Is Chihuahua safe to travel to in 2023? Safety is usually at the forefront of people’s minds when planning a trip to Mexico for the first time.
The short answer is that Chihuahua can be safe provided that you take precautions and you heed local travel warnings. The safety situation in Mexico can vary significantly from state to state and city to city.
(As you may know, if you have spent any amount of time traveling in the country).
The same rings true in the northern state of Chihuahua. There are places that are fine and places that you should absolutely avoid.
Chihuahua city is fine for the most part as long as you are careful about which neighborhoods you travel to and you don’t travel around at night. Creel, Divisadero, and Bahuichivo are charming Chihuahua villages that sit along the El Chepe train route from Los Mochis.
Since they are of tourist interest, the local authorities usually do their best to keep them safe and secure for tourists. If you visit these areas, you will be fine as long as you don’t start traveling overland to random rural areas.
The border town of Ciudad Juarez is somewhere that you absolutely want to avoid. (And honestly, you have no real reason to venture here anyway).
Obviously, safety anywhere is a very personal thing. The reality of safety in Chihuahua state is a lot more nuanced than someone simply saying “you are okay with precautions”.
This article has been written by a British Travel Writer based in Mexico (Me!) It will run through everything you need to consider if you are contemplating traveling to the region.
Is Chihuahua safe to travel to in 2023?
Chihuahua can be a safe travel destination. The northern state sits right beside the United State border and the US states of New Mexico and Texas.
It is known for being home to the Copper Canyon and the El Chepe train route. This is widely regarded as being one of the very best train journeys in the world.
People tend to be concerned about safety, in general, when planning a trip to Mexico. Although organized crime groups operate in the northern part of the country, and violent things do happen, most crime in the region affects those that are involved in illegal activities.
Simply put, if you don’t go looking for trouble, trouble won’t go looking for you. Still, Chihuahua is a travel destination that is perhaps best reserved for a seasoned traveler who has already spent some time exploring Latin America.
English is not widely spoken here and not everybody will enjoy travel when they feel as though they constantly have to look over their shoulders. For a first-time trip to Mexico, safer states like the Yucatan and Campeche may be preferable.
Read your government travel advice for Chihuahua
It is a good idea to check your government’s travel advice before you travel to any new country. The same is true of visiting Mexico for the first time.
Government travel advice can be sternly worded, to the extent that it almost acts as a deterrent for traveling somewhere in itself! Still, it is useful for reading up on the latest entry requirements and any recent developments in a region.
The US state department assigns a different safety rating to each of the 32 Mexican states. These are broken down into four categories:
“Do not travel”, “Reconsider travel”, “Exercise increased precautions” and “exercise normal precautions”.
The official travel advice for Chihuahua state says that travelers should:
“Reconsider travel due to crime and kidnapping.” and “Violent crime and gang activity are common.”
Similarly, the UK government travel advice says that travelers should “reconsider all but essential travel to Chihuahua except Chihuahua city and the Copper Canyon rail route”.
Keep checking your government advice page in the lead-up to your trip. Any dangers, instances, or developments in the region will immediately be updated here.
Crime statistics in Chihuahua
There is a high rate of crime in Chihuahua state. The statistics site Numbeo provides various global cities with a crime rate out of 100.
Chihuahua state has a rating of 69.7 which is high. Muggings, robbery, assault, and corruption are residents’ biggest concerns.
Chihuahua doesn’t have the best track record of violent crimes either. According to the Mexican non-profit organization Causa en Comun, Chihuahua is one of the worst states in the country for cartel-related violence and homicides.
Still, most violent incidents only affect those that are involved with criminal organizations. They are not random acts of crime.
Protect yourself against petty crime
If you are a victim of a crime in Chihuahua as a tourist, it is most likely to be an opportunistic Petty crime. For example, bag snatching or pickpocketing.
For this reason, it is important to always keep an eye on your personal belongings and try not to dress flashy. A theft-proof backpack is a worthwhile investment, especially if you travel a lot.
These bags cost a little more than regular backpacks. However, they come with additional safety features.
Theft-proof bags like those offered by Pacsafe come with TSA-approved locking devices and are slash-proof and waterproof.
Safe destinations in Chihuahua
If you are going to be traveling around Chihuahua and Northern Mexico, some safe destinations in the area that you may want to consider are detailed below. If you are going to be riding the El Chapo train from Sinaloa to Chihuahua, you can combine your Chihuahua trip with an exploration of the Ahome region of Northern Sinaloa.
