Solo Travel to Mexico (everything you need to know)
A Guide to Solo Travel in Mexico
By the numbers, resort towns like Cancun, Cabo, & Puerto Vallarta see the majority of Mexico’s tourists.
Families and couples looking for a luxurious resort vacation.
But Mexico has an overabundance of attractions and experiences for more intrepid travelers. Independent travel in Mexico offers a look at colorful colonial towns, unspoiled beaches, ancient ruins, and of course, a taste of one of the world’s best cuisines. So good it’s one of only two cuisines recognized by UNESCO as cultural treasures.
Despite its rough around the edges reputation, solo travel to Mexico is a fantastic experience.
What to Expect as a Solo Traveller in Mexico
Latin American countries are notoriously friendly. Which makes solo travel much easier than in some of the more stereotypically standoffish countries.
Hostels and guesthouses are commonplace leaving plenty of opportunities to socialize where you sleep.
But that doesn’t mean as a solo traveler you have to leave all luxury behind. Mexico is filled with beautiful, budget-friendly accommodation options that allow you to live lavishly for half the price of other destinations.
Day-to-day solo travelers can explore pastel-colored towns filled with colonial-style architecture, sample tequila & mezcal, lounge on Caribbean beaches, swim in electric-azure cenotes, and explore the ruins of ancient civilizations that disappeared long ago.
The country has a vibrant nightlife scene, plenty of both historical and art museums, and unique natural wonders to explore.
Busting Some Mexico Travel Myths
Myth 1: Mexico isn’t safe.
Reality: Mexico is relatively safe. Just like anywhere in the world if you go looking for trouble, you’ll find it. Use basic street smarts and the biggest risk you’ll face is losing a few dollars to a pick-pocket.
If you’re worried about safety as a solo traveler in Mexico, see our safety tips below.
Myth 2: English is commonly spoken.
Reality: Without a little Spanish knowledge you’ll have a more difficult time traveling independently. English is not widely spoken outside of the major tourist areas and without the essential Spanish phrases committed to memory, we would recommend bringing along a phrasebook.
Myth 3: I’ll have the Burrito.
Reality: The world is most familiar eating Tex-Mex or an Americanized hybrid of “Mexican Cuisine”. Think burritos, chimichangas, nachos, fajitas, hard shell tacos stuffed with orange shredded cheese, etc. You’ll be hard-pressed to find those kinds of dishes during your trip to Mexico. But believe us, the real Mexican food is even better.
Tips for Solo Travellers in Mexico
Let’s start with safety. Most solo travelers’ biggest concern when traveling abroad. These are a few things you can do to quell those fears.
- Get a sim card. Navigating unfamiliar cities becomes a lot easier with access to GPS. If you’re worried about safety this is a good asset to have.
- Avoid going out alone at night. Or heavy drinking.
- Trust your gut. If it feels like a sketchy situation, remove yourself.
- Keep valuables hidden. The most commonly reported crime is pick-pocketing. Don’t carry a lot of cash on you.
In case of more serious theft, keep $20-30 in a separate pocket. This way if you’re mugged (although very unlikely), you have a reasonable wad of cash to give up without losing everything.
2. Making Friends
Lucky for you Mexico is a popular destination for travelers. Meaning you’ll have no shortage of opportunities to make friends. Here are a couple of places you can meet fellow travelers.
- Food Tours or Walking Tours.
- Dia de Los Muertos. Visit during a popular social festival like Day of the Dead for a good chance to link up with other solo travelers.
3. Brush Up on Your Spanish
As mentioned previously, English isn’t widely spoken. Either grab a phrasebook or download Google Translate to help you out in sticky situations.
4. Finding Accommodation
These are the three most popular types of accommodation as a solo traveler.
Hostels are great for meeting fellow travelers and getting the lay of the land in major cities. Perfect for asking for travel advice and compiling a bucket-list of destinations to see around the city or country. After all, the best travel advice comes from the backpacker grapevine. Mexico has plenty of comfortable hostels with both dorm-style and private rooms.
A great option for those looking to connect with locals and culturally immerse themselves in the destination.
Mexico, specifically in the beach regions, has a huge offering of beautiful Airbnb rentals. A great way to recharge and relax during your trip to Mexico.
Prices range from $7 for a hostel bed to $40 a night in a trendy Airbnb.
Your Guide to the Best Mexican Food
Because food is a huge part of travel. Especially in Mexico.
Mexican cuisine is beloved around the world. No matter where you are from, it’s very likely you’ll have eaten some variation of a taco during the span of your life. But authentic Mexican food isn’t just various meats and veggies dumped into a hand-made corn tortilla. (Although sometimes, it is.)
Here are some of the tastiest and most popular traditional Mexican dishes every traveler should make an effort to sample during their visit to Mexico.
- Al Pastor. Kebab grilled pork paired with pineapple, onion, and cilantro. Often stuffed into tacos, gringas, or quesadillas.
