San Miguel de Allende
Too little attention has been paid to the enormous recent drop in the value of the Mexican peso--and to the favorable impact this has for American vacationers. While most travel commentators have focused on shifts in the value of European and Asian currencies, hardly anyone has written about the near-40% decline in the Mexican peso that has occurred within the past year. The bearer of U.S. dollars now receives nearly 19 pesos for each one of those greenbacks, as compared with only 13 pesos twelve months ago.Enjoying a splendid meal in a top Mexico City restaurant now costs nearly 50% less.
But is travel to Mexico safe? According to the U.S. State Department, it is quite safe in broad swaths of the country, but is unsafe elsewhere. In its recent travel advisories, our diplomats point out that none of Mexico's drug gangs have deliberately directed their violence against tourists, and that, therefore, the leading Mexican resort areas and tourist destinations are acceptably safe for our vacationers, who continue to visit Mexico in record numbers.
Specifically, says the State Department, the American tourist is quite safe in Cancun, the Maya Riviera, Tulum and Playa del Carmen. The visitor is safe in the popular Yucatan Peninsula and in Tlaxcala and Veracruz. Tourists need not concern themselves unduly with danger in San Miguel de Allende (the residential choice of large numbers of American retirees), or in Guanajuato or Leon, Campeche, Chiapas or San Cristobal de las Casas. They can travel safely, according to State, throughout the entire Baja California peninsula, and of course to Cabo San Lucas and San Juan del Cabo at the bottom tip of that peninsula. They can go to Puerto Vallarta, Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo (provided they visit the last two by airplane or cruise ship). They can stay safely within the tourist heart of Acapulco, but not in its outlying neighborhoods, rural outskirts or suburbs. The same with Mexico City itself, without venturing just outside the urban area.
Tourists should very definitely stay away, on the other hand, from Mexican areas bordering Texas and Arizona. They should not go to Aguascalientes, Colima or Manzanillo, Tamaulipas or Durango, and numerous other named states or cities of Mexico. When in doubt, it's wise to consult the more detailed listings and comments within the fairly lengthy State Department review of the subject.
Generally, if your Mexican destination is a famous resort or touristic destination, it is safe to visit. And the rewards of visiting the most popular of tourist areas are considerable indeed. I think in particular of the outstanding resort hotels in the hotel zone of Cancun or along the beach-lined Maya Riviera, cautioning only that the most deluxe of those hotels may seek to charge you in dollars rather than pesos; by staying in moderately-priced hotels of the sort patronized also by peso-paying Mexicans, you will end up enjoying some of the most gentle hotel rates in travel today.
The bulk of Mexico is populated by gracious, outgoing people showing warmth to the foreign tourist. It is too rewarding a tourist destination to be avoided simply because some of its areas--like the border areas--have become embroiled in drug-related violence. Choosing wisely, you will enjoy a low-priced and entirely safe vacation.
Photo credit: Enrique Lopez-Tomayo Biosca/Flickr