Ask the traveller: Where to avoid in Mexico

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The Independent Travel

My daughter, 23, and her Spanish-speaking friend are travelling in Mexico for three weeks in August. Where should they avoid? Jocelyn O'Keeffe

Mexico, despite its problems, is proving irresistible to many British travellers: Virgin Atlantic is so confident about our collective addiction to the country that it is going into competition next summer against British Airways on the Gatwick-Cancú* run. And the Foreign Office says: "Most visits to Mexico are trouble-free." But then it goes on to warn: "Crime and kidnappings continue."

So where does this leave your daughter, her friend, and you, the worried mother? Fairly relaxed, given the very low incidence of crime affecting British travellers to the main tourist destinations in Mexico.

The national murder rate is running at an average of one every 35 minutes, but most of these killings are related to the drugs wars currently being fought near the United States border. The north of the country is in a real mess, but violent crime is rare in the main tourist areas: Cancú* and the Yucatá* peninsula; the capital; Oaxaca and surroundings; and Pacific resorts from the Baja Peninsula to Puerto Vallarta and Acapulco to Huatulco.

Assuming your daughter will be focusing on one or more of these areas, the list of serious concerns is short. First, getting around: "Travel by bus only during daylight hours and only by first-class conveyance," says the US State Department, following numerous hijackings of buses in which all the passengers are robbed. For long-distance trips, consider Mexico's excellent domestic air network.

Next, be aware of "express kidnappings", in which the victim is taken to an ATM and forced to withdraw cash. These tend to happen late in the evening – with the villains extracting one wad of cash just before midnight and another just after.

Finally, sexual crimes against female tourists have occurred in Mexico City and in Cancún. "Care should be taken even in areas close to hotels, especially after dark," the Foreign Office says.