Crime in Mexico: Where are the Safest Places to Live in Mexico? 0

By Betsy Burlingame

Summary: Where are the safest places to live in Mexico? The most unsafe areas are well-covered in today's news headlines, but those considering a move to other cities or towns in Mexico should carefully research their possible destinations, talk with other expats and visit before they move. This article highlights members' recent discussions and comments about crime and safety in popular expat locales and some off-the-beaten path destinations. If you live in Mexico, we encourage you to submit an update on your city or town.

Crime in Mexico - Where are the Safest Places to Live in Mexico?

With the reported rise in the number of Americans killed in Mexico over the past few years, "Where are the best places to live in Mexico?" has quickly become, "Where are the safest places to live in Mexico?" This is a popular question among those considering a move to Mexico. A recent US State Department travel warning for Mexico stated, "Millions of U.S. citizens safely visit Mexico each year, including more than 150,000 who cross the border every day for study, tourism or business and at least one million U.S. citizens who live in Mexico. The Mexican government makes a considerable effort to protect U.S. citizens and other visitors to major tourist destinations. Resort areas and tourist destinations in Mexico generally do not see the levels of drug-related violence and crime reported in the border region and in areas along major trafficking routes. Nevertheless, crime and violence are serious problems and can occur anywhere. While most victims of violence are Mexican citizens associated with criminal activity, the security situation poses serious risks for U.S. citizens as well."

Advice from members of Expat Exchange seems to mirror the US State Department's warning - some places are relatively safe while others are becoming so dangerous that expats are moving away. If you are trying to decide where to live in Mexico, we urge you to read the most recent travel warnings, visit before you move and talk with other expats living in your possible destination city or town. This will enable you to make a truly informed decision.

Here are a few of the comments from Expat Exchange members related to safety:

"Don't move here! I was nearly kidnapped. The cartels have made this place way too dangerous! I fled this place to save my life and the life of my husband and lost everything! You have to be insane to consider living in Mexico these days," exclaimed one expat in Tijuana. According to the US State Department, "More than a third of all U.S. citizens killed in Mexico in 2010 whose deaths were reported to the U.S. government were killed in the border cities of Ciudad Juarez and Tijuana."

Another member in Cardenas, Tabasco said, "Mexico is changing rapidly in regards to safety. I would live in larger cities where it is easy to blend in. In small towns you stick out like a sore thumb. I built a store in Poblado 20, Cardenas, in the state of Tabasco. Everything was fine the first year. Now the cartel is moving in. It has become very dangerous from a kidnapping standpoint and we are leaving. I am going to Ciudad del Carmen. In the small poblados and countryside, there are no police. There is no one to report a crime to. And if there are police, no one to solve it," explains mac539 in a thread on the Mexico Forum about safe places to live in Mexico

"I wish I had known that the USA was going to constantly warn people about my state, Michoacan. No friends or family will visit me as they believe everything they hear in the U.S. I've been back twice to visit them. Like there's no violence in the U.S.? Guns are illegal here. People are polite...Mexicans, that is. I live in a beautiful pueblo and don't see any Americans here. I would have moved to Chiapas had I known, but I am happy here," warned a member living in Michoacan.

One expat living in Mazatlan said, "Our family of three lives here full-time... The city is not what it was five, ten, fifteen or twenty years ago. The violence is real and you have to be mindful of your surroundings. You are not a target, but the people around you might be. The economy is bad so people are desperate and desperate people do desperate things."

Another expat in Monterrey wrote a helpful (yet, somewhat frightening) post about what to do if you are facing a blockade, "Blockades are reactions by the narcos to some event or other that they don't like. They are designed to cause maximum disruption. ALWAYS carry a complete set of car keys + alarm. If you are one of the cars targetted by narcos, just do as they ask, but do it quickly, as if you don't you're likely to get hit in the face and hurt...."

"I live in a small colonial town called Tequisquiapan, in the state of Queretaro. There is virtually no crime here. One thing one ought to remember...this is a poor country, with many unemployed men looking for ways to make a peso or two. If you have beautiful, expensive jewelry leave it in your home. If you flaunt your wealth someone will feel entitled to a portion of it. Use common sense... Most homes in my area are the old fashioned walled compounds with iron gates and windows..a throwback from the Spanish rule days. I live in a very simple second floor walkup with an iron gate on the street and massive deadbolt lock on the apartment door. All balconies (four in all) have iron barred doors that would keep out any intruder who might scale the wall to our floor. We feel very safe here. You would love this little town I feel sure," recommended one expat living in Mexico.

