Is Guadalajara safe to travel to? The matter of safety is likely to be at the forefront of your mind if you are planning a trip to the capital of the state of Jalisco.
Mexico as a travel destination in general raises a lot of safety concerns. Add to that the fact that Guadalajara is far from one of the most common places to visit, and that the information available about it online is limited, and it is understandable that you may have concerns.
So is Guadalajara safe? The short answer is yes, with precautions.
However, it is a little more complicated than that. Exploring cities in Latin America means needing to use a lot of common sense and often take more precautions than you would elsewhere.
If you have spent any amount of time in large cities anywhere in the world, and you have ventured outside the gentrified districts, you will be fine in Guadalajara. You just need to be vigilant.
Safety is also a very personal thing, and everyone experiences different levels of comfort and security in the places that they travel to. This guide will provide some safety tips to help ensure that your visit to Guadalajara is an enjoyable one.
Falling in love with Guadalajara
Guadalajara is the second most populated city in Mexico. In 2022, the metro area population is is 5,340,000.
When you compare this to Mexico City’s population of a whopping 22 million, Guadalajara pails in comparison. In many ways, the historic center exudes more of a small-town vibe, than an atmosphere that you would expect in one of Mexico’s largest cities.
There are plenty of things to do in Guadalajara to warrant spending 4-5 days here. Most of the city’s major attractions and points of interest are located within walking distance of the Guadalajara cathedral and the zocalo central square. You can easily and safely explore on foot during the day.
Be sure to take time to stop by the various charming city districts, each of which has its own distinct personality and charm. Avenue Chapultapec and Colonia Americana exude Greenwich village vibes and are home to a plethora of quirky, eclectic coffee shops, independent art galleries, and adorable boutique stores.
For an authentic glimpse into what life in Guadalajara is truly like, consider spending a lazy afternoon in the leafy Chapalita district. The area’s main plaza, Jardín del Arte de la Glorieta Chapalita, hosts live musical performances (like mariachi and brass bands) virtually every night of the week.
On Sundays, a wonderful little art market is held here and creatives from across the city sell everything from painted canvases to handmade artisanal goods. Guadalajara also makes a great base for exploring the wider region of Jalisco.
From here, you can take day trips out to Tlaquepaque (the birthplace of Mariachi!), Tequila, Lake Chapala, Ajijic, and Talpa de Allende. Guadalajara is a wonderful place so you shouldn’t allow yourself to be scared out of visiting.
Is Guadalajara safe? The statistics
Statistically speaking, Guadalajara is comparable to Mexico City from a safety perspective. Neither city is anywhere close to being among the most dangerous cities in Latin America.
If you have traveled to other LATM/South American cities such as Bogota or Cartagena, Colombia, for instance, you will note a marked difference in how you feel when exploring. For instance, in Mexican cities, you never feel that you have to be cautious about getting your phone out in public or constantly looking over your shoulder like you may in other parts of Latin America.
Drawing parallels between Mexico City and Guadalajara is worthwhile because so many people travel to the Mexican capital for a city break and don’t think twice about doing so. Yet at the same time, they are anxious about traveling to lesser-known Guadalajara.
Granted, both cities have their bad neighborhoods and their crime problems that are a consequence of a nation with a huge disparity of wealth. But traveling to either city can be met with the same approach you would make when visiting any major city.
Crime reports in Guadalajara
Very few reports detailing actual crime statistics for Guadalajara are actually available online. However, one interesting source of information is the Numbeo crime index.
The index is a survey of people that live in various cities around the world to gauge how safe and comfortable they feel in their cities. A rating is given on a scale of 1 to 100, with a higher rating being a greater perception of danger.
Mexico City has a rating of 68.47 while Guadalajara has a rating of 62.02. Crime in both cities has increased over the past few years – something that has been unfortunately exacerbated by the pandemic that has caused people to lose their jobs and resort to desperate measures to make money.
