Solo female travel in Mexico can make for a wonderful travel experience. This often misunderstood Latin American country is one of the largest and most culturally diverse places on this earth, and each of Mexico’s 32 states are like individual countries in themselves, each with their own distinct personality, culture, cuisine, and charm.
Unfortunately, a lot of people never fully realise all of the magic and potential that Mexico has to offer to solo female travellers because it is somewhere that is often stereotyped as being “dangerous” and is frequently in the media for all of the wrong reasons. A lot of people are afraid of travelling to Mexico in general, and many that do, don’t really venture far outside of their resorts.
So, the suggestion of travelling to Mexico as a lone woman sounds even more extreme.
As a solo female traveller and Travel Writer that has ventured to over 57 countries solo, including Mexico, I don’t agree with the negative hype that surrounds Mexico. I moved to Mexico from Greece in January 2022 and haven’t looked back.
I have loved exploring my new home and in the past couple of years, I have travelled to 13 out of 32 Mexican states, mostly solo, and often focus my travels on lesser-known, ungentrified, and off-the-beaten-path areas that most tourists don’t bother to venture to. In Autumn 2023, I even bought a house in Merida.
If I can have rewarding experiences in Mexico and feel comfortable solo here, so can you. In this guide, we are going to cover everything you need to know before travelling to Mexico as a solo female traveller for the first time.
Solo Female Travel in Mexico:
Your Complete 2023 Guide
As an experienced solo female traveller, I am a strong believer in never letting my gender or my physical appearance deter me from travelling anywhere I am interested in travelling to and that includes Mexico. You shouldn’t either.
Still, at the same time, I am not saying that you should just pack a bag and throw caution to the wind, running off to Mexico with no plan or research either. Mexico is definitely a place that requires a little more situational awareness and assertiveness than when travelling to destinations like Spain or Italy.
But provided that you have your wits about you and you are aware of the challenges and the risks, your solo trip to Mexico can be an enjoyable one that is memorable for all of the right reasons.
I would like to preface this by saying that Mexico as a solo female travel destination is perhaps best reserved for solo female travellers who have at least some experience of travelling alone previously. Travelling alone, in general, presents you with its own unique set of challenges and if you are not comfortable with your own company or with figuring out the logistics of a trip, it can be even more stressful in a country where English is not widely spoken, or where you need to take extra precautions for your safety.
Best Destinations for Solo Female Travel in Mexico
Some of the most popular travel destinations in Mexico are not necessarily the places that I would recommend for first-time solo female travel in Mexico. Coastal hotspots like Cancun, Tulum, Puerto Vallarta, and Los Cabos are among the most popular travel destinations in the country but they are just the tip of the Mexico iceberg.
I would implore you to consider venturing away from the gentrified resort zones and into the more cultural parts of the country. (Even if you are looking for pristine beaches and coastlines, there are tons of gorgeous places that you will enjoy without being surrounded by hundreds of gringos).
Mexicans are some of the most welcoming, hospitable people on the planet and I feel that that friendliness increases tenfold in places like Chiapas, Guanajuato, Queretaro, and the rural Yucatan state, which have not yet been changed or in any way spoiled by overtourism.
I have been living in the Yucatan capital of Merida for the last two years. Since Merida is widely renowned for being the safest city in Mexico, it is a place that I would highly recommend for your first visit here.
The other top destinations in Mexico I would recommend for first-time solo female travellers in the area are Guanajuato City, Mexico City, Chiapas, Puerto Vallarta, and Campeche City.
In this section, I will expand a little more on what you can expect in each place so that you can consider whether or not it is a destination that you want to add to your Mexico travel itinerary.
Merida and the Yucatan state
Merida is a very safe city and a perfect choice for a first-time solo female trip to Mexico, as well as a great base for a wider Yucatan itinerary. Many of Mexico’s most famous Mayan ruins are scattered around the Yucatan peninsula – including Chichen Itza, one of the seventh wonders of the world, the Uxmal ruins, Mayapan and Coba.
