As a retired expat living and travelling to several countries the question of “how safe is that area” is at the top of my list of needs and probably yours too.
For me, there is no point in living in a town with low-cost of living, clear sunny days and lots to do if you also have a much higher chance of being the victim of a violent crime. I am not the kind of person that worries a lot, if at all. I live my life by managing the risks. Life has plenty of risks without moving to a crime-ridden barrio in Mexico where known gang members operate. No need to worry, just don’t travel or live there! See, that was easy. Manage the risk, no need to worry.
Of course, areas of crime around the world and indeed inside each small town or big city are forever changing. So what was once considered a safe area of town in Mexico maybe now considered to be hell on earth. This is another reason why I am a huge advocate of renting instead of buying in your newfound paradise. Noisy neighbours next door..move! Drug cartel setting up a presence in your town and you need to sell your home and move fast? Good luck!!
Thailand, for many years, has been, or nearly always at the top of the list of “worst traffic fatalities in the world”. While Mexico has had the unfortunate accolade of one of the most dangerous countries to visit in terms of violence. So pick your poison if you choose to live in either country. Death by bus or bullet?
However, if you take a closer look at the situation there are a number of variables that we can all manage to mitigate most of this risk. In Thailand you never want to travel by bus at night, oftentimes the drivers are overworked and often take stimulants to keep them awake. Unfortunately, the stimulants stop working and the driver drives off the road or into an oncoming cement truck. Travelling at night, travelling in poor weather multiplies the chance of a traffic accident anywhere in the world, but especially in Thailand. Mini van drivers have horrible reputation for accidents and deservedly so. I was a passenger in one once. That was enough, never again. They often drive at very fast speeds and weave in and out of traffic. These things are totally illegal in Thailand but most traffic laws are NEVER enforced. Many foreigners in Thailand are killed while renting a motorbike ( called a scooter in many places), whether on holiday or an expat in Thailand. Riding drunk, not paying attention to other drivers, who are also not paying attention could get you killed or at the very least in a hospital for a few days. You need to be a confident and experienced rider in Thailand.
The drug cartel news stories are far more prevalent and well known than the atrocious traffic habits of Thailand. Perhaps they are much more sensationalized headlines, such as “Mexican cartel members vs military police shootout in Centro ” versus ” “15 dead in a bus crash in Thailand”. Mexico is certainly dangerous in many areas and situations. To manage the risk stay informed. By reading local news via social media or expat online news you will be armed with information that can mitigate the risks somewhat. Again driving on the roads ar night or taking a bus at night should be avoided. Visiting area where recent violence has occurred should be postponed or at the very least reviewed carefully. I suspect although I have no actual facts at hand, that 70% of the murders in Mexico are related to organised drug crime in one way or the other. If my guess is correct then most of Mexico is about as safe as most of the USA. I have no first hand knowledge of violent crimes in Mexico. Police shakedown for a few hundred peso bribe, yes and burglaries occasionally.
An interesting note about my own personal experiences with safety. Chiang Mai is known for being safe and not at all violent and yet the only murder I ever witnessed was in that city, just 6 meters from my dining table at the time. A very jealous and angry Thai wife hacked to death her foreign husband while he was chatting to a much younger girl in the bar across the street. In the same city I was also hit from behind by a car that sideswiped me as I was walking at 3 pm on the side of a small road in heavy traffic. The driver never stopped. The noise that is produced when a car hits a person is VERY load and yet she continued on her way at about 15 kph.
Your choice of a country or city to travel or retire to may not be discussed here, but the logic is still the same: do your reasearch, manage the risks and stay informed.
So, death either on a bus in Thailand or a drug cartels bullet is certainly a risk to be carefully considered. In my opinion, they are about the same risk in each country and managed sensibly will give you peace of mind, which finding paradise for less is all about.
I hope you enjoyed this article and encourage you to share it via social media and click the button on the left. All the best, John