Let’s Talk About Safety in Mexico

When I saw the CNN article my heart sank. “American Adventurer Missing in Mexico,” the headline blared. I had never heard of Harry Devers before, but it looks like he was a kindred spirit; exploring Latin America via motorcycle and writing about his experience. He’s been missing since January 25, last seen in a war-torn part of Mexico.

My heart sank for Harry, I really hope they find him unharmed. It also sank becaues I knew what was coming next: the never ending debate about whether Mexico is safe for tourists.

The comments confirmed what I feared (someday I will learn to stop reading cnn comments). I skipped over the massive, seriously inane debate about whether the US should invade Mexico, and all of the comments deriding the guy for quitting his job to travel. Still, nearly every other comment was about how dangerous Mexico is, how insane it is to travel there, how stupid this guy must have been.

It wasn’t just the idiots over at CNN though. Actual travel bloggers in one of my facebook groups echoed the same sentiments like they were truths. I shut the computer and looked out the window. Down on the street a handful of kids were playing with a hose, splashing each other and shrieking. A dog frolicked happily in the dry riverbed below them. Our landloard, Zach, was blasting a Beatles song from his smoothie street shop.

It didn’t seem incredibly dangerous outside. So, while I’ve been avoiding the topic because honestly, it seems like common sense to me, I guess it’s time. Let’s talk about whether or not it’s safe to travel to Mexico.

Let’s Talk Statistics

I’m not an expert, so I am going to quote liberally from my favorite article on the safety of traveling to Mexico by Robert Reid. After agreeing that yes, the murder rate in Mexico is three times that of the United States, he points out that the more pertinent stat is the amount of murders perpetrated against tourists.

According to FBI crime statistics, 4.8 Americans per 100,000 were murdered in the US in 2010. The US State Department reports that 120 Americans of the 5.7 million who visited Mexico last year were murdered, which is a rate of 2.1 of 100,000 visitors. Regardless of whether they were or weren’t connected to drug trafficking, which is often not clear, it’s less than half the US national rate.

Unfortunately the United States is not the bastion of safety certain people sometimes tell themselves it is. People are shot here on a near constant basis for absolutely no reason whatsoever. In just the past year or two there have been well publicized incidents of people being senselessly murdered while at the movies, in school, at work or watching the Boston Marathon.

In the end, the safety of Mexico is highly dependent on where you go, just like in Colombia, Brazil and yes, the United States. As Reid points out:

New Orleans, host city of next year’s Super Bowl, broke its own tourism record last year with 8 million visitors. Yet the Big Easy has ten times the US homicide rate, close to triple Mexico’s national rate.

Crimes against tourists are highly reported and emphasized by US press, so it’s easy to jump to the conclusion that the world is a scary place. Reality is of course more nuanced.

Let’s Talk Experience

So now that we’ve seen the real statistical danger of being a tourist in Mexico, let me tell you about my everyday reality, as someone who has spent the last four and a half months living here.

Mike and I live in a peaceful surf town on the west coast of Mexico called Sayulita. It’s small, but popular with both international and Mexican tourists. In the past month the most discussed criminal activity has been how to deal with bars that play their music too loud. It’s not perfect, there is the occasional break-in etc., but I am pretty sure this small town in Mexico is the safest community I have ever lived in.

The Mexico I see everyday is incredibly warm, not just in temperature but in terms of the fun, happy and welcoming people I get to meet every day. Mexicans have to be some of the most friendliest people in the world. Our day to day life is colored with impromptu parades, town sponsored baseball games and the occasional town concert.

In the evenings people of all ages congregate in the plaza. Groups of teenage boys huddle together drinking giant bottles of Coke while younger kids play tag or skateboard. We have no fear walking home at night here, no concerns over being mugged or even pickpocketed. Imposing police trucks patrol the streets in the evening but the only time I’ve ever seen the officers in action was to preside over a fender bender. 

Compare this to when we lived in Buenos Aires, when we were constantly on guard against pickpockets, crooked cabbies and counterfeit money. Where one of Mike’s relatives was literally taken hostage while buying pet food during our stay. I liked Buenos Aires but there was a level of tension there that I don’t feel here.

How come hardly anyone ever asks me whether it’s safe to travel to Argentina?

Let’s Talk About Evaluating Risks

I spent quite awhile looking through Harry Dever’s instagram feed as I wrote this. His pictures are amazing and his adventures are numerous. Over the past few weeks it looks like he passed through Mexico City and Guanajuato, both places I hope to visit soon. His last picture is a colorful sunset in Morelia, Mihoacan, and that is where the two of us diverge.

