“We are never going to Mexico.”
That’s what Eric proclaimed with conviction. For every reason I mustered to counter that Mexico would be great, he’d retaliate 2 for why it wouldn’t. I completely respect his opinions and beliefs about certain places, but it only fuels my desire to make it a “next destination” to challenge his assumptions. It’s not so much a prove-you-wrong situation, but moreso a let’s expand that cultural palette, break down stereotypes, and reach our own conclusions based on our experience.
So we went to Mexico.
It probably wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t won a stay at Bahia Cabo Beach Hotel & Resort through an #ExpediaChat on Twitter. But how could we turn down a semi-free trip? More on that in a future post.
There are always reasons to be cautious when traveling to a new country – especially a country that has known traveler warnings and drug cartel violence. But this was Cabo San Lucas. Is Cabo San Lucas safe?
It’s a resort town. People visit all the time. The few times I hear about Cabo on the news regards celebrity spotting or hurricanes. Despite that, it’s still in Mexico and I began to fret about the dangers. So sure, I ended up working myself into a fit of nervousness after I booked the plane tickets. Most stereotypes are rooted with a kernel of truth, but it doesn’t always signal what to expect of your own experience.
Here were our preconceived notions, and how our visit to Cabo San Lucas fared.
Mexico is dangerous.
I’ve watched my share of documentaries and made-for-tv movies about true stories of life in Mexican prison, kidnappings, and the horrors of the drug cartels. I’ve read plenty of blog posts about getting robbed and drugged in resort towns. There’s a reason why the U.S. Government has travel advisories. That’s why it’s important check out the state department website for travel alerts and warnings. Baja California Sur recently elevated from no warning to a warning with a rise of homicides in La Paz. The reality is that La Paz is hours from where we were staying. Heck, I live significantly closer to Detroit than the proximity of La Paz to Cabo. In all instances of travel, it’s a matter of being street smart. Here’s what we did to mitigate risk:
- Hired a car through the resort for airport/accommodation transport. Sure, it’s more expensive but sometimes you can’t put a price on safety or peace of mind.
- Asked the concierge about areas to avoid.
- Limited alcohol consumption and late night wanderings. Drunkenness and meandering around at 3 a.m. makes anyone an easy target.
- Avoided flaunting valuables or money in public.
I never felt like I was in danger during our short stay in Cabo San Lucas.
Moctezuma will have his revenge.
Funny story — When I stopped at a store to pick up a few trip essentials, the woman at the register inquired, “Going to Mexico?” Was it that obvious by my sunscreen, bandaids, pepto bismal, rolaids, tums, Imodium?
Water treatment in Mexico is different than what your stomach is accustomed to. There are different bacterias in the water which can really upset your gut if you weren’t blessed with an iron belly. Try to avoid drinking the tap water. This expands to include things like ice and salads and washed fruit. Most of the resorts already use water for tourists, but have no shame in asking restaurants if they use filtered or bottled water. Request no ice. Take action and purchase water bottles from a nearby corner store and carry that around. Eat at places that look clean — if it doesn’t look, smell, or taste right, don’t swallow it. Do bring medication in case you do end up with an upset stomach.
We will get kidnapped.
Still here! This is a topic never to joke about. Kidnapping is terrifying (thank you for the fear, tv shows) — and beyond the typical physical abductions, there is virtual kidnapping to worry about as well. See my above comments about Mexico being dangerous; regarding physical abductions, you need to be aware of your surroundings and careful to whom you communicate with. I didn’t even bring jewelry to Mexico because I didn’t want to mislead anyone to thinking I come from money.
Then, with virtual kidnapping, you need to be cognizant of your digital breadcrumbs. I’m already overly mindful of “live-tweeting” and geo-tagging my online interactions. Most of my social posts about my travels occur after a trip. If I do make social posts before a trip, they are usually vague. Tweeting, “Can’t wait to visit @loscabostourism this spring! Any tips?” doesn’t offer any information about when I’m going, where I’m staying, or what I’m doing. Most crime stems from opportunity. Look at what you post. Are you giving people the opportunity to turn you into a victim?
Inform your family about virtual kidnapping as well, so they can be aware of the scheme in the instance they do get a phone call for ransom. That way they won’t fork over their life savings while you’re unreachable on a diving trip.
The riptides will tear us from shore.
My misguided perception believed that all the water surrounding Cabo is dangerous. Really, it seems like the Sea of Cortez is fine to play in (this is where all the resorts/bars/restaurants are) and the Pacific Ocean on the other side is where you need to exercise serious caution. Reading tales like this or this on the internet is alarming and proves that nature’s wrath is merciless.
When visiting Divorce Beach, we kept our distance from the water and carefully watched the swell of the ocean in case of a rogue wave. I know, it isn’t adventurous to stay safe on shore, but I do enjoy my life and find that the older I grow, the less reckless my mindset. Standing on that beach and observing the power of the ocean is humbling. Learn about what you can do in case you get caught in a riptide. Ask for advice from the locals about the environment.
Being an aware tourist is the best way to handle all travels, but especially when visiting a place where you have apprehensions. We had a really nice experience (and I think someone rethought his stereotypes), but that doesn’t mean everyone has the same experience as us. Always travel with respect and caution and be mindful of the dangers you can encounter wherever you go. Do you research before you depart. Chat with locals & hotel workers after you arrive. Use your street smarts. Trust your gut.
I hope I can return one day and explore more of Mexico.