Safe Travel in Mexico: 20 Tips for Solo Female Travelers

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posted by Shelley | last updated February 27, 2021


Is safe travel in Mexico on your mind?

That’s great! Keeping your personal safety top of mind is one of the key ways to stay safe. As“Is it safe to travel to Mexico?” and “Is Mexico safe?” are the two most asked questions in the Mexico travel-sphere, let’s unpack this complex topic of solo travel safety in Mexico.

The answers to the questions above are tricky, because no place on Earth is 100% safe. Beyond that, safety is a feeling not a fact, meaning we may “feel” safe, but we’re never truly safe based on any quantifiable certainty. However from personal experience, I have always felt safe traveling in Mexico.

👋 Hi, I’m Shelley, and I have been living and traveling solo in Mexico since April 2018. I have been to half the states in Mexico — and never found myself in an unsafe situation. In an effort to have more voices in this conversation, I asked other female bloggers to write about their favorite safe destinations in Mexico, which you can check out in the article linked below.


Solo Travel in Mexico: 20 Destinations You Need To Visit (According to Solo Female Travelers Who Have Actually Been to Them!)


For me, safe travel in Mexico comes down to two main things: making your personal safety your top priority and trusting your intuition. If you follow the same travel safety measures you would anywhere on Earth, mixed with the 25 Tips in this article, you’re well on your way towards being safe in Mexico as a solo female traveler.

Ready to get to these 25 Mexico safe travel tips? Let’s get to it — Starting with the #1 most important thing for solo travel safety: trusting your intuition. But first, take a look at some Mexico travel safety statistics and hear from an expert, to help further put your mind at ease.

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Travel Safety in Mexico

is it safe to travel to mexico?

Statistics & Expert Opinions

When attempting to put your mind at ease regarding solo travel safety in Mexico, experts are great sources. One of the most helpful articles on the subject of safe travels to Mexico comes from Forbes. In it, they interview Carlos Barron, a 25-year FBI veteran, and this quote from him offers incredible perspective: 

“Millions of Americans go to Mexico on vacation every year, so if we play the numbers game, the number of incidents is very small… When I’m asked if Mexico is a safe place to go travel on vacation, my response is yes.” (source: Forbes)

The key here is when he says “the numbers game.” There’s no denying bad things occur in Mexico — and everywhere; however, they are isolated incidents. Though bad things happen every minute in the U.S., we tend to write them off isolated incidents, rather than labeling the entire country as unsafe.

In fact, check out this site that compares U.S. and Mexico crime statistics, and you might be shocked! It’s hard to believe, given the media’s demonization of Mexico, but in most categories, the U.S. has higher crime rates than Mexico — especially crimes committed with guns.

tourist violence is SENSATIONALIZED in the media

The simple fact is, tourist crimes in Mexico are over-reported by the U.S. media, because, unfortunately, violence sells.

There’s even a saying in the journalism world that “if it bleeds, it leads,” meaning people are more apt to pay attention — and pay money — to see news stories with elements of blood, violence and death.

According to an article from Statfor, the U.S. State Department reported that 35 million Americans visited Mexico in June 2017-June 2018, and 76 homicide deaths occurred. While undeniably tragic, statistically speaking, there’s a low probability for tourist violence.

Source: Statfor

To put things further into perspective, Chicago has a population of 2.7 million — about the same as the number of Americans that live in Mexico … Last year, however, 561 people died in homicides in the Windy City, more than seven times the number of Americans who were murdered in Mexico. (Source: Statfor)

is it safe to travel to mexico?

Top 5 Safe Places in Mexico

The question of Is travel in Mexico safe? is so difficult because there are safe places to travel to in Mexico, less safe places, and frankly, dangerous parts of Mexico. The country of Mexico is large, so although travelers will want to analyze it as a monolith for convenience, it’s just not.

For a guide, consult the U.S. State Department site, but know they evaluate state-by-state not city-by-city, which would make more sense for tourism. For example, Sinaloa is one of the least safe states in Mexico, though, the city of Mazatlan in Sinaloa, is one of the top beach destinations in Mexico.

