gangs competing for control of narcotics-smuggling routes. While it is unlikely that American visitors would get caught up in this violence, travelers should exercise common-sense precautions such as visiting only the well-traveled business and tourism areas of border towns during daylight and early-evening hours.

Contact Information: In case of a serious emergency, travelers should immediately contact the closest U.S. Consulate, U.S. Consular Agency or the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City.

Would you let your kids go to Mexico for spring break?

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7 comments so far | Post a comment now
Shaaron March 16, 2010, 12:56 PM

I lived in Mexico for three years and let me tell you that it seems okay for THEM to do all the wrong things mentioned here BUT it is not okay for North Americans! PERIOD. You do not want to get locked up down there as it can take years to get yourself out. The only way to stay safe is stay at your hotel and keep whatever you do under control.

Victor G March 17, 2010, 9:44 AM

This article shows everything that is wrong with American media. It overemphasizes negative aspects on very safe resort destinations as Cancun and Cabo San Lucas. There is way more crime and violent crime in NY or LA than either of these cities.
I mean “disturbing the peace… driving under the influence… are all considered criminal activities by Mexican authorities”. Yeah, and what exactly are they considered by American authorities? Oh! criminal activities as well!
If one is well informed, it is clear that the trouble areas are in border cities, which are thousands of miles away from resort/tourist areas. They are much more closer to San Diego, LA or Phoenix than to Cabo, for example. And always when vacationing, use common sense and don’t do in a foreign country what you would not do at home, travel in known and tourist areas and be informed.

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Marissa October 30, 2010, 10:10 AM

Is this a common thing, or just during certain times of the year? What places are the safest??
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Siem reap February 2, 2011, 1:17 AM

Just maintain your eyes and mind open. Uncover out about the destination you’re in. Speak to the consumers who live there. Take the opportunity to step outside your comfort zone.

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