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Greg Ellifritz

Fighting Police Corruption in Mexico

Fighting Police Corruption in Mexico 150 150 Greg Ellifritz

In the short YouTube clip below, you’ll find Paul’s approach to handling traffic stops in Mexico.  Download the document he linked to in his comments.  This might save you some big hassles if you live or drive in Mexico.

Tools to Combat Police Corruption in Mexico




SE Asia Travel Scams

SE Asia Travel Scams 1200 800 Greg Ellifritz

This article is specifically about scams in Thailand, but I have seen similar scams used in other SE Asian countries as well as Africa and South America.  If you travel at all internationally, you should understand how these basic scams work.  It’s a quick read containing valuable information.


9 Scams in Thailand You Need to Watch Out For




International Travel with Guns

International Travel with Guns 600 450 Greg Ellifritz

I travel internationally quite a bit, but I’ve never traveled outside the country with a gun.  This article provides a good outline of the procedures you need to follow to stay out of jail.


Pay attention if you intend on traveling outside the USA with a firearm.


International Travel with Firearms




International Travel Safety

International Travel Safety 828 674 Greg Ellifritz

The article linked below contains generally good advice for international travel and is worthy of your read.


The only thing I don’t always agree with is the author’s advice to sit in a cab directly behind the driver.


It depends on the situation. In some neighborhoods, cab travel is too expensive for the locals. If they see an obvious passenger, they know that guy has money. In those neighborhoods, sitting up front with the driver makes the locals think he is driving a friend and not a customer with a bunch of cash. That may save you from a robbery attempt.


When sitting in the back, I like sitting opposite the driver. Any carjacking attempts are going to be coming from the driver’s side. Being able to exit with the cover of the car between you and the carjacker is a good thing.


Besides that, your most likely threat in most third world countries is the driver himself. Sitting opposite the driver makes it a lot harder for him to impede your exit should you have to bolt.


Want more info on taxi safety?  Read  my tactical training scenario about the topic.

Around the Globe: Tips to Make Your International Travel Safer


Safety in Mexico

Safety in Mexico 1512 2016 Greg Ellifritz
Despite all news outlets pronouncing my almost certain death for doing so, I successfully completed my 22nd “official” trip to Mexico.


I did have one other “unofficial” visit where I hopped over the border when the border guard was passed out drunk and I couldn’t wake him to stamp my passport, but that’s another story.


There is a lot of cartel violence in Mexico. That violence is directed at other cartel members, not the average tourist. You can have an absolutely safe trip in Mexico if you follow my four safety rules:



– Don’t buy or use illegal drugs
– Don’t consort with prostitutes (including random Tinder hookups, which are often one and the same)
– Don’t display ostentatious wealth
– Don’t be an asshole


If you follow these rules in most tourist destinations in Mexico, you will be safer than traveling through any big city in the USA.


Despite staying in local neighborhoods and being out late walking the streets almost every night, the biggest risk we faced was being sun burned and having a hangover after too many margaritas on the beach.


Taxi Shot

When you are friendly to taxi drivers in Mexico, they may reward your kindness with free tequila shots.  Far more dangerous than cartel violence.

Travel Log- Back From Mexico

Travel Log- Back From Mexico 620 827 Greg Ellifritz

I recently returned from a three-week trip to Mexico.  I wasn’t teaching and didn’t have any holiday plans, so I decided to do some relaxing down in one of my favorite places in the world, Playa del Carmen.


I spent my 50th birthday, Christmas, and New Years down there.  If you want to experience another country, I’d highly recommend traveling over Christmas and New Years.  It’s an experience few travelers ever have.


Mexico was very festive over Christmas and New Years


All the city parks were festively decorated with white and colored lights.


More festive Christmas lights


I spent a lot of time chilling in the sun, reading, writing and getting mentally prepared for my cancer surgery (surgery update at end of article). It turned out being a great trip.  I chose Playa del Carmen because it isn’t quite as touristy as many Mexican towns, is completely walkable, has some world class restaurants, and a population from just about every country on the planet.  It’s really easy to meet fun new people there.


