In Mexico, Insurance Can Help, but Only So Much

When spring rolls around, thousands of college coeds head south to Mexico, where warm temps, sandy beaches and cheap drinks fuel all sorts of reckless behavior.

According to the U.S. State Department's web page on Mexican travel, "Alcohol is implicated in the majority of arrests, violent crimes, accidents and deaths suffered by U.S. citizen tourists." When college kids are involved, I suspect the percentage jumps even higher.

That said, even teetotaling visitors can encounter problems south of the border, with property theft and Montezuma's Revenge being the more common small-scale annoyances. On the extreme end of the spectrum, there's murder, extortion, kidnapping, rape, which are regular occurrences in parts of the country, particularly the large cities and border towns.

Which brings us to insurance. It's certainly not a bad idea to consider getting some coverage for you or your child before heading to Mexico.

Things you can insure:

  • Trip cancellation/delay
  • Car accidents and theft
  • Stolen possessions and lost luggage
  • Emergency evacuation and medical care

In March 2009, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners issued a consumer alert regarding spring break travel, reminding students and parents that "neither American auto nor health insurance will generally be accepted outside of the United States." Travel insurance can fill the gaps.

Note: When shopping for travel insurance, be sure to speak with a licensed agent and review policy coverages carefully before purchasing. DO NOT buy a policy from an unlicensed seller. Check with your state department of insurance to verify an agent's or agency's status.

Of course insurance can't cover everything. And that's where common sense comes in.

Things you can't insure against:

  • Getting a bad sunburn/tan line
  • Embarrassing yourself after too much tequila
  • Crossing a Mexican drug dealer
  • Getting thrown in a Mexican prison

To all potential visitors to Mexico, especially those who just finished exams, I would like to pass on this. sage advice, which comes from Foreign Policy writer Preeti Aroon:

  1. If you're not going to do it at home, think twice about doing it in Mexico.
  2. Watch what people put into your drinks.
  3. Remember that it's not a theme park; it's a sovereign country with laws.
  4. [Don't] take a vacation from your common sense.
  5. Enjoy your vacation in moderation.
  6. Don't be incited by others to do crazy things.
  7. Do what your parents told you.

In other words, don't act like a jerk, go easy on the booze and have fun. And wear sunscreen.

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