Some expats are fleeing their once beloved towns and cities after coming face-to-face with the terrifying realities of the drug war in Mexico. Others have found new places to live in Mexico where crime rates are low and life is good.

Need more information on living in Mexico?

Login or Register and visit our Mexico Forum. Talk with other expats who can offer you insight and tips about living in Mexico.



About the Author

Betsy Burlingame Betsy Burlingame is the Founder of Expat Exchange. She launched Expat Exchange in 1997 as her Master's thesis project at NYU. Prior to Expat Exchange, Betsy worked at AT&T in International and Mass Market Marketing. She graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University with a BA in International Business and German.

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Comments about this Article

Mirto
May 16, 2011 15:27

There is no security in nature or in life--Hellen Keller. Having said that I wouldn't choose to live in a war zone, neither would I pick a resort town. I find that I am content in Zirahuen, Michoacan. The closest big town is Patzcuaro. Yes, I stand out, so what? There are no secrets in a small pueblo. Have lived here on the lake since October 2010. My friends are Mexicans and I do not look rich. If anything, I come across as a hippie and definitely love this country. If you don't love the people and culture, there is no reason to move here.

jorniv
May 16, 2011 20:53

mexico sucks! that;s all you need to know

sharito
May 16, 2011 21:06

I live in Santa Ana Coapan in the State of Puebla. I live with my caregiver and his extended family. I have lived there full time for three years. It is a poor, small farming community. I am active in the community, church, and schools. I wear local jewelry, I'm very "noticable" because of my size and nationality. My family never leaves me alone. I am accompanied everywhere with a family member and my 108 lb Mastiff Service Dog. I feel very safe here. We are in the high desert. There is little free water and drugs don't grow here. We have had one shooting in 10 years and it was a stray bullet from a carnival worker during the fair.The community has accepted me, and is very proud and honered that I love their town enough to live here. I am in high demand as a God Mother! It holds little intrest for tourist, we have a store and are building a small restaurant and gym to give the kids wholesome entertainment. We have instituted vaccination program and free neutering for the stray dogs. We also have the mean and sick dogs pickedup and destroyed. We started a school breakfast/lunch program, recycle program, reforestation program and we are showing how to use the poop from the animals to make methane gas because many people die making fires in their houses (CO2 poisoning) and they can't afford to buy gas. We are teaching rain water harvesting and composting toilets to eliminate "black water" We are educating about what NOT to burn too. Sorry got off the point. It is a small very safe community. Not a tourist or drug lord destination! Sharon

berylg
May 16, 2011 21:41

It is safe so far where we live, in Merida. There have been no gun battles or beheadings of local people here. There are a lot of police stops on the roads leading into town, which is a good thing. BerylG

barryinqro
May 16, 2011 21:45

I have lived in Querétaro for almost 7 years. It is the safest, cleanest place I have ever lived. Everyone I know, male or female, tells me that they feel comfortable walking in the street, even late at night, and have never had any problem doing so.

sharito
May 17, 2011 07:40

I guess it is tragic loss of life....but put it in perspective. I lived in Baltimore for 15 years. I worked in the emergency room at Johns Hopkins 12 yrs and for 3 years at Univ of Md in down town (next to the projects) EVERY night we had at least 5 gunshot DEATHS....every night...minimum...No one walked anywhere alone, and there were places you just didn't go, if you wanted to live. Give it a break! My community in Mexico is nothing like that, I am so glad to be here, in the camp, in peace, with people who love and support me! Vive Mexico!!! The most dangerous thing I have encountered are the drivers. We have speed bumps that are like walls! Sharito

