Let’s take a look at Mexico solo travel safety, in today’s culture of fear
I am glad you reached my blog! I actually have individual solo travel guides for the Mexican cities and towns I visited. I never thought to write a whole Mexico solo travel guide but since it’s a hot topic (it always is, right? It never dies down), I decided to make a post for you to give you an insight about safety in Mexico.
If you ever make it down to Mexico, I currently live in the Nayarit area (airport is Puerto Vallarta) so please get in touch! For questions that weren’t answered in this post, feel free to send me a message via Instagram.
Good luck and I really wish you all the best!
I’ve been living in Mexico for the last 3 years. How I got here, I don’t even remember but whenever people ask, life just happened. Mexico is one of my favorite countries in the world so when my relationship did not work out in Israel, I made sure to go here as it is very comforting for me.
I speak the language, all my closest friends live here, and it’s a digital nomad hotspot as Mexico offers the digital nomad visa! There are a lot of things to love and hate about Mexico which deserve a standalone post but in this article, I will walk you through my personal experience in Mexico solo travel.
Before I decided to permanently live in Mexico and make it my base, I had my fair share of traveling around Mexico solo. Mexico is a big country and I don’t think a year is enough to cover all the destinations. I’ve been around the world and I consider this country as my home. From moving to the Middle East from Asia, Europe, Africa, etc, Mexico always calls and I already have very deep roots here.
If you are new to this blog, I used to brand myself as a solo female traveler but I realized how men (and any other gender for that matter) can also relate to my solo travel articles. I noticed how many men from all over the world and all walks of life interacted with my content. Since then, I came to the conclusion that safety issues should not only be for women. Bad things happen to men traveling on the road, too. With this, all of my solo female articles were re-edited to fit any gender with current updates about the pandemic.
When writing posts like this, I always make sure to include photos of me in action (not the instagrammable ones since you can always find that on my Instagram). The photos in this post are from my disposable camera which I carry around. I always find joy in printing them! It’s the best way to remember your life!
Top worries when traveling Mexico solo
We’re all used to Mexico having the bad press and if you made it to this post, I am sure you are also trying to find some answers to your burning questions regarding safety. To tell you the truth, whenever I get messages from readers who are trying to confirm a fact that they read or seen on the news, I can’t help but laugh. Oh no, I am not making fun of your questions, hence the goal to provide transparent journalism and honest articles on my blog. Sometimes, questions are really ridiculous but more often than not, they are valid. It is normal to do prior research, especially if you are traveling solo to Mexico. Here are some of the worries I received via e-mail and Instagram:
Water in Mexico: is it dirty?!
Yes, it is. Yesterday, I had a consult call with a trip planning client and this was her first concern. She told me that it’s all over the American communities and groups – Mexico’s water is dirty. Access to clean water in Mexico is an ongoing war as it is on the top of lists of human rights. However, in this country, they don’t pay a lot of attention to clean water which leads many tourists to be sick after their trip.
Their water pipes are super old and have not been prioritized for replacement. 50% of Mexico’s population faces water scarcity (imagine a country with 125 million people!). Water laws are not enforced in Mexico as well. For example, when I was living in Sayulita, I did not pay for the water bill! Of course, since I am getting it for free, I did not discuss it further with my landlord. When I moved to Nuevo Vallarta, I thought the situation will be the same but my landlord here told me that I have to pay $133 MXN (about $7 USD) per month no matter how much water I consume. I always believed that behavior towards water will be changed if we charge fairly for it. If you don’t have a meter and have a fixed payment every month, how will you value water? This is the case in Mexico. In fact, they already reached the threshold of their water reserve, including emergency reserves that should only be touched in case of emergency.
My advice is to not drink tap water in Mexico. I even wash my teeth with mineral water! After showering, I also make sure to wash my hair with potable water because Mexico’s water can really mess your hair up. Some beaches are even affected by this water problem so don’t ingest ocean water as well.
I’m scared to travel to Mexico because of drug cartels. What’s your take on this?
