If you ever find yourself in the Yucatan capital of Merida, you will hear a lot of talk about how this is the safest city in the country (it is), and in parallel, how the only place that you should avoid in Merida is Kanasin. Kanasin is a suburb in the southeastern part of the city and while it is a little less affluent and rough around the edges, is it really that dangerous?
I live here in Merida and have been based here for the last 2.5 years. I have spent a bit of time in Kanasin because at one point I was considering buying one of the classic VW bugs that are so popular here in Southern Mexico and the seller was based there. After surviving that first visit (!) I went back a couple more times in the name of research to see if it really was such a sketchy place.
Is Kanasin Dangerous?
Kanasin is perhaps the least appealing/attractive part of Merida and it has a bad reputation for experiencing higher crime rates than the rest of the city. However, by the same token, it isn’t “dangerous” like no-go parts of Mexico City like Itzalapapa, Colonia Doctores, or Tepito.
It is a little less safe by Yucatan standards but it is nothing in comparison to the areas mentioned above. It is not dangerous in the sense that there is a lot of violent crime, gangs, kidnappings, femicides, or anything like that.
You can walk around here during the day but you need to be more on guard when it comes to keeping an eye on your belongings as you have a higher probability of being pickpocketed or being a victim of an opportunist grabbing your bag as they whizz past on a motorbike or something. This could be said of parts of any big city.
The Yucatan is generally a very safe state and is somewhere where you can freely walk around without looking over your shoulder. It is nothing like other parts of Latin America and honestly, it feels a lot safer and different to other parts of Mexico too.
So when Kanasin is considered sketchy by Yucatan standards, it is very different from somewhere being considered sketchy by say, Brazil standards.
Like most Mexican towns and barrios, Kanasin has a main square (zocalo) which marks the center of town. The Parque Principal del Municipio de Kanasin is not an unpleasant place.
It is flanked by the pastel yellow Iglesia de la Inmaculada Concepción Catholic church which is usually decorated with colorful papel picado flags that flutter in the wind. During the evenings and weekends, street vendors set up their stalls here to sell everything from marquesitas and Yucatecan street food treats like panuchos and salbutes, to elotes and ice cream.
On the outskirts of the neighborhood, there is a great chocolate place called “Casita de Chocolate” where a sweet abuelito from Veracruz sells chocolate pozol – a drink with corn and cacao, along with other chocolate treats. He explained the process of getting cacao from their beans, and we had a nice chat about the paintings his wife makes for the store.
Kanasin is one of the poorer barrios in Merida which definitely does not help its reputation. Yes, poverty creates violence but just because an area is less wealthy does not automatically mean it’s super dangerous. Most of the people I encountered in Kanasin were perfectly pleasant and friendly.
Unfortunately, there is a bad smell around most of the area – largely due to an issue with the street drains which makes the area smell like sewage. There is a lot of trash on parts of the street and many of the houses and apartment buildings have broken window glass or bin bags and foil on the windows.
Again – Kanasin is one of the poorer parts of town.
Is it safe to stay in Kanasin?
As a tourist, you really don’t have any reason to come to Kanasin unless you are spending weeks/months in Merida and you are just curious. There’s nothing appealing to see here and staying here would mean that you have a long journey by Uber or public transport to get into the historic center.
There have been a few break-ins reported here over the last few years but nothing to the extent of what you see in places like Guadalajara. For the inconvenience, the less pleasant environment, and the small yet heightened risk of experiencing something bad, I would say that yes, Kanasin isn’t as dangerous as people seem to think but I would still avoid booking an Airbnb in this area.
If you are looking at more budget-friendly accommodation and find an Airbnb in Kanasin, broaden your search to the eastern and western parts of Merida which are ungentrified and more affordable, but still very safe. (I live in a random Mexican neighborhood in East Merida and feel very safe).
Is it safe to buy property/land in Kanasin?
If you are considering moving to Merida, you will find some very cheap houses and plots of land in Kanasin. On the whole, I don’t think that most expats would enjoy living in Kanasin as an environment but you can always go and look for yourself.
Securing your home in Mexico does not come cheap and being without money can lead people to do some pretty desperate things. I bought my house in Merida in late 2023 and spent thousands of dollars (yes literally, thousands) on getting metal bars put on my windows, installing security cameras, getting electric wiring around the walls, etc.
I feel very safe in my barrio but this was mostly because everyone in a 20-block radius of my neighborhood had all of these things installed. If you lived in Kanasin, you would have extra stress which you can easily avoid by buying affordable properties elsewhere in the city.
Crime in Kanasin
It is hard to establish a “true” picture of what the crime rates are for Kanasin as they feed into the rates for Merida on the whole, which are generally pretty low. Anecdotally, you just hear more about things happening here which is what people base their “Kanasin is dangerous” panic on.
More people use and deal drugs here than in other parts of Merida and there have been instances where bars were raided by the police as part of a drugs bust, or dealers were arrested.
In November 2022, a man was arrested for accidentally killing a neighbor in a drunken brawl, and in April 2023, a local man was found killed in a ranch after having an affair with one of the assailants’ wives.
As a tourist, you are not likely to be in Kanasin at night anyway and there are plenty of nice bars in Merida without ever needing to come to cantinas and dive bars in Kanasin. Most crimes reported in Kanasin are crimes of passion or domestic/personal disputes and not random acts of violence.
Final thoughts on Kanasin and safety
I hope that this post has helped you to gain an understanding of what the safety situation is like in Kanasin. As I mentioned, it is not the most desirable barrio in Merida, and it really doesn’t have a lot to offer tourists, but that doesn’t mean that it is a completely lawless and terrifyingly dangerous place either.
I wanted to give some perspective on the situation, and I will continue to update and add more information to this post as I find more studies, news, etc, and experience more of Kanasin firsthand. Merida is the safest city in Mexico, and the violent things that you hear about in other parts of the country do not happen here.
If you have any more questions or concerns about planning your trip to the Yucatan, please don’t hesitate to reach out and I will do my best to get back to you as soon as I can. Safe travels!
Buen Viaje! Melissa xo