Robert Reid, who is Lonely Planet's US travel editor and the host of the 76-Second Travel Show, recently contributed to CNN.com, listing the top reasons to visit Mexico now. Although the country might have suffered a slight PR problem in recent months due to news reports of violence along its northern border and a US State Department warning that was issued in April for travelers heading to 14 of its 21 states, the reality is that Mexico is actually much safer than you might think.
The disconnect lies in the fact that Mexico is roughly the size of Western Europe, so border incidents have very little impact on life in the country's top tourist destinations. In fact, the best places to visit in Mexico can be found in the 17 states that are not mentioned in the travel warnings, such as the Yucatan Peninsula,Mexico City and Baja California.
“Mexico is a very large country,” said Rodolfo Lopez Negrete, the chief operating officer for the Mexico Tourism Board, in a 2011 interview with CNN. “When you take into account the distance between Ciudad Juarez [the most violent city in Mexico] and Cancun, you're talking about 1,400 miles of distance. Puerto Vallarta is 1,000 miles away and Los Cabos about 1,600 miles away. That is equivalent to the distance between New York and Houston.”
Mexico's Yucatan state remains one of the safest in the country and is home to a wide variety of fabulous destinations that are located near the lively city of Cancun. In fact, some of Mexico's most popular Mayan archaeological sites can be found here, including those at Chichen Itza and Tulum, along with a number of traditional and very charming Mexican colonial cities, such as Merida. To give you an idea of how safe this area really is, the Yucatan state, which has roughly the same population as the US state of Kansas, only experienced two drug-related deaths in 2010, while Wichita, Kansas, had six gang-related killings last year.
The fact is throughout central and southern Mexico drug-related violence is just not consuming daily life and most residents are surprised to learn that some travelers have been afraid to visit. It calls to mind images of the swine flu crisis in 2009, where cruise ships changed course to avoid Mexican ports that had no reported cases of the disease and docked instead at American ports that did. In reality, Mexico offers close proximity for US travelers to unparalelled natural beauty, with countless fabulous beaches, coral reefs, cuisine, deserts, jungles, pyramids and surviving indigenous cultures.
In fact, the peoples and cultures of Mexico are a huge part of what makes it such a great country. Known for having a true lust for life, the locals also appreciate the many opportunities brought about by the tourism industry and bring a cheerful attitude to interactions with visitors. It is not uncommon to hear a quick “buen provecho,” from a fellow diner before you begin to eat, which is a simple but earnest wish that your food does not merely taste good, but truly brings pleasure and joy to your life.
Reid reports that during the course of his many travels throughout Mexico, which have taken place over the course of at least a dozen trips, he has only experienced one encounter that was less than favorable. Pickpocketed once in Guadalajara,Reid is quick to point out that the same thing happened to him once in New York City and to express the sentiment that his good experiences have far outweighed the bad.
“Most travel to Mexico, ultimately, is simply good travel,” writes Reid. “It's fun, affordable, eye-opening and fascinating. Just know that the Mexico experienced on the ground almost never matches the Mexico we increasingly see and read about.”