Best Ways To Avoid Being Kidnapped By Cartels In Mexico
Yikes. Not exactly the most welcoming title for a Top List in Mexico, right? We're not going for shock value here folks, we're simply addressing something that your local news loves to rant about. Mexico has gotten a bad wrap from the media over the last year. The over hyped coverage of the so called swine flu epidemic caused more harm to the community of the country than the actual virus ever did. Then, CNN launches into a tirade every time they catch wind of a potential tourist kidnapping in Mexico, throwing around the word "Cartel" in an effort to capture viewers attention with hollywood peppered dialogue. They do the same any time a shark nibbles on someone's toe in Florida. The Jaws soundtrack plays in the background as the reporter gives a gory play by play of the event while beach rental business in those locales dip to an all time low for 2 weeks following.
The media would have you think that there are dark tinted windowed, nondescript, white vans parked outside of any local airport in Mexico ready to whisk away unsuspecting toursists the minute they leave baggage claim, never to be seen again. The truth, is that you are NOT gambling with your life when deciding to vacation in one of the many tourist Mecca's in Mexico and if you were to compare statistics of tourists as victims of violent crime in the U.S. vs that of Mexico, you would ditch any ambitions of an RV roadtrip from Mt. Rushmore to the Grand Canyon and find yourself at the nearest bank teller converting greenbacks to Pesos.
With that being said, we realize that some of you are still discomforted by all the hoopla and we also recognize that to some small extent, there is always reason for concern when you are a "fish out of water" in a foreign country. Thus we have compiled a list of ways to keep yourself free of duct tape bound hands and feet with a sock in your mouth in the back of that dark tinted windowed, nondescript, white van, when in Mexico (or anywhere for that matter).
We also realize that we may be stepping on some Cartel toes here, so uh...if you dont see any updates from us over the next few weeks, please alert the authorities immediately.
Disclaimer: Again, as we mentioned above, the media has painted a misconception of Mexico. This is one of the most welcoming countries we have visited (and continue to visit). The list we provide here is for those that still feel the need for excess caution. 99.999% of the time you will only experience the warm hospitality of the population, but following these rules will all but guarantee avoidance of that .001% so called "potential".
Don't Do The Puzzled Looking Tourist Staring At Map Impression
We've all been on vacation, turned a corner and all of a sudden it feels like we are on another planet. We lost site of that Starbucks that served as a “You Are Here” landmark and have no idea how to get back to the hotel. Out comes the folded mess of a map from our pocket or backpack and our expression turns like a screw as we try to figure out if we're looking at the top or bottom of what appears to be a blueprint of CIA headquarters, complete with hidden pathways that seem impossible to navigate.
This little "dance" that we do paints a huge bullseye on our person with every street vendor in sight lunging forward to sell us something that may or may not help our situation. That part is acceptable, but it also makes us a target for potential threat from evil doers seeking to take more than advantage of a lost tourist.
Instead, play it cool and plop down at the nearest cafe and casually browse the map as if you're just confirming something that you already know. Always appear confident as if you've been there a dozen times. Do your best to plan your itinerary ahead of time by memorizing the routes and input key points of direction into your mobile phone/pda, which you can check as if you were reading a text, lending further to the appearance that you may in fact be a new expatriate or at least know people in the area.
Don't Flaunt Your Loot
You're on vacation, who are you trying to impress? Part of the reason we vacation is to get away from the same old faces where we can check our pretenses at the departures gate and forget about all the "look at what she's wearing" and "so-and-so bought the new blah blah blah".
Leave the fancy jewelry, posh handbags, and european logo'd paraphernalia at home or hotel room and stick to puka shells, wicker beach bags and local Mexican accessories. Not only does this say "these people are broke....forget it!" but you actually help support the local economy by doing so.
Photo Caption: Attention Cartel - He's all yours, feel free to take him...please.
Don't Ask "Questionable Characters" On The Street For Directions, Etc...
Save your queries for the hotel conceirge or step into any local business establishment and ask for help there. Mexico is home to some of the most hospitable people in the world but as with anywhere, there may be that odd bad seed in the bunch, so selecting individuals working within places that cater to the valued tourist is your safest bet.
Photo Caption: Spencer never for one second suspected that he was in fact asking two of Mexico's hardest hitting Cartel Enforcers where he could find the nearest bank to convert his cash into traveler's checks.
Don't Get Into That Dark Tinted Windowed, Nondescript, White Van
You'll notice that in Mexico as well as many other underdeveloped countries, there are quite a few unofficial taxi type services offering to shuttle you from the airport or any other A to B destination at a much lower price than the vehicles with big stickers or painted logos on the sides of their doors. You may also feel some altruistic pride in that you are helping the "small guy" earn a living, thus stimulating the truest form of local economy even further. The cost savings and goodwill are great motivators and you will talk to many people that swear by this method but for the completely risk averse (whom this list was solely created for), throwing caution to the wind here may get you in hot water on rare occassion, and not the kind you find in a large round marble basin at your all inclusive resort.
Not all "scams" will come in the form of shady looking mustachioed individuals offering to give you a ride if you just follow them "over there" to the van where you spy a silhouette ducking into the corner of the passenger side when you glance in their direction. Some will come with big bright smiles, and pictures of family (not theirs) pinned to the dashboard of the transport and offers of cold bottled water supplied for free during the "short" trip. So you can't always trust your sixth sense in this situation.
Pre-book your shuttle ahead of time when possible and stick to reputable taxi services when hitting the road on the fly.
Create your own entourage of local friends, LOTS of them!
Before you make any assumptions about this list, thinking that perhaps its best to stay away from strangers in Mexico altogether, let us nip that thought in the bud immediately.
The absolute BEST way to keep out off the radar of those with undesireable intentions is to mingle with the locals in a fun but safe atmosphere. You will meet and make friends for life by simply spending enough time on and in the local beaches, cafes, eateries, shop, nightclubs and various attractions found throughout all of Mexico. Next thing you know you will have created your own little entourage, a contingent of local friends that may soon become as tight as family. Know the people and you will know the lay of the land and become wise to the ongoings of the community.
We say this is probably the funnest and most effective "safety" measure out there, so go nuts!