The media would have you believe there is some kind of apocalyptic hell taking place in Mexico. With their screaming headlines of murder and mayhem by the drug cartels, you would think that Mexico must be the worst country in the world for a single woman to visit. I am here to tell you something very different, and that, with sensible precautions, Mexico is as safe as if not safer than many other destinations you could choose to visit.
The first thing I would recommend is doing some research about the particular area you might be intending to visit. Certain areas of the country are considered safer than the U.S. Take the Yucatan, Campeche, Oaxaca, Quintana Roo or Chiapas regions. These particular areas have the lowest crime statistics in the country and the best safety records with crime against tourists being very low. In these areas much of the crime is petty or a “crime of opportunity”. In other words leave your cell phone on a table and it might just be stolen but it might also be handed to you by a Mexican saying, “You forgot this”.
Mexico is an incredibly diverse country, from rolling mountains to lush jungles, stunning deserts and gorgeous beaches. Mexico will charm you with the spectacular diversity of its scenery. The colour, pageantry the love of family and the incredible food, Mexico is a country to fall in love with. You can explore the depths of out of this world cenotes, climb ancient Mayan and Aztec ruins, rest in authentic beach villages pick up a Caribbean vibe on the east coast of the Yucatan and so much more. The Mexican people are all about family, tradition and just hanging out together. They take their leisure time seriously and love a festival or an event. When the family goes to the beach, everyone goes and every generation is represented.
Mexico is pretty easy to get around in. The Mexican government has spent billions on modernizing the roads and bus transportation systems. Each state or area has a regional “luxury” coach system that can get you from one part of the country to the other. The ADO Bus system, in the Yucatan for example is very good and the buses are modern and very comfortable. Collectivos are usually smaller shuttle buses that go from village to town and the cost is around 9 pesos.
With a Collectivo, you get on board and when you are ready to get off tell the driver and pay the fare. These are the best way to get around the Yucatan if you are travelling to smaller areas or within communities. There is no fixed schedule with a collectivo they arrive when they arrive and most villages have a central collectivo point. Taxis are also plentiful and very inexpensive in Mexico. Many have the rates posted in their windows or at the local taxi areas in public squares. Always ask how much the ride to your destination is. It is not unknown for taxis to attempt to charge gringas a little extra, like an additional 10 pesos for the air conditioning.
If you rent a car in Mexico make sure you have Mexican insurance you may think you are covered with your US or Canadian insurance but you are not. In Mexico if you get into a car accident you must stay with the vehicle until both the Police and the Car Insurance representative shows up. Only then will the vehicle be able to be moved. Do not under any circumstances drive in Mexico at night this is where tourists and travelers face the most danger. In fact, anyone in Mexico driving at night on lonely highways is a target.
Is a single female safe in Mexico? Yes, absolutely this is one of the few countries I have ever been to that I met single female travelers all the time, in fact I would say that never in my all of my travels have I ever been to a place where the single women well outnumbered the male travelers.
Just trust your instincts, use common sense, be aware of your surroundings and belongings at all times, and blend in as much as possible. Take the same safety precautions you should always take when traveling anywhere, or even in your home city.
There is crime and violence in every country and every City in the world it cannot be avoided unfortunately. However, in Mexico the majority is concentrated in the northern Mexican states that border the US or the Pacific Coast with its huge US influence.
According to the US State Department, there are 27 states and of Mexico City, which have no advisories and only 4 states that they would advise against visiting. Check out the How Safe is Mexico website for constant updates about safety in Mexico.
Safe Mexican States with no travel advisories:
- Baja California Sur
- Estado de Mexico
- Mexico City DF
- Quintana Roo
Tips for women traveling solo in Mexico:
Check out the area of a city or location you are traveling to and are recommended as safe places to stay or visit. Read the travel forums and blogs to get an idea of what neighborhoods to stay in or where hostels are safe for women.
Learn some of the language before you go. Take a small phrase book with you but learn some basics. Basic pleasantries such as good morning and thank you will go a long way. Learn how to buy a bus ticket (these are sometimes best booked online before you go), learn how to ask for help and directions and of course how to order food.
Use the same common sense that you would traveling anywhere. Be aware of your surroundings and belongings at all times. Be cautious but not paranoid. Look around you, pay attention to what is going on.
When you arrive at your destination, ask the hotel staff or find the tourist information centres for information on tourist sites you must see and how to get there. Ask for their recommendations on safe areas to travel or stay in.
Avoid pulling out maps and guidebooks in public areas, take a moment to drop into a coffee shop and then read your maps. You want to project confidence at all times and not become a glaring target.
Take care when you are out socializing, do not get drunk and if you have had a little too much use your common sense. If you are walking back to your hotel or hostel, take care and stay alert. If you can get a cab or taxi back to where you are staying.
Don’t carry all your cash, credit cards and identification with you. Keep your documents locked up in your hotel or hostel safe. Only carry a minimal amount of cash with you and if you need to use an ATM try to make sure you do so during the daylight hours. Most Mexican banks have fulltime-armed security on duty during business hours you couldn’t fee safer than in a Mexican bank.
Dress appropriately, don’t wear flashy jewelry or expensive clothing and don’t “advertise” your pricey “toys” like cell phones or cameras.
Choose hostels or other accommodations in areas that feel safe to you, even it costs a little more than you would like to pay. For example if you are arriving when it is dark ask the hotel or hostel for a good safe shuttle or taxi service.
Do not drive at night if you are renting a car. The worst place to be for your safety is in a rental vehicle on a deserted Mexican highway after dark. If you are driving across the county only drive during the daylight hours.
When taking taxis, ask the price before getting into the vehicle. Many taxis have the price posted by the local taxi rank or in the window. Do not get into the taxi unless you know the price first, you may end up paying a lot more.
Always carry with you some extra tissues and hand sanitizer, trust me they will come in very handy. If you are traveling by bus have a sweater near by the air conditioning can get incredibly cold.
Always have a few spare pesos on hand in smaller denominations, many of the village shops and small businesses do not take cash and have a hard time making change from larger notes. This also comes in handy for tipping. In the grocery stores you should always tip the bagger and the guy that directs you in or out of the parking lot.
Here are some more resources about solo female safety in Mexico:
About Faith Coates:
Fulfilling a lifelong dream to retire early and travel the world Faith is now happily travelling to find the perfect place to retire. After spending a year in a tiny fishing village in the Yucatan, mangling Spanish and writing by the pool were the grim details of life here. But itchy feet struck again and Faith is now house-sitting and travelling in Ireland the UK and Europe. Faith has been writing for over 30 years, most of which was spent on Government grants, business and marketing plans for NGO’s trying to launch profit making enterprises. Raising millions of dollars for these causes with her writing there wasn’t much time for the fun stuff. Faith loves writing about other cultures, travel and food just to name a few, and is always up to take on a Marketing plan or two. You can read her blog here: http://www.xyuandbeyond.com