guest
May 18, 2011 15:55

The tide of violence is slowly moving eastward towards the Riviera Maya. It's already in Cozumel and Cancun, but not on the scale of Acapulco or Monterrey. Closest and latest reports come out of Tulum (taxi violence) and it does not involve the tourists, yet that is probably only a matter of time. The problems of Mexico has its roots in the total lack of security combined with the poor economy and class structure. If your skin is light enough and you have enough money, you can do anything with impunity and pretty much buy (as in bribe) anything. What that means is that life is pretty cheap here. The police are useless BY LEGISLATION, not to mention education. They have no power to investigate crimes on or off scene. They are poor and usually uneducated, so they are always ready to use the 'pay or go to jail' card on anyone who looks like they have money. Thus, once again, there is no justice for the masses, no security. Most people fear the police when they see them coming, others hide their disdain and disrespect for them. The federales are the worst. Many times crimes in Mexico goes unpunished because of fear of 'who you know! or 'connections!' Which is another reason why people don't want to press (useless) charges because perhaps the perpetrator is related to someone already involved in crime or related to someone 'with connections!. A Mexican will pretty much sacrifice your life for the life of a member of his family and live with the guilt silently knowing what he or she did to you! Also, if the order goes out to kill someone and that person doesn't do it, well there's a pretty good chance that the person who did not complete the deed will end up dead instead. So it's easy for Mexicans to let others die. The mentality is...It's either 'them or me!' Tying this brief discussion together, you have to wonder about a people who let their culture evolve to such a level of weakness, corruption and a callous disregard for human life. This is not a country for people who have moral values or believe in justice. You will find very little of that here. You will find very few people here who are willing to die or do jail time for those values. Mexicans, for the most part, have given up on their own country, opting for a better life for their families elsewhere. The bad news is that they bring with them that same low standard of humanity and social responsibility with them when they cross the border!

guest
May 18, 2011 19:59

I pretty much agree with the last person who said that the society here is so classist that if you are rich you usually live so differently that you're almost in a different country. The dark-skinned people are the servants, the garbage men, the drivers. The drug cartels are horrible, but in a way they are carrying out today's Mexican revolution. It is the common man exerting power over the rich. The cartels kidnap and kill rich people all over the country and this is changing the political power. Drug lords are controlling things. What a nightmare. the new age revolution. Give me old fashioned corruption any day, but they should have seen this coming.

guest
Jul 4, 2011 11:03

I've lived in San Miguel de Allende for 21 years. Even though there's always been petty thief and random incidents, the town is quite safe. The big problem now is lack of tourism (Americans are too afraid to come down), which is directly causing high unemployment. Therefore, like anywhere in the world, crime will rise proportionately. Life is good...come visit.It's still such safer here than most of the US.

guest
Jul 8, 2011 17:47

We lived in Sayulita, north of Puerto Vallarta for 6 years. As the area grew, we moved to the "country" between Sayulita and Punta Mita. We love it here. Robberies have increased along with tourism in Sayulita, but where we live is not even on the map, yet convenient to every thing. The one thing to always remember here, you are a foreigner/ a guest. Don't act like a rude Texan or New Yorker and you will be fine. Be a jerk, and the karma will come back on you very quickly here.

guest
Jul 23, 2011 17:55

Live in Ajijic----been here 2 years--safer than most areas in U.S. or Canada. You only hear about the drug wars along border---or some U.S. or Canadian has been kidnapped. We lived in Miami--try that---South Beach has more crime than Guadalajara---but we ignore the crime in our back yard.No bombings--guns in schools---in fact no guns at all--the killings are amongst the drug people---like the gangs in most U.S. cities. Do not have to worry about driving and cutting someone off--in U.S.--you could be shot !! Everyday occurence .

guest
Dec 26, 2011 18:27

Pretty sad and very un-informed would be my assessment of those really STUPID comments that all Mexicans have no morals or values and have given up on their country. The Mexican people hate crime and are far more family oriented that anywhere I've ever lived except for Hawaii where family is king there too. There is no perfect place and yes we have crime here as in the US, but here's the thing the crime in the US is far and away higher than here in Mexico. we just don't notice it the same way. I watch the news everyday here on Sat. TV from Seattle, Detroit and Buffalo- holy cow it really dangerous there in these 3 cities. Kids being killed, kidnapped or missing, drugs violence and don't get me started on the political corruption and unions graft or crime. The politics of the US has doomed you all to slavery, wake up and smell the coffee folks both parties have sold you down the road and no new election will fix it either. Don't believe what you see or read in the US, it's mostly lies to keep your near worthless dollars at home. you can live here FAR better than in the US for 40% LESS or more and feel very safe. www.gringosinparadise.com.mx to read the truth about Mexico. The US will be officially become a third world nation within 10-15 years at most because of our monetary policys. Get your money out while you can into gold or silver or real estate because all to soon you won't be able to even if you wanted too.

