Updated August 2018
You don’t have to spend much time on expat forums to get the gist of what expats who actually live in Mexico think in answer to the question, “Is Mexico safe?"
Expats and experienced travelers who write about Mexico respond to the question from every possible perspective and use every conceivable writing style to try to get it across - Mexico is a safe country to live in and, like any country, has some towns or even just neighborhoods in towns to avoid.
Publications of pictures and videos of drug-related violence in Mexico's back alleys and worst neighborhoods seems pretty cheeky coming from a country that had 346 mass shootings in 2017, with the definition of a mass shooting being four or more people being killed.
Negative perceptions about safety in Mexico persist in the face of an overwhelming quantity of first-hand knowledge and direct experience from thousands of expats and millions of travelers, Mexico being one of the most visited countries in the world.
Many expats get so frustrated with the negative misinformation, they've come to believe it’s a conspiracy on the part of the U.S. government to keep American tourism and dollars in America (Far-fetched but that's how frustrated expats get with the propaganda.).
The truest answer is usually the easiest: People prefer bad, even gory news over the travelogues of thousands of expats and travelers visiting all over Mexico, seeing natural points of wonder, touring modern and colonial feats of architecture, and eating world-class (top 10) cuisine. Gushing over the Mexico's charms doesn't makes for riveting news.
There are one million Americans living in Mexico. I would bet a large percentage are over 60 years old, all apparently with a death wish if you were to believe Fox News.
In fact, as 50+ year old, 124 pound woman, go ahead and call me “Kerry Danger.” It may not be accurate, but I would rather like it.
In the real world of Mexico, any expat or traveler will tell you that if you follow the same common sense rules in Mexico that you do in your own country, avoiding certain neighborhoods and obeying the law, you will have less to worry about in Mexico than in the United States.
People read about drug cartels and related murders in Mexico and think all of Mexico is dangerous. No one seems to grasp just how big Mexico is. Violence is largely localized to very specific areas.
Not be too blithe, Mexico is a different kind of safe from the States. I won’t tell you that you can operate exactly the same here. Acknowledged police corruption (as opposed to police corruption American Style) and the need to take a more cautious approach to driving between cities in Mexico, especially at night, are two areas that make being safe in Mexico exotic.
This feature of living in Mexico, how travel needs to be thought through, was brought home to me the first year here during a regular Sunday evening at home in El Cerritos, when I shared a house with the Intrepid Elise.
Things were winding down from a day at the beach happily body surfing and eating fresh shrimp under the palapas near where I live The sun was setting. The sky had begun to turn dusky and fringed in neon bringing with it the sense of peace unique to Sunday evenings.
My friend Veronica and I came in from the beach to find Daniel, my housemate’s Mexican boyfriend, outside on the front patio muscling the plywood boards off the back windows at the end of what had been a fairly active hurricane season.
“What’s he still doing here?” Veronica asked, alarmed. Daniel has a good position in Culiacan, several hours from Mazatlán and the capital city of Sinaloa, a two hour drive from Mazatlán, and a city that I confess doesn't have the greatest reputation (although it's inhabitants believe differently). Daniel makes week-end visits to his grandmother and his girlfriend driving a nice late model pick-up truck. “He needs to get out of here,” she said.
Veronica is an American married to a Mexican national for 12 years and fully integrated into the Mexican community. She knows that driving at night between some towns is not considered a good idea in parts of Mexico, a double jeopardy of possible construction road hazards and other, more human hazards.
Admittedly, we would not question the safety of driving between cities in the U.S, making this a distinct departure from what I am used to and creating a feeling akin to what must have been felt by pioneer women taking precautions against Indian raids on the caravan at night. Danger in Mexico isn't more danger. It's just different danger.
The conversation was food for thought. Without having heard it, would I one night decided to hop in my car and drive to Culiacan? The answer is no.
I would have asked someone first, just not Daniel.
People have often heard about kidnappings in Mexico. Mexico Mike tells it the way I would.
My response to Fox News blaring headline "Mexico Home to Five of Worlds Dangerous Cities" which went on to say one of the five was in Honduras. The article was pulled. Maybe someone at CNN informed Fox that Honduras was not in Mexico- Ventanas Mexico
"Reliable, verifiable info on major cover-ups" - WantToKnow.info.com with the latest on police corruption in the U.S.
Safety Tips for Travel in Mexico - on driving safely in Mexico by "On the Road in Mexico, a Guide to Safe Driving in Mexico
On Traveling in Mexico in a Trump World - by Travel Weekly.
Paul Kurzweil, writer of the great blog Two Expats in Mexico discovered a very useful online Mexico-based tool that enables you to check the safety statistics of cities throughout Mexico.
Most recent: A look a one of the funkier ways to live in Mexico.
Not Kerry Baker
About the author
Hola, My name is Kerry Baker (a.k.a. Kerry Danger). I am a partner with Ventanas Mexico and author of the "Interactive Guide to Learning Spanish Free Online," a curation of the best Spanish language tools on the web, linked and organized into lesson plans. Take a look at the reviews!
I also just released "If Only I Had a Place" a guide on renting for the aspiring expat (the things realtors don't want you to know).