Is Guanajuato safe for tourists to travel to? You might be concerned about how safe it is to travel to Guanajuato if you are venturing to the Central Mexican state for the first time.
After all, Mexico isnt always a place that we associate with safety in general, and Guanajuato isnt quite as known to tourists as more popular destinations like Los Cabos, Puerto Vallarta, Tulum, and Cancun. Guanajuato is both the name of the state and its capital city and in this article, written by a local expat, we will look at the safety of traveling to both Guanajuato City and to other points of interest in the state such as Dolores Hidalgo, Leon, and San Miguel de Allende.
Is Guanajuato Safe to Travel to in 2023?
Like many destinations in Mexico, Guanajuato can be a safe place to travel to provided that you use the same common sense precautions as you would when traveling anywhere else in the world. The US Department of State travel warnings for Guanajuato and elsewhere in Mexico can appear stern and unnerving but they should be taken with a pinch of salt for areas of touristic interest in Guanajuato.
I have been living in Mexico for the last few years and I have traveled extensively across 12 different Mexican states during that time, including Guanajuato. While I didn’t know what to expect prior to my arrival in the region, Guanajuato City in particular quickly became one of my absolute favorite cities in Mexico.
It has a rich art and cultural scene, and a vibrant, young student population. As a university city, Guanajuato is always teeming with life, and its streets and plazas are filled with people sipping cantaritos in al fresco bars, or heading to underground cocktail spots every night of the week.
In the central parts of the city, you can feel very comfortable at all hours of the day. As a female traveler, I never had any creepy feelings or felt that I constantly had to look over my shoulder or remind myself that I was in Mexico.
San Miguel de Allende voted as the “best city in the world” by Travel and Leisure readers on numerous occasions, is a tourist favorite with a large, well-heeled expat population, and Guanajuato pueblo magicos like Mineral de Pozos and Dolores Hidalgo are also very safe.
Government travel advice for Guanajuato
It’s a good idea to review your country’s government travel advice before traveling anywhere and the same rings true of traveling to Mexico. The US Department of State breaks each of Mexico’s 32 states down into four different categories based on their perceived safety.
Guanajuato state has been slapped with the alarming label of being a place where you need to “reconsider travel due to crime and kidnapping”. The reality is that safety in Mexico is much more nuanced and the security situation differs significantly from state to state, city to city.
Most places that you are likely to travel to as a tourist in Guanajuato are perfectly safe. Most crimes are related to clashes between criminal groups or robberies that take place in the southernmost part of the state.
Rest assured, you are not going to be plucked out of your hotel bed and kidnapped in San Miguel de Allende or Guanajuato City, and the people in Guanajuato are arguably among the most hospitable in all of Mexico. Avoid the southernmost part of the region past Celaya and close to the border with Michoacan and you ought to be fine – you have no reason to be traveling in this part of the state anyway.
You should also be mindful of what sources of information online. A simple Google search about safety in Guanajuato brings up many articles by people who clearly have never even visited, or who have passed through briefly, and clearly don’t live in Mexico
Safe Destinations in Guanajuato Mexico
Guanajuato City is a gorgeous colonial city that sits in the heart of Guanajuato state. It was founded in 1554 and, along with Zacatecas, Mexico, and Potosí, Bolivia, was one of the most important silver mining towns of the 16th century.
Today, the town’s historic center and the old mines on its outskirts have enjoyed UNESCO-protected status since 1988. Nowadays, Guanajuato is arguably most famous for the macabre “Mummies of Guanajuato” museum – an eerie collection of more than 200 well-preserved mummies of people who died during a cholera outbreak in Central Mexico and, due to the specific conditions and atmosphere in Guanajuato, have avoided decomposition.
The adjacent “Cult of Death” museum explores the unique relationship that Mexico has with death. One of the most charming traditions that you can participate in in Guanajuato is a Callejoneada.