For visitors, it’s easy to avoid the most unsafe places in Mexico; and in all honesty, you likely weren’t planning to travel to any of them anyway. Below is a list of five safe travel places in Mexico, including what’s widely considered the most safe city in Mexico, Merida.

Merida

Merida is known as the safest city in Mexico, the second safest city in North America, and considered as safe as Europe. It also happens to be where I’ve lived since July 2019, so I know firsthand it is somewhere I feel safe each day. In general, the Yucatan Peninsula is one of the most safe places to travel in Mexico. 

🏡 Related Blog: 12 Stunning Airbnbs in Merida Mexico You Need to Book Now

Tulum

Also located in the Yucatan — about four hours by rental car from Merida — those wondering Is Tulum Mexico safe? can rest assured this bohemian beach town is a safe Mexico travel destination.

In fact, Tulum ranks as the second safest place in Mexico by U.S. News and World Report. Their rating system uses six metrics, including how cheap it is to buy Mexico travel insurance for that destination, because a lower premium means less risk of crime.

Puerto Vallarta & Sayulita

These two neighboring towns, located on the Pacific Coast of Mexico, are very visitor-friendly and home to large communities of expats.

According to this article, Sayulita blogger Trisha, says this small town has virtually nonexistent levels of crime.

As one of the best beach towns in Mexico, those wondering How safe is Puerto Vallarta Mexico? can expect a peaceful vacation.

With a noticeable police presence in the main areas of Puerto Vallarta, petty criminals are kept at bay. As with most big Mexico tourism destinations, the biggest risk is petty theft, so be aware of your belongings.

Solo female traveler in Mexico standing beneath colorful flags (papel picado) commonly seen throughout Mexico in the small beach town of Sayulita, Nayarit, Mexico, a pueblo magico (magic town)
Check out Trisha’s solo travel story about colorful Sayulita, Mexico.

Oaxaca City

As mentioned in this USA Today article, Oaxaca is among the safest states in Mexico. Oaxaca City, the state’s capital, and where the large, annual Oaxaca Day of the Dead festival takes place, feels more like a small town than a city. The sleepy Oaxaca beach towns of Huatulco, Mazunte and Zipolite, are both beautiful and safe for visitors.

Mexico City

Though admittedly the least safe city on the the list, Mexico City illustrates the point that a place can both be “safe” and “unsafe” simultaneously.

While there are dangerous parts of Mexico City, like Tepito, there are also safe areas in Mexico City, like Roma, Condesa, Polanco and Centro Historico, and if you stick to these safe places to stay in Mexico City, you’ll enjoy this amazing city.

Check out the podcast from travel blogger Leigh, who says she felt safe in Mexico City on her two solo trips there.

As tourism is Mexico’s largest industry, anywhere marketed to visitors and tourists (ie. anywhere you’re probably considering traveling to) is quite protected by the Mexican federal police, as well as local state police. Some very popular tourism areas, like Centro Historico in Mexico City, even have a special unit called the Mexico Tourist Police.

Top 25 Safe Travel in Mexico Tips

is it safe to travel to mexico?

1. Risk Mitigation

This is a fancy phrase that basically means mitigating, or avoiding/lessening, risks. While not a phrase commonly associated with travel safety, it does apply here. As you’ll never get a definitively definitive answer to the Is Mexico safe for travel? question, try re-framing it to What do I need to do to keep myself safe in Mexico?

Let’s take this practical example of how to mitigate a risk: Since most crimes occur at night, you’d be mitigating your risk of being the victim of a crime by taking an Uber home versus walking home alone at night. This is the kind of logic that will serve you to experience safe travel to Mexico.

You can also mitigate risk before you even arrive to Mexico by doing some research — like making sure you’re staying booking a place in a good part of town, finding out how safe this is city is at night, etc. As Mexico is a pretty large country, there are good and pad parts, so mitigate risk by avoiding the bad parts.