I flew to Cancun directly from Austin.  Of course, my flight was late.  Even though the Mexican immigration officials got rid of their FMM form for tourists flying into Cancun airport.  That made things faster, but the line was still over an hour long getting into the country.  Once I got through customs and immigration, I found my pre-booked transportation and prepared for the hour-long drive to PDC.


That drive gave me a reminder to be careful talking to taxi, shuttle, or ride sharing drivers.

As I mentioned above, my flight was delayed. I was tired from the delay and the insanely crowded airports. I didn’t have the mental energy to talk to the driver for an hour. I pretended to be the stereotypical gringo and greeted him in English. Even though I speak passable Spanish, I didn’t speak any Spanish to him. His English was not good.

On the drive, he made a phone call in Spanish. I’m listening to the conversation when the driver mentioned his previous customer was unique and worthy to be watched. He said the last customer was a single man in his 40s who was traveling by himself with eight large suitcases.

The driver went on to say how the man had told him that he was a wealthy businessman and owned several hotels. The driver pulled up the phone app he was using to track his rides and shared the previous customer’s full name, email address, phone number, and the hotel where he was staying with whomever he was speaking.

The driver told his friend that the rich businessman should be watched. For what? I’m not sure, but it can’t be for anything good.

I didn’t hear them plotting any nefarious actions, but why would the driver share all that info?

Taxi drivers, especially in the developing world are true hustlers. Many do far more than just drive tourists around. They often serve as a connection to get people information, drugs, and prostitutes.

Be careful what you tell your driver. If questioned, make up a boring middle class job. If you are alone, you should tell the driver that you are meeting a large group of friends soon. Don’t tell the truth when they ask you about how long you will be staying.

Don’t give the drivers any reason to think you have money. Don’t give them information that could later be used to facilitate a scam or a criminal act.

Have a believable boring cover story ready before you get in the cab. Hopefully you won’t be “watched” like the passenger with eight suitcases.

If you want to dig a little deeper on the topic, read my article about best practices for a safe cab ride.


I arrived at the condo I rented and got the keys.  The lobby Christmas tree needed a little attention.  They didn’t put the live cut Christmas tree into any water.  I was amazed that it didn’t catch fire at some point during my stay.



My rented condo was in a secured building and on the top floor.  It had its own rooftop balcony.  On another part of the roof there was a small pool and a friendly little bar where we watched the beautiful sunsets almost every evening.


The condo we rented

Condo balcony


Sunset from the rooftop bar


I spent the first couple weeks in Mexico without any travel companions.  For the initial few days I spent a lot of time walking around the neighborhood getting a lay of the land.  The condo I rented was in a good location right on the border of the tourist area and the neighborhoods where the locals lived.  It was quiet, yet was within a 10-minute walk to the beach and all the fun tourist bars and restaurants.


On my walks, one of the most obvious things I saw was the enormous presence of armed security guards everywhere.  As I mentioned in this article, in failed states where corruption and government distrust is high, people with money hire private security instead of relying on the police.


Take a look at the photo below. It is a private security armored gun truck with bulletproof glass and gun ports. This isn’t a cash transport vehicle. This transports armed security guards as a quick reaction force.


Interestingly, it was parked in front of the public bus station, a resource that would usually be protected by municipal police in almost every country in the world.


But when you don’t trust the police and have expensive buses to protect in the developing world, you hire private security.  We are rapidly seeing the exact same thing happening in the USA.




There was a bank in the mall that  contained a large grocery store near my condo. When grocery shopping, I regularly saw armored car security guards picking up and dropping off money at the bank.


They always operate the same way. Two guards armed with handguns go into the bank. Two more guards with pump shotguns stand outside the bank watching the crowd.


What’s interesting is that the outside shotgun guards stand with their back to the front wall of the bank and arrange empty shopping carts as a barricade about five feet in front of them. It provides both an obstacle and a standoff to reduce the chance someone will get close enough to disarm them. Smart.


