How Safe Is It to Live at Lake Chapala Ajijic, Mexico ?

October 14, 2008

Hi Everyone, Well, I continue to get e mails and telephone calls about the safety factor here in our area of Mexico at Lake Chapala and Ajijic.


I make reference to this topic from time to time in articles here at, but let me give you some recent facts I’ve just received; and then ask you to watch the below video, because I want you to get it straight from the horses mouth.

Here’s a quote from a recent e mail I received from International Living, who often highlights the many advantages of living in Mexico.

“Acording to UN statistics, you’re 3 times more likely to be a victim of crime in the U.S. than you are in Mexico.

Recent FBI statistics paint the picture even more clearly… The murder rate (per 100,000 people) in Baltimore is 43.3… in Washington DC it is 29.1… and in Detroit 47.3… But in Mexico, the murder rate again is just a third of that… about 13.”

OK, now, click on the arrow head icon to see the short video I produced to tell you my personal experience here at Lake Chapala Ajijic.

  • Ken

    We have heard so many great comments about Lake Chapala. However, recently we have heard comments regarding the increasing cost of living, the dwindling lake level and the poor quality of water, the decreasing residential water pressure and drinking quality.
    Some comments have centered around selling homes due to the above.
    Your honest insight would be appreciated.

  • Sid Grosvenor

    Hi Ken,

    I’d check the sources of your information. Sometimes people fall out of love with our area and leave. Not often of course but it happens. Then, they have to blame something. Then there are those of us who have lived here for many many years happily and plan to spend the rest of our lives here. The vast majority of us. I have at least three friends here who have lived here for over 30 years for example.

    I’ve just been here full time for 7 years. Now more specific answers to your questions.

    I’ve written from time to time on the Lake condition and water systems: Let me refer you to a few of the prior articles:

    First Water Issues: The first link below is the most recent.

    Water systems: Some ar brand new and some are old and need of repair. Most of the systems outside of the three major towns where most of the North Americans live are adequate (ajijic, San Antonio Tla., and Chapala). These are government owned and operated.

    However there are many semi private systems too. These are owned by the different developments. Some systems are brand new and some are many years old. Some of these have been recently refurbished. AN important thing to check before a home purchase.

    So the quality varies as does the pressure depending upon the development. There’s not an area wide water system. We get our water from deep wells. Most of the water is good and some neighborhoods you can drink the water out of the tap. Most of us have our own purification system or dink bottled water (5 gals for about 1.50 US).

    There are as many reasons for selling a home as there are home sellers. I know of no one who is selling or sold because they were unhappy with the water system or water pressure or any related factors.

    About 20 years, when I lived in Dallas I shared with a friend that I wanted to go look at Lake Chapala. He replied something to this effect, “Sid, you don’t want to go down there. The lake is drying up and people are moving out of the area.”

    I made the trip down about 4 years after that conversation. At that time the lake was the lowest I’ve seen it and you could walk out past the end of the pier well past the lighthouse on dry land in downtown Chapala. I still liked the area and decided I would someday live here. Today the pier is surrounded by water.

    Have I seen it higher. Yes, but I’ve also seen it a lot lower too. The lake is really just a large catch basin. A natural lake to catch the run pff from the mountains that surround it. There’s only one river flowing into it of any consequence, the Lerma.

    Cost of Living

    The cost of living here has gone down for me over the years and not up here. My pension goes up a little each year and the peso exange rate has been as low as 8.5 peos per dollar to 14 pesos . Currently it’s 12.87 pesos for a dollar.

    The other day you could get 12.87 pesos for a dollar. You can get a shoeshine for 15 pesos. My maid earns just over $3.00 an hour and the gardener about earns under $3.00. so to me the prices fluxuate but are always very inexpensive by North American standards.

    I always get sticker shock when I go to Texas and Texas is not the most expensive state to live in with no State Income Tax etc.

    You may have been reading local forums. If you didn’t know, there are some people on these forums who delight in spreading these rumors. Why would they do this? They simply do not want any more gringos coming to the area. Why? They think that the more there are of us the higher the cost of living will be for them.

