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Travel Warning & Consular Information Sheet for Mexico

Mexico - Consular Information Sheet
December 20, 2000

COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Mexico covers an area of 1,972,500 sq. km. or 761,000 sq. miles, about three times the size of Texas. The capital is located in Mexico City. The population of the area around Mexico City is about 20 million, the largest concentration of people in the world. The latest estimate (in 2000) has the population of Mexico at 97.4 million with an annual growth rate of 1.9%. Mexico has a chief executive (president); a bicameral legislature; a judicial system with a Supreme Court, local and federal courts; and an administrative subdivision of 31 states and one federal district. Mexico has a rapidly developing economy and has sought economic prosperity through liberalization of its trade regime. The climate ranges from tropical to desert, and the terrain consists of coastal lowlands, central high plateaus, and mountains up to 18,000 feet.

Many cities throughout Mexico are popular tourist destinations for Americans. Travelers should note that city-specific information contained below is not confined solely to those cities, but can occur in all areas of Mexico.

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 are acceptable. U.S. citizens boarding flights to Mexico should be prepared to present one of these documents as proof of U.S. citizenship, along with photo identification. Driver's permits, voter registration cards, affidavits and similar documents are not sufficient to prove citizenship for readmission into 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. Please see also the Children's Issues paragraph below.

A visa is not required for a tourist/transit stay up to 180 days. A tourist card, also known as a FM-T, available from Mexican consulates and most airlines serving Mexico, is issued instead. Travelers entering Mexico for purposes other than tourism require a visa and must carry a valid U.S. passport. The Government of Mexico charges an entry fee of approximately $15.00 per person to U.S. citizens traveling to Mexico's interior.

Upon arrival in Mexico, business travelers must complete a form (Form FM-N 30 days) authorizing the conduct of business, but not employment, for a 30-day period. U.S. citizens planning to work or live in Mexico should apply for the appropriate Mexican visa (Form FM-2 or 3) at the Mexican Embassy or nearest Mexican consulate. U.S. citizens planning to participate in humanitarian aid missions, human rights advocacy groups or international observer delegations also should contact the Mexican Embassy or nearest Mexican consulate for guidance on how to obtain the appropriate visa before traveling to Mexico. Such activities, undertaken while on a tourist visa, may draw unfavorable attention from Mexican authorities because Mexican immigration law prohibits foreigners from engaging in political activity. U.S. citizens have been detained or deported for violating their tourist visa status. Therefore, tourists should avoid demonstrations and other activities that may be deemed political by Mexican authorities. This is particularly relevant in light of the tension and polarization in the state of Chiapas. U.S. citizens and other foreigners have been detained in Chiapas and expelled from Mexico for allegedly violating their visa status or for interfering in Mexican internal politics.

Mexican regulations limit the value of goods brought into Mexico by U.S. citizens arriving by air or sea to $300 per person and by land to $50 per person. Amounts exceeding the duty-free limit are subject to a 32.8 percent tax. For further information concerning entry and visa requirements, travelers may contact the Embassy of Mexico at 1911 Pennsylvania Avenue N.W., Washington, D.C. 20006, telephone (202) 736-1000, or any Mexican consulate in the United States.

DUAL NATIONALITY: As of March 20, 1998, Mexican law recognizes dual nationality for Mexicans by birth, meaning those born in Mexico or born abroad to Mexican parents. U.S. citizens who are also Mexican nationals are considered Mexican by local authorities. Therefore, their dual nationality status could hamper U.S. Government efforts to provide consular protection. Dual nationals are not subject to compulsory military service in Mexico. Travelers possessing both U.S. and Mexican nationalities must carry with them proof of their citizenship of both countries. Under Mexican law, dual nationals entering or departing Mexico must identify themselves as Mexican. For additional information, please see the Consular Affairs home page on the Internet at http://travel.state.gov for our Dual Nationality flyer.