These are interacting “singing” tours where a troupe of local musicians in traditional dress lead you through the narrow alleyways of the city (“callejones”) while performing Mexican songs and telling you legends and tales of the city. This tradition has been going on for hundreds of years and started when groups of students would entertain the workers on their way to and from the local mines.
The historic center of Guanajuato, with its labyrinth-like network of narrow, cobbled streets and abundance of plazas filled with European-style cafes, is walkable. You can easily get between the city’s main attractions, museums, galleries, and restaurants on foot and there are no sketchy neighborhoods that you could accidentally wander into.
San Miguel de Allende
San Miguel de Allende, voted as the “best city in the world” by Travel and Leisure readers on numerous occasions is arguably the most popular travel destination in Guanajuato state.
Its cobbled streets and leafy plazas are lined with upscale boutique stores, independent art galleries, and chic coffee shops and restaurants that attract a well-heeled crowd. San Miguel de Allende is very safe.
The Jardín Principal Allende marks the center of town and is flanked by the impressive pastel-pink Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel neo-gothic church which dates back to the 17th century. You can essentially use this central square as a starting point and then take the time to get lost in the cobblestone streets that veer off from here.
SMA is home to an ever-increasing expat population and English is widely spoken here. In some ways, it feels a little over-gentrified and caters mostly to American tourists, whereas the other Guanajuato destinations on this list possess more authentic Mexican culture.
However, if you are nervous about venturing into Central Mexico for the first time, it can be a good starting point.
Dolores Hidalgo is a charming town and pueblo magico that sits in the northern part of Guanajuato state. It was one of the earliest towns to be awarded pueblo magico status, having been designated as such in 2002.
The town is a crucial stopping point along Mexico’s “Ruta de Independencia” as it was here where the Mexican Revolution and the war for independence started.
On the 16th of September 1810, Father Manual Hidalgo rang the bells of the Parroquia de Nuestra Señora de los Dolores church in the center of town and started the call to arms for independence from the Spanish conquistadors that controlled the country.
Today, this shout (“grita”) is repeated on Mexican Independence Day every year across the country. You will see several statues, monuments, and murals dedicated to Manuel Hidalgo throughout the pueblo and you can even visit his home and the local Independence Museum to learn more about his life and background.
Dolores Hidalgo is a safe and charming place to spend a day or two. The main square (Plaza Del Gran Hidalgo) is a popular rendezvous point for locals who come here to catch up on the local gossip and enjoy delicious street food, as well as the famous Dolores Hidalgo ice creams.
Getting Around Safely in Guanajuato, Mexico
Is it safe to drive in Guanajuato?
I got around Guanajuato predominantly by using Uber and public transport but now having explored the state extensively, I can comfortably say that I would feel happy renting a car and driving around independently. The roads in Guanajuato are generally in very good condition.
Perhaps the only stretch of road to mention is that between Guanajuato City and San Miguel de Allende and Guanajuato City and Dolores Hidalgo where the route twists and turns along mountain roads. If you are afraid of heights or hilly roads with a drop at the side, this can be a little scary, but still, the roads are not especially narrow, and they are plenty wide enough for two lanes of traffic at all times.
Again, you should avoid the southernmost part of the state close to the Michoacan border where organized crime rates are higher. Stick to toll roads where possible as they are better maintained and considered safer.
You will note that there are many car rental offices at Guanajuato airport, including reputable international names like Avis, Budget, Dollar, Hertz, and Thrifty. Discover Cars is a great rental comparison platform that allows you to compare and contrast the prices and deals offered by numerous different agencies.
Driving in Mexico is not as intimidating as it may sound. Here, you drive on the right-hand side and overtake on the left, much like in the United States and the rest of the world.
Since public transport runs on infrequent schedules in Guanajuato, renting a car can give you a lot more freedom and flexibility. While prices vary depending on seasonality, you can easily find an economy-style car such as a Volkswagen Vento or a Chevrolet Aveo for as little as $113 USD a week/$16 USD a day.
