Over 100,000 American teenagers and young adults travel to Cancun over their Spring Break each year. While the vast majority does so without incident, visitors are sometimes caught off-guard by unfamiliar surroundings and differences in local practices. A few common-sense precautions will help U.S. travelers avoid these potentially unpleasant and sometimes dangerous situations.
U.S. Citizens Still Subject To Mexican Laws
American citizens should remember that when they are in Cancun, they are subject to the laws of Mexico. An arrest or a serious accident in Cancun can not only spoil travel plans, but can also result in a difficult legal or medical situation, sometimes at great expense to the traveler.
Mexican law can impose harsh penalties for violations, and the fact that someone is a U.S. citizen in no way exempts him or her from full prosecution under the Mexican criminal justice system.
If U.S. citizens find themselves in legal trouble, they should contact the U.S. Consular Agency in Cancun or the U.S. Consulate in Merida. U.S. consular officials in Mexico can visit the arrested American citizen in prison, provide information about the Mexican legal system, and furnish a list of Mexican attorneys, among other assistance, but they cannot arrange for Mexican officials to release the arrested American.
Alcohol Abuse Leads To Legal Problems
Excessive alcohol consumption and unruly or uncontrolled behavior can lead to serious problems with Mexican authorities. Alcohol is involved in the vast majority of arrests, accidents, violent crimes and deaths suffered by American tourists in Cancun.
Disturbing the peace, lewd or indecent behavior, littering, driving under the influence, drinking on the street or on public transportation, using public transportation without payment, or making obscene or insulting remarks are considered criminal activities by Mexican authorities.
The importation, purchase, possession or use of drugs can incur severe penalties, including imprisonment without bail for up to a year before a case is tried and imprisonment of several years following a conviction. All individuals 16 years of age or older are tried as adults.
Travelers considering purchasing all-inclusive tour packages should deal with reputable travel agents, and inquire about options in the event of flight delays or cancellations. Travelers should also consider bringing extra cash or a credit card for emergencies, but should safeguard them, as mentioned in the next paragraph.
Tourists Must Beware of Criminals
Cancun is now a fairly large city, approaching 500,000 inhabitants, with increasing reports of crime. Crimes against the person, such as rape, commonly but not exclusively occur at night or in the early morning hours, and sometimes involve alcohol and the discotheque environment.
Therefore, it is important for travelers to be aware of their surroundings and to take general precautions. To protect against property crimes, valuables should be left in a safe place or not brought at all. Do not leave belongings on the beach while swimming, and keep your passport and other valuables in a hotel safe.
If you are a victim of a crime, immediately notify the U.S. Consular Agency in Cancun or the U.S. Consulate in Merida at the telephone numbers provided below.
Entry Requirements: The Government of Mexico requires that all U.S. citizens present proof of citizenship and photo identification for entry into Mexico. A U.S. passport is recommended, but other U.S. citizenship documents, such as a certified copy of a U.S. birth certificate, a Naturalization Certificate, a Consular Report of Birth Abroad, or a Certificate of Citizenship, may be acceptable.
U.S. citizens boarding flights to Cancun should be prepared to present an original of one of these documents as proof of U.S. citizenship, along with photo identification. Airlines, in some instances, may decline to board passengers who do not present such documentation.
Driver’s permits, voter registration cards, affidavits and similar documents are not sufficient to prove citizenship for readmission into the United States. Travelers to Cancun who are not in possession of a passport, birth certificate, or other proof of citizenship may experience significant delays in returning to the United States.
Minors require notarized consent from both parents if traveling alone or in someone else’s custody, or from the absent parent if traveling with only one parent.
Source: U.S. Department of State