SAFETY AND SECURITY: The U.S. Embassy recommends that U.S. citizens traveling to the state of Chiapas exercise caution. Armed rebels and armed civilian groups are present in some areas of the state. In the mountain highlands north of San Cristobal de Las Casas, the municipality of Ocosingo, and the entire southeastern jungle portion of the state east of Comitan, tension and violence ebb and flow. Furthermore, some segments of the local population resent the presence of foreigners and openly express their hostility. For further information, please see the U.S. State Department's Report on Human Rights Practices at http://www.state.gov. U.S. citizens traveling to Chiapas are encouraged to contact the U.S. Embassy for further security information prior to traveling to the region.

Two insurgent groups, the Popular Revolutionary Army (EPR) and the Insurgent People's Revolutionary Army (EPRI), operate in the states of Guerrero and Oaxaca. Although these groups have been quiet in the last few years, they have attacked police and military targets and have kidnapped civilians in the past. There is no evidence, however, that U.S. citizens or other tourists have been targeted. Nonetheless, U.S. citizens may encounter military roadblocks while traveling, and tourists should be prepared to show identification and have their vehicles searched. Army, police, and immigration roadblocks are most common in the states of Chiapas, Guerrero and Oaxaca.

CRIME: Crime in Mexico continues at high levels, and it is increasingly violent, especially in Mexico City, Tijuana and Ciudad Juarez. Low apprehension and conviction rates of criminals contribute to the high crime rate. Other metropolitan areas have lower but still serious levels of crime. Travelers should leave valuables and irreplaceable items in a safe place, or not bring them. All visitors are encouraged to make use of hotel safes when available, avoid wearing obviously expensive jewelry or designer clothing, and carry only the cash or credit cards that will be needed on each outing. Travelers are discouraged from bringing very large amounts of cash into Mexico because officials may suspect money laundering or other criminal activity. Any U.S. citizen victims of crime in Mexico are encouraged to report the incident to the nearest police headquarters and to the nearest U.S. consular office.

Visitors should be aware of their surroundings at all times, especially when visiting bars or nightclubs. Some establishments, especially in port cities such as Cabo San Lucas, Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan and Acapulco, can be havens for drug dealers and petty criminals. Some establishments may contaminate or drug the drinks to gain control over the patron. Victims, who are almost always unaccompanied, have been robbed of personal property, abducted and then held while their credit cards were used at various businesses and Automatic Teller Machines (ATM).

U.S. citizens should be very cautious in using ATMs in general in Mexico. If an ATM must be used, it should be accessed only during the business day at large protected facilities (preferably inside commercial establishments, rather than at a glass-enclosed, highly visible ATM on streets where criminals can observe financial transactions). Recently, there have been cases in which U.S. and Mexican citizens have been accosted on the street and forced to withdraw money from their accounts using their ATM cards.

Kidnapping, including the kidnapping of non-Mexicans, is increasing. So-called "express" kidnappings have reportedly taken place on well-traveled highways such as the Toluca Highway leading out of Mexico City. These kidnappings are an attempt to get quick cash in exchange for the release of any individual, and they often appear to target not only the wealthy, but also middle class persons. U.S. businesses with offices in Mexico or concerned U.S. citizens may contact the U.S. Embassy or any U.S. consulate to discuss precautions that they should take.

Criminal assaults occur on highways throughout Mexico. Therefore, travelers should exercise caution when traveling on all highways in Mexico and use "toll" ("cuota") roads, rather than the less secure "free" ("libre") highways, whenever possible. Reported incidents include robbery, kidnapping, and the 1998 murder of an Egyptian diplomat. For safety reasons, the U.S. Embassy advises all U.S. citizens to exercise extreme caution when traveling on any highways after dark. U.S. citizens should not hitchhike or accept rides from or offer rides to strangers anywhere in Mexico.

