Is It Safe to Live in Mexico?

I receive at least one or two emails a day asking me about crime and/or safety in Mexico. The interesting thing is that the emails rarely ask about a particular city or town; rather, they are asking if the nation as a whole is safe.

That question always makes me shake my head a bit because if we turned the tables and I asked them if it was safe to live in the United States, the likely response would be something like, “Depends on which part you’re talking about.”

Well, the same thing goes for Mexico.

Cartel Violence

When most people are asking me about safety, they are generally referring to the cartel violence that makes international headlines. The majority of these incidents occur in small number of Mexican states.

Where We Live

It’s important to note that Mexico is a very large country. In fact, it’s ranked #14 in size out of 196 countries in the world.

We live in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo which is more than 1,000 miles away from the majority of the hotbeds for cartel violence.  To put it in perspective, that would be similar to the distance between Orlando and New York City.


When you see a headline, or more often than not a Facebook post, about a homicide or incident in a particular area of Mexico, take a moment to look up the population for that particular area before deciding to panic and cancel your trip as a result.

Here is an example, one reader wrote me and said that she was going to cancel her trip to Cancun because she read that two known gang members were found dead. Of course, the headline sensationalized the incident by using the buzz word cartel.

Cancun has an estimated population of around 722,000 people. To put it in perspective, that is a higher population than the following U.S. cities: Detroit (672,795), Washington DC (681,170), Seattle (704,352) and Memphis (652,717).

So, you have to ask yourself: Would the murder of gang members in those cities make international news or cause tourists to cancel their vacations there? My guess is, probably not.

Beware of Media Bias

Lately, the media has been focused heavily on the Mexican state of Quintana Roo which includes the tourist areas of Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Cozumel, Isla Mujeres, Puerto Morelos and Tulum. The state is fairly large and it takes a little over 5 hours to drive from the northern tip (Chiquila) to the capital in the south (Chetumal),

News outlets across the U.S. have been reporting that there is an increase in violence between criminal organizations. They also reported that 131 people have been killed in Quintana Roo this year. Of course, not all of these deaths were related to organized crime. Some were the result of arguments between people or domestic disputes. Nevertheless, the statistic sounds scary to some people back home.

Maybe some tourists would feel more comfortable visiting Central Florida, the home of multiple tourist attractions and theme parks. Oh by the way, the Central Florida area has had 123 homicides this year — most died as a result of gunfire. Funny how that statistic didn’t make international news.

Let’s Wrap This Up

Prior to becoming a blogger, I was a deputy sheriff for 25 years in a busy jurisdiction in Florida and retired at the rank of lieutenant. After a career spent facing dangerous situations and people, I wanted to find a safe place for my wife and I to retire. I definitely found it here in the Riviera Maya.

The recent increase in violence between criminal organizations hasn’t changed that. This area is still safer than many parts of the United States. In fact, I feel much safer here than I did living in Florida. That’s saying a lot considering that I used to carry a concealed firearm with me everywhere and no longer do.

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About the Author

Qroo Paul
Paul Kurtzweil (Q-Roo Paul) was a deputy sheriff in Florida for 25 years before retiring at the rank of lieutenant in 2015. He and his wife moved to Mexico looking to maximize their retirement income. They later started a blog called Two Expats Mexico ( to share their experiences as well as information about the logistical and legal aspects of retiring south of the border.

96 Comments on "Is It Safe to Live in Mexico?"

  1. Patricia Armstrong | August 8, 2017 at 1:09 pm |

    Hi Paul and Linda, Thanks for your article and u r right about the bias news for sure. Even the warnings the US puts out for Mexico is just Trumped up fear it seems. Hope u two r safe from Frederick and can enjoy the rest of your week on your 2 year anniversary.. Always good hearing from u <3

  2. Great read! Appreciate your informative blog!!

  3. Thank you. I love you beautiful couple Linda and Paul Kurtzweil!

  4. Annette O'Brien | August 8, 2017 at 1:15 pm |

    Excellent article. I have enjoyed the Quintana Roo area since first going there back in 1981. It is my wish to live down there one day! I just love reading your Blog. Thank you.

  5. You are right. Many Mexicans here in Oaxaca are fearful,of the. U.S. , and maybe understandably given the mass killings in school, movie theates, night clubs, govt. buildings, etc. that are headlined!

  6. Thanks, Paul, for writing this particular blog and for putting things in perspective. When I tell my friends and family that I’m thinking about living in Mexico, a lot of them immediately tell me how dangerous it is and they try to dissuade me from moving there. I laugh because some of these same people have never even been to Mexico! They’re just repeating what they see and hear on the news.

    I’ve lived in Austin TX for 4.5 years and within a 2 year period of time, I was the victim of a punishable crime 5x. Yes, 5x in 2 years. But that doesn’t seem to matter to a lot of people in terms of how much crime there is in Austin, TX, USA. And, in fact, it’s on the rise, just as it is in many U.S. cities.

    I’m in the process of becoming a short-term expat as I figure out where in Mexico I want to live and Quintana Roo is definitely at the top of my list.

    Thanks again for the great post… one of many that you write! Enjoy the Riviera Maya for those of us who would LOVE to live there (and likely will in the near future)… and for those people with small minds and tunnel vision who live their lives in fear wherever they’re domiciled.


