If you're a woman considering traveling solo around Mexico, you may be concerned about Mexico's machismo culture. Although men and women have equal rights by law in Mexico, and more and more women work outside the home and hold public office, traditional ideas still dominate in many areas.
This should not deter you from traveling to Mexico independently, however. You can have a great time and learn a lot, just remember that your safety should be your top priority. Consider these tips to avoid harassment and stay safe.
Dress like the locals
Of course you don't have to dress exactly like the locals, but keep in mind that Mexicans tend to dress quite conservatively, and if you would like to avoid unwanted attention, it's a good idea to do likewise. In coastal areas, shorts and tank tops are acceptable, but inland, women tend to dress more modestly, usually opting for more coverage by pairing pants or skirts with T-shirts or blouses.
Arrive during the day
If at all possible, get a flight or bus that allows you to arrive at any new destination with enough daylight hours left in the day for you to find your hotel and get oriented. Most every town has areas that are safe for tourists any time of day or night, and others that you would be better advised to avoid: arriving during daylight will allow you to suss out which places will be ok for nighttime excursions on your own.
Look like you know where you're going (even if you don't)
It's generally best to avoid standing on the street looking at your map, guidebook or cell phone. Looking distracted or like you don't know where you're going can make you a target for thieves and harassers. Ask for directions at your hotel or in a store or restaurant. Write down the directions, or draw a small map on a piece of paper that you can consult without other people noticing.
Learn a few phrases
If you don't speak Spanish, at least learn a few phrases that you can use if you are being harassed. The phrase "Estoy esperando a mi esposo," (I'm waiting for my husband) works surprisingly well to get rid of unwanted suitors.
Also, know how to ask for help: "Ayudeme, por favor." Say this directly to someone nearby if you're being harassed and need help. Many Mexicans will avoid getting involved in a situation unless they are asked directly.
Learn some more Spanish phrases for travelers so that you're prepared for a variety of situations..
Put your safety before your budget
Choose a hotel in an area that feels safe to you, even if it costs more. Your security and comfort are worth it, and you will enjoy your trip a great deal more. If you can find somewhere that's within a few blocks of the city center, you can enjoy some time out and about after dark without worrying too much about how you'll get back to your accommodation.
If men call out to you on the street, the best thing you can do is to just keep walking, don't respond and avoid making eye contact. Any response from you, even a negative one, will be seen as an invitation to continue the interaction.
Curb your alcohol intake
If you're traveling on your own, you need to keep your wits about you. Drink only in the company of people you trust. Remember that at higher altitudes you may feel the effects of alcohol more rapidly.
Beware of "gabacheros"
This is a term used for a Mexican man who makes a career out of pursuing foreign women. He may want sex or the things a foreign woman can afford: dinner in nice restaurants, a trip to the beach or even to her country. If you enjoy the company and don't mind footing the bill, go ahead, just don't be fooled about his intentions.
Practice general precautions against theft
Don't wear expensive jewelry and keep any valuables in your hotel's safe or carry them on your body, under your clothes. Keep your money in a few different places. Wear comfortable shoes so you can run if necessary.
Read more about Mexico travel safety.
Trust your instincts
If a person or situation feels uncomfortable, get away fast. Don't worry about being rude. Your safety is so much more important than being nice.