All bus travel should be during daylight hours and on first-class conveyances. Although there have been several reports of bus hijackings and robberies on "toll" roads, buses on "toll" roads have a markedly lower rate of incidents than buses (second and third class) that travel the less secure "free" highways. While many of the assaults have occurred in daylight, the U.S. Embassy nevertheless encourages daytime travel to lower the chance of vehicle accidents. The Embassy also advises caution when traveling by bus in the area north of the border between the states of Oaxaca and Guerrero (south of Acapulco). Armed robberies of entire busloads of passengers have recently been reported to the Embassy.

Tourists should be wary of persons representing themselves as Mexican police or other local officials. In some instances, Americans have become victims of harassment, mistreatment and extortion by Mexican law enforcement and other officials. Mexican authorities are concerned about these incidents and have cooperated in investigating such cases. However, one must have the officer's name, badge number, and patrol car number to pursue a complaint. Please make a note of this information if you are ever involved with police or other officials.

Tourists should not hike alone in back-country areas, nor walk alone on lightly-frequented beaches, ruins or trails. In 1998, three Americans were killed in separate incidents when they ventured alone into such areas.

Local authorities have reported an increase in armed robberies in the popular tourist destination of northern Sinaloa, especially near the fishing resorts. Caution should be exercised when visiting this area.

CRIME IN MEXICO CITY: In Mexico City, the most frequently reported crimes involving tourists are taxi robbery, armed robbery, pickpocketing and purse snatching. In several cases, tourists have reported that men in uniforms perpetrated the crime, stopping vehicles and seeking money, or assaulting and robbing tourists walking late at night. The area behind the U.S. Embassy and the Zona Rosa, a restaurant/shopping area near the Embassy, are frequent sites of street crime against foreigners. Caution should be exercised when walking in these areas.

Metro (subway) robberies are becoming more frequent in Mexico City. If riding the Metro, U.S. citizens should hold valuables and belongings tightly. Avoid using Metro during busy commuting hours in the morning or afternoon. Tourists and residents alike should avoid driving alone at night anywhere in Mexico City.

TAXICAB CRIME: Robbery and assaults on passengers in taxis are frequent and violent, with passengers subjected to beatings, shootings and sexual assault. U.S. citizens visiting Mexico City should avoid taking any taxi not summoned by telephone or contacted in advance at the airport. In December 1997, a U.S. citizen was murdered in a taxi robbery. When in need of a taxi, please telephone a radio taxi or "sitio" (pronounced "C-T-O"), and ask the dispatcher for the driver's name and the cab's license plate number. If you walk to a "sitio" taxi stand, use only a driver known to you. Please ask the hotel concierge or other responsible individual calling on your behalf to write down the license plate number of the cab that you entered. Passengers arriving at Mexico City's Benito Juarez International Airport should take only airport taxis (which are yellow, with an airport symbol on the door) after pre-paying the fare at one of the special booths inside the airport. Radio taxis may be called at tel. 5-271-9146, 5-271-9058, and 5-272-6125 (within Mexico City). U.S. citizens should avoid taking taxis parked outside the Bellas Artes Theater, waiting in front of nightclubs or restaurants, or cruising throughout the city.

TRAVELING TO/THROUGH NUEVO LAREDO: Tourists are very vulnerable when visiting the local "red light district," particularly if they are departing alone in the early hours of the morning. Municipal and traffic police are aware of the danger and regularly check the area for persons carrying weapons or drugs and for drunk drivers.

U.S. citizens visiting relatives who reside in the outskirts of the city and who walk or drive in deserted areas or particularly dark streets with which they are unfamiliar may also be victims of random violence.

All U.S. citizens bringing gifts to friends and relatives in Nuevo Laredo or the interior of Mexico should come prepared to demonstrate to Mexican Customs the origin and the value of the gifts. Televisions, video cassette players, computers, bicycles or any electronic item valued at $50.00 U.S. currency or more must be declared to Mexican Customs. Any tourist carrying such items should enter the "Merchandise to Declare" lane at the first Customs checkpoint. The tourist/purchaser should have the receipt for the gift's purchase and should be prepared to pay any assessed duty. Failure to do so may result in the seizure of the goods as contraband, plus the seizure of the vehicle in which the goods are traveling for attempted smuggling. The recovery of the seized vehicle involves the payment of substantial fines and attorney's fees.

