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Mexico - travelers's summary profile

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Mexico - Summary Profile

General Information - | - Health Precautions - | - Disease Risk Summary - | - Official Health Data - | - USDOS Advisory

General Information

The southernmost country of North America, bordering the United States to the north, Mexico's terrain ranges from low desert plains and jungle-like coastal strips to high plateaus and rugged mountains. Plateau regions are temperate; mountain temperatures are cool; and seacoast temperatures are hot. The country experiences a rainy season from June to October and a dry season from November to May. Southern and eastern Mexico receive the heaviest rainfall.

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Health Precautions

General Cautions

Additional information regarding the following recommendations can be found in the General Travel Health Concerns section.

Recent medical and dental exams should ensure that the traveler is in good health. Carry appropriate health and accident insurance documents and copies of any important medical records. Bring an adequate supply of all prescription and other medications as well as any necessary personal hygiene items, including a spare pair of eyeglasses or contact lenses if necessary.

Drink only bottled beverages (including water) or beverages made with boiled water. Do not use ice cubes or eat raw seafood, rare meat or dairy products. Eat well-cooked foods while they are still hot and fruits that can be peeled without contamination. Avoid roadside stands and street vendors.

Swim only in well-maintained, chlorinated pools or ocean water known to be free from pollution. Wear clothing that reduces exposed skin and apply repellents containing DEET to remaining areas. Sleep in well-screened accommodations. Carry anti-diarrheal medication. Reduce problems related to sun exposure by using sunglasses, wide-brimmed hats, sunscreen lotions and lip protection.

Specific Concerns

  • AIDS occurs. Blood supply may not be adequately screened and/or single-use, disposable needles and syringes may be unavailable. When possible, travelers should defer medical treatment until reaching a facility where safety can be assured. (The U.S. Embassy reports that blood screening in Mexico City is yielding a level of confidence in the blood supply there similar to that in most U.S. cities. Officials have expressed concern, however, that Mexico gets about one-third of its blood supply from 25,000 "professional" donors who sell their blood to hospitals and families in need. Past testing for AIDS antibodies indicated that 10% of these donors had been exposed to the AIDS virus.)
  • CDC has issued an Advisory Memorandum that discourages travelers from consuming any "untreated ground water which has not been tested sufficiently to guarantee its safety. Travelers are advised that, while they may know of persons who have consumed such water with no ill effects, the fact that the water is not tested or treated places the user at risk of a variety of potential hazards, including cholera. Travelers who insist upon drinking water from Mexican springs are advised that boiling the water should make it safe from biological hazards, although not from chemical hazards. Persons who become ill after drinking the water should seek medical attention." Furthermore, CDC advises that "water and perishable foods, including shellfish and other seafood, should not be brought into the U.S. by returning travelers."
  • Air pollution is severe in Mexico City and persons with cardiopulmonary disease will find their condition aggravated. The severe pollution problem is further aggravated by periodic thermal inversions from December to February. (The health services of the Ministries of Foreign Affairs of Britain, Canada, Australia and Germany have all gone on record recommending against bringing children under the age of 12 to live in Mexico City. This recommendation is based on the high level of pollution in general and especially atmospheric pollution. The U.S. Embassy in Mexico has not officially cautioned against children living in Mexico City.)
  • The combination of aridness related to the altitude and the long dry season and severe air pollution cause irritation of the mucous membranes of the respiratory tract. Upper respiratory problems such as rhinitis, sinusitis and bronchitis are leading causes of medical attention.
  • Altitude of Mexico City may cause lightheadedness, insomnia, slight headache or shortness of breath. Travelers are advised to avoid overeating, alcoholic beverages or undue exertion until such symptoms have disappeared.
  • Rodents pose a significant health hazard, especially in market areas in Mexico City.
  • High concentrations of natural arsenic have been reported to be contaminating the water in southwestern Coahuila and eastern Durango states, an area known as the Comarca Lagunera (the Lagoon Region) due to the once-abundant lakes in the area. As the water supply has been depleted, the natural arsenic has become more concentrated in the remaining water. The effects of the arsenic have been most noted in persons having long-term exposure to the water.

Immunizations

These recommendations are not absolute and should not be construed to apply to all travelers. A final decision regarding immunizations will be based on the traveler's medical history, proposed itinerary, duration of stay and purpose for traveling.

Cholera : Although limited in effectiveness, vaccination may be appropriate for persons living and/or working in less than sanitary conditions for more than 3 months where medical facilities are unavailable. Vaccination may also be appropriate for travelers with impaired gastric defenses who are planning an extended visit or being exposed to unsanitary conditions. Vaccination is not advised for pregnant women, infants younger than 6 months old, or persons with a history of severe reaction to the vaccine.

