Solo travel in Mexico/Central America

I’m looking for some input from those with experience. I want to do some traveling in mainland Mex and possibly further south this winter, and for various reasons, it will most likely be solo. A few questions:

I’m thinking bus travel will be cheaper and safer than taking my truck. I’m wondering if my boards will be an issue. Also, will it be possible to access off-the-beaten-path spots? Any other considerations?

Realistically, how safe is it for a young blond white boy with surfboards and backpack and little Spanish in coastal areas?

How much should I expect to spend per day on housing/food?

Most importantly, how will the surf really be in the winter, sans significant south swells?

It’s hard to find trustworthy information on the issues surfers face when traveling, especially here in the Midwest. Thank you in advance for any help you can offer.


From Pascuales south there should be waves year round. From my experience 1st class busses will not take boards over eight feet (width of bus) because they need to fit underneath. 2nd class buses you could probably take a long board. Buses would definitely be safer than driving alone. Keep your stuff close by at all times as property crime can be a problem. Avoid being out at night in rural areas. I have stayed places for under 10 bucks a night and food is real cheap if you buy at a market and prepare yourself.

as a young blond-ish (light brown) haired female i have had no touble travelling alone in central america. i agree that driving is probably not a good idea, however, because banditos and highway robberies are quite common. the busses can be a bit hectic, but they are cheap and they go anywhere. since very few people have cars, you can go to remote places on a bus that you would not imagine going on a United States bus system. just try to eliminate any obvious lures… don’t wear jewelry or a nice watch, don’t flash money around, or fancy cameras or that sort of thing…grab a spanish dictionary, listen to some hispanic news on the radio… read as much as you can… then go out there and smile a lot and practice your spanish. you will do great and have a blast!

I’ve never traveled by bus in Central America but I did tons of solo bus riding in South America. It’s interesting to note that, as the previous poster mentioned, most other solo travelers I came across were American females (but not surfers) and this was in pretty rugged Peruvian dessert land. My opinion regarding a surf trip via bus. Latin America is not as violent as most westerners would have you believe however there is a lot of theft and you must take percautions. Buy a money belt and keep it under your pants. Many Latin American thieves are so skilled with knives that they can get almost anywhere with you hardly noticing. Just trust me on this one and I’ll spare you all the stories.

1)You have to understand that if you take a bus you, the storage compartment will likely be tightly packed, and you’ll be worried about your boards the whole ride. I only brought my bodyboard with me to South America and it was still a pain in the arse. There is no ideal storage compartment on those buses for surfboards or even boogieboards. If you decide to go through you better wrap your stick with lots of buble plastic.

  1. I swear to god that I witnessed, while passing by a tiny shanty fishing village, an overhead wedgy left peak with a nice shoulder. The bus was full of passengers and destination was 3 hundred miles away and bus driver just ignored me while I asked him to stop in my broken gringo spanish. That killed me.

  2. If the spot you are sitting on is flat, you will be less mobile to get out and look for good surf. Alot of these fishing villages (where the best least crowed surf usually is) are a hassle to bus in and out of. Sometimes entry/exit requires multiple bus transfers and taxis. This leads to my fourth point.

4)The only way “searching for surf by bus” worked for me was by finding a small town with tons of surfbreaks all right next to each other in an “unnamed country”. It took a while but I finally figured it out. The picture of surfer getting slotted was on a day when the reef was not even working. Me and my Brazilian buddy just paddled out to mess around and take some pictures. Not to bad for a crappy day. THis town had six spitting reefs all within a 2 mile stretch.

My advice is to go with a car if you have that option. That way you will be able to check a wider range of spots thus you will be more likely to score. If not, hopefully you know of a town with a ton of different breaks (kind of like a latin american north shore or a latin american santa cruz) but this isn’t so easy to find. If you are concerned with safety and driving you should only travel by day. Research and make sure that you register with your consulate. Good luck!

Yah, definitely learn Spanish, as much as possible. You’re not in your own country, have the courtesy to learn the language, ya know? What I found helpful was watching the tube, oddly enough, subtitles and such so that I could put the words together with their English equivalents in conversation, not, say, inthe artificial setting of a language lesson.

hope that’s of use


Thanks for all of the replies. After tastes of Mexico in Baja, I am ready to go deeper. The people seemed mostly friendly and the culture fascinating. I’m sure the same is true for those countries further to the south. I’ll be tuning my Spanish up and continuing to research.

Speaking of research, does anyone have any good links relating to this subject?

Thanks again,


Tough question, Ryan. That you asked it shows some good judgement. And an unstated acknowledgement of potential vulnerability. Note that the local criminals know that the “safest” victims are strangers in a strange land…

IF you’re younger and not streetwise…

IF you’re older and inexperienced with confrontation…

then you’re not conversant in the universal language of intimidation regardless of whether you speak the local language or not.

I’ve made 6 solo surfing trips to Costa Rica, travelling around in low-line rental 4 wheel drives. I’m older, and retired from a “Confrontations R Us” profession. I do not speak Spanish. I’ve had 2 instances in “town” at “supermercados” with VERY aggressive panhandlers-in the US the criminal charge would qualify as attempted strong-arm-robbery. One (on one) was thwarted with increasing levels of aggressiveness. The other, versus 2 intoxicated natives, escalated much more quickly and had to be, uhh, physically resolved. I sweated out the official “knock at the door” for the next few days. Two instances of attempted shakedowns by the local gendarmes were blunted via the grinning-gringo-idiot routine and one, as a last resort, by display of the Badge/Retired plus a “stop talkin’ and do it” attitude.

I’d opine that you’ll be safer travelling by bus where “citizens” will likely come to your aid in a confrontation with a scumbag(s). Don’t wander off to viddy the monkeys.

Regarding a nubile female travelling alone…I’d duct-tape my daughter (if I had one) to a straight-backed arm-chair before I’d permit her to travel in this region alone.

Conservative conclusion: do not travel solo. The local “police” will ignore allegations of theft at any level of loss. The “haves” are secondary to the “have nots”. Just like in today’s Amerika!


Good luck on your travels. This site is informative on what to extpect and some good posts from other travelers that are there and have been there.