East-West Global Traveler
Browsing Tag

Safety

Is Mexico Safe? Get the Facts!

By August 28, 2017 Countries, Destinations, Travel
Do you Think Mexico is Safe? Get the Facts!

I’m sure by now you have read, watched, or heard all the media attention given a recent death in Mexico, and shortly following, the adjustment to the US State Department’s travel warning for Mexico.

Recently, I have fielded hundreds of questions on the topic of travel to Mexico, and have taken a lot of time to research facts. In a nutshell, there are concerns you must be aware, but frankly, they are NOT what the media and some individuals think. Lets go over the major questions, and some important insights that you have not been told.

  1. The news says Mexico is no longer safe for travel, is this true?  If you plan to go to Mexico, and start your own competing cartel in the drug trafficking business, Its definitely not safe. If your intent is to visit one of the fine All Inclusive resorts, visit a port on a cruise, or experience travel with a reputable tour operator, then I would have to say your visit to Mexico will be as safe as visiting any city in the United States under the same pretense. There are no warnings that include these specific tourist destinations,  and no events that have occurred within those safe parameters.
  2. But Didn’t the State Department specifically list specific states, and the towns within those states as dangerous? Yes, the state department made some very general warnings, by state, and included the names of some cities of concern. A thorough reading of the full warning makes it very clear that the concern is outside of the tourist properties within those states, and that no US citizens have been targeted specifically because of their nationality.  If you are visiting Mexico, and staying within the resort, You should be very safe. Wandering on your own, well outside the resort, in the local community, at dark, you take a huge unsafe risk. This risk isn’t because of your race, sex, or specific nationality. Its because you are an easy target – foreigners in general have travel money and at risk of robbed, or kidnapped til you make a sizable deduction at an ATM. You could also be the untimely, unintended, victim of gang battles that occur in that location.
  3. Why were these locations specified in the travel warning? The location were listed because of an uptick in the homicides, according to data being tracked by the US State Department. These homicides were admittedly targeted attacks on individuals, likely assassinations due to their association to a gang or one of its members. These homicides were not targeted toward tourists. Again, if you hook up with a local, and go to their home for drinks, your danger risk increases many-fold. Stay in your resort, the risk is extremely low.
  4. I’m still concerned as my recently booked cruise or resort is in those areas, what should I do? First, lets approach this pragmatically. Are you afraid to travel to the United States? How about specific states such as Florida, or Michigan? How about specific cities like New York, Boston, or Los Angeles? Foreign countries have travel warnings to all these places for their citizens. I’m not talking about North Korea, but countries like The United Arab Emirates, Bahamas, France, United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand and Germany all who urge caution to U.S.-bound travelers. Statistically, you are more likely to be a homicide victim in your own state than in the Mexican state which your resort is booked. In fact, the rural states in the US have higher homicide rates than the Yucatan – where Cancun and many other resort communities, are located. Then consider that your resort is a private facility, with security, gated properties, and a vested interest by the local, state, and federal officials to keep those places safe. The last thing you should be thinking about is canceling your travel. That’s a kneejerk reaction to media fearmongering. Talk it over with a travel professional, and experts of the area.
  5. What about the deaths involving tainted or drugged alcohol?  There have been reports of people having issues after drinking alcohol at resorts. We don’t have the medical facts about all of these reports, however experts have reviewed what information is available and have surmised that a variety of causes are at play. Lets break them down:
    1.  Date rape drugs are a concern worldwide, including Mexico. Spring Break has more occurrences than any other time, but you could be a target anywhere, at anytime, and at any age. Alcohol alone is the #1 drug used for date rape, so the more you drink, the greater at risk you may become. Individuals can add other drugs, and it may be wise to reject any suspect beverage, or have a test kit on hand. You can get them here.
    2. The Mexican Government has revealed that over 30% of the alcohol available in the country is actually illegally manufactured. That doesn’t mean that 30% of it is unsafe to drink – just that the manufacturers are bootlegging the product, without the proper permits, inspections, and taxation required within Mexico. Some of it may also be unsafe to drink because it wasn’t properly brewed, distilled, or blended. Recent reports at the Iberostar resort of unsafe alcohol have been levied by some tourists. While their particular experiences are tragic, there is no evidence to support that the resort was serving tainted alcohol. There is evidence to support that it wasn’t.