“…at the end of the day, personal safety comes down to common sense,” says Barron. “Be smart about where you go. How are you going to get from the airport to your resort? … Have I filled out a form for the Department of State so they know that I am traveling? Always think of safety and security as something that’s part of your trip.” –Carlos Barren, 25-year FBI veteran, via Forbes

✍️ Register for the STEP Program: As mentioned in the quote above, the U.S. offers free travel safety services through the STEP Program to all U.S. citizens traveling abroad. STEP stands for Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, and you can read all about it and register here.

yellow shoes standing with happy and sad faces drawn on the ground
Risk mitigation means always making the “least risky” choice — like taking Uber home at night instead of walking home alone.
is it safe to travel to mexico?

2. Trust Your 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 — You just have to listen.

Think of how many times this has happened: You have a bad feeling about something ➡️ you do it anyway ➡️ that exact bad thing occurs. That voice that warned you — that is your intuition.

In his best-selling book, The Gift of Fear, author Gavin de Becker says we humans are the only animals who question that voice (our intuition). He calls intuition a gift, and says it’s our best defense in keeping ourselves safe.

While this took some practice, I now see my intuition as the judge and jury. If my intuition says NO to something, I listen. A no from my intuition is not a “seems like a bad idea, but maybe I should investigate further” — it’s a hard no, full stop — as in “No further questions, Your Honor.”

How does intuition relate to how to be safe in Mexico? Well, if you get a bad feeling about someone, somewhere, or something, get away from that person, place or things immediately. In the case of a person you’re getting a creepy or bad feeling about, get away asap; don’t worry about a politically correct and polite good bye, just get away.

Your intuition wants to keep safe and away from danger — that’s actually it’s one and only purpose. When in doubt, remember what Gavin de Becker says, that your inner voice is a gift, and you’re best served by listening to it.

is it safe to travel to mexico?

3. Opt for Uber Over Public Transport

While Uber isn’t available everywhere in Mexico (yet!), it is in about half the states in the country, and the majority of big travel destinations. If you’re wondering Is Uber safe in Mexico? Rest assured, it is, and its also quite inexpensive at about $5 for a 30-minute Uber ride.

Though undeniably Uber costs more up-front than using public transportation, just imaging having to deal with the financial cost of having to replace your phone, cash and credit cards in a foreign country! Besides this, you also save precious travel time using Uber in Mexico over public transport.

Though public transportation is generally safe overall, in nearly-all countries on Earth, the #1 place to get pickpocketed is on public transport, and Mexico is no different. If you are going to use public transport, and this applies especially to big cities, try to avoid it during rush hours.

Suggested Mexico travel safety items: 👜 Anti-Theft Travel Purse and 🎒 Anti-Theft Travel Backpack

Places with Uber in Mexico

Mexico City: Yes, there is Uber in Mexico City.

• Puerto Vallarta: Yes, there is Uber in Puerto Vallarta.

• Los Cabos: Yes — There is Uber everywhere in Baja California, Mexico, including Cabo San Lucas, La Paz and San Jose del Cabo and Todos Santos.

• Merida: Yes, there is Uber in Merida.

PLACES WITH NO UBER IN MEXICO

Uber is NOT available in these parts of Mexico, so make sure you always have pesos to pay for taxis.

Quintana Roo state: NoThere is no Uber in Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Riviera Maya, Bacalar, and no Uber in Tulum.

• Oaxaca: No — Uber is not legal in Oaxaca City, Puerto Escondido, and any of the other beaches of Oaxaca, including Huatulco, Zipilote and Mazunte.

Cross swimming in a cenote off your Mexico bucket list in Tulum, one of the safest places in the Yucatan.
is it safe to travel to mexico?

4. Avoid Flashy Clothes and Jewelry

General Mexico Dress Code

Mexicans are relatively modest and conservative dressers. In big cities and pueblos (small, rural towns), even when it’s hot outside, jeans and long sleeve shirts are the norm. If you’re headed to the beach, don’t be surprised to see both Mexican men and women swimming in a T-shirt and shorts.