Narcos on Netflix totally gave us a different eye about the drug cartel wars in Mexico. This is further explained in my Guadalajara solo travel article on how this show made us rethink the truths about solo travel in Mexico. While drug cartels are present in Mexico up until today, Narcos Mexico was set in a different time frame. Today, you won’t see those crazy shootings on the streets. That’s so 90’s! Personally, the cartels don’t care about you as a tourist. Unless you have a direct relationship or transaction with them, that’s when you will get into trouble.
If you are visiting Mexico solely for the purpose of tourism, then you don’t have to worry about this. If your goal to travel in Mexico is to be involved in drugs, trafficking, and cartels, then that’s when you should worry about your safety. They also don’t operate in areas where tourist visit and you might want to know the fact that cartels are happy when tourists are here (it means more income for the country) so they won’t do anything to harm Mexico’s tourism.
Is solo travel in Mexico safe?
I’ve hitchhiked alone all over Nayarit and Jalisco. I was on a 10-day road trip in the state of Oaxaca driving with some white friends covering Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca City, and San Jose del Pacifico. I did a solo road trip in San Luis Potosi (which was a crazy drive but I’ll tell you later!). I have also been living alone in Mexico and have not felt harmed. In fact, most of my Mexican neighbors take care of me very well!
Safety is subjective and it all depends on your guts and confidence to travel solo in Mexico. I always believed that if you portray the aura of being scared, you will always attract bad things. I do not know about you but I believe in the trust in the Universe adage, which has been one of the reasons why I have survived traveling the world solo.
I’ve never been cat-called in Mexico. Can you believe that? I do feel that they react towards me this way because I am a person of color. I noticed how the Mexicans (and most Latin countries) react differently when it comes to white people. But don’t worry about it, they will not harm you. Honestly, they just pay more attention to white people because they think they can get more money from them. And I don’t mean this in a manner of stealing, but actually changing the price of their products, for example, in a flea market or souvenir shop. The best tip I give to my white friends is to learn basic Spanish since most locals here will look at you differently if you speak their language. They will also see how you belong if you try to converse with them.
There is a law in Mexico that all products displayed in stores, markets, etc should have a price tag with them but if you have been to Mexico, you will see that most shops and markets do not follow this rule. It’s because they have more chances of changing the prices depending on who is asking. I swear, I’ve been to lots of Mexican cities and none of them include price tags in their products.
Mexico’s COVID rules are very lax and I feel like it is very important to mention this in the safety section. After all, in today’s culture of fear, the pandemic is always included in our travels no matter what. Since you and I cannot do anything about these confusing COVID rules, the best thing to do is to participate and be a responsible citizen by taking extreme COVID precautions. I noticed how tourists always change their behaviors when they see that the people here are not wearing masks. I, myself, since I work with different people here who are mostly locals, am just practicing wearing of masks all the time.
Why Mexico is a great country for solo travel
I could write a hundred reasons on why Mexico is a great country for solo travelers, especially for first-time travelers but I already have that in another post. Just make sure to take a look at my Mexico archives! I do not expect you to see Mexico the way I do but here are my best reasons on why to travel Mexico solo:
Mexican people are amazing!!!
As a person of color, I have seen how I am more discriminated against by white people here (expats living in Mexico) than the Mexicans themselves. The bulk of my friendships here are locals and this is one of the reasons why I always encourage you to be serious about being fluent in Spanish. Most of the houses I rented in Mexico are owned by locals. I’ve lived with them for a long time and they always considered me as part of their family. I go to their cousins’ weddings, grandparents’ anniversaries, nieces’ birthdays – name it, I’ve been to all of them!
Mexican people are warm and generous. I never went to a home without them feeding me and I’ve seen that cultural difference. When I go to dinners with ex-pats in my community, it’s always a potluck. You need to bring something because that is just the custom. When a Mexican invites you to a party in their home and you ask them what to bring, they will look at me all puzzled and say, “whatever you like but please come!” Your attendance is always more important for them than what you bring. Mexicans love to party and when they do, they cook a lot of food and drink a lot of alcohol. I’ve been to one Mexican party that went on for 16 hours!