  7. The big thing to be watching for is crimes against tourists or other people that stand out in a crowd. You will never be safe from “general” crime that is committed against anyone. That being said, most areas that support a large tourist economy will go out of their way to ensure their safety as best as their budgets can handle. I think that parts of Mexico do a better job of this than parts of Florida. So it really is about “perspective” when it comes to this issue.

  8. Thank you for hopefully putting those crime stats in perspective for readers with concerns about crime in Mexico. I currently live in Chicago and sadly the number of homicides in Central Florida and Quintana Roo do not come close to the number of homicides reported here to date. I believe we are at 417 already this year. Chicago is also a city with a population of 2.7 million people and of course 1 homicide is 1 too many but when I tell friends and co-workers that I am moving to Quintana Roo next Spring one of the first responses I hear is “Will you be safe there?” I always reply that I feel my chances are a lot better in Mexico than they are in Chicago. In Chicago on any given day someone innocent will be shot and/or killed in a drive by shooting by gang members who do not value their own lives much less the lives of innocent children. You do not have to be involved in illegal activity to get shot in Chicago. You just have to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. I have found that in Mexico people value life and they especially value the lives of their children and elder family members. I love Chicago. I have spent my life in or near this beautiful city but I like my odds in avoiding becoming a statistic in Mexico over my odds if I remain in Chicago.

    Congrats to you and Linda on your 2 year anniversary in paradise!


  9. I’d like to share a heads-up in regard to personal safety, especially for women. A few weeks ago (day-time, in a better neighborhood of Cozumel) I was walking with a backpack style gear bag half full of groceries. I unwisely walked on the left side of the road with the bag slung over my right shoulder with one strap. A young man on a motorcycle zoomed up from behind and snatched the bag. My arm was caught in the strap so I went flying and my shoulder broke when I hit the pavement. He dragged me for about 5 seconds on the rough pavement and over one sharp sope, leaving me with a fairly deep gash and lots of road rash. I was lucky because someone else here suffered a broken hip from a similar attack, and a gal in Tempe AZ was dragged to death. I will heal.

    My suggestion to all is to be aware of your surroundings, leave your passport and valuables in a safe place, and remember that there are petty crimes of opportunity here as there are anywhere. Don’t let your smart phone distract you with music, chat, or texts. Walk on elevated sidewalks and against traffic if possible. Use money belts, fanny packs, or zippered pockets when you can. And always use travel insurance because you never know.

    Many many people here are lovely, kind, and helpful, but there are also small-time pirates that can rob anyone of their belongings or health. Take care.

    • I’m so sorry to hear that that happened to you, Carol. This is a good reminder for people to always be aware of their surroundings and your safety tips are great.

      From the sounds of it, this incident hasn’t changed your positive opinions about Mexico or prompted you to leave the country. That’s good to hear.

  10. Helen McNamara | August 8, 2017 at 1:54 pm |

    Thanks for another great blog.

  11. Kaye Richardson | August 8, 2017 at 1:58 pm |

    We lived in Little Rock, AR for 40 years. We never felt unsafe there even though it’s ranked in the top ten most dangerous mid sized cities in America – haven’t checked lately, but the last I knew it was #1. We didn’t go in the dangerous areas, and if we did, we didn’t go at night. So, no, we aren’t afraid to go to Mexico!

  12. Paula Landis | August 8, 2017 at 2:04 pm |

    Well said. Thank you

  13. Paul,
    I love the comparisons you use to bring clarity to the statistics. Although 100+ homicides is a lot in any area, I’m sure that you are correct that Mom, Dad and the kids are still going to visit Disney World.

    • Yes, 100+ is a lot. I was tempted to mention all the sexual batteries, armed robberies etc in Central Florida as well, but I didn’t want to scare people 😉

  14. Isn’t it the extreme cruelty in Mexico, that make people more fearful? You seldom see heads hanging across a freeway or in an ice chest on the side of the road in the USA. We are coming to PV for a couple of months this Fall. We spent a lot of time at the Lake Chapala area years ago. Now that we are free again, we are coming back to Mexico. I sure hope nothing happens while we are there, especially since our Grandson and his SO are coming to visit with us for 10 days.

    • The cartels — and even some vigilante groups — here in Mexico do often use the “shock and awe” effect to scare their enemies. We do see extreme violence in the U.S. but not so much of that.

      As a deputy sheriff. I was always amazed how little the average citizen in the U.S. knew about crime in their area. Most people relied solely on the media to inform them and the fact is that they only report on less than 1% of incidents. I would go to calls with extreme violence (shootings, stabbings etc) and never see any mention of those incidents in the news. I guess ignorance is bliss back home.

  15. thank you, great read!

  16. Virginia Bober | August 8, 2017 at 2:20 pm |

    Excellent article. We are packing and planning to move to Lake Chapala in a month. Love Mexico.

  17. In my adventures south of the border over the last 35 years, I can count on one hand my encounters with belligerent men. Three were drunks, one was an aggressive panhandler and one was a door pounder down Xpujil way. The drunks and panhandler were just pushing normal boundaries, I’m not sure what the 3AM door pounding was about but I think he was looking for someone who had stayed in the room before I rented the place. Normal stuff anywhere in the world. I tell people that Yucatan’s backcountry is safer than our local Amish enclaves-it’s true.

  18. Great, and timely article Paul.

    I too, am from Central Florida — Winter Park to be exact. I’ve long eyed Quintana Roo for my next retirement stop.

