Don’t Be Afraid to Travel to Mexico

Mexico has been in the news a lot lately, unfortunately not very much of it good. We’ve all heard about the drug war being waged on the Mexican border and the countless number of murders, deaths and collateral damage suffered as a result. We’ve also heard stories about the H1N1 virus, how it reportedly originated in Mexico, and the many mistruths about it being widespread and virulent throughout the country.

I have a family trip planned to Cancun in thirty-two days. While I’m naturally concerned for the safety and well-being of my family members and myself, I’m not worried about my upcoming vacation – a much needed getaway – in the very least. Hopefully the information presented below will help dispel many of the untruths, rumors and public opinion about traveling to Mexico and ease the fears of others planning their vacation to this very beautiful and safe country.

Violence in Mexico
The U.S. State Department has issued a travel alert for citizens traveling to certain parts of Mexico. It’s true that violence stemming from a drug war between Mexican cartels holding tight to territories that have been under their control for decades and the Mexican army, police and U.S. police and military involved in the conflict has escalated and should cause concern. These areas, including Tijuana, Chihuahua City, Monterrey and Ciudad Juarez, have been deemed unsafe and should be avoided by travelers. Just recently, a kidnapping involving a U.S. Citizen occurred in Tijuana. Thankfully, the woman held captive for ransom has been rescued and has since returned home unharmed.

It should be noted that most of the violence in these areas has been primarily directed toward cartel and gang members, police and public officials. As was shown in the recent case involving the kidnapped vacationer in Tijuana, this statistic should do little to alleviate anyone’s fear about traveling to these areas. Nor should it. However, I’ve noticed that many of those arguing against travel to Mexico altogether because of the drug war have said little, if anything, about the spillover into the U.S. I don’t hear these people telling me to avoid San Diego, for instance. Canada and other countries issue advisories about traveling to the United States all the time. The same people in the U.S. advising family and friends to avoid travel to Mexico might be appalled to learn that areas in the U.S. they themselves travel to or call home may be on another country’s list of places to avoid. Violence and crime exists everywhere, even in our own backyards.

Crime in Mexico
Largely unaffected by the violence in the north, the tourist destinations of Cancun, the Riviera Maya and Puerto Vallarta, just to name a few, continue to see very little crime. Statistically-speaking, the principal tourist spots in Mexico have always been considered safe travel destinations. Most of the criminality in these areas consist primarily of petty crimes, such as theft, and other crimes that, with preparation and a dose of common sense, can be easily avoided.

The easiest rule to remember when traveling to Mexico, or any foreign country for that matter, is to stay alert and remain aware of your surroundings. Crimes against women should be a special concern, as many of the violent crimes that occur in Mexico involve rape. Whether you are a man or a woman, you should not stray out alone in Mexico, especially at night. A moonlit walk on the beach, though it sounds romantic, should be avoided. Stay on resort property or visit well-lit public places with others in your party, if possible. Place valuables in your hotel safe. Avoid using out-of-the-way ATM’s, especially at night. Put simply, exercise common sense, understand the local laws, and research your destination and activities as much as possible and you’ll return home safely with fond memories of your vacation.

Corruption in Mexico
Long are the tales of corrupt policemen in Mexico who plant drugs on unsuspecting tourists or pull them over in rental cars looking for la mordita, a bribe, in exchange for letting them go. Unfortunately, police corruption remains a problem in Mexico, especially in the north and metropolitan areas. Here are some tips to avoid falling victim to police looking to line their pockets with tourist dollars:

* Avoid renting a car, if at all possible. It’s widely suspected that police target travelers in rental cars, especially those en route to the airport. Instead, rely on mass transit, cabs or transfer services to get you where you need to be. It can be dangerous driving in Mexico, especially at night, so this might save you more than just police trouble.

* If you are pulled over while driving, be sure to record everything. Take a notepad and pen with you. Remain calm and polite. Ask for the officer’s name and why you’ve been pulled over. Jot down badge numbers, license plate numbers and descriptions.

* Keep your head! You are going to feel intimidated and scared. If you panic, you may do something to make the situation worse.

* If you feel that the police are looking for a bribe, ask to be taken to the police station. A corrupt officer may wish to avoid the trouble of taking you in and could let you go.

* If you need the help of the police, ask for La turista policia. Tourist police are reported to be friendlier and more helpful than traffic and metropolitan police.