Both cities are very multicultural and people’s concerns are mostly around being the victim of petty theft or a robbery, rather than being attacked, insulted, or assaulted in any way. Yes, the data is based on a limited sample size of people.
However, it does give valuable insight into how people that live in the cities day in, and day out actually feel. You can compare Guadalajara’s rating of 62.02 with Sydney Australia’s 33.65, Merida Yucatan’s 24.71, and Bogota Colombia’s 65.67.
Safety tips for visiting Guadalajara Mexico
A number of safety considerations that you should keep in mind when heading to Guadalajara for the first time are detailed below. A lot of these are just general common sense precautions, while others are more Mexico-specific.
Pay attention to government travel advice but don’t be terrified by it
If you conduct a Google search for the question “is Guadalajara safe?” one of the first things that come up is the United States travel advice for the city. This can be alarming, particularly as the US travel advisory states that you should “reconsider travel due to kidnapping and violent crime”.
To put things into perspective, there are several Mexican states and cities that have this warning. There are also those where you are warned not to travel due to crime and those where you are advised to exercise increased caution.
The latter includes popular destinations such as the Yucatan, Quintana Roo, and Baja California Sur. Nobody can deny that violent crimes do happen across Mexico and that crime groups and cartels do exist.
But generally speaking, if you don’t go looking for trouble in Mexico, trouble will not find you. When you start reviewing the US government safety advice for Mexico in a broader sense, you will note that it is often overly cautious.
While staying safe when traveling abroad is of the utmost importance, stern warnings are often placed on certain parts of Mexico due to historic events or one-off instances. Don’t let the US travel advice terrify you from traveling to Guadalajara or force you to reconsider your trip.
Use this advice as an indicator that Guadalajara is somewhere where you need to take more care and caution than normal. But don’t let it put you off.
For your reference, the USA travel advice for Mexico can be found here. You can find the UK government travel advice for Mexico here although it is less detailed, perhaps reflecting the fact that fewer British travelers venture this far out.
Do a thorough research when deciding where to stay
When deciding where to stay in Guadalajara, be sure to read up on the area where your hotel is located. Look at where the property is on the map and read reviews written by previous guests.
Generally speaking, there aren’t really any hotels in sketchy neighborhoods so you don’t really have to worry about accidentally booking something in a really bad part of town. As a rule of thumb though, don’t consider anything farther east than the San Juan de Dios market. The eastern suburbs, particularly around the Central Viaje station, are run down and sketchy.
The city center extends from Avenue Juarez to Parque Alcade/Museo Panteon de Belen and it is safe during the day. At night, like in most major cities, you should take an Uber rather than walking, and don’t walk alone at this time. The Chapultapec and Chapalita areas are very pleasant and lively even in the evenings.
Research neighborhoods before venturing into them
It is very important to note that in Mexican cities (Guadalajara included), you should not just blindly follow Google maps and see where it takes you. Undesirable neighborhoods border nicer areas and you can easily wander somewhere that you don’t want to be.
For instance, Colonia del Fresno is not safe and should be avoided completely. However, the area runs parallel to Chapalita.
If you visit Tlaquepaque, the historic center is charming and wonderful. However, the El Cerro del Cuatro area is not safe and needs to be avoided. If you find an off-the-beaten-track attraction that you want to check out – like a specific park, hiking trail, or street art mural, do a little reading on the area that surrounds it first.
Do not walk alone at night
Use the same common sense in Guadalajara as you would when traveling to any other large city. Don’t walk around at night, particularly not alone.
Even if you only need to walk a short distance, it is generally better to be safe than sorry and to call an Uber. It may sound obvious, but even in daylight, you should be aware of your surroundings and not wander down quiet alleys and random side streets.
Use Uber to get around
Uber is a very safe and reliable way to get around in Guadalajara and it is actually the preferred transportation method for a lot of Mexicans. In some countries around the globe, Uber may be considered “less safe” than taking licensed yellow cabs but that definitely isn’t the case here.
