How to safely experience MEXICO as a SOLO FEMALE traveler?

Mexico-solo-streettrotter

The closer I got to my solo trip to Mexico, the more I realized that the panic around me was not as much about a “solo female” trip – but it was more about a solo trip “IN MEXICO”. As most of the world sees it – Mexico today has managed to attract a fair amount of criticism owing to all its drug mafia and narcotic tales we often watch on Netflix and the likes; along with a serious stereotyping of being unsafe for various reasons be it corruption or blatant prostitution. But I have been forever fascinated by Mexico’s culture, art and history since I was a child. Somewhere I believed that Mexico had so much more to it than all the things it is now infamous for – and I wasn’t wrong. Mexico is truly a world of its own. 

Is traveling to Mexico alone safe? YES it is. Go for it. But, whatever said and done – truth is, a solo trip to Mexico needs a lot of pre-planning. And if you are a solo female – even more than ever. While I did plan my trip like a pro backed with important research – there were a lot of things that I learned and discovered while in Mexico – points that were important for my safety and my overall Mexico experience. So here I go – sharing my wealth of research to help you plan your solo trip in Mexico city and beyond a little better and wiser: 

  1. Avoid wearing skimpy clothes. For the entire one week that I was in Mexico I hardly spotted any women wearing anything revealing. Yes, as a tourist you will catch people’s attention and in my opinion there is no harm in being extra cautious by dressing modestly while traveling solo in Mexico – why to attract any more attention than you need anyways?
  2. Pack light and buy a backpack. Don’t carry huge suitcases to Mexico and attract unnecessary attraction. Mexico is famous for its backpackers culture and it’s wise to mingle into that crowd than to look like a happening tourist with fancy stuff.
  3. Research your neighborhoods. Even though many neighborhoods have famous local markets and a few must do’s – you should still have a plan well- researched. Make sure you stay in the right neighborhoods which are also safe to travel alone during the day and not only in the night. I learnt this point a little later during my trip – when I was already off to a famous local market in Mexico City called Mercado La Merced. Even though the market is listed as one of the top ten things to do in Mexico city – it is also known locally for prostitution and the nearby slums being extremely dangerous. Thank god for my cab driver who refused to take me there – saying it would have been a lot of risk, specially with the fancy camera I was carrying around with me that day.Mexico-solo-streettrotter
  4. Be nice to the locals. Smile a lot in Mexico and talk to the local people nicely. Being an outsider – the local people in Mexico will get you by anything and everything – only if you ask them nicely. Mexicans are pretty proactive about pointing out the safe vs unsafe areas and also help you understand when you don’t know much Spanish.
  5. Wear your backpack on the front at all times while taking your tours in the city. Mexico is famous for pick-pocketing and the locals will always stop to advice you to wear your bag in the front for safety. Be extra cautious about loosing your wallet while traveling on the subway.
  6. I always prefer carrying my passport with me – but if you have a locker back in your hotel/hostel – leave your passport behind in a safe place. Once again you don’t want a pick-pocket to steal you off your passport during a day tour or during a drunk night partying.
  7. Book your tickets in advance be it international or domestic flights for affordable options and keep enough window of time in-between your domestic connections (they often get delayed). Mexico is a cheaper destination to travel from the USA, but if you are booking from other asian countries or specifically India – use these Cleartrip coupons for extra savings. 
  8. Take Uber everywhere in Mexico City and Cancun. Uber is a lot safer than the authorized pink taxis. Additionally make sure you choose Uber X over an Uber pool for safety. Uber in Mexico is really cheap and taking an Uber X is only a few pesos more per ride. Mexico-solo-streettrotter
  9. This one is old school – but buy your own drinks in Mexico and make sure you keep them in your hand. You don’t want to be drugged in Mexico.
  10. Carry cash – Mexican pesos, as most places in Mexico hardly accept plastic money. Also a 15% tip is expected in restaurants.
  11. Drink only filtered water, or buy bottled water. Local tap water will make you fall sick in a matter of minutes.
  12. Carry an external charger with you at all times. During the day you will find yourself walking and exploring the city for long hours and a handy charger will give you a better chance of having enough battery for your Uber app, pictures and google maps.
  13. If you don’t know Spanish – don’t worry. Make sure you tell the people you meet that you don’t speak Spanish and be nice to them. They will help you understand most of what you need to know. Keep google translate handy in case you really need to make a conversation – I used it a few times when I really needed it.
  14. Walk around with a confident body language. Don’t act like a privileged tourist and don’t be a like a scared chicken too while in Mexico. Wear confident clothes with comfortable and apt footwear for touring all day long in the city. Act as if you know your shit and own your solo trip!
  15. Ask people around for pictures. People are nice to tourists and they will click a few pictures for you with happy smiles, so don’t leave a chance of documenting your trip in those photographs just because you are shy to ask. Mexico-solo-streettrotter
  16. Don’t give out hints about being solo in Mexico – and make sure you are confident at all times. Lie if you have to, tell people you are traveling with your friends or your spouse – and that they are not around as they wanted to do something else on that particular day.
  17. Give yourself deadlines. End your days early. And start early. Even though the touristy neighborhoods are safe to walk around in the night – Mexico is still not a place to be solo in the night. Most touristy museums and marketplaces to visit close by 5 pm, so you can easily start your days early and come back to your accommodation by 9 pm as your daily deadline.
  18. Don’t go crazy about seeing everything. Mexico is sooooo big – it’s impossible to fit everything in your itinerary. Make a plan that suits your tastes and traveling style the most – and stick to it.
  19. Book tours to visit the historic destinations like Coba, Teotihuacan, and Chichen Izta. These Mayan ruins and pyramids have so many mysteries behind them that only a certified tour guide can help you understand the real meaning of all that is lost and discovered here. Even though taking a local bus and visiting these places would be much cheaper – but I still recommend spending a bit more and opt for a tour even from the safety point of view.
  20. Experience and understand Mexico. Love Mexico – and don’t just visit it. Mexico is a place of deep local culture – and it’s only wise to experience it than to just check it off your bucket list as a tourist. Stay back in your hostel and talk to the locals all night if you have to. Don’t push yourself to see more, but try making new friends, listening to some good Spanish music and understand there lifestyle more through the locals.