Swine Flu in Mexico
The H1N1 flu is on the decline in Mexico. Though widely-noted as an influenza hotspot this past spring when the Swine Flu outbreak first began, the H1N1 flu is widespread and is now everywhere in the world. You run the same risk of contracting H1N1 at home as you do in Mexico, but here are some tips that might help you and your family avoid it:

* Stay away from densely-populated, crowded areas. This is easier said than done considering you’ll be spending some time in the airport and on a plane with recirculated air, but it’s a good tip nonetheless.

* Wash your hands regularly. Take a small bottle of hand sanitizer with you when you travel.

* If the vaccine is available in your area, get yourself and your children vaccinated. Talk to your doctor and your pediatrician before you travel.

* Consider taking immune-system boosters, like vitamin C. Again, talk to your doctor.

While it’s true you run the risk of being the victim of crime or something more dangerous like terrorism or the swine flu when you travel away from home, you also run the risk of being hit by a moving bus when you walk out your front door. It is no more dangerous traveling to most parts of Mexico than it is to any major U.S. city. It is absolutely safe to travel to Mexico with your family if you exercise common sense. Most crimes happen to unsuspecting travelers. Don’t be an unsuspecting traveler! Educate yourself. Learn about your travel destination; brush up on the language, customs, law, transit systems and locations. Believe me, not only will it serve you well to know these things, but the locals will appreciate you for it.

Travel Insurance For Pensioners – Is it Right For You

The elderly are prone to accidents just for the simple fact that their bones are more fragile because of their age.

Think about it from an objective stand point. How able are you to walk up 20 floors of stairs? And how able were you 20 years ago? Chances are if you answer honestly, there will be some difference in ability to do such an activity. It is not to say that you are old and brittle actually quite the opposite, you have lived a long life. Shouldn’t you be able to enjoy your retirement?

Finding the proper Travel Insurance for Pensioners that will suit your individual needs is a bit more difficult than deciding if Travel Insurance or pensioners is the right choice for you. It is my sound opinion that Travel Insurance for Pensioners is a good choice for any of our elderly portion of the population. Injuries and accidents happen and happen when least expected so isn’t it a wise decision to purchase travel Insurance? If you do not purchase the coverage and something should happen that ends up being an all out of pocket expense, can your finances survive?

Why should you put yourself in a position that could literally leave you broke? Use your common sense. Search for Travel Insurance for Pensioners and find providers that offer the type of coverage that you want. Then check and see the reputation of the companies that you come up with. And the final step is to purchase your policy, take your vacation, and enjoy yourself. You deserve it.

Top 10 Reasons Why We Engage Travel Planners Today

Today, more and more people are engaging travel and trip planners to provide advice for their travels. Why? I will share the top 10 reasons in today’s article. Before that, please allow me to share my own story.

In 2005, when I decided to go New Zealand for my university education. Someone advised me to engage a New Zealand travel planner, which cost me over 100 bucks (can’t remember exact figure) then.

My first thought was “Woah! That’s expensive! Just for 1-2 hours of conversation!” I was a young and naive 22-year-old then.

Since no one I knew had stayed in New Zealand, and only a few of my friends went there for holiday. Well, I did my own research on internet, but wasn’t too sure what I should be looking out for.

As you might have guessed, I paid for the service. Felt the pinch. *ouch*

On the hindsight, I am really glad that I engaged the New Zealand travel planning services. After meeting some friends who engaged travel planners, those who had ‘prior advice’ adapted and settled more smoothly than those who didn’t.

Recently, I went for a short business trip to China. Luckily, my friend had visited China once. It was a last-minute trip, and not well-planned, to put it mildly. Thankfully, we met wonderful Chinese locals who helped us heaps and had a safe trip.

Top 10 Reasons Why We Engage Travel / Trip Planners Today:

10) We only have 24 hours a day. By outsourcing, I have more time to focus on things that are important in my life. Same reason why we take cab/taxi, to save the time spent travelling on buses and trains.

9) Online information is free. It is not necessary reliable, or perhaps, they just omit the teeny-weeny important detail. Water is ‘free’ from the tap, why do people still pay for bottled water?

8) Researchers suggested that there are estimated 30,000 messages directed at you daily. Assuming you are doing an hour of research, that’s 1,250 messages. How do you know which is right and which is a twisted fact?

7) Maybe, one day in the distant future, everyone would have visited every country. But before that, we need to share the knowledge with one another.

6) Safety is top priority. One incident is enough to change your life. Better be safe than sorry.

5) Heard this comment before: “Why go to a doctor when you can research online? Same applies to travel.” Simply put, for assurance.

4) Pleasant surprises are welcome! Like learning about a new culture, hearing different languages and accents, and sampling new cuisines. Culture shock, language barrier and unpalatable food are better avoided.

