Are You Safer In Mexico Or America?
As Lonely Planet’s US Travel Editor, I frequently get asked if it’s safe to go to Mexico. I have always said that, if you’re thoughtful about where you go, The answer is Yes. But, after my most recent trip there, I’m answering the question with another question: Do you think it’s safe to go to Texas?
What you don’t get from reports in the US is statistical evidence Americans are less likely to face violence in Mexico than home,The gateway to Disney World, Orlando, saw 7.5 murders per 100,000 residents in 2010 according to the FBI; higher than Cancun or Puerto Vallarta. Yet in March, the Texas Department of Public Safety advised against “spring break” travel anywhere in Mexico. Why the singular focus?
1. Mexico may be more dangerous than the US overall, but not for Americans.
According to FBI statistics, 4.8 Americans per 100,000 were murdered in the US in 2010. The US State Department reports 120 Americans of the 5.7 million who visited Mexico last year were murdered. less than half the US rate.
2. Texans are twice as safe in Mexico and three times safer than in Houston.
Looking at the numbers, it might be wise for Texans to ignore their Public Safety department’s advice against Mexico. Five per 100,000 Texans were homicide victims in 2010 – three times the rate for Americans in Mexico.
3. And it’s not just Texas.
It’s interesting comparing each of the countries’ most dangerous cities. New Orleans, host city of next year’s Super Bowl, broke its own tourism record last year with 8 million visitors. Yet the Big Easy has ten times the US homicide rate, close to triple Mexico’s national rate
4. Most of Mexico is not on the State Departments Travel Warnings.
The best of Mexico, in terms of travel, isn’t on the warning. The US warns against “non-essential travel” to just four of Mexico’s 31 states (all in the north: Chihuahua, Coahuila, Durango and Tamaulipas). The warning goes on to recommend against travel to select parts of other states, but not including many popular destinations
5. Malia Obama ignored the Texas advice.
President Obama and first lady said “OK” to their 13-year-old daughter’s spring break destination this year: Oaxaca. Then Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum made snide remarks over that, perhaps overlooking that Oaxaca state has a smaller body count from the drug war than his home state’s murder rate.
So, can you go to Mexico?
Yes. The US State Department says, “millions of US citizens safely visit Mexico each year.” Mexico makes for some of the world’s greatest travel experiences. go to Mexico, as you go to Texas, New Orleans, Orlando, or the Bahamas.
Robert Reid is Lonely Planet’s US Travel Editor