Mexico Safety – Travel Warning

Mexico Safety

I don’t care what other travelers say, Mexico is dangerous.  We followed the travel warnings issued by the U.S. State Department but still found ourselves in multiple situations where we felt unsafe.  I researched as much as I could to prepare for leaving the safety of the U.S and our upcoming travel to Mexico.  We carried bear spray, a small hatchet and other blunt objects.  I planned code words so we could communicate discretely.  We studied Kung Fu, Jiu Jitsu, and Sumo Wrestling for Dummies. Mexico Safety

Nothing, and I mean NOTHING, could have prepared us for the constant threat of the Mexican tope (toe-pay).  Topes, or reductors de velocidad, are essentially shape shifting speed bumps that have been scattered like landmines throughout the country.  Legend has it that these brake-burning, suspension-wrecking, margarita-spilling 😉 death ramps are built by chupacabras hoping to feast on unsuspecting drivers.  

Travel Advisory – Stay In The U.S.

No matter the origin, our bribes, bear mace, hidden wallets and sumo skills were no match for the dangerous Mexican Tope.  Consequently, we highly recommend avoiding Mexico at all costs.  Instead we suggest shipping from California, around Mexico, and directly back to the United States.  Given the number of car deaths per year we also suggest traveling sans vehicle.  The following companies offer this shipping method: Princess, Royal Caribbean, and Carnival. 😛

Mexico Safety – Alternative Facts

All kidding aside, it’s difficult to recreate the thoughts, fears and judgements we held prior to exploring Mexico.  Perceptions of Mexico seem to range drastically based on where people are from, where they’ve been and what they’ve heard.  We too were initially worried about security and wondered how we would fare in such a scary place.

The media had us focused on Mexican drug cartels, banditos, border wars and kidnappings; it was hard to see through the blur.  Eventually, we searched all that we could online and realized that our best resource would be the people currently or recently “on the ground.”

First Hand Knowledge – The Real Deal

What better metric than the experiences of those who are traveling in the same manner and same locations, right?  Time and time again the response would be a glowing review.  “Six months isn’t enough time in Mexico!”  “We love it and feel completely safe!”  It didn’t seem possible.  Surely people had to encounter more violence and danger than they were reporting.  How could people travel to Mexico for extended periods of time and not have issues???

Without direct experience it was hard to believe opinions that contrasted the available information, yet we knew the importance of remaining open to the possibility.  With an open mind, we continued our search and repeatedly found the news reports and secondhand stories to be sensationalized and narrow.  We also couldn’t blame those feeding us such garbage when we’re so willing to eat it up.

“Are Beaches & Tacos Worth Your Life?”

We were told repeatedly that we needed a plan to “deal with,” speed through or flat out skip Mexico.  Some of these opinions came from the “everywhere outside the U.S. is dangerous!” type of people but many were also from intelligent and experienced individuals.  With so much advice thrown our way we decided we would absorb all that we could, cut the fat, and make a decision.  All said and done, we were going to Mexico!

But Did You Die?

By now, I’m sure you’ve seen how much we enjoyed our time in Mexico.  By now you know that we didn’t die.  We weren’t robbed, we weren’t kidnapped and we weren’t forced to smuggle drugs in our bums.  Truthfully, I can’t think of a single bad thing that happened to us during our time there.  Well, we may have gained a few pounds 😉

On the other hand, Mexico is not the United States.  This is both a compliment and a critique depending on what facets you’re comparing.  There were towns we wanted nothing to do with and people we didn’t feel safe around.  There were angry drivers, drunks starting fights and a lot of people who didn’t like foreigners.  In some areas we found almost zero sense of community and terrible, terrible traffic.  The crime rates in big cities can be astounding.  And now for my complaints about Mexico.  Yah, you see what I did there 😉


Honestly, if we aren’t willing to fairly and equally recognize the crime and danger in our own back yard, then it’s a bit silly to think we can truly evaluate another.  And before you get ur panties in a bunch regarding my critiques about ‘Murica”, you can check out our U.S. road trip blog posts…or sit on a pinecone…doesn’t matter to me.

