Narco-Terrorism; Murder; Rape/Sexual Violence; Assault; Transportation Security; Drug Trafficking; Hurricanes; Oil & Energy; Kidnapping; Travel Health and Safety
Western Hemisphere > Mexico > Merida
Overall Crime and Safety Situation
The Yucatan Peninsula — Campeche, Quintana Roo, and Yucatan states — has not suffered the same level of escalating violence seen in other parts of Mexico; however, there is some narco-related violence that affects Cancun (usually not in the Hotel Zone/tourist area). There is no evidence that indicates that criminals specifically target American citizens. The victims of non-narco related crime traditionally are chosen based on appearance, vulnerability, and inattentiveness.
Several members of the gay community in Merida were murdered in 2012, including two U.S. citizens. Most of the murders appear to have been perpetrated by casual acquaintances intending to rob the victims.
Quintana Roo, due to its many tourist destinations, reports the most crimes that affect American citizens. Quintana Roo has seen an increase in the number of American citizens reporting to be the victims of sexual assaults. A majority of these assaults are reported in the Cancun and Playa del Carmen areas.
Overall Road Safety Situation
Road conditions in the Yucatan are different than those encountered in the United States. Driving at night outside of major cities is not advisable due to the lack of adequate street lighting. Extra care should be exercised when passing a vehicle or being passed. Non-toll roads between major cities can be narrow and vary in conditions. Toll roads are generally wider and better maintained. Drivers should beware of unmarked speed bumps in populated areas. Federal highway 307, connecting Cancun and Playa del Carmen, has had the greatest number of accidents involving U.S. citizens. Most accidents are caused by excess speed, alcohol, or both.
Prior to road travel, ensure your vehicle is in good working condition and that fluids are at the correct level. When traveling long distances, it is best to travel in tandem with another vehicle. Ensure that there is enough fuel to reach larger cities or towns, as some smaller communities may not have service stations. The following items are recommended for road trips: Cellular phone and charger; Spare tire; Portable gas can with funnel; Potable water; Non-perishable food items; First aid kit; Jumper cables; Flares and/or reflectors; Tool kit; and Spare key.
Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence
Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns
There are no known indigenous terrorist groups in the Yucatan. Additionally, where in many parts of Mexico the lines are clearly defined on what Transnational Criminal Organizations (TCOs) control certain parts of the country (and where it is not clear there is often headline grabbing violence), it is difficult to state definitively which TCO is in control of this part of the country.
There is no evidence to suggest that international terrorist groups are operating in the Yucatan. The Yucatan is widely reported to be a trafficking route for Caribbean immigrants, and these same trafficking routes could be exploited by international terrorist groups.
The Yucatan falls within the Atlantic hurricane season, which runs June 1 through November 30. Quintana Roo tends to suffer the greatest effects from Atlantic hurricanes; however, storms have been known to cause flooding and disruption of utility services throughout the Yucatan. Travelers are advised to keep abreast of developing weather conditions during the hurricane season and to avoid the paths of storms when possible.
Industrial and Transportation Accidents
There has been no large scale or transportation accident; however, the nationalized petroleum company Pemex does off-shore oil drilling. The oil rigs are in the Gulf of Mexico, and Ciudad del Carmen in Campeche supports these off-shore oil platforms.
Regional Travel Concerns and Restricted Travel Areas/Zones
There are no travel restrictions or warnings imposed by the Department of State in the three states of Yucatan, Campeche, and Quintana Roo. The latest country specific information and travel alerts for Mexico can be found at http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_970.html
Mexico is well known for its illegal drug trade and the corruption the industry fosters. The Yucatan is strategically close to narcotic smuggling routes of Central America and parts of the Caribbean. Most of the violent crimes reported over the last 12 months are the result of various narco-trafficking groups fighting for control of these smuggling routes.
