Is Mexico Safe? Avoid These Cities

Mexico has always been a popular destination for retirees, digital nomads, and travelers for years. You most likely are attracted to Mexico for its landscapes, food, people, weather, and lower cost of living. One of the most frequently asked questions is, “Is Mexico Safe?”

And I fully understand why. 

If you Google “Is Mexico Safe?” out of the first 10 search results, half of them will likely be about cartel violence. But Mexico is a LARGE country, and even though the violence is seen mostly in specific areas of Mexico, the media doesn’t make that distinction. 

So, this effectively causes fear and concern that if you move to Mexico, you’ll end up in harm’s way. But again, Mexico is a very large country. And you shouldn’t write off an entire country because certain areas are considered risky territory.

Since 2019, I’ve written over 250 blog posts and published over 150 videos on our Mexico Relocation Guide YouTube channel. I’ve interviewed dozens of foreigners living in Mexico who share their experiences, learnings, and advice for newcomers. 

In those interviews, I always ask our guests if they have ever felt unsafe in Mexico. Because I know it’s one of the MAIN questions, people have in mind when researching this country. Not a single person has told me they felt unsafe.

And even though I am not a crime stats authority and far from being a cartel expert, I can tell you that a lot of the news is sensationalized. However, it’s important to note that not all parts of Mexico are equally safe. So these are the top cities in Mexico I would NOT live in.

These are based on crime stats, my opinion, and an overall sense of safety.

Tijuana

Let’s start with Tijuana, ranked as the most dangerous city in Mexico.

Tijuana is one of the most unsafe cities in Mexico- despite this, I would still drive through TJ to get to other cities in Mexico.

Its exceptionally high rates of homicides and drug-related violence have earned it this infamous title. With a shocking homicide rate of 138 per 100,000 people, Tijuana is a hotbed of cartel activity, serving as a primary entry point for drugs from South America.

Its proximity to the United States border has made it a significant hub for human trafficking and organized crime. Surprisingly, Tijuana also holds the unfortunate distinction of being the most hazardous city in the world based on homicide rate statistics.

As with all border towns, Tijuana has had the misfortune of being stuck between the highest consumer of drugs to the North (the U.S.A) and the highest producer of drugs to the South (Colombia).

And even though I think driving through Tijuana to get to the rest of Baja California is generally safe, I wouldn’t want to live here.

Ciudad Victoria

Ciudad Victoria in Tamaulipas is notorious for its violence, with a homicide rate of 86 per 100,000 people. A town that I used to visit very frequently when I was little because half of my grandmother’s family is from here. But that was 20 years ago.

Today, Ciudad Victoria is another hotspot for drug-related violence and holds strategic importance as a gateway city beyond the U.S. border.

The Northeast Cartel actively conducts operations in this city, contributing to its volatile nature.

Acapulco

When I was little, we visited Acapulco almost every month because of its proximity to Mexico City. Back in the ’90s, Acapulco was considered a “safe” and very touristy beach town.

Today, Acapulco is a city known for its danger zones run by local cartel members, usually in town and at night clubs.

And even though my family still visits Acapulco regularly, we all usually stay in the resort areas- which have their own security and where you can feel secure.

But despite its allure, Acapulco ranks among the most unsafe cities in Mexico due to its high homicide rate of 111 per 100,000 people. The city has witnessed a significant increase in drug-related violence as rival cartels fiercely compete to control the lucrative drug trade.

Acapulco is located within Guerrero, a state infamous for its elevated levels of violence, frequent turf wars between gangs, and notable heroin production.

So, even though I still visit Acapulco, I wouldn’t personally live here.

Ciudad Juarez

Ciudad Juarez, another border city, stands in close proximity to El Paso on the U.S. side of the Rio Grande. El Paso is another city I wouldn’t want to live in, but that’s a different story.

It is recognized as one of the most violent cities in Mexico, boasting a homicide rate of 86 per 100,000 people. Ciudad Juarez has experienced a significant influx of drug trafficking and has witnessed a surge in violence due to ongoing turf wars between the Juarez and Sinaloa cartels.

These powerful cartels maintain a tight grip on Ciudad Juarez, making it an exceedingly perilous place for tourists.

Irapuato

Now let’s shift our focus to Irapuato, located in the central state of Guanajuato.

Over the past three years, Irapuato has experienced a drastic surge in homicides resulting from drug-related violence. Its current homicide rate stands at 81 per 100,000 people, making it unsafe not only for tourists but also for local residents.

The violence in Irapuato is largely attributed to the ongoing turf wars between the Jalisco Cartel New Generation and the Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel.

Uruapan

Starting with Uruapan, it has experienced a notable increase in crime rates, particularly related to drug trafficking and organized crime.

The city has struggled with cartel activity and turf wars, leading to increased violence. Homicide rates in Uruapan have been alarmingly high, creating an environment of fear and instability. This has prompted many residents to reconsider living in the city and seek safer alternatives.

And yet, an hour down the highway is Patzcuaro- a colonial town tucked in the hills with great year-round weather and a safe city many foreigners have fallen in love with.