Culturally, the Yucatan is very different from other parts of Mexico. Violent things that you hear happening in other regions of the country simply don’t happen here and there is an established tourist trail around the region.
As a female expat in the city, I often feel more comfortable in Merida than I did in my home town in the UK, and don’t really hesitate to run to the convenience store in the evening, go jog around Parque Lineal with my friend at night or visit the local squares and parks to see what street food tianguis they have.
Despite the popularity of the Riviera Maya, Cancun, Tulum, etc, for the time being, Merida retains its authentic Mexican charm and offers a more cultured travel experience. The colonial old town is filled with a labyrinth-like network of winding cobbled streets lined with grand neo-classical mansions and colourful colonial houses that have been converted into quirky cafes and artisanal stores.
There are enough day trips that you can take from Merida to keep you occupied for weeks, and many charming Yucatan pueblo magicos and pristine beaches along the Gulf of Mexico can be reached in less than an hour. I have driven all over the Yucatan state and I would say that this feeling of safety for me extends to the most random villages and even on more remote beaches like Uaymitun and Playa de las Dunas.
If you are interested in culture, gastronomy and the arts, then you will love Guanajuato City. Guanajuato was the 12th state I visited in Mexico and by the time I made it there, I thought I already knew the country pretty well but the state capital of Ciudad de Guanajuato quickly became one of my favourite destinations.
The city was founded in 1554 and quickly became one of the most important silver mining towns in Latin America. The Spanish influence here is more evident than ever and sometimes the architecture, the narrow cobbled streets, the restaurants serving tapas, and even the cooler arid climate feel more reminiscent of being in Europe than somewhere in Mexico.
Guanajuato City is arguably best known for its “La Cervantina” cultural festival that takes place every October, and its somewhat gruesome “Mummies of Guanajuato” Museum which contains a collection of more than 200 well-preserved mummies of people who died during a cholera outbreak several centuries ago and, thanks to the unique climate conditions of Guanajuato, have not decomposed.
It’s not for the faint of heart but it is something of a “must-see” in Central Mexico. There are also plenty of less grotesque museums scattered around the city – including the Casa Diego Rivera Museum where the famous Mexican artist and husband of Frida Kahlo once lived, a contemporary art museum, and the Alhóndiga de Granaditas Regional Museum and Museo del Pueblo de Guanajuato which both tell the local history as well as the story of the Mexican Revolution.
Since Guanajuato is very much a student city, you will see that the streets and plazas of the historic centre are teeming with life virtually every night of the week. There are some travel warnings in place for Guanajuato state, but I felt very comfortable here.
The Jalisco beach town of Puerto Vallarta in west-central Mexico is one of the most popular travel destinations in the country for anyone seeking sun, sea and sand. In recent years, it has become something of a hub for American and Canadian expats as it offers Southern Californian living at a fraction of the cost of living elsewhere in North America.
I spent a couple of weeks in Puerto Vallarta solo in 2022, and then spent two months here in 2023 because I almost considered moving there. Because I struggle with the humidity, it isn’t my favourite place in Mexico but I do think that it is one of the best from a social perspective.
I found it very easy to meet people and make friends in Puerto Vallarta as a solo female traveller. There is a great coffee shop and bar called Cafe + Leche (Océano Pacífico 455-B) that locals will jokingly refer to as “the gringo cafe” because there are always events for foreigners here.
During the day, a lot of Digital Nomads (including me) tap away on their laptops here, and in the evenings, they organise lots of different social events. Mondays are live Jazz nights, Wednesdays are for chess competitions, etc.
You will also find a lot of Facebook groups here catered towards ex-pats and solo female travellers. (Check out Puerto Vallarta Digital Nomads, Puerto Vallarta Friendly Young-ish Expats & Locals, and Girls in Puerto Vallarta).
The historic old town of Puerto Vallarta feels more cultured and “Mexican” than that in Cancun (If you want to compare Puerto Vallarta vs Cancun) while the beachfront Malecon is lined with tons of fun restaurants and bars. PV makes a great jump-off point for wider Jalisco and Nayarit – including Jalisco beaches, Nayarit, and San Sebastian del Oeste.
