Is it Safe to Travel to Mexico?
Perhaps you have thought of visiting the beautiful beaches of the Mayan Riviera this season! Kick some sand up and enjoy a colorful frozen cocktail in the sunshine. But instead of friends and family being excited for you, perhaps you had to field negative comments and questions about how unsafe Mexico is.
Tourist destinations such as Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Cozumel, Tulum and other cities in different states of Mexico are glass houses. In other words, everything that goes wrong is very visible to the world, and often reported on in a dramatic way.
For example, if a vacationing family has an accident or loses their life while visiting the area, it will make international headlines. Not only that, but there is often a lingering sense of fear towards Mexico and many will quickly label it “unsafe”.
In contrast, many cities in so-called safe countries deal with random acts of violence, shootings or any number of other crimes daily. Yet in general, the majority of us don’t consider these locations unsafe.
True, the infamous drug cartel crimes in Mexico are disturbing and definitely headline grabbing! Often this is what is seen popping up on the screen of your phone or tablet. Yet it is noteworthy that Mexico statistically has a lower crime rate than many countries that are considered “safe”. Cartels fight cartels, so if you’re not in the drug trade, you have a lot less to worry about.
As expats who live in Mexico, we want to share some of our experiences and observations in hopes of helping to answer the question of whether or not it’s wise to travel to this part of the world.
My wife (a Canadian), and I (an American), have lived in either Playa del Carmen or Puerto Morelos for a combined total of 15 years. The majority of that time we have lived in what in Spanish is called “la colonia,” meaning a local neighborhood. We live where the locals live. This would be considered an area most tourists would never see, however, we have experienced no problems or disturbances. As a matter of fact, most of the expats we are acquainted with live in similar areas throughout the Yucatan.
Some of our neighbors through the years have been a number of single Canadian girls, who to this day consider Playa del Carmen as a second home. Like us, they felt comfortable to come and go on their own, whether day or night, and with no incident.
All of the tourist destinations that branch off of the Cancun airport have their own unique personality. Cancun has a reputation for being a party destination. It boasts multiple massive resorts and nightclubs. Playa del Carmen has become somewhat of a music and food mecca and combines a lot of international features. Cozumel has made a name for itself for scuba diving and the laid-back “island lifestyle”.
As you can imagine, each vacation destination mentioned above comes with a different level of safety concerns.
Wisdom dictates that we use common sense. My expat friends and I are not big partiers who are interested in over-drinking, visiting the clubs and staying out late into the night, where foreigners can easily make themselves a target. If that is your practice, than you most likely will have some negative experiences no matter what country you are in. And of course there is always safety in numbers, so when possible we go out together or with a group.
All things having been said, if you are considering a trip to the Yucatan, don’t let sensational headlines and tabloid fears hold you back. The beaches and Caribbean views are still beautiful, the weather is great and the native Mexican population are friendly and welcoming. Just remember that no matter where you are in the world, caution is always advised.
By Brad & Kelly Storhaug