Published on May 5th, 2010 | by Mark Chesnut
My Experience with Safety in Acapulco, Mexico
If you’ve been following my blog posts from Acapulco last week, you may have noticed I didn’t pay much attention to recent reports about drug cartel-related crime here in the state of Guerrero. There’s a reason for my keeping mum. I haven’t been reporting the news; I’ve been reporting my own personal experiences as a traveler.
It’s been decades since foreigners outnumbered nationals in Acapulco’s main tourist zone; the fact that Mexico’s first jet-set resort destination has become more of a getaway for vacationers from Mexico City than from Minneapolis is one of the things that I like about it (nothing against Minneapolis, of course; my point is that I like to feel like I’m in another country when I leave the United States). But during my most recent visit, it seems the percentage of foreign vacationers is even smaller than usual — likely due to the negative press that the state of Guerrero has been receiving from a continued spate of drug-related violence.
So how safe is it? From a personal perspective, I just recently wrapped up a one-week visit and can say that I didn’t feel nervous, in spite of recent attacks in the city.
Here’s the word from the U.S. State Department: “Although this violence is not targeted at foreign residents or tourists, U.S. citizens in these areas should be vigilant in their personal safety.” In other words, the people who are causing the violence in Acapulco are not particularly interested in doing harm to foreigners.
Personally, I feel calmer here now than I did one year ago, when swine flu had everyone (including me) especially nervous. I feel much calmer here than I do in certain other destinations where tourist-targeted crime is the norm. And the sight of occasional groups of armed guards with rather large firearms, while unsettling to some, is not much different from what I’ve seen in some other destinations where I’ve visited.
“I think Acapulco is still a safe vacation spot,” says a friend who moved here from the United States two years ago. “There are problems all over the world, and we are no different other than it is with drug cartels here. Unfortunately some innocent bystanders have been killed, but no tourists. I feel safe here and still walk. I always try to be aware where I am going and who is around me. I did the same in [the United States].”
To be sure, the fact that Acapulco’s most recent luxury hotel openings are largely self-contained, secluded getaways — especially El Encanto and Banyan Tree Cabo Marques, although even the retro-chic Boca Chica has created its own world in the heart of Acapulco Tradicional — makes it more possible than ever for skittish but style-conscious travelers to enjoy a well-protected vacation with plenty of pampering (similar to the vacation concept in Jamaica, but with less emphasis on the all-inclusive format).
Staying aware of recent incidents can help visitors know places to avoid. “Always stay out of any city’s problem areas and stay away from those who do and sell drugs,” advises my local expat friend, who says that friends continue to ask him whether they should visit. “I always shoot square with them and encourage them to come on down. It is a beautiful, exciting, laid-back, and fun place to visit.”