Mihoacan is not an area I would travel to in it’s current state. Drug cartel activity in the area is out of control, so much so that authorities are deputizing vigilantes in hopes of bringing some order to the area. The US State Department warns against travel to Mihoacan, and current news articles seem to reinforce that idea.

I’m not judging Dever’s choices because I think everyone needs to evaluate the safety risks they are willing to take. Still, Dever’s disappearance in Mihoacan is not a comment on the safety of Mexico as a whole, it’s a comment on the safety of traveling in that particular state. Simply reading about this on scary incident doesn’t give you enough information to make a balanced decision.

The bottom line is that Mexico is an enormous country. Writing off Mexico because of a murder in Mihoacan is like writing off the United States because of the crime rate in New Orleans. The areas of Mexico you are most likely to travel to as a tourist are safe. Literally millions of people, more than twenty million last year, visited without incident.

So come to Mexico! Or don’t. More tacos for me. Just don’t let fear override your decision making skills.

Do you think Mexico is safe for travelers?

75 thoughts on “Let’s Talk About Safety in Mexico”

  1. It’s a case of people generalizing an entire country, which is just about as bad as when people generalize a group of people from a certain country as being a particular way. People will continue to say Mexico isn’t say, Parisians are mean, and India smells … I’ve been to Sayulita and agree it’s about as friendly as it gets.

    Always after the Delhi gang rapes there was a lot of talk about safety for travel to India, which is where I have traveled alone and live now- even though the state department says women should not travel alone.

    People won’t be able to really form an opinion until they go! (and realize each city/area can be very different)

    1. Same Kinda Different

      X1000 to everything you said! I went to Mexico a few months ago for the first time, and everyone was so concerned for my safety! But I felt safer in Mexico, especially in Puebla, than I do in some parts of D.C.
      Funny how everyone who fear-mongers destinations as unsafe has actually never been there.
      It makes me sad when we write off certain regions because we’re inherently writing off the people in that place and missing out on so much!

  2. As a Mexican traveller, it hurts me every time something like this happens in my country, because people tend to overreact and start staying things that are not true at all. I’m originally from Sonora, near the border to Arizona, and one of the “most dangerous” places in the country just a couple of years ago and believe me, it’s nothing like you hear on the news.

    It’s true, there are some places that are dangerous to visit right now, but like you said, the country is huge! You have to be smart, like you would in any other country, and stay away from the places you know can be a little bit dangerous.

    Sadly, people tend to fear the things they don’t know or understand. But believe me, you’re missing a lot of the wonders here in Mexico!

  3. Stereotypes and assumptions suck. I live in Memphis, a city with a reputation has being dangerous. Yes, the crime rate isn’t good. But the places travelers (and locals) visit are quite safe. I hope to visit Mexico for the first time this year. I’m looking forward to it.

    1. I live in Memphis too. Statistics say there is a good amount of crime here. Yet they are mostly in certain sections of the city. For tourists, it is safehere.I have also been to Mexico many times over the past 25 years. As a a rule, in beach towns in areas with American expats, it is safe. I have had no problem in places like Playa del Carmen, Isla Mujeres, Tulum, Loreto, Mulege, Los Barrilles and small Pueblo Magico Villlages. Mexico City can be a little daunting, just play it safe like you would in any big city. I have had two negative events in my times in Mexico; a couple from Germany got their tires slashed and were robbed at knife point by 15 years old boys. But the couple was parked, trespassing on private land, not a paid campground. Our family helped them. The second is, I got my car broken into. My suitcase and electronics were stolen in Ensenada. I was parked on a side street. I should have parked right in front of the language school I was attending or in their lot. Two events out of hundreds of days in Mexico is not too bad.

  4. mexico is soo awesome! i wonder why they choose to cross to the USA even when they risks their own life while doing it.
    come on…..

    1. Nice try. Next time maybe actually read the article.
      You know as an American living in Mexico, who has been welcomed with open arms, I am pretty embarrassed about the way the US treats it’s immigrants.

  5. I think it’s unfair to characterize an entire country based on an incident that occurred in an isolated of said country. That’s like saying the US isn’t safe to travel to because of 9/11. I also think we are responsible for our own safety and that we need to use common sense when traveling – as you mentioned, if a certain area isn’t stable or safe, then just stay away from it. That said, I hope to visit Mexico City in the fall this year and I’m SO looking forward to sampling all the delicious street eats it has! NOMS.

    1. IMHO, you might better enjoy some of the other cities in Mexico more than DF. The capital is home to 20 million residents, but per capita, I found it lacking in sites and entertainment. For instance, I traveled to Guanajuato after my first week in DF and I haven’t even left once over the last three months. There’s just so much to see and do in GTO—without ever needing a car or train ride.

