Since landing in LA I’ve been dreaming of being back in Mexico. I miss the heat, the tropical environment, and most of all being in the water every day. But after spending 5 months in Mexico one of the most asked questions is how to travel as a solo female. Is it safe? What if you don’t speak the language?
I’m going to break it all down for you in this post.
I left for Mexico December 4th, 2020 with the intention of being gone for 1.5-2 months. But my plans quickly changed once I saw what life in Mexico was really like compared to another Canadian winter.
After a 1 month road trip through Mexico with friends, I decided to settle in Playa del Carmen (PDC). I mainly chose PDC because I was taking a freediving course and the school was located there. But I fell in love with Playa and decided to base myself there for another 4 months.
The first thing I did before arriving in Playa del Carmen was look up on Pinterest the best areas to live in Playa del Carmen as a solo female traveler. And I found that there weren’t many blog posts with useful information. This is exactly why I wanted to write this blog post, to give you ladies as much useful information as possible when planning your trip to Mexico, or any solo destination.
Is Mexico Safe For Solo Female Travelers?
The short answer is YES, Mexico is safe for solo female travelers. Keep in mind safety is a feeling, not a fact, meaning safety can never be guaranteed, anywhere in the world. But in my personal experience, I never once felt in danger or unsafe while exploring Mexico.
It’s impossible to classify an entire country into a yes or no box. I can sit here and tell you Canada is safe but that’s not to say that something can happen walking down an alley after one too many drinks. Bottom line is solo traveling heavily relies on trusting your gut and using those street smarts. I’m pretty friendly and trusting but I’m also very aware, especially when I’m alone.
Mexico is no different. I would never recommend you to travel to any area known for gang violence or cartel activity, but something not many travelers know is Tulum is the most visited area in Mexico and is completely controlled by the cartel. I know that sounds scary but it’s the reality that no one talks about. Businesses pay the cartel each month for protection and the cartel controls the roads in Tulum. It’s not something that should deter you from traveling to Tulum but it is something to be aware of as more and more tourists visit.
Even with that in mind, based on my personal experiences visiting Tulum over the years, I would still say Mexico is safe and would recommend it as a solo female traveler destination.
Mexico in the Media
One thing to keep in mind is how the media overexaggerates everything. For the most part, Mexico is safe but of course anything involving tourists makes for much more interesting news than the 30 million Americans and 2 million Canadians who safely visit Mexico each year. Unfortunately, violence sells.
I looked up which places are safe for Canadians traveling to Mexico and this is what the Canadian government said:
While travel to the state of Jalisco is not advised, the Yucatan Peninsula (Cancun, Cozumel, and Riviera Maya) has not been significantly affected at this time and is still deemed okay for travel by the government of Canada.
Then I looked up the same thing for the USA, here is what the US government says for their citizens:
Level 4: DO NOT TRAVEL. Travelers should avoid all travel to Mexico. Do not travel to Mexico due to COVID-19. Exercise increased caution in Mexico due to crime and kidnapping. Some areas have increased risk.
Is it safe to drive in Mexico?
Personally, I spent a month road-tripping across various states in Mexico and other odd girls trips never ran into a single issue. However, I’ve had friends who have been pulled over or their cars searched. Luck of the draw I guess. Granted on the road trip we were 3 in the car, 1 guy with 2 girls, and 1 person who spoke fluent Spanish. Having someone who was able to communicate with locals helped a lot driving through tolls, smaller towns, or the state borders and made it seem like a local with 2 friends visiting.
As a general rule, driving in Mexico is considered safe, however, the obvious is — you’re still driving in a foreign country. Given that, you should take the time to familiarize yourself with Mexico driving laws, or ask the agent at your car rental company for advice.
Mexico Safety Tips for Solo Female Travelers
- Always be aware of your surroundings. When I’m traveling alone I notice I am much more aware than when I am with others. I am very observant of the area I am in, how many people are around me, is the area well lit. I like to make mental notes of places along the way so I can start to familiarize myself.
