I spent several months cycling Mexico as part of my bike tour from Alaska to Argentina. Here's some practical bicycle touring advice to plan your own Mexico bike ride.
Bike Touring in Mexico
I've been fortunate to have travelled through Mexico twice now. Once, was as a backpacker visiting the major archaeological sites in Mexico, and the other was on a bicycle as part of my Alaska to Argentina bike tour.
I spent just over two months bike touring through Mexico, and loved the experience there.
This practical advice for planning your own Mexico bike ride is based on my experiences cycling in Mexico.
Hopefully you should find it useful, but you should definitely supplement it with your own up to date research, particularly including areas it might be best to avoid.
Is it safe to travel in Mexico?
So, let's get this one out the way first shall we! The ‘Mexico is a dangerous, lawless place to be avoided' narrative has been going on for years. With the rise of Trump, that narrative has grown even louder.
Is there an element of truth in it though?
My own personal experience is that I never felt unsafe when cycling Mexico. Most of the time people offered places to stay, were friendly and generous with their time and food.
I'm sure you will have an equally enjoyable experience bike touring in Mexico if you use your commonsense.
Is there crime in Mexico? Of course there is. Will it affect your bike tour? Probably not.
If you're still not sure about how safe cycling Mexico might be, do some research comparing crime statistics between Mexico and the United States. The gun crime statistics might surprise you.
Is it safe to cycle in Mexico?
The biggest hazard when cycling in Mexico will be the trucks on roads without much shoulder. Stay off the busy highways where possible and you'll be fine.
I didn't think it was particularly any worse than cycling on similar roads in the USA when biking the Pacific Highway.
Cycling route through Mexico
You've got various options when it comes to planning your Mexico bike ride route. I decided to cycle down through Baja California, take the ferry from La Paz to Mazatlan in Mexico, and then continue more or less following the coast.
Keep in mind that Mexico is bigger than you might think it is.
If you are planning a Pan American cycling trip, you'll have to also balance out any visa restrictions you have (I managed to get 180 days but didn't use them all) with the weather and seasons in the next country you are heading for.
With more money for the trip, I would love to have maxed out my visa in Mexico bike touring and explored some different areas. Still, it's there for next time!
When to cycle in Mexico
I cycled through Mexico between the months of November and February. It was a touch on the warm side in Baja California, but overall I think I had it pretty good for most of the time.
You'll need to plan when to cycle in Mexico based on the route you want to take – or vice versa. Keep in mind that some coastlines get hit by hurricanes, and there can also be heavy rains at some times of year.
Where to sleep on your Mexico bike ride
There's options aplenty when it comes on where to sleep during your bike tour in Mexico. Is wild camping your thing? Ask at roadside restaurants and fire stations and you'll rarely be turned down.
Prefer official camping grounds? You'll find them all through Baja California and along the coast of ‘mainland' Mexico. They're affordable and you'll get to have a shower at the end of a day's ride.
The hospitality networks operate well in Mexico. Check out Warmshowers and Couchsurfing if you haven't already. It's a nice way to connect with locals on your bike tour in Mexico.
Don't be put off by hotels either. You'll find plenty of affordable hotel rooms in small towns and cities all through Mexico. You'll also be able to take your bicycle into the hotel room to keep it safe.
The cost of cycling Mexico
As with any country you can spend as much or as little as you like when bike touring in Mexico.
I would say that this is one of the countries in the world where you could easily bike tour for less than $20 a day without too much effort. Probably much less than this if you are hardcore.
Check out my tips for how to reduce costs on a bike tour for more information.
Mexico Bike Ride Blogs
I wrote a blog post a day when cycling Mexico. I've listed them underneath.
In each bike touring entry, there is a navigation at the end of the post to take you on to the next one.
- Cycling from Encinitas to Tijuana (Mexico!!)