    Fortunately they are few in number. If this is your source I need say no more except you may want to ask them if things are so bad why are they still here.

    Ken, the best advise I have is to come see for yourself. Let me give you a gratis 4 or 5 hour tour of the area, Let me introduce you to people who just got here, to people who have been here 4 or 5 years and to some of those who have been here 30 years or more.

    I hope this helps. If you’d like to chat by telephone send me an e mail with your telephone number, your time zone, and the best time to call you in the evening and we can chat at length about life here at Lake Chapala.

    All for now, Siempre tu amigo, Sid

  • Dick Matz

    Sid – I found your remarks to be of real interest because it gave me an entirely new perspective on all the violence we hear about here in the US.

    I originally got interested in retiring in your area about five years ago after reading a book by Karen Blue. I had planned to make the move last fall, but the news of the drug wars turned me off completely.

    Watching your video has renewed my interest and I am wondering if you could suggest a step by step approach to visiting and spending a month to get a feel for the experience before I get serious about possibly making a recommitment to the concept.

  • Sid Grosvenor

    Hi Dick, Thanks for your comment. Glad you’re open to another look at our area.

    My Mexican mother in law is afraid for my wife and I to go the USA. Why? She watches her TV and the Mexican News shows kids killing teachers. kids killing each other, Soldiers going crazy and killing other soldiers, etc, etc, etc.

    In the USA our news programs show all the violence that happens along some of the border areas or in Mexico City where high profile executives are kidnapped etc.

    I’ve never been to Idaho, but hear it’s a beautiful state and while I don’t know the crime stats there I bet they’re quite low. Comparing Lake Chapala Ajijic crime with that in some of the border areas or Mexico city is like comparing a small town in Idaho with crime in Washington D.C.

    It may surprise you to learn that murders per-capita in Washington D.C. a few years ago were over three times that of even Mexico City which is one of the largest cities in the world with somewhere around 28,000,000 people,

    Dick, excuse my rant, it’s not directed at you at all. I just bristle a little at the media in both countries. “If it bleeds it leads.”

    Here’s my suggestion. Plan a trip here in the off season in the spring or fall when the B and B prices will be lower. Give us a week.

    Look around the different areas. Take my get acquainted gratis area wide tour.

    If you like what you see. Consider renting a home for a while or until you decide the area is or is not for you. But, as soon as you feel the area is right for you I recommend that you consider buying a home because you’ll immediate save what ever you were paying in rent and we may still have some extra good deals here over a few years ago.

    We’re in a trough now, but who knows how long it will last.

    Even if the slump continues for several more years in the USA the number of people (can you say Baby Boomers) coming here for an overall much lower cost of living where even a small pension goes a long way will be coming … trough or no trough.

    I see new tracts of raw land being cleared every few days, I see many brand new developments going up.

    The area compared to 7 years ago is exploding with growth.

    There’s a new Wal-Mart, A large new Shopping center across from it, a new mutiscreen movie, and a high rise condo tower next to that.

    Don’t let the growth scare you off, there will still be many small towns and villages around the Lake full of charm for many years to come.

    We have a nice balance of great infrastructure and the small town Mexico. The best of both worlds.

    All for now, Siempre tu amigo, Sid




  • Sid Grosvenor

    Hi Bobby, You read correctly oin the internet about crime in our area.

    The ladies even feel safe to walk alone after dark in our area.

    Almost all the crime that we do have is non conformational.

    It is important to have good locks, watchful neighbors and if you plan on being away for a while to have someone (a maid, gardener, or neighbor) to look after your house.

    Gated communities do add add to home safety, but even then best to have someone checking on you house for extended trips away from home.

    Hope this helps. Thanks for your question. Siempre tu amigo, Sid

  • Randy don

    Sid- Thanks for all the information you have given out. I have planned for some time to retire in Mexico as i have been to several different locations. I still have another 8 yrs until retirement 30 yrs and counting in the Military. I have never been to lake Chapala but it definately is on my list. I plan on takeing a vacation there next year to do a little research. Can you tell me the best way to get from the airport to lake chapala, would it be by taxi or bus.