Los Mochis, Sinaloa is an underrated city that boasts unique gastronomy and incredible local street food. The beach town of Topolobampo is also worth a visit.
As is El Fuerte, a Sinaloan stopping point on the El Chepe train and the fictional birthplace of Zorro. Exploring the Copper Canyon rail region allows you to scratch beneath the surface of one of Mexico’s most misunderstood regions.
The little town of Creel is one of the most scenic stopping points on the El Chepe route from Los Mochis to Chihuahua. It sits in the Sierra Tarahumara and has been designated as a Pueblo Magico since 2007.
You could easily spend 2-3 days here. Consider renting a traditional cabana nestled in the woodlands and spending each day going on hikes and indulging in traditional Mexican food.
There are a few points of interest in particular that you should look out for here. The Valle de los Monjes is an obscure-looking desert valley just 15km south of Creel.
It is made up of unique, pointy limestone rock formations that have been weathered away by rain and the elements over the centuries. This place is of spiritual importance for the Rarámuri indigenous people.
According to local legend, the rocks are actually monks who were petrified into stone while they were deep in thought and meditating, thousands of years ago. There are a lot of other natural wonders nearby to add to your radar.
The Valle de los Hongos (valley of the mushrooms) is filled with equally obscure rock formations that look just like mushrooms. In Recowata, 40 minutes away from Creel, you can relax in thermal baths.
If you like waterfalls, you can hike out to Rukíraso waterfall in the Valley of Mochogueachi, and Cusárare Waterfall which is surrounded by a gorgeous pine forest. While you can visit Creel all year round, it is particularly beautiful in the winter months.
It does snow here occasionally during the winter. The combination of soft white powdery snow paired with autumnal colors makes for beautiful scenery.
Although Creel is the most famous Chihuahua stopping point along the El Chepe route, it certainly isn’t the only one. You can get off the train at Divisadero and Posada Barrancas if you want to enjoy spectacular panoramas over the Copper Canyon.
They mark two separate spots. However, there is a distance of just 5km between them and so, you can easily travel from one to the other overland.
Divisadero literally means “lookout point”. There is just one hotel here and a scattering of stores and street food vendors.
This area is very popular among Mexican domestic tourists (and some international travelers). It’s pretty safe. Nearby Posada Barrancas in the town of Areponapuchi offers an adventure and eco-tourism park, incredible views of the Copper Canyon, and numerous hotels and dining options.
Bahuichivo and Cerocahui are great places to while away a day or two in Chihuahua. They are fairly safe, again, owing to the fact that they are popular tourist destinations.
Head to Cerro Gallego lookout point for unparalleled views over the Urique Canyon. Several small, local tour companies operate in the region and offer tourists the opportunity to go hiking or horseback riding among the beautiful natural scenery.
You can also hike to the mining town of Urique, spend the night, and then hike back again the next day.
Chihuahua city is the capital of the state of Chihuahua. The city, nestled in a valley of the Sierra Madre Occidental, was founded in the 17th century and prospered as a Spanish mining town.
The baroque-style Chihuahua church and the 18th-century Chihuahua government palace are among the most famous landmarks in the city. The latter has been decorated with incredible murals by Mexican artists that depict the history of Mexico through the centuries.
Chihuahua city is a state capital with a charming small-town vibe about it. It is home to a population of just over a million people and you may be surprised by just how safe and lovely it feels to explore.
Chihuahua city is worthy of at least a long weekend. But you could easily stay here for longer if you want to explore at a more relaxed pace.
Chihuahua Travel Safety Tips
A collection of handy safety tips to help you stay safe and enjoy your trip to Chihuahua is detailed below.
Is the El Chepe express train safe?
The El Chape Express train is very safe. This is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Northern Mexico.
Safety officials are stationed on board the train and can be found in every couple of carriages. You must have a valid ticket to board the train and your passport or other identity documents are checked before boarding.
If you travel in economy, your luggage will be stored in the overhead bins next to your seat or elsewhere in the carriage. you can position it in a place where you have a clear view of it so that you are not worrying about your personal belongings while you travel.
If you are traveling in business or executive class, you hand your luggage over when boarding to be stored in a special room. When your luggage is collected, you will be provided with a small ticket.
