Let’s not forget safety should come first. It’s easy to get carried away with all the fun and festivity, with attitudes driven by the comfort of familiar people surrounding them. Still, such situations can also open up risks of accidents and violations of local laws.
The U.S. State Department has since offered nuggets of advice to all thrill-seeking individuals traveling to Mexico and the Caribbean during their spring break.
Avoid participating in demonstrations and other political activities
In the United States, Americans enjoy many liberties. However, political movements in other countries can result in detention and deportation by officials. You can “stick it to the man,” but on your soil.
Be aware of surroundings, and take general precautions. Remember that standards of safety and supervision (i.e., for swimming pools or hotel balconies) may not reach those expected in the United States. Also, don’t take your valuables with you on your trip—leave them at home in your sock drawer.
First things first
Before you pack your snorkeling gear, make sure you have your passport! Apply for one now. Learn how at www.studentsabroad.state.gov.
Avoid underage and excessive alcohol consumption
Excessive drinking often plays a role in many arrests, accidents, violent crimes, rapes, and deaths suffered by American students on spring break. As in the U.S., disturbing the peace, lewd behavior, littering, driving under the influence, and drinking on the street or public transportation may all be considered criminal activities by local authorities.
Don’t import, purchase, use, or have drugs in your possession
It just makes good sense; drug charges can carry severe penalties, including imprisonment without bail for up to a year before a case is even put on trial. A conviction carries several more years of imprisonment in a foreign jail. In some countries, it doesn’t matter if you’re underage either; you can still be charged as an adult.
Obey the local laws
An arrest or accident during spring break can result in a problematic legal situation. Your U.S. citizenship does not make you exempt from full prosecution under another country’s criminal justice system. Many states impose harsh penalties for violations that would be considered minor in the United States. If you find yourself in a legal jam, contact the closest U.S. consulate, U.S. consular agency, or the U.S. embassy for assistance. Keep in mind, U.S. consular employees cannot arrange for local officials to release detained American citizens.
Take warning flags on beaches seriously
This seems like a no-brainer, but many drownings occur when swimmers are overwhelmed by the water conditions. If black or red flags are up, do not enter the water. Strong undertow and rough surf along beaches are more common than you may think, especially on the Pacific Coast. If you choose to swim, always exercise extreme caution.
Only use licensed and regulated taxis
Some illegitimate taxi drivers are, in fact, criminals in search of victims. Some users of unlicensed taxis have been robbed, kidnapped, and raped. When in doubt, ask the hotel, club, or restaurant staff to summon a legitimate taxi for you.
Do not carry weapons
A pocketknife can result in a dangerous weapons charge while on foreign soil—even if the knife is found when arrested for a separate offense. Visitors driving across the border to Mexico should ensure that their vehicles contain no firearms or ammunition.