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The 10 Safest Cities in Mexico

The 10 Safest Cities in Mexico

I have been living in and traveling around Mexico for almost five years now. In my personal experience as well as that of all of the friends I have made here along the way, I have discovered some of the safest cities in Mexico. 

I love this country and I write about it often, so safety is a common question I get. I understand the queries. There are unsafe cities in Mexico, just as there are unsafe cities in many countries.

There are places in Mexico that I avoid because I’ve read about it and talked to people who have been recently and I don’t want to put myself at risk. If you want to keep up to date in English, the best place to do that is on Mexico News Daily.

So I do understand why people ask for the safest cities in Mexico, I myself often do the same. The reality is that there are places, mostly rural and mostly close to the US border, where you should avoid because, well, they aren’t that safe.

After living in and traveling around Mexico for so many years, I have visited plenty of beautiful and safe cities and towns around Mexico. Let me share them with you.

NOTE: If you are reading this article looking for Mexico’s safest cities during the lockdown/quarantine, you may find better answers over on my YouTube Channel where I am regularly interviewing people from other parts of Mexico about what the situation looks like in that part of the country.

You can find those videos here.

Head to this article to keep up-to-date on the reopening of tourism in Mexico.

The Safest Cities in Mexico

the outside of the main church in Queretaro

The outside of one of my favorite churches in Queretaro

1. Querétaro

This is perhaps my new favorite city in Mexico. It’s definitely one of the safest cities in Mexico not only for the main reasons that you think like being low in crime, but also because it’s outside of the earthquake zone.

After the 2017 earthquake in Mexico City, many of the city’s wealthier residents headed north to this smaller city for its cleaner air, safer neighborhoods, and sturdier ground. 

It has cute cafes, great restaurants, interesting museums, and lots of nearby hiking. It has the great weather that you get from other areas in the central region like Guanajuato and Mexico City, but it sits somewhere in between population-wise.

Be sure to check out Alex of Backpacking Brunette both on her blog here and on her YouTube channel if you are interested in living in Queretaro. 

Read: Things to Do in Queretaro

The best birria in guadalajara

Guadalajara is home to the best birria I ever had at this restaurant

2. Guadalajara

The country’s second-largest city has a level of safety that you don’t get in Mexico City while still offering the big city life that you may crave.

There is so much to do in Guadalajara. There are seriously great restaurants in Guadalajara. There are delicious craft beer bars in Guadalajara.

What more do you need?

There are also plenty of job opportunities here. It’s recently become the sort of Silicon Valley of Mexico with tons of tech jobs and startups flooding to the city’s low rent areas. 

It has the added bonus of being the home of Mariachi and birria and tequila and the city is relatively close to Puerto Vallarta.

Check out some of my videos from Guadalajara here:

taking in the view of guanajuato mexico from the pipila

3. Guanajuato

Here’s the thing. Many people are heading in droves to the nearby city of San Miguel de Allende, but I’m not putting it on this list because with the arrival of more money and more foreigners often comes a bit of trouble. Just look at Cancun.

I’m not saying that San Miguel de Allende isn’t safe, I’m just saying I don’t think it’s one of the safest cities in Mexico.

Guanajuato, however, is (in my humble opinion, I’m not a risk analyst). 

Guanajuato is smaller and cheaper while still having the colonial charm and cute cafes that you find in San Miguel. That, and you’re still only an hour bus ride away from SMA.

Follow Tim of Cheapest Destinations Blog who lives most of the year in Guanajuato.

things to do in ensenada

4. Ensenada

This is up there as one of my favorite cities in Mexico. Ensenada has everything I love: amazing craft beer, the beach, great weather for 9 months of the year, local wines, and seriously delicious seafood.

Ensenada is close enough to Tijuana that you can get around the country easily or fly into the US for a reasonable price. You can also hop in the car and head south to Baja California Sur on a road trip.

