Mexico Solo Travel: How To Be Safe & Crush It

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

Is Mexico safe for travel?

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

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

No(t any more dangerous than most travel destinations).

See what I did there?! 👀

In all seriousness, this answer to “Is Mexico safe?” is quite complex; but from my experience as a solo female traveler in Mexico — It has not been dangerous for me.

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In all seriousness, this answer to “Is Mexico safe?” is quite complex; but from my experience as a solo female traveler in Mexico — It has not been dangerous for me.

Now, I know what you’re thinking:

But…… Isn’t Mexico statistically dangerous?

Well, that depends on the statistic, how it is presented & who’s interpreting it — that’s simply the nature of statistics! They can actually prove or disprove anything, if you think about it.

Now, I’m not telepathic or anything, but I still know what you’re thinking:

So wait tho… Aren’t some parts of Mexico dangerous?

Ok, you got me there.

Yes, some parts are dangerous, and some parts are really dangerous — just like in every other country on Earth.

I suppose Mexico has been safe, for me, because I avoid those notoriously unsafe places… and so should you!

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Is Mexico solo travel safe?

Since it’s probably now quite obvious that “Is Mexico solo travel safe?” can’t possibly have an officially official answer, I’ll say that from my experience throughout my years of solo travel in Mexico…

I haven’t been in any situation where I felt unsafe.

Have I just been lucky?

Maybe

But I’d also like to think I’ve been a smart and aware traveler who didn’t take too many unnecessary risks (while still having fun, of course!)

Here are the top 5 ways I believed I stayed safe during years of Mexico solo travel… and how you can too!

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CHECK OUT EPISODE #03 | My take on solo female travel safety in Mexico

Avoid risky situations

As this concept relates to solo travel safety, risk mitigation means lessening (AKA mitigating) the amount of unnecessary risks you take.

Let’s be honest though:

Travel is a risk. Driving a car is a risk. Leaving the house is a risk. Everything is a risk!

So how do we figure out which ones are necessary, and which aren’t?

yellow shoes standing with happy and sad faces drawn on the ground - Mexico Solo Travel
Mexico Solo Travel Safety: Mitigate risky by listening to your intuition.
One word: Intuition.

Your inner voice (your higher self, your better judgement) knows what risks you absolutely need to take and which ones are you don’t.

(Truthfully, so does your conscious mind, but we often chose not to listen to our own better judgement. I digress!)

For example, when do most crimes occur? At night. So I allowed my better judgement to guide me… and here’s what she said:

“Hey girl, hey. Never walk home alone at night. That risk isn’t worth taking! If something bad happens, you’re going to wonder forever why you didn’t just Uber home.”

Take an Uber home

Taking an Uber home literally Every. Single. Night. was a commitment I made to my own safety.

To be clear:

“Every. Single. Night.” included nights when I felt like I was being overly-cautious or uncool by Uber’ing. It also meant nights when the weather was nice and I actually felt like walking; nights when my apartment was pretty close by; nights when whatever.

As a solo female traveler, not walking home alone at night was the closest I could get to a guarantee that nothing bad would happen to me at night. This is one example of how I mitigated risk while traveling.

Side note: The amazing news for international travelers in Mexico is that Ubers are really inexpensive, as well as more convenient, faster, and generally safer, than public transportation.

Woman standing in the street holding her phone waiting for an Uber - Mexico Solo Travel
Mexico Solo Travel Safety: Take an Uber home, and opt for Uber over public transportation. They get you there faster, and are known to be safer!

Travel Insurance

Want extra solo travel peace of mind? Then don’t take any chances with your health and belongings while overseas.

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Policies cover a range of circumstances, including medical and dental care, luggage loss, emergency evacuation from your destination & 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!

General solo 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” (or, Phone, Keys, Wallet) whenever you’re leaving one place to go to the next… I borrowed PKW from an episode of Broad City! I miss that show.

Talk to the locals

“Asking around” includes other travelers, friendly locals you’re chatting with in the park, store, museum or cafe, your Airbnb host, hotel or hostel staff, servers and bartenders, etc.

When a few people told me a certain place was unsafe, or I should avoid somewhere altogether, I’d avoid it. No questions asked.