3) Common belief that travel planners plan your entire trip and you must follow it or else things go haywire. The truth is, they provide information that is customised for you, which friends/travel agencies/computer software/internet don’t.

2) As Benjamin Graham said: “Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.” The world is exchanging values with money.

1) The unbiased opinion. Most travel agents and agencies make the deal only when you decide to travel to the destination. They will say everything wonderful about a country that they have never been to, just to convince you.

I have friends who engaged travel planning services to countries like Japan and United States. Some even paid for the guide to go with them. Expensive? Of course. But the experience for their whole family is the value they paid for.

5 Tips to Hiring a Travel Copywriter

I’m anticipating many changes in the travel copywriting and content creation world in 2014. If you are a company in the travel and hospitality industries I would like to ask you a question.

Is your content addressing the need of your ideal clients or are you still stuck with not knowing how to create content? Since returning from South America, I’ve done research and discussed with my clients about our travel copywriting services and strategies.

Here are five tips to hiring a travel copywriter:

One: Knows and understands your ideal client’s needs

Hiring a travel copywriter or content writer who can’t feel the emotions and hear the voice of your ideal client is not going to cut it. A travel copywriter who has not been overseas or never went through immigration and customs will not understand the hassle your ideal client may have to go through. So if you need content for tips to international travel or lessen your stress when traveling overseas – a travel copywriter who has not been through the experience may not be able to write effective content.

For example, when I wrote for a wellness and travel company, one of the prerequisites was that I try out their products. I smelled and touched them, wore them on my body and used them. That was the only way to understand the products and successfully describe the texture, smell and anything that the ideal client needed to know and feel before making a purchase, which leads us to tip #2.

Two: Knows the products or services

Just like the tip above, I need to know the products or services that I write about. I have more authority and power in my copy and content when I know the products or services well.

I’ve not been to Africa. When I was hired by Sandfield Travel to rewrite content on their website two years ago, I felt overwhelmed and charged way less than what I would have normally charged. I researched, studied the photos, watched videos and worked really hard in ensuring the content was SEO-friendly and keyword rich.

In my opinion the content could have been better if I had walked the streets of Uganda or personally volunteered in the orphanages. I’m just being honest now that I have done more travel copywriting compared to two years ago.

If you are marketing a destination and need someone to work on your blog, email newsletters and social media platforms, make sure you take this tip into consideration. This is connected to tip #3…

Three: Have first hand experiences (in the travel and hospitality industries)
Not all travel copywriters have traveled to every country in the world but some of us travel more or less than others. After traveling to South America for eight months (39 countries in total), I know I can write better content on South America now compared to last year.

All I had was just second-hand information. At the moment I know how it is like to have altitude sickness, I can describe in detail the city of Cuzco or Machu Picchu or the difference between the Otavalo Market in Ecuador and the Witches Market in Bolivia.

Another crucial first hand experience that sets a travel copywriter apart from others is an experience in the travel industry. If we had time, I would sit with you over a cup of coffee or tea and tell you all the tales of being a travel agent/tour consultant/ticket agent/tour guide and more (12 years of tales!!). Nothing beats first hand experiences.

Four: Understands WordPress Content Management System (CMS)

WordPress is no longer just for bloggers. Companies like CNN, eBay and Oprah are using WordPress. I am referring to self-hosted WordPress websites. It is user-friendly, allows you to update or edit your content without the need to code, mess with html or hire a techie person to help you out.

You can easily go into your back office to delete, add or update content, images or videos.

Most travel and hospitality companies hire a travel copywriter because they don’t have the time to write, manage and publish content through blogging and other platforms. A travel copywriter that can do all the work for you and understands WordPress CMS will free up your time and let you focus on other money making activities.

Within WordPress you need a travel copywriter that understands meta descriptions, focus keywords and other things related to producing and publishing relevant content on your website.

Five: Knows how to seamlessly connect your blog content, e-newsletter and social media platforms
You are not optimizing your content marketing strategies if you are not connecting your blog with a newsletter and social media platforms. A travel copywriter that uses all these three channels constantly in his or her own business understands your needs as well.

I believe in being consistent in writing my own blog posts, newsletters and engaging with followers on Twitter. I must admit I am not always consistent in my social media platforms but I’ve not stopped blogging and publishing my weekly newsletter since I started blogging in November 2010 even when I was traveling at sea and in the remote areas of Peru. That’s what it means by ‘walking the talk’!

Finally, a travel copywriter that believes and sticks to deadlines and cares for your success.