Absolutely, yes, the Yucatan is safe. I live in Celestún, a village of about 7,500 people, in the state of Yucatan, in the Yucatan Peninsula. Before I lived here, I came from Canada, where it is quite safe, but there are still some house robberies, and murder in some areas. For example, in Edmonton, which is close to where I’m from, has a murder rate is probably 15 times the murder in Merida, a city of over a million people in the state of Yucatan.
The police presence in Merida is absolutely unbelievable. There are police everywhere, but only to make the place very safe. I have never had any issue in 13 years where I feared for my safety. I have had problems on the road and never have I had an issue where people didn’t stop by to offer assistance. I have never had a problem with a policeman. I never had a problem with the military, which has checkpoints all the time. I have always been treated very courteously, but we treat them courteously as well. We don’t treat them badly when they stop me on the road. We know that they are stopping us because they want to keep us safe.
In the Quintana Roo side of Yucatan (which contains Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and Tulum in an area called Riviera Maya), if you stay in the tourist areas, you will not have a lot of problems about safety, but I do not recommend living amongst the locals there because the crime rate amongst the locals is a bit higher. The reason why is that, example, in the Cancun area, there is a mixture of people from all over Mexico who come there to work. A lot of them are coming from the very poor, crime-ridden areas of Mexico, which the foreigners don’t go to at all, and they bring some of their problems there. If you don’t go to those areas and cause a problem then you wouldn’t have an issue at all. The tourists that go to the Cancun and Playa del Carmen areas and get into problems would’ve brought it upon themselves.
As an example, I have personally heard of this happening where a group of young guys from the US or Canada would go to the local places in Cancun. The young girls in those areas are very attractive and want to buddy up with a foreigner. The boyfriends of these young girls do not appreciate it and then a fight starts. This could also happen in Canada or in any other place in the world. You have to use your common sense when you are in a foreign place so you won’t have any problems.
We have spent a lot of time in Cancun and I have yet to have a problem. My wife is Mexican and we have actually gone to a lot of these worse areas to visit some of her friends and we have yet to have a problem. Everybody has been very courteous to us but one of the reasons for that is because we are not looking for problems. We don’t go to places get drunk and be a jerk.
I have lived in Celestún for 13 years now. Celestún is a fishing village directly west of Merida, where there is a good amount of poor people. My house definitely stands out, being that it is 6,000 square feet and my garage alone is 2,000 square feet. We have the largest, most expensive home in town. In contrast, some of the people of Celestún have houses made of cardboard with sticks holding the frames up. They have dirt floors and don’t have running water. Normally, in these types of places where there is a wide disparity between the haves and the have nots, there are more crimes, especially crimes of opportunity. If a local person sees that you have something that is worth a year’s salary for them, they will take it. But that is not the case here in Celestún because the community here is small enough that everybody knows each other. If there is a problem, the locals will normally help you. If somebody broke into a house that’s empty, you just go and talk to some of the locals and they will find your stuff. They don’t want a reputation of being a bad area. If the parents find out that their kid, who is between 16 and 25 years old, did some of this bad stuff, they would definitely get a good beating.
Of course you still have to secure your house because, as the saying goes, if you leave the barn door open, the horse is going to get out. If you have your home secured, you won’t have a problem. Don’t flaunt what you have and leave your doors and windows open. You have to have common sense just the same as you would if you were in the US or in Canada.
I have the same security system here as I had in Canada. Some expats or tourists come here to Celestún and don’t put up some security so they become a victim of some small time crimes such as getting their laptops stolen. But most of the time, when stuff like that happens, the police would help you get your stuff back and most of the time, they really do because this is a small town and everyone knows each other.
As a form of security in my house, I have burglar bars on all my windows and door, and we have a wall around our property. There are other expats who live here who don’t have burglar bars on their windows, yet they don’t have much of a problem about safety, either. Some of them just have a chain link fence where it’s very easy to go over. Most of them live right on the beach so they are open but they don’t have a problem with safety. If you are here most of the time, you won’t have much of a problem. Otherwise, you could have someone look after your home when you are away.
Here in Mexico, Mexicans leave their three and a half year old children walking around by themselves; we see that all the time. I am very overly protective so we don’t let our son go around on his own but I know nothing bad would happen to him if he were walking around. We often see our son’s four-year-old cousin walking around on his own about three or four blocks away from our place and nothing bad ever happens to him.
There are a lot of people from all over Mexico in the crime areas that are moving to the state of Yucatan because it is so safe. My wife’s best girlfriend’s aunt, who is very wealthy, moved from one of these areas with her family because there are absolutely no issues here for people who are extremely wealthy. Also, many other wealthy people from areas like Mexico City or Monterrey are moving to Yucatan for the safety and for the lower cost of things, such as the property, which is pretty inexpensive. When you see mutli-millionaire Mexicans moving to an area for safety, you know it is safe because they know what crime is in some of the other areas of Mexico.
The governor here in the state of Yucatan is so vigilant that when we go to Costco in Merida, we would probably go through three to four state check stops in less than an hour. They won’t stop you but they will look at you as you go by and decide if you look like you could be causing problems. They are obviously looking for the bad people. There is a constant police presence everywhere. It is odd to go two blocks in Merida without seeing a policeman along the way.
There is a lot of police visibility here and I like that. They are not police that are bothering you; they are just watching in case there is a problem. They actually catch a lot of bad people in the state of Yucatan that are coming here to visit because they are looking at everybody and they want to keep these people out. They are very vigilant at keeping Yucatan safe because safety is what’s keeping the state of Yucatan growing so quickly. A lot of the major corporations around Mexico are moving some of their best offices here. As an example, Corona, which is one of the largest breweries around, is building a huge new plant just outside of Merida. They are coming here because of the quality of the employees and the safety.
In the North America, you would usually see a large police presence in the dangerous areas but that is not the case in the Yucatan. I call it a “preemptive strike on crime.” There is policemen everywhere so there is no crime. If you go without a license plate here, for example, they will stop you because they want to know about your vehicle. They want to make sure that it’s fine and it is legal. They are very protective. It is unusual in other parts of the world to see so many police and them being so polite and helpful but that is normal here in the Yucatan.
In Merida, there is tourist police, Merida police, state police, federal police, the army, the military, the navy, and the Green Angels. The Green Angels are people in a truck that just drives around looking for anybody who broke down on the road, in order to help them. They are government-sponsored. They have mechanics who will get you right back up on the road. They will give you 20 liters of gas, change your tires for you, etc. I have used the Green Angels twice in my life, which is why I know how good they are.
(Los Angeles Verde, The Green Angles, guardians of the road, Mexico, pictured.)