With just a week to go until March break, which comes off the heels of a brutal winter this year, heading off to sunny climes is likely on the agenda for many, but some popular destinations do involve risks, including safety and health concerns.
The recent case of a Richmond Hill man’s brutal robbery while on vacation in Mexico is a harrowing tale for travelers. Mexico is among the destinations where the government of Canada advises visitors to exercise “a high degree of caution” because there are “identifiable safety and security concerns or the safety and security situation could change with little notice.”
Here are the travel advisories issued for five popular March break destinations:Mexico
More than 2.1 million Canadians travel to Mexico each year, the vast majority of them without incident, but a high degree of caution is advised nonetheless.
According to the government of Canada’s travel advice and advisories, Mexico not only has high levels of criminal activity, but also protests and occasional illegal roadblocks across the country. All non-essential travel should be avoided across the northern and western states.
Recent security incidents include the detonation of an explosive device on a popular tourist ferry in Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo, in February. Twenty people, including tourists, were injured. Authorities found another explosive device on a ferry also operating out of Playa del Carmen on March 1. Travelers are advised to avoid tourist ferries in the region until further notice.
The government of Canada’s travel advice and advisories suggests exercising a high degree of caution when travelling to the Bahamas, especially in Nassau and Freeport.
Normal security precautions are advised in Cuba, which means there are no increased or significant security concerns but travelers should still take everyday safety precautions.
The Dominican Republic reportedly has a high crime rate and a high degree of caution is advised.
Jamaica has a high level of violent crime and a high degree of caution is advised. A state of emergency was declared for St. James Parish which includes Montego Bay because of a marked increase in violent crime. Military forces have been brought in to stabilize the situation
While listing them out in quick succession makes traveling to these countries seem daunting, travel expert Barry Choi says it’s important to keep things in perspective.
“These security concerns or incidents are usually very isolated,” he says. “It’s not something to avoid an entire country over, in my opinion.”
Choi says it’s important to keep some basic yet often forgotten tips in mind to ensure you have a safe and enjoyable trip:Leaving your hotel
“Don’t just start walking down the street or hail a random cab off the street,” says Choi. Have your hotel book a cab or other type of safe transportation for you. The same applies for when you’re heading back to your hotel – ensure you book ahead and have a safe ride back.Carrying money
“Never carry huge amounts of cash with you,” says Choi. Also be extra cautious when withdrawing money from an ATM and store any cash you don't need in your hotel safe. Choi also advises carrying only a single credit card with you and keep a back-up credit card in your hotel room in case your primary card gets lost - when you carry a credit card or a small amount of cash, wear something like the Clever Travel Companion range to fool potential thieves into thinking you have nothing of value on you.Tours and excursions
Book excursions and tours of the city through your hotel. Avoid impromptu, unplanned trips or tours offered by unknown or unofficial guides. “I’m sure some of them are very safe, but at the same time you want to do your due diligence and make sure you’re getting a safe trip,” says Choi.Travel Insurance
“If you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel,” says Choi. Travel insurance is a small investment with a big pay off. Medical bills outside Canada can run into thousands of dollars, so it’s essential to cover that base.Health concerns
“Think about local diseases and vaccinations,” says Choi. There are several different travel vaccinations and it’s important to protect yourself from diseases specific to the region. In addition, while the hysteria might have died down, Zika virus is still very much around and requires special attention.