If you want to blend in visiting cities in Mexico, you’ll want to skip shorts and opt for leggings instead. That’s not to say don’t wear shorts; only that if you do, you can draw unwanted attention to yourself as they are uncommon for Mexicans. However, this doesn’t apply to Mexican beach towns, where short are the norm.

🧳 Related Blog: The Ultimate Packing List for Mexico + FREE Printable Checklist

Designer Labels: Why You Shouldn’t Wear Them

This conservatism in dress also extends to something most U.S. visitors won’t even think about: Designer labels.

While a sweater with Gucci written across the front in huge letters might carry little weight in the U.S., in Mexico it could draw unwanted attention. Though in the U.S., you can find sales and bargains and buy a Gucci sweater for, let’s say $100; in Mexico that same sweater may cost $1,000 — double what the average Mexican may make in a month.

This same logic also applies to everything from purses and shoes, to sunglasses and high end electronic gadgets. To be on the safe side, leave everything flashy at home… and check out all these other great tips on What NOT to Take to Mexico.

is it safe to travel to mexico?

5. Take Group Tours

Popular misconception: Solo travel doesn’t have to mean being alone the whole time. Rather, it means you are the solo (only) traveler who decides how you spend your precious travel time 🙌 If you decide you want to be a solo traveler on a group tour, then so be it!

If there’s somewhere you want to go that doesn’t have the best reputation for a solo female traveler, take a group tour or Airbnb Experience. Theses are even better than traditional tours because you can research and book them from the comfort of your couch at home.

What is an AirBnB Experience?

You’re not alone! Though most are familiar with, and have even use Airbnb for home and apartment rentals, Airbnb Experiences are newer. In short, and Airbnb Experience is a small group tour led by a local guide. Much like with an Airbnb home, the you can see the guide’s ratings before booking, to ensure you’re picking an excellent guide.

Type in your travel destination and travel dates below, then click on “Experiences” (instead of “Places to stay”), and hit 🔍 Search to find out all the great Mexico tours available where you’re headed.

💸 Never used Airbnb? Try it out with this discount code and get up to $65 OFF your first booking.

is it safe to travel to mexico?

6. Ask the Locals

Asking the locals everyone from actual locals like your Airbnb host, hotel or hostel staff, servers and bartenders, and even other travelers.

If you’re too shy to ask a stranger, join the conversation online in FB groups, or other social meetup channels, like Bumble BFF.

You can also leverage your own social network, even before you travel to Mexico. Head to whatever socials you use, and make a post saying I’m headed to Mexico City in two weeks — Anyone know anyone cool there?, or something similar.

group of friends at a restaurant table laughing and hanging out
Friends of friends are great contacts to get insider info.

7. Stay in an Airbnb Private Room

As they say, having a local is a travel game changer. While online travel travel blogs and YouTube videos are great, no one knows their town like a local. For non-hostel travelers, like me!, booking a private room in an Airbnb is a great option — and in Mexico, often cheaper than a private room in a hostel.

This tip works to your advantage in two ways: One, you have the ear of a local to get advice on the city you’re in, and they can tell you the must sees, and the unsafe places to avoid. In Mexico, Airbnb private rooms seem to only be in very nice homes in the safe areas Mexico.

8. Stay in Downtown Areas

If you need more privacy, book your own place but make sure it’s in the area marked Centro Historico, the historic downtown of every major and medium-sized city in Mexico. While some city’s have safer downtowns than other, you’re sure to be safe overall in the main tourist area of town.

Famous Playa los Muertos in Puerto Vallarta, one of the safest cities in Mexico.
is it safe to travel to mexico?

9. Learn Basic 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 and casual niceties, which you can learn via Duolingo.

In short: Knowing a little Spanish goes a long way.

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

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

By “some,” we’re talking about 30 words and phrases, which are all listed on this pretty, and Pinnable!, infographic for your convenience.

💡Pro Tip: Save it as an image on your phone, so you’ll have access to it even off-WiFi.