    3. Alex Zozaya, CEO of the resorts’ parent company, Apple Leisure Group. was recently held to task on the matter. He confirmed that the resorts owned by that corporation (and their competitors) use the most reputable supplier in the country for over 90% of their alcoholic beverages, and that supplier has no record of problems distributing illegal alcohol. Frankly, knowing this, and that other resorts have not had this problem, it stands to reason that the cause lies elsewhere.
  6. So if tainted alcohol isn’t likely the real problem, what else could it be? As already stated, date rape drugs is a possibility. However, there can also be other organic, and environmental causes. 1. Its very common for travelers to arrive in Mexico, and go straight to the swim up bar. Long flight with associated typical dehydration, warm pool water, empty stomach, beverage with high alcohol content, and overindulgence can be a recipe for a medical disaster. A Hot tub can exacerbate the risk. Taking prescription medication with any combination of the above can also result in negative outcomes. Using any drug unlawfully with alcohol is just stupid, and has resulted in fatal incidents. Let’s be honest, these are probably the most likely causesassociated with tourists, especially when those events are occurring on the day of arrival. Studies have shown that each one of these on their own, can increase your rate of inebriation two to four times the normal rate of intoxication. Combined its a much higher rate, and can replicate the same symptoms found with date rape drug cases.  Consult your medical practitioner for greater detail on how your specific body handles alcohol in these circumstances.  Or better yet, get settled in, enjoy a meal, and rehydrate with no alcohol. You have the rest of your vacation so why ruin it on the first day.
  7. So you are saying the media was wrong? Bluntly, yes. They capitalized on a tragic event, made it salacious for their own interest, and avoided factual, honest journalism. They are still painting Mexico as an CNN Screenshot of typical media coverage on Mexicounsafe place to vacation, when real data, facts, and evidence from all reputable sources prove otherwise. Look, in the last 15 years, roughly only 20 cases have been reported. For the sake of comparison, lets add 30 more cases as unreported. 10 Million+ visitors go to Mexico annually. That’s 150 million people, of which 50 people possibly had an issue with tainted alcohol at a resort, cruise, tour.. That’s .0000003 probability that you would have an issue.
  8. What can I do to maximize my safety while traveling to Mexico? First, get involved with a reputable travel professional that has expertise in your destination. He/She can offer much in ways of protecting yourself by choosing safe travel options and destinations, insuring your travel investment, travel documentation, and more. Second, while traveling abroad, register your travel with the state department through the Smart Travel Enrollment Program (STEP). Third, don’t be like most tourists who fail to get immunized for the area of travel, or take necessary health precautions. Of concern to tourists to Mexico are Hepatitis, Malaria, Typhoid, Zika, and Chikungunya. The CDC has recommendations here.
  9.  If its safe, why don’t I hear about it from the media? In my opinion, much of the US based mainstream media has become so focused on attracting your attention, and thus preserving their market share and valuable advertising income, that journalism has largely disappeared. They no longer operate foreign new bureaus, instead, they will promote the sensational points of a story without much of the less sensational, factual information. Honestly, relying on only one of two sources is going to leave you without the information you deserve to make an educated decision. In researching Mexican travel, over 100 reputable sources were utilized. What’s painful to point out is that the U.S. State Department has failed to list Alcapulco as a danger to tourists, yet it has had specific, tourist targeted attacks, homicides, kidnappings, and other events over the last 15 years, that should have it on a warning. For some reason yet to be discovered, they have failed to do so. These events are well documented in the NarcoBlog.  The media, nor the state department have been forthcoming and sharing details that are important to travelers. Frankly, Mexico has the 3rd largest homicide rate in the world, yet 90% of that occurs along the US/Mexico border and is associated with drug and human trafficking. Over 90% of tourists to Mexico do not go to these areas, instead traveling to destinations that for most of visitors, are safer than their home communities.
  10. If I have specific questions on a destination, can I ask you? Whether Mexico, or other destinations, I am happy to provide answers to your travel questions. I am associated with a number of consortiums and associations filled with experts for most destinations. If I don’t know the answer, I know who can provide  it, and I’ll share that information. The best traveler is the informed, prepared traveler. Leave your question in the comments.

