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by Samuel Logan | June 01, 2011
Takeaways

Know your geography: Mexico is a large, diverse country. Your destination might be more than a thousand miles from the nearest high-risk area.

Take common-sense precautions as you would in any city in the United States or elsewhere in the world.

Educate yourself about your destination and the realities of news reports. Keep in mind that most of the negative headlines are related to Mexico's war on drugs, and involve incidents between drug-trafficking organizations or between those organizations and law enforcement.

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The following checklist was compiled by Samuel Logan, regional manager for the Americas at iJET Intelligent Risk Systems, a Maryland-based intelligence, business resiliency and security-services firm. This information is provided to encourage an informed, common-sense approach to travel below the border, as well as to international travel in general.

Before You Go • Consult a map to better understand Mexico's geography and trouble spots. Travel Weekly recently created an updated map (travelweekly.com/uploadedFiles/MEXICOMAP4.pdf) that delineates and explains areas mentioned in the State Department alerts. (Also see related news story in this issue of Newsline.)

• Carefully read U.S. State department travel alerts (state.gov). Keep in mind that these reports are intended to provide an overview of concerns throughout the country.

• Read about your intended destination in major U.S. dailies. The Houston Chronicle, L.A. Times and Dallas Morning News all feature coverage of Mexico and can help you differentiate safe destinations from riskier regions.

• Leave a travel itinerary with someone in the U.S. or your home country. If you are traveling to a higher-risk destination, consider notifying your closest home-country consulate about your presence in the area, including where you are staying and your travel dates.

Exercise Urban Common Sense • If walking through urban centers, leave your passport in the hotel safe and carry a photocopy. Do not carry large amounts of cash.

• Avoid traveling with expensive jewelry, luxury watches, designer purses, etc. Try to conceal such items when walking in urban centers.

• If you are mugged or assaulted, do not resist. If walking through an area where muggings occur, keep a separate stash of money ready to hand over. (US$20 is probably too little, while $100 is probably too much. The idea is to avoid having to give away your possessions if an attacker just wants money.)

Be Aware of Scams • If you have a local phone, don't publish the number on social media or other public sites. Extortionists have used such methods for cold-calling schemes.

• Avoid paying with a debit card. If using a credit card, try to keep it within sight. (Card-cloning incidents are on the rise in Mexico.) If paying by credit card in a restaurant, ask the server to bring the payment system to your table. Or, ask if you can go to the register to witness the transaction taking place.

Use Trusted Routes and Transport • Use taxis dispatched from your hotel or a nearby dispatch site (taxis de sitio). While many locals and travelers hail taxis on the street without any incidents, some roaming taxis have been linked to crime, specifically in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico City and Tijuana.

• When dining out at night, ask the restaurant to call a taxi for you following the meal.

• When traveling between cities, domestic flights are the safest option, followed by executive buses.

• If driving, try to stick to toll highways (cuotas) and avoid traveling at night if possible.

• Purchase taxi transfers from official sites in the airport, where fares usually are set.