      If you’re interested, I recommend reading “A People’s Guide to Mexico” to get some ideas of other places to see. Everybody I know absolutely love Oaxaca, too, and I’ll be traveling there in April.

  6. YES. Granted, I haven’t been to Mexico so I can’t speak specifically to that experience (although my mom tells me ALL THE TIME how unsafe it is–granted, we live in California and have quite a few Mexican acquaintances who have escaped pretty terrible drug violence in their hometowns). But the thing is that bad things can happen anywhere, to anyone. Travel smart, but don’t NOT travel just because you’re scared about bad things happen.

    Also, dear everyone in the USA: IT IS UNSAFE HERE TOO. I’d much rather be in a small beach town in Mexico than in certain areas of New York after dark. Heck, even my hometown of Sacramento constantly has issues with gang violence and drunken violence and just the stupid stuff that happens when people have access to guns and drugs and nothing better to do.

  7. Being from San Diego, there was only a short period of time when my family and I stopped heading down across the border for day or weekend trips. My dad has also always loved riding his motorcycle through Mexico and continues to do so today. I’ve felt so frustrated in the past with people generalizing Mexico as this crime ridden “Afghanistan”.

    Thanks for the awesome post! I really hope Harry is found. It’s so so sad!

  8. I’m a ex-pat, escaping Chicago in Guanajuato this winter.

    This article is spot-on. Thanks for the tips on Sayulita. I’ve been looking for a chill Mexican beach town (and not in Michoacan).

    And yeah, hopefully Harry shows up safe. The probability of him being bothered by cartel violence is very low, but yes, bad things can and do happen to innocent people sometimes. Again, though, rarely does narco violence touch American tourists. He was on a motorcycle, too. I hope he wasn’t a casualty of Mexico’s highways, either.

    Finally, about the comments: America is full of xenophobes and cowards. To me, that’s fine; it’s why I left.

    The good news, though, is that when I’m in Mexico, I don’t have to worry about associating with those chickens. They’re back home, dealing with one of the worst winters in recent history and driving their cars to Wal-Mart so they can buy bottled water.

    Their fear and ignorance-based comments are infinity better than watching them turn Mexico into another Disneyworld.

      1. Well, here in Guanajuato, our dear Jason, you did suffer “an incident”, but that was partially where you were and at what time, right? I’ve lived in Oaxaca and Guanajuato for 14 years, a woman alone, and have had extremely good luck, with more negative stuff happening to me in Vncouver than here. But let’s not deny it: small cities like Guanajuato, because of its maze of allleyways (callejones), makes it easy for thieves and muggers to hide. This beautiful city is rife with gangs and solvent sniffers – young men with no future and nothing to do. Police here are cowards, and there’s virtually no protection for citizens, as there are a mere 67 for the entire town.
        So, we carry stun guns and alarms and I myself have been accosted twice this year alone. But the huffers are also cowards, and we never carry anything valuable on us. There are many break-ins, but we are forming vigilante groups with neighbours as the police do nothing. I hope other cities aren’t like this, and have municipal governments that care about tourism. So ouside of Guanajuato and Michoacán, Mexico is safe, in my opinion…especially the wonderful Oaxaca.

        1. I’m considering Guanajuato as a place to live. I’d love to know more about your experience there. Is there a way to email you directly? Thanks for your post…very helpful and…a bit worrisome too.

        2. Hi Linda – I’m searching for information on the safety in Guanajuato. My step-daughter wants to take an AP course for a week there staying with a family over spring break. While we live in Chicago where parts of the city are very unsafe, at least we are here with her versus letting her stay with a host family and friend where we don’t know what is going on and the city is unfamiliar. The reviews from other parents have been good (and the teacher who stayed for a year there with his family) – do you have any thoughts on sending 2 17 year olds for a week? You seem to have some good insight but wondering if things have changed since February.

  9. Thanks for helping to spread the word. I’ve been living in Cancun, Mexico since 2001. My son is Mexican and I became a citizen last year. The fact is, millions of people visit this paradise each year, the vast majority without incident, except for maybe a sunburn.

  10. Just wanted to clarify that it’s Michoacán, not Mihoacan as you’ve written. Otherwise: thank you for this article. I lived in Mexico City for four years and actually felt safer, as far as violent crime goes, than I did when I lived in Dallas. The country as a whole definitely has problems — besides the drug cartels, the criminal justice system is a mess, and public education needs a major overhaul. (More recently, I’ve read articles about kidnapping being on the rise in DF, although no one has any official numbers.) But I absolutely don’t think it’s fair to paint the entire country with the same brush or to compare it to Afghanistan. Such a shame.