After all, there is actually more accountability with Uber. With the app, you can see the driver’s details and the license plate of the vehicle that they are driving.
You can share your journey with friends and family in real time and more recently, Uber has added a feature whereby you can send an audio recording of your trip to them. Still, there are a couple of pointers to keep in mind so that you have a safe and pleasant experience.
First of all, it pays to always check the profile of the driver that is picking you up. If they have done a lot of journeys and they have a good rating (4.9 and up), you can generally feel assured that you are in safe hands.
If they are a new driver, they have a bad rating, or they are doing something weird on the map like driving back and forth for no reason, cancel the trip. When you do so quickly, Uber will find you a new driver at no charge.
When the car arrives, always check that the license plate number is correct. If it is not, do not get in.
Didi is another local alternative to Uber. The prices are often marginally cheaper, although you may find that there are fewer cars available.
Consider a walking tour to help you get your bearings
A walking tour is a great way to get your bearings in a new city. This is particularly true if you are traveling somewhere you are anxious about (as many people feel with Mexico), or you are traveling solo.
Several reputable local companies offer excellent walking tours of Guadalajara. Many follow different themes too.
For instance, you can indulge in a street food tour, a tour that enables you to see the city by night, a tour that focuses on Guadalajara’s history, etc. Better still?
You will have a Guadalajara local on hand whom you can ask for recommendations on the best places to eat, drink, and hang out while you are in town. It is a good idea to do such a tour early on in your trip so then you can work your way through the recommendations you are given for the rest of your itinerary.
A selection of reputable tours is detailed below for your consideration. Book online in advance to reserve your place.
- Guadalajara and Tlaquepaque sightseeing tour
- Mexican charro and charreada cultural tour
- Guadalajara sightseeing night tour
Be mindful of your things in crowded areas
Petty thefts happen a lot in Guadalajara so you always need to keep an eye on your things, especially in crowded areas. For the most part, these kinds of crimes are opportunistic.
The Chapultapec Avenue area is notorious for people snatching phones out of people’s hands. They often do this while on a bicycle or a moped.
So always be alert and don’t wander around aimlessly and absent-mindedly with your iPhone lulling in your hand. Similarly, you need to be careful in crowded markets such as Mercado Corona and Mercado San Juan de Dios.
It would be very easy for someone to slip their hand inside your pocket or backpack when you are moving through a marketplace where people are squished together like sardines. Carry your backpack in front of you if you can.
Avoid wearing expensive jewelry, sunglasses, cameras, or anything else that will draw attention or that can be yanked away from you in such places. You may also want to consider investing in a theft-proof backpack such as those offered by Pacsafe.
These backpacks are a little pricier than regular backpacks. However, they are slash-proof, water-proof, and come with a TSA-approved locking system. Pacsafe bags also come with a multi-year warranty.
Kidnappings and disappearances in Guadalajara
Kidnappings and disappearances are a problem for locals in Guadalajara and the wider state of Jalisco. Generally, as a tourist, this is not something that you need to be afraid of, but it is important to be informed.
Do keep in mind that the western media often sensationalizes crime and narco-related news in Mexico. Netflix dramas really don’t help the perception of the situation either.
There are currently 100,000 people missing in Mexico, with several thousand people reported missing in Guadalajara. Most of these people are reported to have links with the cartel – either directly or indirectly.
Unfortunately, a percentage of those missing are said to have no ties with organized crime groups. Whether that is just that their families do not like to think of their loved ones as being involved with the cartel, or that they were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time, is debatable.
Tourists are very rarely the target of kidnapping, especially since kidnapping for ransom takes a lot of execution and planning. It is not the case that people simply grab a person on the street in broad daylight.
Instead, they carefully monitor a person’s activity and plan a calculated attack. Targets are usually wealthy and middle-class Mexicans.
A family member may be kidnapped and then not returned until someone else pays a specified sum of money. It pays to be careful about what you share with whom, and what you post on social media.