Hepatitis A : Consider active immunization with hepatitis A vaccine or passive immunization with immune globulin (IG) for all susceptible travelers. Especially consider choosing active immunization for persons planning to reside for a long period or for persons who take frequent short-term trips to risk areas. The importance of protection against hepatitis A increases as length of stay increases. It is particularly important for persons who will be living in or visiting rural areas, eating or drinking in settings of poor or uncertain sanitation, or who will have close contact with local persons (especially young children) in settings with poor sanitary conditions.

Rabies : Preexposure vaccination should be considered for persons staying longer than 30 days who are expected to be at risk to bites from domestic and/or wild animals (particularly dogs), or for persons engaged in high risk activities such as spelunking or animal handling. Need for vaccination is more important if potential exposure is in rural areas and if adequate postexposure care is not readily available.

Typhoid : Vaccination should be considered for persons staying longer than 3 weeks, adventurous eaters, and those who will venture off the usual tourist routes into small cities, villages and rural areas. Importance of vaccination increases as access to reasonable medical care becomes limited. Contraindications depend on vaccine type.

Note: All routine vaccines (such as DTP or Td, Hib, MMR, polio, varicella, influenza and pneumococcal) should be kept up-to-date as a matter of good health practice unrelated to travel.

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Disease Risk Summary

Additional information regarding the diseases listed below can be found in the Summaries of Travel Illnesses section.

Insect-borne illness:

  • Dengue fever - occurs (activity has increased in the northern border states of Coahuila, Tamaulipas and Nuevo Leon)
  • Dengue hemorrhagic fever - occurs
  • Encephalitis (Venezuelan equine) - occurs
  • Leishmaniasis - occurs
  • Malaria - occurs
  • Onchocerciasis (river blindness) - occurs
  • Trypanosomiasis (Chagas' disease) - occurs

Food-borne and water-borne illness: diseases, including amoebic and bacillary dysenteries and other diarrheal diseases, and the typhoid fevers are very common throughout the area. Many Salmonella typhi infections have been caused by drug-resistant enterobacteria.

  • Cholera - occurs
  • Helminthic (parasitic worm) infections - common
  • Hepatitis - occurs

Other hazards:

  • High levels of immunization coverage have reduced the incidence of diseases such as measles and diphtheria.
  • Influenza risk extends from November to April in areas north of the Tropic of Cancer and throughout the year in areas south of that.
  • Rabies - prevalent (usually dogs and bats)

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Official Health Data

Requirements

AIDS: According to the Department of State and the Mexican embassy, testing is required for applicants for permanent residence visas or visas for stays of more than 90 days. Foreign test results are accepted under certain conditions. Contact Mexico's embassy for details.

Yellow fever: A yellow fever vaccination certificate is required from travelers over 6 months of age coming from infected areas.

Reportable Disease Status

Cholera: Officially considered infected. Infection reported in the following states: Campeche, Chiapas, Chihuahua, Colima, Distrito Federal, Guanajuato, Guerrero, Hidalgo, Jalisco, Mexico, Michoacan, Morelos, Nuevo Leon, Oaxaca, Puebla, Queretaro, Quintana Roo, San Luis Potosi, Sonora, Tabasco, Tamaulipas, Tlaxcala, Veracruz, Yucatan, Zacateca.

Malaria Information

Risk areas: Risk exists throughout the year in rural areas of the following states (listed in order of decreasing importance, according to WHO): Oaxaca, Chiapas, Sinaloa, Michoacan, Quintana Roo, Guerrero, Campeche, Tabasco, Nayarit, Chihuahua and Hidalgo. WHO reports risk is almost exclusively in P. vivax form. P. falciparum cases have been reported from Chiapas, Quintana Roo and Tabasco states.

Protective measures: CDC recommends that travelers to areas of risk undertake chemoprophylaxis with chloroquine in addition to personal protective measures. Travelers visiting major resorts in risk areas need only take personal protective measures against mosquitoes (i.e., use repellents, wear protective clothing, sleep in well screened areas or under netting).

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USDOS Advisory

The material below is reprinted verbatim from the U.S. Department of State (USDOS). Recommendations regarding preventive health measures (including immunizations), if given here, may differ from those of the CDC/ACIP presented elsewhere in this report. Health-related entry requirements, if included here, may not agree with the official version of requirements reported by WHO and presented in the Official Health Data section of this report.

