Mexico has gotten quite a reputation for violence and crimes.
Most international news agencies that highlight Mexico often do this against a backdrop of murders, drug cartels, and other gruesome crimes.
Because of this, the country has come to be labeled as dangerous for travelers and tourists. Visitors often get warnings before their travel, but most of the bad publicity about Mexico isn’t actually true.
In this article, we’ll shed some light to the false information that abounds regarding Mexico safety and throw in some real statistics to back our argument.
Murders in Mexico
Fallacy: Murder is rampant in Mexico, and people can end up dead in the streets anytime.
Fact: Compared to many countries, Mexico is actually relatively safer for tourists. Most of the news about bloody deaths, severed heads, or people turning up dead anywhere is actually hype, propagated by news agencies that want to get people’s attention and additional viewers. Most stories about killings in Mexico are sensationalized.
* The murder rate in Mexico is not even included in the list of the Top 36 nations with the highest murder rate. The list was released by Nation Master, which based its findings on data from UN. The fact is, ‘known’ peaceful countries such as Switzerland even surpassed Mexico in murder rate.
* Mexico’s murder rate is lower compared to Washington DC alone. Its murder rate is 8 to 9 for every 100,000 – while that of Washington DC is 24 for every 100,000.
* Mexico also has a lower murder rate compared to the celebrated state of New Orleans in the US, which has a murder rate that’s 4 times higher than Mexico (and 5 times higher than Mexico City).
Homicide in Mexico
Fallacy: Homicide is one of the most common crimes in Mexico, and many tourists fall victim to this crime.
Fact: While there may be cases of homicide in Mexico, these are not as many as the media says and not as widespread as they make people believe. Mexico is the 14th biggest country in the world and has 31 states. There may be cases of violence, but most are isolated cases. Most tourists here are safe unless they are involved in drug dealing.
* Mexico ranks 21st when it comes to homicide cases (including unreported ones), surpassed by many countries with a ‘safe and peaceful’ reputation.
* The Yucatan area in Mexico has some of the most beautiful beaches around the world. But while some people say it’s a dangerous place, the fact is that its homicide rate is lower compared to US states considered as safe: Maine, Montana, Oregon and Wyoming.
Assault, Kidnapping and Rape in Mexico
Fallacy: Traveling to Mexico is especially dangerous for women and children because of high cases of rape, kidnapping, and assault.
Fact: Like any other country, there are safe places and dangerous places in Mexico – it’s only common sense to avoid the latter. However, the rate of crimes such as assault, rape, and kidnapping is not really as high as media makes tourists believe. In fact, there are as many as 150,000 Americans who come to Mexico as a visitor EVERYDAY and they go home safe.
* The assault rate in Mexico is 5 times lower compared to the US, according to a report by Prominix.
* The rape rate in Mexico is less than half of the US and approximately 5 times lower than Canada and Australia.
* The kidnapping rate in Mexico is 6 times lower compared to Canada.
* In general, crime rate in Mexico is comparable to Canada, which is known for being a very safe and tourist-friendly country. And yet, while US issues warning to tourists against Mexico, it doesn’t issue any warning against Canada.
All the facts mentioned above reveal that Mexico is a relatively safe place for many tourists. Its wonders shouldn’t be left unexplored just because media paints a rather exaggerated gloomy picture.
Very little is known about the history of this city, yet it is considered to hold the greatest architectural treasures of the ancient Mayan civilization.
For one, it holds so many magnificent buildings and structures that continue to attract and enchant visitors. From the Great Pyramid to the Nunnery Quadrangle and the Palace of the Governors, all of these are proof of the splendor of this ancient city and the Mayans who lived in it.
The archaeologists who are studying Uxmal can only guess about the history of the place based on the architectures that remain in this city today. The multi rooms that seem to prevail in most of the structures throughout the city suggest that large and powerful families lived in the said structures, probably warrior-nobles who lead the pheasants. These leaders were not known, save for one who was named Lord Chac.