San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato
San Miguel de Allende is a beautiful city situated in the far eastern part of Guanajuato state. It was founded in the 16th century and has been voted the “best city in the world” by Travel and Leisure magazine readers not only once but three times.
Jardin Allende marks the centre of town, and it is flanked by the spectacular 17th-century gothic Parroquia de San Miguel Arcangel church. San Miguel de Allende tends to attract a well-heeled crowd of tourists and expats and although many of the restaurants and stores here are a little more upscale than in other parts of Mexico, you can still travel here on something of a budget and find budget double hotel rooms starting from just $30 a night.
The streets that veer off from Jardin Allende are filled with cute boutique stores selling clothing and accessories made by independent Mexican designers, local art galleries, brunch spots, and restaurants serving cuisine from across the world.
If you like travelling off the beaten path, San Miguel de Allende can feel a bit touristy, because you usually hear more Americans than Mexicans and a lot of people will speak to you in English by default. Besides hanging out in the different bars and cafes, there isnt an awful lot to do here, but if you are nervous about coming to Mexico, it can be a good introductory destination because everyone speaks English, and it is easy to meet people.
Mexico City has soared in popularity in a big way in recent years and for good reason. CDMX is the largest city in North America, as well as the oldest across the Americas, and it is made up of dozens of different little districts.
Each of these barrios is like a little village in itself, and each has its distinct personality and charm. Neighbourhoods like Roma Norte, Roma Sur and Condesa are some of the most popular among expats and Digital Nomads and are filled with great bars, craft breweries, coffee places and coworking spots.
Some of the best street art in town can be found in this area too, and it is these districts that I would recommend for a first-time visitor. Upscale Polanco and the streets that encircle Chapultapec Park also make a great luxury choice.
There is so much to see and do in Mexico City that a five-day Mexico City itinerary barely gives you enough time to scratch beneath the surface of everything the capital has to offer. Be sure to dedicate half a day to exploring Chapultepec Park and all the wonderful attractions within it. (There is even a European-style castle!)
The National Museum of Anthropology is a must-visit, even if you don’t consider yourself a “museum person” as it contains thousands of artefacts excavated from across Mexico that were produced by the Mayans, the Aztecs, and numerous other advanced ancient civilisations. It also contains an interesting indigenous exhibition that talks about the traditional clothing, customs, and traditions of the various indigenous groups in Mexico today.
Solo female travel in Mexico City
A lot of people are concerned about whether Mexico City is safe or not. Like any other big city, CDMX has safe areas and areas that are not so safe.
You want to avoid the Tepito market district and be careful in the centre close to the Palacio de Bellas Artes. Iztapalapa is not safe and at one point, it was considered one of the most dangerous neighbourhoods in Latin America, but it is not close to anything of tourist interest nor in the centre of town so you are not going to wander into it accidentally.
Unfortunately, one reality of exploring Mexico City, like other Latin American capitals, is that you can be wandering down one street feeling perfectly comfortable, and if you head a few blocks further, you wind up in a somewhat sketchy area. You need to constantly be mindful of where you walk here, and not randomly wander around using Google Maps.
I felt safe here but I took precautions. It is a good idea to take an Uber home at night rather than walk, even if you are only headed a few blocks.
Santiago de Queretaro
Santiago de Queretaro (often just referred to as “Queretaro City”), the capital of Queretaro state, is one of the most underrated cities in Mexico, but it is just as much of a rewarding place to explore as Guadalajara or Mexico City. In a way, it is quite nice that is quite untapped and overshadowed in favour of San Miguel de Allende because discovering it feels like uncovering something amazing.
Santiago de Queretaro is, without a doubt, one of the most beautiful colonial cities in Mexico. Its historic centre is characterised by its colourful, pastel-coloured houses and cobbled streets that twist and turn and open out into grand plazas filled with street vendors that border impressive Catholic churches.