guest
Dec 26, 2011 18:44

I have lived in Mexico for 7 years. One year in PV and now a little over 6 here in Guadalajara. It would be foolish to say that theft and violent crime is mostly on the northern boundaries. Drugs are a tsunami that is washing over this country more and more and not less and less. They are everywhere. Period. Guadalajara, once thought safe, has seen several murders that are drug related in the last year. It is pretty common knowledge that many of the huge mansions being built in Zapopan, are homes for drug lords. One of whom was killed by the police as he tried to escape into his neighborhood. Add to the drugs the increasing rate of poverty and joblessness and you will see increased violence perpetrated against non-Mexicans. Many poor Mexicans simply believe that all Americans are rich and therefore appropriate targets. I have been beaten and robbed (I am 63 and have ONLY my Social Security check) and have friends with similar experiences. One who was stabbed 7 times in his own home, just a month ago, by a thief who came over the roof. So, don't be naive. It happens and it is happening more often. HOWEVER...I have learned how to live at least MORE safely since my experience of three years ago. I love Mexico, and cannot think of leaving here, but I have definitely had to change my life here in response to increased dangers.

guest
Dec 27, 2011 10:53

We live in a small mayan village in the Yucatan and there is no crime to speak of. What is nice about the Yucatan is they have police checkpoints on all of the major highways which helps reduce the flow of any illegal activity. There is no question that the Yucatan is the safest area in Mexico. Climate is excellent from Sept-March. April through August it is very hot and humid and you will need to run an air conditioner but that is no different than any area of the Southern United States. We are very happy here and the Mayan People are wonderful and the culture and food is different than anywhere in Mexico.

expat62
Dec 27, 2011 15:52

I live in the port city of Veracruz. We've had our share of violence but it has mostly been drug gang on drug gang violence. Yes, it has hit close to home and I've lost two young Mexican friends - they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Am I leaving? NO. Am I cautious? YES. I live a simple life and live amongst the locals. Does the violence stop me doing things I once did? Well, I don't walk home at 2am in the morning after going out with friends...I take a taxi. Other than that, it's pretty much life as usual. Be careful and don't flaunt your life-style...it's a poor country. And, I find it irritating at the two things you never hear about in the USA press are: 1. Why can't we stop the traffic of guns to Mexico, and, 2. If Americans in the USA didn't have such a voracious appetite for DRUGS, we in Mexico would not have to deal with the traffic and gangs getting them to their USA clients!

guest
Dec 27, 2011 16:28

Monterrey update: Much quieter now. For the last few months there has been little cartel activity. Most dangerous thing is carjacking at the moment. Lots of cases where people have bought new cars and even within hours have them carjacked. One has to wonder if the dealers are in with the crims.

candyking1
Jan 23, 2012 15:15

We have been living in Manzanillo on the west coast of Mexico for 14 years. The admiral of the navy has taken crime here very personally and is receiving help and tips from the community. The expats have not been affected and and I am not afraid to walk down the street at night, or drive. We are a prosperous town and have almost no unemployment. We still feel very safe, and are horrified by what the news is doing to our tourism and local economy with the blasting of Mexico. Mexico is a huge country, as is the US and Canada. What happens in New York City and Chicago, or Montreal, is not what happens in the whole country, and yet that is the impression being given in some of the press. There are still plenty of safe places to be in Mexico and Manzanillo in the state of Colima is one of them. Come on down and visit us.

gringoman
Mar 15, 2012 23:25

Thinking of moving to Leon. Does anyone have any information regarding the crime in that city? Thank you.

expat62
Mar 16, 2012 10:50

I spent 6 months in the Guanajuato, Gto/Leon area and loved it. Leon is like any big city: good spots and bad spots. Overall, it is a safe, friendly, busy city. I was there at least once a week to shop at Sam's and often on weekends to go to clubs or restaurants. It is a little comercial for my personal taste (very little charm) except in El Centro and some of the older neighborhoods. If you have transportation and don't mind a 40 minute drive, check out Guanajuato City just up the mountain a few thousand feet :-) It is beautiful, friendly, beautiful, friendly (I'd repeat myself again but you get the idea)with good stores, entertainment,schools (if you have kids),a great University, many places to study Spanish, and great restaurants. Check out TripAdvisor.com for a list of those. The only reason I left was because I have a heart condition that doesn't react well with high altitudes. I am now in the Port of Veracruz. Mexico has it challenges, but it and it's people are wonderful. Leon would have been my choice had I not had so many friends in Gto. before moving there.