The other structures tell a life that involved sports and other forms of recreation. The location of Uxmal tells that its people may have been involved in trades, salt production, and agriculture. The buildings were massive, but they were decorated with intricate artworks and patterns.
From these, archaeologists are able to conclude that the people of Uxmal lived a peaceful life, and fighting might not have played a major part in their existence. Compared to their neighboring cities, the carvings found in Uxmal did not much depict victories and other war-like activities.
These carvings and inscriptions in the structures have helped archaeologists decode the ancient writings of the Mayans and decipher their symbols and glyphs. These inscriptions have played a major role in helping archaeologists today get a more accurate glimpse into the life of this once-splendid city and into the Mayan civilization as a whole.
This place can be described as the center of the glory of the ancient Mayan civilization.
And to this day, it still sort of bewitches and enthralls its visitors as they gaze into the wonders that are still left intact in this place.
Chichen Itza was way ahead of its time, and it introduced concepts that today look too advance for its era. The ancient citizens of this place relied on science, mathematics, and religion in their way of life. They applied astrology in their day-to-day activities. They were advance in writing, and many of their hieroglyphs are complex and still undecoded until today.
In fact, some of their practices and systems were even better than the ways used in the present era. For one, they discovered penicillin before it was rediscovered in the form that we know it today. They used a calendar that is more accurate than the one we have at present. They were way advanced in astronomy and were able to come up with the ‘True North’.
They made several astrological observations, which they recorded and are now a great source of data to astrologers. These observations enabled them to predict events such as eclipses and other agricultural phenomena.
The Chichen Itza that is known to people today is actually a combination of the styles and way of life of two groups of people. The Mayans were the original occupants. During their time, the civilization flourished and the land was considered a place of magic, mystery, and sanctity. It thrived well until it was invaded by the Toltecs, which brought with them rigid discipline and the concept of human sacrifice.
The Northernmost structures in this place were built with the combined efforts of the Mayans and the Toltecs. Prominent among these are the Temple of the Warriors and the Temple of Kukulkan.
There are many magnificent structures built in Chichen Itza, some built by the early Mayans and the others built when the Toltecs arrived. The Castillo is perhaps the most popular, a pyramid that is considered sacred and almost perfect and was built to serve both a practical and religious purpose.
Not many people know, but there is a secret chamber in this structure that houses the Throne of the Jaguar, and there is a stairway leading here somewhere inside the pyramid.
There are many other structures in the site that were built for a purpose, and today serve as a testament of the glory of Chichen Itza. Two cenotes provided water to its early citizens, the first as a source of water to drink and sustain the crops, the second as a sacrificial well.
Today, many centuries after, there is still a pervading air of power and mystery in Chichen Itza. Its majestic structures seem to contain within them the many years of history that they have witnessed, ready to share to willing visitors.
This city shows evidence of its ancient people’s strong beliefs in the other world. It features massive structures that reflect a way of life anchored on rituals and religious activities.
The city was once a flourishing community. And even after it declined, it remained a populous community for a long time.
Excavations in the area are slowly revealing the way of life of the early Mayans that occupied Ek Balam. So far, what is clear is that its people were strongly religious and practiced activities such as bloodletting and human sacrifice. The buildings were so large that it was not clear how they were able to build some of them without the use of machinery.
Others were still buried, two of which were reported to be considered by the early citizens as portal to the other world. Much is yet to be known about this place as excavations continue.
This is a rather small city compared to its neighboring sites. Nevertheless, its architecture shows interesting details, and its hieroglyphics have been well preserved.
It sits in the middle of various hills, and its structures include one Great Palace, smaller palaces, a ball-court, altars and other smaller structures that appear to have served as homes to its residents, today estimated at as many as 17,000 – including those living in the areas being farmed.
