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PHOENIX -- Mexico remains a popular destination for American tourists but in many places it remains a dangerous place to be.

On the heels of Goodyear resident Yanira Maldononado's arrest in Mexico on drug smuggling charges that she is fighting, Louis Thiele, co-host of KTAR's "Travel Show," said Americans vacationing south of the border should do so only in the major tourist areas.

"Those people involved in government have a vested interest in seeing that tourists are treated well. If you're away from the tourist hot spots in communities where the police aren't paid well, you look look like a target of opportunity," Thiele said.

It's a must to have travel insurance, he added.

"The travel insurance company has a relationship with people with connections to people in the law world down there. In many cases in Mexico it's not what you know, but who you know."

Thiele said to make copies of passports and keep the originals in a hotel safe.

"Any legal authority who really needs to see your passport will go to the hotel with you. American passports are very valuable on the black market. Once someone has your passport, they have you."

Linda Gorman with Arizona AAA said don't throw caution to the wind when traveling south of the border.

"Stay in groups and in the tourist areas. Don't wear flashy jewelry."

Gorman said driving into Mexico requires a Mexican insurance policy. Driving without it will mean serious repercussions for anyone caught.

"In Mexico you are guilty until you are proven innocent," Gorman said.

Jim Cross, Reporter

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