TRAVELING TO CIUDAD JUAREZ: Several U.S. citizens, including innocent bystanders, have been killed in drug-related shootings in Ciudad Juarez over the past three years. In recent months, some of these shootings have taken place on principal thoroughfares and outside popular restaurants and other public places, including convenience stores, a currency exchange, and a gas station. In other instances, U.S. citizens have been kidnapped and scores imprisoned after getting involved in the sale or purchase of illegal drugs. U.S. citizens are advised to avoid any involvement with controlled substances or those who deal in them. U.S. citizens should be particularly alert to their surroundings when visiting Ciudad Juarez.

TRAVELING TO CANCUN: Cancun is now a fairly large city, approaching 500,000 inhabitants. Approximately 3 million Americans travel there each year, including as many as 100,000 American teenagers and young adults during "Spring Break," which normally begins in mid-February and runs about two months. In the holiday atmosphere of Cancun, visitors are sometimes caught off-guard by unfamiliar surroundings and differences in local practices. Americans have died in automobile accidents, after falls from balconies, after falls into open ditches, by drowning, and in water-sports mishaps, among others.

Visitors often purchase inexpensive, all-inclusive vacation packages and travel on charter flights. These flights sometimes experience delays, from a few hours to several days. In some cases, tour operators go out of business, leaving travelers to find their own flights home. Travelers considering purchasing such packages are encouraged to deal with reputable travel agents, and to inquire as to their options in the event of flight delays or cancellations. It is also important to have both U.S. and Mexican emergency numbers to call if they experience any problems with flights or ground operators. Travelers should also consider bringing extra cash or a credit card for emergencies.

As the population of Cancun has increased, so have reports of crime. Therefore, it is important for travelers to be aware of their surroundings and to take general precautions. There has been a significant increase in the number of pickpocketing incidents, purse snatchings and hotel room thefts. Public transportation is a particularly popular place for pickpockets. Valuables should be left in a safe place, or not brought at all. Please keep track of your luggage when getting in and out of ground transportation from the airport to the hotel, and vice versa.

Excessive alcohol consumption, especially by Americans under the legal drinking age in the United States, is a significant problem in Cancun. The legal drinking age in Mexico is 18 years of age, but even that is not uniformly enforced. Alcohol is implicated in the majority of arrests, violent crimes, accidents and deaths suffered by American tourists in Cancun.

Several rapes have been reported to the U.S. Consular Agency in Cancun. Most of these occurred at night or in the early morning hours, and they involved alcohol and the discotheque environment. The victim commonly finds him/herself in a vulnerable situation and is taken advantage of after being separated from friends.

There has been a noticeable increase in the number of reports of police harassment, abuse, and extortion in Cancun. Local authorities are concerned about these incidents and have cooperated in investigating such cases when they have been reported.

Visitors should be careful when crossing streets in Cancun. Public transportation vehicles, specifically taxis and city buses, often do not obey the posted speed limits and do not stop at traffic lights.

Warning flags on the beach should be taken seriously. If black flags are up, please do not go in the water. There is often a very strong undertow along the beach from the Hyatt Regency all the way south to the Sol y Mar. There is minimal lifeguard supervision in most areas.

VISITING BEACH RESORTS: Visitors to Mexican resorts should carefully assess the risk potential of recreational activities. Sports and aquatic equipment that you rent may not meet U.S. safety standards nor be covered by any accident insurance. For example, unless you are certain that scuba diving equipment is up to standard, you should not use it. Inexperienced scuba divers should beware of dive shops that promise to "certify" you after a few hours instruction. Safe diving requires lengthy training.

