Mexico is one of my favorite travel destinations, and apparently, it’s still a favorite for others too as one American testimonal reveals. Robert Reid, Lonely Planet’s New York-based US Travel Editor, expresses a similar opinion in his article about American safety in Mexico:
“Mexico makes for some of the world’s greatest travel experiences – it’s honestly why I’m in this line of work.”
Cancun, Mexico, not only happens to be one of my favorite places to vacation, but it’s also one of my favorite places to live. After renting a small home near the city center away from the hotel zone and working as a travel and tourism writer between 2009 and 2011, my experience was so positive that I plan on returning someday to retire. The quality of life is better and the cost of living is lower, not to mention how beautiful it is and how friendly the people are!
In the meantime, I will travel through the area, taking advantage of that reassuring Yucatan and Cancun safety while I indulge in cultural activities such as traditional festivals; tourist attractions such as ancient Mayan ruins; culinary delights such as zesty Yucatecan cuisine; and then unwind on a dazzling white, Caribbean beach with dear friends as I prepare to lay the groundwork for my future retirement.
Other countries may issue warnings with good intentions about the dangers of Mexico travel, but after having lived in the country for over two-and-a-half years (seven less successful months in another Mexican state) and working in the tourism industry, I gained a broader perspective on travel safety concerns. While I was fortunate enough to have driven across the US-Mexican borders without incident at Matamoros heading to Cancun and Nuevo Laredo returning to the US, I wouldn’t recommend driving through northern Mexico at this point in time since it’s a bigger risk, although thousands of people still do.
Thank God Mexico is a large country with 31 states and one Federal District, known as Mexico City, so the travel warnings don’t refer to the entire country! They only apply to high-risk areas, such as specific states and often only specific cities within those states, primarily in the northern portion of the country. The southeast region in the Yucatan Peninsula, home to Cancun and the Riviera Maya, is one of the safest areas in the whole country.
To put things in perspective, look at the Trans-Border Institute Justice in Mexico Project’s 2012 report on drug violence. In 2011, 70% of organized crime deaths were concentrated in eight states (Coahuila, Chihuahua, Durango, Guerrero, Nuevo Leon, Sinaloa, Tamaulipas, Veracruz), although some occurred in a few other states. Statistics show that the course of violence began to shift in 2011, demonstrating a lower growth rate than in previous years. This plateau in violence suggests Mexico may have reached a turning point or at least a time-out after years of intensification.
This is good news. Mexico may still be a developing country, but the government crackdown on drug trafficking is a big step in the right direction. If you’re traveling across the country and see the Mexican military driving through town or along the roads and highways, this is a reassuring sign since their presence means they’re pursuing the cartels and protecting the communities. If they stopped patrolling the country, this would be a reason to worry, not the other way around.
As in any country, isolated crime incidents may occur in areas where violence doesn’t normally happen, but this is the exception rather than the rule. No matter where you travel – whether at home or in a foreign country – there is some degree of risk. You can choose to live in a bubble or opt instead to take some practical safety measures while vacationing in Mexico, that will enable you to safely explore the phenomenal natural wonders and cultural traditions of the Yucatan, Riviera Maya, Tulum, Playa del Carmen, Cancun, and beyond. I know I will!
Christina Famiglietti (aka Word Whiz is an American writer and editor who develops content for various websites, ranging from business to travel, and writes passionately about her beloved Mexico: its nature, culture, and tourism.