Uber in Guanajuato
Uber operates in Guanajuato and to my surprise, you can find plenty of drivers everywhere. The app not only works in larger cities like SMA and Guanajuato City but also in little towns and villages like Dolores Hidalgo.
I was relatively sick with a chest infection during my time in Guanajuato and didn’t want to be taking long-distance buses while coughing and spluttering, so I used Ubers a lot – both within cities and to travel between different places. (For instance, I took an Uber from Guanajuato City to Dolores Hidalgo and from Dolores Hidalgo to San Miguel de Allende).
Depending on where you are coming from, it might come as a surprise to hear that Uber is considered safer than street cabs in Mexico, but when you think about it, it makes sense as there is more accountability. When you take an Uber, you have the driver’s name, vehicle info, and license plate number.
You simply don’t have that when you get into a random taxi on the street. Express kidnappings are a concern in Mexico which is why I personally always take Ubers over street cabs and would recommend you do the same.
Express kidnappings happen when an unsuspecting tourist gets into a street taxi. The taxi driver contacts his accomplices who enter the vehicle and rob the tourist of their belongings.
Sometimes the person is held at gun/knife point and forced to visit numerous ATMs in town making the maximum withdrawal amount until they are rinsed dry.
Taking Taxis in Guanajuato
The only place where Uber was not available was Guanajuato Leon Airport (BJX) where only licensed cabs can operate. I organized a transfer via the Airport taxi desk and the rate from the airport to Guanajuato city was reasonable. (Circa 500 pesos.)
From Guanajuato airport to Leon, you can expect to pay around 400-450 pesos. It is better to book your taxi via the airport taxi desk rather than deal with the touts outside.
You can pay by cash or card and the cashier will provide you with a voucher that you need to hand to an airport taxi representative outside of the airport.
If you ever find that you cannot find an Uber (or you prefer not to use the app for whatever reason), it is better to have your hotel order a trusted taxi driver for you. Across the state of Guanajuato, official taxis are green in color with a white roof.
It is a good idea to try and clarify the price before entering the vehicle or insist that the meter is used, to avoid being charged an over-inflated price as a tourist.
Public transport in Guanajuato
Public transport in Guanajuato is safe and reliable to use. The only problem is that it often operates on a very limited schedule, or you need to make multiple changes even to get between popular destinations.
For example, there is only one bus per day between Leon BJX airport and Guanajuato City so if you arrive at the airport before or after this, you need to first take a bus to Leon bus station and then change.
When traveling between Dolores Hidalgo and San Miguel de Allende, you need to take multiple buses. Numerous different bus companies operate on some of the routes including Futura Buses, Autobuses ETN, and Autobuses Anáhuac.
Since they are all fine to use, you may as well just purchase a ticket via whichever bus company offers the most convenient departure time for your schedule. The buses in Guanajuato were comfortable and comparable to ADO buses in other parts of Mexico.
The seats recline and come with a built-in footrest, and there is a USB charger, a personal air conditioner, and a reading light above your chair. There are also bathrooms on board, and TVS scattered along the coach play movies for entertainment (albeit in Spanish).
Some intercity buses appeared to oversell tickets and people were standing in the aisle for long journeys which didn’t seem all that safe (including on a 2-hour bus ride from San Miguel de Allende to Santiago Queretaro). It pays to get to the bus station about an hour before your bus’s scheduled departure and wait to board 10 minutes or so before so that you can be sure to secure a seat.
Taking care of your belongings on Guanajuato buses
Since there is limited space in the overhead compartments on board the bus, suitcases and large bags need to be placed underneath them. In most of Mexico, you are handed a ticket receipt when you place your bag under the bus which you then need to show again when you collect it. This didn’t happen in Guanajuato.
It is a good idea to make sure that anything valuable, any electronics, etc are in your carry-on bag/backpack with you, rather than in your suitcase.
Is Guanajuato safe at night?