    As for safety, it’s like real estate: location, location location.
    I’ll be honest. I too was swept into the hysteria of the last couple of weeks down there, with alleged hyper crime in and around Cancun. However, I don’t have a good benchmark for crime in MX, much less specific areas. And we all know the media is all about the ‘ol what bleeds, what leads.

    You’re right about one thing, and wrong about another. Central Fl, Orlando in particular, is nearly as violent as down in Q-Roo based on homicides. And, I’m sure a careful comparison between other violent crimes is likely similar. You’re wrong about residents here feeling safe — at least me in particular.

    I’m sure you’re familiar with Winter Park, being a upper middle to upper suburb of Orlando. Of all the places I could have gotten into trouble around Orlando frequenting bars, lounges and late-night establishments (e.g. Wally’s, lol), it was in Winter Park that I was feloniously assaulted and battered, merely for exercising my right to free speech! Even in “nice” and “safe” locations, you’re open to attack from mentally and emotionally unstable people, as well as hard-core criminals.

    So, in the end, safety is an individual’s sense of security more than any stats can bear out. And if people want to buy into the media’s hyper crime hype, then they’re not going to feel safe anywhere, even in their own homes. And, if there’s evidence of boots-on-the-ground reports of real crime concerns, I’d think we could rely on a trained LEO who’s seen the crap that flows though Central Florida, and still thinks the Q-Roo is safe, albeit safER, for all but the most ignorant risk takers who put themselves in unsafe situations.

    Good things Mexicans aren’t Googling recent crime stats here in the US for violence and homicides against Mexicans. They might just stay south of the border, fearing they’ll be injured of killed in the drug cartel run cities of America.

  19. Paul, thanks for this reasoned perspective on crime in Q Roo. I divide my time between Tulum and NYC and have always felt safe in QRoo. I walk around Tulum pueblo day and night and never feel threatened. Of course, like anywhere, using common sense safety precautions is advisable, especially at night.

  20. Janelle DeStasio | August 8, 2017 at 2:46 pm |

    Personally, I am not afraid to visit or live in Mexico. However, I really appreciate the comparisons you noted between the U.S. and Mexico. It puts it all in perspective in an easy to relate to fashion.

  21. Nancy McGuire | August 8, 2017 at 3:02 pm |

    First of let me say that my husband Mike and I really enjoy your blog! We moved to Cabo San Lucas 6 months ago, and are loving it!
    My question for you is in regards to health insurance. I am sure you have probably covered this topic somewhere in you blogging, but here goes.
    Mike is a retired government employee and as such he was able to keep the same insurance that he had while working. The monthly payment is quiet high, but it is a good plan, if we were in the states. We can use it down here, but we have to send in the info to get reimbursed. Which, with the cost of a doctor visit doesn’t really make it worth our time to turn in. If we were to drop our insurance, and by chance relocate back to the states, we could not rejoin our current insurance structure or group for the same price.
    Is there an insurance company that would cover us in both countries, if needed, that might be a bit better for us in any instance, and of course cheaper? We are currently paying $300 per month.
    I hope this email makes sense, and I know this may be a question that you might not be able to answer, as it may be more of a personal pros and con type.
    Thank you,

    Mike and Nancy McGuire

    • Google international health insurance and take your pick of any number of insurance companies that will insure you in Mexico–last time I looked there were 15. Also, read Facebook forums about your area and ask this question of the locals.

    • Kathy Brown | August 8, 2017 at 8:56 pm |

      Wow! $300 seems awfullly inexpensive. Almost worth keeping, just in case.

  22. Nice article. We live in Michoacan with our 4 children between the ages of 4 and 13. We have lived here almost 4 years. We have never had any problems. We stay out of trouble and try to be kind wherever we go. And yes, there are cartel here. Do they bother us? No, and let’s hope it stays that way. However, in Louisville Kentucky, before we moved here, someone did break into my home in the middle of the day while I was picking the kids up for school. Came in through the kids bedroom window. Honestly bad things can happen anywhere.

    • Hi Tina, great answer. I´m one of the mexican friends of Paul. I´ve lived in Mexico city my entire life. My brother married to a lady whose family was raised and many still live in Uruapan. He keeps going to Uruapan mostly every weekend with the family on a SUV and thanks God has never had any issue. I can´t lie I do worry a little because his wife´s youngest brother was “raised” by a criminal gang some years ago and was killed. He inherited the responsability to work a family owned business as he was the only man out of four siblings after his father passed away. I´m pretty sure he was the kind of young man who would try to stay out of trouble. However he got threatened to pay money from the company which I assume he didn´t. Any way. It´s sad but even we mexicans get a little paranoid most of the time, yes, because of what we see on the TV news, newspapers, social networkds and so on. We try to keep living our lives cool but a little bit of us inside keeps always more alert than I would wish. My only advice to you is.- Keep taking care like you have, and as your children keep growing, never stop insisting in taking care of themselves, teach them to avoid being very late outside, specially with people they don´t know well, avoid providing personal information to strange people, discard perfectly your documents with your address and personal info, and never feel bad to follow your instincts when you detect any situation where you feel you, your husband or your family could face a potential risk. I always tell my wife.- We can´t live scared all the time anyway, that´s not quality of life, but I do know I have to be very smart and a little more careful than I would like being. Best wishes always!