Public Announcement - January 21, 1997

Due to the increasing frequency and violence of taxi robberies in Mexico City, the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City strongly advises Americans to use only taxis from authorized taxi stands ("sitios") at the airport and throughout the city.

Growing numbers of U.S. Embassy employees and tourists have been assaulted, abducted and robbed after hailing Volks-wagen "Bug" taxis and other cabs cruising the streets of Mexico City or parked in front of restaurants, theaters, clubs and hotels. Travelers should consult their hotels for locations of authorized taxi stands or contact 24-hour radio taxis in Mexico City by calling 217-9146, 271-9058 or 273-6125. Further information may be obtained from the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City (tel. 211-0042).

For further information on travel to Mexico, consult the Department of State's latest Consular Information Sheet for Mexico.

Consular Information Sheet - September 3, 1996

Country Description: Mexico has a rapidly developing economy. Luxury accommodations in major cities and resorts are widely available. Tourist facilities in more remote areas may be limited.

Entry Requirements: Proof of citizenship and photo identification are required for entry by all U.S. citizens. A passport and visa are not required for a tourist/transit stay of up to 180 days. A tourist card, issued by Mexican consulates and most airlines serving Mexico, is required. Minors require notarized consent from parent(s) if traveling alone, with one parent, or in someone else's custody. 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. Other travel-related items may also be brought in duty-free. Amounts exceeding the duty-free limit are subject to a 32.8 percent tax.

Upon arrival in Mexico, business travelers must complete a form (FM-N 30 days) authorizing the conduct of business, but not employment, for a 30 day period. If the business traveler departs and re-enters, the 30-day period begins again. For further information concerning entry requirements, travelers may contact the Embassy of Mexico at 1911 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20006, telephone (202) 736-1000, or any of the Mexican consulates in major U.S. cities. In response to the increased interest in immigration matters in the U.S., Mexican authorities may scrutinize more closely the visa situation of Americans residing or working in Mexico. Americans planning on working or living in Mexico, therefore, should be sure to apply for the appropriate Mexican visa (FM-2 or 3).

Special Information: Since December 1994, the Popocatepetl volcano has registered varying levels of seismic activity. Depending on the levels of activity, Mexican government officials have, at times, restricted access to the slope of the volcano. Americans planning to hike in the area should be alert to any warnings or signs posted on the slopes of the volcano. The U.S. Embassy encourages Americans planning to hike in the area to contact the embassy for the latest information about seismic activity.

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. U.S. medical insurance is not always valid outside the U.S. In some instances, supplemental medical insurance with specific overseas coverage and medical evacuation coverage has proven useful. Air pollution in Mexico City and Guadalajara is severe, especially from December to May. Further information on health matters can be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's International Travelers' Hotline, tel: (404) 332-4559 or on the Internet at: http://www.cdc.gov/

Crime Information: Crime continues to increase, particularly in urban areas. Travelers to Mexico should leave valuables and irreplaceable items in a safe place. All visitors to Mexico are encouraged to make use of hotel safes when available, to avoid wearing obviously expensive jewelry or designer clothing, and to 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, as officials may suspect money laundering or other criminal activity.

In the past year, there has been a increase in assaults on passengers in taxis. The U.S. Embassy in Mexico City recommends that only airport, tourist or CTO taxis (taxis from authorized taxi stands) be used. "Green and white" taxis and Volkswagen-style roving taxis should be avoided. If someone attempts to rob you, it is generally considered safest to immediately comply by handing over the requested items. Persons driving on some Mexican roads, particularly in isolated regions, have been targeted by bandits, who operate primarily after dark. Criminals, particularly in Sinaloa, sometimes represent themselves as Mexican police or other local officials. Highway hold-ups in the state of Campeche have become bolder. While favored targets are long distance busses at night, reports have been received of busses being stopped and passengers robbed during daylight hours. The most risky roads appear to be route 186 heading east from Escarcega, Campeche and the secondary route between Escarcega and Candalaria, Campeche. Any U.S. citizen victims of crime in Mexico are encouraged to report the incident to local police authorities and to the nearest U.S. consular office.

The U.S. Embassy advises its personnel not to travel on Mexican highways after dark. Highway 15 and Express Highway 1 (limited access) in the state of Sinaloa are particularly dangerous areas where criminal assaults and murders have occurred both during the day and at night.

Driving Information: U.S. driver's licenses are valid in Mexico. Mexican insurance is required. All vehicular traffic is restricted in Mexico City in order to reduce air pollution. The restriction is based on the last digit of the vehicle license plate. (There is no specific provision regarding license plates with letters only).

