So, is Mexico safe to travel right now?
This was my first trip of growth in Latin America. Here’s my report on how I went backpacking to Mexico solo on a unique mission to learn Spanish.
Little did I know, this one trip would change my life’s path forever.
Quick Answer: Is Mexico safe to travel?
- Yes (sticking to the right places) it is safe to travel to Mexico.
- There are certain no go areas just like another other country.
- Mexico is a large country there’s no reason to visit no-go areas.
- Plan your trip accordingly to avoid any issues.
Mexico is one of my favourite Latin American countries and will always have a place in my heart.
I’ve found Mexico a perfect introduction for anyone who wants to learn more about Latin American life and culture.
You’ll be pleased to know I’ve even created an extensive travel guide for anyone who wants to lean more about backpacking Mexico in the near future.
Travelling to Mexico
I arrived at LAX airport to travel to Mexico DF. I flew with Volaris, the second largest airline in Mexico.
I didn’t comprehend the prompt instructions of the woman at the check-in desk. She spoke in accented Mexican Spanish.
Not once did I ask myself is it safe to travel to Mexico. Looking back, this trip was a call to adventure.
I had taken a risk one day after being inspired by Mexican Culture.
The idea of visiting Latin America came after being enamoured by the Mexican people living in Boyle Heights, East Los Angeles.
At that point I was trying to find out the best way to learn Spanish whilst travelling.
Plucking up the courage
Leading up to this trip. I’d been reading a book by Joseph and gained a new confidence. I even added the word hero to my vocabulary.
At the time I was working non-stop on Hack Humanity – a full immersion experience that combines the best of hackathons, workshops & personal coaching into a unique Hackathon experience.
I’d read about the amazing waterfalls in Mexico and how you can dive into deep pools of water, but one thing I remember looking forward to most about Mexico was food.
It’s no secret that Mexico has endless possibilities and cultural combinations for the adventurous foodie. I ate my heart out literally.
Mexico is the most visited country in Latin America, keep reading to understand my intention for this trip which I made back in 2014.
This solo travel to Mexico was just the start after being inspired through South America by a crazy Australian coke head that I’d met in Hollywood.
A Trip of Growth – Comfort zone challenge
This was my first trip of growth and let me explain why. This trip was the first time that I’d ever travelled to a foreign place with a real purpose.
With my purpose of traveling to Mexico being to study Spanish, people, food, daily life, history and of course learn about myself.
Like with all my trips. They’re always self-funded. I booked the flight for Mexico months in advance without knowing exactly where I was going or where I was going to stay. I bought my first ever backpack and filled it with gadgets.
Places to visit in Mexico
I’d heard nightmare stories about travelling by bus in Latin America, not just Mexico. The best advice I got was to always travel on first-class buses.
One question that did pop up was, is Mexico safe to visit by bus?
Mexico City was my base and I’d travel through Mexico by land, mostly by bus.
Below is a Mexico travel warning map I found which highlights the places that should be avoided at all cost. Especially the regions marked in red.
So, how safe is Mexico really? Below is a list of places I travelled to all by myself and didn’t encounter any problem with local people or tourists.
- Mexico City
- Playa del Carmen
My wish is that you find some comfort in knowing that I managed to do it all by bus – supposedly the most dangerous way to travel around Mexico.
Relatives invited me to visit other places in Mexico, like Baja California, which is one of Mexico’s gems if you get the opportunity to visit. I’ve heard you can even go whale watching in Cabo San Lucas, a popular resort city.
With the help of my host, I found myself in TAPO (one of 4 main bus stations) in Mexico City. At first, I was far too overwhelmed to do things by myself. The distance at which you can travel by bus in Mexico is overwhelming.
My friend Fredrico has a guide on the best things to do in La Paz which he says is a great place if travelling with kids.
Initially, my idea was to travel to Mexico from LA by land to get to a place called Puerto Penasco that I’d had been reading about. Meeting friends Omar and Araceli changed this plan for the better; I took a plane to DF in the end.
But it’s interesting how at the time, I didn’t question is Mexico city safe or not.
I just went for it. My host did give me some word of advice before heading into the centre of Mexico city but I found by sticking to the main areas it was fine.
Mexico City Safety
Walking around the city was an eye opener for me. I’m amazed to this day by all the things to do for free in Mexico City if you look around.
One scary thought for me was not knowing the language at the time.
Even though I had a few phrases under my belt I lacked confidence in talking with random people I’d just met.
So, how dangerous is Mexico when travelling solo? I’d marked more places on my map but knew I wouldn’t have time to fit them all in.
Also, by that point, I’d heard many stores about Cancun and surrounding areas.
Not to mention the Cancun travel warnings I’d seen on the news. Luckily I had already decided that I wasn’t going to visit there.
