Crime and Safety in Lake Chapala? Are We Safe in Mexico?

As recently transplanted Americans who came to the Lake region for retirement, safety and security was a dominant issue in the months leading up to our leaving the U.S.  Given the steady stream of drug cartel violence presented on TV, reinforced by US State Department advisories and the increasingly hysterical concerns expressed by friends and family, we started to lose confidence in our own research and decision to leave for Lake Chapala, Mexico.  Fear is a powerful emotion that if left unchecked can quickly grow into paralysis and the abandonment of a dream.  Finally, exhausted by these worries, we decided to make the move knowing that we could always return if we found that the Mexico we dreamed of was no longer a reality.

International Crime Rate

See this chart here:

With this as background, here is what we found after a few months of living in the Lake Chapala region.  It can be best summed up by a comment I made to my wife as the tragic events unfolded in Aurora, Colorado with innocents once again slaughtered by a lone gunman…I turned to  my wife and without thinking simply said “I am so glad that we are here, safe in Mexico.” Now, it would be a mistake to underemphasize the dangers that are in Mexico. The Drug cartels are powerful entities that challenge the long-term stability of a vibrant and democratic Mexican society. However, having lived in New York, Los Angeles, Miami, and other major U.S cities in our lifetime, we can make the same set of generalizations for living in both countries:  know neighborhoods to avoid, always be alert, and stay informed of safety issues and threats where you live. And, mindful that we are only just learning about our new home, we proceed with caution. But caution was also our byword when we moved to new cities in the U.S. for job opportunities.  And like our U.S. experiences, here at Lakeside we behave differently during daylight than we do at night.

Steven Seligman
Steven Seligman

During daylight hours, we always feel safe and at home. Unlike the U.S., we know the number of armed citizens is greatly diminished. This has been a great relief to us. But beyond that, we have come to admire and appreciate the kindness and consideration of our Mexican neighbors. The warmth and concern they exhibit for others is genuine.  People here care, and we are quite confident would come to the aid of friend or stranger if ever needed. This is not a feeling we had living in any of our previous U.S. communities.

We live in San Antonio Tlayacapan, adjacent to Ajijic. Rather than a car, we drive a golf-cart. Every day we drive through our mostly Mexican village to get to ex-pat land in Ajijic. Because our speed is more akin to jogging than driving, we have become a known quantity to the locals, who greet us with smiles and good wishes as we exchange expressions of “Buen Dia” along the way.  And this spirit seems to pervade the region leaving us feeling comfortable and at home in this non-threatening environment. But HOME here is not another sterile “DISNEY THEME PARK.” This is a real village with the downside one expects to find …crime although rarely ever violent, is here in the form of burglaries and robberies, all typical of what you encounter in the U.S. and Canada.  And, like living in all small towns without a great preponderance of foot-traffic and without a hovering police presence, we rarely venture out at night unless we have a specific destination or leave home to visit newfound friends. While we enjoy wandering during the day, we do not stroll through the streets or along the lake at night, but again this is the same behavior we exhibited in the States.

Steve Seligman on Golf Cart
Steve Seligman on Golf Cart

So like the Canadians and Americans we have met at Lakeside, we feel comfortable in our surroundings and use the same good sense we used back in our own home countries.  Do we have any plans of returning to a life in the US? Not if we can help it.

By Steven Seligman

Check out what the rest of the world is saying about safety in Mexico and Lake Chapala:

USATODAY: Anglos unfazed by Mexico’s encroaching drug war

LONELYPLANET: Are Americans safer in Mexico than at home?

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14 thoughts on “Crime and Safety in Lake Chapala? Are We Safe in Mexico?”

  • Shirley Kidon

    Steve could you tell me where you bought the golf cart. I move to your Village on 12 Nov. and have been searching the web for information with no answer.

    • Steve Seligman

      Hello Shirley,

      Congratulations on your decision to move here. Our experience was while the logistics were quite overwhelming at times, soon after our arrival we knew that it had all been worth it to live here in this wonderful place. I wish you the very best for your move.

      Here is the contact information for the person who sold us the golf cart:

      Miguel Angel Alvarez del Castillo
      Cell Phone: 333.809.9979

      Miguel speaks English…although not fluently. My impression is that he frequently obtains golf carts from a connection of his and sells them.