Jardin Zenea is one of the main squares here and in the evenings and weekends, you will often find live musicians playing brass band music to delighted crowds and well-dressed older residents coming here to dance. After around 7 pm, a bustling street food market pops up in the corner of the square and the vendors sell everything from tacos and tortas to cantarito tequila cocktails, candies, crepes, and traditional Mexican desserts like gelatina and jericallas.
Queretaro is credited as being the birthplace of a little doll called “Lele” that has become something of a symbol of Mexican culture and in Jardin Zenea, Plaza de Armas, Plaza de los Fundadores, etc, you will see lots of indigenous women sewing and selling the dolls.
Along Calle Venustiano Carranza and Calle 5 de Mayo, you will find lots of fun bars, restaurants, coffee shops and eclectic stores set inside old colonial buildings. Since Queretaro is a university city, it has a very youthful vibe and you can feel very safe and comfortable walking around the main squares of the centre even in the evenings.
The Costa Maya
The Costa Maya is a very safe part of the Yucatan peninsula and it sits in the southern part of the state of Quintana Roo. In this region, you will find the beautiful pueblo magico of Lake Bacalar, known as the “seven-colour lagoon” because of how its waters shimmer in different shades of green, blue and turquoise.
Lake Bacalar is the largest lake in the Yucatan tri-state area and one of the largest in Mexico as a whole. It is fun to stay at one of the hotels or hostels that sit along the banks of the lake and enjoy lazy days swinging in the hammocks overlooking the colourful water and revelling in the view, kayaking, swimming, or taking a boat out onto the lake.
Nearby, you also have the gorgeous Caribbean beach town of Mahahual whose white-sand coastline runs parallel to translucent azure waters, and several interesting Mayan ruins, including the ancient city of Chacchoben.
If meeting people and socialising is important to you during your trip, you will pleased to know that there are several budget hostels in Bacalar. (Although accommodation options are more limited in Mahahual).
The Costa Maya is not yet as popular as the Riviera Maya, but the tourism infrastructure here is still pretty good. There are bus connections that run between Cancun and Mahahual and Bacalar, plenty of trustworthy tour companies operate in the region and there are plenty of travellers and backpackers that pass through the area.
Campeche City is the capital of the southeastern Mexican state of Campeche – the least visited of the three states in the Yucatan tri-state area. It is easy to get from Merida to Campeche by bus and by road and the journey between the two cities takes just over an hour.
During the 17th century, Campeche was a thriving trade port and it eventually became the capital of the newly established state of Campeche in 1863. Its desirable trade industry and strategic location made Campeche a prime target for pirate attacks and many of the defensive fortresses and bastions that were built to protect Campeche and its residents from its invaders still exist today.
The historic centre is UNESCO protected and its colourful streets are a photographer’s dream. Because Campeche City hasn’t yet captured the attention of a lot of international travellers, you see fewer tourists here and accommodation prices are much more reasonable, making the city great for budget travellers.
Campeche feels just as safe as Merida, despite being a less popular tourist destination. Both Campeche state and the Yucatan state are considered the safest states in Mexico and I have been here on four separate occasions and felt very comfortable.
There are some interesting ruins elsewhere in the state. Namely, the Mayan cities of Edzna, Calakmul and Xpujil, but unfortunately public transport in the area leaves a lot to be desired.
Getting to Calakmul means travelling first to Xpujil and staying overnight before organising local transport to the remote ruins in Calakmul. This area is very remote so I wouldn’t necessarily recommend driving alone.
You may be able to meet other travellers who want to share the adventure with you in Merida.
The Jalisco capital of Guadalajara is a wonderful alternative weekend break destination in Mexico and a great jumping-off point for the wider region of Northern Jalisco. From here, you can take day trips out to Tlaquepaque, Lake Chapala and Ajijic.
Guadalajara is not the safest Mexican city but with precautions, you can have a wonderful experience travelling here. (This is one area of Mexico I would recommend only for more experienced solo female travellers that can speak a little Spanish).
