5 Reasons Mexico is the Best First Time Solo Travel Destination


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RESEARCHING FIRST TIME SOLO TRAVEL DESTINATIONS?

As a longtime solo female traveler in Mexico, I’m here to tell you 5 reasons why Mexico is among the best first time solo travel destinations! If this is your first international trip, Mexico is the best country for your!

👋 Hi, I’m Shelley & I have been solo travelin’ my way through Mexico since April 2018!

I’ve been to half the states in this country, and I know first-hand how amazing Mexico really is — from the food, to the Colonial cities to the off the beaten path destinations.

Now, I’m no psychic — though I do know what you’re thinking right now! It’s something along these lines: But “everyone” says Mexico isn’t safe.

You’re certainly right about that! “Everyone” (in quotes) does seem to believe Mexico isn’t safe… and don’t worry, I’ll address your (and their!) general Mexico safety concerns before the end of this blog.

For now, let’s switch gears to learn the 5 reasons why Mexico is among the best first time solo travel destinations.

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

Mexico Is A Short Flight Away

Mexico is One of the Best First Time Solo Travel Destinations!

Now, I know those picturesque places on Instagram, like the Maldives, are gorgeous eye candy. However, do you have any idea how far away the Maldives Islands are?!

I’m going to tell you!

Depending on where you’re coming from in the U.S. you’re looking at 20-30 hours of air time — that’s air time — meaning that does not include how much time you’re sitting bored in an airport during your layovers!

Also, you will have at least one layover… and you’ll likely have layovers (plural). Basically, depending on where you’re traveling from, plan on taking 2-4 flights to get to the Maldives.

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CHECK OUT EPISODE #11 | 5 reasons Mexico is perfect for U.S. travelers

If it seems I’m picking on the Maldives, plan for a similar travel itinerary to other popular destinations like Bali, Thailand, Dubai, Morocco, Cappadocia, Croatia, etc.

🧜‍♀️💦 Side note: There is a gorgeous destination in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula called Bacalar.

It is home to one of the largest freshwater lagoons on Earth, with incredibly crystal clear blue waters that have earned Bacalar its nickname, the Maldives of Mexico!

Follow along on my solo travel + Mexico travel adventures!

You Don’t Need A Visa

Mexico is One of the Best First Time Solo Travel Destinations!

Not only is Mexico close to the U.S., but you can just jump on a plane & go with almost no plan. 

How’s this travel magic possible?

Easy: You don’t need to get any type of visa or clearance before getting to the country.

That’s right, when you go through Customs/Immigration at the airport, cruise port, or land border in Mexico, you’ll receive your FMM 180-Day Tourist Visa. There is no charge for your FMM.

This visa is a piece of paper that has your arrival date stamped on it. Make sure you hold on to it throughout your stay in Mexico, because you’re required to give it back as you’re leaving the country.

Map and passport with stamps

COUNTRIES YOU WILL NEED A VISA TO VISIT

Now, the American passport comes with a hefty amount of privilege, and there are many countries you won’t need one for.

However, there are many popular destinations you’ll need one for. These include Australia, China, Cuba, Egypt, India, Jordan (Petra), Maldives, New Zealand, Russia, Turkey (Cappadocia), Vietnam and more.

There are other countries, including Indonesia (Bali) and Thailand, that do require a visa if you’re staying past 30 days.

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Venturing off the Beaten Path: 10 Hidden Gems of Mexico Travel

You “Make” Money with the Exchange Rate

Mexico is One of the Best First Time Solo Travel Destinations!

Dollars to Pesos Exchange Rate

Of course, “making money” via exchange is kind of a joke. However, the exchange rate is very much in your favor when you have dollars.

This number will fluctuate, but at the time I’m writing this, the exchange is $1 to $22.44 pesos. As a general rule, you can plan for a 20:1 exchange.

Meaning this: For every $1 you exchange, you receive about $20 pesos.

To give some perspective, the current exchange rate to European currency is $1 to €0.89 (euros/most of Europe) & $1 to £0.79 (pounds/UK/London).

Woman happy sitting on a recliner chair having a drink and throwing money

WHAT DO ALL THESE NUMBERS MEAN?

Basically you lose 10%-20% of your money simply by making the exchange when you visit Europe. In Mexico, you essentially “make” money by just exchanging dollars for pesos.

Accommodations also tend to be less expensive than Europe as well.