- Use a GPS – I’m not one of those people who has a good mental compass so I always use GSP so I know exactly where I am. If you don’t have service, plug in your destination before you leave wifi & the map will continue to work.
- Keep an eye on your drinks – This isn’t specific to Mexico but more so a female travel tip no matter where you are in the world.
- Never share that you’re traveling alone – A white lie never hurt anyone, especially if it’s in a situation that will keep you safe – “My friend is just shopping in the boutique next door”, “My boyfriend just went to park the car”. Anything that will explain why you are alone at that moment. The one exception to this rule would be if you’re staying in a hostel. When I was solo packing I spent 1 day on my own in months because you’re always meeting like-minded people that may be traveling the same way as you. So I was always able to open up more there.
- Never be too trusting! Meeting new people is one of my favorite parts of solo travel, but you should be careful about freely handing out too much personal information. And never go anywhere alone with someone you just met. The exception again being meeting and traveling with people from your hostel.
- Do your research – I don’t fully plan out my trips but I do like to do map out how you’re going to get from the airport to your accommodation. Make sure your hotel, hostel, or Airbnb is in a good location before you book. My top 3 non-negotiables when booking accommodation, especially when traveling on my own are security, location, and cleanliness.
- Don’t carry ALL of your cash and credit cards on you at once. Only bring what you need for the day, and leave the rest safely stashed away in your hotel room. I like to divide it amongst my various luggage, that way if someone robs me, they may not find all my hiding spots. Also never walk around with your passport, I always carry a photocopy of it and leave the physical one in the safe in my room.
- Avoid wearing flashy clothes and jewelry – In smaller Mexican towns, you’ll want to skip shorts and opt for pants or a more modest dress instead. However, if you’re visiting Mexican beach towns, like Tulum, Cancun, Sayulita for example, these dress code rules won’t apply. Refrain from wearing large diamonds or jewelry that will draw unnecessary attention to yourself.
- It helps to know some Spanish. Knowing a bit of Spanish will help you feel more comfortable and confident while traveling through Mexico. But if you don’t know much don’t fret – I didn’t either. Download a translate app. You can type in English and it will type in Spanish so you can properly communicate with locals.
Areas in Mexico great for a solo female travelers
In general, the Yucatan Peninsula is one of the safest places to travel in Mexico and attracts millions of visitors each year for sun, sand, and adventure. While petty crime can be found in most places, it has one of the lowest rates of homicide in Mexico (10 times lower than the rest of the country).
Here’s a list of some of the safest areas in Mexico:
A digital nomad hub filled with expats both traveling and those that have temporarily relocated. Tulum is always a good time and I’ve never once felt in danger there. If you’re looking to book a trip or want to know more about Tulum check out my Ultimate Tulum Travel Guide Blogpost. And if you’re looking for those photo-worthy spots you’ve seen all over Instagram, check out my Most Instagrammable locations in Tulum.
Despite it being run by the cartel as I mentioned earlier, Tulum actually ranks as the second safest place in Mexico by U.S. News and World Report.
Playa Del Carmen
Located on the shore of the Gulf of Mexico in the Yucatan Peninsula and only 45 minutes from Tulum, Playa del Carmen is where I decided to call home. There is so much to tell you about Playa, personally, I think it’s the best place to base for a digital nomad. PDC has tons of restaurants, shopping, feel tropical yet has a developed infrastructure of a small city. And the best part was that apartment was only a 5-minute walk from the beach! Something you won’t find in Tulum unless you are staying in the hotel zone.
Oaxaca is known as the food capital of Mexico but more than that the city is a hub for digital nomads looking to dive into the Mexican culture.
The city has a decent expat community, but less focused on the digital social scene. People there want to engage in the culture and the community and learn Spanish. Oaxaca City, the state’s capital, hosts the annual Day of the Dead festival, and although a city, it feels more like a small town than a metropolitan city.
Merida is the capital of the Yucatan state and consistently ranks as the safest city in Mexico, the second safest city in North America, and considered to be as safe as Europe. It’s a relatively peaceful city, more or less unscathed by the drug war.