  11. Definitely never read major news website comments! They really attract the crazies.

    I have only traveled to the Riviera Maya area which IMO is very insulated from violent parts of Mexico. But you bring up a great point about Buenos Aires. I felt very guarded and unsafe there, compared to visiting New Orleans just last week and feeling very secure. I think it’s because murder rate numbers reflect issues with drug and gang violence. Tourists are almost never directly involved in these activities, and tourism attracts petty crimes that may or may not correlate with murder rate. I try to research crimes against tourists and things to watch out for when visiting a new country rather than focus on murder statistics.

  12. I’ll admit to being scared off travel to Mexico when the drug war first erupted and the U.S. news media covered it in overwhelming detail. But that was years ago and I’m much more savvy now, having traveled all over Asia and visited other places deemed “unsafe.” There are still some spots of Mexico I wouldn’t visit – just like there are parts of Chicago and DC that I would steer clear of. But I wouldn’t avoid going there altogether.

  13. Thanks for writing this Stephanie. I don’t have the energy to argue this long and this coherently anymore, so I just thank my lucky stars that I can live in Mexico instead of with the nutjobs who comment by the thousands on those news stories.

    If 120 Americans died in Mexico in one year, that’s the equivalent of a summer in Chicago. Just one city in our gun-crazy country. Merida is safer than almost ANY city in the USA on a statistical basis. Plus a good number of the Americans who die here are Mexican-Americans, not tourists. And along the border, not where vacationers go.

    I’m with you on Michoacan though. I’m taking a bus through there next month to get from Guanajuato to Zihuatanejo. But you couldn’t pay me enough to ride a motorcycle through there. It’s the worst non-border state in Mexico by far. Breaking Bad all over the countryside. Just as in most places, the answer to “is it safe?” is usually “can you read a map and the news?”

    1. Don’t you think your hyperbole about Michoacán is a bit over the top sir? I mean, it just kind of seems like you are falling into the same trap that all the dummies that speak about Mexico in blanket terms are. An entire state can’t possibly be 100% unsafe, right? Just sayin’.

  14. When I saw this story on the news I thought the exact same thing. I mean, props to the family for getting the word out and I hope nothing but the best for him, but sadly it is just going to reinforce most people’s tired and misguided ignorance about Mexico. We spent a month in Michoacán last spring, and although I know there is some crazy stuff going on there now, I’d be willing to bet a six-pack of Modelo that it’s not EVERYWHERE in the state. I’d just hate for people to completely skip a place like Patzcuaro just because of what is happening in certain places of the state, just like I’d hate for anyone to miss Mexico (or the United States) because of what goes on in certain places.

  15. “The bottom line is that Mexico is an enormous country. Writing off Mexico because of a murder in Mihoacan is like writing off the United States because of the crime rate in New Orleans.”

    Yes! Thank you! I’ll definitely be sending this post to a few people…

    As always, thanks for sharing!

  16. I travelled twice to Mexico in 2013 as a tourist and never felt safer. DF, Cuernavaca, Acapulco the first time and DF, Paplantla, Xalapa, and Puebla the second time. Only met honest, humble, colorful and hard-working folks along the way. Our one rule is to not be driving by nightfall. I dream about going back. Am working on shedding life in the US and moving to Mexico.

  17. First off, I’d like to say thank you for writing this piece. Harry was a good friend and we’re all very saddened by this situation, but are still filled with hope for his reappearance.

    It would be very easy to take out all of the anger on Mexico and deem the whole of it “unsafe,” but in reality, that’s not the case. Harry always says, “I take risks, but I’m not an idiot.” His adventurous spirit allows him to see so many amazing places and have so many stories to tell (as you saw on his Instagram), but Michoacán was probably not a safe area to visit.

    Thank you again for taking the time to address concerns around traveling to Mexico. I still look forward to visiting and look even more forward to hearing Harry’s story around this crazy adventure.

    1. Thanks for the comment! I was amazed at how many comments on the CNN article were blaming Harry for his situation. I think that is what people do to make themselves feel better, but it is pretty callous!

      I posted a link to Harry’s FB page on my page so hopefully that will drive a little more attention that way.

  18. i hope they find Harry sound and well. I don’t believe Mexico is a bad place I mean cmon every place on earth has got its crimes it has to fight there is no peaceful country, but generalizing Mexico to be so bad a place to visit is really not good. Viva la Mexico!!

  19. I feel safer in Puerto Vallarta than here in the states, you can go to the malacon at midnight and you look around and there will be hundreds of people our, they are all laughing, eating and watching the street venders, in the states really all those people around in one spot at midnight, you will see some sort of drunken group of people and or fights, you don’t see that n Puerto Vallarta, its all about eating and laughing…I have been going there twice a year for the last 12 years, we have never even seen a fight there. We retire in 5 years and plan to make Puerto Vallarta our home. Love the people, love everything about PV, going there has changed my way of thining now about life, its not about your wants its about your needs, that’s what the Mexican people have taught me. I feel so safe there I so wished the media really focused on all the beauties of mexico, that one person that was stupid and was doing something they shouldn’t gets hurt and the media blows it way out of proportion….