List of useful spanish words and phrases

10. Arrive During the Day or Afternoon

Try to plan your travel so your arrive in the daytime or afternoon; to be on the safe side, aim for at least 2-3 hours before the sun goes down. While you might save $50 on a flight that arrives at 10:30pm, a late arrival in a foreign country isn’t exactly on anyone’s safe travel tips for Mexico list.

11. Maintain Some Mystery

Just because you’re in casual conversation someone, doesn’t mean you need to reveal every single detail about your life and your travel plans. It’s ok to withhold information from someone you’ve just met, especially if you’re getting an uneasy feeling about them — remember to trust you intuition.

When in doubt, answer questions with I’m not sure, or I haven’t decided yet, or even, I don’t know 🤷‍♀️ when someone asks you a question you’re not comfortable answering.

Suggested Mexico travel safety item: 💍 Silicone Wedding Band AKA Fake Wedding Ring, which some solo female travelers use to keep unwanted attention at bay.

12. Travel Light

The tip of traveling light probably conjures up images of traveling with only a backpack, which is great is you can do it. Some of us (ahem, me included!) have never been able to, but that doesn’t mean you have to bring more than you need.

If you know you’re going go use something — the keyword being know, and not just think you will use it — then bring those items. However, if you only think you’ll use it, leave it at home. This especially applies to expensive items like your laptop, DSLR camera and jewelry.

brightly colored home and buildings in the colorful colonial town of Guanajuato City, Guanajuato, Mexico, located in central Mexico, and a safe place for female solo Mexico travel
Guanajuato City is one of the most beautiful and a safe places in Mexico to travel.

13. Use Only ATMs Inside Banks

Cash is king in Mexico, and while many places, especially in larger cities, do take cash, places like street food taco stands and taxis, do not. Because everyone in Mexico still uses cash, you’ll definitely want to have some on you, but What’s the safest place to get cash in Mexico?

The answer is from an indoor bank, and from one the biggest banks in Mexico — Bancomer, Santander, HSBC, Banorte and Banamex. Check with your U.S. bank to see if they have a relationship with any of these banks, so you’ll avoid ATM fees, which even if you have to pay them, cost about $75 pesos ($4USD).

As so much is still done with cash in Mexico, you’ll often see ATMs on street corners and in convenience stores, especially in tourist areas. While convenient, try to find an indoor bank where you’ll have privacy withdrawing your money.

💸 Pro Tips: ATM lines can get long in Mexico, so try to use them during the day when everyone’s at work. Lines are especially long on the 15th and 30th of the month, when everyone gets paid.

14. Don’t Buy Drugs

As Mexican drug cartels are a tremendous problem in the country, avoiding anything associated with them in a no brainer — and this includes not buying drugs from them.

This tip goes back to risk mitigation and the question of Is this a necessary risk?

Think of it like this: Two of the worst case scenarios that could result in buying drugs off a random drug dealer in Mexico means jail time or a hospital stay.

Ask yourself: Am I Ok with these outcomes? If not, don’t do the things that leads you right to them.

flow chart on how to stay safe in mexico by not joining a cartel

Drugs in Quintana Roo State

Of the 14 states I’ve visited in Mexico, the one with (by far) the most overt cartel activity was Quintana Roo — home to Cancun, Tulum and Playa del Carmen. These are some of the country’s biggest party towns, so expect to be approached by dealers. A simple “No, gracias” and I was left alone, so it’s also easy to navigate right past them.


Safety Items to Buy for Your Trip

is it safe to travel to mexico?

15. Anti-Theft Travel Purse

A cross-body bag makes theft more difficult overall, but this anti-theft travel purse also has five additional safety measures:

  • Lockdown Straps: Strap lock secures bag to a stationary object or chair, to prevent against grab-and-go thieves.
  • Locking Compartments: Prevent pickpockets from getting into your bag with locking zipper pulls.
  • Slash-Resistant Fabric: The bag has a slash-resistant mesh barrier for two layers of protection.
  • Slash-Resistant Straps: Straps have a stainless steel wire inside, to prevent against grab-and-go thieves.
  • RFID Blocking Pockets: Prevents against electronic identity theft with RFID blocking card slots and pockets.

