Mexico has been no stranger to defamation campaigns pertaining to its security status in the U.S. media, even though its tourist hotspots boast a comparable, if not higher, safety level than many cities North of the border.
One of them is Puerto Vallarta, a popular beach destination slapped with a Level 3 travel warning. This means Americans should reconsider visiting due to crime, but if this new data is anything to go by, Vallarta is one of Mexico’s safest resort zones.
So why is it considered risky, and where does that perception of safety arise from?
Why Is Puerto Vallarta Considered Dangerous And What’s The Evidence?
United States authorities officially consider Puerto Vallarta and the wider state of Jalisco a risky destination. Having placed it a Level 3 in their infamous travel warnings, Washington urges its citizens to reconsider travel to the area, citing crime.
That’s one side of the argument, as according to the latest National Urban Public Safety (ENSU) survey carried out by Mexican authorities, Puerto Vallarta is now one of the top five safest cities in Mexico, as perceived by residents.
It is up 8 slots from the previous survey when it ranked outside the top ten at an unlucky number 13, which only goes to show the local administration’s investment in safety measures and tightening of surveillance in critical zones have paid off.
Only 21.4% of residents in Puerto Vallarta found their city to be unsafe – so why is there a huge discrepancy between the U.S. data and Mexico’s own?
U.S. Warnings Are Overly Conservative
First of all, we must state we are not here to discredit travel warnings issued by the U.S.
They have access to intelligence we, as a travel news source, have not, and we do not claim to know better than experts.
These warnings must be taken into consideration when planning a trip abroad, but we must remember they are advisory in nature and not an explicit order for Americans to avoid certain destinations.
Yes, you are urged to ‘reconsider’ visiting Jalisco as crime rates are supposedly high, but this does not mean you cannot go.
In fact, Puerto Vallarta and its adjacent Riviera Nayarit, in the neighboring state of Nayarit, is one of the top three busiest beach resorts in Mexico, hosting millions of American guests every year.
Additionally, one of the reasons why Mexico and the U.S. often don’t see eye to eye when it comes to the classification of security threats in tourist cities is how overly conservative the advisories can be.
Are Safety Risks Overestimated?
Throughout 2022, a single kidnapping case warranted the addition of a ‘kidnapping risk’ in traditionally safe, highly sought-after Cancun, though it isn’t statistically relevant in any way.
Our point is the United States may be accurate in its assessment, but risks may be overestimated.
We are not the only ones to believe that: the Mexican President himself has lambasted the U.S. Government for these strict warnings, telling Americans directly Mexico is safer than their home country.
While this could not be established in independent research, as there are too many variables to take into account, there is no denying Washington’s advisories lack the timeliness and, at times, even accuracy pertaining to the actual scale of the problem.
Granted, they do not go as far as adding Vallarta to the Level 4 listing, the ‘red zone’, where Russia, Ukraine, and Iran are found, but they are yet to revise the Level 3 status and allow the Pacific gem to join the ranks of Cancun, Los Cabos, and Mexico City in the lower tiers.
It’s been months, if not over a year, since the last significant security threat – known to the wider public – was identified in the Puerto Vallarta metropolitan area.
Violent Crime Rarely Affects Tourists In Vallarta
Though scamming and pickpocketing can be a problem, especially if you let your guard down and flash valuable items in public, outside your resort, very few, if any tourists are affected by violence or armed robbery, with not one such incident having made headlines in several months.
Like any other global destination with a high influx of tourists, Puerto Vallarta has a higher rate of petty crimes and gang activity, but higher doesn’t necessarily mean it is high by any acceptable standards.
It goes without saying Vallarta will have a higher concentration of criminals than a lesser-known, quaint hinterland town in Central Mexico, as it straddles the pristine Pacific Coast, it is a major cultural and nightlife destination, and it is trendy to visit.
Then again, so do New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami, and every single major tourist destination in the U.S.
As the latest research confirms, Vallarta locals themselves feel safe in their city, and they are likely not sealed off from the world behind the tall gates of a luxurious all-inclusive, where safety risks are always minimal, anyway.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com