Again, because a few people say a place is dangerous, that doesn’t make it so! However, I took it as a sign from the Universe that several people happened to mention this one particular place.

Is that logical?

Admittedly: Nope!

But then again, there’s no logical answer to the entire topic of this blog… (Side Note: Why do we place so much importance in logic over intuition!? I digress again 🤣🤣)

Asking locals isn’t an exact science. However, locals for sure knew better than the internet, and they certainly knew better than I did because I had zero knowledge!

group of friends at a restaurant table laughing and hanging out - Mexico Solo Travel
Mexico Solo Travel Safety: Ask the locals, they often know best!

Mexicans are super friendly

In my experience, Mexican people are welcoming and warm. In fact, quantifiable studies of happiness say they are among the happiest people on the planet!

I have found, after years of solo travel, Mexicans love sharing their culture, country and especially, their food.

The expression Mi Casa, Su Casa (My House is Your House) is a way of life in Mexico, more so than a phrase sewn on a throw pillow.

While the casa in the expression does literally mean a house, this hospitality also applies to the country itself.

Now, please don’t take that to mean drop your guard and go solicit advice from any breathing person.

There are great people in Mexico and not-so-great people. Again, your intuition will help you select a good info source.

Take a group tour

Solo travel doesn’t have to mean being alone the whole time!

If there’s somewhere you want to go that doesn’t have the best reputation for a solo female traveler, take a group tour.

In fact, nearly all day trips I took to pueblos (small towns) and sites outside of the big cities, were with groups. While yes, they are pricier than DIY traveling… they also have worthwhile benefits! 

Some of the benefits include:

Group tours are great for meeting other travelers and they save you the time and hassle of planning and coordinating, in addition to being safer!

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Do an Airbnb Experience

I have really grown to love Airbnb Experiences — but I’ve also found not many people know about them.

They are tours, or experiences, led by locals who are experts in whatever they’re giving the tour/experience about. Examples I’ve seen of experiences include everything from a Xochimilco boat cruise/party in Mexico City, to an underwater photoshoot in a Tulum cenote.

Airbnb Experiences are also one of the easiest ways I’ve met people while traveling! I personally love, and do, them frequently.

group bike tour with six people - Mexico Solo Travel
Mexico Solo Travel Safety: Group tours are a great, safe way to meet other travelers.

Airbnb Experiences are also great because:

  1. You’re directly supporting a local and the local economy.
  2. They are usually smaller groups, which means a more personalized experience.
  3. You can instantly book them online, so you won’t have to spend your precious travel time finding a tour company.
  4. Like with an Airbnb stay, the guide gets rated at the end, motivating them to do a great job.

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Don’t join a cartel

This flowchart below has made the rounds on social media and in Mexico travel forums — and it is hilarious! And also true.

In all seriousness, the vast majority of the Mexico crimes you see on mainstream American news are linked to the cartels.

The cartels are a huge problem & there’s no way to spin that aspect of Mexico in a positive direction, so I won’t even try.

flowchart explaining you're safe in mexico as long as you don't join a cartel

Also: Don’t buy drugs

Staying away from the cartels doesn’t just mean not hanging out with someone from a cartel. It also means this:

NOT buying drugs from them.

This goes back to risk mitigation & the question of Is this a necessary risk? Think of it like this: Two of the worst case scenarios of buying drugs off a random cartel dealer means jail time or a hospital stay.

For me, I wanted nothing to do with either of those places, so I avoided any & all things related to the cartels — and stayed safe.

Drugs in Quintana Roo State

Out of all the states I’ve visited, the one with (by far) the most overt cartel activity was Quintana Roo — where Cancun, Tulum, Playa del Carmen and Riviera Maya are located.

These are some of the country’s biggest party towns, so expect that you’ll get approached to buy drugs.

A simple “No, gracias” and I was left alone though, so dealing with them wasn’t too big of a deal.

Learn some Spanish

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.

Locals especially appreciate when you make an effort to know the everyday basics and casual niceties.

In short:

Knowing a little Spanish goes a long way!

Spanish words on signs in Mexico
Mexico Solo Travel Safety: A little Spanish, goes a long way for solo travel safety.

Quite honestly, many Mexicans speak (at least) some English. This is especially true of workers in the service industry, and also of people who live in bigger cities.

