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.
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.
First Published: May 11, 2011