Mexico is a fantastic destination to visit…but it has a poor image. Is it safe to go? What if you’re a female solo traveller? Kristin Addis from Be My Travel Muse provides her safety tips and ideas to help you traverse Mexico with confidence as a solo female traveller in this guest article.
Mexico’s flavours, scents, views, and noises are enticing. It was my first overseas trip, and I think about Mexico anytime I want a warm, welcoming vacation that is easy and accessible.
However, people with little to no Mexico travel expertise may try to convince you out of going alone. They’ve only seen negative news, therefore they have a negative image of the entire country. After all, Mexico has a global reputation for having high crime rates. So, certainly, you should be wary of this when travelling there, especially if you are alone.
But, let’s be honest: many excellent destinations, including several in the United States, have a similar reputation. It doesn’t imply the country as a whole is “bad,” or that you can’t have a good, safe time there. You just need to take some precautions, like you would in most other parts of the world. This begins with being well-informed.
Here are my top suggestions for travelling securely in Mexico as a solo female traveller to help you remain safe:
1. Choose your destination carefully.
I normally base my travel destinations on recommendations from people or photographs I’ve seen and saved, mainly from Instagram. That’s how I got up road-tripping across Baja California, exploring Tulum’s cenotes, attending a women’s retreat in Sayulita, and falling in love with Isla Holbox.
However, criminality has recently surged in portions of the Riviera Maya, and tourist places that were formerly popular destinations, such as Acapulco, have become more associated with cartels. Just because something was popular 10 years ago does not guarantee it is still worth seeing now.
How did you find out? If you have a destination in mind, perform a fast Google search for the town with “crime” or “tourist crime.” Keep in mind that the media sometimes exaggerate things. When accessible, I want to look at as many precise statistics as possible.
When arranging travels, I also prefer to post on discussion boards (such as Trip Advisor’s) to gather the most up-to-date information. Local expat Facebook groups might also be of use. Here’s one tailored to Tulum, for example. You’ll be able to question people who live or work there about their experiences. This applies to practically every significant region of Mexico (and the world).
2. Choose hotels that are centrally placed.
Choose a location near the zócalo, or main plaza, especially if this is your first vacation to Mexico or a certain city or town. These places are constantly well-lit, and there are generally a lot of police officers present, making them less appealing to criminals. (Aside from the zócalo downtown, Mexico City is an anomaly since there are so many areas to select from.)
Although I have not made this error in Mexico, I have made it in other nations on occasion. I recall being so far away from all of the things to do and other visitors in the Philippines that I spent a very lonely few days on the tip of an island, cut off from everyone and everything.
That’s also when someone tried to break into my bungalow late at night. On that one, I learned the hard way: always read the reviews completely and have a clear grasp of what is nearby your lodging.
3. Learn some fundamental Spanish.
Knowing these crucial phrases, especially if you’re a woman travelling alone, can make your solo go more smoothly. You’ll be able to make friends with locals, travel home securely if the cab driver doesn’t speak English, and recognize when someone is crossing a line when speaking to you.
What if you have little knowledge? My Spanish isn’t very good. Even though I grew up in Southern California, where Spanish would have been incredibly useful, I felt it would be fun to study French in high school! So everything I know is basically what I’ve learned since then.
However, the fundamentals are frequently sufficient, and Mexico is an excellent place to learn more. Mexicans are typically friendly and forgiving of anyone who attempts to speak their language.
Even if you only master basic greetings and crucial phrases, you’ll be well on your way. Duolingo can help with this, and you can also use Google Translate offline.
Speaking the language (even if just a little) is a show of respect and may help you connect with people, so why not give it a shot?
4. Make travel friends feel less alone.
I’m obsessed with the water, so while I was in Baja California, I signed up to swim with sharks. On the boat, I happened to see a friend with whom I’d swim with whales in French Polynesia! Even if I didn’t know anyone on the boat, I tend to make friends every time I do an activity, which provides me with a built-in group to eat dinner with that night, or even hang out with and do additional activities with in the future days.
Signing up for a retreat might also be a nice option. These are frequently discovered through influencers I follow. I did this after a vacation to Sayulita a few years ago, and it provided me with a good balance of time with people and isolation before and after.
As a solo female traveller, this is my absolute favourite method to meet new people. Do you enjoy eating? Sign up for a cooking lesson or a culinary tour that has excellent reviews on Google or TripAdvisor.
5. When possible, use ride-sharing applications.
Taxis in Mexico might be dodgy at times, depending on where you’re travelling. Riders have even been abducted and extorted in Mexico City and Playa del Carmen. Taxis, on the other hand, are completely safe in other cities. Taxis are available in Mérida, Cancun, San Cristóbal de las Casas, and San Miguel de Allende.
In general, rideshare applications are a safer alternative, especially at night. These applications allow drivers to be held accountable for their actions, making it significantly less likely that they would commit a crime. Furthermore, no actual money is exchanged, and they are less likely to add extra kilometres to increase the charge because you can see the proposed route immediately on the app.
Uber is available in several Mexican cities, but not all. In any major city, there is nearly always some form of taxi app (like DiDi) or WhatsApp taxi service accessible, but if you’re visiting a small town or hamlet, these choices are unlikely to be available.
6. Avoid being flashy
Wearing dazzling jewellery and fancy clothing can attract attention to practically anyplace in Mexico. Mexico City is an exception, where people dress up more in particular neighbourhoods. Wearing expensive apparel might make you a target for theft almost everywhere else.