The Malecon is a great place to go for a walk. There’s a really excellent fish market where you not only can enjoy freshly cooked seafood, but you can buy some of your own to take home and cook.

Ensenada is far enough from the border that you really don’t have any safety concerns. The only thing that I don’t love about Ensenada is that it’s a cruise ship port, so every few days during the peak season, you are contending with quite a lot of visitors in a small city.

Read: The Best Things to do in Ensenada

playa balandra la paz mexico

The views of the bay in Playa Balandra, only 30 minutes from downtown La Paz!

5. La Paz

Another Baja city on this list is perhaps not one you would think of, La Paz. 

You could easily put all of those cities on this list. San Jose del Cabo, Cabo San Lucas, Loreto, Todos Santos (ok, not exactly a city, but still a safe place to live in Mexico).

I’ve spent time living in both San Jose del Cabo and Todos Santos and I fell in love with those two as well. Consider those two a bonus addition to the list of the safest cities in Mexico.

Baja California Sur, in general, is a wonderful place to live or visit. There are so many beautiful towns and beaches scattered around, but I love the capital. 

La Paz has a bit of everything. It has a local domestic airport that allows you to cheaply and easily connect to Mexico City airport. It has nearby beaches that are some of the most beautiful in the world, and don’t even get me started on the food.

I also love this city because it’s cheaper than its more famous neighbors. Restaurants in La Paz are a fraction of the cost of those in Los Cabos, but just as good.

You can have access to great craft beers, beautiful sunsets, ice-cold Victorias in beachside bars, and seriously, the best seafood restaurant I’ve been to in Mexico. 

See some of my videos from La Paz, Todos Santos, and San Jose del Cabo here:

figuring out if puerto vallarta's beach is the safest city in mexico

6. Puerto Vallarta

This is one of the most well-known destinations on this list for expats and snow-birds. 

Puerto Vallarta consistently tops the list of the safest cities in Mexico. Jalisco, in general, is a state that continues to stay out of trouble with those that cause trouble.

I think of all of the cities that sit along Mexico’s coast, Puerto Vallarta is the most liveable. It has tons of coastline with different areas. You can easily avoid the masses of resort tourists by getting a place in the Romantic Zone instead.

You can head up for a road trip to Sayulita and San Pancho. You have all of the big stores like Costco and Walmart, but also the small-town feel of the Romantic Zone.

It’s well connected by bus and air to the rest of the country and there are relatively affordable flights to and from the US and Canada. 

There are great international schools, a few different job opportunities if you are still needing to work within Mexico, and a nice mixture of expats and locals.

Head south along the coast for some of the most beautiful and deserted beaches in the country all as a day trip from Puerto Vallarta.

Read: Best Restaurants in Puerto Vallarta 

What to do in san cristobal de las casas

The main pedestrian street in San Cristobal de las Casas – Real Guadalupe.

7. San Cristobal de Las Casas

This little expat haven doesn’t seem to make the headlines even though it is full of retirees, young families, and everyone in between.

While sitting in a wine bar in San Cristobal de las Casas, I heard French, Italian, English, and Spanish being spoken. 

It is perhaps more of a large town than a city, but that doesn’t stop it from being one of the safest in Mexico. It has great cafes, seriously good street food, tons of natural beauty a day trip away and so much culture to immerse yourself in.

Chiapas is one of the most fascinating states in Mexico. It’s a huge coffee producer, where much of the produce is grown, and is home to several different indigenous groups who still speak their native language.

Whether you are simply looking for a base to use to explore Chiapas or you want a laid back, small-town place to live in Mexico, I highly recommend this little slice of jungle paradise.

Read: 10 Day Chiapas Itinerary 

a week in oaxaca

8. Oaxaca

If I could choose any city to live in Mexico, it would be Oaxaca.

Oaxaca is, without a doubt, one of the safest cities in Mexico. 

It is also one of the most beautiful cities in Mexico and one of the best foodie cities in Mexico.