  23. Thanks for the article! I have noted what I feel is a reduced police presence in PDC over the last few years. Out on the Highway, there used to be quite a lot of officers at the little check points but now there are not. Can you speak to that?

    • The number of officers out and about depends on whether it’s a holiday etc. During holy week, there are cops and soldiers everywhere.

      The other issue is that Mexico now has stricter requirements regarding the hiring and retention of law enforcement officers. Very few applicants can make it through the selection process.

  24. Are you ever asked about owning guns in Mexico? Lots of Americans have them, especially those who might automatically fear a different place. I’ve read that it’s difficult, even impossible, to own a gun as an expat in Mexico. I don’t own one now, don’t plan on buying one, but I was wondering how feasible it might be.

  25. Skip Essick | August 8, 2017 at 4:25 pm |

    I get the same thing when I tell people I’m moving to Mexico. “Aren’t you afraid?” My reply, No! I live in Fresno.

  26. I lived many years in SE Asia & when I told my Balinese friends I was going back to the US, they asked why & said it is so violent there. That was 25 years ago! Not much has changed & possibly it’s gotten worse.

  27. Thanks for putting things into perspective. For years I have suspected that the American media is sensationalizing the crime and violence in Mexico in order to protect some of America´s market of “sun destinations” such as Florida, Texas and Hawaii. Being Canadian, I don’t understand why the Canadian media is also doing this, since we don’t have any sun destinations, but I think a lot of it has to do with finances.

  28. My husband and I go to Isla Mujeres for 3 months. We have been going for 17 years and we have always felt safe. My only concern is that I would never want to have an accident with our golf cart and a local from the island because we would end up having to payoff the police. I’ve heard and seen where the police tell you what it is going to cost you and if you do not have enough money on you they even follow you to the bank to get the money.Justice is not on our side in that situation. That being said, We love the island and the people there. We have many friends we meet up with each year. When we step foot off the ferry… feels like we have come home.

  29. Rick Barber | August 8, 2017 at 7:24 pm |

    Paul, Good stuff here. We have been going to Mexico for 30 some years. I am safer there than Cleveland. Thanks. Rick

  30. Niederegger Maria | August 8, 2017 at 7:30 pm |

    We went 4times in Progreso and three times in Tulum We never felt unsafe..We we are going back for sure.We like it there.

  31. Great article, Paul!
    If you want to live your life relying on News Stories, TV hyperbolie, or State Department warnings, you might be better off having another set of bars screwed to the outside of your stateside’s residence’s windows! The world wants to meet you, and if you pay attention to your surroundings, you’ll want to meet the world, too!
    (I’d hold off on North Korea for a while, though! LOL)
    Mexico is wonderful!

  32. Sheesh! There you go again making all that sense… Hush, or everyone is going to discover our little slice of paradise! At least keep the hordes away until we can get there and find our place? 😉
    We’ve watched the area grow since the early 80’s and yep, with big cities, high population, and development comes crime. You will never get away from it in some form or another. People are people and most are good, but some are not. Keep your wits about you, take the same precautions you would at home and maybe don’t buy drugs?
    Can’t wait to get there in December for another reconnaissance mission. Where to move, where to move…?
    Hope you’re staying dry and can get back to the beach soon 🙂
    un saludo

  33. Very good blogpost mate. I am currently cycling around Mexico and have not had any security issues at all the past 6 weeks when I have been cycling around Mexico. Just spend the past two days cycling from San Luis Potosi to Guanajuato, where I am now sitting with a good cup of coffee in the old town. I have done 4 longer bike trips in Mexico over the past 9 years and whenever I mention to people that I am going cycling in Mexico, many people tell me to bring a gun. what they don’t realise is that rural Mexico is considerably more calm than anywhere in the world. Just stay out of 3-4 troubled staes and you are extremely unlikely to encounter any problems. I have cycled around more than 30 countries on 5 continents and rank Mexico in my personal top 5 for long distance cycling.

  34. My parents have a home on the Baja, just north of San Felipe. They say they feel safer there than they do when they have to drive into Milwaukee. I found it to be a beautiful place with some of the friendliest people I have met when we visited this past February. There are good and bad locations anywhere you go.

  35. Melisa Akens | August 9, 2017 at 8:04 am |

    Paul, my husband and I are considering Cancun in May 2018 for our 20th anniversary. Can you give me some insight on the “tainted” alcohol stories at the resorts?

    • You will love it down here, Melisa. There is nothing to worry about when it comes to the alcohol at the resorts.

      The author of that article made that claim without any proof. She did what many journalists, and poor investigators do: She pulled a random statistic and then tried to use it to prove a point without any proof. In this case, she gave a statistic about adulterated alcohol, which is also referred to as counterfeit alcohol, and then made a baseless conclusion that it was being served in the resorts and was possibly to blame for some tourists passing out.

      What the author failed to mention is that counterfeit alcohol is a problem throughout the world, particularly in Europe. Interpol seized over 260,000 gallons of it during an operation that took place in several countries. It’s estimated that adulterated or counterfeit alcohol is sold in the majority of off-site liquor stores in England.

      The author also failed to mention that the area gets around 10 million visitors a year and that incidents like this are extremely rare. Since at any one time, there are literally thousands of people at the all-inclusives, statistically speaking, it would stand to reason that dozens, if not hundreds, of people would be falling ill or being transported to area hospitals on a daily basis if the alcohol was tainted with dangerous chemicals — but that isn’t happening.