The buildings in the city are linked to each other in clusters, and there is ongoing excavation and reconstruction being done to get a full glimpse of the city’s story. What is clear now is that its decline was sudden, suggestive of having been caused by an attack brought about by warriors of a neighboring site, probably those of Chichen Itza.
This is a neighboring city to Sayil, and it shares a similar structural design with the said city. It has a central palace with a Puuc-style archway, which is a fine representation of this architectural design.
Aside from the palace, perhaps the most prominent structure in Labna is a pyramid with a temple on top that was probably built later.
Most of Labna is yet to be recovered; a major part of the city is still located beneath collapsed structures and some underbush, partly because it had been in neglect for a long time after its initial discovery in the 19th century. What is known is the possibility that its decline had also been caused by a Chichen Itza invasion.
This city is one of the most beautiful ruins in today’s Mexico because of its location, perched on a cliff that overlooks the Caribbean.
Its structures are not as large as those found in other locations, but it looks to be one of the most powerful city states during its time. It’s a walled city that practiced weather forecasting and astronomy, and its location made it a primary trading port.
In fact, its structures were designed to serve both religious and practical purposes – to serve as lighthouses to aid the canoes going out to sea to trade.
Tulum rose during the Post-Classic Mayan period around 1200 A.D. Its location contributed a lot to its rise, but it also caused its decline. Because it is near the sea, it was among the first to be conquered when the Spanish conquistadores invaded from the sea. Today, however, many of Tulum’s architecture still stand to give visitors a glimpse of its glory in the past.
One of the largest and oldest Mayan cities, Coba is still halfway through being excavated and discovered.
It flourished in 600 A.D. and fell as Chichen Itza rose when it was conquered by the latter. However, excavations reveal that it was once a very rich state.
One of the biggest factors in the success of Coba as a city were the lakes that surrounded it. Unlike other cities, it had an abundance of water, which during its time was very important to any place.
Because of this, the citizens of Coba were way advanced in their agriculture. They were also able to build great pyramids, as well as a system of roads that connected the entire area.
So far, some of the structures already uncovered in Coba are the Castillo (a huge pyramid) and the Nohoch Mul (a huge and classic temple). There is much more to discover in the site, and the visitors of this place are given a glimpse of the way the excavation process is being done.
Known as the city of twin pyramids, Calakmul is one of the largest Mayan cities during its time.
It rose between the pre-classic and the classic Mayan era and, if excavations are to be based on, is one of the prominent capitals in the region.
It covers approximately 42 square miles, and the area contains almost 7000 different architectural structures.
The site is a bit challenging to reach, being located in the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve, which is known as one of the last remaining rainforests in the Yucatan area. It is distinguished from its neighboring Mayan sites by the great number of stelae or Mayan monuments found in the site—approximately 100 stelae that depict different images.
Most of them show what look like local rulers in rich garb, standing on top of their prisoners. Among the other features found in the sites are a tomb filled with rich offerings, remains of what look like high-ranking captives, as well as a calendar glyph that show dates between 500 and 850 A.D., evidences showing the power of Calakmul during its time.
Called the road of the serpent, the city is considered the capital of the Rio Bec region during its time.
It was a military and political control place, a powerful city that existed for a long period of time.
So far, the known area of Becan covers more than 60 acres, but it might be even bigger because its boundaries have not yet been established. What is known based on what has been excavated so far is that it is built from limestone.
A moat circles the center of the city, and it might have been protected by a wall once—with remains of a wall still standing today, some parts as high as 11 feet. The moat is especially distinguished because it is not a common feature in neighboring Mayan cities.
Covering around 21 acres of land, this site is still largely unexcavated. It is still surrounded by rainforest, and its many mounds are yet to be explored.
However, based on what was already uncovered, it is evident that the site is elaborately built and designed.
All the pyramids, courtyards, and other structures were well engineered. There was even a drainage system that leads into a cistern for collecting rainwater.
