9 Tips for Safe Travel in Mexico
We spent over 18 months traveling through all parts of Mexico from the Guatemala border to Tijuana. We know that vanlife south of the border is a little different so below we’re sharing 9 tips for safe travel in Mexico, or anywhere for that matter. Just as with all places care must be taken when traveling to unknown destinations! Don’t forget to share your tips in the comments area below.
1 – Know the Current Situation
Many countries have advised against travel to Mexico or certain parts of the country due to increased levels of crime. It is good to know what is going on as the situation changes all the time. Our personal opinion is to take this advice with a pinch of salt as we feel that travel ban advisories are often issued semi-recklessly by governments not wishing to be held accountable if things do go wrong.
2 – Ask the locals about safety in the area
When you arrive in a new location, it always pays to get local advise for the best up to the minute information. They will be able to tell you about any issue, or current protests which may affect your time in the country. However be warned that Mexico is as susceptible as anywhere else to the ‘hearsay factor’. Use your own judgement to ascertain how accurate the information is and if it is based on fact. Be advised that locals in all countries are quick to spread rumors about their neighbors (it’s human nature.) This means you are likely to hear that the next town, or next country is more dangerous than your current location. Take this advise with a pinch of salt.
3 – Don’t park or drive too close to the cliffs
This applies specifically to Baja California, but also to other areas. In more developed counties you will likely see barriers for public protection in areas that might pose risk. This is not so in many areas of Mexico. Just because you can get close to the edge, doesn’t mean that you should! There are numerous cases of people falling to their death in this type of situation, both in and out of vehicles.
4 – Don’t pay fines
This point refers more to the safety of your wallet than your person. If you are living the Van Life and traveling by vehicle in Mexico you will encounter many police and military check points. 99% of time they will ask you where you are coming from, where you are going and perhaps perform a brief search before waving you on your way. However in some places, particularly if your vehicle stands out from other traffic as a “gringo-wagen” you may encounter
corrupt opportunistic officials who will try to extort a bribe from you.
This will be done by claiming (rightly or wrongly) that you just committed an offence and that you must now be punished. We’ve never paid a bribe or a ticket for any offence, real or fictitious, in almost a decade of world travel. There are several techniques to avoid this. Our two favorites are pretending not to understand what they are saying and calling their bluff and agreeing to go to the station with them. Click here for more stories and tips about dealing with corruption and bribes
5 – Keep your valuables out of sight
Out of sight out of mind. We mentioned above that crimes are opportunistic. Having tinted windows or closed curtains on your vehicle will stop people seeing that there are valuables inside. Keep all possessions within sights and secured under lock and key where possible. A variety of equipment exists to keep your belongings safe.
6 – Have an escape plan
If you’re parking in isolated location over night we recommend that you think about how you would react to unwanted visitors before the situation occurs. This doesn’t mean you have to be paranoid all of the time, but forethought will help you sleep better at night.
- Always park with a clear exit route (multiple if possible).
- Know where your keys are
- Keep your driver seat clear so you can get in and drive away without delay
7 – Stay out of sight
If you are camping in remote location the safest places are out of sight of passing traffic.
Stealth Camping in Mexico takes on a whole different meaning: Here a closed road off of a questionable highway made for the perfect secret camp spot, out of sight from passing traffic.
8 – Beware the false amigo
There are so many scams that exist that it would be impossible to list them all, but one to be aware of is the “false amigo” – Also known as the Sneaky Mo-Fo! This, like a lot of petty crime, basically involves distraction. Where one overly friendly person engages you in conversation whilst their accomplice relieves you of your possessions behind your back. Remember point 5 above and ensure that you always have your eyes on the prize!
9 – Take special care near the northern borders
Often border towns are sketchy places but this can be particularly true in Northern Mexico. This is because a significant number of people journey north overland for hundreds if not thousands of miles hoping to reach the land of plenty, only to have their dreams crushed. With little money and even less hope, a desperate and increasing population often turn to crime to survive. Whilst some of the border towns can be very interesting to visit, special care should be taken to avoid bad neighborhoods and if you find yourself traveling at night you should be extra vigilant in these areas. Be advised that estimated border crossing times aren’t always accurate so if when heading south, be sure to allow plenty of time to get yourselves across the border before dark.
10 – OVER TO YOU
We said this was our 9 tips, here’s your chance to complete the list. Leave us your tip for safe travel in the comments area below.
As a general rule of thumb tourist destinations usually have lower serious crime stats. Petty crime and theft may however be higher as most crimes against tourists are opportunistic. Common sense is your best friend – trust your intuition, remember that there is safety in numbers and that most crimes happen at night, so that is when you should be most conscious of your personal security.
Click here to see the safest places to travel in mexico
BEFORE YOU GO TO MEXICO!
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Do you have any tips that you can share about staying safe whilst travel?
Please leave a comment so that we can all become better travelers.