      This is yet another example of a poorly investigated and very biased article going viral and misleading people.

      Come on down and spend your anniversary in paradise — you’ll be glad you did. 🙂

    • Melisa – my only comment would be that if you want to spend a relaxing vacation, in celebration of your anniversary, that you should consider Playa del Carmen and south (Akumal and Tulum). Of course, it depends on where you’re staying, but Cancún typically draws a different crowd than what you would see further south. Think Spring Breakers vs Families and Honeymooners. Also, most activities, parks, etc., are in the Playa and Tulum area.

  36. Have lived in Chapala area now over 4 years prior to that over 30 in the Tampa / St.Pete area of Florida sounds like you were in Lakeland not too far from us. Yes agreed crime in Florida vs. crime here and in Mexico the same it all depends where you are. The media just loves to hype it in the states when it comes to Mexico I think they just want the $$ flowing there for economic reasons and of course not here in Mexico so they make it sound really really bad here.. Every time I have someone mention they are worried have coming to Mexico because of crime I say gee have you looked at TV lately in the states and what have you seen as it pertains to that subject and I get that mmmmmmm sound .. Anyway been traveling in this part of the country now looking to see your side I hear the issues but again so glad to hear your take it puts it in perspective once again for I have some people even here tell me to think twice about going. Ah sorry but still planning that run your way thanks for you view and insights

  37. Had you seen this chart before writing your blog entry, I’d guess you would not have written it:

    • That data in your chart is old (2012) and inaccurate. Even back in 2012, Chicago’s murder rate was 18.5 per 100,000 — not 7.1 as your chart states. A quick check of other stats showed additional inaccuracies.

      A lot has happened in the U.S. since 2012:

      Murder rates in several U.S. cities surged in 2015 and 2016. Some cities beat records dating back to 1960 for murders in a single year. It is no secret that Mexico has a problem with violence and murders in particular areas. The point of the article is that level of violence/crime is not the norm everywhere and that there are many cities/towns in Mexico that are MUCH safer than their counterparts to the north that have a comparable population.

      Homicides are not the only statistic that dictates crime and safety. This is especially true when you’re talking about violence between criminal organizations that tends to elevate a particular stat but doesn’t directly affect the average resident.

      When you look at crime statistics for U.S. towns and cities, you’ll see that violence and crime are a common occurrence wherever you have people.The FBI releases crime reports, but they’re a bit slow. The last full year that they have is for 2015, but it is very enlightening. Even cities that are considered safe will have thousands of violent crimes including rape, aggravated assault and yes — even murder.

      A couple of links:

      FBI report:

      Murder on the rise in America:

      • Thanks for the great article and for being so objective Paul!
        In Mexico City, me and my friends have read over and over that criminality in Yucatán (specially Mérida) and most of Q. Roo is really low when compared on the same methodology to the rest of the nation and like you mentioned, to many large cities in the U.S.
        Like you very well said, it´s no secret that Mexico has a problem with violence and murders in particular areas but is not the norm everywhere, with cities/towns being much safer than their counterparts to the north with a comparable population.
        I´m pretty sure this is true, and here come my personal points of view just to add a little bit to your post and maybe some questions as to your point of view from a distinguished sheriff/leutenant from the US as if this was a round table discussion.-
        1.-) Unfortunately, (in large cities) I feel criminality does affect more to the people with a lower social and economic status, mostly because for example, they need to be outside their home earlier, travel larger distances, most often on unsafe public transport, get back late, live in more unsafe/poorer belts of marginated areas of the city. That being said, I´d say poorer people, at least in the cities and nearby areas, are more likely to experience crime than people on more elevated socio-economic status. Here in Mexico city you can talk to any person who takes the subway or public transport and will tell you they get assaulted (mexican word, not american) on the transport or way home/way to work every so often, most often to rob their cell phones, wallets or computers backpacks. Most will be threatened with a gun or a knife, fewer will get a serious injury or get killed, however, the latter does happen. More vulnerable people make up to maybe 80% of the city´s population and even though richer people do suffer criminality, most often it feels like we get it not so often.
        2.-) Certainly states and cities in the country where the drug cartels concentrate, have a higher criminality rate, and I may be wrong but it keeps feeling like most of the people who are killed or involved in drug cartels are usually not within our social circle. Of course it´s more likely to experience some kind of “usual” crimes like a robbery let´s say in Puerto Vallarta than in Cancún given there´s more general criminality and drug bands, but still like you mentioned, feels like general criminality gets overestimated by the drug cartels directly related crimes and homicides. Guess then it´d be necessary to make an adjustment on criminality given place of residence, usual travelling and means of transport and ¿income?
        Perhaps people like me in larger cities do get affected in the next ways.-
        1.-) Being hit with negative news all the time on TV, newspapers (literally, they´re around every corner) and even on the palm of your hand makes us in average more scared and living more scared we are more likely to start a fight, overreact and feel more paranoid. For example (and I hate it), my wife keeps feeling really unsafe and keeps warning me every day to not take the children with me alone to the mall or Sam´s because she feels they´ll be kidnapped.
        2.-) We do have to get used to knowing every single friend of known person has had a friend or relative who has suffered some how a crime, most times robbery with no physical significative injuries, breaking in inside appartment buildings which do not have extreme security, total or partial car stealing and so on…. We hate that fact. Wonder if self perception of insecurity is the same in large cities across the US; like I wonder if they would say the same about their known ones…. Again, fortunately in the Península of Yucatán seems like it still is less frequent.
        3.-) We start living in bunkers, I mean, 2-3 towers of 21 floors each where we make our small cities with gardens, pools, playground areas and so on. We have fences all around and pay 4-8 private security guards to watch on the buildings 24/7. We feel a little concerned about our parents and close relatives who still live in their older houses or more modest appartments which do not have the same level of private security.
        4.-) We are afraid we might get kidnapped, or our loved ones. That one is also a common one specially on the richer areas but not only there. That makes us be more careful on what we share on social networks, be a little paranoid on not giving anyone personal info and where are kids are, where we ride a taxi cab and so on. Many of my friends insist in having luxury cars, I don´t see the point. I´d say that if there´s a single statistically signifficant variable that makes it more likely to be kidnapped is moving in a luxury car. I tell my family I can´t be happy to not drive a luxury car like maybe it would be more likely to feel doing so in the US, but I won´t die by not doing so. To my personal point of view, my well kept 2012 Honda Civic and 2013 Mazda 6 upper leather interiors quite make the job of both not beeing very attractive to bad guys and feel like the car has it all it needs to have to be a fancy car.
        Well, I don´t want to bother you too much. In summary I loved your post, it seems very objective and love most people that keep in touch with you feel pretty much the same. That being said, I should recommend to conclude that a single number, like a statistic number, can´t be enough to make a person living in a specific area of Mexico stop feeling safe. In statistics that is called “statistic significance” and your post is the clear example to that.- It weighs way more to make a conclussion in a study when you take a large enough population sample the fact there is congruence in a result rather than the number itself.
        Fortunately Mexico is a country where if you can chose where to live and take a little bit more of care than usual, most people still will safe enough as to enjoy the overall experience, and in fact, be safe. That´s also like yours, my conclussion. Abrazo grande!!!!

