(NEXSTAR) – March is here, which means many Americans are planning spring break trips. Ahead of the busy travel season, the U.S. Department of State is warning about visiting certain vacation hotspots, especially in Mexico.
Last month, the State Department issued a Level 4 “do not travel” warning for many parts of Mexico. As of March 9, many of those warnings remain in place. That includes the Guerrero state due to crime, and five states due to crime and kidnapping: Colima, Michoacan, Sinaloa, Tamaulipas (where two Americans were killed earlier this month), and Zacatecas.
The State Department advises tourists to “reconsider travel,” a Level 3 warning, to seven more states: Baja California, Chihuahua, Durango, Guanajuato, Jalisco, Morelos and Sonora. If you are traveling to popular tourist spots like Cancun or the Riviera Maya (listed as top destinations for 2023 by AAA), the government urges you to “exercise increased caution.”
If you are planning to travel to Mexico or anywhere else for spring break, it’s important to do your research, Paula Twidale, Senior Vice President of Travel for AAA tells Nexstar.
“The travel region may not be anywhere near the area considered [level] three or four,” Twidale explains, noting that a travel agent can help you navigate your trip planning and what you need to know. She also recommends registering for the Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, or STEP, which allows you to receive notifications from the nearest U.S. Embassy about safety conditions in your destination country. It also allows the Embassy to contact you regarding an emergency in the country and to help friends and family reach you if necessary.
For those looking to travel in Mexico in particular, Twidale suggests staying at a resort, but even that comes with risks.
“Nothing is going to guarantee your safety, but what we can tell people to do is, when they go to a resort area … don’t have a false sense of security,” she explains, offering suggestions like:
- When traveling with others, especially children, go places in groups of two or more
- Don’t carry around large amounts of cash
- Find a safer place to store items than under a towel
- Don’t leave drinks unattended
- Keep copies of your passport, ID, credit and debit cards, and other important documents at home
- Stay within the resort – if you don’t know the area, avoid wandering around
- Have travel insurance, in case of an emergency
- Make sure your insurance covers you and/or your children internationally
- Check if your phone plan covers international calls/texts – if it doesn’t, try WhatsApp
“There’s a lot in Mexico, it’s a very popular destination,” she says. “People travel to Mexico and travel safely to Mexico. You’ve got to know where you’re going.”
Twidale stressed planning ahead before traveling and reviewing State Department advisories online, noting that certain areas may be of greater concern within a state or country than others. For example, while the Quintana Roo state is under a Level 2 warning, there are no restrictions in tourist areas like Cancun, Cozumel, and the Riviera Maya. The agency does, however, warn travelers to “exercise increased situational awareness after dark in downtown areas of Cancun, Tulum, and Playa del Carmen, and to remain in well-lit pedestrian streets and tourist zones.”
Other countries with do not travel advisories include Iran, Afghanistan, Yemen, Libya, Venezuela, Ukraine and Russia. Those considering trips to countries throughout Europe, like the United Kingdom and Sweden, are encouraged to exercise increased caution over concerns of terrorism.
Looking for a country without a travel advisory? The State Department does include some European countries under its ‘Level 1: Exercise Normal Precautions’ advisories. That includes the Czech Republic, Greece, Switzerland, Portugal, and Iceland. Our neighbors to the north, Canada, are also under a normal advisory, as is Australia, Bermuda, Barbados, the Cayman Islands, Fiji, and New Zealand.
Ashley Cafaro and Alix Martichoux contributed to this report.