However, it is definitely seen as a sign of respect when you know some Spanish.

By some, we’re talking about 30 or so words/phrases, which you can learn over a few weeks on the free Duolingo app, or even the Duolingo Podcast.

Your FREE basic Spanish list

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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Have any Mexico solo travel safety tips?

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


Enjoy these related blogs!

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👋 I’m Shelley, a former Miami travel magazine editor, who ditched the office for the world! I have been a solo female traveler in Mexico for 2+ years, and now, I want to pass my experience & expertise on to you!

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44 Comments

  1. Taylor

    I traveled to Tulum by myself last year even though my loved ones were admittedly very worried, I felt extremely safe the entire time! Your tips are spot on. I hope to see more of Mexico in the future. 🙂

    Reply
    • Shelley

      Tulum was a good choice, as far as safety goes. I’ve never heard of anyone feeling unsafe there, so I’m glad that applied to you also!

      Reply
  2. Heather

    I lived in Puerto Vallarta for a little over 2 years with my husband who was a long time local. I always felt safe until something happened towards the end, and it wasn’t anything that I did wrong it was just an unfortunate situation that was happening in my neighborhood. Before that I think I was a little unaware of what could happen and now that I think about it I did put myself in some risky situations. But, like you said some places are a little dangerous, some are worse, and some are probably fine. My best advice is to always be aware and don’t put yourself in situations that you wouldn’t do at home of course, and like you said, obviously don’t get involved with drugs, etc. Thanks for sharing this!

    Reply
    • Shelley

      First off, I am very sorry anything bad happened to you. I think you said something so wise…. “My best advice is to always be aware and don’t put yourself in situations that you wouldn’t do at home.” I know people want to just release all their cares & unwind completely & shut their mind off while on vacation, but I think that’s how many bad situations seem to occur. You have to stay as aware as when you’re back home!

      Reply
  3. kesi

    Wow. What a comprehensive post! I agree with your introduction. Avoid unsafe parts!

    Reply
    • Shelley

      Yeah, it seems so simple… right?! Just avoid the bad parts & bad stuff likely won’t happen!!

      Reply
  4. Alex

    This is really useful, Thankyou! I’ve always wanted to go to Mexico…hopefully it won’t be too long before we’re allowed again!

    Reply
    • Shelley

      Yes, we’re all crossing our fingers about the “soon” part 🤞🤞

      Reply
  5. Erin

    I LOVE Mexico but have so much left to see having only been to DF still. Such great tips here, it can be scary to travel alone but it’s so worth it.

    Reply
    • Shelley

      DF is a great start…. it’s actually my favorite city in the whole world. The rest of the country almost feels like a different country when you compare it to DF. I hope you get to explore more of MX soon!

      Reply
  6. Maya

    I love all of your tips and suggestions (and the funny flowchart). I was there about 15 years ago and I still miss it. I was traveling with a couple of people I met on the plane and then by myself for a while. It was such a great adventure!

    Reply
    • Shelley

      Sounds like it was a great adventure! I wish I could have experienced the Mexico of 15 years ago… I bet it was so wild & free.

      Reply
  7. Sarah Camp

    These are great suggestions! We’ve been travelling to Mexico regularly since 2008 and I LOVE the people – everyone is so friendly (on and off resort). My goal for our next trip is to stay at an Airbnb and really immerse ourselves. I’ve taken public transport with my husband before but have never felt unsafe in all of our time there. I think that’s a big misconception about Mexico for a lot of people – and your cartel chart made me giggle! I can’t wait to go back 🙂

    Reply
    • Shelley

      “but have never felt unsafe in all of our time there.” So happy when I read stuff like this!

      Reply
  8. Kariss Ainsworth

    I’d love to explore more of Mexico

    Reply
    • Shelley

      I hope you do! It is an amazing & diverse country, with something for everyone.

      Reply
  9. Demi

    Definitely agree about learning Spanish, just a little goes such a long way and locals really appreciate the effort! Absolutely loved Mexico and never felt unsafe!

    Reply
    • Shelley

      LOVE THIS “Absolutely loved Mexico and never felt unsafe!”

