'Have your wits about you': Travel advice for Canadians visiting Mexico

The federal government says 1.8 million Canadians travelled to Mexico in 2022. Some of the more popular tourist spots include Cabo San Lucas, Cancun, Mazatlan, Playa Del Carman and Puerto Vallarta.

Travel agents say direct flights from many locations and all-inclusive resorts are a major draw.

But, like other travel, it's not without risks.

Some Canadian tourists in Mexico were barricaded in their hotel this week amid violence after the arrest of a major alleged drug cartel leader. The violence was particularly fierce in Culiacan, Mazatlan, Los Mochis and Guasave.

Canada has advised travellers in those areas to shelter in place, avoid crowds and demonstrations, and not to try to cross blockades, even if they appear unmanned.

It says other risks in various parts of Mexico, including Cancun and Playa del Carmen, include violent crime, armed robbery, assault, kidnapping and fraud.

One travel agent says she tells clients to consult the government's website before they depart and to be aware of local media reports.

"Yes, there are unsafe and scary things that happen in Mexico. But really, they happen everywhere," said Lori Smith, an agent based in Saskatchewan.

"I send a lot of people to Las Vegas or Orlando, Fla., and the crime rates are high in those areas as well."

Her advice is the same no matter the destination, she said. "Have your wits about you, always ... follow safety practices that you would follow at home.

"Don't be getting floor-licking drunk and go out adventuring. That's maybe a bad choice."

Smith added that she regularly travels to Cancun and Puerto Vallarta, sometimes on her own, to check into the locations before she sends her clients.

"I love Mexico," she said. "It's beachy and tropical, and I love the people. They are friendly.

"I love it. I feel safe there. And margaritas ... margaritas and tacos."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 6, 2023.

Colette Derworiz, The Canadian Press