Saturday, 11 January 2014

Travelling Alone in Mexico as a Woman

If you have the chance to go to Mexico, go! If you have nobody to go with you, GO ALONE! Before I went to Mexico I talked about it to my friends, who supportively told me more horror stories than you could shake a badger at, and also some advice that ranged from "you do realise Mexico is THE most dangerous country in the WORLD?" to simply "DON'T GO!" Being a deductive kind of gal, I soon realised everyone who was telling me not to go, had never actually been themselves. I did an on-line search and these articles by Vagenda and Sarah Hepola convinced me that not only was travelling alone an option, but in the struggle for female emancipation, I basically had a duty towards womankind to get myself out there and see some Mayan ruins!



Chilling with feminist golden gal Frida at the Frida Kahlo museum

It's not silly to be nervous, and a lot of people might wonder if it is safe for a woman to travel through Mexico alone. But there are so many advantages. Travelling alone is like living the single girl's dream: you can do what you want, where you want and when you want. You can tailor everything to your tastes and budgets. Sometimes this is actually quite a challenge, at first I found it stressful making decisions and getting the impetus to keep packing up and moving. But in Mexico there was always something new to see, and once I got into the swing of things, wild horses couldn't keep me in my hostel room!

Without friends to encourage you to get out of your comfort zone, you have to do it for yourself. When I was in Valladolid, I went to a cenote, and I decided I didn't feel like swimming in the water. I told myself it was because I don't like swimming. BUT after a moment of deep self-reflection, gazing wistfully at a couple floating in the middle of the pool, I realised I was actually just too nervous to go in on my own. I knew if my friends were with me, I would go in. Which was ridiculous. So I forced myself to change into my bikini and get in the water to splash around a bit. As I was swimming (well, hanging onto the rope. I can't swim), it began to rain, water filtering through the rocks and vines above onto my head. I had overcome my nerves!!!!! Suck on that!

I was travelling alone for the first time, which can be a bit intimidating, especially as the other people in the hostels might have fancy backpacks and money belts and earthy jewellery. I naturally assumed that all backpackers were probably dickheads (which admittedly makes no sense because I was backpacking too...). This is a Negative Attitude and I warn against it! After talking to like three people I realised that perhaps I was being a bit judgemental, and I began forcing myself to approach people. If you don't, you might get lonely. I found people were so friendly, and the Mexicans were friendliest of all. 

If you want to go to Mexico alone, and are nervous, before I went I made a clear plan of where I was going to go and when, what hostels I could stay at and what I could do. I followed a popular route and stayed in busy hostels (that were full of other travellers, like me). I tried to follow all the safety advice you can find about travelling alone, but sometimes you have to relax a bit and enjoy yourself, and I think as long as you're using common sense then you have to be unlucky to get into trouble. I met a lot of people who I never would have spoken to if I hadn't been alone, my Spanish improved more in that month that it did in five months in Cuba, and I'm really proud of myself for doing something even though I was scared, and doing it all on my own.

4 comments:

  1. hello,
    I found this post whilst googling about how safe it is to travel to mexico alone as a girl, as I am planning on doing this in a couple of months.
    I'm a 23 year old girl from london and although I want to be totally okay with just booking the flight I am pretty scared... was wondering if you would maybe share the route you took or anywhere to definitely go/avoid! Really enjoyed reading this and would love to hear more about your trip so it can give me some comfort.... sorry if this is totally random/ comes across like some weird stalker.
    Thanks!

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    Replies
    1. Hi! Sorry for the late reply!
      I will write a post of my route but basically I went: Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Valladolid, Merida, Palenque, San Cristobal de las Casas, Mazunte, Oaxaca, Veracruz and Mexico City from where I flew home.
      I was really nervous but I had the best time of my life. When I was there I heard it was best to avoid Acupulco and anywhere north of Mexico City. You can avoid both of them and still have a great time. If you are nervous, stay around Yucutan province as a lot of people go on holiday/travelling there so you'll meet loads of people and the authorities spend a lot of time making it safe. I also chose not to cross the border into Guatamala or Belize because it can be dangerous. Mexicans are lovely people and maybe I was lucky but every Mexican I met helped me out!
      Nothing is without its risks but it was such an amazing experience that I'm so glad I ddidn't let my fears hold me back. If you are nervous, you could book on to a pre-organised tour, like an STA one, for the first week or so?

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  2. Travelers might also enjoy my book on expats off the beaten path. After 15 months of criss-crossing Mexico, my new book looks at Americans and Canadians who’ve chosen to avoid the big expat colonies in San Miguel de Allende and Lake Chapala. What they’ve found is both diverse and surprising. If you’re wondering what the expat experience is like, whether on the beach or in the colonial cities of the interior, you need to listen to this conversation. The book is called Into the Heart of Mexico: Expatriates Find Themselves Off the Beaten Path, and there is no other book like it. There’s a sample on my website:
    http://www.sanmiguelallendebooks.com/intotheheartofmexico.html

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