The Consulate has seen a rise in “virtual kidnapping.” This is where a family member of an American is traveling in Mexico and the caller is able to glean enough information about the travel to convince his/her family that they need to wire money to get them out of jail, a hospital, etc.
The Consulate has also seen a rise in “express kidnapping.” Criminals abduct a victim for a short period in order to receive a quick payoff from the family, business, or the victim’s ATM card.
The U.S. Consulate has not received any reports of Americans being victims of actual kidnappings in 2012.
Police corruption and involvement in criminal activity occurs in the Yucatan as in most parts of Mexico. Corruption, along with fear of reprisals from criminal elements, leads most people to believe that many crimes go unreported.
How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment
U.S. citizens are advised to cooperate with police if stopped and questioned. If involved in a traffic accident or victimized by crime, one may be asked to accompany the investigating officer to a local police station to file a report. A complaint must be filed in the area where the crime occurred. Attempting to file a complaint once one has returned to the United States can be a difficult and time consuming process.
Visitors should inform the Consulate or an consular agency in Cancun, Playa Del Carmen, or Cozumel in the event they encounter problems, including detainment or arrest by the police, while traveling in the Yucatan.
Where to Turn to for Assistance if you Become a Victim of Crime
Mexico country code: 52
Merida city code: 99
Police Emergency: 066
U.S. Consulate Merida
Calle 60 No. 338-K x 29 y 31
Col. Alcala Martin Merida, Yucatan, Mexico 97050
(011) (52) (999) 942-5700 (dialing from the U.S.); (01) (999) 942-5700 (dialing from within Mexico); 942-5700 (dialing from within Merida)
Consular Agency Cancun
Plaza Caracol II, 3er Piso No. 320-323
Km 8.5 Blvd. Kuculkan,
Zona Hotelera Cancun, Quintana Roo, Mexico 77500
(011)(52)(1)(998) 845-4364 (dialing from the U.S.); (044)(998) 845-4364 (dialing from within Cancun); (045)(998) 845-4364 (dialing from elsewhere in Mexico)
Consular Agency Cozumel
Villa Mar Mall in the Main Plaza, Locale # 8
Parque Juarez – Av. Juarez y 5th Av. Nte.
Cozumel, Quintana Roo, Mexico 77600
(011)(52)(1)(987) 876-0624 (dialing from the U.S.); (044)(987) 876-0624 (dialing from within Cozumel); (045)(987) 876-0624 (dialing from elsewhere in Mexico)
E-mail: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
Consular Agency Playa del Carmen
“The Palapa” Calle 1 Sur, Entre 15 Av. Y 20 Av.
Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo, Mexico 77710
(011)(52)(1)(984) 807-8355 (dialing from the U.S.); (044)(984) 807-8355 (dialing from within Playa); (045)(984) 807-8355 (dialing from elsewhere in Mexico)
Health insurance is an important consideration while traveling in the Yucatan. Travelers are responsible for ensuring that they have adequate health insurance while traveling throughout Mexico. Useful information on medical emergencies abroad is provided in the Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure, “Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad” available via the Consular Affairs web page at http://www.travel.state.gov
Recommended Air Ambulance Services
The RSO Office Merida does not endorse any specific private insurance or air ambulance company. The following list is for information purposes only:
For international treatment and medical insurance:
AEA International (206) 340-6000
Air ambulances that service the Yucatan:
Air Compassion 1-866-270-9198 or 001- 883-270-9198
Advanced Air Ambulance 800-633-3590 or 305-232-7700
AirMD Air Ambulance Services 800-282-6878 or 1-727-530-7972
Air Ambulance Professionals 800-752-4195 or 954-491-0555
Air Response 800-631-6565 or 303-858-9967
Critical Air Medical 800-247-8326 or 619-571-0482
CDC Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance
Persons visiting the Yucatan should take normal tourist precautions with regard to drinking water, eating fresh fruits, vegetables and salads. For additional health guidance, please visit the CDC at: http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/traveler/none/mexico.