Parasailing is offered at many Mexican beach resorts. Please be aware that by putting your name on the passenger list, you may be relieving the boat operator and owner of responsibility for your safety. There have been cases in which tourists have been dragged through palm trees or slammed into hotel walls while participating in this activity.

Please be extremely careful when renting jet-skis. Several tourists have been killed or injured in jet-ski accidents, particularly when participating in group tours. Often, inexperienced tour guides allow their clients to follow too closely or operate the jet-skis in other unsafe manners. In one case, the jet-ski rental company carried liability insurance limited to $2,500 U.S. dollars. Please make sure that the rental company has adequate medical/accident insurance, is staffed with personnel on-site with water rescue training, and properly demonstrates safe operation of the vehicle to you before you rent or operate such equipment.

Please do not leave your belongings on the beach while you are swimming. Please keep your passport and other valuables in the hotel safe.

Please do not use pools or beaches without lifeguards. If you do, please exercise extreme caution. Do not dive into unknown bodies of water because hidden rocks or shallow depths can cause serious injury or death. Newer resorts may lack comprehensive medical facilities. Some Mexican beaches, such as those in Cancun, have warning signs about undertow; please take them seriously. In Acapulco, please avoid swimming outside the bay area. Several American citizens have died recently while swimming in rough surf at the Revolcadero Beach near Acapulco.

MEDICAL FACILITIES: Adequate medical care can be found in all major cities. Health facilities in Mexico City are excellent. Care in more remote areas is limited. Serious medical problems requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to the United States can be very costly.

MEDICAL INSURANCE: Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services, and U.S. medical insurance is not always valid outside the United States. Charges may vary from doctor to doctor, and Americans may be charged more than the prevailing rate for services rendered to locals. You may wish to have the attending doctor explain procedures and costs before undertaking treatment. U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States. Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas may face extreme difficulties. Please check with your own insurance company to confirm whether your policy applies overseas, including provision for medical evacuation. Please ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas hospital or doctor, or whether you will be reimbursed later for expenses that you incur. Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death. Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure, Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad, via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page, http://travel.state.gov/medical.html, or by autofax: (202) 647-3000.

OTHER HEALTH INFORMATION: In many areas in Mexico, tap water is unsafe and should be avoided. Bottled water and beverages are safe, although visitors should be aware that many restaurants and hotels serve tap water. Ice made from tap water is also unsafe. Visitors should exercise caution when buying food or beverages from street vendors. Air pollution in Mexico City and Guadalajara is severe, especially from December to May.

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747); fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or via the CDC's Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov.

BEHAVIOR MODIFICATION FACILITIES: A number of facilities have opened in Mexico that offer behavior modification therapy for teenagers and others suffering from drug addiction or other psychological disorders. Standards held by the Government of Mexico and local government, where they exist, may not meet standards for similar facilities in the United States. Parents planning to enroll their children in these facilities should take appropriate action to investigate the facility first. Please refer to the Behavior Modification Fact Sheet at http://travel.state.gov/behavior_modification.html.

TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Mexico is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Safety of Public Transportation: Fair
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Good
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Fair
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Fair

Please avoid excessive speed and, if possible, do not drive at night. Loose livestock can appear on roads at any time. Construction sites, abandoned vehicles or other obstacles are often unmarked or poorly marked. Be prepared for sudden stops. For detailed information on traffic safety and driving conditions in Mexico, please refer to the publication, Tips for Travelers to Mexico, available on the Internet at http://travel.state.gov.

DRIVING INFORMATION: U.S. driver's licenses are valid in Mexico. Mexican insurance is required for all vehicles, including rental vehicles. (Please see "Automobile Insurance" below.)

The Government of Mexico strictly regulates the entry of vehicles into Mexico. For detailed information on how to bring a car into Mexico, please refer to Tips for Travelers to Mexico at http://travel.state.gov.

