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How to keep yourself safe if you plan to travel to Mexico

One of the vehicles involved in a cartel shootout in northern Mexico that killed several members of a family with Utah ties. Photo: Reuters

Betsy Rivera is planning to travel to Mexico soon to visit her grandmother in Chihuahua. But after the murders of nine American women and children in an ambush-style attack, she and others are asking how to stay safe while traveling.

Rivera spoke to KSL Newsradio’s sister station in Phoenix, KTAR, after the attack blamed on Mexican drug cartel violence 70 miles south of the Arizona border.

“I go at least once a year to Mexico,” she said. “This makes you think twice about it, but obviously my family and I always take precautions.”

Those safety measures include traveling during daylight hours and always speaking Spanish.

Warnings about travel to Mexico

A search of the U.S. Department of State’s travel advisory database revealed no part of Mexico is without warning to tourists.

“Exercise increased caution in Mexico due to crime and kidnapping. Some areas have increased risk. Read the entire Travel Advisory. Violent crime, such as homicide, kidnapping, carjacking, and robbery, is widespread,” the advisory states.

The database allows you to research the safety of any destination around the world and register your name and your trip so the department is aware of your travel plans.

During an interview on KSL NewsRadio’s Dave and Dujanovic show, Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, while offering condolences about the recent murders in Mexico, also addressed whether he’d take his own family to Mexico on vacation in light of extreme violence at the hands of drug cartels.

“There are places in Mexico I think one can safely travel right now. That said, there are lots of other places where you’d want to be cautious,” Lee stated.

“Anywhere in Mexico, there is this specter right now of significant possibility of significant violence,” he added.

Tips to stay safe in Mexico

In a travel safety article published by AARP, the organization suggested staying in a gated, all-inclusive resort that only allows staff and guests inside. Or consider a cruise line that docks at well-guarded ports.

The organization also advises tourists not to rent cars. If they do, AARP recommends purchasing an insurance package that includes bail money because it’s not uncommon for victims of car crashes to be jailed.

Other tips from the state department include:

• Use toll roads when possible and avoid driving alone or at night. In many states, police presence and emergency services are extremely limited outside the state capital or major cities.
• Exercise increased caution when visiting local bars, nightclubs, and casinos.
• Do not display signs of wealth, such as wearing expensive watches or jewelry.
• Be extra vigilant when visiting banks or ATMs.