  20. Very well said. I’ve been to Mexico countless times, but this May will be traveling for the first time as a solo female traveler. I’d wouldn’t be telling the truth if I said that safety has not crossed my mind. But that isn’t going to change my mind about traveling. I’m going to spend the next few months educating myself and be prepared to make smart choices while on the road.

    Anyway, thanks for sharing!!

  21. I have always found Mexico fascinating, but I must admit, due to constant news articles about the “lack of safety” I have kinda marked it as one of those countries I should never visit.

    So thanks for posting this and enlightening me! 🙂 It did change my perspective.

  22. Thanks for writing this and sharing your perspective, Steph. Mexico is one of my favorite countries, a place I’ve traveled around solo several times, so it breaks my heart to hear the entire country written off like this. Like you say, there are few risks to foreigners, especially in the areas most tourists visit.

  23. YES to all of this, Steph. I’ve never been to Mexico, but when I told people I was going/had gone to Colombia, all I got were questions about safety. It was perfectly safe, just common sense needed to be exercised (no wandering down dark deserted streets in big cities, for example). I actually felt more unsafe in parts of the US, like D.C. (sorry) and Atlanta. A guy wrote some nasty comments on a post I wrote about safety in Colombia, and when I pointed out crime statistics for the likes of NOLA, Baltimore, Detroit etc., and asked if he would discourage anyone from visiting the entirety of the USA based on crime rates in a handful of cities, he blocked me. Oops.

    Anyway, it’s important to be informed, and stay away from places where there are very real threats, but also not to be afraid and let fear and media hype (CNN are terrible for this – I had readers emailing me asking about safety in South Korea due to their exaggerated reports) influence them into not going where they want to go.

  24. Great post. I think a lot of it applies beyond just Mexico too. I remember reading the comments (yes, I get sucked in too!) on articles about the woman who was killed in Istanbul last year and the number of comments saying Turkey wasn’t safe was ridiculous. And perhaps it is because I live in a city like Chicago – where we have so many shootings every day they barely make the news any more – that I have felt more safe everywhere I have traveled around the world than I sometimes do at home. But even with Chicago, I would never discourage anyone from visiting based on the violence here because the vast majority of it is gang-related, not targeting tourists and in areas of the city where tourists would have no reason to go.

  25. Really fantastic post. Well-researched and well-written. You make all the arguments that I would make. Not to say that they would sway those crazy CNN commenters, of course, because some people are perfectly happy to generalize violence in any country that isn’t their own.

  26. Well Said! I have loved and traveled to Mexico over 20 times, as recently as last March. Sure, specific areas are experiencing violence and keeping an ear to the ground and asking locals is your best bet, but as you mentioned. It’s an enormous country! i, personally, have no desire to drive around East LA, but that doesn’t mean I won’t go to California. It absolutely irks me that US media coverage is so fear-driven, they know they’ll get more viewers if it’s all drama and warnings… pretty sad because so many poor Mexicans who make their living off tourist dollars are suffering for it.

    1. It kills me because all of the Mexicans I’ve met are SO nice and SO eager for tourists to keep coming. Spreading false information hurts actual people.

  27. THANK YOU for this post! I was JUST considering planning a vacation to Mexico City and I keep hearing my mom and everyone else in my head be like “its so dangerous, why would you go there!” you now helped me realize the obvious never to judge a whole country by just one or two places in that country that are dangerous…Mexico here I come!

  28. Steph, I LOVE how you bring up serious topics in your blog! This is a wonderful article for so many people to be able to see the reality of Mexico, and honestly Central America in general. BELIEVE the expats! We are not lying when we say that where we live in Central America is safer than where we lived in the USA. 🙂

  29. Sigh. I wish we lived in a world where crap like this didn’t get sensationalized…but I know that’s never going to happen. I’m off to Guatemala next month, and “well meaning” family members are constantly sending me warnings and crime stats. I understand that it comes from a place of love and not wanting to see me get kidnapped, but it’s still frustrating.

    A few months ago, my fiance’s aunt asked me if my travels made me appreciate the U.S. more, because it’s “so much safer here.”

    …I think I responded with an awkward “umm…not particularly…” and a giant gulp of beer. Keepin’ it classy.

      1. Steph… the US has NEVER been safe, from a Canadian point of view. And BTW readers, handguns are ILLEGAL in both Canada AND Mexico.