Oaxaca has tons of nearby ruins and amazing history to explore, but the reason so many people return to this city over and over again is for the food. It is the birthplace of so much of Mexico’s cuisine that is now being exported to Mexican restaurants around the world.

The city center is walkable and full of different things to do, but there are also cool neighborhoods to explore, too (like #17 on this list).

what to do in puebla mexico

9. Puebla

Only two hours outside of Mexico City, Puebla is a safer, cleaner, and more affordable option.

Puebla has the cool nearby Pueblo Magico of Cholula (home to the second-largest pyramid in the world!). You can hike Iztaccihuatl as well as a few other local volcanos on the weekends. 

It has amazing museums and the oldest library in the world. And just like Oaxaca, Puebla is home to many traditional Mexican foods that have become famous around the country.

Puebla has a cosmopolitan feel that I haven’t found anywhere else besides Mexico City. There are high-end restaurants and great local taco spots. There are stylish cocktail spots and dive bars with cheap cold bottles of caguamos.

It’s also incredibly close to nature. If you want to get out and hike around the volcanos, you’re less than an hour from the base trails. If you want to visit Mexico City, you’re a day trip away. If you want to go to the beach, you’re a short drive to Veracruz. It has its own airport, but you can also easily get a bus from Puebla straight to the Mexico City airport which connects you to anywhere else you want to go.  

Read: Things to do in Puebla

the merida sign on paseo de montejo

10. Merida

Last, but certainly not least, is the city that is often touted as the safest city in Mexico.

Merida is beautiful. It’s clean. It’s packed with museums. It’s close to the beach. It’s great for families, for digital nomads, for single people and couples. There are expats of all ages who, in recent years, have fallen in love with this city and are calling it home. 

It’s as hot as the earth’s core (which is why I can’t live there). But that doesn’t stop it from being a seriously cool place to base yourself or even to live.

If you want to follow along with someone who lives there, be sure to read Mexico Cassie’s blog. She shares all of the ups and downs of moving to Mexico with kids and more not only on her blog but in her book Moving to Merida.

There is a solid expat community in the city if that’s something you’re looking for. However, it’s still a city that has tons of Maya culture and great Mexican food.

Read: Things to do in Merida 

things to do in mexico city

What About Mexico City?

One of my favorite cities in the country and one that I called home for nearly four years. But is Mexico City one of the safest cities in Mexico?

I suppose it depends on where in the city you choose to live or visit

It’s kind of like New York, or LA, or Chicago. There are neighborhoods where you don’t want to go. Similarly, there are places that, especially after dark, you probably don’t want to find yourself alone.

If you come to Mexico City and spend your time in the Centro Historico, in Polanco, Las Lomas, Roma, Condesa, or Coyoacan, you will truly have almost zero problems with safety.

Can I guarantee your safety here? Definitely not.

I can’t guarantee your safety in any of the above locations. But these areas of Mexico City are truly as safe as any of the other cities on this list.

Stephanie Pearson-Albright

Tuesday 5th of October 2021

I’ve been looking at Querétaro, but I’m seeing the flooding and that’s scary! Ugh! This is a great listing. Always need to know the logistics!

Kelly

Saturday 30th of January 2021

Hello this was very helpful we will be moving to mexico within 2 years I know it's far off but I was thinking mountains or a place secluded to build our home .we were thinking chiapas but we want the prettiest mountains and close to some sort of town can you refer me to or give your opinion on places please.

Alex

Monday 15th of February 2021

There's San Cristobal de Las Casas in Chiapas. In the central mountains of Mexico, you also have areas around Queretaro, Guanajuato, Puebla/Cholula. There's also stunning mountains near the sea in Baja California Sur. Hope that helps a little bit!