The area around the historic centre, the Guadalajara Cathedral, and the Plaza de la Liberación are safe during the day, and the districts of Chapalita and Colonia Americana are filled with charming parks, cafes and boutique hotels.
There are lots of beautiful historic churches to check out in Guadalajara. (The Templo Expiatorio del Santisimo by Italian architect Adamo Boari is particularly unique).
Stop for brunch in Colonia Americana and be sure to sample a torta ahogada. This is a local delicacy known as a “drowned sandwich” whereby pork cutlets are served in a crusty bread roll and drenched in a spicy tomato sauce.
The Mercado San Juan de Dios is the largest covered market in Latin America and more than 3,000 vendors set up their stalls here every day, whereas the central Mercado Corona is a great place to find low-priced snacks, street food eats and tortas (sandwiches).
You will hear a lot of scary things about Guadalajara in terms of the cartel presence and people going missing. The reality is that most people that “disappear” are linked with the cartel so rest assured you are not going to get plucked out of your hotel bed at night.
Stick to safe areas and be aware of your surroundings and you will love Guadalajara as much as I did.
Cancun, Playa Del Carmen and the Riviera Maya
Some of the most popular travel destinations in Mexico are found around the Riviera Maya. Cancun, Tulum, Playa Del Carmen, Isla Mujeres and Isla Holbox are at the top of a lot of people’s Mexico bucket lists and for good reason – they are gorgeous.
Since these areas are so popular among international tourists, Digital Nomads and expats, it is very easy to meet other travellers and there are always plenty of meet-up events going on in the area, as well as an abundance of cheap hotels and hostels to choose from.
If you want to escape the crowds around Cancun and PDC, you can take a boat out to Cozumel for a day or two, or to the paradisiacal island of Isla Holbox where people get around by golf carts. Better still, further up the coast, you have El Cuyo, a little beach town that is reminiscent of what Tulum was like 10-15 years ago.
Despite its popularity, downtown Cancun is a little rough around the edges. The abundance of Western tourists in the region has attracted a lot of unsavoury types and criminal organizations who compete for the territory to be able to supply drugs to tourists.
Downtown Cancun is also one of the only places where I find people quite pushy and more likely to try and trick or scam you. (One of the many issues that come with over-tourism on a global scale).
Take Ubers rather than random street cabs in Cancun. (Uber is banned elsewhere in Quintana Roo). Be sure to get a trusted taxi/Uber after dark, particularly around downtown.
Chiapas state is one of the most culturally rich places in Mexico, home to one of the largest indigenous populations in the country. Many of the people that live here belong to the Tzotzil, Tzeltal, Chol and Zoque indigenous groups and some parts of the state are autonomous from Mexico.
The charming mountain town of San Cristobal de las Casas is a popular backpacking destination that attracts something of a hippy crowd, and the indigenous villages of Zinacantan and Chamula are essential places to visit if you want to understand the unique traditions of local indigenous cultures.
Chiapas is also home to some of the most breathtaking nature in Mexico. It is here where you will find the spectacular El Chiflon waterfalls, the stunning Montebello lakes, and the hidden Chukumaltik cenote.
Practical Safety Tips for Solo Female Travel in Mexico
As I mentioned, Mexico doesn’t always deserve the negative image it is given and Netflix series like Narcos and El Chapo are not good representations of reality. That is not to say that bad things don’t happen in Mexico occasionally, but violence in Mexico isnt random and most incidents tend to happen in areas where you would have no business being a tourist anyway or are restricted to clashes between criminal groups.
If you don’t go looking for trouble in Mexico, trouble won’t go looking for you.
I have lived here for 2 years and I feel comfortable here and I do not just stick to the tourist areas. Sure, I take common sense precautions but I never feel that I have to constantly remind myself “Oh my gosh I am in Mexico” or constantly look over my shoulder.
Be selective about whose Mexico travel advice you listen to
If you tell people that you are considering travelling to Mexico alone, you will probably be met with a lot of naysayers. (I know I was!)
Be mindful of who is giving you travel advice; have they travelled to Mexico themselves? Are they also solo female travellers?