Even though I possess them, you won’t catch me with luxury purses overseas since I don’t want to make myself the most appealing target.
The same applies to walking down the street with your good smartphone in hand. There are two reasons for this: first, it might be a major distraction for you, and second, it is quite easy to steal from your hand.
7. Check out tour companies ahead of time.
In Mexico, there are hundreds of tour companies, and not all of them are reliable or safe. I virtually never book a tour straight from a salesperson or on the street. I’m always looking for reviews first.
If you want to take a day trip with a certain tour operator, see if you can look it up online and read authentic reviews before you pay. Next, I look to see whether they have websites or social media accounts, such as a Facebook page.
If you don’t have a specific firm in mind, Google the activity you want to participate in and see which companies provide it, then follow the same recommendations. There will very certainly be some Google reviews, and if someone has had a poor experience, they will almost certainly post one to alert future travellers. You may also look on TripAdvisor.
Another excellent option to ensure the legitimacy of a tour before booking is to use a third-party service such as GetYourGuide. On such platforms, you can read consumer evaluations and make a better-educated decision about which trip is the safest and worth your time and money.
Also, be on the lookout for frequent scams in which shady tour companies rent out equipment to consumers and then blame them for substantial damage. This is particularly prevalent when renting scooters, segways, or snorkelling equipment. To avoid this, make sure to inquire what the policy is for any equipment damage to ensure you are not held accountable. You should also photograph whatever you rent before you use it. In this manner, you can demonstrate that you did not cause any harm.
8. Tell a friend where you are
If you’re travelling alone, share your schedule with a friend or family member back home so you can check in frequently. Before I began travelling internationally ten years ago, I added my mother to my bank account so that if it ever became locked while I was away, she could quickly call and authorise the expenditures. She has come to my aid several times, including when my bank continuously attempted to restrict my card during an overland journey in Africa. There was no way I could have called, but she knew the withdrawals were done by me since she promptly checked in with me.
Personally, checking in with someone every day or sharing my whereabouts with them would drive me insane, but so many solo female travellers have advised it in comments on blogs I’ve written over the years that I know it’s worth it for some people.
9. Purchase a Mexican SIM card.
If you are from the United States, you may be able to use your cell phone for free while in Mexico. If not, you should consider purchasing a Mexican SIM card when you arrive. A Telcel card costs only 150 pesos (USD 7.50) and can be readily loaded with data online or at any OXXO store (24-hour convenience store).
I almost usually purchase local SIM cards since they operate better and are considerably cheaper than standard SIM cards. I just ask a friend or a stranger I meet at a hostel who is multilingual to assist me with obtaining mine in Mexico, as my Spanish is insufficient.
But after that, I’m set in terms of navigation, making local calls as needed, and staying connected at all times.
10. Don’t give in to cat-callers.
Kristin Addis, a solo female traveller in Mexico, unwinds beside a rainforest cenote. I know how tough it is not to lash out at a cat-caller who has offended me, but paying attention to them is not a smart idea in Mexico.
In true macho form, a male who catcalls you on the street may become angry or even violent if you respond in kind. It’s a terrible fact, and it hurts me to admit it. However, informing a disrespectful person that they have crossed a line may not always have the desired impact of having them stop what they are doing.
11. Use caution when using dating apps.
Many travellers use dating apps like Tinder and Bumble to meet people (even if only as friends) while travelling. Friends raved about it throughout Europe, and I’ve met people on the road who said it’s how they met. This may be an interesting way to explore Mexico from the perspective of a native, but it also makes me anxious. What if they have preconceived notions? What if you and your partner aren’t on the same page?
There are a few techniques to screen someone before meeting up. First, check their social media accounts for any red signs. Next, state your intentions from the start. Let them know whether you just want to meet new people and see the city. Then, agree to meet in a public place. You may also have a friend on standby to check in with you mid-date to ensure everything is well.
There are other Facebook groups where you may meet new people. BMTM Solo Female Traveler Connect is one I run particularly for solo female travellers. There’s also Meetup.com and Bumble Friend, which are designed particularly for platonic relationships.
12. Trust your gut when it comes to food
Nobody wants to spend their Mexican vacation in a hotel bathroom, let’s be honest. Sometimes getting ill in a strange country is unavoidable, but there are a few things to look out for to keep your stomach in working condition in Mexico.
I’m not advocating you shun street food and exclusively eat in restaurants. The worst food illness I’ve ever experienced was from a posh restaurant in Mexico! Plus, I like the street tacos there and am constantly on the lookout for them. But I have certain ground rules.
First and foremost, when it comes to street food, follow your gut. If a stall appears unsanitary, it most likely is. If you’re not sure where to dine, choose the taco vendor with the longest line. If a restaurant has a long wait, it’s typically because the cuisine is excellent. Locals are the most knowledgeable on this subject.
There’s a reason why so many women travel across Mexico by themselves. It’s a stunningly gorgeous and culturally diverse country full of surprises, making it ideal for the daring. I met fantastic people in Mexico, many of whom have been friends long after I left the country.
Every time I return to explore a new place, I am reminded of how inaccurate the media portrays Mexico. It has its share of safety concerns, just like any other country, but by being prepared and following some simple guidelines like the ones above, I’ve had beautiful experiences swimming with sharks, diving in crystal-clear cenotes, eating amazing food, and making connections that I would have missed out on if I had only listened to all the bad news.