Celaya

Similarly, Celaya has also witnessed a surge in crime rates, including homicides, robberies, and extortion.

The city has become a focal point for criminal organizations, resulting in frequent clashes between rival gangs. This has led to an atmosphere of insecurity and compromised the quality of life for residents. This is unfortunate because I consider Celaya to be a pretty city overall.

Source: El Sol del Bajio

The presence of cartels and their illicit activities has created a sense of unease and has made living in Celaya risky.

However, one of the safest cities in Mexico is about an hour away- San Miguel de Allende. A picturesque town in Mexico that attracts thousands of tourists each weekend. But if you look at the U.S. State Department’s Site, the entire state of Guanajuato is classified as a danger zone.

I encourage you to do more research and not write off an entire state or country because of the U.S. State Department’s Advice.

Culiacan

And finally, on my list is Culiacan. Which was once considered a moderately dangerous city, has turned into a battleground following the arrest of Ovidio Guzman, son of cartel leader El Chapo.

With a homicide rate of 61 per 100,000 people, Culiacan is the central city in Sinaloa, firmly under the control of the Sinaloa Cartel.

A recent war between the military and the cartel in 2022 made headline news worldwide. And even though Culiacan is far from Mazatlan (2.5 hours away), unfortunately, Mazatlan saw a temporary dip in tourism because the state of Sinaloa was deemed unsafe.

And yet, I consider Mazatlan one of the best places to live in Mexico if you enjoy hot weather, beaches, and seafood.

Where Would I Live?

Despite having a list of cities in Mexico I wouldn’t want to live in, there are dozens and dozens more I would move to in a heartbeat. And I assure you that I will NEVER recommend a city or town I wouldn’t personally live in or visit. 

Having said that, there is no city or country in the world that is 100% safe. You could be at the wrong place at the wrong time- even in some of my favorite cities of Mexico that I deem as “safe.”

Some of my favorite Mexico cities include: Mexico City (my hometown), Chapala, Atlixco, Puerto Vallarta, Guadalajara, Queretaro, Morelia, Huatulco, Merida, Los Cabos, Todos Santos, Rosarito, La Paz… and the list could go on forever.

However, the purpose of Mexico Relocation Guide isn’t for you to base your decisions on my personal opinions; I give you my opinions so you can research them more and form your own thoughts.

This is why our customers love our Mexico Relocation Tours. A personalized one-on-one tour with a local who can show you what living in a specific city is actually like. Because no one will experience a city in Mexico like you will.

I encourage you to do your own due diligence and to scout an area you’re interested in so you can determine if you feel it is the right place for you.

Mariana Lange

Mariana Lima-Lange was born in Mexico and immigrated to the U.S. when she was a child. She spent every summer visiting family throughout Mexico and is very knowledgeable about Mexican culture, lifestyle, and traditions. She is fluent in both Spanish and English.

Reader Interactions

Comments

  1. Grant says

    Thanks for this list Mariana

    • Teresa de Balin says

      Hello Mariana,

      I wonder how the political landscape in Mexico could affect people moving to this country. I’ve been following the changes the president is pursuing, and it seems to me that his populist agenda is affecting the whole country.

      I would like to hear what you think about this.

      Thank you for all the information you have sent to me, it’s a very good way to start thinking about moving to an other country.

      Sincerely,

      Teresa de Balin

      • Franklin Rizzo says

        Well said Teresa

        America’s current Government (this president is merely a puppet) is changing (ruining) a lot of things for this country and making Mexico look more stable and safer and free than America’s future.

        Chicago, Detroit, New Orleans, etc are more unsafe than any of these Mexico cities listed.

  2. MARK W LAURITZEN says

    Good article! I was supposed to move to Playa del Carmen this month, but health issues will delay it another year. I just can’t afford the Relocation Guide, which I think would be a good source of info.

  3. Lillian says

    I have enjoyed reading about Mexico. I can see why Americans feel it’s a dangerous Country, however; u are doing a great job in explaining how great Mexico is. Here in the US we have States that have scary towns which I would not live in. All countries have their good and bad areas.

    Again thank you for clarifying these things for me.

  4. George Xanthopoulos says

    Mariana, Please comment on life in La Paz and the availability of good hospitals and private medical care. I chose La Paz over Mazatlan over other reviews about La Paz being a quieter and preferable location for retirees.
    Thank you

  5. Dale Smith says

    Hi Mariana

    I know TJ is high on crime so I was pleasantly surprised that you had Rosarito on you list of places you would live given it’s close proximity to TJ. I am waiting for my condo on the beach to be completed in 2025 and always wonder if I am making the right move. I love Vallarta but it is farther from my new grandson in Carlsbad, CA and Medicare in San Diego. Plus I will take the cooler weather in Rosarito over the Summer humidity in Vallarta. I will just make regular visits to PV to visit all my Amigos I have made there! Thanks again for the reports!

    Dale

  6. Vern Schultz says

    This is my question. Cities like this.