For additional information concerning Mexican driver's permits, vehicle inspection, road tax, mandatory insurance, etc., please contact the Mexico Government Tourist Organization (MGTO) at telephone 1-800-44-MEXICO (639-426). Travelers are advised to consult with the Mexican Embassy or the nearest Mexican consulate in the United States for additional, detailed information prior to entering Mexico.

AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE: Mexican auto insurance is sold in most cities and towns on both sides of the border. U.S. automobile liability insurance is not valid in Mexico nor is most collision and comprehensive coverage issued by U.S. companies. Therefore, when you cross the border, please purchase auto insurance adequate for your needs in Mexico. A good rule of thumb is to buy coverage equivalent to that which you carry in the United States. If you are involved in an accident, you will be taken into police custody until it can be determined who is liable and whether you have the ability to pay any penalty. If you do not have Mexican liability insurance, you may be prevented from departing the country even if you require life-saving medical care, and are almost certain to spend some time in jail until all parties are satisfied that responsibility has been assigned and adequate financial satisfaction received. Motor vehicle insurance is considered invalid in Mexico if the driver is found to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Drivers may also face criminal charges if the injuries or damages are serious.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Mexico's Civil Aviation Authority as Category 1 -- in compliance with international aviation safety standards for oversight of Mexico's air carrier operations. For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the United States at telephone 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA Internet home page at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa/.

The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact the DOD at telephone (618) 229-4801.

CUSTOMS REGULATIONS: Mexican customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from Mexico of items such as antiquities, medications, medical equipment, business equipment, etc. It is advisable to contact the Mexican Embassy or one of the Mexican consulates in the United States for specific information regarding customs requirements.

CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While traveling in Mexico, U.S. citizens are subject to Mexico's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Americans who commit illegal acts have no special privileges and are subject to full prosecution under the Mexican judicial system. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Mexico's laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned.

DRUG PENALTIES AND PRESCRIPTION MEDICATIONS: Penalties for drug offenses are strict, and convicted offenders can expect large fines and jail sentences up to 25 years. As in the United States, the purchase of controlled medication requires a doctor's prescription. The Mexican list of controlled medication differs from that of the United States, and Mexican public health laws concerning controlled medication are unclear and often enforced selectively.

The U.S. Embassy recommends that U.S. citizens not travel to Mexico for the sole purpose of buying prescription drugs. U.S. citizens have been arrested, and their medicines have been confiscated by the Mexican authorities, even though their prescriptions were written by a physician and filled by a licensed Mexican pharmacist. Moreover, the importation of prescription drugs into the United States can be illegal in certain circumstances. Further information on bringing prescription drugs into the United States is available from the U.S. Customs Service at http://www.customs.ustreas.gov.

Also, the U.S. Embassy cautions that possession of any amount of prescription medicine brought from the United States, including medications to treat HIV and psychotropic drugs, such as valium, can result in arrest if Mexican authorities suspect abuse or if the quantity of the prescription medicine exceeds the amount required for several days' use. Individuals should consider carrying a copy of the prescription and a doctor's letter explaining that the quantity of medication is appropriate for their personal medical use. U.S. citizens who plan to go to Mexico to purchase medication or who may be in possession of medication prescribed in the United States should check with the nearest Mexican consulate before traveling to Mexico.

FIREARMS PENALTIES: The Department of State warns U.S. citizens against taking any type of firearm or ammunition into Mexico without prior written authorization from the Mexican authorities. Entering Mexico with a firearm or even a single round of ammunition is illegal, even if the firearm or ammunition is taken into Mexico unintentionally. The Mexican Government strictly enforces its laws restricting the entry of firearms and ammunition along all land borders and at air and seaports. Violations have resulted in arrests, convictions, and long prison sentences for U.S. citizens, including several who unintentionally crossed the border with firearms or ammunition in their possession. U.S. citizens approaching Mexico along the land border who realize they are in possession of unauthorized firearms or ammunition should not try to enter Mexico. The only way to import firearms and/or ammunition into Mexico legally is to secure a permit in advance from the Mexican Embassy in Washington, D.C. or from a Mexican consulate, even if the firearm is legally registered in the United States.

