3 Safety Tips for Women Traveling in Mexico

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As a woman traveling in Mexico, here's what to expect, and how to stay safe.


Photo © Getty Images/Starcevic

How to Dress in Mexico

Culturally and geographically, Mexico is a diverse country. Most locals are friendly and respectful however there are always those who are the exception to the rule.

To avoid unwanted attention, physically and verbally, in big cities, or upsetting the locals in more conservative towns and villages, wear modest clothing and be polite but confident to establish boundaries.

A long skirt, pants and a sleeved top will go a long way to prevent hissing (the Mexican equivalent of the wolf whistle) and any other unwanted attention. The coastal holiday areas tend to be a bit more forgiving when it comes to what you can wear but make sure you cover up when you leave the beach.
If you still feel as if you are falling prey to far too many gabacheros (local men who are attracted to foreign women), try wearing a ring on your wedding finger, and wearing sunnies can also help avoid making eye contact.

Street Smarts

Avoid using your phone in the central plaza; texting, chatting, and face-timing with friends as you walk through a Mexican town or city can be a green light for any local criminal.

High-tech devices are not only appealing to petty thieves but also draw attention to your traveler status. Foreign women, especially, are perceived as easy targets. Keep your phone and cash out of sight. Always carry a photocopy of your identification with you at all times in case the police stop you. Keep the real deal locked up in a safe back at your accommodation.

Keep track of your credit cards (travel with at least two if possible) and take note of your account information and international toll-free contact numbers. Let your bank know when you are traveling so they don't suddenly cut off your funds and keep an eye on your account when you return for any suspicious activity.

When you are about town, avoid carrying around a lot of cash. Withdraw small amounts of pesos from ATMs (use cash points inside the bank) and avoid withdrawing at night. 

While most crime against women in Mexico is either drug/gang related or the result of domestic violence. If you use common sense, Mexico should be no more dangerous than your home country.

  • Be aware of your surroundings
  • Don't open your room door unless you know/trust the person
  • Under no circumstances disclose where you are staying to a stranger
  • If you are invited to a party/event, always imply that you will bring someone along and let a friend, or even the receptionist at your accommodation, know your whereabouts. If it doesn't feel right, don't go
  • Avoid traveling at night or wandering around in poorly lit areas and beach locations
  • If you're traveling alone and don't feel confident exploring a place, join a tour. Aside from the safety aspect, it's a great way to meet fellow travelers
  • While it's extremely rare, women travelers have reported drink-spiking in bars/clubs, on public transport and even at the beach
  • Research the neighborhood you are staying in, and ask the locals where the no-go areas are. As much as the cheap places per night are great for your bank account, make security your priority when choosing your accommodation.

Getting Around

A 2018 study commissioned by the Thomson Reuters Foundation found that three in every four women felt unsafe while using public transport in Mexico City. Mexico has the most unsafe transport system in the world. Overcrowding was cited as a major concern, which led to groping and other sexual harassment, and fellow travelers were unlikely to come to a woman's aid.

Mexico City has women-only taxis, buses, and train carriages (normally the first three cars) as part of a holistic campaign named Atenea (Athena), after the Greek goddess of war and courage.
The bubble-gum pink buses, displaying images of female revolutionaries, highlight women's historic role in the creation of Mexico; a handy reminder that women have been critical players in the prosperity of Mexico.
This transport initiative challenges the prevailing psychology in Mexico that women somehow invite violence because of the public spaces they frequent or the clothes they wear. As the campaign took hold and drivers were given the task of fending men off the buses, female passengers reveled in their increased mobility plus access to employment and other urban resources, such as childcare and education.

It has also allowed Mexican women to reclaim public space and stake their claim to one of the world's most chauvinistic megacities.

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  • Pumpkin said

    N this is mild

  • L. Joy said

    An article advising independent women, traveling solo to dress "modestly" in long skirts, loose pants and shawls when in Mexico is an insult (madreada!) to the country of Mexico & to women. For the writer of this chafo article to have the audacity to claim that these are tips...sorry: "lessons from Frida Kahlo" on safety for women travelers truly displays the lack of credibility this website holds.

    I am a 27 year old woman & a New Yorker who frequently travels solo throughout Quintana Roo, Mexico, and can say that I never felt threatened,unsafe or harassed by Mexican men or women for wearing summer dresses, bathing suits, tight clothing, etc. Truly, each time a stranger complimented me or asked to engage in a drink, it was respectful, kind and unabashedly harmless, regardless if my answer was silence, a "thank you" or a "no".

    The American men, on the other hand, visiting on party vacations or old men visiting resorts with their respective wifes have been the only times I've felt disrespected, harassed, harangued and really uncomfortable. From disgusting comments on the street telling me what they enjoy about body to calling me terrible things because I decline an invitation to have a drink... Really, implying that women should be wary of "Mexican Machismo" seems prejudicial and ignorant, which I believe is the "writer" of this nonsense articles M.O.

    I apologize for not being able to "look away and avoid confrontation," I unfailingly hope my engagement, with regards to commenting on this piece doesn't lead to any titillation!

    - Lindsay

  • Valeria said

    @Lindsey Quintana Roo is much different than Mexico City. Quintana Roo makes their bread and butter from tourism, and I'm sure people observe someone like you coming from a mile away and see dollar signs. The advice here is practical and could mean the difference between getting raped and being left alone. You have a lot to learn about the world and should at least make an attempt at doing so before going on the attack.

  • Sandra Gilmour said

    I second what Valeria has said. Clearly Lindsay has not been around much. Quintana Roo is one of the safest areas due to tourism.

  • Ani said

    I'm a seasoned traveler and lived in Central America for close to a year. Mexico was an amazing experience, I traveled all over the center and enjoyed over a week in the city. I have to second what Lindsay says, in spite of her experiences being in more touristic areas, she's not wrong. I traveled all over to some more sketchy and rural areas and I was amazed to not be catcalled or discomfited once, except by some American men in a bar during day of the dead. The only other problem I had was with the manager of a hostel in Mexico city. That was an outlier though and I really really cannot say enough how safe I was the whole month of my solo trip in Mexico.

    I also took the metro in Mexico city, mostly in the women only cars and was not uncomfortable at all. They had a huge campaign while I was there in Oct 2019 to end sexual harassment. I found Mexican men to be polite and helpful. Also, the women on the metro were lovely and would regularly help me out when they could tell I was questioning my directions.

    Mexico has so much to offer. Don't let people scare you away from going there as a woman alone. If I had listened to people (who never travel, of course) I never would have gone anywhere in my life. Stay aware of what is happening around you but this is wise no matter where you are. Happy Travels!

  • Patricia Guevara said

    I will be moving to Baja California Tijuana or Tecate and have no idea what that's going to be like my boyfriend who is in prison now will be deported in August of 2021 and I plan to go to Tijuana Baja California but I'm scared don't you sneeze some helpful advice thank you

  • T said

    The gabacheros are the only reason I even go in the first place.

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