Based on the excavations, it appears the city was once used as a stop of traders heading to neighboring areas. It flourished around 500 A. D., although it already appears inhabited as early as 200 A.D.
There is a central plaza surrounded by pyramids, as well as a pyramid built in honor of the gods—the Pyramid of the Masks. Much is yet to be uncovered in this site to truly see its past.
To most people of the world, Cancun is all beaches and all Mayan ruins. Most tourists come to this city and stay in the Hotel Zone, to venture later on to the different islands and beaches nearby.
However, beneath the surface, when you go out of the Hotel Zone or get off the beach and head towards the mainland, you’ll encounter the part of Cancun that is entirely different from what you see in travel sites and in pages promoting Cancun travel – you will see that part of Cancun that is the real face of Mexico.
While the Hotel Zone has townhouses and condos and resort hotels, in mainland Cancun you will find two- and three-storey houses similar to what you’ll find in most of Mexico. You might even chance upon the so-called super manzanas.
These are old sections of the city that are designed like a triangle, each looking like its own community – complete with supermarket, church, and school. And while the Hotel Zone lodging facilities are known for being pricey, the rates in most of the accommodation found in mainland Cancun are very affordable, around 4 times cheaper.
Apart from these differences, the pulse of these two opposing areas in Cancun is also very different. The Hotel Zone is designed to offer very touristy activities, from the high-end restaurants to inclusive resorts.
When you go into the mainland, you’ll get to experience authentic Mexican culture as you encounter the displays found at the La Casa Del Cultura, for example, or the weekend celebrations held in Parque las Palapas or even the stands and stalls containing fresh produce and meat at Mercado 23.
Life in mainland Cancun is laid back and slow. There is still a remaining tinge of traditional culture that is not corrupted by technology.
Friends meet personally. Families spend weekends together, going on picnics and excursions.
The entire community in general gets busy with activities on weekends and during different times of the month – with fiestas, open markets, parades, and other celebrations.
Visitors who are staying in Cancun for a week or more may have the time to venture out of the Hotel Zone to experience a cultural immersion in the mainland.
Expats who are looking for a place to stay can also consider mainland Cancun. Cost of living is not as cheap as in most of central Mexico, but it’s still a lot less than in the US or Canada. And the neighboring beaches, cenotes and ruins are always a treat, not to mention the year-round tropical climate.
The city also comes complete with basic amenities such as a strong Internet connection (3g and 4g), banks, a major airport and many other modern facilities that will rival many modern cities.
Want to experience the beaches of Cancun without shelling out a hundred or thousand bucks? Well, while most Cancun visitors think that the only way to enjoy the beach in the area is to stay in an expensive beachfront hotel, the truth is that there are public beaches in Cancun that are accessible to just about anybody. All you need is to know how you can access these beaches without having to go through hotels.
(Important note: The whole stretch of beach in Cancun are Federal property, hence, the beach is ALL PUBLIC. But hotels and resorts are private properties, therefore, access to the beach thru these properties is not allowed. Through the different public-accessible entrances, though, walking or even using the beach in front of even the most expensive resort or hotel is allowed.)
Playa Las Perlas
Where it’s located: Km. 2.5 in the Hotel Zone.
What you can do here: You can swim and try water sports in this beach, or simply hang out in its bars and restaurants.
Where it’s located: Kulkulan Boulevard, Km. 3 in the Hotel Zone.
What you can do here: The place is ideal for those who simply want to swim or try water sports.
Where it’s located: Km. 4 in the Hotel Zone, facing Bahia de Mujeres.
What you can do here: Great for those who want to swim, with changing rooms and also restaurants. This is also perfect for those who are into diving and would like to try a submarine tour since its dock is usually the departure point of such tours.
Where it’s located: Km. 5 of the Hotel Zone (middle of north end area in the hotel zone), facing Bahia de Mujeres.
