To celebrate surviving my first semester in graduate school in Florida I decide to go on a solo trip. Well, it was not supposed to be a solo trip but became one due to clashing schedules etc. I had never been on a solo trip and had read mixed reviews about Mexico but decided to be brave and give it a try anyway. I have been on holidays abroad with friends but have never researched a trip more than I did for this one!! I wanted to know everything before I got there!. I even googled how solo travelers take their own pictures. I bought a selfie stick *cringe*.
The choice on Mexico was largely based on the prices for flights, accommodation and food as well as the BEACH!! I booked return flights for $221 using a search engine called skyscanner where you can literally search for cheapest flights and can put “anywhere” on the destination tab and find the cheapest month to go anywhere in the world. This was a trip of firsts, I also decided to stay at an airbnb to save on costs, support locals and have company because I didn’t want to be alone in a hotel room. The airbnb hosts were amazing and gave me lots of advice and recommendation for places to see, where to go eat and how to get around on a budget. For 5 nights @ $15 each night I was going to pay $77 but found a $40 discount coupon on the internet so only paid $47!
Tip: Search for airbnb discount coupons, people post these for anyone to use because when you use their link for the discount they get airbnb credit (win-win).
I flew jetblue and only packed carry-on (you pay more for checking in luggage but for a week long holiday I wanted to master my packing skills and packed one of those bags that fold into themselves when you are done with them. It packed a lot though, I even had 2 extra outfits I didnt get to wear after the trip :). I flew out on Tuesday (cheapest day to fly) and landed in Cancun International Airport around 16:30, took a shuttle bus to downtown Cancun for $72 Mexican pesos which is about $4 USD. The bus has aircondition (which you need, Cancun is sooo hot!) and usb ports (we need this in SA public transport!). My airbnb hosts had told me how to get to their house from downtown I walked a bit to see the place but it was too hot so I took a cab. The apartment was nice and clean, homely and the hosts were lovely. The lady prepared amazing breakfasts every morning.
There’s lot archaelogical sites where you find the history of the Mayan people. I didnt know enough about this to appreciate the history but the ruins were beautiful. You pay about $50 Mxn pesos (about $3 usd) to get into these sites. The beaches in Cancun are found in a strip called the Hotel Zone where all the fancy all-inclusive hotels are located. Some parts of the beach in front of these hotels can only be accessed by the hotel guests but there are access points to the beach for the public. It is easy to get around Downtown Cancun because there are R-2/R1 (refers to route) buses every few minutes either going towards the hotel zone or away from the hotel zone and they only costs $10.5 Mxn pesos. The airbnb was about 15-20 minutes away from the hotel zone. The first morning there I tried to be a better person and go for a morning run to see the area but it was already about 30 degrees celcius at 7:30 AM so it fast became a leisurely walk around the neighborhood.
The second full day I was there I went to an island called Isla Mujeres (Island of the women). It’s a 20 min ferry ride from downtown Cancun on a nice ferry called the Ultramar and the return trip was $300 Mxn pesos. Prior to my departure from Florida I had made friends with another solo lady traveler on a ladies travel group on FB. We found out we were both going to be in Cancun at the same time so decided to go to Isla Mujeres together. That was so cool, meeting new people; even though we were both travelling alone we were able to meet up and spend the day together. We also split the cost of hiring a golf cart (700 Mxn pesos) for the whole day to explore the island from one end to another.
The island has cute little churches perfect for a destination wedding 🙂 🙂 and for lunch we went to a beach lounge and club where you can use the beach sunbeds and umbrellas for free just because you are dining or drinking there. Otherwise you have to rent these at $300 Mxn pesos. The beach is gentle and shallow, you can wade in a long way in and the water will still be at you waist to chest area. Good for those of us who are not the best swimmers.
On the Friday I got on an ADO bus (same company that operates the airport shuttle) to go 2.5 hours from Cancun to a city/town called Tulum. Tip: the cost of any bus trip is half price if you book a day or 2 before departure date. In Tulum I visited another archaeological site which has the most amazing beach!
It was so HOT and the beach has no shade whatsoever. Entrance to the Tulum archaeological site is $70 Mxn pesos. The beach was amazing though!
On my return to Cancun that evening I went to a tacos place downtown and discovered a night market! I spent a few hours there, they had live music, kiddie’s arena and lots of food stalls. I ate sooooo much on this trip and it was both cheap and good!
I made friends with two local girls while listening to a guy who was doing cover songs for a well-known Mexican band. I found it so easy to strike up conversation with randoms, something I never do generally.
On my last full day in Cancun I wanted to take things easy and went to a local beach in the Hotel Zone called Playa Tortugas (Tortoise Beach), found a beach-side restaurant with sunbeds and spent the whole day people watching, eating and swimming….the life I was promised 🙂
I finally was able to take it all in; traveling alone and being okay! I had not only survived but greatly enjoyed my first solo trip. What an amazing feeling! After the day at the beach I went back to the night market for a final visit, they had performances by school kids. I flew back to the US on Sunday afternoon.
I never felt I was in any danger while in Cancun, I was as cautious as I am at home and anywhere else really. I believe every place has dangerous areas and being out at night anywhere can be dangerous. You just have to be extra careful. When I was out at night I was at the night market will many other people around and I called an uber to get me home so I wouldn’t have to try get a cab and give directions because my Spanish was bad and not all taxi drivers knew English.
Tip: do learn some Spanish, at least how to greet and say thanks. Locals in most places love it when you at least try.
The food was amazing and this was a real budget trip but I never felt like I was cutting corners. Before leaving the US I had converted $210 USD worth of money into Mxn pesos and that is all I used on this trip, I even had change when I came back!