Vessels entering Mexican waters with firearms or ammunition on board must have a permit previously issued by the Mexican Embassy or a Mexican consulate. Mariners do not avoid prosecution for arms smuggling by declaring their weapons at the port of entry. Before traveling, mariners who have obtained a Mexican firearms permit should contact Mexican port officials to receive guidance on the specific procedures used to report and secure weapons and ammunition.

ALIEN SMUGGLING: Anyone arrested for transporting aliens into or out of Mexico may be prosecuted by Mexican authorities for alien smuggling in addition to any charges they may face in the other country involved, including the United States. Alien smuggling and harboring aliens is a serious felony offense in Mexico.

REAL ESTATE AND TIME-SHARES: U.S. citizens should be aware of the risks inherent in purchasing real estate in Mexico, and should exercise extreme caution before entering into any form of commitment to invest in property there. Investors must recognize the absolute need to obtain authoritative information and to hire competent Mexican legal counsel when contemplating any real estate investment. Mexican laws and practices regarding real estate differ substantially from those in the United States. Foreigners may be granted the right to own real property only under very specific conditions. Whether investing through a trust mechanism in border and coastal areas or by outright purchase in Mexico's interior, U.S. citizens are vulnerable to title challenges that may result in years of litigation and possible eviction. Title insurance is virtually unknown and untested in Mexico. In addition, Mexican law recognizes squatters' rights, so homeowners can spend thousands of dollars in legal fees and years of frustration in trying to remove squatters who occupy their property.

American citizens also should exercise caution when considering time-share investments and be aware of the aggressive tactics used by some time-share sales representatives. Buyers should be fully informed and take sufficient time to consider their decisions before signing time-share contracts, ideally after consulting an independent attorney. They should resist pressure to sign a contract the very day that they see the model unit. Mexican law allows time-share purchasers five days to cancel the contract for unconditional and full reimbursement. U.S. citizens should never sign a contract that includes clauses penalizing the buyer who cancels within five days.

OTHER PURCHASES: The U.S. Government cannot act as your legal representative in a consumer complaint, but the U.S. Embassy keeps a file of complaints to note if a pattern of abuse emerges. Your formal complaint against any merchant should be filed with the Federal consumer protection agency in Mexico, PROFECO. PROFECO has the power to mediate disputes, investigate consumer complaints, order hearings, levy fines and sanctions for not showing at hearings, and do price-check inspections of merchants. All complaints by Americans are handled by PROFECO's English-speaking office in Mexico City, telephone 5-211-1723. For more information and a complaint form, please see their web site http://www.profeco.gob.mx, "Attention to Foreigners."

VOLCANIC ACTIVITY: Since December 1994, the Popocatepetl Volcano, situated 38 miles southeast of Mexico City, has registered varying levels of seismic activity including the release of vapor, gas, ash, and incendiary material. Depending on the levels of activity, the Mexican National Center for Disaster Prevention restricts access or closes parks and hiking trails on the mountain's slopes. U.S. citizens planning to hike in the area should be alert to any warnings or signs posted, and should contact the U.S. Embassy for the latest information about seismic activity.

Civil defense officials in the states of Jalisco and Colima are closely monitoring activity at the Volcan de Colima, (also known as Volcan de Fuego), located in south-central Jalisco. The volcano produced a number of gas exhalations, explosions and ash falls in February 1999. There is also active lava flow on the south side of the mountain. A major eruption is possible. U.S. citizens should exercise caution if planning to travel to the area surrounding the volcano. They should contact the U.S. Consulate General in Guadalajara, Mexico at telephone 011-523-825-3429 for the latest information. Updated information may also be obtained in Spanish and in English at web site http://www.ucol.mx/volcan.