guest
Jun 27, 2012 08:32

We live in the Yucatan on the coast north of Merida and are not afraid at all. We have petty crime and crimes of opportunity but no stick ups or kidnapping. if you are coming to live or visit, this is the area to come to but use common sense, just like at home.

guest
Mar 6, 2013 17:17

I have lived in San Cristobal de Las Casas, In Chiapas, Mexico for over 9 months now and I would say it is incredibly safe! I am a single woman who moved here alone. I have been in San Cris since June of 2012 and have never had any scarey moments ever and I walk everywhere day or night! I used to live in Winnipeg Canada and would never walk anywhere at night in fear of my life! Here Mexicans are polite and curtious! It is the most safest place I have ever been! There are lots of Americans, Canadians, Europeans, and Mexicans and it is so safe! I would recommend anyone looking for a nice peaceful beautiful and magical place in Mexico come to San Cristobal de las Casas!!!

guest
Apr 26, 2013 02:22

I have been to Monterrey Mexico where I was threatened there a long time ago - turned out to be some of the worst criminals ever seen in Mexico and the United States. But with the crime wave in Mexico - criminals have migrated to the United States temporarily and are using some of the same equipment used by Los Zetas and other gangs and cartels to subdue their victims before they kill them. This is black infrared, green infrared and tasers holding them still before beheadings. I live in North Carolina and they have moved here using this equipment and laser audio of La Familia to scare people into leaving cities and neighborhoods, threatening families and law enforcement does nothing - bodies are being found and there are not updates about what happened. Deputies find skulls and nothing else. People break in at a rate of once a month to scare you into leaving. They drive around like they did in Monterrey Mexico and Nuevo Laredo to mark their presence - Does anyone know down there who belongs to these thugs up here in North Carolina - they claim to have all kinds of inside information about Lazcano and other people from Cartels including El Chapo. Please pass the word - thanks

guest
May 8, 2013 03:37

I live in Tijuana, BC with my husband who is a Mexican citizen. Been here for 1 year. We are waiting for his waiver application to go through so he can return to US legally. We are both in our 50s. I have no latin heritage although I am bilingual . I'm white with green eyes and light brown hair. I was robbed at knife point while walking by myself about 1/2 mile from our home. 2 young guys took my wedding ring, watch, 200 pesos and cell phone. The only thing of value was the ring. My husband was at work and I wanted to get some exercise. Now I listen to my husband when he tells me to wait till he get's home before I go anywhere. There are lots of wonderful people here, especially in the churches. They are very sociable and eager to help in times of need. If it wasn't for our church family and God, I would probably take the next flight out of this place and wait for my husband on the other side. I wish guns were legal here because only the bad guys have guns and they have plenty of them according to the news. When I went to the phone company to report my stolen cell phone, the young lady who attended me said she had 2 cars stolen at gun point. Once after driving home from work at night. 2 gunman surprised her coming out of nowhere as she was getting out of her car to enter the house. Another time was broad daylight. The cars were never found. She is Hispanic, and Mexican citizen. I'm glad I wasn't harmed physically. But aside from material things, my freedom to go out alone was also stolen. Tijuana is only beautiful on the post cards. In reality it is full of garbage everywhere, grafiti and 1000s of stray dogs/cats and all the crap on the streets from them. The irony is it could be a paradise with its panorama of the hills and the ocean and also the wonderful climate that never gets too cold or too hot. (I'm from Michigan.) Mexicans have taken a paradise and turned it into a junkyard. I don't come from rich stock. We are working class and my mother grew up very poor in the 20s (coal miners daughter). But she wouldn't think of dumping garbage down the side of a beautiful mountain, let alone in her own neighborhood. Here it is normal practice. Garbage service only costs 50 pesos monthly ($4.10) My husband makes 900 pesos weekly ($73.77). We have garbage service. Maybe the service is dumping down the mountain too. Who knows?

guest
Jun 12, 2013 18:21

It is safer in Afghanistan.

guest
Jun 29, 2013 12:29

I live in the USA and have considered retiring in Mexico. Now I'm not so sure. Even though there is much crime in the USA, there has been greater order and funds to train and hire good police. Here people expect help or they'd explode in the streets with demands and be all over the media. From various things I've read about Mexico, they are more backward in development and haven't had the funds to improve conditions. As far as the drug cartels, the USA should loan some navy seals, marines, FBI/CIA and go down to Mexico and declare real war on the cartels. No cartel can escape the highest trained warriors in the world. I say help our neighbors and kill all of the cartel.

First Published: May 11, 2011

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