So many things have been said about safety issues while traveling in Northern Mexico! In fact, each traveler has her or his own version of how safe or unsafe it is. In fact, the story of their travel experience is glued to the overview on the topic. All have a part of truth so you should read them and keep them as a general warning of both unsafe and safe conditions.

- If planning to cross the border, take your passport and keep it in a pocket, preferably not in your bag or wallet. A passport is not required to enter Mexico; drivers license and birth certificates are also acceptable. Witin border zones in major border cities in Mexico, you will likely not be asked for identification unless you tavel into the interior. In some areas there are extensive "free zones" where tourist permits and vehicle permits are not required (examples: Baja California to south of Ensenada; Puerto Penasco south of Arizona.). Beginning in 2009, a passport will be required to return to the US.

- Ask what areas of the cities are really dangerous, generally those areas are not easily accessed because there is no public transportation, taxis don't go, or if they go they charge a fortune, and some have no paved roads. But there are certain neighborhoods near downtown in some cities that you prefer not to go.

- Avoid walking alone at night, even in areas that are designated for tourists.

- Don't follow advice from a stranger when you didn't even ask for it; this includes suggestions to certain clubs or restaurants (a note to this: people are very gentle and polite and sometimes they will offer you help in good faith, but there is always the probabiliy of the bad guy around, this happens everywhere in the world). Ask your hotel or a travel agency for recommendations; read available tourist guides.

- Bus transportation is safe, even safer than taxis. All cities and many towns have municipal bus service. Taxis are extremely expensive in some cities. Bus transportation between cities is very safe, comfortable and affordable. (See the section "Getting Around" for more info.)

- Be always aware of your surroundings. Avoid people who try to walk at your pace or give you engaging conversation as you walk (again, sometimes it is in really good faith). Ignore street vendors who follow you trying to sell you something unless you are confident that you want to buy something.

* The previous suggestions mainly apply to bigger cities in Northern Mexico namely Tijuana, Nogales, Ciudad Juarez and Matamoros. Generally, you'll have no problem in small towns and sea resorts. People are wonderful, really wonderful, helpful and welcoming everywhere in Mexico.  

Food and Water Precautions: "Don't drink the water!" The best advice always. People in Mexico are no more wanting to get sick from eating bad food or drinking bad water than you are. They also don't have "cast iron" stomachs. They eat food which is healthily prepared, and for the most part they don't drink tap water. Restaurants and even street vendors must meet sanitation requirements. Bottled water which is purified is available everywhere. Ice is almost always made from purified water. If you have any doubts, ask.

Water in any municipality is required to be treated and chlorinated in Mexico just as in the US. However that doesn't mean the water coming out of the tap is as safe as in the US. It's not a problem; just be careful. You aren't going to get sick from bathing. Don't drink tap water no matter where you are, even in expensive hotels. Ask for purified water ("agua purificado") or bottled water in restaurants; in general that's what they would serve you in any case. Tea and other drinks will be made from purified water. Use bottled water to brush your teeth. Hotels all provide bottled water in the room, and will supply more on request. Every store of any type where you find food or snacks will have bottled water. There are also water shops for buying water or filling large containers. If you have an RV, don't fill your water tanks from a tap or hose in Mexico unless you know the water is potable or you treated the water yourself; get supplies at an RV store for water treatment befor traveling. If you get bacteria into an RV water system, it may be difficult to completely remove. Once you introduce non-treated water which may not be potable at US standards into your RV or boat water system, you may never want to drink water from it again.

If you are shopping for food in grocery stores, use your intuition as to how safe it is.  Mexico has large "mega-mart" type grocery stores in all major cities, and some smaller ones. Many offer food for take-out, and it is prepared under sanitary conditions and safe. Some produce is not safe; see below. If in doubt, just "go with your gut."  In grocery stores and pharmacies, you can buy a little bottle of liquid called "Microdyne" and other brands which can be used for washing vegetables which you prepare, and for sterilizing water. It only takes a drop or two per gallon. The general rule for raw vegetables: don't eat it unless it has a peel which can be removed after washing, and never eat raw berries like strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, etc. Frozen fruits and vegetables from stores are safe, and of course anything cooked. If in doubt, ask someone! Use your judgement on green salads and raw vegetables in restaurants. Ask how the vegetables were washed. If they were washed in plain tap water, you may want to decline. The most common sources of illness are from non-potable water and improperly cleaned raw vegetables. Many people are also simply sensitive to a change in diet. If you do get diarrhea or other illness which you suspect was caused by food or water, there are pharmacies in most grocery stores and in the cities and towns everywhere, and they will help you get what medication you need without prescriptions. (The old remedy "Paragoric," for example, is available in Mexico to treat diarrhea as well as other medications.) Mexico also has excellent health care available in any city.