Declining Crime & Rising Tourism: The Safest Destinations in Mexico
- Crime in Mexico has been on the decline since 2016, and while there was a small increase during the most unstable years of the pandemic (2020-2021), crime has been on the decline for the past three years and is back to pre-pandemic levels.
- Some of the safest places for tourists and expats in Mexico include Puerto Vallarta, Los Cabos, and Mexico City, with lower homicide rate than many major US cities.
- Tourists flocked to Mexico at record levels in 2022 with a 45% increase in visitors vs 2021. Tourism is projected to increase again above and beyond that record with another 6.6% increase in 2023.
- As of 2023, Tourism in Mexico is now exceeding pre-pandemic levels.
Crime in Mexico is on the Decline
Mexico, a country renowned for its rich culture, stunning landscapes, and warm hospitality, has been a popular destination for tourists and expatriates for decades. At Far Homes, we frequently receive questions on crime rates in Mexico, and specifically how crime in specific areas across the country compares to the U.S. Below we aim to address these concerns, dispel some misconceptions, and provide an overview of the safest places in Mexico for tourists and expats.
According to Mexico’s Executive Secretary of the National Security System crime in Mexico has been on the decline since at least 2016, and while there was a small increase during the unstable times of the pandemic, rates have been on the decline for the past three years and are back to pre-pandemic levels again.
The above graph shows a decline in both the rate of homicide per 100,000 people in Mexico, and the number of overall incidents. It’s important to note that crime is typically expressed in terms of rate per capita as opposed to raw numbers to control for population growth. Mexico’s National Statistics Institute said that in 2022 there were 9.7% fewer incidents than in 2021. The country’s homicide rate per 100,000 inhabitants dropped from about 28 in 2021 to 25 in 2022 as well. This lower rate has held steady in the first half of 2023.
“The strategy of addressing the root causes of violence is beginning to show results,”
President of Mexico (July 2023)
The Safest Places for Expats & Tourists in Mexico
When we calculate the rate of violent crime on U.S. citizens in Mexico, it is an exceedingly small portion of the estimated 25-30 Million US visitors to Mexico per year or a rate of 0.29 per 100,000. This rate is exponentially lower than the homicide rate within the United States itself and in many major US cities.
Top 5 Safest Tourist Destinations in Mexico
To put this in perspective, let’s compare the homicide rate of these tourist cities in Mexico to that of the top seven major American cities by population:
The United States’ FBI released a report this month that provides data on the safety of American cities, and a quick comparison to most of Mexico’s major tourist destinations reveals that the homicide rate in America’s biggest cities is significantly higher than what U.S. citizens experience in Mexico.
None of the above is to say that American cities are unsafe. If you generally feel safe in a major American city, you can feel similarly safe in most of Mexico’s top tourist destinations as well.
Now that we’ve put the safety concerns in perspective, let’s explore some of the safest places in Mexico for tourists & expats. Here are the top five safest cities in Mexico:
The capital of the Yucatan state, Mérida is often cited as one of the safest cities in Mexico (for locals and visitors!). It boasts a rich cultural heritage, colonial architecture, and a thriving expat community.
Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, is a famous destination known for its natural beauty. With its pristine beaches and welcoming atmosphere, it’s a secure and idyllic place for travelers to relax and explore. Enjoy your visit with peace of mind in this coastal paradise. It’s one of the safest places for Americans in Mexico.
While Mexico City has a higher crime rate than some smaller towns, it is a vibrant and diverse metropolis with many safe neighborhoods. Exercise caution in crowded areas, and you can enjoy its rich cultural offerings safely.
Located on the Pacific coast, Puerto Vallarta is a popular destination known for its beautiful beaches, vibrant nightlife, and welcoming atmosphere. It has a relatively low crime rate and is a favorite among expats.
Nestled in the heart of western Mexico, Guadalajara is a captivating destination celebrated for its rich cultural heritage, warm hospitality, and enticing blend of tradition and modernity. Guadalajara has the highest crime rate of the Mexican tourist cities on our list with a homicide rate comparable to cities such as Houston, TX and Phoenix, AZ. As one of the top 5 most visited cities in Mexico, it makes our list for safest places for tourists. This vibrant city boasts a dynamic arts scene, delicious cuisine, and a thriving economy, making it a top choice for both tourists and expatriates alike.
Tourists and Expats are Flocking to Mexico
Despite recent concerns about safety, tourism in Mexico has been rising at record pace. In 2022, Mexico witnessed a 45% increase in tourism compared to the previous year, with 22 million visitors entering the country, a new record to a post-pandemic surge back to levels not seen since 2019. The Secretary of Tourism of Mexico forecasted that, in 2023, Mexico will bring in $31.1 billion from international visitors, which is 11.3 percent more than in 2022, and 26.8 percent more than in 2019.
Far Homes can project, using data from the National Institute of Statistics through August of 2023, that this year will set yet another record for tourism in Mexico at 36,174,112 international visitors, if the rest of the year (Sept-Dec) matches 2022’s actuals, more than a 12% increase in 2023:
The Mexican Ministry of Tourism projects that the country will receive an economic boost of $46.4 billion through tourism in the summer of 2023, representing a 6.6% rise from the record-breaking 2022 season.
Notes on Methodology
We used the most official and up-to-date sources possible for this report, namely the FBI’s Crime Data Explorer tool for US data and the latest figures from Mexico’s Secretary of National Security. We also verified individual city crime data with that released by the cities themselves, where possible.
The above charts focus on homicide rates as those are the most accurate, complete numbers available.
For city selection, we chose to look at the top seven American cities by population as well as the five safest top tourist destinations in Mexico.
It’s important to acknowledge that crime reporting in Mexico and the US may not always be accurate or comprehensive. Some crimes may go unreported, and official statistics may not fully reflect total numbers.
Mexico remains a beloved destination for tourists and expats alike, offering a diverse range of experiences and breathtaking landscapes. While concerns about safety have garnered attention in recent years, the reality is that the vast majority of visitors to Mexico enjoy their time without incident. By choosing to visit or live in some of the country’s safest regions, exercising common-sense precautions, and staying informed about local conditions, travelers can continue to explore all that Mexico has to offer with confidence and peace of mind.