The city also has a rich Mayan history and colonial heritage with a very charming colonial town center and stunning well-preserved architecture. Like most colonial cities, Merida has beautiful plazas and cathedrals. The buildings are painted with a colorful palette of periwinkle, sherbet pink, mint green, and vibrant peach exteriors.
Mexico City is one of the oldest and largest cities in the Americas. Wander the streets and discover the colonial architecture, iconic artwork, spicy cuisine, and rich cultural heritage.
I have yet to visit Mexico city so I can’t speak from a place of personal experience here. But I’ve heard mixed things about the safety in Mexico City. From what I’ve been told, like all big cities, there are many safe neighborhoods like Roma, Condesa and Polanco, and neighborhoods to avoid in Mexico City, like Tepito and Doctores. But if you stick to these safe places in Mexico City, you’ll enjoy this amazing city. I personally have a girlfriend who lived solo in Condesa for months and absolutely loved it.
If you’ve always dreamed of taking a solo trip, this is your sign to do it! Honestly, it will be the best thing you do for yourself. I always say everyone should do it once in their life. You learn so much about yourself and wind up gaining so much self-confidence in knowing you can do it all on your own! I hope this post helps you safely plan your solo trip to Mexico.
Let me know in the comments if this helped and where you plan on traveling!
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This is such a helpful blog post Lisa! I am currently trying to plan a trip for my first time 🙂
yay!!! I am so excited for you! You will have the best time!!!
I just returned from a week long solo trip to Mexico. I visited Valladolid, Chichen Itza and Merida, moved around between places by buses and Collectivos. Not once I felt unsafe or uneasy. I do have a set of rules I go by when taking solo trips, many of which you mentioned in your post. The portrayal of Mexico in US media as a dangerous place really bothers me. Yes, the country has its problems, but Mexico is huge and as long as you don’t go when they don’t want you, you’ll be fine.
Ahh I’m so glad to hear you loved it!!! Yes Mexico has many amazing and safe places and you visited some of the safest! I would love to revisit and spend more time in Merida, I also loved Valladolid!
Like anywhere, Mexico has it’s crime but the portrayal of how dangerous it is is is very much overly hyped by the media. Yet you don’t see travel warnings for US citizens in their home country saying not to travel to Detroit or anywhere is where crime is high.
this is so helpful! i wanted to visit mexico during summer but read so many negative news regarding covid and crime and even sexism and discrimination that i got super scared to visit alone! but now I’m super curious and wanting to go again, maybe next summer !
thank you, loved the post!
Im so happy this was helpful to you. That means a lot to hear! And yes Mexico is incredible and much less scary than people think
Thank you so much for this blog post. You have no idea how helpful this is. I just booked my trip to PDC/Tulum last night. After watching all your post/stories you’ve inspired me to go. Thank you. Thank you!!! ☀️
Omg this makes me so happy to hear! Thank you so much! You will love it
Definitely my next trip, especially want to try the peanut butter coffee. All the way from UAE/Kenya
Yes!!!! Omg it’s so yummy!
Thank you so much for this!
Can you tell something about the costs or how much you spend a day. I think I can’t afford to go out for dinner a lot so I’m curious if groceries in supermarkets are cheap. Would appreciate if you can share some tips for me. I’m planning on arriving in November and staying for few months, I prefer Tulum over Playa. Wishing you a pleasant day, greetings from the Netherlands. X Judith
So I didn’t really budget myself but I will say that cost of living is pretty much similar to Canada, maybe a little cheaper. But groceries will definitely be cheaper. I rented a really nice 2 bedroom condo with a gym and rooftop pool in Playa for $1500 CAD/ month. If you’re looking for cheaper then you definitely do not want to be in Tulum. Tulum is far more expensive for everything, living, dining and on top of it you will need a car or motorbike. In Playa I got an app called Bixie Playa and would just rent a bike anytime I needed it. It was like $18 for the year.
Where is that beautiful waterfall located? I’m going to Mexico in December and finding your blogs so helpful with the planning!
This waterfall is in Palanque. It’s called Roberto Barrios 🙂