Over 100,000 American teenagers and young
adults travel to resort areas throughout Mexico over Spring Break each year.
While the vast majority enjoys their vacation without incident, several may
die, hundreds will be arrested, and still more will make mistakes that could
affect them for the rest of their lives. Using some common sense will help
travelers avoid these unpleasant and dangerous situations.
We encourage all U.S. citizens to phone home periodically to assure family
members of your safety and inform them of your whereabouts. Remember,
whether you travel to Mexico by land, air, or sea, you are entering a
foreign country and are subject to the laws and customs regulations of
Effective January 23, 2007, ALL persons, including U.S. citizens, traveling
by air to the United States from Mexico, Canada, Central and South America,
the Caribbean, and Bermuda will be required to present a valid passport, (or
if applicable, an Alien Registration Card, form I-551, Air NEXUS card, or
U.S. Coast Guard Merchant Mariner Document), to enter or re-enter the United
States. American citizens can visit http://travel.state.gov or call
1-877-4USA-PPT (1-877-487-2778) for information on applying for a U.S.
passport. Please see Mexico’s Country Specific Information for complete
While traveling in Mexico, American citizens are subject to Mexican law. An
arrest or accident in Mexico can result in a difficult legal or medical
situation, sometimes at a great expense to the traveler. Mexican law can
impose harsh penalties for violations that would be considered minor in the
United States, and U.S. citizenship in no way exempts one from full
prosecution under the Mexican criminal justice system. If U.S. citizens find
themselves in legal trouble, they should contact the closest U.S. Consulate,
U.S. Consular Agency, or the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City. (see "Contact
Information" below). U.S. consular officials in Mexico can visit
detained American citizens in prison, provide information about the Mexican
legal system, and furnish a list of Mexican attorneys, among other
assistance. U.S. Consular officials cannot arrange for Mexican officials to
release detained American citizens. Alcohol and Drugs
Excessive alcohol consumption and unruly behavior can lead to serious
problems with Mexican authorities. Alcohol is involved in the vast majority
of arrests, accidents, violent crimes, rapes, and deaths suffered by
American students on Spring Break. Disturbing the peace, lewd or indecent
behavior, littering, driving under the influence, drinking on the street or
on public transportation, using public transportation without payment, or
making obscene or insulting remarks are all considered criminal activities
by Mexican authorities. The importation, purchase, possession or use of
drugs can incur severe penalties, including imprisonment without bail for up
to a year before a case is tried, and imprisonment of several years
following a conviction. All individuals 16 years of age or older are tried
the most part Thongs are acceptable in Mexico, Some resorts
restrict them so check first, as for topless, the same rule applies topless
is acceptable on the beaches as long as you don't flaunt it, if it becomes
offensive or bothersome, you will be asked to cover up.
Standards of security, safety, and supervision may not reach the levels
expected in the United States. This has contributed to the deaths of U.S.
citizens in automobile accidents, after falls from balconies or into
unmarked ditches, by drowning in the ocean as well as in hotel pools, and in
water-sports mishaps, among others.
Warning flags on beaches should be taken seriously. If black or red flags
are up, do not enter the water. Strong undertow and rough surf are common
along beaches throughout Mexico, especially on the Pacific coast, and
drownings have occurred when swimmers have been overwhelmed by conditions.
Swimming pool drain systems may not comply with U.S. safety standards and
swimmers should exercise caution. Do not swim in pools or at beaches without
lifeguards. Do not dive into unknown bodies of water, because hidden rocks
or shallow depths can cause serious injury or death. If you choose to swim,
always exercise extreme caution.
Use only the licensed and regulated "sitio" (SEE-tee-oh) taxis.
Some illegitimate taxi drivers are, in fact, criminals in search of victims;
users of these taxis have been robbed, kidnapped, and/or raped. Hotels,
clubs and restaurants will summon a sitio taxi upon request.
Firearms and Knives
It is best not to carry even a pocketknife into Mexico as this can result in
a weapons charge if a knife is found on a traveler who is arrested for a
separate offense. Visitors driving across the border should ensure that
their vehicles contain no firearms or ammunition. Mexico imposes harsh
penalties for bringing as little as one bullet across its borders.