CHILDREN'S ISSUES: American citizens intending to adopt abroad must comply with local adoption and U.S. immigration laws. Any American citizen attempting to circumvent local adoption procedures may face arrest and prosecution by local authorities.

Many governments have initiated procedures at entry and exit points to prevent international child abduction, including requiring documentary evidence of relationship and permission of the parent(s) or legal guardian not present for the child's travel. Having such documentation on hand, even if not required, may facilitate entry and departure.

For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, please refer to our Internet site at http://travel.state.gov/children's_issues.html or telephone (202) 736-7000.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and to the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. U.S. citizens should carry with them a photocopy of their passport, and leave a photocopy with a relative or friend in the United States. Travelers may refer to the Department of State's pamphlet, A Safe Trip Abroad, for ways to promote a more trouble-free journey. This pamphlet, as well as others, such as Tips for Travelers to Mexico, is also available by mail from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington D.C. 20402, via the Internet at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs, or via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov.

REGISTRATION AND EMBASSY, CONSULATE AND CONSULAR AGENCY LOCATIONS: U.S. citizens are encouraged to register at the U.S. Embassy or at one of the U.S. consulates, and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Mexico. The U.S. Embassy is located in Mexico City at Paseo de la Reforma 305, Colonia Cuauhtemoc, telephone from the United States: 011-525-209-9100; telephone within Mexico City: 5-209-9100; telephone within Mexico 01-5-209-9100. You may also contact the Embassy by e-mail at ccs@usembassy.net.mx.

There are U.S. Consulates General in:

Ciudad Juarez at Avenida Lopez Mateos 924-N, telephone (52-16) 11-3000.

Guadalajara at Progreso 175, telephone (52-38) 25-2998.

Monterrey at Avenida Constitucion 411 Poniente 64000, telephone (52-83) 45-2120.

Tijuana at Tapachula 96, telephone (52-66) 81-7400.

There are U.S. Consulates in:

Hermosillo at Avenida Monterrey 141, telephone (52-62) 17-2375.

Matamoros at Avenida Primera 2002, telephone (52-88) 12-4402.

Merida at Paseo Montejo 453, telephone (52-99) 25-5011.

Nogales at Calle San Jose, Nogales, Sonora, telephone (52-63) 13-4820.

Nuevo Laredo at Calle Allende 3330, Col. Jardin, telephone (52-87) 14-0512.

There are U.S. Consular Agencies in:

Acapulco at Hotel Acapulco Continental, Costera M. Aleman 121 -Local 14,
telephone (52-74) 84-03-00/ or (52-74) 69-05-56.

Cabo San Lucas at Blvd. Marina y Pedregal #1, Local No. 3, Zona Centro, telephone (52-114) 3-35-66.

Cancun at Plaza Caracol Two, Third Level, No. 320-323, Boulevard Kukulcan, km. 8.5, Zona Hotelera, telephone (52-98) 83-02-72.

Cozumel at Plaza Villa Mar in the Main Square - El Centro, 2nd floor right rear, Locale #8, Av. Juarez and 5th Av. Nte., telephone (52-98) 72-4574.

Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo at Local 9, Plaza Ambiente, telephone (52-755) 3-11-08 or 7-11-06.

Mazatlan at Hotel Playa Mazatlan, Rodolfo T. Loaiza #202, Zona Dorada, telephone (52-69) 16-5889.

Oaxaca at Macedonio Alcala No. 407, Interior 20, telephone (52-951) 4-30-54 or 6-28-53.

Puerto Vallarta at Edif. Vallarta, Plaza Zaragoza 160-Piso 2 Int-18, telephone (52-322) 2-0069.

San Luis Potosi at Edificio "Las Terrazas", Av. Venustiano Carranza 2076-41, (52-481) 1-7802.

San Miguel de Allende at Dr. Hernandez Macias #72, telephone (52-415) 2-2357 or 2-0068.

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  • Read the Consular Info Sheet, and Travel Warning related to Mexico

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