You present this when you disembark the train so that you can pick up your bag again. This is reassuring as you know that not just anybody can take your bag.
Be careful with your money
You don’t need to carry an abundance of cash with you when traveling around chihuahua. Around 4,000 to 5,000 pesos is about the maximum amount that you want to have on you in cash.
Open a borderless bank account so that you can easily make withdrawals from ATMs or use your cards and stores and restaurants without incurring hefty foreign transaction fees. If you are from Europe, you can open an account with Wise or Revolut.
If you are from the US, you can open an account with Charles Schwab. When you need to withdraw money from an ATM, make sure that you do so during the day in a safe and well-lit area.
ATMs in the branches of banks and malls are preferable and less likely to have been tampered with than standalone ATMs.
Always check your surroundings and make sure that there is nobody loitering behind you before making a withdrawal.
Carry two separate coin purses
It is a good idea to store your cash in two different wallets.
You can keep the bulk of your money in one wallet that is tucked away at the bottom of your backpack. Then, keep some small change and notes in a separate coin purse so that you have just enough cash that you need for the day.
That way, when you come to pay for something in Chihuahua, you aren’t taking out a purse that is filled with money.
Research where you are staying
If you are going to be staying overnight in creel, Chihuahua city, or any other part of the Chihuahua state, it is a good idea to research where you are staying first. Make sure that you’re accommodation is in a good neighborhood and not a sketchy area.
Read past reviews to make sure that others have not flagged any serious issues with your accommodation. There are some nice neighborhoods in Chihuahua city and then there are some dangerous neighborhoods.
The historic center is generally a good place to base yourself. Equally charming are the districts of La Cantera and San Felipe.
It is worth paying a little bit more for secure accommodation that has 24-hour security.
Barrio de San Miguel, Santa Rosa de Lima, and San Felipe de Jesus see high crime rates and are generally best avoided. Look for accommodation where you won’t have to be trekking back across the city at night.
A good hotel will either have restaurants and street food options right on its doorstep or a decent restaurant in-house.
Watch your personal belongings at all time
Always keep an eye on your personal belongings. In crowded marketplaces, it is a good idea to walk with your backpack in front of you.
Never keep valuables like your phone or your wallet stored in your back pocket or somewhere where someone can easily grab them. If you go to a coffee shop, do not leave your laptop, phone, wallet, or anything else on the table even for a brief amount of time.
Take everything into the bathroom or to the counter with you rather than asking somebody on another table to watch it for you.
Don’t walk around with flashy designer goods or valuables on display
It is best not to display signs of wealth when traveling in Chihuahua and other parts of Mexico. Remember that Mexico is a developing country.
That flashy DSLR camera that you are walking around with around your neck is the equivalent of several months’ salary here.
Keep your electronics and expensive belongings securely tucked away in your backpack. Similarly, it is better not to wear expensive sunglasses, jewelry, or flashy designer items.
Nobody wears them in Mexico for the most part and it is one way to make yourself stand out and potentially become a target.
Learn a little Spanish if you can
English is not widely spoken in Mexico, particularly not when you leave popular tourist areas. Trying to communicate in Chihuahua can be stressful if you don’t have one or two Spanish phrases up your sleeve.
(And that’s really all you need!) It would be unrealistic to expect to reach any level of fluency as you prepare for your trip. But just being able to say hello/goodbye/yes/no/can I have a…, etc will go a long way.
Plus, it will be appreciated by the locals!
Useful Spanish phrases
Some useful Spanish phrases for your trip to Chihuahua are detailed below.
- Yo tengo una reserva – I have a reservation
- Mi nombre es – My name is
- Lo siento, no entiendo – Im sorry, I don’t understand
- Disculpe – Excuse me
- Yo quiero – I want (useful for ordering food)
- La cuenta por favor – The bill please
- Quanto es – How much is it?
- Buenos dias – Good morning!
- Buenos tardes – Good afternoon!
- Buenos noches – Good night
- Hasta luego – See you later
- Una mesa para uno/dos/tres – A table for one/two/three…
- Dónde está – Where is…
- Gracias! – Thank you
- Tienes wifi? – Do you have wifi?
- Necesito ayuda – I need help
- Habla Inglés?
- Lo siento no puedo hablar español – Im sorry I cannot speak Spanish
Download Google Translate
Make sure that you have Google Translate installed on your phone for times when you are struggling to communicate.