  • Sid Grosvenor

    Hi Randy,

    Glad you’re planning on a “check us Out” trip to Lake Chapala. There’s not a bus from the Airport terminal to our area. To use a bus you’d have to walk a long ways out to the airport highway. Not a pleasant walk burdened with luggage.

    The Only Taxi’s at the airport are special Airport Taxi’s. Others are not allowed to make pick up. The drivers rarely speak English and most do not know our towns and villages at Lake Chapala about a half hour drive from the airport.

    When arriving at a strange airport in a foreign country it’s a good idea to use a private driver service. These services have bilingual drivers who will meet you with a sign with your name on it and a smile. They help with money changing if needed, translations as needed, baggage handling, and they pay for their parking time in the Airport garage. Send me an e mail when you have a flight date and time arranged and I can advise on a trusted private driver. Note: Private drivers only pick up when you arrive at the International Gate where all the International flights arrive. Domestic arrivals from withn Mexico are subject to land at various other gates and the driver would not know where to wait for you.

    Hope this helps, Tu amigo, Sid

  • Evi Blueth

    I have spent 4 winters in Roca Azul and I am a world traveler.  When in Canada I live in small town in Canada where serious crime is almost unheard of. I hike the mountains and coastal areas without fear or worries. 
    I love my winters in Mexico, but I have to disagree with you Sid. As mentioned I have been to 70 countries, lived in 5 and Mexico is the only place I was once held up at gun point, then the second year in Chapala I was walking with af friedn (3 years ago) from San Pedro to San Crystabol. We were stopped by a Mexican of about 27, he covered his head with the hood from his fleece jacket, then wrapped the traditional scarf around his mouth and chin so only his eyes were visible. As older ladies (56- 59) we could not out run him, he wielded a machete menacingly. We placed money on the ground, expecting that was what he wanted. It became clear he wanted sex.  This trail is used by some on horse back but at that moment it was quiet. He had a weapon and we didn’t. He demanded a blow job and it seemed better than being sliced up with up a machete. My friend ran while he was preoccupied. She only made it as far as the corn husks where she hid. (we found her later)  We reported the event to Jorges and Marilyn.  The man was never identified and I was fearful of involvement.  Don’t tell people woman are safe. It’s not true. Tell people to be careful, that they will be under sunny skies but have little freedom without risks.
    I continued to go to Roca Azul where I care take a house and last year was year 4. Since then a woman doctor was taken hostage and returned when the ransom appeared. Why are you lying to people?  If people want to live in the gorgeous climate amongst many many lovely people they should simply be aware of the risks.  I may go back this year but the choices I make each day are very safety conscious.  Fifty people a day are killed in  Mexico, so what if they are not expats.  They are human beings.

    I feel terribly sad about the obvious increase in crime since my first visit nearly 5 years ago.  I have wonderful friends in Chapala and love so many things about it.  I would not say it is safe or that I could enjoy the freedoms I do here in my west coast town. 

    I hope the future will bring some sanity, less crime and equilibrium to Mexico. I agree that it is a special area with an amazing infrastructure set up by the full time expats and the plentiful good hearted Mexicans.  But the last few weeks I am really wondering if I want to give up my sense of safety and freedom here in trade for sunshine, and looking over my shoulder nervously.



  • Sid Grosvenor

     Hi Evi, Thanks for your views and perspective. You’re entitled to see things of course from your perspective.

    Nothing in your post refutes anything I’ve ever said on

    I hope others read your post carefully and note the inconsistencies and not think the horrible experience you reported as having has anything to do with life at Lake Chapala.

    We each have the opportunity to decide of a given area is right for us. Bottom line as I read your post is that you still will be coming to the Lake Chapala area to enjoy all that it has to offer, despite your concerns.

    Thanks again for your views. Others are of course welcome to tell is their views as well.

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