Mexico is cheap
The cost of living in Mexico is really cheap. You can have a taco on the street for less than $1 USD. Beers, their national drink (LOL) is at $2 USD. Micheladas and margaritas are priced at $5 USD. You can comfortably live in Mexico for $600 USD per month, depending on the area and the lifestyle, of course. Some areas in Mexico are cheaper than the others but I only find this applicable in many touristic towns (for example, Sayulita, where I used to live). If you are a budget traveler, this is really the best destination for you!
Spanish is a sexy language. But lots of Mexicans speak English, too!
The main worry of solo travelers coming to me for advice is language. They always think that it will be hard to travel to Mexico if you don’t speak the language. At the beginning of my years traveling in Mexico, I concluded that Mexicans don’t speak a lot of English but that observation is from consistently hanging out with locals. I’ve had a full year in Mexico without speaking English because I did not have any non-Latino friends. With that, I thought that not all Mexicans speak English but I was surprised how some of my friends can speak English fluently. We just never talked in English so I never knew.
There are still many areas in Mexico where people don’t speak English like some Mexican beach towns that are not popular with tourists. I’ve been speaking Spanish fluently for 8 years now and I find it very handy, especially if you are traveling all over Latin America. Plus, speaking Spanish gives you confidence and a sense of belonging. It’s one of the reasons why I always felt safe in Mexico. Try learning Spanish and you will see how your fears in traveling Mexico by yourself will go away.
Best solo travel destinations in Mexico
Once you get a hold of traveling in one city in Mexico (for example, Mexico City which is a starting point for many), you will see how easy it is to navigate this country on your own. These places to visit in Mexico that I recommend do not have anything to do with safety. I am only sharing the destinations I have experiences with. Most of these have individual guides about solo travel safety so make sure to check them out!
Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco
This is currently where I reside so it’s on top of my list. My friends who visit PV always have the same comment: “there are a lot of gringos here.” In Spanish-speaking countries, gringo is a term used for Americans but sometimes it can be used for all types of foreigners who are not Hispanic or Latino. Even I myself am called “gringa” sometimes even if I am not white. Some use it as a general term for foreigners.
There is a big community of ex-pats here and I realized how some people use this as a basis for safety. It makes people more comfortable. For the more adventurous ones who want to avoid their fellow Americans at all costs, this can be a bad thing because they don’t like traveling all the way to Mexico just to hang out with their fellow gringos.
Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca
Personally, I felt very safe when I was traveling in Puerto Escondido alone. It was during COVID time so I think the level of friendliness of people has toned down a little but the owner of the hostel I stayed in is super nice! There was even one night that he invited me over to hang out with his friends who were visiting from Mexico City.
But of course, let’s look at the facts: things that are not tangible when you are traveling in Puerto Escondido solo. According to research, the level of crime in Puerto Escondido is at 59.33 and is labeled moderate. In the last 3 years, the crime rate in Puerto Escondido has increased to 84.38% which, we could say is very high.
I hope you won’t come to Guadalajara and spend your vacation worrying about safety. There is really nothing to worry about! Guadalajara is a fun city, especially for young travelers so do your best to enjoy it. The nightlife is very vibrant and there are always interesting people everywhere!
I particularly love the cafe culture of Guadalajara and the decent Internet speed. Most of my days there, I go to cafes and sit there all day! These cafes are made for digital nomads so the office setting is very comfortable. I even challenged myself to go to different cafes every day because there are lots of them!
Sayulita is a very family-oriented town so you can see a lot of families on the beach and a huge amount of kids running around town every weekend. It has been a destination for family travelers, including Mexican families. Sayulita is only a 4-hour drive from the city of Guadalajara so it serves as the closest vacation spot to Mexicans.
Police are patrolling around town every night to keep the Sayulita environment safe. There aren’t a lot of crimes in town so they are more focused on enforcing laws regarding drug possession. It is very likely that you will see (and smell) people smoking weed on the streets. People here don’t mind but the police do. Avoid smoking pot in public places and be discreet if you want to use drugs. You’re a big girl – you know how the rules are.
