By far, this is the question we receive most frequently. From readers of this blog and from friends and family. Just how safe is Mexico to live in?
We believe this is a contextual question. Safe compared to what? Well, for many of those who ask, the question is posed in comparison to where they currently live. Do you live in the United States or Canada or Europe or Asia (or specific countries in those zones)?
You do? Okay. But do you really? Or do you really live in a fairly specific geographic location? A particular state, a particular city, or a particular town or rural area? We suspect it is the later. We know that for us it was.
For example, if you live in the U.S., when you heard about the recent shooter in Las Vegas attacking the country music festival, did you conclude that you were less safe where you live? (Unless, of course, you live in Las Vegas…..) Probably not. It happened elsewhere.
Prior to moving to Mexico, specifically Chapala, we lived in Arizona and then Wisconsin. Two pretty big states. We spent our days working and living in specific towns in those states. We shopped there; dined out there; went to the movies there; heard live entertainment there; attended social and cultural events there.
In short, we knew our way around; we understood, so to speak, the lay of the land. We knew, without even really thinking about it, where to go and when to go, and more importantly, where not to go and when not to go.
Unfortunately, in making the jump to Mexico, we had none of these markers, none of the familiarity that allowed us to be adept at avoiding areas and times that are unwise to visit.
So, what to do? Well, we educated ourselves (and we still do).
Before we arrived we were warned over and over not to drive in Mexico at night. In addition to the roads being very different from those in the States and the rules of the road quite different as well, it’s just not wise to be a gringo driving around at night.
Now that we’ve been here for almost a year, we do drive at night, but only locally and carefully. One adapts.
And we follow the local news. We have a pretty good idea now, based on conversations with other locals, where to go and where not to go. And since we operate by the dictum that discretion is the better part of valor, we generally follow the advice we hear.
You can certainly hear stories of what in the U.S. are called muggings.
In our experience, these seem to happen when people kind of lose their senses. For example we heard one woman complaining that she had been mugged right after visiting a local ATM. Oh no! Chapala is not safe??? Turns out that she went alone AND at night. Was that smart? Was that paying attention? We think not.
So is Mexico safe? It is if you make it so. Pay attention. Do your homework. Keep your nose clean. Listen and learn. Venture carefully.
Can “random” events happen? Certainly so. And we hasten to add, they can happen pretty much anywhere.
Just to put the entire question in perspective and in context, we took a look at what other parts of the world advise their citizens about traveling to the United States.
Yes, the U.S. ranks higher. We suggest taking a look at the listings of the safest countries. How safe would we feel about visiting some of the countries that seem pretty high up on the list? Several gave us pause. Just saying.
Having said all this, we have felt very safe here in Chapala. (Perhaps in part because there’s a police station right across the street!) Be smart and selective and knowledgeable. Just like you do in the U.S. or Canada or wherever you live.