        • Thank you for taking the time to reply, Javier. Your response was very well-written and could stand alone as a blog post. I think that you should consider starting a blog.

          In the U.S., we all know people who have been the victim of crimes too. Urban areas around the world typically have a lot more crime than rural areas; however, kidnappings are far less frequent in the U.S.

          I loved the conclusion to your comment. I agree 100% with your comments on statistical data. That number is not enough to make someone feel safe or not.

          Again, I really think you should consider starting a blog — you are a gifted writer.

  38. Nice blog Paul and I think you are correct on all counts. I am planning on moving and driving to QRoo this fall, and I was wondering the best and safest route to get there. I’ll be crossing in McAllen/Reynosa area. I worry more about safety traveling than being there by far. Thanks for your time. Tony.

  39. I checked the latest (2015) crime statistics for the US and Quintan Roo and I discovered that the states with the lowest levels were Montana and Wyoming. Quintana Roo had about the same level of crime as those states making it a pretty safe area.

  40. Ethel aka Fran | August 9, 2017 at 11:39 am |

    Thanks, Paul. You are absolutely correct about safe places to live in the USA. My daughter is in Orlando and I worry about her everyday. She recently had her car stolen, but recovered and she lives in a gated community!! Orlando is getting really bad and if they don’t get control of the crime, the tourist industry will go under. Bob and I are really considering moving but while his mother, who is almost 94, is still alive and living in NJ, we will need to stay in FL. Continue to enjoy your peaceful retirement in what seems like paradise. -Fran

  41. Hi Paul, i hear you, i have been living in Ecuador for over 20 years. All you hear about are the negative things that go on, but again here you can live well and quietly. There are areas you just stay away from. Don’t go looking for trouble and you won’t find any. Great reading you, keep up the good work.

  42. Paul, you seem to have confused the geo-political structure of Mexico and the US. The smallest political subdivision in Mexico is the municipality, which is equivalent to a county in the USA. The chart you criticized shows county-to-county comparisons, or municipality-to-municipality comparisons. In your response, you used a city statistic for Chicago. However if it is city comparisons you want, you had better sit down. Here is some very current information on Cancun. If Cancún and Playa del Carmen were located in the USA, they would have the 5th and 7th highest murder rate in the country.

    • If there was any confusion it was due to the fact that your chart was mislabled. If you want to compare counties, than you should use the appropriate county name — not a city. I worked with crime stats for 25 years and stats in the U.S. are tracked by municipality or investigating agency. Doing stats by county can result in some errors if you forget to collect stats from one of the many investigating agencies.

      Your population stats are a bit low based on growth rates for the area (Wikipedia is a little off)– but that is neither here nor there. If your point is to convince me that Quintana Roo is more dangerous than where I used to live and work — it’s not going to happen. I spent 25 years in the streets in Florida dealing with crime, gangs etc. I can tell you without a doubt that the average citizen, expat and tourist is safer in Quintana Roo than they would be in many tourist areas in the U.S. If you remove gang members from the homicide rate in Quintana Roo, the remaining number is extremely low. The average tourist, resident or expat like me feels very comfortable shopping, going out to eat etc. The flip side is that when I go back to Florida, the first thing that I do is put a gun in my glove box.

      We are obviously not going to see eye to eye on this. If your intention is to paint Mexico as an extremely dangerous place for all — which is simply not true — you can do it on your site, not here.

