In Transit Safety — México
Travelers are especially vulnerable to theft when in transit because all their possessions are with them.
Here are some strategies to help lessen the risks:
- Travel in the daytime if possible. Traveling at night makes you more vulnerable to theft because perpetrators take advantage of the cover of darkness.
- Keep your main stash of valuables: travelers checks, debit and credit cards, the bulk of your cash, passport, and important papers in a money belt or in hidden pockets.
- Carry only a small amount of cash in your wallet or pockets for your incidental in transit expenses and keep it separate from your main stash.
- As a emergency back up store a small amount of cash (say USD$50-100) and photocopies of all your important documents in your bags.
- The storage compartments underneath buses are usually secure.
- Still, if you want to keep your bags with you store them right next to you, NOT in an unoccupied seat in front or behind. A patient thief will wait until you dose off and rifle through your unattended bags. Never let them out of your sight.
- This is less a safety issue and more of an annoyance, but representatives of hotels will sometimes accost travelers arriving at bus stations and claim their's is the only place available with vacancies. Don't believe it and steer clear.
Traveling by bus in México is generally safe, though this hasn't always been the case. In the past, buses had a well-deserved reputation for being mechanically unsound, and drivers were known for driving recklessly. Recently, the government has begun to regulate the bus companies more closely, and their overall safety record has improved considerably.
The biggest risk in traveling by bus comes from being ripped off by pickpockets at bus stations. Pickpockets, often operating in groups, like to work among the chaos of the crowds, always looking for an easy mark. A foreign traveler who is flustered, bumbling about with his luggage is a magnet for pickpockets. Projecting a confident airs—even when you're not feeling particularly confident—signals that you are not to be taken advantage of. The less you look like an easy mark, the less likely you are to be targeted. Keeping this in mind and following these easy rules will lessen your risk of being a target of theft:
- Always keep your bags and purses in front of you, never to your side or behind you. And it goes without saying that you should never, ever, leave your bags unattended.
- Most bus stations have a luggage storage area, called a guardería, consigna, or equipaje, where bags can be checked. Expect to pay around Mex$50-100 per day per item. They're usually not open 24/7, so be sure to check their hours. Sometimes smaller bus stations and bus company offices (where buses drop-off and pickup passengers) do not have formal storage areas. In these cases, bus company staff can sometimes be persuaded to look after luggage for short periods of time.
- Luggage is generally safe on buses, whether stored in overhead bins or checked. Still, it's best to separate valuables and easily replaceable items into different bags. In a small carry-on bag put all valuables—such as money, passport, and camera—which should be kept on your person or within arms reach, not in an unoccupied seat in front or behind you, at all times. Otherwise, a patient thief will wait until you become distracted or dose off and then rifle through it. In another larger bag put easily replaceable items—such as clothes, extra shoes, toiletries—to be checked or stored in overhead bins. Keep in mind, just because a bag fit in an overhead bin on the flight down, doesn't mean it's going to on a bus. If there's any question about whether a bag is too large, go a head and check it. Moreover, be sure to label every bag and, if checked, get receipts. Also, it's prudent to watch checked bags go in a bus' storage area and to make sure they're not inadvertently removed during stops along the way. If, after having taken all these precautions, your checked bags are missing, as long as you've held on to your receipts, the chances of recovery are good. Generally, bus line and bus station workers are trustworthy and will conscientiously try to find your bags. Once your luggage is found, be sure to tip whoever was responsible.
- Representatives of hotels will sometimes accost travelers arriving at bus stations and claim theirs is the only place available with vacancies. Don't believe it and steer clear of them.
- Although rare, buses are sometimes targeted by robbers at night on remote stretches of highways. Taking the bus during the day, especially along highways with known problems, will significantly reduce the risk of being robbed. Highway robbers tend to not target vehicles on major toll roads and expressways. Because first-class buses usually take these routes, they are less susceptible to being robbed than second-class buses, which usually take less direct, more remote, routes.