Melissa Lance

Sunday 15th of November 2020

My family is looking to move to the Puerto Vallarta area in the next 6 months (fingers crossed). My husband and I are 50 and we have a 10 year old daughter. We are looking for a safe area and a great place and education for our daughter. We also have to be concerned about our budget. My husband will need a job but is having trouble finding one. Any suggestions on job hunting, education, and locations? Also, any other information you would like to offer would be great!!!!!! Thank you so much.

Melissa

Calamity Jane

Monday 29th of March 2021

Thanks a lot for this article! So helpful, hopefully this info is still current. I am in Queretaro but looking for the next city to head to and your list really helped! BTW: CDMX was great! I stayed in Zona Rosa by Insurgentes which I found to be decently safe but would recommend avoiding Genova at night. I wouldn't put CDMX on the safe list either but is definitely worth a visit!

Brooke

Friday 16th of October 2020

Hi Laura! I just watched your Youtube video about your favorite cities in Mexico and was wondering if you know anyone living in Oaxaca, Merida, or Querataro who might be able to recommend a specific neighborhood?

I'm looking to move to Mexico for 3-4 months because I can't afford to be in California right now (Covid, fires, etc). I'm an entrepreneur/marketing consultant. I'm in my late 30s. I have lived in Europe (Spain, Italy), I'm in the wine industry (18 years) which means I'm obsessed with good food. I need a great wifi connection so I can keep building up my business, taking Zoom calls, etc. and I want to be in a place where I can walk everywhere I need to be. I also am a huge hiker (I hike multiple times per week at home in Northern California). I don't love huge crowded hectic cities but at the same time I don't want to be isolated in a quiet sleepy village with no multi-cultural community (I love being around people from other countries as well as my own). Like you I hate super hot weather but I'll be staying there November-January so that should'nt be a problem.

I had decided on San Miguel de allende but the prices there are a lot higher and it's a bit more difficult to get to in addition to the fact that I'm not sure I'd be able to socialize (during Covid) at all somewhere like SMA.

In any case, I'd love some suggestions from people who live in Merida, Oaxaca, and Queretaro as far as which areas I should be looking at apartments in.

I was really hoping to be able to start my life over again and stay here in my home in Northern California but I've made so little money since I got back (thanks to Covid and the huge impact on my industry especially up here) I need to leave and go somewhere i can breathe and afford to eat and keep a roof over my head for a few months while I try to find a few new clients or projects.

thanks in advance

Laura Bronner

Saturday 17th of October 2020

Hey Brooke! I have friends in all those places who you can follow and get in touch with. In Oaxaca is my friend from Brooklyn Tropicali: https://www.brooklyntropicali.com/ In Queretaro is my friend Backpacking Brunette: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCL-ikZJxLqOmrMQdPjdsaeA And in Merida is my friend Mexico Cassie: https://mexicocassie.com/

All are super helpful and if you reach out to them via Facebook/email/Instagram they will be sure to help with your questions!

Pam Mcdow

Tuesday 11th of August 2020

my husband and I are thinking about moving to Mexico, My concern is we are in are mid and late sixties, Im terribly affraid of earthquakes and not a fan of violence, lol. was hoping to find alittle two bedroom for around $500 to$600 a month. It would be nice to b somewhat close to a beach. Can you guide me to a town that might have what we are looking for?

Laura Bronner

Thursday 13th of August 2020

A two-bedroom for 500-600 by the beach is possible, but it would be a bit of a stretch/you'd have to make sacrifices on quality elsewhere in the house or perhaps look more into apartments. It's definitely still possible in places like Puerto Vallarta in homes a further walk/drive from the beach. I've also seen prices like that in Manzanillo and around the Oaxaca coast like in Huatulco and Puerto Escondido. Earthquakes can be felt in many parts of the country, especially around the central and southern region (like Oaxaca, Acapulco, Mexico City, Puebla etc). Maybe Yucatan would be a good option for you. Merida is a very affordable and beautiful city and is a short drive to the beach. La Paz, Loreto and Todos Santos are great options, but it may take a bit longer to find a place in that price range, however not impossible. Hope that helps a little bit!