How to keep yourself safe in Mexico
Recent attacks have led many Canadians to question the safety of visiting Mexico. MSN talks to the experts, who break down the ways to have a safe, and happy, trip.
"Anytime you go somewhere outside of a first-world country, you are at risk of things you normally aren't," says Richard Vanderlubbe, president of Tripcentral.ca, in the wake of the vicious beating of Alberta tourist Sheila Nabb at a five-star resort in Mazatlan, Mexico. "It's a terrible thing, and we [travel professionals] have the utmost sympathy, but bad things do happen."
That's true whether you're staying at a hotel in Toronto, a Caribbean villa, or a Mexican resort, but Vanderlubbe says Mexico has long been more prominent on our radar than some other destinations. "I'm not sure why, but it goes back quite a while." He says he's given up trying to counter Mexico's bad rap. "I hear 'I don't want to go to Mexico' a lot, but it's not the only 'I don't want to,' and for every person who doesn't want to go there, there's still one who does. People who are inclined to go will still go."
He says Acapulco has completely fallen out of favour with tourists, with almost flights no from Canada, but that Puerto Vallarta, Cancun and the Mayan Peninsula are still as safe as anywhere. "If you isolate those destinations and look at the sheer volume of tourism, it has a lower crime rate than, say, the Bahamas, or for that matter, Thunder Bay."
If Mexico is still in your travel plans, Vanderlubbe says to choose a hotel or resort that's repped in Canada, and where there will be a rep onsite.
Before you leave, "Research information about the area, its customs, and recent crime or illness trends," says Scott Tingren, president of UniTrust, a Vancouver-based company that delivers specialized security services to government and corporate sectors. (You can read the recommendations of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada and get a list of government contacts located in Mexico here.)
When booking, Tingren says to request a room between the second and seventh floors, away from stairwells and elevators. The first floor is too accessible and anything higher than seven is unreachable by most fire engine ladders.
Tingren says to make two high-quality photocopies of your passport: give one to a friend or relative at home, and keep the other with you, separate from your real passport.
Once you're down there, "Don't abdicate your personal safety responsibility to the hotel," Tingren says. "Maintain situational awareness at all times. Read the hotel information package in your room — it will provide important safety and security information. Ask questions of managements if you need more information or don't understand something."
Tingren says to use every lock in the room, supplemented with commercially available travel security alarms or safety wedge devices. (You can find some travel safety devices here) He also recommends bringing an approved emergency smoke evacuation hood, quality LED flashlight, and fox whistle.