Mexico Safety – Reading Between The Headlines

Mexico absolutely has its share of problems to deal with.  There is corruption, cartel wars, regulatory gaps and clashes between the people and government.  There are too many neglected animals, trash problems and areas that are indeed dangerous.

Unfortunately, these issues are continually and popularly broadcast to those who will likely never hear the rest of the story.  Without taking the time you could mistakenly summarize Mexico as a drug war and a Corona commercial, and miss everything in between.  Sadly, many do.

Mexico Destinations – Beyond The All-Inclusive

We too, are part of the problem.  Browsing through our pictures you see Mexico as a collection of beaches, mountain vistas and colonial towns.  You aren’t shown the cities, factories, Walmarts, Home Depots, AutoZones and modern restaurants.  There are RV parks, water parks, malls and marinas.  There are 122 million mothers, fathers, sons and daughters.  As I write this I feel completely ridiculous but know there are people who have no idea what Mexico is really like; I was one of them.  Going to Cancun or Cabo and thinking you’ve seen Mexico is the same as visiting NYC and Miami as a representation of the entire U.S.

6 Months, Thousands Of Miles & A Million Memories

In the end, we spoke with hundreds of expats, snowbirds and travelers along the way and only found the following to be true:  With a little common sense and a bit of planning, the real Mexico is accessible and amazing!  The people are humble and friendly, the culture rich and the food delicious.  We barely knew the language but were graciously helped when in need.  Yes, we felt safe; more importantly, we felt welcomed.

By |2018-03-19T07:30:05-06:00October 9th, 2016|Mexico, The Trip, Top Posts|47 Comments


  1. Rhonda October 9, 2016 at 10:21 am

    A perfect summary! Mexico has always been one of my favorite countries and now, even though we are loving Lake Atitlan, I am already eagerly re-entering her borders in December.

  2. John and Mandi October 9, 2016 at 10:40 am

    We’ll, we gained almost 10 pounds each while exploring Mexico…that’s some kind of danger!

  3. Di October 9, 2016 at 10:57 am

    Thank You! We are expats and honestly feel safer in Mexico than the US. People listen to our media & do not realize the propaganda that is spewed. Most of the people who are afraid have out of the US. They are missing so much culture!! Thanks for a great review

  4. Levi Williams October 9, 2016 at 11:27 am

    wow this is the real México, thanks a lot for your beautifull article

  5. Reservaciones de Hoteles October 9, 2016 at 12:42 pm

    thank you this is a true history about México travel experience

  6. robert evans October 9, 2016 at 1:04 pm

    Wonderfully explained. Been going to Mexico for about 25 years now and the last 6 in Melaque. So many friends there. Leaving again in about a month for 7 months. Excellent presentation. Garcia and adios.

  7. John Scherber October 9, 2016 at 1:34 pm

    An excellent post. I’ve lived in Mexico for the past nine years, traveled all over it, written many books about it, and never had a problem.

  8. Ulev October 9, 2016 at 2:19 pm

    Like your Tundra, looks like the same one I stole….er sold in SD when I drove up the Baja…
    Nice pictorial representation..

  9. Lynn October 9, 2016 at 2:41 pm

    We agree compltely after many trips from Canada to Southern Mexico. We have been vacationing and livivg in Mexico for more than 20 yrs.

  10. Alexa October 9, 2016 at 3:14 pm

    I love your story! Nothing ventured nothing gained. Sometimes there’s no point trying to convince fraidy cats that you’re just as safe in Mexico as your own city as long as you stay clear of bad areas and those are everywhere! Best wishes as you continue your adventure!

  11. Reed and Elaine October 9, 2016 at 4:13 pm

    Our experience completely. Will be driving down to Yucatan for the sixth tme

    • Marion surles October 23, 2016 at 11:29 am

      Could you tell me your route? Where do you cross the border?

  12. lsie October 9, 2016 at 4:43 pm

    Thank you Josh!!! I have lived here for 15 years as an English teacher have had really in the big picture no problems

    Just be careful with your life as in all countries!!!

