Hola viajeros! My name is Shelley and welcome to my guide on solo travel in Mexico. I was bitten by the travel bug from the time I was born. My father was from Israel and his whole family lived there – so my family spent some of our summers in Haifa. To me, travel was always a normal part of life.
I grew up in South Florida and lived there for the majority of my life. I also lived in Portland and Orlando where I went to college. My BA was in journalism from the University of Central Florida in Orlando and I went on to work in journalism for most of my professional career.
The last full-time job I had was for a Miami travel magazine. I worked there for almost nine years before they abruptly closed down after 55 years in business! After a series of subsequent life events, I decided to sell my home in Southern Florida and move to Denver, Colorado for a fresh start in life.
Inspiration to Visit Mexico for the First Time
About a month before leaving for Denver, a friend of mine who also wasn’t working but had some savings said we should go travel. I agreed and he suggested we start in Mexico and continue to Argentina, and I agreed.
Now, I wasn’t super excited. I never really wanted to visit Mexico. In all honesty, I was brainwashed by the mainstream media and believed Mexico was dangerous. My friend convinced me it was fine and so off we went.
While I considered myself somewhat of a well-traveled person at that point, Mexico was still one the first “scary” destinations I visited. I had also been to Brazil some years prior and therefore I expected people to warn me about staying safe in Mexico! When I arrived I sort of fell in love at first sight.
The first Airbnb I stayed in was in the Roma Norte neighborhood of Mexico City. It was nothing short of spectacular. I think the countries you randomly end up in (that aren’t necessarily on your bucket-list) are the ones that make the biggest impression. This was certainly true of Mexico for me.
My travel buddy and I didn’t have a definitive itinerary but we did end up staying in Mexico for about three months before he decided to return to Miami. Me though, well, I was totally in love at this point and decided to continue my solo travel adventures in Mexico for the foreseeable future.
Over Two Years of Solo Travel in Mexico
I’ve visited about half of the states of Mexico in the last two and a half years and have been to most of them solo. I get asked a lot to pick a favorite place in Mexico and I have a few favorites all for different reasons I guess.
My overall favorite state is Oaxaca – both for its amazing colonial capital city and it’s gorgeous beaches. I went to Dia de Muertos (Day of the Dead) in Oaxaca City in 2018 which was my absolute favorite experience so far.
I have felt safe as a solo female traveler everywhere I’ve gone, despite the country not being portrayed as safe. There certainly are some unsafe places like everywhere on Earth but Mexico has been a safe place for me. Mexicans are incredibly friendly people too which adds to the experience.
Best Places to Photograph in Mexico
I wasn’t really into photography until I came to Mexico. In fact, I barely even took photos before coming here. I think the bright colors and colonial architecture spoke to me and now I’m somewhat photography obsessed.
If you’re looking for a beautiful area of Mexico to photograph then the state of Guanajuato is the place to go. San Miguel de Allende and Guanajuato City to be precise. Where I am currently living in Merida is also known as one of the prettiest colonial cities. The color and architecture is amazing.
This area, four hours northwest of Mexico City, is one of my favorite parts of the country. The states of Guanajuato and Queretaro have the amazing colonial cities just mentioned – and Mexico’s second largest wine region.
There are some fantastic vineyards and cheese caves located around Queretaro and Guanajuato. I recommend the Wine & Cheese Route for anyone who wants an off-the-beaten-path and delicious experience!
Top 10 Tips for Mexico Solo Travel
I think the “normal” travel tips suffice in Mexico. As with most countries, you want to be extra aware of your surroundings in larger cities like Mexico City and Guadalajara and in very touristy/party areas like Cancun.
Here are my top 10 tips for Mexico solo travel:
- Learn some Spanish. There are a ton of free podcasts or the Duolingo app is also great. This will help you to mix with locals and meet new people.
- Do your homework. As with all countries, Mexico has some unsafe parts that should be avoided. With a bit of research, you’ll know where to go.
- Take an Uber home at night or just don’t walk home alone at night.
- If you can, opt for Uber over public transport (especially in Mexico City). It is generally safe, but like many big cities in the world, if you’re going to get pickpocketed, it’s most likely to happen on the metro or bus.
- Don’t keep your cell phone in your back pocket.
- If you’re driving, don’t drive at night and only use the “Couta,” or toll roads.
- Take a group tour anywhere you don’t feel comfortable going alone.
- Avoid wearing flashy clothing and jewelry. In general, Mexicans are modest dressers. Showing off might cause unwanted attention as well.
- Keep some cash in your pocket or a side pocket in your purse so you don’t have to pull out your entire wallet for every transaction.
- The last tip is to always listen to your intuition. If anything feels off about something/somewhere/someone, then listen to your intuition and avoid.
I recommend Mexico for solo female travelers and male solo travelers. As long as females stay in safe areas and remain aware of their surroundings. In fact, I think these rules apply to solo female travelers in any country.
Why Mexico is Foodie Heaven for Solo Travel
I personally love Mexican food. Being from the Miami area, I’m familiar with latin cuisine and flavors. So Mexico wasn’t a big move from my culinary comfort zone. While tacos are the most famous thing, Mexican cuisine is quite regional. If you’re in Mexico City – yes, you’ll be eating lots of tacos.
In the state of Oaxaca, it’s more mole and tlayudas. Where I live in the Yucatan Peninsula, the most famous dish is cochinita pibil. My favorite food is barbacoa. It more or less translates to BBQ and is eaten on the weekends. Barbacoa is from the state of Hidalgo but you can find it everywhere.
Meeting the Incredibly Warm People of Mexico
Mexicans are incredibly friendly people. They have a lot of national pride and Mexicans love sharing it. I have found it incredibly easy to meet people. I have met many locals through networking in Facebook groups.
Mexicans and expats use Facebook frequently – so I would recommend joining a few Facebook groups for whatever city you’re visiting. Offline, I’ve also met people in Spanish school classes, yoga classes and in tour groups. I’m not a big party-goer but meeting people in bars and clubs applies too.
Favorite Memory in Mexico: State of Oaxaca
I think my favorite memory in Mexico was just the few months I spent in the state of Oaxaca. I’m actually in the process of moving back there just as soon as life returns a little more to normal. My first experience in Oaxaca was doing a 10-day silent meditation retreat on the Oaxacan coast.
Then, I went to Day of the Dead in Oaxaca City and ended up staying for a month. After that, I went back to the coast and stayed for a good amount of the winter. The weather in that area of Mexico is perfect in the winter.
Also, there’s a few species of whales that migrate past Puerto Escondido from November to February. At least once a week, I got to see whales jumping out of the water and they are magical. Besides that, I saw dolphins and mobula rays daily and sea turtles laying eggs on the shore a few times.
Those are memories I will cherish forever. Thanks for reading my guide on solo travel in Mexico. I hope it has provided you with inspiration and tips for your solo journey to one of the most incredible countries in the world!