I had a lot of people (especially men) telling me that Mexico was too corrupt and dangerous and they hadn’t even travelled to Mexico themselves. Or they had visited Mexico once in the past and they just stayed in their resorts.
Unfortunately, a lot of people’s views of Mexico are jaded by stereotypes so be mindful of who you listen to.
What to wear as a solo female traveller in Mexico
What to wear in Mexico depends largely on where you are travelling and the time of year that you are travelling. In the Yucatan peninsula, it is perfectly normal to walk around wearing shorts and tank tops or summer dresses and skirts and you won’t get weird looks for doing so because the local women tend to dress the same and people are accustomed to seeing tourists.
(This is a relief as it is always super hot and humid here!)
The same applies to other coastal tourist destinations like Puerto Vallarta, Sayulita, Los Cabos, Cancun and the Riviera Maya. On beaches and at pools, you will find people wearing swimsuits and coverups like in any other coastal destination.
A Mexican friend once told me that women in some inland Mexican cities prefer to dress conservatively and wear jeans so that they don’t draw attention to themselves and get unwanted attention from men. I have a very feminine dress sense so even in colder cities like Queretaro, Guanajuato, and CDMX, I usually wear dresses and skirts paired with stockings and heels/ankle boots and never feel that it makes me a target of unwanted attention.
A lot of Mexican cities like CDMX, Guadalajara, etc are quite cosmopolitan and people are accustomed to seeing people from all walks of life. For the most part, you can dress how you are comfortable.
Crime in Mexico
You could terrify yourself half to death reading about the cartels and all of the bad things that happen in Mexico but remember that Mexico is a big country and most of these things happen in certain areas and between criminal groups. Even violent clashes in places like Cancun (which are rare anyway) have been between criminal organisations and tourists are never the target.
The chances of being in the wrong place at the wrong time are slim. (And arguably you could just as easily be in the wrong place at the wrong time in the United States, or elsewhere too).
As a tourist in Mexico, your biggest concerns are likely to be petty theft and scams. Fortunately, I have not been a victim of any such thing in my two years. Some practical safety tips are detailed below.
Useful safety tips
- Bags have been stolen from the overhead bins on ADO buses in Quintana Roo. Always keep valuables, electronics, etc with you, never leave your bag when you get off the bus to use a bathroom, and be mindful of people walking down the aisles
- Always watch your bag and personal belongings in crowded places and markets. Ideally, walk with it in front of you rather than slung over one shoulder
- Don’t carry a lot of cash. Around $4,000 MXN is plenty for a few days, even in a more expensive touristy area.
- Dont set up an expensive camera or phone with a tripod in a busy area in Mexico and be careful who you trust to ask to take your photo
- If you need to use an ATM, do so at a bank or inside a mall as these machines are less likely to have been tampered with. Make withdrawals during the day rather than at night, in the dark.
Dealing with unwanted attention in Mexico
It might come as a surprise to hear that I receive less unwanted attention and street harassment in Mexico than I have in other countries. I am a conventionally attractive woman and had a nightmare with harassment when I lived in Greece so it is probably something of a shock to hear that I feel more comfortable in Mexico than in the Mediterranean where men would frequently approach me on the street to make crude comments.
Sometimes I have noticed that people stare, particularly in Guadalajara, Puebla and Sinaloa, where there are fewer Western travellers or solo female tourists. However, it felt like something more out of curiosity rather than anything sinister.
It is better to ignore stares and catcalls because you never really know someone’s mental state or what people are capable of. Although it can be annoying, don’t give people the power to ruin your day.
For the most part, I find Mexican men to be quite gentlemanly. On planes and buses, etc, people help me with my luggage, open doors for me, let me pass first, etc.
I have had only three uncomfortable instances here in two years where someone followed me. This happened on the Campeche Malecon, in Tuxtla Gutierrez in Chiapas, and in Puebla City.
Each time, I was aware of my surroundings and went into local businesses and managed to lose the person, but it was definitely creepy. Be aware of what is going on around you and be prepared to tell someone what is happening (even with Google Translate) if someone is bothering you.