  30. Well written. I think people who generalise about any country are talking nonsense. I spent two weeks driving around Mexico and Mexico city a year ago and felt very safe. Much safer than I would normally feel to be honest. We weren’t looking for any cartels but everybody was very pleasant. We all know there are drugs in Mexico but there are big organised gangs in the US, Europe and any other country you go to that will kill you for no reason. Mexico is no different.

  31. I think Mexico as a place is beautiful, however it also has its dangerous places like any other country. When I read the story through CNN, it crashed my heart for that fellow traveler. I immediately went online and google up his blog (unfortunately I couldn’t find anything other than the CNN story). I think he was just at the wrong place at wrong time wether it was Mexico or not.

  32. Just wanted to say that I loved your blog. I’m Mexican living abroad and I wanted to find some articles to show my friends abroad how is life in Mexico for foreigners. Really cool your articles!!

  33. I love that you wrote this article, don’t love the situation that sparked it, however. Living in Bangkok for the past 3 months sparked a lot of these same accusations. The media certainly doesn’t help! I always appreciate people writing the real sides of the story. I was constantly getting concerned messages from loved ones at home about the ‘violent protests’ occurring asking when I was evacuating. When, in reality, while yes, some areas had small violent occurrences, most protest sites were shopping areas littered with street stalls sending pro-thailand paraphernalia and blasting Thai pop songs! Always do your research and be prepared; but making general accusations that are based on skewed statistics is going to result in you missing out on some wonderful experiences!

  34. Mexico is a shithole and everyones corrupt. Except the local worker bee class. All these idiots posting how great it is should be publically horse whipped for being bleeding heart idiots. Reality will slap them n the face eventually.

    1. I don’t know where you were, “not stupid”, but I have been to Mexico several times and the worst think I ever had to deal with was the poor guy trying to make a living selling sandals… and every one of those folks has more class then the “greeter” at that American Mecca called Walmart. In fact, the guy selling huaraches probably earns more money, and has a better life, than that poor old granny who risks her life every day greeting the creeps that shop at Walmart, in most every major American city.

  35. I love Mexico. Can’t wait to return again.

    There are plenty of places in the U.S. I wouldn’t go to; a spot in pretty much every state that might have higher violent or petty crime rates. So I don’t go to those places.

    Same as there places in MX I would avoid. Or pretty much any damn place. Both are big countries. Any map can tell you that. The world is vast, and not everyone is trying to get you gringo. Now go enjoy your sunburns. Be warned, if you act like a drunken American a-hole wherever you are, you may get attention you don’t want.

  36. Thank you for your article and to everyone for their encouraging comments about this beautiful country called Mexico.

    Unlike all of the other commenters, I just returned from a week in Tangancicuaro, Michoacan.

    As a small town Canadian boy who has lived in Montreal for 20 years, I know a little bit about beauty, safety and hospitality. I live in a (mostly) gun-free country with a very low crime rate.

    My visit to Michoacan reminded me more of my youth on the West Coast in the 70s than it did of any modern day criminal haven. Yes, there is drug money (Mexican-Americans or American-Mexicans, as you wish). It’s blatent, it’s distatesful and it’s readily identifiable.

    My experience, in the small city of Tangancicuaro, and on my travels from Guadaljara to Michoacan and back are a fabulous medly of wonderful, warm, kind people, delicious food, fabulous scenery and some of the most comfortable evening walking to square I have ever experienced in my life.

    I’ll take ANY part of Mexico, any day or night, before I would be interested in an afternoon in Los Angeles.

    Yo amo Mexico et los Mexicanos… mucho y mas !

  37. I have driven all over Mexico for the last 7 years for at least 4 months per year. No incidents, nor have I seen any. I have also led RV Caravans down there. Unless you are involved with the drug trade, you have a better chance of being murdered in the US. In fact many places in the US scare me far more than Mexico. Now you do have a better chance of being a victim of property crime, but the stories of dangers to tourists are extremely overblown. In nearly every instance of a tourist being murdered you find they were involved in the drug trade back home.

  38. Glad to see there are intelligent beings in america who can see past the propaganda and nonsense of the daily Yahoo posts. Mexico is truly a gem.The populace is unfortunately been governed by corruption for decades and now the drug cartels ,fuelled by the american need and greed I may add is suffering the slings and arrows again, The Mexican people are the most resourceful, open , friendly and helpful people on this planet. They would not need to risk their lives to cross to USA if given half a chance to live FREE! all of you haters pick up a book on Mexico and learn about the bravery , and ingenuity of the people and the splendid resources of the land. They are self sufficient ,just raped by the government eternally.
    Check our Huatulco Ouxaca,the most prisitine, beaches, lovliest sunsets, incredible white sand beaches and warm locals. Many well heeled Canadians and Americans are buying up land here, Do the research!

