This is an important question for us to answer as we are contemplating some cities in Mexico as a retirement destination. We’ve been traveling to Mexico for many years and are always amazed at the reaction we get when we tell folks where we’re going, especially if we’re discussing our plans to retire there.
The most common is: “Gasp, aren’t you afraid?”
So, out of curiosity, we decided to conduct our own informal survey to find out why folks are so afraid of Mexico. Our goal was to answer the question “Is retiring in Mexico safe?”
Since we live in a major college town, we felt that we were sampling from a fairly well educated and diverse pool. After categorizing the responses, we found that most fell into one of the following three major categories:
- Fear of Crime (drug cartels, kidnappings, robberies)
- Fear of government corruption
- Poisonous bugs & reptiles (actual quote – “For me, it’s simple….bigger spiders.”)
Since, we’ve been to Mexico many times and have never seen any of the above, we started wondering about these reactions and if there was enough truth to them for us to reconsider our choices.
Here’s what we came up with in ascending order:
3) Poisonous Bugs & Reptiles
Yep, they exist. There are several poisonous spiders, bugs, and snakes in Mexico but, you know what? Almost all of them live in the US as well. So, this was an easy one to dismiss as it’s a wash. Besides, we’re not particularly afraid of them.
2) Government corruption
Again, it exists. There’s no doubt about it and it is coming to light more than in the past. However, the question we need to ask ourselves in a retirement scenario is; “Does it affect us?”
Now don’t get me wrong, we don’t like it. It’s amoral but is it a reason to not retire there? Certainly there’s corruption in the US as well and, like in Mexico, it extends to all levels of business and government.
So we decided to concentrate on what might actually affect us: local police corruption. It turns out that targets tend to be tourists more than expats. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen, it just means it’s less likely to happen once you’ve become a recognized member of the community. Also, we have to imagine that expats simply get better at avoiding giving the cops an opportunity to ask for bribes. We should also note that while it is much more common in Mexico, a quick Google search turned up several cases of police corruption in the US as well.
In addition, the bribes in Mexico (when they do happen) tend to be ”affordable” by US standards. Usually in the $100 to $200 range from most of the information we found. Here are a couple links that we found helpful on interesting on the subject:
1) Fears of Crime
And now we get to the big one. The one that might affect us in our day-to-day lives: crime.
We did our research into crime statistics, while keeping in mind the words of Disraeli:
There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics. Benjamin Disraeli (British politician 1804-1881)
What we discovered was that while the overall crime statistics may seem scary in Mexico, if you break them down by specific locations (as opposed to looking at the overall picture) almost any of the places we would consider for retiring in Mexico had relatively low violent crime rates.
On our current list for retirement areas in Mexico:
- Cozumel, Quntana Roo
- Playa Del Carmen, Quintana Roo
- Puerto Vallarta, Nayarit
- Merida, Yucitan
Now, I’m not going to regurgitate a lot of statistics for you but if you want to look for yourself, here’s a few links we found informative:
- Mexico Murder Map: http://www.stanford.edu/~dkronick/mexico_crime/
- Are Americans Safer in Mexico than at home?: http://www.lonelyplanet.com/blog/2012/04/30/are-americans-safer-in-mexico-than-at-home/
- Mexico: As dangerous — and safe — as ever: http://www.cnn.com/2013/06/09/world/americas/mexico-security
- Crime: USA vs Mexico: http://www.mexicoonmymind.com/crime-usa-vs-mexico/#
So, is retiring in Mexico safe?
Our conclusion is a resounding YES. So long as you stay away from border towns, bad areas in big cities, and you keep your nose out of bad people’s business (don’t go looking for trouble).
None of these conditions should be shocking. They’re the same common sense stuff that you should apply anywhere else. In fact these are the principles we live by when we travel just about anywhere and thus far have never had any trouble. We truly believe that much of the fear for safety in Mexico has been hyped and fueled by the media. Don’t get us wrong, Mexico’s drug problems are real and caution is not to be thrown to the wind. That’s no joke. And by all means, we encourage you to do your own research but you may be surprised as to what you find.