This week marked a few milestones on my epic 180-day Mexico road trip: my 9th week in Mexico (17 weeks to go!), 2,500 kilometers driven in Mexico, AND my 9th home base (Puerto Vallarta, after San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Guadalajara, Ajijic, Tequila, San Sebastian de Oeste, San Pancho, and Sayulita, in chronological order and respectively).
And now that I feel really very comfortable in Mexico — getting around, conversing, the ways of doing things — I feel much better suited to answer that persistent question: “How safe do you *really* feel in Mexico?”
Of course, I talk a lot about my positive experiences in Mexico on my blog and on Instagram. And guess what: what you see is what you get.
I’m not holding back on you. My experiences have been overwhelmingly positive so far.
Let me dig in, and first say, I am a very seasoned traveler. I have been fully nomadic for a year and a half across North America. Prior to that, I did a lot of sporadic international backpacking and traveling, mostly in South America and Europe. Not much fazes me, and I do not cripple myself by taking too many precautions. I am largely living my life, while keeping my head on my shoulders.
And since I never really know what somebody is referring to when they ask that question, I’ve taken the liberty of breaking up my answer into themes. But bottom line? I wouldn’t stay in Mexico, or any country, if I didn’t feel like I could be myself — and I’m traveling freely, I’m wearing what I want, and the vast majority of my interactions have been positive if not utterly pain-free. Enjoy!
FEMALE PERSONAL SAFETY: As a white, blonde, tall, conventionally attractive woman, I know I stand out. But I don’t stick out. (Do you catch the distinction?) I walk with purpose, I am not too timid to make eye contact, I am aware of my surroundings, I don’t drink too much, and I project a level of confidence some may call intimidating. I don’t have a victim mentality, I know where I’m going and that I belong there, and this is key no matter where you are. Oftentimes, I am walking with my dog, which is a deterrent in itself (even though she’s adorably cute, Penny can turn on the fierceness and I’ve taught her to bark on command).
Related to that — I am not trying to blend in. I’m not sure why I would. I wear what’s comfortable to me and what flatters me. I don’t color my hair dark to blend in, I don’t wear an engagement ring to fend off men, and I wear skirts and dresses if I want to. I don’t care to be non-descript, because I’m not getting tons of unwanted attention. Actually, in all my experiences in Latin America and Mexico, the men have been respectful (yes, compared to some places in Europe). While I have been hit on (in a bar setting), I have not been catcalled or propositioned in a place or manner that’s unfit or inappropriate for the setting. Ya’ll, my DMs are worse (SMH, it’s true).
I also don’t own any special contraptions (camouflaged weapons, door jams, keychain sirens and the like) — but I fully support others who own anything that helps with peace of mind. Because I avoid a lot of the places, times of day, and behaviors that could be problematic, and practice a few standard personal safety habits while traveling solo, I feel just as safe as anywhere else. Read more about some of those here.
DRIVING: Before I drove to Mexico… I actually had Mexicans telling me not to drive to Mexico! But millions of people drive in Mexico every day, thousands of them Americans — and I wasn’t going to let the government warnings and the media sensationalism deter me. (I spent six years working in two top-15 DMA television newsrooms. I know all about what makes the news and what the media deems “newsworthy.”) Plus, I did a lot of research to feel prepared in case of any kind of sticky situation… and so far, I’ve not had any problems. Read more about how I got ready for my road trip, and learn some of the rules I live by in Mexico: like no driving at night, always having at least half a tank of gas, and driving with a dash cam.
FINANCIAL SAFETY: I don’t know that I’m any more at risk for scams or price-gouging in Mexico than anywhere else. Sure, I may have been charged an extra 10 pesos (50 cents) for a few taxis for being a gringa. There was the server in Tequila who took the liberty of increasing his tip on the “terminal” (credit card machine). There was the guy who demanded a Paypal deposit on a rental condo in Puerto Vallarta and berated me when I told him I would only pay in person after seeing the place (the oldest rental scam in the book!). But those situations are very few and far between. The vast majority of the time, cashiers count out the change. The gas station attendants point out the pump is at “cero” (zero). Mexicans are overall very honorable people, and honesty is a highly-esteemed trait in Mexican culture. Keep your ears and eyes open like you would anywhere, and when someone is being pushy, trust your gut. Bad apples are the exception, not the rule.
SKETCHY CHARACTERS: Most people are just living their lives and trying to get by, but sure, there are sketchy characters out and about (same as everywhere) who are engaged in shady and illegal business. I don’t engage in shady business myself, so they aren’t worried about me and I’m not worried about them.
PET SAFETY: I travel with my dog, a miniature Australian shepherd named Penny, and I was very worried about stray street dogs before I got to Mexico. Hear about my actual experiences with pet safety.
Is there anything else I’ve missed regarding safety in Mexico? Leave a comment, I’m happy to address and revise this blog as needed over time… and don’t forget to subscribe to be updated on all the nomad adventures! ❤️