However, as a tourist, you are very unlikely to be targeted. Still, this is why you need to follow common sense safety measures. If you use online dating apps like Tinder or Bumble, or you do anything that involves meeting strangers, always be careful and meet in public places.
Express kidnappings do happen all over Mexico occasionally and they can affect tourists if you are not cautious and careful. This usually happens when someone gets into a random taxi on the street and the driver is corrupt.
The driver may take you a short distance and then, 2-3 of his friends may enter the vehicle and hold you at gun or knife point. You will be forced to hand over all of your cash and valuables and the assailants will drive around the city making you withdraw the maximum amount of money from your ATM cards.
This is precisely why so many people opt to use Uber in Mexico. Never get into a random street cab.
If you want to take a licensed taxi, use one that has been ordered by your hotel and that you know is reputable. The objective of express kidnappings is to get as much money as possible without the intent to hurt you. However, it is still terrifying and something that you likely want to avoid.
Grand theft auto and other robberies in Guadalajara
Guadalajara has alarmingly high rates of grand theft auto robberies and many locals are concerned about potentially being the victim of a break-in. Truthfully, if you are visiting Guadalajara as part of a wider Jalisco itinerary, you don’t really need a car for your time in the city.
If you do prefer to rent a vehicle, there are a few precautions that you should take. Be mindful of the areas where you go and where you stop and park the car. It is usually a good idea to drive around with the door locked and the windows rolled up.
There is cartel activity in Guadalajara as there is in much of Mexico. Truthfully, there is a possibility of being in the “wrong place at the wrong time” as there have been occasions where gang members have fought or shot at each other in the street.
However, realistically, the chances of being caught up in this are extremely low. At the present time, Cancun is actually less safe from this perspective.
Unless you get involved with or bother the cartel, they are not going to bother you. If you happen to be so unfortunate that you find a situation or an argument escalating around you, be sure to leave and shelter in place as quickly as you can.
Leave the expensive designer goods at home
Nothing sets a target on your back and screams “I’m a tourist with plenty of money” like someone who is wandering around with a DSLR camera around their neck or sporting Designer labels. In Mexico, you never really see people flashing labels or expensive luxury clothing.
From a safety perspective, it is better not to draw attention to yourself and if you look fancy and wealthy, that is exactly what you will do. When you plan out your Mexico packing list, pack simple, inexpensive apparel.
Is Guadalajara safe for solo travelers?
Most trips to Guadalajara are trouble-free and the city can be a wonderful destination for solo travelers, including solo female travelers. This entire article (and website!) has been written by a woman traveling alone in Mexico.
Violence against women in Mexico
Mexico is a largely patriarchal society with something of a macho culture. Unfortunately, violence against women is a growing concern in the country and it is estimated that approximately 10 women are killed here every day, with tens of thousands more reported missing.
A study by INEGI Mexico (the National Institute of Statistics and Geography) found that more than 70% of the 50.5 million women interviewed had experienced some form of violence in Mexico. The UN recognized Mexico as being one of the most dangerous countries for women.
All of this can sound extremely alarming, particularly if you are traveling to Guadalajara as a solo female. However, while you need to be aware of the issues and the gender values/stereotypes, this is again unlikely to affect you as a tourist, provided that you take all the aforementioned precautions for your safety.
Solo female travel in Guadalajara
Despite everything that you may read, you may be surprised to find that most people in Mexico are extremely friendly, welcoming, and chivalrous. Read up on the safety aspects of the country that you need to be informed about but never let them scare you out of traveling somewhere that you really want to go.
For the most part in Guadalajara, you will probably be met with men holding open doors, offering to get your baggage from public transport, pulling out your chair, etc. Guadalajara is a very multicultural city home to all sorts of people from different backgrounds and nationalities so even if you are not Latinx, you won’t get stared at for looking different.