I always find it instructive to see how professionals do business in high threat environments.  The security guards in America seem clueless and untrained by comparison.


I was last in PDC during the height of the pandemic in February of 2021.  The police were quite menacing.  With businesses closed and fewer tourists around, the cops were very aggressively targeting folks for bribes.  On that last trip, I met people almost daily who had been shaken down by the cops.  I met a couple girls who went to a jungle rave in Tulum and the police robbed all the passengers on the bus going to the party.  It was nuts.


This trip was very different.  I was never approached by any cops at all.  Some even waved (with all of their fingers) when driving past me on the street.  I talked to a lot of people and no one mentioned any problems with the police.


Drug sales were also far more open.  I was solicited to purchase cocaine and weed on the street daily.  There were new open cannabis stores selling marijuana in all forms.


On previous trips, pharmacies would not sell very many controlled drugs without prescriptions.  That’s all changed now.  If you went to the right place, you could buy almost any pharmaceutical you wanted.

“Everything is over the counter if you know the right counter”


Be careful at these pharmacies.  The ones in the tourist areas and catering solely to tourists may be selling fake drugs.  My advice for buying drugs in foreign countries is to stick to drugs made around the world in factories that the US FDA authorizes to manufacture and export US generic drugs.  I also recommend purchasing drugs in pharmacies that have a local customer base and those the have air conditioning (hot temperatures reduce the storage longevity of many drugs).


You are legally allowed to bring back a 90-day personal supply of a non-controlled drug.  You are limited to 50 unit doses of all combined controlled drugs per trip back to the USA.  If you want more information about building a pharmaceutical stockpile from foreign sources, please check out one of my systems collapse medical classes.


Beyond the issues of drugs, cartels, police and other curious topics, I actually had a very relaxing vacation.


My friend Emily, who has shared adventures with me all around the world, came down and joined me for my final week.


Emily got us on the VIP list for some great DJs spinning on the rooftop of the nicest bar in PDC for New Years.  We went to the show and met a bunch of fun people from all over the world while staying out entirely too late at a classy rooftop bar.


Interestingly enough, I expected wand metal detectors upon entry to the club.  I prepared by carrying a ceramic knife and some hidden pepper spray.  When we got there, I saw that the bouncers were patting people down instead of wanding them.  I re-positioned my weapons to an area that wouldn’t be searched during a standard pat-down.


As we approached the bouncers, the door man said “They’re on the VIP list.”  That got us escorted past security without any searches.  Just keep in mind that you may be able to carry better weapons than you might think if you are on a special entry list, especially in the developing world.

Rooftop club New Years celebration


We spent New Years Eve watching fireworks from our rooftop bar followed by a great dinner, and a walking tour of the beach and tourist areas, popping into various bars, restaurants and parties.  We stayed out late again and treated ourselves to a sushi feast when we woke up.  It was a lot of fun.


Fireworks over the ocean from the condo rooftop bar


The next few days we did daily running workouts on the beach and at a local track to make up for our excesses.  We also went snorkeling one afternoon on a nice catamaran out on the reef and closed out our trip with some amazing meals at some of the city’s best restaurants.  It was a great trip.


Here are a few more photos.


View of the beach from the catamaran


After snorkeling on the catamaran


Emily thinking that my decision to walk the back alleys in the  city late at night on New Years Eve was a bad decision


“Sure Greg, taking pictures in an abandoned lot in Mexico at 3 am is a great idea.”


Scallop and mushroom appetizer at our favorite French restaurant.


My final steak dinner


Some of you have endured all my travel content in the hopes of getting an update on my cancer surgery.  As of today, I am three weeks into my recovery from the surgery.  The doctor said he was extremely happy with the surgery results.  He rated the surgery as a 10/10 (best score) on their measures of both success and reduction of chances of long term negative side effects.


I’m still a bit swollen and fatigued, but I already have complete urinary control.  I still have to wait another three weeks before I do any physical activity and start recovering my lost physical fitness.  I won’t know for certain until my six-month followup MRI, but the most likely scenario is that the doctor fried all my cancer and I am now cancer free.


