I believe it's simple. Don't do what you find uncomfortable. Should you go somewhere and fear for your life, well, don't do it. Go to Disneyland instead. We all have different thresholds of what feels safe and what doesn't. And it changes too. The more you travel to the "third world" (God I hate that term), the more normal it is. What sticks out is nervousness, more than anything.
Also, when you go to strife stricken areas, it is usually the insiders who are at far more risk than you'll ever be just passing through, unless you go to areas where kidnapping is the sport of the day. Petty theft - whatever, that never bothered me. I know how to take care of my money and documents while I travel so that they cannot be snatched. I was only robbed once that way - in my own Slovakia.
ebrown, you're as blue eyed as can be.
Since 2004, over 200 Americans were killed in Mexico, the statistics of Americans robbed, beaten, raped, and violated is horrendously high as well.
Only 20 percent of murders result in an arrest in Mexico.
From my very own experience: I got stopped and threatened by the Mexican
police for some bogus traffic violation and they demanded money.
Here is a good article to the fact
Ah yes, that is common in many parts of the world. Depends on where you are. In Cambodia you can talk yourself out of it by mentioning you are working with the Ministry of Interior (whether it's true or not). In Slovakia, I insist on a ticket, even if it means paying. I won't bribe them, no chance in hell. In Bosnia, you get away with a packet of cigarettes or a bottle of alcohol (though it happens far less often then it used to, in fact this last time we weren't stopped at all, which was a nice change). In India....well...in India I did not see traffic police..... but there is always something. One must know what it is and how to behave in such situation and shall be fine.
I just returned from San Miguel de Allende, Mexico where I visited for 15 wonderful days this past August. Located in the mountains of central Mexico, this entire cobblestone gem of a town is full of art, culture, history and Spanish Colonial Architecture. People were warm, friendly and happy to see me. While it is definitely a tourist destination, there were not many tourists due to the barrage of bad 'drug war' publicity and the flu virus scare. I saw evidence of neither during my stay and would go back tomorrow! In fact I plan to visit again next year!
I've been to Mexico 3 times in the past 2 years. I've walked through Mexico city, Taxco, Cuernavaca, taken buses and driven though the countryside, towards Acapulco, Ixtapa the Mayan Riviera etc...
I met plenty of checkpoints but never once felt threatened. I got ripped off by taxi drivers... to be expected, anywhere. But other than a few precautions, hiding the wallet and documents - which i would do anywhere, Mexico is a safe as Vancouver, at least for tourists. The locals have it much tougher... everywhere.
Outside of America, I always pay from a false wallet.
I keep my real wallet safe.