Mexico-BeachAs a resident of San Diego, Calif., the border town of Tijuana, Mexico–where only last year 478 people were killed–I’m often asked, Is it safe to travel to Mexico?

My first reaction is always yes–but you have to be smart about it.
Every year close to spring break the U.S. State Department issues a travel warning alert to Mexico, but this year the drug violence, kidnappings and carjackings in Mexico led the U.S. State Department to increase the number of places it says Americans should avoid for safety reasons. In total, 14 Mexican states, almost 50% of the Aztec Country, are on the list. A foreigner hearing that might rule out traveling to Mexico–but the reality is not as dark as it looks.

First of all, most of the beaches and places you want to visit in Mexico are not on the list, such as Cancun, Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan, Mexico City even Acapulco, which I wouldn’t recommend because it’s not what it used to be and there’s been some violent incidents.

According to the U.S State Department 130 Americans were reported murdered in Mexico last year, up from 111 in 2010 and 35 in 2007. However, you have to consider who those people were. I’ll put it this way: they weren’t visiting Mexico for fun.

My point is, if you want to travel to Mexico, do it, but be cautious, the same way you probably would if you were to go to Asia, Europe, or an unknown country to you. Here are some tips to make your trip to Mexico safer:

Safety Tips for Traveling to Mexico
1.     Don’t bring valuables with you; believe me, you don’t need to impress anyone.

2.     Try to only use credit cards, although in Mexico you might need cash or you can loose your credit card, so buy a money belt to carry cash underneath your clothing and when you need to get money do it in a private place.

3.     Try to blend as much as possible, avoid the Chevy Chase look!

4.     Opt for ATMs in malls or stores, avoid deserted places.

5.     Be cautious in public places; like anywhere else, there are always people looking for your wallet.

6.     If there’s no need for it, leave your money and passport in your hotel’s safe.

7.     At the airport, there are official taxis, or “Taxis Autorizados,” for you to take. In Mexico City, avoid hailing cabs on the streets. Ask your hotel to call a cab for you.

8.     Is always a good idea to leave a copy of your itinerary with family and friends.

9.    Sign up for the Smart Traveller Enrollment Program; this way the U.S. State Department will contact you if there’s a family emergency in the U.S or if a crisis where you’re traveling.

10. Have the U.S. Consulate number handy in case of an emergency.

Tania Luviano is an Emmy-award-winning journalist and host. She’s also the founder of a Vlog for Today’s Latina Mom.