Do you Think Mexico is Safe? Get the Facts!

You Might Also Like

7 Ways to Reduce your Impacts while Traveling

By December 22, 2016 For Your Journey, Travel

Its interesting to see how people travel. Even people with the strongest opinion about environmental and social impacts can be the worst example while traveling. Frankly, we can all do better at reducing our impacts on the places we visit, and people we encounter, while traveling. So here are 7 suggestions on reducing your impact:

Prepare

We can all get caught off-guard ocassionally, but far too many travelers fail to bring clothing appropriate for the

Well Prepared Yellowstone Travelers!

Well Prepared Yellowstone Travelers!

common possibilities. Sure, the freak Texas snowstorm in July is excusable, but not knowing ahead of time that thunderstorms are likely,  and they can cause temperatures below 50F (10C). A perfect scenario for hypothermia and that’s being ill-prepared.

Not having long pants and long sleeve shirts for a vacation in Yellowstone, would also be ill-prepared. Those cooler temps and biting insects can ruin your day!

 

There are a hundred ways you can miss the boat on preparedness. But here are some things to think about on travel preparations:

  • Prescriptions
  • Redundant documents
  • Advising others of your travel plans
  • Expected and Possible weather conditions
  • Laws and policies of your destination
  • Plan B  such as cancelling or extrication if needed

Travel

It seems hypocritical to be “Green” and also be a traveler, however there are many ways to reduce your impact while traveling. Some of these have to do with environmental impacts, and others address sociadsc_0394l impacts.

The biggest way to reduce your environmental impacts, is to travel under your own power, or in vehicles that greatly reduce emissions, or maximize their output by their capacity. For example, you and 11 friends want to go on a roadtrip to a game in a distant state. You plan on taking two SUV’s. Do you know that modern motorcoaches have the same efficiency as one SUV, and far less emissions? True, and that efficiency is effectively the same with 6 passengers or 56. Flying on a private jet ok? Not so much, but traveling on an aircraft where you can fill the capacity is much better.

Other environmental impacts to think about: Do you stay on approved walkways, paths and trails? Or do you trample your way to the best vantage point for that world-class photo? (Nor actually being a world class photographer)

041011112107Social impacts are the things many of us don’t think about intuitively. We talk loudly in places that its uncouth, or even disrespectful. We stand directly in places that others wait patiently to take a photo with our backsides in the frame. No regard is given to the local customs, and have no clue why they don’t like tourists. I hear Americans constantly complain about Chinese Tourists, yet our actions are equally disturbing in other countries. Don’t be that tourist – be better.

  • Use mass modes, highly efficient, or non combustion modes of travel
  • Limit your travel to established roadways, marked trails, and approved paths
  • Learn the customs of your destination and try to adhere to them
  • Become aware of your surroundings, and the needs of those around you
  • Lose the personal entitlement attitude, consider your visit as being a guest

Waste Management

I find it particularly annoying when someone is all political about saving the earth, and stopping greenhouse gasses, then finishes their cigarette and flicks the butt. Do it in a national park, and I’m likely to pick it up, and flick it back – even if you are in your car.  Seriously!

While butt flicking smokers are a peeve, we can all do our part to effect change in managing our waste, and where it ends up. The easiest way to think about it, is if you didn’t just harvest it on-sight, and use or consume it – it doesn’t belong in that place. Pick and eat an apple in an orchard, and leave the core, I’m ok with that (although many growers are not – so ask.) Eat an apple anywhere else, it doesn’t belong on the ground, no matter how biodegradable you think it is. Best would be a compost bin, however regular trash may be the only available solution.