You can simply write what you want to say in English or speak in the microphone. It will be automatically translated to Spanish and you can just play the audio clip out to the person you are trying to communicate with,
Be mindful of your information source
Be careful of misinformation when planning your trip to Chihuahua and Mexico in general. Unfortunately, we are in an age where anyone can write anything and that information can easily appear on the internet.
I have lived in Mexico for the last year and I have seen various internet travel guides to Chihuahua and other parts of the country that are simply not reflective of reality. They tell you that places are too dangerous to travel to, even when they are extremely safe.
It is often clear that they have been written by someone who hasn’t even traveled there. When you are browsing the internet and researching your trip, hopefully, it will be clear to you who has been to a destination and who hasn’t.
Be mindful of your source.
Is Chihuahua Safe to Travel to in 2023? FAQs
Do you have any further questions or concerns about the safety of traveling to Chihuahua state in 2023? The answers to some frequently asked questions on the topic are detailed below.
Hopefully, you’ll find the information you are looking for there. If not, please do not hesitate to reach out to me.
Is Chihuahua safe for solo travelers?
Chihuahua can be safe for solo travelers. However, solo female travelers may feel a little uncomfortable here and may find that they get a lot of unwanted attention.
I am a solo female traveler based in Mexico. I traveled to North Sinaloa alone and to Chihuahua with my partner. Personally, I would never let my gender or appearance dictate the type of places that I could travel and I would feel comfortable doing the El Chepe route solo.
However, with that being said, I would only stick to the main tourist areas if I was by myself and not head off to rural villages or remote hiking trails. I feel that it probably would inhibit my trip somewhat.
But if it’s somewhere you really want to go and your friends/partner/family cannot find the time to go with you/don’t want to, don’t miss the opportunity.
As a solo female traveler in Sinaloa, I felt that people were constantly staring at me regardless of what I wore.
Ciudad Juárez and other cities in Chihuahua state see some of the worst domestic violence and femicide rates in Mexico. Female travelers Should absolutely avoid Ciudad Juárez at all costs.
It is important not to terrify yourself out of doing something. But at the same time, it is good to be aware of the culture and attitude toward women in the places that you travel.
Is Chihuahua Mexico nice?
Chihuahua Mexico is a nice place for the most part. A lot of people underestimate just how culturally rich and historical Mexico is as a travel destination.
Traveling here is about a lot more than lounging on the beaches of Tulum and Puerto Vallarta. A trip to Chihuahua state provides many opportunities to go hiking, have picnics by pristine lakes, relax in hot springs, indulge in regional cuisine, and explore quaint traditional villages.
Is Creel Cihuahua safe?
Creel Chihuahua is a safe town. However, traveling here does require some common sense.
If you want to go hiking, check with locals or your hotel receptionist/concierge to make sure that the area you are heading out to is safe. Since places like Valle de los Monjes see a lot of tourists, they are safe.
There is cartel activity in remote parts of Chihuahua and Sinaloa. The chances of you accidentally walking into a cartel stronghold are slim.
But it is for this reason that you need to make mindful decisions about where you go when traveling in Mexico and you can’t just wander anywhere. Aside from that, just don’t do anything you wouldn’t do elsewhere.
Don’t walk around alone at night, don’t venture down random dimly-lit streets in the dark, and be careful of driving at night. Roads here usually don’t have street lights so the lack of visibility and the presence of stray animals is a concern as much as anything else.
Is it safe to go to Copper Canyon in Mexico?
Yes, it is safe to go to the Copper Canyon in Mexico. The adorable little towns along the route are safe and there are security personnel on board the train and at the various stations.
What is the crime rate in Chihuahua Mexico?
The crime rate in Chihuahua Mexico is high. However, it mostly affects those that are involved with criminal organizations.
Most of the violent crime in Chihuahua is concentrated in border towns (fronteras).
Is Chihuahua safe? Final thoughts
To reiterate again: Chihuahua can be safe with precautions. But it is perhaps best reserved for experienced travelers.
Speaking a little Spanish will help tremendously here. Mexico isn’t always portrayed in the best light on tv and in the media.
Don’t let negative stereotypes scare you off visiting one of the most vibrant countries in the world. I live in the Yucatan capital of Merida.
I am happy to assist with any questions or queries that you may have. Feel free to reach out to me and I will do my best to get back to you ASAP.
Safe travels! Buen viaje! Melissa xo