Mexico can be a perfectly safe place to visit or extremely dangerous depending upon where you go and who else is there at the time. It has been estimated that 40,000 people have died in the drug war that began when Felipe Calderon was elected. I have been to Mexico several dozen times since 2006. In my opinion, Mexico is a safer destination for foreign tourists than it used to be. The reason is simple: More attention is being paid to the events in Mexico by American media companies and the Mexican military is on the ground in most towns and cities that foreigners visit.

Here are some things that I have witnessed or been apart of in Mexico:
*Robbed at gunpoint by “police” in front of international bridge in Ciudad Juarez, 2006.

*Robbed by group of men in downtown Nogales near border, 2006.

*Sinaloa state police approached me with guns drawn and attempted to extort and kidnap me in 2010. They offered to drive me to a restaurant. When I declined there offer they told me I had to get in the car. I declined again. They followed me all the way back to my hotel. I think they were afraid to grab me out in the open, but they would have kept me if I got into the car.

*Witnessed many police and military busts and raids on gangs and cartel owned businesses, homes, and vehicles.

*Witnessed extortion of restaurant owner in Juarez, 2010.

Here are some things that have helped me stay safe in Mexico:
*Ride on buses owned by large companies. They will use the toll roads, which are safer.

* Speak Spanish and don’t dress like a rich American.

*Don’t carry around your map. Try not to look like a lost tourist.

*Mind your own business. Don’t ask personal questions to people that you are just meeting. Avoid talking about immigration, politics, the drug war, etc. in bars. Don’t become disoriented or intoxicated. Keep your wits about you.

*Stay in areas that appear secure and well light.

*If you take pictures, try not to draw attention. Journalists are often targeted in Mexico. If you blog or write about your experiences, do so privately and anonymously, if possible.

*Pay attention to everyone around you, even children.

*Avoid anyone that offers to sell you drugs, prescriptions, hookers, or illicit merchandise.

*Stay at hotels that have gates and ones that do not have outside access to your room. The entrance to your room should be accessed by passing through a hotel lobby.

*ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS fill out the US State Department Smart Traveler Enrollment Program information for your trip.

*Have a person from the hotel write down license information of any taxi you take. Another thing you can do is take a picture of the plate and send it to your email address.

*Don’t take rides from strangers

*Avoid making public political statements or participating in political protests.

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