Consider the “R’s” of waste – Reduce, ReUse, Recycle. Even if you are visiting a destination where its not commonly practiced is no excuse for you to not be proactive in your personal behavior. Once as a Wilderness Ranger,  I was brought to a backcountry campsite by an angry backpacker who wished to show me what the “Boy Scouts” had done to the campsite he had just hiked 6 miles to enjoy. As I assessed the scene, and took inventory of the damage and litter, the liquor bottles, empty canned food, microwave dinners, and tobacco butts and evidence of drug use, was clearly cause for concern – but it wasn’t caused by boy scouts – and I would bet my reputation on it. By reducing your waste, and practicing other sound waste management principles, you too leave it so nobody can accuse you of negative impacts; even if left by others

  • Use appropriate containers for any waste
  • Recycle whenever possible. If in doubt- ask
  • Consider donating items to those in need, before departing
  • Buy hygiene supplies like soap, on arrival, and don’t use the small bottles in the hotel
  • Biodegradable is no excuse for littering – Use a receptacle.
  • Reduce water related waste. Consider no water running while lathering, reusing towels and bringing your own water bottle to refill.
  • Consider your own filtering system instead of bottled water purchases.

Robbing the Romance

I’m not thinking of romance in terms of affection, but the romance of being outdoors, traveling abroad, discovering new things. You can rob it by what you leave behind, and what you take.

Look, there is something magical about finding something, you are sure nobody has discovered. Its exciting! It can be personally moving. Yet removing that item destroys any opportunity of someone else having that same
experience. Likewise if it is altered or destroyed from its original state. Nature has a way of gradually doing this without our help, such the iconic hoodoo that collapsed in Bryce Canyon National Park; or with our help like the thoughtless adults in Goblin State Park toppling rock formations.

I have taken thousands of people, small groups at a time, to see some amazing natural things in this world. I get the privilege of reliving my initial experience through their own. Everytime. I’m glad I already had the sense to not pocket the arrowheads, remove the petroglyph, cut down the tree, or kill off the wildlife. Because I, and now thousands of others, have left them for others to discover.  So don’t rob the romance from others.cornerstone-church-arizona-tour-2016_5611a

  • Leave what you find for others to discover
  • Be an advocate that others do the same
  • Don’t alter, move, graffiti, or destroy
  • Take it with you, in a picture or drawing (Oh share with us – we’ll put it here too!)
  • Its ok not to share the location of things you think others would destroy. Like my favorite fishing spots
  • Selfies – Just Don’t

Live and Let Live

Most of us have at least a passive interest in wild creatures. Some a fascination. Others just lose their minds! The bigger the creature, the more likely it will draw out crazy mindless people willing to die to get a photo, or touch the animal.

dscf0156Look, wild animals can be habituated to human influence, and it can be dangerous. Despite the warnings at National Parks, people still feed squirrels and other rodents. Its quite obvious when they approach you practically begging. Feed one, then stick out your hand without food to pet it and see what happens; I’d be most interested in how many stitches you receive – as 32 is the record I’m personally familiar (Not me – just saw it happen) Larger animals might seem fine one minute, and then decide they don’t like the situation, and you are wearing horns, teeth, or antlers in a non-fashionable way.

This might seem all terrible to you – but it usually means that animal will get dispatched. That’s polite code for killed. We really don’t want that to happen. And you certainly don’t want to be the cause or on the receiving end of the debacle either.

More importantly, getting too close puts the animal out of its natural state, and the entire reason you probably came to that destination is to see it IN its natural state. If the animal has to stop what it is doing, alter its actions, or move away, you are too close. That even means if you are legally allowed to be that close, you shouldn’t – we are talking about reducing impacts, and ethics – not policies and ever-changing rules.

  • If the animal alters behavior due to your presence – put more distance between you and it
  • Don’t feed wild animals
  • Learn about behavior specific to the animals you are likely to encounter
  • Interface with wildlife can be very rewarding with guides and naturalists

Be Invisible

Travelers have a way of attracting the scorn of locals, and those who prey on them; such as pickpocketers, scammers, etc. If you are the traveler that needs to file a police report, or is getting in confrontations with other travelers and the locals, you have some work to do!