How to meet other travellers
It is pretty easy to meet other travellers in Mexico, particularly in areas that are popular with tourists because a lot of people travel alone here. This rings true even if, like me, you don’t like staying in hostels.
My recommendations are:
- Check Meetup.com in the cities that you travel to to see any events going on
- Use Couchsurfing hangout function to find other travellers who want to grab lunch, sightsee together, etc
- Check if there are any events on Couchsurfing that coincide with your travel dates and if not, host your own. (In large cities and tourist towns, you might be surprised by how many people show up if you give about a week’s notice).
- Go to events and bar crawls organised by hostels or hang out in the hostel bar. You don’t have to be staying there to participate
- Use the “BFF” function on Bumble and other dating apps
- Ask around in local expat Facebook groups to see if anyone wants to meet for coffee/lunch
Research specific neighbourhoods before arriving
Wherever in Mexico you decide to travel to, it is a good idea to briefly read up on which neighbourhoods are the best to stay in before you go. You might be tempted to go to a platform like Booking.com and just filter by the cheapest, or whichever option looks the most central.
However, in Mexico, you could potentially not only be placing yourself a little far away from all the main attractions in the area, but you could also inadvertently base yourself in an area that isnt all that safe, or where you don’t feel comfortable getting around at night.
Additional safety tips
Some other useful safety tips for solo female travel in Mexico are detailed below. A lot of these things are good practice wherever you travel.
- Don’t share your plans on social media. You never know who is watching your Instagram stories, etc. Post your location only after you leave, and don’t post cafes etc that you go to frequently.
- Watch your alcohol intake and never leave your drink unattended on nights out, even if you are at expat events and people seem friendly.
- Learn a little Spanish if you can. Outside of tourist hubs, English is not widely spoken and a little Spanish goes a long way.
- Check your government travel advice but don’t let it scare you out of visiting. The US Department of State provides a state-by-state safety breakdown for each of Mexico’s 32 states but it can appear a little sternly worded.
- Purchase comprehensive travel insurance before you go. A good plan will include coverage for repatriation, theft/loss of luggage and electronics, and adventure sports.
Femicides and perceptions of women in Mexico
It may come as a surprise to hear that I feel so comfortable living in Mexico as a solo white woman considering the country’s femicide and domestic violence statistics. It is estimated that in 2022, 1.43 women per 100,000 were victims of femicide, with approximately 10-11 women believed to go missing every day.
As a feminist and domestic violence survivor myself, I do feel strongly about this, but I don’t think it is fair to judge an entire country on this matter. Most femicides happen in “fronteras” – border zones such as Ciudad Juarez in Northern Mexico where you should not be going on your own anyway.
It is a privileged thing to say, but as a tourist exploring beaches and Mayan and Aztec ruins during your Mexican vacation, you are not put in the same situations nor having the same experiences as Mexican women brought up in dangerous barrios.
Getting around as a solo female traveller in Mexico
Mexico is a vast country and if you are limited on time, it is better to focus your travels on a certain region. (E.g. the Yucatan, Baja California Sur, etc). Domestic flights are usually the best way to go when travelling from one state to another, while buses are pretty comfortable, reliable and affordable for short to medium-distance overland journeys.
As of yet, there are no real train routes in Mexico aside from the El Chepe Copper Canyon train that runs from Los Mochis, Sinaloa to Creel Chihuahua and the Tequila train from Guadalajara to Tequila. However, the Tren Maya project is scheduled for completion in late 2023/early 2024 and will provide fast and efficient links around the Yucatan peninsula.
Travelling across Mexico by bus
There are dozens of different intercity bus companies in Mexico and honestly, most intercity buses are fairly comfortable. They tend to have air conditioning, a reclining seat, a USB charger in front of/above your chair, and a bathroom on board.
Around the Yucatan peninsula (Quintana Roo, the Yucatan state and Campeche state), ADO is the main bus provider. You can also get first-class ADO buses on some routes like Cancun to Merida and Cancun to Tulum, which is worth paying extra for as the seats are more spacious, and the price difference is usually minimal.