Throughout my 2+ years of solo travel in Mexico, I never had to stay in a hostel once.

Now, I’m not knocking hostels… they are just not my travel style. Also, as someone who did most of that traveling between ages 36-38, I was basically ancient in hostel years!

Book your solo Mexico trip Airbnb now!

Mexico has Many “Plan B” Travel Options

Mexico is One of the Best First Time Solo Travel Destinations

MEXICO IS A HUGE COUNTRY — IT’S REALLY SEVERAL COUNTRIES IN ONE!

Real Talk: I love solo travel. In my heart of hearts, I believe all women should do it at least once.

However, I also believe the place you select for your first solo trip might end up being the wrong place for you.

For a first time solo trip, I really recommend having a Plan B in the event that you’re not feelin’ the location you selected. I further recommend you have some idea about your Plan B before arriving in Mexico. 

What if I don’t like the place I traveled to?

TRAVEL PLAN B / EXIT STRATEGIES

Mexico, being a giant country, gives a lot of opportunity for convenient Plan B exit strategies!

You know how the East Coast and West Coast of the U.S. could almost be different countries entirely?

Or how visiting New Orleans and visiting Wyoming are two very different American travel experiences — Mexico is just like that.

Woman looking out at a mountain while in a hot spring in Mexico
It me! In the pools of Las Grutas de Tolantongo, just outside of Mexico City.

I’ve only been to half the states in Mexico, and I feel like I’ve traveled to at least three very distinct countries!

Meaning this:

You can leave one part of Mexico for another, and feel like you’ve changed countries. If you’re planning a trip for backpacking Mexico, that makes inter-country travel even easier!

For example, if you picked Mexico City as your first time solo travel destination, and it was the wrong choice for you, know that you have a ton of inexpensive flight and bus travel options!

small plane
Traveling from Oaxaca City to Puerto Escondido on this small plane.

Mexico is One of the Best First Time Solo Travel Destinations!

How to travel by bus or plane within Mexico

A Mexico Plan B exit strategy is convenient because you’re staying in Mexico and retaining all of the previously-mentioned perks. These include the amazing monetary exchange rate and not needing to get or pay for another country’s visa.

In addition to renting a car, Mexico’s inter-country flight travel is very inexpensive, and inter-country bus travel, even less so.

If you’re in a big city, like Mexico City, you can often book a $50-75 flight to one of Mexico’s 100 or so other airports, or $25-50 bus ride to almost any other part of the country.

Some of Mexico’s low-cost national carriers include Interjet, AeroMexico, Volaris and VivaAerobus. For busses, the country’s largest companies with luxury/first class seating options are ADO, Primera Plus and ETN.

Your Phone (Likely) Works in Mexico

Mexico is One of the Best First Time Solo Travel Destinations!

Most of the U.S.’s large cell phone companies include free Mexico & Canada service with many service plans. Since these are the two most-visited countries for Americans, this makes sense.

Of course, this does depend on your cell company and your plan, so double check with them. However, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon do usually offer complimentary Mexico service on their contract service plans.

Uninterrupted phone service in Mexico also means having your data plan, so you can check Google Maps off-WiFi and call an Uber from anywhere.

It also means, connecting via phone and text with everyone back home, using the info you already have stored in your phone.

Woman on her phone

IF NOT, DON’T WORRY; YOU DO HAVE OTHER OPTIONS!

First, you can request your carrier turn international service on. Just give them a call, make sure the rates are reasonable, and they will activate it for your travel dates immediately. This is the most convenient option, but will usually cost more than a SIM card.

Which brings us to your second option: buying a SIM card in Mexico.

You will need to have an unlocked phone to use this SIM card. Nowadays, most phones come unlocked. If yours isn’t, just call your phone company & in most cases, it will be as simple as them clicking a button to unlock it.

Mexico is One of the Best First Time Solo Travel Destinations!

How do I purchase a SIM Card in Mexico?

Nearly all airports have kiosks and electronics shops near flight arrival gates where you can purchase a SIM card. Mexico’s equivalent of 7-Eleven, called OXXO, also sells SIM cards.

You’ll generally find an OXXO every few blocks throughout Mexico. Seriously, Mexico loves their OXXOs!

Once you buy your SIM card, you’ll have to swap it out with your current SIM for your phone to work in Mexico.

You will have a Mexican phone number with the new SIM, but as soon as you put your original one back, you’ll have your U.S. number again.

