As a single woman in Mexico, I am often asked by friends and family, “Is it safe?”
The honest answer is “yes and no.” Mexico is not safe for those involved in the drug trade and visitors who engage in illegal and illicit activities. Nevertheless, theft and harassment are among the top fears among solo, female travelers.
Women are given conflicting messages about traveling alone. We are encouraged to do it as a worthwhile exercise in self-exploration and character building. We are loaded down with travel advisories and unsolicited advice from everyone from our mother to the grocery store clerk.
Towns in the 60-mile coastline of the Riviera Maya have booming populations with people from around the world. But the crime rates here are still below the average experienced by their U.S. counterparts. Navigating this as a solo, female traveler requires common sense and street smarts, just as you would at home.
That said, the Riviera Maya can be an enjoyable and safe place for women. Its glittering, azure waters of the Caribbean Sea, lush jungle, and vibrant culture is a diverse terrain for women to explore what happens when the beauty of your external adventure dances with your internal wisdom.
Here are six, practical and helpful tips as featured in Forbes.com and adapted by Loco Gringo for the solo, female adventurer.
Be sure to learn and respect local laws and customs. A simple hand gesture with a positive association in one country can be considered rude and offensive in another.
You’ll also want to research any cultural, religious, or political events that might take place during your stay. Nearly everything shuts down, for example, during Mexican Independence Day on September 16 while many areas are open on Easter, although Mexico is considered a Catholic country.
LocoGringo.com has an extensive collection of e-books, blog posts, and other information written by local people to help you learn more about the rich culture of the Riviera Maya and Yucatan.
“Social” doesn’t necessarily mean staying at an all-inclusive resort.
Women have access to safe and affordable options that won’t break the bank. Forbes.com recommends “choosing accommodations in populated areas and use verified reviews to guide your decisions. In addition, seek advice from fellow travelers and locals if you are unsure about where to stay.”
My advice compliments and contradicts that of Forbes.com. I tested the waters of living in the Riviera Maya by booking a vacation rental through Loco Gringo for a month. I stayed in a small condo building and rented a car to get a taste of what daily life in Mexico might look like. While my vacation condo was on the beach, I was within a 30-minute drive of Playa del Carmen and Tulum.
Update family and friends about your whereabouts. This includes more than a Facebook or Instagram selfie at the Mayan ruins. In case of an emergency, it’s important for friends and family to know how to reach you. Also, make sure you have emergency contact information on you, not just on your phone, at all times.
Cloud storage can enable you to keep copies of essential documents such as your passport, ID, and insurance information safe in case you lose the physical copies.
Tools like “Find My iPhone” and location sharing can also help in sticky situations, Forbes.com recommends.
Familiarize yourself with the area by checking maps and guides before you leave for the day. Forbes.com warns that “burying your nose in a map can make you more vulnerable to pickpocketing.”
LocoGringo.com has city-specific information written by locals that provide helpful tools and tips that are often overlooked. Check out our website for more details.
Even when you’re lost, fake it until you make it. Look as if you know where you’re going, even though you don’t have the slightest clue. Wandering around looking lost and frightened could attract unwanted attention, Forbes.com advises. “Instead, be confident and ask nearby business owners if you need assistance.”
Exploring the many ways to play in the Riviera Maya can be enriching and rewarding, especially for solo women travelers. Practice common sense and prepare to have the time of your life. Contact Paulina, our awesome concierge, for more ways to make the most of your next vacation escape.