Staying Safe in Mexico

Travel safety is on my mind right now as I prepare to leave Mexico for the first time since my arrival in Cancun in September. I’ve been in the Yucatan for five months, and my 180 day tourist card for Mexico expires in three weeks. I don’t want to leave the border crossing to the last minute, so I’ve been spending hours researching my options.

I don’t want to leave Merida. I’ve been living here for two months. I found an apartment in the historic center. Being at home here allowed me to take my living-like-a-local experience to a new level. A typical day includes making coffee and breakfast at home, writing all morning, making lunch or going out for it, taking a walk, and picking up groceries.

Safe, culture-rich and affordable Merida

Merida’s Parque Grande always feels safe. Maya vendors sell clothes, jewelry and craft items here. Sundays feel like a festival.

Among the many things that delight me about Merida: I can run out to a store late at night with no worries. I’ve never felt unsafe or even uncomfortable walking anywhere here. This applies to the centro. I’m not familiar with the outlying areas.

The historic district where I live is full of galleries, universities, shops, restaurants, cafes, churches and parks. Eateries, parks and public spaces have free wifi. People in the parks use their phones, tablets and sometimes laptops. There are even outlets for charging your devices.

The high-profile presence of armed men in uniform startled me at first. I still have a reaction to seeing men with huge guns in a convenience store or wherever. This morning, I left my apartment and there was a tank idling outside the entrance with the traffic. A soldier in a camouflage uniform stood in the center of it, large firearm held across his body. I nodded to him and he nodded back. That’s the first time I’ve seen a tank on the city street.

Large police conveyances are a more common sight. They carry multiple officers in an open back. Police cars and pickups with their lights flashing park at strategic locations. It seems the focus on crime prevention is effective.

According to certain sources, Merida is the safest city in Mexico.

A view of Merida Centro with colorful colonial buildings and church towers.

Where to travel next? Maybe Belize

My appreciation for the Yucatan grows as I research other countries: Guatemala, Belize (Belice), Costa Rica, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, Colombia, Cuba.

Before I left California, I concluded Belize and Costa Rica are out of my price range. My objective is to reduce my burn rate, as digital nomads and start ups term it. Bottom line: reducing my overhead allows me to keep my publishing enterprise alive. I couldn’t have continued writing fiction full time in California. Due to rising costs, I could no longer live at all in California. Leaving home hurt. I let go of everything except for a few small possessions, two boxes of books, and small boxes of papers, manuscripts and family photos I stored with friends. I gave away my car. That’s huge for a Californian. Thanks to great support from friends, I got through all the departure tasks and made my flight to Cancun.

Now I have to make another departure, this time from Merida, which already feels like home.

No doubt many people travel in cities with high crime rates with no problems. For right now, that experience is beyond my comfort level. This is my most extensive solo travel experience. It’s been a smoother and happier experience than I expected. I’ve had lonely days; I’ve gotten lost; I’ve made strange communication errors in my far from fluent Spanish; I’ve had bizarre disappointments with accommodations. Aside from getting locked in a Walmart after 11pm one night—take note, they aren’t all open 24 hours in Mexico—and one panicked night of forgetting my ATM PIN, this has been a mishap-free adventure. I’m glad every day that I came here.

I’m not at all ready to return to California. It’s not that I would take a drastic cut in lifestyle, it’s that I’d have no lifestyle at all.

Restoration in Merida’s historic district is ongoing. A rare day with gray clouds.

For what I’m paying for an apartment with swimming pool, housekeeper, wifi, local TV and all utilities included, I could barely get a spot in a yard to pitch a tent in one of the least desirable towns in my home state. No kidding. Every few weeks I run my mouse through maps on Airbnb to check. I look at other states, too. Arizona, Nevada, Texas, Denver. Places with flight deals from Mexico. Shared rooms with bunk beds or prolonged camping hold no appeal for me. I have a share with friends for my U.S. residence, otherwise, due to a prolonged and unexpected drop in book sales, I’d be unable to return to California at all.

Back to the travel safety and border crossing issue

I’m contemplating a trip to Belize or Costa Rica because I have to leave the country before my tourist card expires. Leaving the country will allow me to get a new one for another 180 days in Mexico. That was one of my deciding factors in choosing Mexico. Many countries, it’s necessary to leave every 90 days. As a seasoned traveling expat friend advised me, three months goes by faster than you expect.For that reason and so many others, I’m happy I chose Mexico for my first extensive journey outside of the U.S.

There’s so much more I want to see and do here. More Mayan ruins, more museums. More galleries and outdoor theater and dance performances. More cenotes, the amazing, deep sinkholes honored as gateways to the underworld.

I delighted in Merida’s Noche Blanco, (White Night, as Merida is known as Cuidad Blanco, the White City). It’s an open studio art event all over the city in December, similar to the Open Studios event in San Francisco. A painter I met here was part of it.

The many churches feature detailed imagery inside and out.

Reading about safety issues isn’t pleasant. As I researched crossing the border, accounts of people being denied entry or having problems with officials on one side or the other filled me with anxiety. Yet I know many people cross the border without incident. I have no idea how this will go, and I dread it.

I like this blog by Bronwyn, A Certain Bent Appeal. She’s from Toronto and lived in Mexico. I want to share this post because it has important information on staying safe. I’ve had a good experience in Mexico, overall.

Traveling and living in the Yucatan peninsula was a great choice for me. This is the safest area of Mexico.

Reading her post gave me perspective on how good I have it here. Not only have I spent my time in locations where crime is rare, I’m entirely self-employed. All of my income comes from writing fiction. I can work anywhere that I can get online. My life doesn’t require meeting with strangers to make a living. I don’t have to get a work visa–and deal with finding and maintaining employment or clients.

BTW, her post covers specific issues for women teaching ESL. Anyone looking for any kind of work, or having to meet prospective employers or clients would do well to pay attention to her advice. The impulse to avoid giving offense can be dangerous.

To echo this intelligent blogger, my intent isn’t to scare anyone. Her points aren’t any kind of slam on Mexico. The same advice makes sense for any place, especially when dealing with being in an unfamiliar place and not being fluent in the language. This is only to share a perspective that might help others in making good decisions for their own well being.

How To Stay Safe Teaching English in Mexico City and Abroad



I’ve released a second edition of my New Adult romantic suspense novel, Losing It in Africa. It’s available on several retailers, including Smashwords, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Google Play, Apple iTunes, and Amazon. My Pronoun book

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Bisexual MMF Menage: A curvy hacker, a troubled billionaire & the brave bodyguard who loves them both!

“A whole lot of action in this, along with 3 people coming together to find they fit. Love, sex & adventure.” —Karin Gesell

Inexperienced in every way, Ivy aims low to get Weston Drake to hire her and  take her to Africa.

Once I got over the awkwardness, it was strangely comfortable in the big bed between the two big men. Kane had the blackest skin I’d ever seen up close and the most beautiful smile that ever rained sun down on me. West was a mysterious, sexy older man who seemed too good for real life. I felt included, like these two men opened an intimate part of their lives and let me in. It was a good feeling, and it fit, because they had.


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