The University of Arizona’s dean of students sent an e-mail to UA students warning them to be extra careful if they’re traveling to Mexico over spring break. The e-mail quoted an October advisory from the U.S. State Department noting an increase in violence in northern Mexico.
After that was sent out Feb. 12, officials at Arizona State University and Northern Arizona University said they would send out similar warnings to students.
Is Rocky Point included in the warning?
Kind of. The city of Puerto Peñasco is in northern Mexico. But the town has not seen the rolling gun battles or grenade attacks seen in the border towns of Juarez, Nogales and Tijuana. Safety concerns in the beachside resort town are at a “far lesser degree” than the aforementioned trouble spots, said Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard.
So, Rocky Point is safe?
For now, yes. Tom Mangan, a spokesman for the Phoenix office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, said violence is “tempered” in the Rocky Point area. But, he cautioned, there’s no way of knowing where attacks might pop up. “It’s like trying to predict how a hurricane is going to come on shore,” he said.
Has there been violence on the road to Rocky Point?
Two officers from the Sonoita (Sonora) Police Department were gunned down in November 2008 after a cocaine bust, according to Arizona Department of Public Safety Cmdr. Dan Wells, who gave a presentation to a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting this week.
Sonoita is the border town opposite Lukeville, the border crossing on the typical route from Arizona to Rocky Point.
Goddard said Mexican authorities heavily patrol the highway to Rocky Point knowing that the community needs tourists to continue to thrive.
Why did UA send out the warning? Did officials know something that others didn’t?
No. Carol Thompson, the dean of students, said she sent out the warning because she didn’t think many UA students had known about the federal travel advisory that was sent out in October.
Thompson said her understanding of the advisory was that interior portions of Mexico, like Rocky Point, were safe. But that traveling through the border communities might be dangerous.
What exactly does the travel advisory say?
Here’s the first paragraph:
“While millions of U.S. citizens safely visit Mexico each year (including thousands who cross the land border every day for study, tourism or business), violence in the country has increased recently.”
The advisory goes on to suggest “common-sense precautions such as visiting only legitimate business and tourist areas during daylight hours, and avoiding areas where prostitution and drug dealing might occur . . . “
The original advisory was issued in October. It was re-issued Tuesday. The advisory was put in place through April.
So should people avoid Rocky Point?
Goddard doesn’t think so. “I plan to be there during spring break,” he said.
If I’m going to Rocky Point, what can I do to be safe?
Mangan said tourists should travel in daylight hours and let other people know where they will be.
If I decide to go to Mexico, do I need a passport?
Not yet. But you do need some documentation that proves you are a U.S. citizen if you want to re-enter the country. If you are flying to Mexico, you will need a passport.
By June 1, you will need a passport to cross back into the United States by car. Apply at travel.state.gov.
What about car insurance?
Temporary Mexican car insurance is a must. If you get into an accident without it, your car could be impounded and you could face jail time. Get a policy before you go. You also can buy insurance near the border, but that will slow down your crossing. A typical policy costs about $40-$70 for a weekend.
Can I drink the water?
Probably. But stick with bottled water to be safe. You also might want to ask restaurants and bars where their ice is made before you down that margarita. The water is safe to use when cooking, showering and brushing your teeth.
Do I need a wad of pesos?
No need to hit up a currency exchange before you arrive – all places accept dollars. Some spots don’t take credit cards. The exchange rate is about 14 pesos to $1 U.S.