Is Mexico Safe for Solo Travel?
Like everything in life, there are degrees of perspective, and unfortunately mainstream media has a love for the dramatic, making sweeping generalizations about a country, its people, and culture. It’s so bad that mainstream media is often the last place we want to go to learn about what life is like around the world.
No, I’m not talking about Cancun, or Riviera Maya. I’m talking about the real Mexico. The parts of Mexico that fewer travellers venture into, and those that do, fall in love with it.
The Bus: Travel Like A Rockstar
Travelling from Puerto Vallarta to Guadalajara with ADO buses, you’ll be surprised to find that the bus usually has wifi. Wifi, on a bus, in Mexico. The buses are far better than the god-awful Greyhound buses that cross the United States and Canada. When you’re tried and want to spoil yourself for the bus ride from Mexico City to Oaxaca, treating yourself to the premium bus means the ticket is roughly $60 USD for an 8-hour ride, but the bus has luxury seats, comes with an eye mask, ear buds, water, and very few fellow passengers. It’s a splurge that is still cheaper than flying, and makes you feel like a rockstar.
Strategies for Exploring Mexico Solo
Avoid areas of known risk
Choose accommodations that suit you
The interior of Mexico is not resort Mexico, beds may squeak, or be a little harder, but if you’ve traveled in Asia that won’t be an issue. If you check into a hostel or hotel and don’t like the room, or don’t feel safe, check out.
While visiting Taxco, I checked into a large hotel, but my room hadn’t been cleaned. It was disgusting. I checked out, got my money back, found a new hotel in the city’s centre, and loved my time there.
>> Find budget lodgingin Mexico
Create allies out of service personnel
Get lost walking around a city? Flag down a taxi and take it back to your hostel or hotel. Treat everyone with kindness and respect, including the taxi drivers and hotel staff, as this can pay off when you least expect it.
While staying in Guadalajara I decided to visit the massive weekend market, and took a taxi from my hotel. We chatted and laughed, and he sipped his beer as he drove. If was before 9am, and we’re in Mexico, taxi drivers drinking a beer is not uncommon. When we arrived at the market he dropped me off, and I bid him good day. Hours later I was ready to leave and decided to take a local bus that had a stop about a 15 minute walk from my hotel. Sounded simple enough. The only problem was that is was close to Easter weekend, and there was a procession that day. The bus didn’t stop where I thought it would and I ended up riding it to the end of the line, hoping to get off close by on the way back.
I had picked up my hotel’s business card and decided to flag down a taxi. Travel pride be damned, I was taking a cab back. I waved at the next taxi I saw, walked up to the window and discovered it was the same driver I had ridden with that morning. He told me to get in, and as we drove to my hotel I realized how far away I had been. I would have never found it on my own. During the ride I decided I was going to paying him extra money as a thank-you, but to my surprise when we arrived at the hotel my driver refused to take my money. Nothing. I was deeply moved, and the cemented my love for the Mexican people.
Expanding Your Comfort Zone, Solo
Don’t buy a sombrero in Puerto Vallarta and think you’re going to wear it and blend in with the locals on your adventure, you’ll just look like a idiotic tourist. Understand that the local bodega (a small shop that sell food and drink, cigarettes, etc.) opens and closes whenever they want, there are not always set times, and even hours are posted, they may not follow those times.
Know that some neighbourhoods get noisy, with the gas truck jingles, the singing of the empanada guy, riding his bike through the streets, the neighbours on the right playing Kelly Clarkson as the neighbours on the left play traditional mariachi, all at volumes which make you think there is an outdoor concert somewhere close by. Mexico is loud, but if you give yourself to it, you’ll come to love the ‘Mexican noise’, and maybe even miss it after you leave.