How I Stay Safe in Mexico

Real talk: I feel safer living and traveling around Mexico than I do in the US.

Further, I feel more safe here than pretty much anywhere else in the world (other than maybe Southeast Asia).

yelapa drink horizontal stephanie kempker

That being said, one of the most common questions I get asked about my life in Mexico is how I stay safe. At this time, I live alone in a house (not an apartment building) with my dogs… a fact that seems to terrify every single person that hears it [who doesn’t live in Mexico].

Am I insane for doing this? I do have life philosophies that some might call naive, like I believe that all beings are inherently good, that something bad can happen anywhere, and that life is meant to be lived and not worried over. *shrug*

petting little dog in boca de tomatlan
The worst thing I’m in danger of is probably bringing home another stray dog hahaha

Between growing up with a security/safety-obsessed father and living with a professional security consultant for half a decade, I know bad things happen. All of the scary things that can happen to women (and people) in Mexico (and beyond) have been drilled into my head. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night worried that someone is in my house (and then I take a glance at my phone app that links to my security cameras and feel better).

So how do I stay safe in Mexico as a woman?

I know basic self-defense.

Rio de Janeiro Jiu Jitsu

It’s important to note that I’m not blissfully naive.

I’m no stranger to feeling very scared. When I lived in Rio de Janeiro, I had whole days where I didn’t leave the house because I was frightened to go out alone. I would get grabbed and catcalled, and aside from feeling small, vulnerable, and like I lacked autonomy, I genuinely feared at points for my personal safety.

A big turning point was when I started taking jiu-jitsu classes designed for women’s self defense. It was fun, I put on some [much-needed] muscle, and I learned basic self-defense.

Beyond that, my husband was skilled in krav maga and taught me a few self defense moves (like how to get out of someone choking you, or trying to stab you).

Maybe I’d forget it all when it came down to crunchtime, but I do feel more empowered and less defenseless, and I plan on taking more self-defense classes in the near future.

I am VERY careful about who I let into my house.

My home is my sanctuary. Even aside from a safety perspective, I only want people I know and trust there.

And from a safety perspective, your first line of defense is just not having people you don’t know in your house.

Recently, there were robberies in Puerto Vallarta where the criminal would claim to be a utility service worker, needing to check on internet lines in the house. Once entry had been gained, he (and sometimes a few friends) would incapacitate the homeowner and then rob them.

I don’t let random people into my house. Unless the person has work orders (which I would call and check on), or I’ve specifically invited them, I don’t allow them in.

I don’t have expensive things.

I don’t own designer handbags or expensive jewelry or even fancy clothes. If someone were to rob me, they’d get my beloved Nikon camera and laptop (both of which were purchased 5 years ago and worth less than iPhone5 now)… and then a bunch of stuff that has pretty much zero resale value (used clothes? orthotic sandals – no joke, #thisis30? dog toys? lol)

I also don’t keep large amounts of money or valuables in my house, or on me.

I don’t share my address.

I don't share my address

I only give my address to people who actually need it. If I’m having a party and creating a FB event for it (even if it’s a private event), I will send my address to each confirmed person one by one.

It takes more time, but it ensures that the whole world doesn’t know where I live.

Why does this matter? Because the internet has some creepy creeps. One time in Stockholm, one of my live IG stories (of me in my hotel room) was picked up by the Stockholm page. My DMs started blowing up and guys actually came to the hotel and tried to meet with me. No, no, no.

I have a security system.

I have a great camera system set up by a professional security consultant. It automatically records video, and has a crazy-loud alarm attached to it.

The camera system sends a notification to my phone every time it is triggered (by noise or movement), and it is absolutely priceless in terms of peace of mind.

I use “security” purses and backpacks.

Actually, when I’m just living my day-to-day life, I use a normal bag.

But when I’m traveling around Mexico (or anywhere), I opt for a Travelon purse and/or a PacSafe backpack. I love the PacSafe backpacks in particular because they look sharp, are lined with steel mesh, and double as a safe (you can lock them to something in your room while you’re out). I went with the 45 liter VentureSafe and I loooove it.

I’m not careless with my things.

Most crime against tourists/foreigners in Mexico is opportunistic and nonviolent.

I don’t leave my phone sitting out on the table, or sticking out of my back pocket. When I go to a restaurant, I make sure that my bag/purse isn’t sitting in a way that makes it easily “grabbable”. This also extends to my online presence. Using a VPN is an easy way to make sure that my informational also isn’t easily taken. I don’t worry about this so much when I’m at home, but if I ever take my laptop out and connect to public wifi, this is one extra step that makes me feel a bit better.

I don’t walk alone at night.

If I need to get across town at night or run an errand, I either drive or (because of my awful nocturnal myopia / penchant for having a few glasses of Cabernet) take an Uber.

I’m also lucky that I have a great group of girlfriends that look out for each other. We make sure no one walks anywhere borderline sketchy alone at night, and we check in with each other to make sure we’ve arrived home safely.

It’s a good practice, and aside from keeping things safe, it also just feels really loving.

To be honest, none of these safety philosophies/recommendations are Mexico-specific. Because, to be even more honest, Mexico is not more or less safe than anywhere else in the world. Just because the media (and your great-aunt Susan who went to Cabo two decades back) tells you that something is true… doesn’t mean that it is.

Regardless of where you are in the world, especially if you have kids, you also might find it useful to use a target iPhone app, which lets you monitor location and activity. There’s also a GPS tracker, which can be useful even for adults!

Pin it: How I Stay Safe Living in Mexico

How to Stay Safe Living in Mexico


  1. Antje
    October 12, 2022 / 4:35 pm

    Hi Steph,
    we just moved to Mexico, to live here for three years. And although I have read blogs like yours everywhere I could find them, and interviewed colleagues and other expats: NOBODY warned us about the COLD!! in Mexico City from October onwards. It is the altitude, the bad insulation of houses and the lack of built in heating. It is freezing inside the house every night and morning. And a day without sun is a nightmare. I have never been so cold in my life. And sitting with boots and padded jackets on my sofa was not the image I had in my mind when picturing me living in Mexico. Why is nobody mentioning this? Everybody speaks about the food, the people and the crime. Nobody mentioned that I have to pack wooly underware!

    • October 13, 2022 / 1:03 pm

      Hi! I think maybe I personally haven’t mentioned it because I love the weather here. I grew up in Michigan (VERY cold), and then lived for years in tropical climates (Bangkok, Rio de Janeiro, Puerto Vallarta), so the chilly nights of CDMX feel wonderful and cozy to me 🙂

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