What you can do here: Swimming, water sports, or hanging out in bars and restaurants located along the beach. In its dock, there are shuttles going to Isla Mujeres and other places for those who want a tour.
Where it’s located: Km. 6.5 in the HHotel Zone. The entrance is next to Fat Tuesday’s.
What you can do here: Aside from swimming and water sports, its dock also has shuttles available for those who want a tour to Isla Mujeres and other places.
Playa Las Palmas/Caracol
Where it’s located: Km. 8.5 in the Hotel Zone, near Punta Cancun. Accessible through the Xcaret bus terminal or through a small wooden gate next to Fiesta Americana Coral Beach.
What you can do here: Ideal for outing and swimming with kids because of its flat and shallow sand bed. First timers will enjoy this beach.
Playa Chac Mool
Where it’s located: Km. 10 in the Hotel Zone, near Punta Cancun. The entrance is across the street from Senor Frog’s.
What you can do here: Perfect for water sports such as parasailing and sail boarding. (Caution: Current in this beach can be strong.)
Where it’s located: Km. 13 in the Hotel Zone, between Punta Nizuc and Punta Cancun. Entrance is behind the Kukulcan Plaza shopping mall.
What you can do here: Perfect for those who want to meet locals as this is a beach mostly visited by those living in the area. It’s also ideal for sunbathing—great view and there are shade shelters around. (Caution: Currents can be dangerous at times.)
Where it’s located: Km. 14 in the Hotel Zone, between Punta Nizuc and Punta Cancun. Entrance is along the Meridien Hotel wall fence (sidewalk).
What you can do here: Perfect for sunbathing and sightseeing. (Caution: Currents are typically dangerous here.)
Where it’s located: Km. 18 in the Hotel Zone, near Punta Nizuc.
What you can do here: Great for those who want to sunbathe and just enjoy the view, especially because there are stone benches where one can sit and just take in the scenery. Also great for swimming with the free outdoor showers and washrooms. (Caution: There are times when currents are strong and swimming is dangerous.)
Visiting Mexico in the summer? One of the best things you can do during your visit is to check out the beach.
And for an even more memorable adventure, you may want to swim with the whale sharks. These docile creatures are seen only in a few parts of the globe during certain times of the year, and it’s a real treat that they visit the coasts of the Yucatan Peninsula around May to September every year, which is the regular whale sharks season in Mexico.
If you’re interested to swim with whale sharks but are a little curious to know more about them (or afraid to swim with these giants, we won’t judge you), then here are some useful facts about whale sharks:
Fact 1: Whale sharks are sharks, but they’re the filter-feeding species, which means they feed by straining food from the water. Their food include plankton and micro-algae, which are suctioned from the water and pass through filtering pads located at the throat of the whale sharks.
Fact 2: Whale sharks are huge. According to recorded data, the biggest whale shark measures 41.5 foot long while the heaviest weighs almost 80,000 pounds. According to unrecorded data, however, there are whale sharks that reach almost 60 feet in length and weigh almost 100,000 pounds.
Fact 3: The mouth of whale sharks is gigantic, measuring from around 1.5 yards across. They also have tiny teeth, as many as 350 rows of them. Strangely enough, because they’re filter feeders, they don’t use their teeth to eat.
Fact 4: Because of their nature, WHALE SHARKS DON’T EAT HUMANS (probably the most important fact here). In fact, when people swim with them, they sometimes allow someone to grab on them and go along as they swim.
Fact 5: Whale sharks live from around 70 to 100 years old. Baby whale sharks are called pups, and there can be as many as hundreds of pups in one birth. But although this might give the impression that there are so many whale sharks in the ocean, they’re actually endangered because of ocean pollution and climate change. We can help by not contributing further to these phenomena.
Fact 6: Whale sharks stay in tropical seas. In the Yucatan Peninsula, they are typically seen in the coasts of Holbox and Isla Mujeres from May to September. Because of their unique spot pattern, people in the area call them ‘dominos’.