  • Mon.: No driving if license plate ends with 5 or 6.
  • Tue.: No driving if license plate ends with 7 or 8.
  • Wed.: No driving if license plate ends with 3 or 4.
  • Thu.: No driving if license plate ends with 1 or 2.
  • Fri.: No driving if license plate ends with 9 or 0.

Also on Friday, there is no driving of vehicles with temporary license plates or any other plate that does not conform with the above. On Saturday and Sunday all vehicles may be driven.

Security: The Mexican military has reestablished authority in rural towns and villages in the State of Chiapas. However, there is still an armed rebel presence in more remote mountainous areas of the state. The situation remains unstable. Americans traveling to the areas are encouraged to exercise extreme caution and to contact the U.S. Embassy or Consulates for further security information prior to traveling to the region.

In August 1996, armed individuals claiming to be members of the Popular Revolutionary Army launched a series of small attacks and/or propaganda actions in seven states including Chiapas, Guerrero, Oaxaca, Puebla and the state of Mexico. There was no evidence of Americans or other tourists having been targeted. However, several Mexican military police and civilians were killed or injured in the incidents. While Mexican government authorities have taken steps to prevent further incidents, they could occur again. The Embassy suggests that American citizens travelling in Mexico exercise caution. Military roadblocks may be encountered while travelling and tourists should be prepared to show identification and have vehicles searched. For further information, travelers may contact the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City.

Traveling in Baja: During heavy seasonal rains (January-March), road conditions can become difficult and travelers can become stranded. For current Mexican road conditions between Ensenada and El Rosario, travelers can contact the nearest Mexican consulate or tourism office or the U.S. Consulate General in Tijuana.

Travel through Mexico to Central American Countries: Mexican authorities require that all international transit of persons (transmigrantes) and merchandise through Mexico, destined for Central America, from the area from Ciudad Acuna to Matamoros, be handled by the Lucio Blanco-Los Indios customs office and by the Colombia, Nuevo Laredo customs office. Transmigrantes entering Mexico from areas other than the Ciudad Acuna-Matamoros zone will continue to use their regular ports of entry. Mexican authorities require that a customs broker handle the temporary entry into Mexico of all non-personal property of travelers destined for central American countries. Fees will be processed through the customs broker. For more detailed information, travelers can contact the nearest Mexican consulate or tourism office or the U.S. Consulate in Matamoros prior to departing the U.S.

Bringing Vehicles, Boats and Trailers into Mexico: The government of Mexico strictly regulates the entry of vehicles into Mexico. Travelers going more than twenty-five kilometers into Mexico must complete appropriate temporary vehicle importation documentation. They should carefully read the temporary vehicle importation information provided to them by Mexican authorities and ensure that the vehicle's title and import documents are in order and correctly completed. Check the expiration date on the temporary importation documents. Failure to carefully review documentation and comply with temporary vehicle importation regulations may lead to vehicle confiscation or a fine, which can be higher than the value of the vehicle. The owner of an imported vehicle should be present at all times the vehicle is in operation, or the vehicle may be confiscated. Mexican law permits the spouse or adult children of a U.S. citizen owner to drive his car, provided they are in the same immigration status as the U.S. citizen. If an unauthorized person drives the U.S. citizen's car, customs can legally impound the vehicle based on unauthorized importation. Travelers are advised to contact the nearest Mexican consulate in the U.S. for specific, detailed information prior to departing the U.S. Mexican law governing the entry requirements for boats and trailers is currently undergoing change. Travelers are advised to consult with the nearest Mexican consulate in the U.S. for detailed information prior to departing the U.S.

Drug Penalties: Penalties for drug offenses are strict, and convicted offenders can expect lengthy jail sentences and fines. Sentences for possession of drugs in Mexico can be as long as 25 years plus fines. Just as in the U.S., purchase of controlled medication requires a doctor's prescription. The Mexican list of controlled medication differs from the U.S. list, and Mexican public health laws concerning controlled medication are unclear. Possession of excessive amounts of a psychotropic drug such as valium can result in arrest if the authorities suspect abuse. Travelers should check with the nearest Mexican consulate before traveling to Mexico to purchase medication.

Firearms Penalties: Possession of any gun or rifle without proper authorization by the Mexican authorities is considered a "Firearms Offense" in Mexico and carries stiff penalties. Possession of a single non-assault weapon carries a penalty of up to five years in Mexican prison. Sentences for possession of firearms in Mexico can be as long as 30 years. A permit from a Mexican consulate in the U.S. is required in order to import firearms or ammunition into Mexico, whether or not the firearm is legally registered in the U.S.