The best experiences in Mexico
Mexico is a big country and I am really thankful that you are following my journey here. I still have not covered all the Mexican states but as I go, I will continue updating posts in this blog and creating new content for you. Here are the best experiences all over Mexico but take note that most travelers opt to go to the South (it is undoubtedly beautiful) but there are many other places in Mexico that you can check out!
When you see the word ‘Riviera Maya,’ it pertains to the umbrella brand of Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Tulum, etc. Mexico has the most number of cenotes in the world and I honestly don’t know anyone who’s visited all the cenotes in this country. Cenote means “sinkhole” and these are the pictures that you always see on Instagram whenever Mexico comes up your feed. Most cenotes are in the south. Where I live in Riviera Nayarit, we don’t have this so it’s always a joy for me to go south and see Mexico in a different way!
Holbox Island is one of the best islands in Mexico! Although it’s not best for digital nomads (the Internet there really sucks), it is home to spectacular landscapes and wildlife. If you are a beach person, you will definitely love the lifestyle in Holbox!
I can’t fit all the best things to do in Mexico here but know that I always have individual travel guides for destinations in Mexico. Just go to my Mexico archive and see the area you are interested in!
Mexico solo travel packing list
As a long-term traveler, I always make sure that I have the most important things in my travel backpack. I have been recently addicted to Amazon (and Mercado Libre Mexico) but let’s just stick to Amazon since Mercado Libre is in Spanish. You may have a hard time reading information about the products you need to travel solo in Mexico.
I had the privilege to be a Stanley Ambassador in 2019 and really loved their products. Even if I don’t work with them anymore, I always buy water bottles from them because they are sturdy and it maintains the temperature of anything you put, including noodles our soup! They are also very cheap so when you buy one, let me know about your experience!
As a full-time travel blogger, I always work with different types of cameras but I always make sure that I have a disposable camera wherever I go! They are super small and can even fit your pocket (like an iPhone). Most photos in this post are from my film camera. Lots of people ask me where to buy it but I just always order it online. This is the best way to remember your life. I always develop the film rolls after one year and they’re such a joy to look at! I use Fuji most of the time but I found a cheaper deal with Kodak!
I always encourage solo travelers (especially if you are young) to use backpacks when traveling. I backpacked for 7 years of my life without stopping and bought the best backpack that lasted for years. Some areas in Mexico are not very accessible by luggage and you will end up carrying them anyway so the best thing to go farther and faster is to travel with a backpack. I used my Osprey for 10 years before I got rid of it.
Mexico is a yoga haven and this is where I actually re-evaluated my health priorities. I am not a fan of exercise – it really bores me but when I found joy in doing yoga plus the health benefits to travelers, I always make sure I travel with a yoga mat that is light and easy to pack!
Mexico solo travel tips
Finally, I would love to share to you my Mexico solo travel tips. Most of these, you may find really odd but I will definitely make sure that I explain it to you as understandable as possible. You can always visit my full post about solo travel tips in Mexico to see the full list!
Who is your source?
I understand that when it comes to Mexico solo travel, you will come across a lot of bad comments from friends and families. Most of them have not been to Mexico and yet there’s a voice inside your head that wants to listen to them. This happened to me a lot when I first started traveling the world but then I kept in mind that I should only listen to people who are reliable and credible sources in the particular country I am visiting. I always use Couchsurfing to get in touch with locals and see the safety situation. I have been an OG in Couchsurfing as I’ve been using it for years. Everyone wants to help and will answer your questions quickly!
I am also biased with travel blogs, especially those that are telling stories. Travel blogs are by travelers who are real people. I don’t encourage you to read big publications as they are always about SEO or getting to Google’s first page. Travel bloggers are honest and will always give you honest insights!
Get in touch with the consulate/embassy of your country
I started doing this when I first came to Africa as a 21-year old. 12 years later, the habit stuck and even if I am already confident with traveling solo, I still connect with all the Embassies of the Philippines in a particular country I am visiting. I really find this comforting! I usually just report to them that I am in the country and share my brief itinerary with them. I also send them the hostels I stay in so that, in case something happens to me, they will know how to start looking for me.