  39. I drove into Guadalajara this afternoon for two days, and I am driving to Uruapan, Michoacan on Monday. I’m going their for the second time this year, to finalize the purchase of a custom guitar in the nearby mountain town of Paracho.

    I have only one thing to say about this article. Since when is Sayulita part of Mexico? I thought that it was a suburb of Los Angeles! Are they starting to let Mexicans into Sayulita?

  40. I don’t know how to operate this website from mobile, so I apologize if I reply this to a comment that has nothing to do with the actual comment.
    My parents went to Michoacan, Mexico for Christmas of 2013 (at this time I was terrified of them going because of what had been going that I saw in the News) and they told me that everything was really relaxed and peaceful. Wanna know the worst part, they went by driving in their new(ish) car (not trying to show off), and they told me everything was absolutely fine. Yea there was “stuff” going on, but just like here in the U.S and everywhere, you go to Atlanta, Ga (i’m from Atlanta) and you know the good parts of Atlanta and the bad parts of Atlanta. They told me the media exaggerated the situation dramatically. They were able to go back and forth to Morelia and have posadas among other things. Just saying. I plan on going this year, Christmas 2015, not sure though

  41. Mexico is as safe or not as anywhere else. You must exercise precaution in all travel. You’d choice of where you go, the roads you travel, your activities and thebtimd of day you travel all impact your safety. We haveord freedom to do many of these choices in the US and find less risk. But depending on where you go there is no greater risk. I bought s house in Queretaro, QRO- considered the 2nd safest state in MX. Plenty of control by a well run police force and s mayor and governor who go not want the issues as in other places. I feel very safe here at night I’m the downtown but it is s city and do I still exercise caution. We had flown for a few years to cut down our risks big that didn’t stop us from traveling to MX. We are back to driving and there us more protection on the highways as they have stepped up the security at the border . Nonetheless we drive here during the busiest season when more people travel by car from Dec to April. We do as we have been told by the MX embassy – travel only during the day and stay on the tollways. Stop only in places where there is police protection and lots of people. In just 4 years I’ve wirmessed literally no travelers by car to thousands returning. This is encouraging as the economy dies need it and people need to feel safe to travel yo visit their homes and family. We also travel by car to Ixtspa passing through Michoacan where a lot of the violence has erupted. Again we follow the same rules and have found plenty of security. So is MX safe? Yes- just as safe as anywhere else– just use common sense and remember you are in s foreign country– so be respectful , follow the rules, use caution in your travel just like anywhere else. If you accidentally get off the beaten path trust there are good people everywhere who will help– there are also bad people just like everywhere. This however is not the time to get off thd beaten path unless you are with people who are educated in the area. Travel to MX by plane to the tourist areas has always been safe–I would not judge MX by the crime. You judge any country by the political climate and what they are doing or Not doing to stop it. MX has had some issues with this but it doesn’t stop me from traveling here. I adjust my plans as needed so GO to MX and have a great time and make great memories.

  42. People are afraid to get out of bed in the morning, do nothing but sit in the house all day have no clue what this world is all about. But these same people have nothing better to do than “gossip” and spread bad news without knowing any facts. Narrow minded idoits! I am a white redheaded male born and raised in Calif. and now living in the dreaded area of Mazatlan with my US wife. We have lived here for the past ten years. Yes those idoits are right its so very dangerous here, im scared to death! So please dont travel or move here as i like the peace and quiet that this country offers. We have traveled thru a lot of this country in the past 25 or more years and have always been accepted and have learned that the mexican people go out of the way to help when lost or whatever. Never have we felt threatned, and I have been traveling here since i was a hell raising kid just looking for trouble, never found any.
    So you chickenshits stay where you are,never seeing the more beautiful things life has to offer.

    Rusty Davis

  43. Having lived in Mexico and traveled all over the country for the past eight years, let me suggest that we do here exactly what people do in the States: We learn where the hot spots are and we avoid them. Simple as that.

  44. There are far more dangerous places to travel in the world–Michoacan has many wonderful things to see, including Monarch butterfly sanctuaries, historic centers like Patzcuaro and Morelia. I traveled from Guanajuato to Morelia to Patzcuaro to Zihuatanejo–alone. I’m a 62 year old female. The worst thing that happened to me was hookworm from the beach in Guerrero State. Now, that’s what I want to warn folks about–wear your beach shoes in undeveloped, poor beach towns! People in Michoacan were wonderful–and they need our tourist dollars!

