Candid comments on traveler safety in Puebla and Oaxaca Mexico

When I told friends that I was going to Mexico on vacation, most of them said Oh No! or It’s too dangerous for Americans! or The US State Department has warnings about travel to Mexico!

Everyone I spoke to also thought I was completely nuts for travelling alone. Solo. By myself. Me, myself and I.

But let it be said: I am a New Yorker. If you live or work in New York City, you’ve experienced the highs and lows of what human beings have to offer. Most NYers have street sense – and I’d like to think I have some.

So.

I spent 8 days in Puebla and Oaxaca Mexico by myself, with a minimal knowledge of Spanish. A woman all alone in the great big country of Mexico. And guess what happened to me? Nothing. Nada. Zip.

Not only did I meet nice and helpful people, I wandered around churches and parks, flea markets and mercados, the zocalos at night, restaurants, and shops. I took taxi’s to small villages – BY MYSELF.

I went to the huge Pueblan bus station, asked for a ticket in Spanish, found the right gate, and took a 4 and a half hour bus ride to Oaxaca BY MYSELF. (The ADO GL bus is phenomenal, extremely comfortable, has 2 bathrooms – one for men, one for women – and offers movies and a beverage service, for the not-so-back-breaking price of about $35 bucks USD).

I spoke to people on the street, asked directions in the worst imaginable broken Spanish, and ate what the locals eat in the places where the locals eat. I took out my camera whenever I fancied, and took candid shots of people everywhere. I used cash everywhere I went.

Never, EVER did I feel in danger.

Not even when I went to the huge, somewhat dark and close-quartered mercado in the city of Oaxaca – when the staff of my hotel told me not to go because they thought it was not safe for tourists! I walked through the mercado, bought a cookie and a glass of juice, smiled at some of the old ladies selling fried crickets, and walked around at ease.

The only precaution I took while in Mexico was that I did not drink the local water. I drank only bottled water,  used it to brush my teeth, and all of the drinks I ordered were without ice. But, I ate soup at least a half dozen times, I ate green salads (to the horror of some who warned me not to), and I ate street food. I ate candy bars made of pepitas and honey. I never got sick. I never had a stomach ache. I never had any digestive trouble of any kind.

Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that every place in Mexico is safe. I imagine it’s not. Everyone talks about “the trouble near the border”. It’s as if someone from New York would feel badly if they heard there were riots in Chicago. We wouldn’t like to hear that, we wouldn’t want it to happen, but it wouldn’t be something that would affect us directly while walking down the streets in New York. So it is in Puebla and Oaxaca, it is not touched by the troubles at the border.

So if you have a sense of adventure…if you want to experience the richness of Mexican culture, cuisine, and heritage, then plan a trip to Puebla or Oaxaca and leave your fears at home.

Also – a smile is free, needs no translation and is always well received!

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2 Responses

  1. Carol Hemmingway, adventurer without peer. Awesome stuff. I’m sending to Chrissy, who might get a real kick out of this. She’s my Chicagoan-Phoenician-Mexican ‘Angel’, so to speak 🙂

  2. Hee hee. It was a phenomenal trip, and it’s nice to stretch boundaries sometimes. I felt like I got a lot out of my experiences.

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