As most regular travelers to San Carlos know, despite the increase in border violence in Mexico, the path to San Carlos is a friendly and well-protected conduit to enjoy the splendors of the Sea of Cortez.

The State Department recently released an updated travel advisory that clarified some of the concerns expressed in previous versions. It includes good common-sense advice on how to travel safely in Mexico. What follows are some of the most pertinent excerpts, as well as an editorial perspective based on our experiences traveling into the region recently.

The full advisory can be read here

State Dept:
While millions of U.S. citizens safely visit Mexico each year (including thousands who cross the land border every day for study, tourism or business), violence in the country has increased recently. It is imperative that travelers understand the risks of travel to Mexico, how best to avoid dangerous situations, and whom to contact if one becomes a crime victim. Common-sense precautions such as visiting only legitimate business and tourist areas during daylight hours, and avoiding areas where prostitution and drug dealing might occur, can help ensure that travel to Mexico is safe and enjoyable.

Absolutely. Just as there are parts of the U.S. one would generally want to avoid, so to in Mexico. If you go looking for trouble, or act irresponsibly in either country, bad things will happen.

The greatest increase in violence has occurred near the U.S. border. However, U.S. citizens traveling throughout Mexico should exercise caution in unfamiliar areas and be aware of their surroundings at all times… U.S. citizens should make every attempt to travel on main roads during daylight hours, particularly the toll (“cuota”) roads, which generally are more secure.

The road to San Carlos is heavily traveled and patrolled. There are also special courtesy patrols called the Green Angels. Their sole purpose is to assist foreign travelers that might be experiencing mechanical troubles with their cars. They will perform most minor repairs on-site free of charge and transport you to repair centers for more complex needs.
One of the best additions to this road is the toll bypass around Nogales. For only a few dollars, travelers can bypass this border city entirely, moving directly onto Highway 15, which will take you all the way to San Carlos. To access this bypass, do not follow Interstate 19 to the main border crossing, instead, use exit 4 (mariposa). When you come to the stoplight, take a right (west), and follow the road for a few miles till it hits the border.

In order to combat violence, the government of Mexico has deployed troops in various parts of the country. U.S. citizens should cooperate fully with official checkpoints when traveling on Mexican highways.

Checkpoints along Highway 15 have noticeably increased, both in frequency and level of firepower. While we may not be used to such things in the U.S., and their appearance can be startling, they are there for the safety of travelers. You may be asked a few questions, such as where you have been, where you live, etc. You will then be waved on. If you are not a drug smuggler, you have nothing to fear.

Remember, if you pass through a checkpoint and you get a buzzer and a red Alto sign flashes, you must pull over for an inspection. Headed south, they are mainly looking for guns and ammunition. Do not attempt to bring any firearms or ammunition in Mexico. This is taken very seriously, and even a single round of ammunition in your car can land you in jail.

U.S. citizen visitors are encouraged to stay in the well-known tourist areas of the cities. Travelers should leave their itinerary with a friend or family member not traveling with them, avoid traveling alone, and should check with their cellular provider prior to departure to confirm that their cell phone is capable of roaming on GSM or 3G international networks. Do not display expensive-looking jewelry, large amounts of money, or other valuable items.

These are more common-sense precautions that any traveler should follow, regardless of destination. Exercising caution and common sense, and being aware of your surroundings will help to ensure that you will have a safe and pleasant journey to San Carlos.

A recent statement from the Department of Homeland attache to Mexico summed up the situation well in a story reported by the associated press:
“Further, the Homeland Security Department’s attache to Mexico said the violence in Mexico is not as dangerous to U.S. tourists as has been portrayed.
Alonzo Pena said the violence is in isolated areas of the country and only affects the people involved in criminal activity. He said the violence is not affecting U.S. citizens visiting Mexico and Americans should not cancel their vacations in the country.”