The Feel of Mazatlan

Nov 21, 2011 by

Several of my friends/family have asked (at various points in our journey here), “yes, but is it safe there?”

My response is: “Yes, but be smart and proactive about it.”

So, here’s the scoop on living in Mazaltan based on our past experience in Puerto Vallarta, what we’ve heard from the seasoned expats here and from our own observations since arrving here in Mazatlan…

What NOT to do:

  • DON’T wear gold and diamonds dripping from every finger and/or orface – leave all your jewelry at home.
  • DON’T carry a large purse and leave it open or on the ground – a small over the shoulder bag is all you need, preferably one that zips closed.
  • DON’T leave your doors unlocked – at home or in the car.
  • DON’T flash around tons of Mexican pecos or any other currency.
  • DON’T antagonize the police or militia.
  • DON’T go down dark streets or unfamiliar parts of town alone or at night.
  • DON’T drink the ocean or tap water; filtered/bottled water is best.

What to DO:

  • DO get a pay-as-you-go cell phone if you are here for a longer duration (one month plus).
  • DO keep emergency phone numbers with you, just in case (that way you’ll probably never need them!).
  • DO wear tons of sun screen and a hat! (especially me, since my fair skin glows in the dark down here!! LOL)
  • DO soak your veggies and fruit with the Microbacteria drops when you bring them home from the grocery store, then rinse well.
  • DO drink filtered/bottled water. The water and ice in mainstreet restaurants are fine – they don’t want their customers getting sick, so they filter everything.
  • DO talk to people and meet new friends – there are people from all over the world here!
  • DO have fun!

This seems pretty basic to me. And these guidelines are appropriate to more than just Mexico. Most of these apply in Canada too!

Mexico is a third world country. Is it NOT like living in Canada or the US. Namely, it operates under Napoleonic Law – you are guilty until proven innocent.

So, there is both a local police presence and a military presence. Unlike in North America, the police and military drive around with their lights flashing all the time. This does not mean they are pulling you over (like back home), it is just a constant presence being established and maintained. The military are heavily armed and though this is disconcerting to some (it certainly was to me the first time I came to Mexico when I was 18), now it gives me comfort. Tourism is a big deal here and they do what they can to take good care of that industry… and us tourists and expats by extension. On the drive down there were several military check points, but we were always waved through without exception. Occassionally they do those here in the city as well – we went through one last night. So far, we’ve seen them pulling over young kids in new, flashy, expensive trucks. I am not sure what all they are looking for, but we are not in the habit of making trouble so these are not an issue.

There has been lots in the media over the past year about Mazatlan not being safe – media loves negative news. In fact, the cruise lines are currently not stopping here becasue of that. Well, there were some tourists from a cruise robbed about a year ago, but the biggest reason for the cruise lines to bypass Mazaltan is money. They put in 2 new bays for the cruise ships and then raised their prices – they charge per person that gets off the ship. Mazaltan instantly became the most expensive port in all of Mexico. So the cruise lines bypassed it. And the media about safety made it easy to forget that part. We did not know about this until we arrived here. I imagine things have been re-negotiated becasue the cruise ships are due to return to port in the next few weeks.

However, those cruise ships represented millions of dollars of revenue per week to Mazaltan. So, in a town that is already poor, to lose that kind of income has put many people in dire circumstances.

Prevention is everything. No one we know or have met here has needed to use any of this, but its a “better safe then sorry” policy.

It is a very poor country. As a general rule, the people here do not operate by the Golden Rule. They operate by the “My family comes first, I will do whatever is necessary to look after my family” mentality. Purse theft or pick pocketing of the tourists can happen – here and all over the world. This is not unique to Mexico. So, when you come to Mexico – Mazatlan or any other city/town – here is what I would recommend: ladies, bring a small over the shoulder bag to use as your purse. Keep it zipped closed and if you carry a walet, keep it zipped inside a pocket inside the small bag. When you stop for a meal or snack or anything out in public, keep your bag on and keep it in your lap. Do not leave it on the ground. Things can disappear without notice, and then it’s too late.

To me, it’s mostly all common sense.

What is most important is how friendly the people are over all. People are quick to help, to smile, to say hello and are delighted if you try to speak Spanish to them.The weather and scenery is beyond beauitul.

We are very glad that we came, despite the fear mongering of the media.

If you have any specific questions that I have not answered here, leave them in the comments below! I would love to answer more questions.

Have a great day!

Beach Hugs from James, Taz and I


1 Comment

  1. John Halme

    Hi James & Shilo, Kathleen and I want to follow in your foot steps. I hope to chat with you as we firm our plans.