IS IT SAFE TO TRAVEL TO MEXICO?

16. SIM Card

As some U.S. phone carriers offer complimentary Mexico phone service to customers on contracts and family plans, do double check before you buy a SIM Card.

For those who won’t have free cell phone service in Mexico, the easiest and most inexpensive way for your phone to work is to buy a pre-paid SIM card.

TELCEL is the largest cell service provider in Mexico, so using this brand ensures you have reception in as many places in Mexico as possible.

As a safety measure, you’ll want access to your Google Maps app so you’re not lost, Google Translate in case you need help with Spanish, and data so you call an Uber whenever you need one.

While in some countries, you can get away with just using WiFi, Mexico simply isn’t there yet, and you will want a SIM card.

Depending on how much data you’re planning to use, here are options for 4gb-12gb.

4GB | 8GB | 12GB


IS IT SAFE TO TRAVEL TO MEXICO?

17. Security Scarf with Hidden Pocket

This stylish scarf also has a hidden zipper and pocket for added security. It’s always a good idea to keep your valuables in a few locations, rather than in one location.

With this security scarf, you can store half your money, one credit card and your cell phone right inside the hidden pocket on the scarf.


IS IT SAFE TO TRAVEL TO MEXICO?

18. Door Stopper with Sound Alarm

While a rare occurrence, the reality with hotels, hostels and Airbnbs is that several other people do have the key to get inside your room. These security door stoppers also have a sound alarm on them, so if anyone tries to enter, you’ll be alerted with a loud 120-decibel sound, and the stopper itself will prevent entry.

19. Mexico Travel Insurance

Need an added level of security and peace of mind during these strange travel times? Just as you insure your car, home and body, you can also insure your luggage, belongings and health while traveling. After years of solo travel, I will say there is one certainty with travel: Something will go wrong!

For this reason, I have a whole page of this website dedicated to travel insurance — because it’s just that important. Since Mexico travel safety is on your mind, or you wouldn’t be reading this article!, get your free quote below from World Nomads, one of the biggest names in travel insurance.

20. Mexico Travel Safety: 5 Quick Tips

  1. Don’t put your phone in your back pocket, as this is the easiest place to steal it from.
  2. Take your purse, book bag and belongings into the bathroom with you, rather than asking a cafe neighbor to watch it. This is annoying, for sure, but it works to not get your stuff stolen.
  3. Don’t let a stranger buy you a drink, and don’t leave your drink unattended with anyone.
  4. Keep some cash in your pocket so you don’t have to take out your whole wallet out every time you buy something.
  5. Remember your physical health as well — head here for 10 Tips on How to NOT Get Sick in Mexico.
Colorful colonial buildings
Merida, located in the Yucatan Peninsula, is known as the safest city in all of Mexico.

Mexico Travel Guide & FAQs

Can Americans travel to Mexico right now?

YES, travel between the U.S. and Mexico is open. As you’ll see below, there are no virtually no travel restrictions for Americans traveling to Mexico right now. Because of this, many Americans are flocking to Mexico for a respite in these tough times — though if you do so, please travel responsibly.

Do I need a negative Covid test to travel to Mexico?

NO, you do not need to arrive in Mexico with a negative Covid test. However, once you arrive, authorities in the airport will likely take your temperature and not let you enter the country with an elevated temperature. After leaving the airport, temperature checks are required to enter most indoor spaces.

Do I need a negative Covid test to return to the U.S.?

YES, as of January 26, 2021, you are required to have a negative Covid test to board a return flight to the U.S. The negative test results must be dated within three days/72 hours of your flight. According to the CDC, an Antigen Test/NAAT Test is acceptable, and many Mexico clinics offer these rapid tests for about $30USD.

Will I be quarantined if I travel to Mexico?

NO, there is no required quarantine period upon arrival in Mexico. It is one of only a handful of countries that allows U.S. travelers in, and/or don’t require a two-week quarantine period for visiting Americans.