  43. Great perspective and we say this all the time. There are many unsafe places to live in the U.S. where I wouldn’t want to live. We are in the news currently with the Cabo killings. I live in Loreto and I feel safe on the Baja.

  44. It’s sad people feel unsafe in Cancun, Puerto Vallarta, Cabo etc… My wife, myself, family and friends have been going yearly to Mexico since 1998. We’ve never had an incident but we are always cautious on what areas of these resort towns we would go through. No different than going through LA, Chicago or Miami. Having been in law enforcement and retiring after 25 years in Oklahoma City you would think I would be leery of these areas after watching our US media but it’s just the opposite. I have invited many friends to go with us but only to be rejected because of their fears of getting their heads cut off. Many of these friends are part of my police family. Even after explaining to them the comparisons of US cities to Mexico resorts they still refused to cross into the unknown. We sorry for them they missed out on a great experience. Something you will never see in the states. I would love to live in Mexico but It would be a difficult decision due to my adult children and grandchildren. Thanks for posting a great story and I will be sure to share it on Social Media. BTW, we have scheduled a second trip this year to Mexico.

    • We’ve had trouble convincing several of our friends that it’s safe to visit us in Florida too. After we were here a year and nothing bad happened, a few of them started to venture down to check it out. Of that group, every single one of them has loved it and one of them even bought a place down here.

  45. Hmm, i thought also quintana roo is more or less a safe place and the cartel war is not here, but that is not true. look at the statistics and the newspapers, its not really different from somewhere else in mexico. i feel very save here no problem, but mexico is a war zone, after syria the most murderers worldwide!

    • There are gangs and organized crime everywhere — including New York, New Jersey etc. Even Seattle, which is considered a safe city compared to others has been plagued with gang shootings this year.

      Quintana Roo is very different many parts of Mexico in terms of crime rates. This area is much safer than many other areas.

      One more thing, Mexico does not have the second highest murder rate per capita. Keep in mind this is a very large country:

  46. Hi Paul, I just discovered your blog when someone referenced it in one of the expat groups I’m in on Facebook. It’s great and I know I will be spending hours reading through. My husband and I live in Orlando, in the Hunters Creek community and have been here for 20 years. I’m originally from Northern New Jersey, a 20 minute shot out of NYC and hubby is from a nice little town in Vermont, close to the Canadian border. What we agree on is we’re done with this place. The crime has gotten worse over the years. Our house was broke into 10 years ago when there were a rash of home burglaries going on and it’s been a downhill ride ever since which I know you’re aware of. We are in the beginning stages of planning a move to Mexico. I’m 50 and hubby is a little younger so we’re a long way off from Social Security but we are self employed and are transitioning to doing everything online. I myself am a blogger and will be focusing on that more and hubby is starting a sports blog as well as running a drop shipping business. If the Orlando Consulate gives us the thumbs up on that then the house goes on the market. I know you’re based in the Quintana Roo area but we will be starting out in Baja Norte since I have a childhood friend there who has a rental we can stay at for awhile as we get settled. I also want a break from the Orlando weather and the San Diego style climate there is quite nice. Not sure that is where we will stay but that’s part of the adventure I suppose. Once again, thank you for what you do as it is quite a wonderful resource for us expat wanna be’s.

    Be Blessed,


    • Hi Jan, thanks for checking out my blog. The west coast will be a nice break from the humidity of Florida, that’s for sure. We enjoyed our trip to Puerto Vallarta but we could never live there because the water — although pretty to look at — is too cold and rough for us. If Linda goes a day or so without swimming in the Caribbean, she gets a little moody…lol.

      Good luck on your move down!

  47. Markay Davis | August 10, 2017 at 7:56 pm |

    You are only as safe as you allow yourself to be. I have recently had a person from the far north move in next door. Seemed like a nice enough guy. My advice to anyone looking to start living in Mexico take it slow. Don’t flash the fact that you are a rich northerner around. Not only are you putting yourself in jeopardy but also innocent neighbors. Please when visiting Mexico, remember the story The Ugly American. In case you have never read it, the story focuses on the ineptness and bungling stemming from innate arrogance and their failure to understand the local culture.
    Study and learn about Mexico before you just go and make the move and expect everyone to guide and translate and provide the the comforts you feel you can’t live without. Learn patience we do things at a much slower speed here. Respect traditions. Life will be much happier and safer for you here in Mexico wherever you live as long as you show respect.

  48. We are in the mountains by Lake Chapala. Near-perfect weather year-round, no A/C needed. I get so tired of telling friends and family all the things you wrote in your blog. That’s ok, our area is crowded already, let them think it’s too dangerous!

  49. Denise Pacheco | August 13, 2017 at 5:50 pm |

    As a subscriber, ex 911 operator and an Expat living in Cancun for 5 years, I really appreciate the numbers and facts you provided in this article. Flashy headlines make money.

  50. Karen walker | August 13, 2017 at 9:43 pm |

    Paul..first time I have seen and read your blog, but I love it. My husband and I have been going to Cancun for 20 plus years now and love it. Have always felt safe there and agree with the stats and premises you make about the area. However, on our last trip wee took a dear cabbie friend and another native to dinner. We talked a lot about safety there and the only concern they both felt strongly about was the ability of the city to handle a serious hurricane. They referred to the lack of funding for shelters and the ability of schools and shelters to handle security, electricity, water, sanitation and food supplies should a serious hurricane hit the peninsula. Can you comment on that?