The U.S. Embassy has noted an increase of American citizens being detained for illegally smuggling arms into Mexico. U.S. citizens should comply with all Mexican laws on arms, including any arms they may wish to bring in for hunting. Travelers should check with the nearest Mexican consulate before traveling to Mexico with firearms. Some Mexican cities have ordinances prohibiting the possession of knives or anything that might be construed as a weapon.

Dual Citizenship: U.S. citizens who are also considered to be Mexican citizens could be subject to compulsory military service and other aspects of Mexican law while in Mexico. Those who may be affected can inquire at the Mexican Embassy or a consulate to determine status. In some instances, dual nationality may hamper U.S. Government efforts to provide protection in Mexico.

Other Information: U.S. citizens who become involved in time-share or other real property purchases should be aware that Mexican laws and practices regarding real estate are markedly different from those in the U.S. Foreigners purchasing real estate or time-shares in Mexico have no protection under Mexican law and should be aware of the high risks involved. Foreigners may be granted the right to own real property only under very specific conditions, and the purchase of real property in Mexico is far more complicated than in the United States. For example, no title insurance is available in Mexico for the purchaser, and builders frequently go bankrupt, leaving the investors with little recourse to recoup their funds. Time share purchasers should also be aware that all contracts must be executed in Mexican pesos to be valid. If payment for the contract is made by credit card, the ultimate price of the contract negotiated in U.S. dollars may vary from the rate discussed. The U.S. Embassy strongly recommends the use of competent local legal assistance for any significant real property or business purchase. A list of local attorneys can be obtained from the U.S. Embassy or nearest consulate in Mexico.

Caution at Beach Resorts: Visitors to Mexican resorts should carefully assess the risk potential in recreational activities and be cautious when swimming in pools and at beaches without lifeguards. Rented aquatic equipment may not be safe, mechanically reliable nor covered by any accident insurance. Para-sailing should be avoided since cases have been reported of tourists being dragged through palm trees or slammed into hotel walls while para-sailing.

Tips for Travelers: Useful information is provided in the Department of State pamphlets A Safe Trip Abroad and Tips for Travelers to Mexico which are available from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402.

Aviation Oversight: In May 1992, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration assessed Mexico's civil aviation authority as in compliance with international aviation safety oversight standards for Mexico's carriers operating to and from the U.S. For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation at 1-800-322-7873.

Embassy and Consulate Locations/Registration: U.S. citizens who register at the U.S. Embassy or a consulate can 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 (52-5)211-0042.

There are also U.S. Consulates General in:

  • Ciudad Juarez at Avenida Lopez Mateos 924-N, telephone (52-16)134048;
  • Guadalajara at Progreso 175, telephone (52-36)25-2998;
  • Monterrey at Avenida Constitucion 411 Poniente 64000, telephone (52-83)45-2120;
  • Tijuana at Tapachula 96, telephone (52-66)817400.

There are U.S. Consulates in:

  • Hermosillo at Ave. Monterrey 141, telephone (52-62)172375;
  • Matamoros at Ave. Primera 2002, telephone (52-88)12-44-02;
  • Merida at Paseo Montejo 453, telephone (52-99)25-5011;
  • Nuevo Laredo at Calle Allende 3330, Col. Jardin, telephone (52-871)4-0512.

There are Consular Agencies in:

  • Puerto Vallarta at Parian Del Puente Local 12-A, telephone (52-322)2-0069;
  • Acapulco at Hotel Club Del Sol, telephone (52-748)5-7207/5-6600;
  • Cancun at Plaza Caracol Two, third level, no. 320-323, Boulevard Kukulcan, km.8.5, Zona Hotelera, telephone (52-98) 83-02-72;
  • San Luis Potosi at Francisco De P. Mariel 102, Desp. One, telephone (52-481)2-1528;
  • Oaxaca at Alcala 201, telephone (52-951)4-3054;
  • San Miguel de Allende at Dr. Hernandez Macias #72, telephone (52-465)2-2357/2-0068;
  • Tampico at Ave. Hidalgo #2000 local 4, telephone (52-12)13-2217;
  • Veracruz at Victims del 25 de Junio #388, telephone (52-29)31-5821;
  • Cabo San Lucas at Blvd. Marina Y Perdregal, Local No. 3 Zona Centro, telephone (52-114) 3-35-66; and
  • Mazatlan at Hotel Playa Mazatlan, Rodolfo T. Loaiza #202, Zona Dorada, 82110, telephone (52-69) 134-444 ext. 285.

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Published or Updated on: February 16, 2007
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