Do Americans need a visa for Mexico?

No, U.S. Passport holders don’t need a visa to travel to anywhere in Mexico. This no-visa-necessary rule is another reason why Mexico is one of the best travel destinations from the U.S.

When you arrive in Mexico and go through Customs and Immigration, you’ll receive a 180-day (6 month) FMM tourist visa. This is a small piece of paper that you need to hold on to so you can give it back to Immigration when you leave the country. There is no charge for the FMM, but if you lose yours, there is fine of about $600 pesos ($30) to replace it.

💡Pro tip: Keep track of your FMM by storing it in a secure place like this travel wallet, along with all your other important travel documents. This wallet also has an RFID blocking feature to keep your info safe.

Is it safe to travel to Mexico right now?

This answer depends on who you ask! The World Travel & Tourism Council’s global travel safety program, Safe Travels, has certified all of Mexico’s big travel destinations, including Playa del Carmen, Cancun and Puerto Vallarta, as safe for travel. To qualify for this program, countries must follow rigorous cleaning and hygiene protocols.

However, the U.S. State Department and the CDC say to reconsider travel to Mexico at this time, and travel when the Covid pandemic at more manageable levels.

Is it safe to drive in Mexico?

Short answer: Yes!

Longer answer: As a general rule, driving in Mexico is considered safe, however, there’s the obvious caveat to that since you will be driving in another country, you should take the time to familiarize yourself with Mexico driving laws, or ask the agent at your car rental company for advice.

🚗💨 12 Useful Mexico Driving Tips

1. Rent with a reputable company! As they say, “you get what you pay for.” For a reliable Cancun car rental company, go with Discover Cars.

2. Avoid driving at night. When you live in Mexico long enough, you start to realize many people simply avoid driving at night, if they can. If you do drive at night, stick to only main roads and highways.

3. Always use the couta, or toll, roads. Yes, they cost money, but they are much better maintained and generally considered safer. Pro tip: Bring cash for the tolls.

4. Download an offline map. Your signal will go in and out as you travel through rural areas of the Yucatan Peninsula, so download an offline map from Google or Maps.Me. You’ll also want to download some podcasts and music while you’re getting that map.

5. Speed limit signs are in kilometers per hour, not miles per hour. You don’t have to worry about conversion math here; just make sure the speed limit sign number matches your speedometer number.

6. Do not use your cell phone while you’re driving. Not only is this unsafe, it is also illegal. In fact, even having your phone in your hand is a ticket-able offense, so try not to even hold your phone while driving.

7. The rumors are true about the cops expecting bribes. If the cops pull you over, and they only will if you give them a reason to, they will expect a cash “payment” in exchange for not ticketing you.

8. Mexican roads are notorious for their abundant amount of topes (speed bumps). Make sure you keep your eyes on the road, as topes don’t always have signs alerting you to them.

9. Mexico’s gas stations are not self-serve. When you stop for gas, an attendant will pump it for you and take your payment. These people don’t actually work for the gas station, and live off tips. When they finish, it’s customary to tip them at least $10-20 pesos ($0.50-$1).

10. Mexico’s traffic lights go from green to yellow, to flashing yellow for a few seconds, to finally, a red light.

11. Make sure you purchase Mexican car insurance. You are generally not covered in any way through your U.S. company when you drive in any other country.

12. Most travel insurance policies cover driving. In case you’re wondering Should I get travel insurance for Mexico?… The answer is hell yes! There’s a whole page of this website dedicated to travel insurance, because it’s just that important — maybe even more so when traveling during the pandemic.


Have any questions about safe travel in Mexico?

Please join the comment below, and I’ll help you with how to travel safe in Mexico as best as I can!


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Please join me on my Solo Travel & Mexico Travel adventures


¡Hola Chicas!

I’m Shelley, a former Miami travel magazine editor who ditched the office for the world!

I started this Blog and Podcast to help women like you cross Solo travel and Mexico travel off your bucket list… READ MORE

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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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