As a frequent traveler, I'm often asked about the safety of different destinations. Recently, I've been asked about the safety of Guadalajara, Mexico. Located in Western Mexico and the capital city of Jalisco state, it's a major transportation hub and an increasingly popular tourist destination - but is it safe? The city is relatively safe compared to most areas in Mexico.
I remember my first trip to Guadalajara, when I arrived at midnight and had to get a taxi to my AirBnB. I was a bit on edge being in a foreign land at night traveling down streets I didn't know, just hoping to reach my destination. Of course now after living here and making friends in Guadalajara I know that it is safe and there are more dangerous areas in Mexico.
A lot of that had to do with the portrayal of Mexico in the media. I can say if you plan to travel alone, of course be cautious, but also know that it is safe to go to Guadalajara and safe to go to Mexico in general. Just like anywhere, there is good and bad all around.
Travel Advisories to Jalisco
The US Department of State has issued a travel advisory for Jalisco, Mexico. The state is located in western Mexico and is known for its vibrant culture, stunning beaches, and eco-tourism opportunities. However, due to increased crime rates in the area, the US government has urged travelers to exercise caution when visiting this region.
The advisory has been made at a level 2 alert which recommends that visitors “exercise increased caution” when traveling to this Mexican state. This alert was put in place due to the high occurrence of homicides, robberies, carjacking incidents and kidnapping throughout Jalisco. Furthermore, the drug cartel presence and organized crime continues to be an issue in Jalisco with violent clashes between cartels and police forces reported.
While crime rates may be high in Jalisco, this does not affect Guadalajara specifically. The city is situated away from the main areas of crime and remains safe. You are safe to drive in Guadalajara as well. I have done this a couple of times on my way to other destinations in Mexico.
Is Guadalajara airport safe?
The safety of Guadalajara International Airport is held in high regard amongst travelers, with the airport providing a wide range of security measures to ensure a safe and secure environment. The airport implements both human and technological measures, ranging from police patrols to CCTV surveillance, to keep passengers and air personnel safe. There are plenty of Guarda Nacional outside and inside the airport, think of them as the US National Guard. As such, travelers can have peace of mind when entering and leaving Guadalajara International Airport.
Also, the taxi services to and from the airport are exceptionally safe. Since the airport is about 30 minutes south of the city center, you will likely travel by taxi to get to your destination. There are taxis that are designated (and colored) just for the airport service. After you get your receipt from the taxi booth in the airport, you will walk outside and hand the ticket to the taxi-porter. From there, he will show you to your taxi and driver. He will also scan their badge and the badge of the car. The taxi drivers also have IDs making them easily identifiable. These extra precautions help make the trip more secure.
One of the main factors to consider when travelling to a new location is the environment. Is the climate conducive to your needs? Is the infrastructure up to date? These are all important questions to ask before booking your trip.
According to TripAdvisor, Guadalajara has an excellent environmental record. The city is ranked as one of the most sustainable cities in Latin America and has made significant progress in reducing air pollution levels and promoting sustainability initiatives such as bicycle transportation.
The water in the city is generally safe to to drink, although most locals stick to bottled or filtered water. I would suggest this as well in keeping with local customs. If they don't want to drink it, I probably shouldn't either. However, I have before and it really wasn't an issue.
Crime Rates in Guadalajara
Guadalajara, the second-largest city metro area, behind Mexico City, and has a population of more than 5 million people. Given its size and diversity, crime is something that residents of the city must consider. Fortunately, Guadalajara's crime rate is lower than many other large cities in Mexico.
According to government statistics from 2019, Guadalajara had a total of 437 homicides for the year – which equates to approximately 8.6 homicides per 100,000 people. This is significantly lower than other major Mexican cities such as Ciudad Juarez (which had nearly 70% higher homicide rate) and Tijuana (which had almost double the homicide rate). Additionally, reports indicate that violent crimes such as robbery and assault have been decreasing over recent years due to increased law enforcement efforts by local authorities.
