Solo Travel in Mexico
Mexico has a reputation for corruption and drug-related violence but you shouldn’t let this put you off visiting. It does have its issues so check Mexico travel advice before you go. If you don’t venture north of Mexico City or certain neighbourhoods where the drug-cartels rule, the rest of the country is amazing and easy to travel around.
Many maturer travellers come here (except during Spring Break on the Riviera Maya) and because of its proximity to the United States, the country is also popular with Americans. When you solo travel in Mexico the east coast is the best spot to meet others as it’s the place to party. Just stay away from the danger hot spots and you'll have a sizzling time.
We love Mexico and although it really comes under North America, we have included it within Central America so that you can tag it onto your Latin America itinerary. Contrary to belief, you won’t find tequila-loving locals all wearing sombreros and shouting “Arriba Arriba” (except the tourists on the east coast!). Instead you’ll find a country full of culture, warm friendly people and a climate that makes it a year-round destination.
Mexico is a perfect base for exploring Latin America and with history dating back to the Mayan and Aztec times, its archeology does not disappoint. Explore the ancient city of Coba, the cliff-top ruins of Tulum or Chichen Itza, the most famous of them all. But if you’re looking for somewhere less crowded Palenque is just as impressive and nearby waterfalls amongst the lush jungle adds to its attraction.
The capital, Mexico City was founded in 1325 and is the oldest city on the American continent. It’s also one of the most populated in the world and has more museums than you’ll have time to visit. If you only see one, make it the Museum of Anthropology which represents the country’s main cultures. The Museum of Modern Art is also worth a visit and there is even a tequila museum for tequila lovers.
It is so easy to navigate your way around with the metro, or jump on the hop on bus to make the most of this sprawling city. Art deco is everywhere and colourful murals and urban art can be found on the side of the dullest of buildings. You’ll find plenty of entertainment too with road jugglers or live musicians serenading your dinner table. Head to Plaza Garibaldi for traditional string instruments in true Mexican style or mooch around the Sunday market at Funente de la Cibeles.
The area of Condesa is our favourite; this trendy little place with a bohemian vibe is great for a sunny afternoon and has plenty of al fresco cafes – perfect for watching the world go by. You can’t leave Mexico City without a visit to the zoo (it’s free!) with 200 indigenous species unique to Mexico or without a trip to the Arena Mexico for some traditional Mexican wrestling.
Mexicans like hot, spicy food but they tame it down for tourists. Dine at the largest revolving restaurant in the world in Mexico City (Bellini Restaurant) or enjoy a glass of vino at the oldest winery in the Americas (Casa Madero). Sample a local brew in Guadalajara, Mexico’s second biggest city and the birthplace of Tequila or party the night away at Baja Peninsula.
If it’s scenery that you need, visit Oaxaca, a lush area of diverse eco-systems with colourful craft villages. For beaches, choose from the warm waters of Acapulco, or Copacabana or experience world class diving on the island of Cozumel (accessible by ferry from Cancun and Playa del Carmen) or kite surf and cave dive in Tulum, another amazing beach.
If its snorkelling, good nightlife and a beach experience that you’re after; the east coast is where it’s at. It is easy to get to Chichen Itza from here too and there are many cenotes (sink holes) to explore. Visit between mid May to September for a chance to swim with whale sharks – it’s an experience of a lifetime.
Cancun is more of a resort experience protected from the rest of Mexico. It is a westernised version with crystal clear waters, Tex Mex and a sunny climate. You don’t even really need Spanish to visit here. But if you’re looking for top notch hotels, sea, sand and parties, it certainly fits the bill and its new addition; the underwater museum is drawing in the divers.
Merida is the metropolis of Yucatan architecture and unlike the Riviera Maya, this city is typically Mexican with great culture, art galleries and even more museums. Puerto Vallarta near Guadalajara is another true Mexican town with beaches, jungles and botanical gardens which have been voted one of the top in America.
Other places to see in Mexico are: the World Heritage City of Campeche, the fishing village of San Agustinillo, Mazunte for the National Mexican Turtle Centre and jazz festival, the hippie haven of Zipolite and Puerto Escondido for great surfing.
Ciudad Juarez in the border region of Chihuahua is the most dangerous town in the country.
How long do I need?
You definitely need longer than a week here unless you just spend time along the east coast. Two weeks is enough time to see Mexico City, the ruins and relax on one of the beaches.
Accommodation in Mexico
There is a wide choice of budget accommodation in Mexico such as Casa de los Amigos, a guesthouse and non-profit organisation that has private rooms and dorm beds. Or stay at a B&B in the funky area of Condesa in Mexico City. Hostels are really good value here with the majority of hostel staff speaking English.