- Torta. Mexico’s answer to a sandwich. Piles of meat, sauce, and white cheese nestled on a soft bun for a massive lunchtime meal.
- Mole. Think of it as a savory chocolate sauce. Faintly sweet and perfectly spiced this rich brown sauce is a favorite for smothering enchiladas.
- Chilaquiles. Popular for breakfast this pile of day-old tortilla chips smothered in cheese, mild red sauce, and an egg jump-starts your day.
- Pozole. Traditional soup with pork, hominy, and cabbage. It has a thin lightly-spiced broth.
- Tamale. Corn dough filled with meat and cheese wrapped in banana leaf or corn husk and delicately steamed to perfection.
This is in no way an all-inclusive list of Mexican dishes but these are six you absolutely must try on your first visit to Mexico
Mexican Food Tips for Solo Travellers
1. Always choose restaurants and street vendors that are busy & filled with locals. No one can find delicious eats like the locals can.
2. Ask locals “Where they like to eat” instead of “Where you should eat”. You’ll be directed to their favorite hole in the wall instead of a popular (and less delicious) tourist trap.
2. Be adventurous. Often the only way to figure out what’s worth eating is to try it. There are always a few dishes that surprise you.
4. Don’t be afraid to eat in restaurants alone. It’s a great way to meet fellow solo travelers and people-watch.
Planning a Solo Trip to Mexico
Travelers often give themselves a month to solo travel to Mexico.
But truth be told, Mexico is huge.
Planning to explore the entire country in one trip would be like exploring the whole European continent in one go. You’ll need to break it into manageable chunks depending on the length of your trip.
Three common solo travel routes are the Yucatan Peninsula, Baja Peninsula, or Central Mexico.
If you have several months to spend in the country you could combine all three regions for one massive Mexican adventure. Alternatively, if you only have a week, you can narrow your focus even further to the beaches of Tulum or a combination of Mexico City & Oaxaca.
Here are all the best destinations for solo travel in Mexico and things to do in each of them.
The heart of Mexico. Travelers who venture to this region of the country aren’t just looking for a beachy getaway. They are looking for the full ‘Mexican experience’. The street food. The history. The decadently ornate architecture.
Solo travel in the heart of Mexico is perhaps more difficult than elsewhere because of the sprawling often chaotic cities. With fewer per capita tourists, English can be relied upon even less. But those who visit reap the rewards.
Okay, Central Mexico isn’t without its idyllic beach towns. With white stucco walls and soft brown shingles, this town is nothing short of charming. It’s also quite the party once the sun sinks over the tropical waters. Try parasailing over the shores of Playa las Gemelas or Los Muertos beach and wander the old town for some much-needed quiet.
The birthplace of tequila and mariachi. Two specialties that are best experienced together. So, drink up. Guadalajara is also home to San Juan de Dios Market, the largest indoor market in all of Latin America.
Once the richest city in Mexico, Guanajuato’s streets are well-adorned with colorful facades and beautiful architecture. Think European splendor but with better street food and mariachi bands. It’s one of the ‘prettiest’ cities in Mexico and great for meeting fellow travelers as the food and ambiance draw crowds of visitors.
Where to begin. Frida Kahlo’s house would be a good start. Or the sprawling green space that is Chapultepec Park (it’s bigger than Central Park!). Savor some of the culinary highlights of Mexico and wander Zócalo plaza, known for the gold and orange-roofed Bellas Artes Palace.
After you’ve spent a few days (or a week) taking in the chaotic capital of Mexico you can venture out of town for impressive views of the ancient pyramids of Teotihuacan, or take a float Venice style on the colorful riverboats of Xochimilco.
If you love the culture and activities packed into Mexico City but the hustle and bustle of the world’s 12th largest city aren’t for you, head to Oaxaca.
Oaxaca is known for its food scene. Heavy on the Mole and just a little different than the other regions of Mexico. Visit the local food market, Mercado Benito Juárez, to get a taste for the local cuisine.
Be sure to take a day-trip out of the city to Hierve el Agua, the most impressive fossilized ‘waterfall’ you’ll ever see, and Monte Alban (White Mountain) built by the Zapotecs.
This is a great place to celebrate the Day of the Dead if you happen to be in the area.
San Cristóbal de las Casas
If you’re planning on linking this region to the Yucatan Peninsula this is the perfect stopover. Sitting about halfway between Mexico City and Cancun this cobblestone street town is often compared to Cuzco, Peru. From here you can visit the Sumidero Canyon or the thundering cascade of El Chiflon. Or you can opt to just hang out in the lovely town and drink the night away at one of its many local bars before carrying on to the Yucatan.
If you’re looking for a tropical beach paradise mixed with ancient ruins and cenotes, the Yucatan Peninsula is right up your alley. It’s also the most popular sector of Mexico for tourism. If you’re nervous about solo travel to Mexico this is a great place to start.
The beaches of Cancun are crowded with all-inclusive resorts but you don’t have to travel far for some of the very best beaches in the world. Isla Mujeres is a small island off the coast of Cancun & is an absolute must-see. The white sand, iguana-filled beaches are some of the prettiest in Mexico. Cancun itself has become a Spring Break-style party town, so don’t spend too much time here.