      When we arrived we found it very difficult to find a golf cart for sale. By chance we were passing his street when I noticied one in his driveway with a “for sale” sign. Beyond Miguel, I was not able to find any other source here at Lakeside. However, there are at least a dozen or so of us driving the streets so other people may be helpful once you arrive if Miguel is not able to provide you with a cart.

      Most of us drive without a license plate, without any form of registration, and without insurance. I have recently noticed 2 or 3 carts with plates, which I hope is not the beginning of a trend that will spoil it for the rest of us.

      By the way, you cannot drive the cart on the main highway…only the side streets. For us, that works as we can get anywhere we want in Ajijic. However, we cannot get to Chapala by golf cart.

      If you are all set with a rental or purchase, great. If not I strongly recommend the Access Chapaal Team. I recently recorded a testimonial for their website. Having owned numeroeus homes of the years in the States, I can unequivically state that the people at Access are the very best…very ethical, very responsive, and continually helpful and supportive even after we moved in.

      Wishing you the best,

    • Louisa Hart

      I have a golf cart for sale if yoiu need one. If not, please pass the word along
      that I have one for sale! Thanks

      • alice poltrock

        Hola LOUISA
        Do you still have the golf cart for sale. I live in Ajijic, moving to LaFloresta soon and want a golf cart for my dog and I to get around the village. Please email me at address above if you have it or if you know anyone who may have a used one for sale.
        Thank you,
        Alice Poltrock

        • alice poltrock

          Yes I need a covered golf cart, preferably used. My email address is

    • Steve Seligman

      Hello Shirley,

      Glad to refer you.

      Mguel Angel Alvarez del Castillo
      Cell Phone: 333.809.9979

      Miguel sells golf carts from his home. He usually has one or more available. At this time he has two for sale. He profecient in English and is a real gentlemen. I found him to be a pleasure to do business with and his prices seemed quite fair to me.

      When you contact Miguel, let him know that I referred you.

      Best wishes,

  • Steve Thomas

    Hi Steven,
    I was happy to read your report about the Chapala area. I lived there in 2007 and loved it. For the last few years I’ve been living in Davao City, Philippines and have been working an English teacher. I have been considering a move back to the USA, but my wife is a Filipina and doesn’t like cold weather or the desert. And after 5 years in the hot and muggy Philippines, I have no interest in Florida or South Texas. I remembered the climate of Chapala was warm and dry, and had enough green to satisfy someone from the tropics. When I showed my wife pictures of the Chapala area she became very interested, but was concerned about safety. I don’t have contact with anyone in the area anymore so I was happy to read your post.

    Steve Thomas

  • Pete Saavedra

    Glad to hear that all foreigners are not consumed by negative thoughts about safety in mexico. Crime is not just focused in mexico,it happens in very aflunent areas in the U.S.

  • Claudia Johansen

    Thanks for the lead on golf carts. We are moving from Ecuador at the end of Sept, I will be in the area Sept 11-13 to find us a place to land. We are very interested in securing a cart. as my husband can not walk well….

  • marie ely

    Hi Steve! So glad that you and your wife are enjoying retirement. Please email me if you get a chance.

  • Mitch Koski

    Steve, I have visited Mexico a few times and thinking of moving somewhere there in a couple years. I spent time in Oaxaca area and Puerto Vallarta area. Oaxaca city was nice, and I enjoyed the pacific coast there. PV was more resort like. however, I did find a room in a Mexican home about a 20 minute walk from the beach area. I enjoyed living, and learning some cooking while living there. I came across your site and would like to email about life there, if you please.

  • Greg Tinsley

    Hello all, I truly enjoyed reading your posts, very informative. I intend to visit and stay awhile to help with my decision. I am retired and have been for less than 2 months. However my interest has been piqued. I am a single man and will not need a suite of rooms. Please if give me the names of a realtor or upper middle class apartments available. I am not interested in buying. Thank you very much.

  • Les Sample

    Hi am thinking of moving to the Chapala area. We live near Davao city, Philippines. My wife is from Philippines, she has 9 yr old daughter. Am wondering about the schools there. I am from the states. am sure the schools should be better then here tho. Perhaps you can help me some,

  • Richard Johnston

    Sounds like a fantastic area. Friends, Mexican, from Guadalajara have recommended it as a retirement spot. How do the logistics work. Are most people buying r leasing homes? Are there agents anyone would recommend ? Golf carts sound fun and economical, but don’t most people have cars or trucks?


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