2016: Is it safe to Cross the Border this Year?

Aug. 6, 2016


By Logan Hawkes


With the 2016-2017 fall/winter visitor travel season approaching, more visitors are asking, "will it be safe to visit a Mexico border town/city this year?"


As just about everyone knows, travel to many parts of Mexico can be a little risky to say the best, with a few places downright dangerous. As previously reported, an outbreak of crime and violence in parts of northern Mexico in recent years, combined with travel warnings issued by the U.S. State Department, has been cause for concern, especially for mostly retired seniors crossing into Mexico at border land ports along the Texas-Mexico border to take in the sites, enjoy dinner or dancing, shop local stores and visit dentists or doctors and and the always popular pharmacy where legally-prescribed and over-the-counter drugs can usually be purchased for less.


In recent weeks a notable increase in inquiries about border crossings have crossed graced our email boxes and telephones, and our response always includes a word of caution. But we should note that incidents of border violence 'seems' to have declined, not only this year but including some improvement noted last winter travel season.


That's not a guarantee that a U.S. traveler is crossing into a Mexican border town is safe and that nothing bad will happen to them. But in terms of personal safety issues, it seems less tense to visit some towns and some areas of border towns. It actually comes down to the question of where to go and where to avoid.


Even then, bad things happen to good people everyday, on both sides of the border, from fender benders traffic accidents on the road to fast tires on the highway (and by that we are not suggesting those things would happen to you either, at no more they do now wherever you live or travel.


Here are our recommendation for the upcoming season:

On the Texas-Mexico border, Reynosa (across from McAllen) and Juarez (across from El Paso) are two cities that still represent a greater threat to travelers than most other border cities. Matamoras (across from Brownsville) would be another area that could be a threat, though conditions have improved here compared to a couple of years ago. Possibly the same thing could be said about Nuevo Laredo.


Of the most heavily traveled land ports on the border, Progreso, near Weslaco, remains the safest place to visit if you are crossing over the a day trip for shopping, dining or doctoring. While it is true that many of the dentists in Progreso closed shop at the height of the violence several years back, it was mostly because Mexican dentists and their staff were at risk traveling from their homes to work and back inside of Mexico.


To tell the truth, most winter visitors crossing the border, even during the most serious period of border violence in previous years, experienced little or no problems with personal safety. There were a few instances of crime, especially  a demand that visitors go to a ATM site and withdraw money as ransom or bribery. But these were rare. Most visitors that crossed at peak times of the day and returned before dark or at least early in the evening were at less risk.


But with security improvements over the last year or so coupled with less reports of violence and crime in border cities, tensions have relaxed progressively, and visitors to South Texas can be assured that Progreso is the safest point to cross and spend time this season.


As far as the other destinations, we would suggest that if you are wintering in Brownsville, visiting the pharmacy or dentist in Matamoras should be safe if your cross back and forth during peak periods when other visitors are crossing in numbers, and continue to be aware of your surrounding and avoid questionable areas and areas far-removed from the land port.


The same could said about other crossing points, except for Reynosa and Juarez. In these cities, you must make the call whether the risks are worth the effort or not.


Also keep in mind that while they are less popular places for winter visitors to cross, Piedras Negras across from Eagle Pass, Texas, and Cuidad Acuna across from Del Rio, Texas, are two border cities that offer less unwanted encounters than some others. Just always remember it is safer to cross in groups of four, six or more, stay to lighted areas and areas of high traffic. Avoid alleyways and secondary streets and always think safety.


Don't forget U.S. laws about what is required for crossing and what you can and not bring back from Mexico. If unaware, refer to U.S. Immigration and naturalization resources, or ask a U.S. border patrol agent before making your trip.


Mexico is a remarkable country with remarkable culture and history and interesting destinations and points of interest. But personal safety should remain a priority no matter where you travel abroad. Also err on the side of safety, and happy travels for your excursions this season.