      Reply
  10. Michelle

    You are so right, Mexico is not any more dangerous than any other country. Your tips are so spot on. Avoid the places that are known for undesirable behavior and always be smart in your decision making. We love Mexico and visit several times a year. The people are so nice and the country is so beautiful and full of history! This is a great post!

    Reply
    • Shelley

      “The people are so nice and the country is so beautiful and full of history!” I couldn’t agree more!!

      Reply
  11. Paula Martinelli

    I love this, so many great tips! I visited Mexico twice and I felt safe. I think everywhere in the world if you are respectful to the local culture and learn the do and dont’s before you visit, chances are great that you will be safe. Just don’t join a cartel..LOL…love it!

    Reply
    • Shelley

      Just don’t join a cartel!! 😅😂🤣 I didn’t make the infographic, but it is hilarious.

      Reply
  12. iemexploring

    LOOOVEEE this post! so much great info here! Im glad that you picked up about safety as this has always been my concern with traveling to Mexico! I don’t feel enough people talk about this point! fantastic. Saving for later

    Reply
    • Shelley

      I sincerely how you consider Mexico… I have never felt unsafe here in any of the 14 states I’ve visited. Mexicans are incredibly warm & friendly.

      Reply
  13. Emma

    Such great tips. Safety is always my number one concern no matter where I travel but if you’re smart and do what you can like taking an uber instead of walking then you’re right, Mexico is no more dangerous than anywhere else

    Reply
    • Shelley

      This is so true: “Mexico is no more dangerous than anywhere else” 🇲🇽

      Reply
  14. Anuradha Srinath

    This is certainly one of the useful posts I have seen so far! I haven’t been to Mexico, but I am.sure your post will be useful when I go there. Pinning it for my future travel.

    Reply
    • Shelley

      I am so glad this blog was useful for you! Please do visit Mexico, it’s one of the best & most misrepresented places on Earth.

      Reply
  15. Bisola

    This is SOOO detailed!!! I’d never considered going to Mexico alone but now I just might! Thank you for sharing!

    Reply
    • Shelley

      SOOO glad to see you changed your mind about Mexico as a solo trip. I feel super safe here as a solo female traveler.

      Reply
  16. Alexandra B

    OMG all of these tips are perfect! I wish I would have known all of this prior to visiting in 2018. I agree with the Airbnb experience (I did both a resort and an Airbnb so I got to experience both!) Also, I think it’s a no brainer that. you shouldn’t put your phone in your backpocket, but some people still don’t know that! haha

    Reply
    • Shelley

      I’m so glad the tips resonated with you! I’ve only done a handful of AirBnB experiences, but they have all been super cool.

      Reply
  17. Diedre in Wanderland

    You’re so right that intuition plays a big role in keeping safe when travelling. Using Uber at night is a good idea. I’ll definitely use these tips for my trip to Mexico.

    Reply
    • Shelley

      🙌Glad the tips were helpful for you!

      Reply
  18. Ann

    Thank you for sharing such detailed tips on solo travel in Mexico! I have been to Mexico a number of times, but never alone! This has definitely inspired me to consider a solo trip there one day 🙂

    Reply
    • Shelley

      I’m so happy to inspire that 🧡

      Reply
  19. Sharyn

    Great tips that I wish I had known before I went to Mexico. I liked the photos also.

    Reply
    • Shelley

      Well, now you have a reason to return!

      Reply
  20. Paloma Fts

    I can’t wait to visit Mexico! It’s so high on my list but I also had some security concerns. This article is definitely so helpful!

    Reply
    • Shelley

      You should, of course, have security concerns about Mexico… but they should be the same ones you have when traveling anywhere else in the world!

      Reply
  21. Emma Walmsley

    Great post! Mexico is #1 on my travel list for when we can travel internationally again.

    Reply
    • Shelley

      You’re going to LOVE Mexico!

      Reply
  22. Elizabeth

    I was traveling solo in Mexico when the pandemic hit. I can’t wait to go back and explore more. I really liked reading your tips and I agree that everything is a risk, you just need to be smart! Asking the locals is always good too. In the US the people who have never left the country always have the most “advice” to give on the safety of various places around the world….drives me crazy!!

    Reply
    • Shelley

      It does seem the people who have the least knowledge, also have the most opinion 😂😂😂

      Reply

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