Travel to Mexico Can be Safe -- But Spring Break Visitors and Others Should Prepare for Experience

Categories: Gone to Mexico
ent mex.jpg
Image: New Times
Traveling to and around Mexico can be a fun experience, but you should use your head if you're planning on going there for spring break. It's not as simple as driving to Lake Havasu or San Diego, and -- as we detail in this week's feature article on Rocky Point -- the safety factor is debatable.

American tourists haven't been targeted in Mexico's drug war, and no American vacationer has been attacked in Rocky Point for 20 years, our research showed. Still, it pays to be a savvy international traveler. Below are some of our thoughts and tips for potential visitors to Mexico, and be sure to follow the links to our slide-show, which contains pictures not used in the article's print version, and a video made by our crack art team (well, either crack, or large amounts of hallucinogens):

* Get Mexican auto insurance if you take your vehicle across the border. Stats from Rocky Point police show that 26 Americans had their cars stolen last year in or near the town. If you don't have Mexican auto insurance, you're probably S.O.L. because your American carrier won't pay for the loss. Even worse, if you get into an accident with a Mexican citizen and you don't have Mexican auto insurance, you'll probably be jailed until you can prove you can pay for damages.

* Leave the firearms at home. Possession of even one bullet in Mexico can get you thrown in jail. Not that the Mexicans are looking very hard for weapons. Mexican border agents waved us through without a care, but in December, we were asked by U.S. customs agents whether we had any weapons in the vehicle. Brian Levin of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency tells New Times that if an American citizen is found to be carrying guns south during an inspection, the American agents won't let them pass. But it's for the best, given Mexico's harsh anti-gun laws.

* Southbound inspections by U.S. officials don't typically use the drug-sniffing dogs seen in northbound checks. But you never know what might happen on the Mexican side if you take some weed or other drugs into Mexico. You're taking your chances, obviously. Forget trying to come back with drugs. That's what the multi-billion-dollar gauntlet at the border is there to catch.

* Check out the State Department's advisory on travel to Mexico. However, we can't tell you how closely to follow that advice. That's up to you. For instance, the advisory states:

It is imperative that U.S. citizens understand the risks involved in travel to Mexico, how best to avoid dangerous situations, and who to contact if one becomes a victim of crime or violence. Common-sense precautions such as visiting only legitimate business and tourist areas during daylight hours, and avoiding areas where criminal activity might occur, can help ensure that travel to Mexico is safe and enjoyable.

The nightlife in Mexican resort towns is a big reason many people go. It's also fun, (albeit somewhat spooky) to explore a dark beach. That's not so safe in the States, either.

* Passports: Yes, they're required now. No, they're not worth stressing over. If you don't have one, you'll still get back into the United States, Brian Levin of the CBP assures us. The border crossing might not be as smooth as it could be -- the passport-less person's identity would need to be verified on federal computers, and it's possible the person's vehicle might get pulled over for a more-thorough inspection. It helps if the person has a driver's license or some other sort of official ID. But CBP policy is that no U.S. citizen will be refused re-entry to his or her country, Levin says.

We tested the system on our trip to Rocky Point in February. New Times fellow Gregory Pratt didn't have his passport in time for the trip, but went anyway. On the way north through the Lukeville crossing, a border agent glanced at Pratt's driver's license and copy of his birth certificate, punched his name in her computer, then told us to have a nice day. No problema.

* Americans do end up hurt or killed in Rocky Point, but it has nothing to do with cartel members or worshippers of Santa Muerte. Vehicle accidents are the culprit. Roads aren't as well maintained in Mexico as in the United States, and neither is the health care system. Tourists tend to feel more comfortable with driving drunk than the would in, say, Scottsdale. And if you don't have much experience with ATVs, be extra careful if you rent one. Local police told us that a young American woman recently broke her neck on an ATV.

* Watch out for the dim, hard-to-see "alto" signs. Street signs are also difficult to see. An official an Rocky Point's Convention and Visitors Bureau admits they're a problem, but says it's not one that will be fixed anytime soon.

* If you've braved the trip down, don't be afraid of the street food, either. But travel guides still suggest avoiding tap water, which contains microbes that American bodies aren't used to. We also avoid ice and lettuce, which may be rinsed with tap water. That's just us, though.

* Experienced Mexico travelers, please feel free to add your thoughts. We're also wondering if anyone's taken the drive to Caborca lately, and what the beaches are like at Desemboque.

Buen Viaje.

Click here for Rocky Point slideshow.

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I am in truth thankful to you for providing us with this invaluable selective information. My spouse and I are genuinely grateful, pretty much the facts and techniques we needed.


we have been going to Rocky Point for 6+ years now and NO ONE we have met has gotten sick from the food or water or lettuce, etc. And we know at least one hundred Americans that go there frequently.

In the past we have been sick from food or drink in Mazatlan, Puerto Vallerta, Cancun, Mexico City and Alcapolco.. The water system in RP is great!!


Dear Mr. Stern:

As Ronald Reagan said in 1980: "There You Go Again".