Need more beach therapy? More isolated and also part of the Yum Balam Nature Reserve you’ll be sharing the shores with more flamingos than people. Go beach bar-hopping and ease your way into Mexico by lounging in the ocean-dipped hammocks. If you visit during July or August you can even swim with whale sharks!
Sitting inland from the tropical shores of the peninsula, the town of Valladolid is a jumping-off point for more adventurous travelers. The Mayan UNESCO-Heritage preserved ruins of Chichen Itza are here. As well as some lovely cenotes. The traveler favorites are Ik Kil and Cenote Azul.
Note – A cenote is a deep natural well caused by the collapse of limestone. The turquoise waters are often framed by rugged rocky edges and offer danging rope swings to help you take the plunge.
The capital of the Yucatan State. Although it’s not on the typical itinerary for tourists to Mexico, it should be on the solo traveler’s list. It’s a cultural hub filled with history, beautifully constructed buildings, nearby Mayan ruins, and of course, a great place to try Yucatecan cuisine.
Many solo travelers choose Merida over the UNESCO-Heritage recognized township of Campeche. But if you can find the time to squeeze in even a single night in this small town, you’ll be able to see some of the most impressive Mayan archeological sites (like Calakumul) and also marvel at the beautiful colonial baroque architecture.
One word. Diving. Cozumel is one of the top places in the world for diving. Blessed with the winning combination of thriving marine life and unbelievable water visibility. If you want to explore the undersea world of Mexico, we suggest visiting this island.
This is one of the more off-the-beaten-path destinations in the Yucatan Peninsula. But that doesn’t mean solo travelers should steer clear. Bacalar is pure bliss. If you find bliss in kayaking lagoons, visiting the stunning Lake of Seven Colors, and enjoying some time in the sand. It’s renowned as one of the best beach regions in Mexico, but without the typical tourist infrastructure that can be found in more popular towns like Tulum or Cancun.
Translated to the “Land of the Turtles” in Mayan, it’s no surprise what you’ll find in Akumal. Swim straight offshore with massive sea turtles in some of the best snorkeling waters in Mexico.
The new hotspot of the Yucatan Peninsula. Tulum is a yogi-filled beach paradise, it’s also home to ancient Mayan ruins and some of the best cenotes in the Yucatan (Cenote Dos Ojos). It’s the Bali of Mexico. Popular among young (often solo) travelers as a place to relax, rejuvenate, and relish in the white sand and turquoise water beaches like Playa Paraiso.
Playa del Carmen
The quintessential backpacker party town. But still beautiful. Playa del Carmen is a great stop if you’re a solo traveler looking to make some friends or just experience some of the nightlife in Mexico & sample a little (or a lot) of that famous Mexican mezcal and tequila.
Baja & Northern Region
Unless you’re coming overland from the United States, the Baja Peninsula jutting off the West Coast of Mexico is relatively isolated and difficult to add to your travel itinerary. Without flying into the tourist center of Cabo that is.
But if you’re looking for surf culture and laid-back beach towns still relatively untouched by the heavy hand of tourism, the Baja Peninsula is the place for you.
Here are some highlights on the Baja Coast of Mexico.
Shrug off the resorts and hit the beach. Much like the Yucatan Peninsula this region of Mexico is blessed with clear blue waters filled with vibrant coral reefs for snorkeling. The landscape of Cabo is unique, however, with its rocky outcroppings jutting up from the sea. You can pay a visit to Cabo Pulmo National Park or Mt. Solmar for scenic hiking and spend some downtime meeting fellow travelers on Santa Maria Bay or East Cape Beach.
Although Ojos Libres boasts the largest population of Grey Whales in Mexico, the shipping ports in the area and the massive lagoon to roam make it more difficult to spot the whales. In San Ignacio however, you’re practically guaranteed to spot hundreds of whales.
Valle de Guadalupe
When you think of Mexico you likely associate tequila. But what about wine? The Valle de Guadalupe is making a name for itself in the winery arena. Growing phenomenal grapes that compete with its nearby southern California vines, why not be tempted into spending a weekend winery hopping with some new friends.
What sets the beautiful coastal town of Sayulita above the rest? The expat community. Sayulita checks all the solo travel boxes; great nightlife, beach bars, tasty food options, and a laid-back west coast atmosphere. It’s one of those towns that converts visitors into residents. Join a yoga class or a surf lesson and stroll the colorful cobblestoned main street while you meet fellow travelers who decided to give the Baja Peninsula of Mexico a whirl.
Solo Travel to Mexico With Like-Minded Travellers Aged 25-45
Overwhelmed by the possibilities? Want to visit Mexico but don’t want to deal with the hassle of planning? Why not give our 11-Day Mexico Tour a look. You’d be joining a group of adventurous travellers aged 25 – 45 and have some ready-made friends to explore this amazing country with.