I’ll probably be around for a few more years yet.  Thank you all for your messages of support.



Foreign Uber Scams

Foreign Uber Scams 824 513 Greg Ellifritz

My traveling friends will like this article. In foreign countries, taxi overcharges and scams are the single most likely hassles a tourist is likely to experience. Uber has been a game changer. I use it in almost every country I visit now. It eliminates both the overcharging “gringo tax” fare and all of the scams associated with exchanging cash with the cabbie.


Unfortunately, Uber isn’t the most common ride sharing app available in some countries. here is a complete list of all of the Uber-like services available in other countries. Bookmark this one and check it out before you make your next international trip.



While ride-sharing services reduce the opportunity for scams, some unethical drivers will still try to cheat you. Educate yourself about what’s going on in the country you are visiting.  Make those criminal taxi and Uber drivers earn their money.

Make Sure This Uber Scam Doesn’t Happen to You


Image from linked article


Worldwide Conflicts

Worldwide Conflicts 681 217 Greg Ellifritz

I saw this long form article and thought many of you might find it of interest.  It summarizes all of the active conflicts around the globe and is much more valuable than the State Department’s travel warnings when planning future trips.

Wars Update: An Unexpected Near-Peer War



How Do Drug Cartels Get Their Weapons?

How Do Drug Cartels Get Their Weapons? 320 181 Greg Ellifritz
Some facts for the folks who believe the mainstream media narrative that lax American gun laws are the primary way that the Mexican drug cartels get their weapons. The truth is that most of the cartel weapons have been stolen from the police/military, illegally imported from other corrupt Latin American countries, or made by the cartels themselves.


Read the article below.  One of the most dangerous cartels has set up numerous gun manufacturing facilities in Mexico. They are building their own AR-15 rifles and selling them on the street for over $5000 US dollars each.


CJNG, The Only Cartel To Have Had Its Own Arms Factory


I will suggest a slight correction to the title of the article.  The CJNG is the only cartel to have been caught with their own weapons manufacturing facilities.  You can be 100% certain that the other large cartels are doing the same thing.


Grocery Baggers in the Developing World

Grocery Baggers in the Developing World 1280 1062 Greg Ellifritz

Have you ever thought about tipping the folks who bag your purchases at the grocery store?  If you are from the USA, probably not.  But things work differently in other countries.


When visiting these places, it’s important to notice and abide by the social mores in your host country.  Doing so will avoid any drama or ill will.  It also helps to destroy the “Ugly American” traveler stereotype.


Take a look at the photo below.  The people in the Santa hats are bagging groceries at the large supermarket near the condo where I am staying in Mexico.  Most of the baggers in the store are senior (or perhaps “señor”?) citizens.


Guess what?  They aren’t being paid by the grocery store.


They work entirely for the tips shoppers give them.


This type of “working for tips” gig isn’t universal in any country I’m aware of, but I’ve seen it a lot in Mexico, Colombia, and some of the more impoverished South American countries.  I’ve only seen it at the very large chain grocery stores.


Failing to tip these aging baggers is a social faux pas.  It’s the foreign equivalent of leaving your shopping cart in the middle of a store’s parking lot instead of in the cart corral.  People simply think you are an asshole.  That’s not cool when visiting a country where you have few local contacts.  If everyone thinks you are rude, you will not have a good travel experience.


How do you know whether or not to tip your baggers?  Watch the locals.  Pull your head out of your phone and observe what the people in line ahead of you do.  Follow suit.


You may also notice small stacks of coins near the bagger.  That’s another clue.


There are no set amounts for the tip.  Most people just give the bagger the coins they received in change after paying for the groceries.  If you are paying with a credit card, give up to a US dollar or so.


I always carry some small coins in my pocket when traveling.  They are handy in situations like this where you are expected to give a small tip.  You will also need those coins to pay for access to a public toilet in much of the developing world.