  13. Katie October 9, 2016 at 6:06 pm

    Absolutely amazing piece!
    Could not have said it better myself!

  14. Sharon October 9, 2016 at 6:20 pm

    What a great article and awesome photos! Nice Job!

  15. Mike Vondruska October 9, 2016 at 6:37 pm

    It is so nice to see someone else talking about their positive experiences traveling in Mexico.

    I live 3-6 months a year in the port city of Veracruz for 17 years and have also traveled by car and buses around the country. And in all of my travels, I have never felt in danger.

    In fact, I have been traveling these last two weeks in buses through the states of Jalisco, Colima, Sinaloa, Zacatecas, Durango, San Luis Potosi, Guanajuato, Queretaro, and am currently in Mexico City.

    Interestingly, in these last couple of weeks I have only run across 2 foreign travelers in Mazatlan. They were from from Vancouver. That’s it.

    Almost always, the local people here have been helpful, curious, and friendly.

    I always tell people to skip the sun & sand places next time they plan to visit here and explore the REAL Mexico.

    FYI – Most folks don’t realize that there are over 62 different languages spoken here. And all those cultures have there own traditions.

    Saludos de Mexico!

  16. pablo October 9, 2016 at 7:21 pm

    Very well done!

  17. Franklin October 9, 2016 at 7:58 pm

    I’ve been living here over a year now and have to agree with all of this! Can you tell me where the waterfall picture was taken?

  18. evelyn walters October 9, 2016 at 9:38 pm

    eve wonderful place have lived here 11yrs lost my husband here but did not want to run back to England. got so many friends here hope you come back soon.

  19. Alexandra October 9, 2016 at 10:22 pm

    Awesome article! Thanks for portraying a bit of our reality… I hope this opens some minds! I feel a bit sorry for the people who decide to miss out on Mexico’s magic.

  20. Elizabeth Percevault October 9, 2016 at 11:45 pm

    You have hit the nail on the head! The media always over plays ever incident, especially involving foreigners (us). We have traveled to Mexico for over 10 years and have always been welcomed by the beautiful people of Mexico. We have never felt unsafe or unwelcome. Viva Mexico!

  21. Richard Davies October 10, 2016 at 3:14 am

    That was a great article. I first went to Mexico in 1999 after being recommended by a fellow backpacker in India a few years earlier. I went with a small backpack and my cameras and returned to England with some memorable images, wonderful memories and great friendships. One of those was with a Mexican woman in Puebla who was the most beautiful, kind and caring person I’ve ever met. She was a receptionist at a hotel in that city and was someone who was immensely proud of her colonial city. She offered to give me a tour of the city for no other reason than to show off the stunning buildings of the centre and also to practise her English. When I left we kept in touch and exactly 4 years after that trip I was back in Puebla with all my family and we married in the Chapel del Rosario, the very same church she took me to on my first trip. We live in England now and have two beautiful children who are 12 and 10 years old.

    Mexico is an amazing country with incredibly clever, resourceful and humble people. The negative aspects should be talked about because Mexico has its problems. But it should be balanced. Lets not forget that if there wasn’t an insatiable appetite for drugs and firearms in the USA then there probably wouldn’t be all the violence involving the cartels that we regularly read about. And don’t get me started on Trump and the Mexican President Nieto. Nieto is a terrible President whilst the thought of Trump being President is too awful to imagine. Lets hope common sense prevails.

  22. Marti October 10, 2016 at 3:25 am

    Deadly car mangling topes!! They’re a menace! Thanks for this super wrap Up. Happy trails!

  23. Gabriela October 10, 2016 at 6:38 am

    Thanks!! I’m mexican and love your article 🙂

  24. Deb Shepherd October 10, 2016 at 8:01 am

    Love Mexico, great post.

