12 November 2006

Should travellers avoid Mexico? Depends on who you ask

David Agren
Calgary Herald
Friday, November 10, 2006

November 10, 2006 - With newspapers splashing headlines from Mexico about bombs, beheadings and barricades, many travellers might think twice before jetting south. And yes, avoiding Oaxaca state, scene of a teachers' strike gone awry, might be advisable--the Canadian government says it is. People in the area, though, say going to Oaxcaca at this time isn't an entirely foolish proposition either.

Oaxaca-based ecotourism promoter Ron Mader advises, "As long as you're not a tourist pretending to be a journalist, taking photos of gunfights, I think you're going to be pretty safe."

He recommends reading the discussion boards on his website Planeta.com, where potential travelers can pose questions for knowledgeable locals. Mader also points out that for people experienced in Mexico travel (read: people who actually put down their margaritas and leave their all-inclusive resorts), the uproar in his state wouldn't be a large deterrent.

"The people that are here in Oaxaca and are traveling to Oaxaca ...are people who love Mexico and love Oaxaca and aren't going to cancel their plans."

With last Monday's bomb blast at a Scotiabank outlet in Mexico City, the Canadian government once again emphasized its running advisory, which admonishes citizens to take precautions when visiting the capital.

All of it is sensible advice, yet I've disregarded much of it on my five trips to Mexico City this year. Although sketchy in parts and horribly polluted, it's an endlessly fascinating place and the site of everything imaginable--good and bad.

The reality is that with the exception of Oaxaca, rural zones populated by dope growers, some of the northern border cities like Nuevo Laredo and certain Mexico City neighbourhoods at night, the country is generally safe--not to mention quiet.

Canadian-educated columnist Sergio Sarmiento quite accurately points out that most of the country is perfectly safe.

However, he cautions that "it's riskier to be here (in Mexico City) than in Toronto or Calgary.
"Mexico City's not much riskier than it was a year ago and Cancun is not riskier either, [but] Oaxaca, it's not a tourist paradise right now."

Having traveled from Tijuana--a place with an undeserved bad reputation--to Veracruz over the past year, I've yet to encounter trouble beyond a few dishonest cab drivers and contaminated taco dinners.

I regularly flag down green Volkswagen taxis in Mexico City--despite warnings not to--eat street tacos and ride the chicken bus to some of the country's less glamorous pueblos.

Perhaps, I've just been lucky.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

There are some general travel rules that you follow...dress down, look inexpensive, and have some street smarts.