- Cycling from Tijuana to Ensenada
- Cycling from Ensenada to Las Canadas in Mexico
- Cycling Las Canadas to San Vicente
- Cycling from San Vicente to Colonel Vicente Guerro
- Day off San Vicente Guerro – Rest day on the bike tour
- Cycling from Colonel Vicente Guerro to El Rosario
- Cycling from El Rosario to San Agustin
- Cycling from San Agustin to Catavina
- Cycling from Catavina to Paradar Punta Prieta El Crucero
- Cycling from Parador Punta Prieta El Crucero to Guerro Negro
- Cycling from Guerro Negro to Vizcaino
- Day off Vizcaino
- Cycling from Vizcaino to San Ignacio
- Cycling from San Ignacio to Santa Rosalia
- Cycling from Santa Rosalia to Mulege
- Day off Mulege
- Another Day off in Mulege
- Two Weeks off in Mulege
- Cycling from Mulege to Buenaventura
- Cycling from Buenaventura to Loreto
- Cycling from Loreto to El Juncalito
- Cycling from El Junacilto to Ciudad Constitucion
- Cycling from Ciudad Constitucion to El Cien
- Cycling from El Cien to La Paz
- Time off in La Paz
- Ferry from La Paz to Mazatlan
- Sightseeing in Mazatlan
- Day off Mazatlan
- Cycling from Mazatlan to Escuinapa
- Cycling from Escuinapa to Acaponeta
- Cycling from Acaponeta to Santiago Ixcuitla – Bike Tour in Mexico
- Day off in Santiago Ixcuitla
- Cycling from Santiago Ixcuitla to San Blas and an extended stay
- Cycling from San Blas to Las Varas
- Cycling from Las Varas to Sayulita
- Cycling from Sayulita to Puerta Vallarta
- Cycling from Puerta Vallarta to A field somewhere
- Cycling from A field somewhere to Punta Perula
- Cycling from Punta Perula to Barra de Navidad
- Day off in Barra de Navidad
- Cycling from Barra de Navidad to Cuyutlan
- Cycling from Cuyutlan to Ticla
- Cycling from Ticla to Tizupan – Bike Touring in Mexico
- Cycling from Tizupan to Coleta de Campas
- Cycling from Coleta de Campas to Guacamayas
- Cycling from Guacamayas to Playa Linda
- Day off Ixtapa
- Cycling from Ixtapa to Papanoa
- Cycling from Papanoa to San Jeronimo
- Cycling from San Jeronimo to Acapulco
- Day off in Acapulco
- Cycling from Acapulco to San Marcos
- Cycling from San Marcos to Marquelia
- Cycling from Marquelia to Cuajinicuilapa
- Cycling from Cuajinicuilapa to Pinotepa Nacional
- Cycling from Pinotepa to San Jose del Progresso
- Cycling from San Jose del Progresso to Puerto Escondido
- Day off in Puerto Escondido
- Cycling from Puerto Escondido to Pochutla
- Cycling from Pochutla to Santiago Astata
- Cycling from Santiago Istata to Tehuantepec
- Day off Tehuantepec
- Cycling from Tehuantepec to Niltepec
- Cycling from Niltepec to Tapanatepec
- Cycling from Tapanatepec to Cintalapa
- Cycling from Cintalapa to Chiapa de Corza
- Cycling from Chiapa de Corza to San Cristobal de las Casas
- Day off in San Cristobal
- A week off in San Cristobal de las Casas
- Sightseeing in San Cristobal de las Casas
- More time off in San Cristobal
- Cycling from San Cristobal to Ocosingo
- Cycling from Ocosingo to Agua Azul
- Cycling from Agua Azul to Palenque
- Day off in Palenque
- Cycling from Palenque to Frontera Corozal
Pin this Mexico bike touring guide for later
Bike Touring Mexico FAQ
Readers planning bike tours when they visit Mexico often ask questions similar to:
Is it worth cycling to Mexico City when in Mexico?
I would say that most bike tourers would prefer to avoid riding in Mexico city. It's a large chaotic place which doesn't make for pleasant cycling.
Do you need to speak Spanish on a Mexico bike tour?
Knowing a few words and sentences is going to make your life a lot easier when riding a trans Mexico route. Cyclists will find it relatively easy to learn as they ride, although putting some time into learning Spanish before the trip is advised.
What is the most popular cycling route for bike tours in Mexico?
There are a number of different routes you could consider, such as the Baja Divide or Yucatan Peninsula.
Is it safe to go wild camping in Mexico?
I found that it was safe to wild camp in rural areas and small villages. Many cyclists ask at the local fire station to see if they can camp in the grounds.
Dave, your blog is full of so much valuable information. Thank you so much! I live in the Bay Area and I’m seriously considering a ride from here through Mexico. Did you meet any solo woman cyclists on your trip through Mexico? Or, was there anything that would make you think it would be unwise for a female cyclist to attempt a similar trip, based off your experience?