  25. Vi Belk October 10, 2016 at 8:29 am

    We also love Mexico. Took a vacation to Cabo and that was it. We bought a country home there 13 years ago. 3 years ago we bought a home on the beach. I cant put into words how much we love our new home. Cant wait to get back for our 7th winter there.We feel completely safe, have made some amazing friends. The biggest thing happened to us, we had to bribe a policeman in Cancun for a traffic violation we did not commit. We practice the same safety measures as we do in the US. Please visit and enjoy.

  26. Eric October 10, 2016 at 9:05 am

    Josh and Jenna, you are both wise beyond your years. Keep rolling and keep sharing. Safe travels

  27. TheDangerz October 10, 2016 at 9:09 am

    Well, I hate to say “we told you so”, but… =]

    Kidding aside, glad you guys had the same welcoming, deep, heartwarming, fun, delicious and life-changing experience that we did in this amazing country!!

    Can’t wait to get back!

  28. Betty Benton October 10, 2016 at 9:48 am

    Beautiful photos! Thoroughly enjoyed your article about this wonderful country that we have called “home” for the past five years.

  29. Karina October 10, 2016 at 10:26 am

    Thank you! Thank you! I’m Mexican, living in Canada for almost 10 years now, my hubby who’s Canadian and me want to move to Mexico for good, reading this makes me so proud and so happy to see someone had the fortune to get to know my country better and to share their experience with the world to get rid of so many stereotypes! Thank you!! I’m so happy you had a great experience! ?

  30. phil October 10, 2016 at 10:34 am

    Yes we have travelled almost all the same places in a motorhome and then a fifth wheel and truck. Now back into a m/home and back to Mexico wonderful helpful people started travelling there in 1989

  31. Ric October 10, 2016 at 10:42 am

    Thx. Cool read… Nice pics too. What camera are you shooting?

  32. Tom B October 10, 2016 at 11:39 am

    I backpacked around the world, then decided to brave the Mexican interior for a fast week. Oh the terrors! One week quickly became three weeks in Guadalajara (my first stop), then several more months of traveling around Mexico; and finally a return to live and teach in Mexico for six months. I never know how to recommend Mexico. I express my fondness for Mexico, then everyone else expresses their concerns, then I reassure them, then they want further reassurance, then I decide I don’t want to be responsible for them, nor want them to saturate other cities like the coastal areas. My favorite times in Mexico were aligned with Mexican holidays, when the tourists were primarily nationals have a blast with their families. I’ve never had so many positive, welcoming, and engaging experiences as I did in Mexico (save maybe Cambodia, and possibly China). Highly recommend Guadalajara and Oaxaca but those are just recognizable destinations, as there are so so many off the track treasures in Mexico.

  33. Suzanne Faulkenberg October 10, 2016 at 12:52 pm

    Thanks. Good summary. We are in Ajijic/Chapala in Jalisco. Third year that we have tried to spend two to three months in Mexico. We feel welcomed and safe!

  34. Sherry October 10, 2016 at 3:21 pm

    Terrific article! We love Mexico – its people, its culture, its food, its architecture, its stunning history and archeology! We also loved that you used a poptop camper:-) We love ours so much we brought it with us when we moved to Belize a few years ago.

  35. Cheryl October 10, 2016 at 4:00 pm

    Most excellent post I’ve seen about Mexico. THANK YOU. I LOVE Mexico — the people, the food, the beaches, the mountains, the beer — EVERYTHING! So nice to see such a beautiful post. Thank you!

  36. BK October 10, 2016 at 5:53 pm

    Our friend sold her house in Berk. ad moved to San Miguel de Allende last year and loves it. He ex husband daughter visited and moved there as well. Lots of expats and artists.

  37. John Fox October 10, 2016 at 6:34 pm

    Been to Mex. a few times and was cautious and concerned but guess what, NO drama, just friendly locals plus used the one and only transportation options …….. the BUS. Used first class bus from Pacific Coast to San Miguel Allende in the Mountains took all day into the night but waking up there was magic. All stops larger cities (Guadalajara , Leon etc..) were cool but brief. Suggestion would be smaller pacific towns or artsy stuff like SMA or Guanajuato . Never seen Mex.City. I would go back. Don’t be a drug cowboy and stay out of trouble.