  51. Terrence Walsh | August 14, 2017 at 12:54 am |

    I have travelled thru and lived in some areas that are considered “bad” and never had any trouble but common sense in those areas is utmost importance…I also have lived in Q Roo and other parts of Yucatan Penisula..compared to some areas of the United States that I have lived I would say I felt about well 1000 x safer in Mexico than in those areas of the USA…

  52. Marcela, the state was mentioned in the original article based on data provided by both Semáforo Delectivo (significant homicide rate increase) and the U.S. Department of State.

    Here is the travel advisory from the U.S. Dept of State concerning that particular state:

    Sonora (includes Nogales, Puerto Peñasco, Hermosillo, and San Carlos): Sonora is a key region in the international drug and human trafficking trades. U.S. citizens traveling throughout Sonora are encouraged to limit travel to main roads during daylight hours and exercise caution on the Highway 15 corridor from Nogales to Empalme.

    Due to illegal activity, U.S. citizens should defer non-essential travel to:

    The triangular region west of Nogales, east of Sonoyta, and north of Caborca (including the towns of Saric, Tubutama, and Altar).
    The eastern edge of the state of Sonora, which borders the state of Chihuahua (all points along that border east of Federal Highway 17, the road between Moctezuma and Sahuaripa, and state Highway 20 between Sahuaripa and the intersection with Federal Highway 16).
    South of Hermosillo, with the exception of the cities of Alamos, Guaymas and Empalme, and defer non-essential travel east of Highway 15, within the city of Ciudad Obregon, and south of the city of Navojoa.
    Puerto Peñasco should be visited using the Lukeville, Arizona/Sonoyta, Sonora border crossing, and limit driving to daylight hours

    To be fair, I decided to omit any reference to specific states and I will allow the readers to do their own research.

  53. Everytime I post my excitement about my vacation to Mexico (going for my third time this winter!) People like to post random news articles regarding violence in mexico (one article was about some shooting that happened 5 years ago) yet people are ignorant to the violence that happens right back at home. Thank you for your article as it really sums everything right up. I feel completely safe when i visit Mexico (safer then visiting some areas of the city i live in)

    • It’s almost impossible to convince the people back home that this is a safe place to visit. However, I have discovered that once they actually visit the area, the majority change their tune.

  54. Awesome article! I wish there were a print friendly button, so I could display it in my travel agency, but thanks for putting it into perspective for us. Following you now!

  55. Nice post, and clever information. I live in Cancun because I love the ocean and I considered the city very safe. Nevertheless I think Q roo state needs more people that drives smart projects so the cities can develop in culture and social areas. Q Roo is years behind other states in Mexico, we have the chance to build a strong community in a paradisiac environment

  56. Hey Paul,
    I came across your article in a group page that I’m in because my company is taking a large amount of people to Riviera Maya this year, but I am heading to Cancun next week for a girls trip / Bachelorette party. My husband has been telling me that it’s too dangerous and we shouldn’t go. I shared your article with him and with some of the ladies we are going with and then scrolled down to see that you worked at PCSO for years, which made me feel even better. My husband has worked there for 8+ years and said he knows you. Small world. Anyway, thank you for helping us to have some peace of mind for this trip. I’ve been to Cancun and Riviera Maya a few times and always had a wonderful experience and never felt unsafe. I am hoping for the same this trip. Thanks again.

    • It is a small world! Vacationing here is like vacationing in Orlando in terms of safety and crime. You’ll have a great time — no worries.

      By the way, say hi to your husband. I remember him too. 🙂

  57. Paul, can you comment on the recent revision of US’s Mexico travel warning? I’d appreciate your thoughts.

    • Hi Missy. I’ve been asked this one a lot, so I think I’ll dedicate a post to it in the very near future.

  58. Thanks Paul, I look forward to it!

  59. Its 2018 and I put off buying a home in Q. Roo due to the cartel wars moving in? Do you still think living there is safe or did you move out of the country?

    • Organized crime, cartels and local street dealers operate throughout the whole country. They have been in Quintana Roo for many years but it hasn’t been a problem until last year when we saw some elevated violence between rival groups. The crime and violence occurs mostly in particular low income areas, many of which are located on the northwest side of the city of Cancun. This isn’t much different than what you see in any other city in the world –there are good neighborhoods and bad neighborhoods.

      Anyone can be a victim of crime but your chances of being involved in any of the violence between rival cartels or gangs is relatively low — unless of course you choose to engage in a certain lifestyle that puts you in contact with these groups.

      Keep in mind that Quintana Roo is a large state. Do the people who live in Illinois an hour and a half away from the violent neighborhoods of the South Chicago feel affected by all the shootings/robberies? Probably not.

      We still live in Quintana Roo and absolutely love it here. This area is still safe to visit and it’s an amazing place to call home. If you do plan on doing the latter, just choose a safe neighborhood to settle down in. This same rule applies wherever you are in the world.

  60. Lesley Nunn Diaz | March 8, 2018 at 11:27 pm |

    Thanks for this!! Just moved to Playa Del Carmen to be with my husband who is originally from Mexico. He no longer had legal status in the US where we met. I completely agree with the bias perspective. Its shocking how the US media portrays the violence here. I especially feel my children are much safer here than in the US as well.

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