    Celaya
    “Similarly, Celaya has also witnessed a surge in crime rates, including homicides, robberies, and extortion.” And then you say this. “However, one of the safest cities in Mexico is about an hour away- San Miguel de Allende. A picturesque town in Mexico that attracts thousands of tourists each weekend. But if you look at the U.S. State Department’s Site, the entire state of Guanajuato is classified as a danger zone.”

    You mention the same thing about a couple other places that have violence etc…and a city not far away being very safe and lots of tourists go there. An hour away isn’t that far, which is why the US State Department site probably says what they do. Just trying to give you an idea of why they say that.

    I am a realist and know that there’s actually more violence here in the US than in Mexico, so the dangers don’t deter me from wanting to move to Mexico.

    Mariana, I think your natural color of black hair suits you better, just my opinion. 🙂

    Thank you!

    • Victoria Andrich says

      Why do white men of a certain age always think that commenting on a woman’s looks – hair, weight, height, whatever – is acceptable?? It is NOT.

      • Mariana Lange says

        I personally asked for the feedback about my hair color on a livestream. So maybe don’t assume anything 😊

      • Gregory says

        Are you jealous?

      • Franklin Rizzo says

        Mariana asked! So, before you’re so quick to generalize “white men” and criticize, know your facts. Or, don’t judge at all.

        Matthew 7 :: . “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

  7. Charles says

    Great article thanks for sharing! How do you feel about Monterrey, N.L.?

    • Linda says

      I would like to know your information and feeling about Monterrey also. It is such a modern and influential city, not talked about very much by many people. I feel that there is an underlying problem there that is unspoken or something. Can you help us out

  8. Norma says

    Great information

    • Mariana Lange says

      Glad it was helpful!

  9. Gregg R Libbey says

    Hello !! You stated above that El Paso, Texas was also a city you would NOT want to live in. Could you please elaborate ? I’m looking at El Paso as a place to relocate that would give me easy access to Mexico ( quick flights ) while still keeping a footprint in the USA. I have vacationed in El Paso ( 2020 ) and found it charming. I’m also aware that it routinely ranks as one of the “Safest” cities in the USA for it’s size. Thanks !!

  10. Craig A Coons says

    Of the cities you mention that are safe, which ones have the best internet.

  11. Poli Ferran says

    Mariana, I think that the issue of safety, as it relates to Mexico, gets way too overblown. However, this is an important list for people to know about. I appreciate having you as an honest, trusted resource.

  12. Casey Neal says

    Yeah Mariana it’s really hard to say where it is dangerous in Mexico. After the last year of traveling I have been to many parts. In cities, out in the sticks, beach areas etc…
    Been told by taxi drivers to be careful in this or that area, don’t go out at night…all in all if you stay away from drugs, don’t get fall down drunk and be alert to your surroundings, tone down expensive jewelry you should be fine. And if you feel uncomfortable ask for help. Mexican people are good people, they will help you.

  13. Lawrence says

    Great article, Mariana!

  14. Deano says

    There is almost 1 mass shooting in the US everyday and unfortunately it’s innocent people and not gangsters that pay the price …. In March I visited , for the first time, western Yucatán , Campeche , Chiapas , Oaxaca y la ciudad de México and never felt insecure ….not once!

  15. Dr César Balderas Garcia says

    A Queretaro fui durante 22 años en mis vacaciones y por supuesto a la Joya de la Corona: San Miguel de Allende. Vivo en Tampico ( Joya de la Corona de Tamaulipas)

  16. ALICIA MURRAY says

    Excellent article and information, Mariana!

    Wanting more information about Mazatlan and Hualtaco.

    Have you heard anything about the Financial Requirements being reduced, especially for Seniors on SS?

    Thanks!

  17. Michael Dante Abate says

    Mariana…I am interested in finding a home in a rural area in or near Rosarito in the next few months. I currently live less than 3 hours away in North San Diego County. How do you recommend I do this? Is there someone in that area you can recommend that can give me some guidance or direction?

    • Mariana Lange says

      I recommend Rosarito as a place to live.

      • Gregory Fortner says

        I use to visit Rosario when I was stationed in Riverside, California. It is a very lovely town. And the people are extremely friendly. The Navy commander in San Diego put Tijuana off limits due to the crime. I would love to move there.

  18. Tanya says

    The YouTube videos make Uruapan look like a nice place to visit. Is it unsafe to visit for a few days?

  19. Elizabeth Eves says

    I just watched the video where you interviewed Sunshine.

    Since Chapala is my main interest, I would like to contact her. I tried to find her in FB, but couldn’t. Would you please send me her handle or whatever it is called in FB.

    Muchas gracias.
    Betty-Jean Eves

  20. NANCY J PFROMM says

    Mariana, you write exactly the way that I speak. I feel we are sisters from a different mother! I love your writing style and appreciate your intelligence, thoroughness, and writing finesse.
    Thank you for all of your research.

    • Mariana Lange says

      That’s very kind of you. I write from the heart and after doing extensive research. Thanks for the support

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