  38. Vanessa October 10, 2016 at 7:31 pm

    Love and resonate with the article.. and yes, the topes are horrible! Sailed down here from San Francisco, just planning to pass through, and fell in love wth the country, especially when we went inland. Now live in Guanajuato City full time. Happy to be here. Yes, you have to be smart, but came from Oakland California! Don’t tell me about danger, feel so much safer here!

  39. Melissa October 11, 2016 at 9:43 am

    This is great. I’m a blogger and travel planner and I get so many clients asking me if Mexico is “too dangerous”. We love it!!

  40. Adam Celis October 11, 2016 at 5:30 pm

    Such a nice piece, very informative and Impartial. Personally, Iive spent most of my life living in beautiful California, but as of 2011, decided to make the move along with my new bride to Cancún México. I’ve had the luck to enjoy not only the beauty of the Riviera Maya but also such states like Veracruz, Puebla, Guerrero, Morelos, México, Baja California, Yucatán, Jalisco, and so on. Everyone of them it’s unique in it’s own way. So far I haven’t felt in any more danger than what I’d felt at any given time while I’d lived in the States. (True, you have to use common sense wherever you go, for sure).

  41. bernard barbour October 12, 2016 at 1:52 pm

    You all should be ashamed of yourselves, now every gringo and his mamma are going to come and ruin the place, lol. As ya’ll know we spent six months overlanding all throughout. best time in our lives and all the pictures you all posted makes us want to drop everything and go back right now. Thanks for such a wonderful, positive and entertaining perspective. Safe travels.

  42. Sue October 13, 2016 at 11:20 am

    Great story! Thank you, hopefully you have combated the media ‘Mexico is bad’ sindrome.
    I lived there for five years and have travelled to most of the states. Definitely there are places Inwouldnt go, but that is true for any city/country. Loved the pictures!

  43. Patrick Booth October 26, 2016 at 8:27 am

    My wife and I moved to Mexico 18 months ago and totally love it. We live on our 40′ yacht and travel from town to cove to city as we want to. We do tell the folks back in the states to stay away, it is dangerous. That keeps the hordes away!!!!
    Is that wrong?

  44. Alex of Wanderlust Marriage February 24, 2017 at 3:38 pm

    Great read! Currently planning a trip to Mexico and found this very useful.

    Having spent years living outside the US, I know how much the American media sensationalizes.

    Though, we did visit Costa Maya (spring break for 50+) and Cozumel via cruise ship in September, so we’ve seen Mexico!! 😉

  45. joe March 18, 2017 at 9:32 am

    I have been living in Belize and both the Caribbean and Pacific sides of Mexico since 1989. I have driven through virtually every route from the US border, to the most Southern parts of Mexico, at least once every year over that period.
    As a couple of other expats have commented, I feel safer here, using the same sort of common sense that I use in LA or Seattle, or Washington D.C. It helps to speak at least some Spanish. Have a Spanish/English app on your cellphone.
    When I drive across the border, I have a full tank of US gas, going South, and enough in my tank to reach the border, when going North. That is because I believe that the risks that do exist, are predominately near the border.
    I live in Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca. You have to want to be here, in order to get here.It’s amazing how many people I know here have been coming back time after time.
    I really like the pictures you posted. I know the place in Zipolete that you posted.

  46. Roberto March 18, 2017 at 5:19 pm

    As a Mexican,I want to say THANK YOU for this great review of your experience in our wonderful and friendly country,

    Sadly, most news around the world about Mexico only present it as a dangerous place full of drug cartel wars and crime forgetting completely to talk about the real Mexico. We do have a lot of problems that we have to deal with like corruption, terrible politicians, etc., and we do have areas that, like in any other country, is best to avoid, but Mexico is a country that has much more good. great and exceptional things to offer, like the friendliness and warmth of its people, the amazingly cultural diversity and the richness of its delicious gastronomy among many many other things, and it is a breath of fresh air to read a positive portrait of our country. Thank you!!

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