Dave Briggs says
On that trip I didn’t meet any solo female cyclists – but there have been plenty (and still are!).
Nothing I encountered made me think it would be unwise for solo female cyclists to head out.
Check out pushbikegirl.com and shoot her an email – she’ll have more valuable insights!
Hey Dave, Great website. I really want to do this route what with the virus restrictions and Mexico being open. I’m planning something like Phoenix – Panama City. I’m a Canadian so I would fly to the USA. Wondering if you could comment on the lack of shoulders on Mexican roads and how you handled that? Doing a lot of street view imaging of your route and noticing some parts are brush right up to the road with zero shoulder/place to pull over. Worried about drivers and safety. Did you wear reflective gear? Lights?
Cheers from Leafland.
Dave Briggs says
I hope you get to go ahead soon!
In regards to the Mexican roads (and US for that matter in some places) – you are right that shoulders can be an issue, but in Mexico I didn’t find the traffic to be a problem particularly out of key city areas. There wasn’t too much traffic in Baja in general.
The main problem I had with Mexico, was that there were shredded truck tires on the road which have tiny pieces of wire in them – which inevitably meant more punctures than normal. I found this particularly the case in Baja.
I was not wearing any specific reflective gear, and am not one who cycles with bike mirrors, although I did meet people who preferred using them.
Alejandro Vega says
My friend and I are planning a trip this upcoming February from Saltillo, Mexico to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. This blog is helping out a lot.
Michael Silva says
Thanks for the information. I just got the crazy idea to bicycle through Mexico and Central America on my way to Brazil, which is really my ultimate goal. I’ve never done anything even remotely close to this. I’m 53 y.o. Maybe I’m longing to recapture my youth. Maybe I just remember what it was like to visit other countries when I was in the Navy and lived in Spain. Maybe I’m just tired of my humdrum life. I don’t know. But I’m definitely considering the possibility. Just one problem — I don’t know where to start. And worse, I don’t know where reality and fantasy converge. Hoping you can keep me grounded safely somewhere in the middle. My plan is this: fly from Albuquerque, New Mexico to Mazatlan, Mexico. Ride south along the west coast to Guatemala, and continue on through El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, and Colombia, where I will eventually arrive in Brazil. I want to spend the final 3 months of my journey (December through March) riding around Brazil, ultimately arriving in Rio de Janeiro for carnival, 2022, when I will catch a return flight home. I have a lot of research ahead of me, but if you could share some insights, I would be grateful. I’ve ridden a road bike intermittently all my life and find that getting back on the saddle is never to difficult for me regardless of time off. I would want to spend as little as possible.
Dave Briggs says
I hope you’ve had a great week so far, and I love the sound of your plan!
A couple of insights that might help, which are obvious, but important nevertheless:
* Check on the weather for the times of year you want to travel – the humidity is not to be underestimated!
* Travel as light as possible, even to the extent where you might consider if it’s absolutely neccessary to carry camping gear at all. Plenty of cheap (low quality!!!) rooms in that part of the world in almost every town and village. If you do carry camping gear, lightweight as possible. Probably no need at all for a camping stove/pots etc.
* Check on the time you arrive in Panama and would need to get to Colombia – I sailed there, but they only sail at certain times of year.
* Base any route on 40-50 mile days (The first few days will of course be harder, but eventually this will be nicely manageable)
* In Guatemala, make some time to see Tikal which is totally worth it!
* Not sure if you have a bike lined up. Assuming you’re based in the USA a Surly Long Haul Trucker might be a good first choice of bike.
* Definitely use racks and panniers to carry your gear and not a trailer!
They’re the obvious things I can think of for now. Always happy to answer questions if you have any crop up!
Just. Do. It.
I’m 63 and started on long distance cycling in SE Asia seven years ago. First trip flew to HCMC, Vietnam, bought the cheapest aluminium frame MTB (USD 180) I could find and started with just a small 27 lt. backpack. Couple of months later I had reached Hanoi and then continued down through Laos to Thailand.
Since then a bunch more one month plus trips. Bicycle is now a folding frame MTB for easy transport.
I found all the big hurdles are in the mind.
Once the front door has been locked and I am on the move, it all becomes easier and flows along 99.9% of the time.