Sleep in a hammock, jungle cabana or a beachfront hotel. Stay on the Riviera Maya and expect 5 star all-inclusive resorts or opt for a jungle guesthouse in Tulum. Booking.com offers all luxury, guesthouses and budget accommodation for Mexico. Plus there’s Airbnb which connects you to unique travel experiences and isn’t just limited to staying in a local’s spare room. Save $20 off your first stay with this Airbnb link.
Solo Favourite – Rosa Del Viento, Tulum
This hotel oozes charm with amazing views of the sea. You can even choose your own hammock on the beach. Prices from £100 p/n. Find out more…
Solo Favourite – Aloft Cancun
We love the funky design of this hotel. Near the bars and restaurants in Cancun complete with a steam room to unwind after your evenings out. Prices from £75 p/n. Find out more…
Solo Favourite – Sevilla Palace, Mexico City
Undoubtably in one of the nicest areas in Mexico City, Sevilla Palace is in Zona Rosa and perfect for those wanting to explore Mexico City’s museums. Prices from £40 p/n. Find out more…
If you feel more comfortable in a group for either part of your trip or the whole duration, G Adventures is a responsible tour company which mainly caters towards budget travellers. Most tours have an average of 10 people and there is no upper age limit. Once you book your trip you pay extra for any excursions you want to do when you’re there.
Adventures start from 7 days celebrating Mexico’s Day of the Dead in Oaxaca, to a 33 day Best of Central America adventure travelling through Mexico, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica. They have tours for every kind of solo including a Mexico Monarch Butterfly Trail from £999 for 10 days. I have personally used G Adventures and recommend them as a solo female friendly company..
Intrepid Travel is similar to G Adventures with an average of 12 people on each tour. Over 50% of people using their trips are solo travellers. They tend to use hotels instead of hostels and have a more comfortable style of accommodation hence the trips can appear a bit more costly than G Adventures. They have tours for any length of time from a 4 day Mexico City stopover to a 65 day Complete Central America tour.
Viator – If you prefer day tours, Viator has a plethora to choose from. As a TripAdvisor company each tour is handpicked and pre-vetted to make such you get the best experience. From trips to Chichen Itza, the Teotihuacan Pyramids, or canopy adventures you'll find something for any kind of solo.
Travelling around Mexico
There is a great Ado bus network in Mexico however distances can be long so consider flying if you’re short on time. Mexican airlines make it easy to fly around the country. Viva Aerobus are the cheapest airline but they don’t accept cards online so you’ll need to buy a flight at the airport depending on availability. Mexico City has a fab metro system and a single fare will cost just 3 pesos for anywhere in the city.
Uber – When getting around the cities you may feel more comfortable with Uber instead of taking a taxi. Uber is a driver app where each driver is vetted beforehand, and you can see the driver’s picture and registration number before they arrive. Save up to $20 off your first ride with Uber using promo code RIDINGUBER20.
To hire a car we recommend pre-booking car hire with Avis so you can collect your car when you arrive at the airport.
From the Airport
Mexico City – There is a shuttle bus from outside terminal D/E which takes approx 45 minutes into the city and costs 30 pesos. The metro is cheaper at 3 pesos but you need to change lines.
Cancun – Buses run from the airport to Cancun downtown bus station and take approx 30 minutes. From the bus station there are frequent buses to different destinations in Mexico. If you’re travelling onto Playa del Carmen, Riviera bus lines operate directly.
Feel more confident with someone waiting for you at the airport when you pre-book a transfer with Hoppa, a reliable and safe service for solo females.
Travelling onwards (check visas before you travel)
To depart Mexico you need to pay a departure tax of 295 pesos.
Mexico to Belize: Buses leave from Chetumal to the mainland or take a water taxi to Ambergris Caye. The Ado bus runs an overnight service from Cancun to Belize City.
Mexico to USA: There are multiple border crossings throughout California and Arizona which are safe to cross including the San Ysidro border next to San Diego. Cruises also travel from the USA to Mexico.
Mexico to Guatemala: From Palenque it’s a 6 hour journey to the Tikal region of Guatemala, then a short boat ride to the Guatemalan border before another 3 hour bus journey to Flores. From San Cristobal de las Casas it’s a 10 hour trip to either Antigua or Lake Atitlan with a change of bus at Mesilla. Getting through either border will take a whole day. Expect to leave Mexico early morning and arrive in Flores (Tikal region) by late afternoon and Antigua or Lake Atitlan by early morning.
Where can I go from here?
Guatemala – 2.5 hours
Belize – 2.5 hours
Los Angeles – 3 hours
- Can I drink the water? No.
- Is tipping expected? Yes, being so close to the USA.
- Fixed price or barter? Barter.
- Any ATMs? Yes. Some give US$ instead of pesos so choose the right ones.
- Which side of the road do they drive? Right.
- Good for vegetarians? Yes.
- Any seven wonders of the world? Chichen Itza, Paricutin Volcano.
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Capital – Mexico City
Population – 112.3 million
Language spoken – Spanish
Did you know? Mexico is sinking faster than Venice!
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