Tips on How to Avoid Becoming a Victim
There are a variety of scams used by the criminals to rob victims, which include:
An unknown individual calls to say that a person you know, possibly a family member, has been kidnapped and unless you immediately pay the ransom the person will be harmed. The ransom is paid; then it becomes clear that the kidnapping never occurred.
A similar scam is where an unknown individual calls and states an employee or family member has been in an accident and needs immediate medical attention. The individual states that payment must be provided in order for the injured individual to be treated. This scam is often targeted at household staff, who react without verifying with their employer, or grandparents.
Areas to be Avoided and Best Security Practices
Do not accept drinks from strangers and always watch your drink. It is relatively easy for a criminal to put some form of drug into a drink. There have been incidents of people who have woken up robbed of their valuables or sexually assaulted after accepting such a drink.
Never give out your personal information such as family member and household staff names, addresses and telephone numbers in an open setting. Be cautious about inviting strangers or casual acquaintances into your home.
Be careful of cash transactions on the street. A hurried transaction for merchandise often leaves the customer with shoddy/counterfeit goods or with counterfeit money.
Vary your times and routes to and from work, school, or activities. Do not become time and place predictable. Whenever possible, do not have a set day for shopping, errands and personal needs. Be unpredictable.
Maintain a low personal profile; it is best to avoid activities that draw attention. Avoid wearing ostentatious jewelry or clothing that may bring unwanted attention. Be alert to surveillance. Criminals, even petty thieves, are known to watch the activities of their victims before they commit a robbery or assault. Always be aware of your surroundings. Report all suspicious activity to the proper authorities.
Advise colleagues and family of your daily plans and ensure they know how to reach you.
Do not leave valuables or items such as laptops, I-pods, and expensive sunglasses in plain view and unattended in your vehicle. Avoid leaving your auto on the street. When possible, park your vehicle inside residential compounds or parking areas with attendants. In traffic, always attempt to leave space in which to maneuver. Always leave yourself an exit. Be prepared to take evasive action at any time. Avoid choke points in travel. Be wary of diversions. Be cognizant of your consumption of alcohol. Most vehicular accidents and incidents of crime affecting U.S. citizens involve the excess consumption alcohol.
Visitors can reduce their risk of becoming a victim of crime by varying routes and times of travel, ensuring residences are sufficiently protected (perimeter doors should be substantial and equipped with deadbolts and a peephole, all reachable windows and openings should be grilled, and grounds around residences should be illuminated). Family members and household help should not allow anyone to enter the residential grounds without identification and prearranged appointments. Ensure all of your family members are briefed on security measures. Suspicious persons or activities in the neighborhood should be reported to the police immediately.
One of the better recommendations for avoiding being the victim of a crime at tourist destinations is employing the “buddy system,” traveling with a trusted individual.
U.S. Embassy/Consulate Location and Contact Information
Embassy/Consulate Address and Hours of Operation
Calle 60 No. 338-K x 29 y 31
Col. Alcala Martin
Merida, Yucatan, Mexico 97050
Merida’s office hours are Monday through Friday, 7:30am to 4:30pm. We are closed for U.S. and Mexican holidays.
Embassy/Consulate Contact Numbers
The U.S. Embassy Mexico City can be reached by dialing 01-55-5080-2000 (in Mexico), or 011-52-55-5080-2000 (outside Mexico).
To reach the Consulate:
Dialing from within Merida: 942-5700
Dialing from within Mexico but outside Merida: 01-999-942-5700
Dialing from the United States: 011-52-999-942-5700
OSAC Country Council Information
U.S. Consulate Merida is in the process of re-launching the OSAC Country Council Program. The tentative date for the re-launch is the Fall 2013. For more information on OSAC in the Yucatan, contact the Regional Security Office in Merida (011) (52) (999) 942-5719 or OSAC’s Program Officer for the Western Hemisphere or visit the Council online at: http://www.OSAC.gov.