Renting and Operating Vehicles and other Equipment
Visitors should exercise caution when renting vehicles, including jet skis
and mopeds. Many are not serviced and in poor condition, and many are
uninsured or under-insured. Read rental contracts carefully to be sure your
own insurance will cover you in the event of an accident, if the rental
company’s insurance is not adequate. Drivers of any vehicle, including jet
skis and mopeds, should exercise extreme caution and ask the rental agency
about local laws and procedures before operating the vehicle. The Department
of State has received reports of equipment rental operators using locals to
form a “mob” to intimidate customers into paying exorbitant amounts for
damage to rented equipment.
Operators of any vehicle that causes damage to other vehicles or injuries to
other people may be arrested and held in custody until full payment is made,
either in cash or through insurance.
American citizens planning on driving to Mexico should carry a valid
driver’s license at all times. U.S. driver’s licenses are valid in
Mexico. Mexican law requires that vehicles be driven only by their owners,
or that the owner be inside the vehicle. If not, the car may be seized by
Mexican customs and will not be returned under any circumstances. We
strongly recommend that you purchase a full coverage insurance policy that
will cover the cost of bail. Please be aware that if you are involved in an
automobile accident, you will be taken into police custody until it is
determined who is at fault and whether you have the ability to pay any
Before You Go
The following cities and areas are some traditional destinations in Mexico
for travelers on Spring Break. While other resort areas may not be as
well-known for this type of travel, the advice contained here still applies:
Acapulco: Drug-related violence has been increasing in Acapulco. Although
this violence is not targeted at foreign residents or tourists, U.S.
citizens in these areas should be vigilant in their personal safety.
Avoid swimming outside the bay area. Several American citizens have died
while swimming in rough surf at the Revolcadero Beach near Acapulco.
Cabo San Lucas: Beaches on the Pacific side of the Baja California Peninsula
at Cabo San Lucas are dangerous due to rip tides and rogue waves; hazardous
beaches in this area are clearly marked in English and Spanish.
Cancun, Playa del Carmen and Cozumel: Cancun is a fairly large city,
approaching 500,000 inhabitants, with increasing reports of crime. Crimes
against the person, such as rape, commonly but not exclusively occur at
night or in the early morning hours, and often involve alcohol and the
nightclub environment. Therefore, it is important to travel in pairs or
groups, be aware of surroundings, and take general precautions. To protect
against property crimes, valuables should be left in a safe place or not
brought at all. If you are a victim of a crime, immediately notify the U.S.
Consular Agency in Cancun, Playa del Carmen or Cozumel or the U.S. Consulate
in Merida at the telephone numbers provided below.
you rent a moped or other vehicle in Cancun, it is advisable to purchase
third-party insurance, as the insurance offered on some credit cards will
not cover you in Mexico. Should you have an accident or cause damage to the
vehicle, you may be required to pay the full amount of any repairs, in cash,
as determined by the rental agency, or face arrest.
In Cancun, there is often a very strong undertow along the beach from the
Hyatt Regency all the way south to Club Med. Already this season, several
U.S. citizens have drowned when overwhelmed by ocean conditions. In Cozumel,
several drownings and near-drownings have been reported on the east coast,
particularly in the Playa San Martin-Chen Rio area.
Matamoros/South Padre Island: The Mexican border cities of Matamoros and
Nuevo Progresso are located 30 to 45 minutes south of the major Spring Break
destination of South Padre Island, Texas. Travelers to the Mexican border
should be especially aware of safety and security concerns due to increased
violence in recent years between rival drug trafficking gangs competing for
control of narcotics smuggling routes. While it is unlikely that American
visitors would get caught up in this violence, travelers should exercise
common-sense precautions such as visiting only the well-traveled business
and tourism areas of border towns during daylight and early-evening hours.
Mazatlan: While the beach town of Mazatlan is a
relatively safe place to visit, travelers should use common sense and exercise
normal precautions when visiting an unfamiliar location. Avoid walking the
streets alone after dark, when petty crimes are much more common. Beaches can
have very strong undertows and rogue waves. Swimmers should obey warning signs
placed along the beaches which indicate dangerous ocean conditions.