Still, a foreign woman alone may draw a bit of attention. You may find that you get male attention in the form of hissing (the Latin American version of whistling), catcalling or prolonged glances.
The best thing to do is to ignore it and not give the person(s) any attention. It also pays to look at what the local women wear.
While women absolutely should be able to wear whatever they want and go wherever they please without harassment, you will note that Mexican women tend to err on the side of conservative. They wear modest clothes and usually opt for jeans and trousers over shorts and tank tops, even during the summer months.
A large reason for this? To experience fewer advances and street harassment from men.
Obviously, you should wear whatever you are comfortable with. However, it is often in your own interest and safety to try to blend in.
You can comfortably explore Guadalajara and its surroundings as a woman alone. You definitely don’t need to feel that you need to pay to join a tour.
Meeting other travelers in Guadalajara
If you are visiting Guadalajara alone, you may be interested in meeting other travelers and socializing. You can use the hangout function on apps like Couchsurfing and Bumble BFF to find other travelers in the area to grab dinner or drinks with.
Always be careful when meeting strangers online, watch your alcohol, and only meet in public places. There is an ever-growing ex-pat and Digital Nomad scene in Guadalajara.
Along with their existence, there are a few useful Guadalajara Facebook groups that you may find useful. You can post in these to ask questions or to find people to grab coffee with. A selection of the best ones is listed below.
- MEXPAT Guadalajara
- Women in Guadalajara
- Black people in Guadalajara
- Expats in Guadalajara
- Americans in Guadalajara
- Foreigners in Guadalajara
- (THE UNCENSORED) MEXPAT Guadalajara
- English-speaking community in Guadalajara Mexico
Is Guadalajara safe? FAQs
Do you still have any burning questions or concerns about whether Guadalajara is safe? Hopefully, you will find the answers you are looking for below!
Is Guadalajara dangerous?
Guadalajara is not an especially dangerous city. However, traveling here definitely requires a lot of caution and common sense.
There are areas that you should not go to, and things you need to keep in mind to make your trip a safe and enjoyable one. For the most part, Guadalajara is only a dangerous city if you get involved with drugs or the wrong people.
How safe is Guadalajara airport?
Guadalajara airport (Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla International Airport) is a safe place. Approximately 12.5 million people passed through it in 2021, making it one of the most important international transport hubs in the country.
You can take an airport taxi from here to get into the city. Most Guadalajara cab drivers are trustworthy and charge a flat fee. Alternatively, you can take an Uber in order to enjoy a lower rate.
What is the crime rate in Guadalajara Mexico?
There is a high rate of crime in Guadalajara across the board. This includes drug-dealing-related instances, vandalism, petty theft, and more serious crimes like assault and armed robbery.
As a tourist, you can see the city safely with precautions. However, it is important to be well informed of the situation here, not to be naive, and to always be alert as to what is going on around you.
Is it safe to walk around Guadalajara?
It is generally safe to walk around Guadalajara during the day. However, you absolutely do need to be mindful of the areas that you travel into and not just wander around blindly.
Is it safe to drink tap water in Guadalajara?
It is not safe to drink tap water in Guadalajara or anywhere in Mexico for that matter. Tap water in Mexico is generally purified at the source, but unfortunately, it often gets contaminated en route to the tap.
There is no real way of knowing if and how badly contaminated the water is unless you drink it and see – which you definitely don’t want to risk doing! Most hotels and Airbnb provide complimentary bottled water during your stay.
You can also buy large bottles from supermarkets, pharmacies, and local convenience stores such as Oxxo and 7/11 for just a few pesos. Consider purchasing a reusable water bottle such as a lifestraw to minimize your plastic waste.
So is Guadalajara safe? Yes, provided that you use common sense and take precautions.
Do you still have any worries or concerns about this or other aspects of organizing a trip to Mexico? If you are traveling to the country for the first time, you might enjoy reading these facts about Mexico, or this post on things to know before you go.
Have a wonderful trip! Buen Viaje! Melissa xo