Travel Safety is another important issue for women travelers. In this section we'll be reviewing travel alerts and offering tips for safe Girlfriends Getaways.
The first thing you should do before planning a trip is to check the U.S. State Department's website to see if there are any travel warnings for your destination. State Department Travel Safety Information _________________________________________________________________
Here is a good example of a travel warning issued by the State Department. This one is from a summary of a State Department Advisory on Mexico reported by Ms. Kitty Bean Yancey of USA TODAY (On-line edition) on November 21, 2012.
"The U.S. State Department has updated its February 2012 travel warning to Mexico, making few essential changes but in an extremely detailed rundown getting even more specific about what to worry about where.
"The good news for tourists is that, as in the past warning, most popular areas (including Cancun, the Riviera Maya, Mexico City, Los Cabos, Riviera Nayarit, Puerto Vallerta, San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Merida, Chichen Itza, Huatulco and Oaxaca) are exempted. Caution is urged at certain places or times outside the tourist zones of Acapulco and Mazatlan, as well as in Cuernavaca.
"You can read the text of the travel safety warning on the State Department website. It says it is designed to 'consolidate and update information about the security situation.' And it places additional restrictions on where government employees can go.
"Peter Velasco, a State Department press officer, tells USA TODAY that the warning was updated because of the department's 'no double standard policy,' meaning that citizens should get the same updated travel safety info given government employees. 'Obviously, Mexico is a big country,' he adds, and 'we're trying to make the information as accurate and balanced and updated as possible.'"
"The state-by-state summary opens with a calming statement that 'millions of U.S. citizens safely visit Mexico each year for study, tourism, and business, including more than 150,000 who cross the border every day. The Mexican government makes a considerable effort to protect U.S. citizens and other visitors to major tourist destinations, and there is no evidence that Transnational Criminal Organizations (TCOs) have targeted U.S. visitors and residents based on their nationality. Resort areas and tourist destinations in Mexico generally do not see the levels of drug-related violence and crime reported in the border region and in areas along major trafficking routes.'"
"However, it says the criminal groups are battling with each other and the government and 'crime and violence are serious problems throughout the country and can occur anywhere. U.S. citizens have fallen victim to TCO activity, including homicide, gun battles, kidnapping, carjacking and highway robbery.' "It adds that 'the number of U.S. citizens reported to the Department of State as murdered under all circumstances in Mexico was 113 in 2011 and 32 in the first six months of 2012.'"
"It recommends driving only if necessary, during daylight hours and to use toll roads when possible.
Here are some Travel Safety recommendations from the State Department:
1. "Be careful in border cities such as Tijuana and Mexicali, especially at night."
2. "Defer non-essential travel to the state of Chihuahua, including Ciudad Juarez and the Copper Canyon area."
3. "Don't travel unnecessarily to Monterrey and its state of Nuevo Leon, where violence and gun battles occur and U.S. citizens have been murdered."
4. "Mazatlan is exempt from the travel warning for its state, Sinaloa, but the State Department advises Americans to 'exercise caution particularly late at night and in the early morning. One of Mexico's most powerful TCOs is based in the state of Sinaloa. ... We recommend that any other travel in Mazatlan be limited to Zona Dorada and the historic town center, as well as direct routes to/from these locations and the airport.'"
5. "The Nuevo Laredo area has seen armed robberies and carjackings, and a U.S. family was forced off the road after crossing the border from Texas in August, resulting in injuries and a death."
6. "Guerrero, which includes Acapulco, Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo, is a trouble spot. In those cities, 'you should exercise caution and stay within tourist areas. You should also exercise caution and travel only during daylight hours on highway 95D (cuota/toll road) between Mexico City and Acapulco and highway 200 between Acapulco and Zihuatanejo/Ixtapa. In Acapulco, defer non-essential travel to areas further than 2 blocks inland of the Costera Miguel Aleman Boulevard, which parallels the popular beach areas. In general, the popular tourist area of Diamante, just south of the city, has been less affected by violence.'"
7. "In Cuernavaca, 'numerous incidents of narcotics-related violence have also occurred in the city ... a popular destination for U.S. students,' "the warning says."
8. "Caution is advised in the state of Veracruz."
In her book, 100 Places Every Woman Should Go, Stephanie Elizondo Griest (see our Book Reviews Page) has some great tips on travel safety for women. Quoting from her book: "As a general rule, pensions, homestays, bed and breakfasts, and hostels are more 'women friendly' than hotels or motels. Use only a first initial when checking in and request a room that is not on the main floor. Take the elevator instead of the stairs, and never leave your key where someone can see your room number."