Nogales/Sonora: Puerto Peñasco, a.k.a. “Rocky Point,” is located in
northern Sonora, 60 miles from the U.S. border, and is accessible by car. The
majority of accidents that occur at this Spring Break destination are caused
by individuals driving under the influence of alcohol. Travelers should
exercise particular caution on unpaved roads, especially in beach areas.
Oaxaca City: There have been ongoing demonstrations and protests in Oaxaca
City due to civil unrest since June 2006. Several groups have engaged in
violent demonstrations in Oaxaca City, which resulted in the death of an
American citizen in October 2006. Prior to traveling to Oaxaca City, U.S.
citizens should monitor the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City’s web site, http://mexico.usembassy.gov/mexico/citizen_services.html,
as well as http://travel.state.gov for the most up to date Safety and Security
information. U.S. citizens should avoid participating in demonstrations and
other activities that might be deemed political by the Mexican authorities.
The Mexican Constitution prohibits political activities by foreigners, and
such actions may result in detention and/or deportation.
Oaxaca (coastal): There have been a number of drownings along the beaches of
the southern coast of Oaxaca, namely Zipolite Beach. Professional lifeguard
training has contributed to a drop in fatalities, but swimmers are advised
that currents can quickly become treacherous, even for accomplished swimmers.
Tijuana: Tijuana has one of the busiest land border crossings in the world.
The beach towns of Rosarito and Ensenada also attract a large number of
tourists. Drinking alcoholic beverages excessively on a public street is
Tijuana boasts a large number of pharmacies; to buy any controlled medication
(e.g. Valium, Vicodin, Placidyl, Morphine, Demorol, and Ativan, etc), a
prescription from a Mexican federally registered physician is required.
Possession of controlled medications without a Mexican doctor’s prescription
is a serious crime and can lead to arrest. The prescription must have a seal
and serial number. Under no other circumstances should an individual purchase
Two well differenced seasons can be noticed in
Mexico: the dry season (from late November to early June) that is also the
high tourist season, and the rainy season (from June to November), showing
torrential though brief rainfalls which mainly take place by the afternoons.
Within Mexico City the weather is dry and mild. Mornings and
nights are usually fresh, unlike the afternoons which are usually warmer.
Mornings and nights use to be fresh, unlike afternoons when temperatures rise
to warmer degrees. Average temperatures between December and March is 20° C,
while during the warmer months (April and March) thermometers can go up to 31°
C. Afternoon rains usually pour during July and August, they can happen to
fall every single day but will rarely last for more than two hours.
On the other hand, the arid and very large Baja California
(1.300 kilometres) shows a warm weather around the area of the restless City
of Tijuana. Mexicali is very hot indeed, alike La Paz and San Lucas Cape, but
humidity rates are higher in the latter cities.
By general rule, in the California Peninsula rainfalls are scarce and few
between September and March, although high temperatures predominate in this
area, eventually reaching 48°C.
Around the northern territories of Mexico
temperatures are quite severe. The vast flatlands framed by the peaks of the
Occidental and Oriental Sierra Madre Ridge are arid and hot, showing some very
high temperatures during summer (late June to early November), when
thermometers can easily get to show numbers above 38° C.
Weather conditions can utterly vary within the mountainous areas of northern
Mexico, where winter seasons are very cold (late December to early March),
usually freezing during the night time.
In the Pacific Coastline, summer temperatures borders 35° C
around the southern areas (Mazatlán or Puerto Vallarta) and 30° C in the
northern areas (Guaymas). On winter time, these temperatures would usually
decrease in some 10°C.
The fecund lands and thick jungles in the Yucatan Peninsula and
Southern Mexico are characterised for their high temperatures and
rainy areas. Within this geographical zone is located Cancún, a beach resort
that shows a very hot climate throughout the year, and Acapulco, which shows a
yearly temperature average of 32 centigrade degrees.
In the San Cristóbal de las Casas (Chiapas) mountain ridge, climate is colder
and drier. Oaxaca, at about 1.500 m.a.s.l., temperature can drop to 0° C
during winter nights, rising to 38° C in the summer season.