  45. Great article. I was raised in the US (from birth to the age of 20) but born in Mexico. After high school I decided to go back to Mexico. I lived there for almost 7 years. I had the time of my life. Everything is slower and people are great. I got a job offer in Canada so I am currently living in Canada but I cant wait to go back home to Mexico next year.
    Don’t get me wrong. Mexico is a very dangerous place if your not careful. As long as you stay in big cities or close to expats you should be pretty good. But like ever city in ever place on earth, sometimes bad things just happen.

  46. My last visit to Mexico was to Uruapan. I felt fine and safe in the city, even if my host disagreed with me on that point. With the whole safety issue, it is how and where you travel. In general your going to be ok in larger cities. Traveling from City to City can get a bit dicey. In general the west side of Mexico is more dangerous that the East. If your in a tourist city and stay within the tourist area your going to be just fine, it is probably safer in those areas than Washington DC or Vegas.

    My best advise is if traveling outside of a metropolitan area, ask the locals. They know, they will tell you.

  47. badblogcollection

    Thank you, this is exactly the information I was looking for. I’ve been dying to see Morelia for about 8 or 9 years, and wondered if it was safe. I know that border areas are dangerous, but knew there are many places outside the border areas. Sometimes I think travel warnings use an overabundance of caution, or generalize risk that is localized. At the same time, I know there are travelers out there who trivialize risk, and tell others not to worry when they should be worried. You definitely made it clear you aren’t overly-nervous about Mexico, but your statement that you wouldn’t go to Mihoacan made it clear you’re not foolhardy, either, and convinced me I really just need to shelve the Morelia trip.

  48. I have a friend whose son wants to travel to meet someone he met online in Mihoacan. We all think he is crazy. It sounds like a big scam but we can’t get him to see reason. I hope this post helps.


  49. I’m headed off for a backpacking adventure through Latin America in just under a month. My friends and family are so excited for me and can’t wait to hear all about Guatemala, Panama, Colombia, Bolivia, Brazil, etc. Then they ask, “Where to first?” and when I tell them “Mexico!” they all look really worried. No one has raised an eyebrow about me wanting to go to Colombia, Venezuela, Panama or Ecuador, all countries that have “Do Not Travel” warnings issued by the Australian government applying to some areas. But when it comes to Mexico (which does not have a Do Not Travel warning at all), everyone gets really concerned for my safety.

    I think partly it’s that there was a very well-publicised disappearance of two Aussie surfers a few months ago. But no one seems to accept that traveling as two guys in a van and camping by the side of the road in the middle of no where looking for deserted beaches with great waves is really different from sticking to established tourist routes and staying at reputable hostels. It’s weird. Even when I explain to people that other parts of my itinerary have much higher crime rates, they still say, be very careful in Mexico. Well, I’ll just have to prove them wrong. 🙂 I will, obviously, be very careful. But I’m not going to let the need to take standard precautions against theft and accident stop me from exploring.

  50. I am so tired of people not using accurate numbers or true logic with talking safety!
    Safety is not about “how you feel” or whether you’ve been somewhere and survived. Most people survive. Very few people out of every 100,000 have problems even in dangerous countries, so just because 25 people report no problems on a site, does not mean it’s as safe as another country. And “feeling safe” has nothing to do with reality…I felt perfectly safe before my whole hotel in Palau sipaden got taken hostage for months. And the “favorite statistic” above is completely irrelevant. Because it is comparing the murder rate per 100,000 that live most of the 365 days in the US to tourists that are visiting Mexico for a matter of days. If the average tourist spent only a week in Mexico then that rate would be equivalent to around 107 per 100,000 murder rate for tourists. But I’m not saying it’s that high, many stay longer and most don’t spend the other 51 weeks in the US….but the point is that it is artificially low and inaccurate. I know that many will get mad at me for writing this, but I think somebody has to make others aware of the misleading statistic so they can make a more informed decision…if you really want to hedge your bets the best, then look at the correct statistics. BUT that said, the numbers per 100,000 are so small in both countries that essentially it’s almost just as safe to be either place. Compare the number not being killed per year…so many survive that the tiny ‘out of 100k’ differences are too small to really live your life around. Think in percentages: it’s way less than 1%, it’s more like 5/1000th of a percent that get killed. If instead of the .005%-.040 were murdered, it was 20% of the people were killed, well now you have some scary numbers that have a much bigger possibility of really affecting you. But if you are that one unlucky one that could’ve been in the 5 out of 100k, vs the 40 out of 100k, well then maybe these tiny differences make a difference. So one has to decide if they want to playing the betting game or believe in fate, but make that decision based on reality, not on ignorant peoples rant to believe that the US is just as dangerous overall just because they “feel safe”, they survived, and they don’t understand numbers. Sorry, had to get the word out.

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