In your presentation of "news" articles over the years, you have consistently presented mis-information about gun control laws in the United States which reflect your own personal political views, NOT THE FACTS. Now you're presenting misinformation about Mexican gun laws. I really wish you would get a pair of journalistic "balls" and stop acting like a hack for the NRA and their client the weapons manufacturers (read: military industrial complex) in this country.

Here's the truth about Mexican gun laws:

The Mexican Constitution of 1917, as amended, states:

Article 10: The inhabitants of the United Mexican States have a right to arms in their homes, for security and legitimate defense, with the exception of arms prohibited by federal law and those reserved for the exclusive use of the Army, Navy, Air Force and National Guard. Federal law will determine the cases, conditions, requirements, and places in which the carrying of arms will be authorized to the inhabitants.

The facts are, as opposed to your dis-information, that owning and obtaining permits for the use and transportation of NON-MILITARY grade handguns, rifles and shotguns are frequently and easily obtained by citizens in Mexico. The laws in Mexico parallel, for the most part, those in England.

For a non-citizen to bring a gun into this Country, a permit is required - THE SAME AS IT IS IN MEXICO. Penalties differ from country to country. Mexico has a HUGE problem with importation of weapons from the US by drug cartels - of course they are going to be stricter in what they requlate. However, your statement that carring firearms and ammunition into Mexico are going to get you arrested is highly misleading. If you have a permit to bring them into the country, you can bring them in and you WILL NOT be arrested. Hunters from the US do this all the time to hunt in Mexico. You can also have a gun dealer ship one from the US to Mexico if you're concerned about this stuff.

Mr. Stern, why does one of your readers have to wipe your journalist ass because you couldn't hold your personal opinions (i.e., shit your britches)? Can't you do your own research on these laws and stop presenting false information to your readers?

I mean, at least call the ATF and find out what penalities a non-citizen bringing a firearm or ammunition into this country from Mexico without a permit are subject to - you might find out that - GASP - arrest is one of the actions which may occur!!!!


he didn't write that carrying firearms and ammunition into mexico will get you arrested, he wrote that it CAN get you arrested, and he's right and you're wrong. and look at all of those paragraphs that you wrote to be wrong. what a waste of your time and ours.


Carrying weapons into the US CAN get you arrested. My point is that WITH THE PROPER PERMITS entry by a non-citizen into either Mexico OR THE US can be done without the possibility of going to jail for the LACK of those permits.

You are obviously not reading my post for content but only as a nit-picker. The distinction you draw is minimal.

My point is that by implying that laws for entering Mexico with firearms are somehow unique and substantially different than the ones for the same situation going northbound is sloppy journalism - bordering on Yellow Journalism. Ray Stern has established a pattern of distributing mis-information about gun control laws. That's the point of my post and I'm sticking to it.

Ray Stern
Ray Stern

ExpertAnonymous -- Guest is right and you're absolutely wrong. Guest brings up a great point: Look at all those useless paragraphs you wrote, and you're still wrong. My blog post suggests that you leave your firearms at home, and that even one bullet can get you thrown in jail. This is exactly the same advice you'll get from the U.S. Consulate: Though I personally wouldn't advise a traveler needs to stick to all the State Department warnings, like not driving around at night (how else do you get back to the condo after clubbing?), I do strongly suggest that our readers follow that one.

Clearly, the point of my article was not to describe the bureaucratic nightmare a hunter might have to go through to bring a gun to Mexico. But I did find an article that discusses it on Here's what it said about bringing a gun to Mexico:

"Can I Bring My Own Gun(s) To MexicoYou can bring your own gun to Mexico, but it is not a simple, nor inexpensive, proposition. First, the fee is currently $250 USD, and it seems to go up every year—so the price is alawya subject tot change at the whim of the Mexican government. To further complicate matters, guest traveling with guns must ride in a separate vehicle (at an additional charge), because the Federales regularly inspect the papers and check the cases—taking their own sweet time. Other guests cannot be subject to these delays (99% of our guest use one of the lodge guns), out of fairness.

We strongly advise against bringing your own gun, for obvious resaosns. However, we also understand that there are someclients who simply must hunt with their own gun, out of personal preference. We respect this, and that is why we cooperate—just remember, unless there is an extremely compelling reason to bring you own gun, we recommend that you use the Benellis that are provided for you."

Expertshot? No. Another Badshot.

And as for you, Guest -- Ah, fuck it. Thanks for defending me in your own special way.



if you want to call him a crazy gun-nut then do it, but this article is about spring breakers going to mexico, none of which will be hunting for anything more than sex, drugs and alcohol. none of the spring breakers are going to have your hunter's checklist on them when they cross the border. You based your entire rant on your own misreading of a single word.

nobody in this discussion likes ray stern, he's a hack for a minor market libtard rag and likely is a gun nut due to his diminutive physical stature. I can't say that I blame him, he needs a gun to man up, leave him alone on that. Just attack him appropriately based on the article that you're commenting on.

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