One final note: Make sure to keep your original SIM card in a secure place! They are tiny and get lost easily.

Is Mexico Safe for Solo Female Travelers?

“BUT…. IS MEXICO SAFE FOR TRAVEL?”

Even if you’ve never been to Mexico, I’m sure even you can agree the top question on everyone’s mind is some variation of:

“Is Mexico safe for solo female travel?”

This is by farrrr the # 1 question I’ve been asked since beginning my Mexico solo travel journey back in April 2018!

My short answer to “Is Mexico dangerous?” is this:

No(t any more dangerous than most other travel destinations) 👀 Do you see what I did there?!

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CHECK OUT EPISODE #4 | Janine’s take on solo female travel safety in Mexico

In all seriousness, this answer to “Is Mexico safe?” is actually unanswerable. What I can say, is that from my experience as a solo female traveler in Mexico for 2+ years, it has not been dangerous for me.

I believe Mexico has been safe for me because I took some general travel safety measures, which are outlined below.

I also opted for Uber over public transportation, avoided unnecessary risks (while still having fun!), always listened to my intuition, learned some Spanish and more.

Mexico is One of the Best First Time Solo Travel Destinations!

Learn some basic Spanish before your trip

I personally experienced a huge shift in my solo female traveler confidence when I started to learn Spanish.

It is commonly known among travelers that you get more respect and leeway from locals when you at least try to speak their language. They especially appreciate when you make an effort to know the everyday basics & casual niceties.

Basically: Knowing a little Spanish goes a long way!

By some, we’re talking about 30 or so words/phrases, which you can learn over a few weeks on the free Duolingo app. However, if learning Spanish just isn’t in the cards for you — #NoJudgement.

In fact, here’s a pretty infographic you can pin on Pinterest for later, and also save to your phone as an image, so you can access it even if you’re off-WiFi.

List of useful spanish words and phrases
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Woman eating ice cream alone at a cafe
It me! Eating a gelato solo on a solo trip to beautiful, colorful Guanajuato City, Mexico.

Mexico is One of the Best First Time Solo Travel Destinations!

Register with the S.T.E.P. Program

What is the STEP Program? You may be wondering…

STEP stands for Smart Traveler Enrollment Program and basically lets the U.S. government know where you’re going to be, and on which dates.

This free service lets U.S. citizens traveling abroad enroll their trip with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate in Mexico — and there are many!

After registering, the U.S. Embassy can contact you in the event of an emergency, including natural disasters, civil unrest, or even a family emergency. STEP can also put you in touch with your family and friends back home in an emergency.

📝 ENROLL YOUR TRIP WITH S.T.E.P. NOW: Click here to start the process!

General solo female travel safety tips

  1. Use a cross body bag instead of a shoulder bag, and keep it at your side or on your chest, instead of on your back.
  2. Don’t put your phone in your back pocket!
  3. Take your purse or book bag into the bathroom with you, rather than asking a café/bar neighbor to watch it. This is annoying, for sure, but it works to not get your stuff stolen.
  4. Don’t pull your phone out in a giant crowd and/or if the vibe feels sketchy. Remember, your intuition is always right!
  5. If the vibe feels sketchy, duck into a cafe, buy a water, and wait a bit until you feel better about your surroundings.
  6. Not wearing flashy clothes or jewelry (Side Note: Mexicans are relatively modest dressers).
  7. Keep some cash in your pocket so you don’t have to pull your whole wallet out every time you need to pay.
  8. Double check to make sure you have your “PKW” (Phone, Keys, Wallet) whenever you’re leaving one place to go to the next.

Mexico is One of the Best First Time Solo Travel Destinations!

Purchase Travel Insurance

If you want to put your mind at ease once and for all, I can’t recommend travel insurance enough! World Nomads is one of the most well reputed and used companies in the world for travel insurance.

Don’t take any chances with your health and belongings while overseas. Policies cover a range of circumstances, including medical and dental care, luggage loss, emergency evacuation from your destination and even certain adventure sport activities.

For more information on travel insurance, I have a whole page dedicated to this topic. If safety is on your mind, get your free quote now!


Have thoughts about Mexico as one of the best first time solo travel destinations?

Please let me know what they are in the comments down below.


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¡Hola Chicas!

👋 I’m Shelley, a former Miami travel magazine editor who ditched the office for the world! I started this blog & podcast to help women like you cross Solo travel & Mexico travel off your bucket list…

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