Not Invisible!

Not Invisible!

Being a tourist at the All Inclusive Resort is one thing. Its entirely different when truly traveling. You don’t want to stand out, or be targeted. You certainly don’t want the ire of the locals heaped on you, before you have earned it ( and hopefully  you won’t.)

  • When possible & appropriate, where attire that is similar to locals
  • Don’t wear clothing that is imprinted with phrases that offend.
  • Wear and/or remove hats and head coverings as custom dictates
  • Safeguard your money, and avoid large, easy to steal handbags
  • Learn local phrases, even if in a foreign language. Particularly for bathroom, roads, etc.
  • Minimize the need to ask for directions. Each time makes you stand out as a tourist.
  • Follow local customs and practices. Become part of the local culture, and not a foreigner.

    Dressed Like Locals... Invisible!

    Dressed Like Locals… Invisible!

You Might Also Like

Is Travel Insurance a Gimmick?

By December 3, 2016 For Your Journey, Products, Travel

After reviewing what travel insurance can provide, there’s really no better way to protect your vacation investment than by purchasing travel insurance. With the possibility of cancellations, flight delays, lost luggage or passports, medical emergencies and any other unexpected incident, travel insurance can provide the reassurance and peace of mind that you need.

The leading travel insurance suppliers can offer you numerous benefits that can help your vacation experience stay positive, even if something unexpected occurs. Remember, without the purchase of travel insurance, you could lose up to the full cost of your trip!

Travel insurance can minimize the considerable financial risks of traveling: accidents, illness, missed flights, canceled tours, lost baggage, theft, terrorism, travel-company bankruptcies, emergency evacuation, and getting your body home if you die. Each traveler’s potential loss varies, depending on how much of your trip is prepaid, the refund-ability of the air ticket you purchased, your state of health, the value of your luggage, where you’re traveling, the financial health of your tour company and airline, and what coverage you already have (through your medical insurance, homeowners or renters insurance, and/or credit card).

For some travelers, insurance is a good deal; for others, it’s not. What are the chances you’ll need it? How willing are you to take risks? How much is peace of mind worth to you? Take these considerations into account, understand your options, and make an informed decision for your trip. There’s really no better way to protect your vacation investment than by purchasing travel insurance. We highly advise all travelers to consider purchasing travel insurance. Below are three of the best travel insurance companies in the business:

Best Travel Insurance Providers:

Allianz

Allianz Travel Insurance – With offices in 34 countries, Allianz Global Assistance USA insures 16 million customers annually, providing travel insurance coverage for pre-paid, non-refundable trip expenses, reimbursements for covered trip cancellations and unexpected travel delay expenses, as well as emergency medical and dental treatment, emergency medical transportation, baggage delay, baggage loss and more.
travelsafe

TraveSafe Insurance – Since 1971, TravelSafe has been an industry leader in travel insurance products through innovation, experience and excellent customer service. They market and administer the most comprehensive policies available in the industry and are leading the way in developing new solutions for the insurance needs of individuals and families throughout the United States and Canada. Whether you are traveling close to home or around the world, TravelSafe will provide the security and peace of mind you need to enjoy your trip!

 

TravelInsuredInternational_logo

Travel Insured – Founded in 1994, Travel Insured International is one of the leading travel insurance providers, offering the highest quality worldwide travel insurance protection for over 20 years. Located in Glastonbury, Connecticut, the company offers an array of travel insurance protection benefits including Emergency Assistance and Evacuation, Trip Cancellation and Trip Interruption Protection, Medical Insurance, Baggage Insurance, Airline Ticket Protection, and more.

Travel Insured maintains relationships with specialty travel providers and tour operators, as well as provides 24/7 insurance assistance that allows you to travel relaxed, travel secure, and travel insured.

Travel Insurance can be secured for each trip, or with a cost effective Annual Protection Plan. Your Travel Professional can give you the best option.

For those of you who like to do your own arrangements online, Alliantz has a web based insurance tool that is very useful. You can View Alliantz here:

What has your experience been with travel insurance?

 

 

You Might Also Like