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Spring Break in Mexico: 5 Legal Tips to Know

By Aditi Mukherji, JD | Last updated on

According to the U.S. State Department, 100,000 American teenagers and young adults travel to Mexico for Spring Break every year.

While the vast majority of them enjoy their Mexico vacations without a hitch, the State Department cautions that "several may die, hundreds will be arrested, and still more will make mistakes that could affect them for the rest of their lives," reports.

Here are five legal tips for spring breakers in Mexico:

  1. Drinking in public. Technically, it is illegal to walk the streets of Mexico with an open container of alcohol, though images of blacked out college kids meandering through Tijuana might suggest otherwise when it comes to actual enforcement of the law. Still, be careful.
  2. Using drugs. In 2009, Mexico decriminalized the possession of up to 5 grams of cannabis (roughly four joints), but people caught with that amount can still be detained by police, The Associated Press reports. The same law also decriminalized up to half a gram of cocaine, 50 milligrams of heroin, 40 milligrams for methamphetamine and 0.015 milligrams for LSD. Anything more than that can lead to imprisonment without bail for up to a year before a case is even tried, according to the State Department.
  3. Taking a taxi. While in Mexico, only use the licensed and regulated "sitio" taxis (pronounced SEE-tee-oh). Just like in any other place, using an unlicensed taxi in Mexico increases your risk of getting robbed, raped, or kidnapped.
  4. Driving in Mexico. Carry your U.S. driver's license with you when driving in Mexico and make sure the owner of the car is in the car with you. If you get into a car accident, know that you may be taken into police custody until it is determined who is at fault and whether you have the ability to pay any penalty. The State Department therefore strongly recommends purchasing a full coverage insurance policy that will cover the cost of bail. If you rent a moped or car, make sure to purchase third-party insurance (your credit card insurance might not cover you in Mexico).
  5. Swimming. Standards of security, safety, and supervision may not reach the levels expected in the United States. Watch for safety warnings of rough seas. If black or red flags are displayed, stay out of the water. It's best to swim where there's a lifeguard (and that applies to swimming pools too). Beware undertow and rip tides in some areas of Acapulco, Cabo San Lucas, Cancun, Mazatlan and Oaxaca.

There are plenty of perfectly safe historic, cultural, and culinary travel adventures to be had in Mexico. It ultimately comes down to being smart and playing by the rules.

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