Here’s a list of things to do in Mexico City that covers some of the things I did.
Mexico Travel by Bus
The buses in Mexico are very accommodating, most have reclining seats and movies dubbed in Spanish.
One of my longest journeys without stopping was from Mexico City to Oaxaca which took 7 hours, a short ride for Mexico but felt like an endless journey.
When you get a chance to go to Oaxaca, just go. Oaxaca was by far my favourite place in Mexico on this trip.
I wish I had noted all of my travel hacks from the trip, but not to worry, Nathan has some great travel tips for Mexico that provide lots of value if you’re thinking of backpacking Mexico by yourself.
💡 Smart Travel Tip
Always arrive early when travelling by bus in Mexico and make sure you carry a sweater. The air conditioning is usually on full throughout the journey.
Famous people from Mexico
Powerful people, I discovered that I found very interesting:
- Frida Kahlo
- Diego Rivera
- Emiliano Zapata
I’m doing further research into these people later so look, out my idea is to create a category based around people who inspire me whilst on this journey.
My Mexico checklist – Tools I carried
I carried Journals, sketchpads, a camera, pens and a dictionary all in my backpack which was overloaded. Only I could do this for myself.
This was a mission to gain a new perspective by immersing myself in this new culture. I knew I’d have to ‘lose’ my English if I was ever going to learn Spanish.
Despite all the travel warnings for Mexico – which – you’re bound to find if you look for them. Mexico in all honestly has to be one country in Latin America that I will always revisit in the future.
It has unlimited amounts of roots and culture to offer no matter what you find yourself into.
I loved the food in Mexico and noticed the Yucatan region, especially in places like Merida you taste a different cuisine comparing to other regions.
One of my favourite excursions from Mexico City was the trip we did to Teotihuacan an ancient Mesoamerican city.
It was once the largest city in the pre-Columbian Americas and was said to have been established around 100 BC.
Here’s the best way to visit Teotihuacan. Teotihuacan is a very powerful space and has two very special pyramids.
Both The Pyramid of the Sun and The Pyramid of the Moon. They are both walking distance away from each-other.
Things to see in Mexico – Observations
I like writing down things I observe in my Journal when exploring new cultures:
- Car minder own streets and they expect your payment
- Friends sit in restaurants talking for many hours
- People interrupt a lot when you’re talking to someone
- Eat tortillas everyday
- Mixed people selling household items during traffic jams
- Clowns entertain you at the traffic lights
- The metro is a marketplace
- Anything can turn into a joke
- Lots of shouting between people in conversation
- A rendezvous can turn in party with more friends & family arriving
Disclaimer: We all have different views of the world. My observations are short accounts of the things I see based on my own unique vision.
Meeting Locals in Mexico
Thanks to Omar and Araceli, a lovely couple I met at our hack humanity event in London back in 2013.
They quickly cleared up any questions I had about is Mexico safe to travel or not. Araceli let me stay with family including her mother, brother, sister and cousins. I was lucky enough to meet all the family.
Me enjoying a meal at the world famous Restaurante Arroyo. I found leaving a tip in Mexico is not a rule, but, it’s generous and goes a long way in Mexico.
I got a new taste of the life of a local in Mexico city. This was in the form of eating dinner out of the back an abandoned VW Beetle on the street.
Cool things to do in Mexico City
Making an effort to meet all the family and friends, I participated in family milestone events, including a wedding ceremony.
I went to a lucha libre fight in the capital as well as some other tourist attractions including:
- National Museum of Anthropology
- Frida Kahlo Museum
- Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral
- Monumento a la Revolución
- Torre Latinoamericana
- Ciudad Universitaria
💡 Smart Travel Tip
I’m recommending utilising the metro system whilst in Mexico City. For me the metro was a whole new transport experience in itself.
My Spanish learning journey officially began whilst staying with this family. Araceli taught me the basis of my knowledge today.
I gained actual exposure of real life, culture and customs. Many foreigners pay for this and still fail to receive the kind of authentic experience I had.
When I was weeping to myself with the frustration of not being able to understand conversations around me. Now I realise these events made me aware of sticking points and I learned how to overcome them.
Initially, it was fun, but I soon became very emotional. I noticed a slight transition at the next family function, as it got a little easier to handle.
As I was beginning to speak and understand more Spanish, when I say more, I mean a tiny bit more.
Is Mexico safe to travel right now?
If you have any doubts about travelling to Mexico or other parts of Latin America solely because of safety reasons.
I’d say don’t let the power of a single story put you off. I hope what I have written here today gives you a sense of confidence to be able to travel freely and enjoy the amazing and unique culture of Mexico.
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Is it safe to travel to Mexico? What do you think…
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