Veracruz highway with red pickup truck

Should Women Travel Alone in Mexico?

Safety Tips For Women Who Travel To Mexico Solo

When I was a newspaper columnist, two of my columns were always remembered. One was a heartwarming story about a mechanic who helped me on Christmas Day. The other was about the safety of women traveling alone in Mexico. Both elicited emotional responses. Both spoke the truth as I saw it.

woman on zipline zacatecas
Free as a bird
woman in oaxaca market
Solo Oaxaca Market

Is it safe for women to travel alone in Mexico? Safer than you think, but probably not anywhere as dangerous as you've been led to believe. I've changed my mind a couple of times, but have been convinced of the relative safety of solo travel by so many readers that I feel this is an honest viewpoint. I have nothing to gain one way or the other.

There is no doubt that travelilng with a friend or partner will engender a feeling of security. Male or female, two present a buffer from the rest of the world. The drawback to that is that it also insulates you from the Mexican people. You're less likely to meet them when you travel in pairs, let alone packs. The other disadvantage is that, sometimes, traveling is an opportunity for reflection, getting in touch with your inner self. That's easier to do alone.

Most of my readers are more concerned with women driving across the country alone. That is a different situation the stories that make the news from Cancun etc. My experience and that of my customers has been that women are no more in danger driving alone than anyone else. I go into detail about that aspect in the middle of this article.

I could play it safe and avoid the topic of solo travel or I could go with the herd and just say no, women shouldn't travel alone.

When I say they can, I have been attacked, villified, accused of having a nefarious agenda. The flip side of that coin is I've gotten letters of thanks from women who traveled Mexico by themselves. Yin and yang. Light and dark. Both sides hold someone's truth. I am not all-knowing. Another may well have substantial reasons for an opposing view. This is just my opinion, based on years of experience and talking to lots of women travelers. In the end, you have to make up your own mind.

The biggest threat to a woman's safety in Mexico is the same as the threat to a woman's safety anywhere. In Cancun, Cabo or anywhere there is a 'party-hearty' atmosphere, someone could slip something into your drink. It is just as likely to be an American who did it, but if something happens, Mexico will get blamed. So just watch yourself in clubs - just like you do at home.

When a celebrity gets murdered by her boyfriend in Cancun, is that really Cancun's fault? When a woman leaves a bar with a stranger in New York, Chicago or Des Moines, and gets in trouble is it the fault of those cities? If you use drugs at home, you are unlikely to not use them in Mexico. You are, however, more likely to get into trouble. But whose fault is that?

I know that bad stuff happens. It happens to good people. But you know what, there are 75 murders a day in the USA. There are terrorist bombs in the USA. Innocent people are shot by police in the USA. The point is, stuff happens everywhere. Unless you are planning a vacation in beautiful downtown Cd. Juárez or a border town, it is unlikely you will encounter any trouble.

If you disagree, please don't send me any hate mail. I am just expressing what I have learned from many years of working the "Mexico beat" and listening to women travelers.

What people don't understand is that Mexico is a big country and, like the United States, some places have incidents -- yes bad ones -- but you are as likely to encounter a drug shoot out in Mexico as you are in the USA. Think it doesn't happen here? If you read only about the murders, road rage, home invasions and yes, kidnapping that happens right here in any city, you might be afraid to drive in the USA.

Women traveling alone or together in Mexico should use use common sense and follow a few simple guidelines. Whether you are a woman traveling alone in Mexico or two women traveling in Mexico, you probably have less to fear than you would traveling alone in the USA. There are some differences and you should be aware of them.

I am not Pollyannaish. Mexico is a macho, male-dominated society. American, Canadian and European women are considered "easy" with loose morals. While feminism has made strides, the country is not liberated. Appear to be conservative.

The best way to avoid problems js to dress frumpy away from the beach resorts. Yes, I know that young Mexican girls dress like Hollywood rock stars, but they can get away with it and you can't.

Around some of the ruins, Palenque, for instance, there have been incidents of rape at the ruins. This is not limited to Palenque. Be careful at any archeological site. I strongly advise you to not accept any invitations to see the ruins at night and to explore only in the middle of the day or with a friend.

Are you safe taking a bus alone? Yes. Are you safe driving alone? Most women who have done it say yes, as long as you use the same suggestions found on the driving pages. Are you safe going into a local cantina? No. Use your head and you will be just fine. Safety is not guaranteed anywhere in the world. Get drunk at a disco and I can't be responsible. Take a "designated girlfriend to get me out of trouble".

Many travel writers are women, at least the ones who do Mexico books. They generally drive or bus around on their own. These women travel writers encouraged me to let women know that, while there are some real drawbacks to solo travel, it's no different in Mexico than in Europe or the US. Rather than being worried about being molested, they were concerned about being helped to death.

A lone woman is going to get lots of offers of assistance from well-meaning males and solicitous concern from well-meaning women. A woman can allay most wolfish advances with a big hat and loose clothing.

Most women team up after awhile, because it's easier to enjoy yourself with someone else there, or just because it's easier on the nerves.