So, one of the biggest questions we get asked as travelers, home owners, and real estate agents in Puerto Peñasco, Mexico is … is it safe?
Well we sure hope so! Our answer is basically that we, personally, feel safer in Rocky Point, Mexico than in many places in US. There are two types of people who ask us this question, those who genuinely want to visit but have heard the over-exaggerated media hype, and those who just want to pick an argument and would never, ever, go to Mexico, no how, no way, no reason. To the latter…good, we don’t want your bad mojo here anyway. This blog is to answer the former…
I have been going to Mexico since college in the early 90’s. Kyle took the requisite tourist trips to Nogales when he moved to AZ as a kid in the 80’s. I took my first trip to Cabo San Lucas in 2000, and introduced Kyle to Cabo in 2005. Kyle and I have been traveling to Puerto Peñasco together since 2007 (our first trip is another blog unto itself). We have taken both of our kids to Mexico many, many, times since they were 3 months old. We have never had any problems.
Here is the lowdown from us, who, started as tourists, became homeowners, and now commute several times a month between Phoenix, AZ and Rocky Point, MX… We have literally made the trip from Phoenix to Puerto Peñasco and back hundreds of times in the last 8 years.
Our first piece of advice is to learn about and embrace the culture! You’re traveling to another country with different customs. You’re going to be at a very different pace once you cross the border, so start now, relax, plan your trip, leave room for the unexpected, and take an “it’ll all work out” attitude. Be prepared to meet some of the nicest people on the planet. And once you have a margarita and shrimp dinner on the beach…you’re never gonna wanna leave! We recommend reading some books on the history and culture of Mexico before making your trip so you’ll understand and appreciate why things are different. My absolute favorite book on Mexico is “The Peoples Guide to Mexico” by Carl Franz and Lorena Havens. This is the book that inspired me to want to travel more extensively and retire in Mexico.
Regarding the language, if you are traveling to any large tourist resort, you really don’t need to know Spanish, however, we would definitely recommend learning at least a few key phrases and traveling with a Spanish Dictionary, as you will have more fun if you try to interact with locals in their native language.
One of our favorite questions is “don’t you get pulled over and hassled by the police for money?” My answer, absolutely, if you are doing something wrong! You wouldn’t speed in the US highways and be surprised to get pulled over at some point. Basically, you will get pulled over if you are speeding though town, running a stop sign, or driving drunk, or doing anything else that you can generally use common sense and figure out. If it’s illegal in the US, it’s probably illegal in MX too! If you do get pulled over, please be respectful and calm and you can get the situation sorted out. Often you may have to pay a fine, follow the police to the police station, and pay there. We definitely think that’s a better system than getting a ticket and going to court or driving school and points on your record, etc. It’s the law in Mexico to have liability insurance, make sure to purchase it before driving in Mexico. We also recommend checking with your US insurance company to see how far into Mexico you’re covered, or if your collision coverage applies, just in case of an accident. Most of in town driving is around 40KM or 25MPH, so if you get in an accident, well, it’s pretty hard to do. The freeways are another story because you may encounter everything from an overflowing, open backed, truck carrying onions (true story), to those following the speed limit, to everyone else driving like a bat out of hell.
If you research legitimate statistics and not nonsense news reports, the statistics show that Mexico is just as safe, if not safer for American citizens than the US. To put it in perspective, in 2013, there were fewer murders of US Citizens in the entire country of Mexico than in the state of Arizona. These are facts easily found on the US Department of State website and the Arizona Department of Public Safety website. So we’re really not sure where the media gets their “facts and figures” about Mexico being so dangerous for Americans. And, as many of us Rocky Pointers know, these news reports always pop up before some major holiday where tourists are discouraged from going to Mexico with their spending dollars and are encouraged to stay in the “safety” of the US.
Here is what I found doing my research for this article … there were 3 American deaths in Puerto Peñasco in 2014 – one was drug related (note that the report doesn’t specify if this was a homicide or overdose), one was a drowning, and one was a car accident – as reported by the US Department of State.
In 2013, there were 216 US Citizens who died in the entire country of Mexico – deaths, not murders – and many of these were drownings and car accidents and yes some homicides. There were 2 American deaths in Rocky Point in 2013, one was a drowning and the other was a car accident. In Arizona, there were 312 murders (I used 2013 stats because the AZ 2014 report was not yet available) sources: US Department of State and the Arizona Department of Public Safety.
This is worth repeating: Most of the time, when people get in trouble in Mexico it’s because they are doing something wrong or stupid or both. If you are frequenting a known drug area in either the US or MX, don’t you reasonably think your life might be in jeopardy? Would a reasonable person drive a $50k+ vehicle, or flash expensive jewelry in a known area of crime and poverty, in any country, and then be shocked if they were robbed? Use your head, and common sense, and be smart and you’ll be just fine.
Bien Viaje! PPJ