Web Exclusive: Is traveling to Mexico safe?

Web Exclusive

(CNN) - The apparent kidnapping of a U.S. Marine and the recent arrest of a mother on drug charges.  These cases are raising questions about the safety of Americans in Mexico.

Americans flock to Mexico for its beaches and bars, but bloody murders have stained the image of all that sun and sand and some Americans have seen trips turn terrifying.  This Arizona mom was recently released after a week in jail after Mexican authorities accused her of smuggling drugs.

For weeks authorities have been searching for this young marine, kidnapped while visiting his father.  So-called "express kidnappings" are also on the rise.

"Where you'd be picked up maybe in a pirate taxi, taken off to an ATM. They would drain your account as best they could, and at midnight they'd go back to the same ATM using your card and take money out, and then they'd let you go," says Duncan Wood, Woodrow Wilson Center.

Take away terrorist attacks and troops at war, in the last decade, more Americans have been murdered in Mexico than any other country in the world.  That number jumped from 35 in 2007 to 113 two years ago.

"There are certain places in Mexico that you would not want to go on vacation," says Duncan Wood, Woodrow Wilson Center.

The State department warns against just about anywhere in these red zones, including Tijuana and Acapulco.  The areas in green - like Puerto Vallarta and Cancun - are considered safe spots.

"We're not seeing these things happening if you're in Cabo San Lucas or even Cancun, which has a safer record than Orlando does, actually," says Robert Reid, RediOnTravel.

Travel writer, Robert Reid says you heard right: as recently as a year ago, the murder rate was actually higher in the city considered Disney world's front door.

"So it doesn't necessarily mean that anyone should consider canceling their trips because of this," says says Robert Reid, RediOnTravel.

American tourists show no signs of doing that. In fact, part of the reason so many U.S. citizens are killed in Mexico is that so many of us go there. This year, 20 million Americans will go to Mexico. That's the entire population of New York, L.A., Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia and Phoenix.


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