Noreste Buses are another provider in Southeastern Mexico. OCC and ACN Autobuses are other providers that I have used in Central Mexico which have been completely fine.
You can often get tickets across long distances for $20-$30 or so. You can use the ADO site and app for ADO tickets but it only works in Spanish and it often glitches and crashes.
BusBud is another alternative but you do have to pay an admin fee. Usually, you are better off just arriving at the bus station an hour before your bus is scheduled to depart and buying a ticket in person.
Buses are safe enough between tourist destinations. You can only bring a backpack or a small bag on board so if you have larger luggage, you will need to check it under the bus.
For security, you will be given a receipt for checking your bag which you will need to show again when you pick it up.
Domestic flights in Mexico
Several reputable Mexican airlines operate on domestic routes within Mexico. AeroMexico is the country’s national carrier, while Volaris and Viva Aerobus also service a lot of routes.
Viva Aerobus is like Mexico’s answer to Spirit Airlines or Europe’s RyanAir and it doesn’t have the best reputation in the world but it honestly isn’t that bad at all. I have flown with them numerous times with no problem.
Sometimes they are the only option. Most Mexican airlines, including Volaris and Viva Aerobus, allow a number of free changes, even with their most basic ticket options which is perfect if your itinerary may be subject to change.
Taxis and Ubers in Mexico
Uber and other ridesharing apps like Didi and InDrive are considered safer in Mexico than street cabs. It makes sense when you think about it, considering there is more accountability with an Uber.
After all, you have the driver’s name, license plate number and past reviews. You simply don’t have that when you get into a random street cab.
There is also an issue with scams and express kidnappings in parts of Mexico with street cabs. (This happens when an unsuspecting tourist gets into a random cab and is held at knifepoint and forced to hand over their valuables and withdraw from ATMs).
Uber is available in many parts of the country (including Merida, Guadalajara, Puerto Vallarta, Mexico City, etc). However, in Quintana Roo, it is only legal in Cancun.
If you are travelling somewhere where Uber doesn’t function and you need a cab, have your hotel call a trusted taxi driver for you. In many cities, Ubers are not permitted to pick people up from the airport and only licensed cabs can.
You can often get around this by walking a little distance down the road away from the airport.
Renting a car in Mexico
Renting a car in Mexico may sound like a terrifying idea as a solo female traveller but it can be a great way to get around and it gives you a lot more independence rather than having to depend on public transport schedules. For the most part, driving in Mexico is not that dissimilar to driving in the US or Canada.
Here, you drive on the right-hand side of the road and overtake on the left. Speed limits and road rules are enforced, and the penalties for breaking the law can be steep, so you will find that contrary to popular belief, most people drive carefully because they are not looking to get stopped by the police.
In touristic areas like the Yucatan state, Quintana Roo, Puerto Vallarta, and Baja California Sur, I would have no hesitation in recommending a woman rent a car. I have driven to every corner of the Yucatan state alone.
In places like Chiapas, people seemed to drive a little crazier and in Sinaloa (which is on the do not travel list anyway), I travelled with my boyfriend and felt uncomfortable as we got stopped numerous times by the police and in one instance, had to pay a bribe.
So, renting a car can be a good idea, but it depends on where you are going.
Final thoughts on solo female travel in Mexico
Solo female travel in Mexico can be a great experience. Don’t let negative stereotypes deter you from visiting a really special part of the world.
I have travelled to over 57 countries, mostly solo and Mexico quickly became one of my favourites. Personally, I feel significantly safer here than in other Latin American countries. (I did not feel anywhere near as comfortable in Colombia).
I am not someone who has just travelled through the country briefly once either and I have been living in Mexico for two years now.
Do you have any further questions about planning your trip? Please do not hesitate to reach out to me if you need anything.
You might also find these more generic Mexico travel tips quite useful. Safe travels and enjoy Mexico!
Buen Viaje! Melissa xo