Primarily speaking, tourists in general are not part of any of these statistics. To put this in perspective, on average 28 million Americans visit Mexico annually (2021 statistics). Based on the statistics of the US Department of State, my research shows that only 203 Americans died last year in Mexico. Of that total, 75 were homicides. Narrowing down the statistics I found that only 5 happened in the state of Jalisco and zero happened in Guadalajara. There were only 2 murders of Americans in Puerto Vallarta, a popular tourist beach town.
You can find the US Department of State travel advisories on Mexico here. While I believe these are primarily over reactions (with the exception of border towns). You are more safe in Guadalajara than in other parts of Mexico. However, always use common sense to stay safe and don't go around doing things you wouldn't do at home.
How Safe is Guadalajara?
From my perspective, I consider Guadalajara safe to visit. I have lived here off-and-on and never had any issues following general safety guidelines.
I’ve walked the streets at night, even into the wee hours of the morning and didn’t feel threatened (in Colonia Americana). Of course there are other places I wouldn't generally walk around Guadalajara at night, just like every city. There is a heavy presence of police and usually some Guardia Nacional making routine rounds through the city streets. These are not just in cars, but in pick-up trucks with armed forces in the back.
I have never had anything stolen here. Unlike my friends and family that have visited the tourist spots along the Yucatan, I can say here it’s not the same. I think this is because Guadalajara is not a top tourist destination when compared to Cancun or Los Cabos. So you don't have as many people looking for opportunities to steal from tourists.
Safety Tips when Traveling in Mexico
Here are a few tips to follow to stay safe in Guadalajara and when travelling within Mexico:
1. Always use common sense and don't go around doing things you wouldn't do at home.
2. Be aware of your surroundings and take note of who is around you at all times and have a general sense of where you are.
3. Make sure to have photos of your passport, visa, and other travel documents with you.
4. Do not carry large sums of money with you and instead use a banking system that is known and trusted in your destination.
5. If you are travelling during the night, be aware of your surroundings and take public transportation or stay inside well-lit areas.
6. Be aware of scams – don't give out any personal information (i.e. where you are staying).
7. Lock your doors when leaving your residence or hotel.
8. If you feel uncomfortable or threatened while travelling in Mexico, please reach out for help to a family member, friend, or hotel staff member. You can also call 911 to reach emergency services and police.
For those planning a trip to Mexico, it's important to be aware of the local resources available in case of an emergency. You can dial 9-1-1 just as you would in the USA to get emergency assistance. The Mexican Red Cross (Cruz Roja Mexicana) is one of the most reliable sources of emergency aid and assistance, with offices and ambulances responding to calls 24/7.
In addition, the Federal Police (Policia Federal) and the State Preventive Police (Policia Estatal Preventiva) are two other government agencies that can provide help in times of crisis. Finally, Guadalajara also has a number of private security services that can be contacted for protection and support. With these resources in mind, travelers can rest assured that they will be well taken care of if an emergency arises in this vibrant city.
Is Guadalajara Safe for Tourists?
Safety in Guadalajara is widely considered to be one of the best for tourists in Mexico. The city is known for its vibrant culture, vibrant nightlife, and warm hospitality. The city has a low crime rate compared to other areas in Mexico. Guadalajara is safe for tourists to explore. However, it is still important to take the usual precautions while visiting the city and make sure your neighborhood is a safe place.
I know from my time in Guadalajara that the level of safety is the same as experienced in the USA. I hope this helps you make an informed decision on planning your trip to Guadalajara.
Guadalajara is the capital of the trendiest neighborhood in the world according to a recent Timeout Magazine poll (2022). One of the most popular neighborhoods in Guadalajara is Colonia Americana. Located just west of the city center, it is a great place to stay in Guadalajara. The combination of modernity and traditional Mexican culture have made Colonia Americana a favorite among tourists from around the world. Visit the Timeout article here.
Crime in Guadalajara is relatively low and it's super safe during the day to travel, as well at night in most of the Guadalajara metropolitan area. I would also consider it safe for females traveling as well. Of course, you will want to take extra precautions as a solo traveler.
I would suggest anyone to visit Guadalajara. It's a vibrant city with a lot of culture and things to do. Again, you can read my article of things to do in Guadalajara here. If you plan to travel to Mexico be sure to make this one of your stops!