Drug-fueled violence has been simmering over in certain parts of Mexico for well over a year now. The State Department has issued official travel warning after official travel warning to keep US citizens informed of the situation, most recently in April.
With horror stories coming in from across the border on a semi-regular basis, many US citizens have decided that it might be more prudent to take a summer vacation elsewhere. It should be noted that only certain parts of Mexico are affected by the violence- even the cautious bureaucrats over at the Department of State note that “the majority of visitors to Mexico thoroughly enjoy their stay.” The travel warning suggests that you stay away from the following areas: Northern Baja California, Sonora, Chihuahua, Nuevo Leon (especially the city of Monterrey), Tamaulipas Durango, Coahuila, Zacatecas, Sinaloa, Southern Sonora, Nayarit, Jalisco, San Luis Potosi, Michoacán, Guerrero and Morelos.
That still leaves a lot of places in Mexico that are fairly calm. However, if you’d prefer to stay out of the country altogether, Gadling has a couple of alternative suggestions: Costa Rica and Panama. According to the Department of State, the main threat to tourists in Costa Rica is theft. While Costa Rica has long been popular with American tourists, Panama is more of an up-and-coming destination, as evidenced by the construction of country’s first Westin Hotel and resort.
If you want to check out either of these countries, though, you’ll need to get a passport. To enter Costa Rica, you’ll need a US passport valid for at least 30 days after your arrival. If you’re going to Panama, it must be valid for at least three months.
To ensure you get your passport in time, plan ahead. It takes about six weeks to get a passport if you apply for regular service, and about three weeks if you request expedited service for an additional $60.
To get a passport more quickly, you can either make an appointment at the nearest regional passport agency office, or save time and gas money by using a private passport expediting company like RushMyPassport.
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