The historic centers of Guanajuato City, Leon, San Miguel de Allende, and Dolores Hidalgo are usually pretty lively and still teeming with people at night – Guanajuato City in particular. You will be fine along main streets and plazas but avoid walking down any dimly lit, unsuspecting side streets alone, or wandering aimlessly in lesser-known residential areas.
Many of the bars across the region sell cantaritos, palomas, and other delicious tequila cocktails but they are often pretty strong and bartenders don’t necessarily measure out how much liquor, etc, they pour inside. Watch your alcohol intake and don’t walk back to your hotel alone intoxicated.
Is Guanajuato safe for solo travelers?
Guanajuato can be considered safe (with common sense precautions) for travelers of all ages, genders, and backgrounds, including solo female travelers. This entire website has been written by a solo female traveler based in Mexico. (Me!)
You will see other foreign tourists, expats, and Digital Nomads meandering around Guanajuato City and San Miguel de Allende. Guanajuato City, in particular, has a very intellectual scene and attracts plenty of international travelers and Mexican domestic tourists who are interested in the arts.
There are a lot of cafes, bars, and restaurants that organize social events and classes, making it easy to effortlessly meet people. For example, in Guanajuato City, the Conquistador Cafe chain organizes yoga and bachata classes, while cafe bar Escarola (Positos 38, Zona Centro) hosts live music virtually every night of the week.
Can you drink the water in Guanajuato?
It is not safe to drink tap water at all in Mexico and that includes in the state of Guanajuato. Although water is purified at the source, it can get contaminated with bacteria, parasites, and other germs en route to the tap and even locals do not drink it.
Most Guanajuato hotels will provide you with a couple of complimentary bottles of water for each night of your stay, but you can also purchase bottled water for just a few pesos from Oxxo and other convenience stores and supermarkets.
You don’t need to worry about having ice in your drinks or consuming drinks like agua frescas that are made with water as all restaurants, hotels, etc in Mexico have ice delivered, and drinks are always prepared using mineral water, not tap water.
The presence of police and armed guards in Guanajuato
If you have not spent a ton of time traveling in Mexico, it can be a little intimidating when you see armed police or trucks and tanks for the National Guard (“Guardia Nacional) cruising around town or stationed outside various parks and plazas. Their presence is particularly common when there is an event (like the annual Cervantino cultural festival in Guanajuato), or a politician or notable person is visiting.
This is nothing to be alarmed about and they are there for everyone’s safety.
Useful safety tips for visiting Guanajuato
Some useful safety tips for ensuring that your trip to Guanajuato is trouble-free and memorable for all the right reasons are detailed below. A lot of this is common sense wherever you go, but is worth reiterating here.
- Don’t carry wads of cash on you. A maximum of $4000 MXN pesos should be sufficient for several days’ worth of exploration.
- Watch your personal belongings in crowded marketplaces like the Mercado Hidalgo in Guanajuato City. Walk with your backpack in front of you, rather than slung over one shoulder where you can.
- Dress modestly and avoid wearing expensive jewelry or flashy designer items and sunglasses where possible
- Touts selling tours around Jardín de la Unión and Teatro Juarez in Guanajuato City can be annoying but you can just decline what they offer with a polite but firm no.
- Check your surroundings before withdrawing money from ATMs and try to avoid doing so at night. Official ATMs in banks are less likely to have been tampered with.
Is Guanajuato safe to travel to in 2023? Final thoughts
Guanajuato can be a safe and enjoyable place to visit and after traveling to 12 different Mexican states, it is one of my personal favorites.
Guanajuato is also safe for tourists for the most part. Violent crime against tourists is rare, and most violent instances that you hear about are restricted to occurrences between criminal groups.
The chances of you being in the wrong place at the wrong time and something happening to you are very slim.
Do you have any further questions or concerns about traveling to this part of Central Mexico? I have been living in the Yucatan capital of Merida for the last two years and I am happy to assist with any questions and queries that you may have.
Please do not hesitate to reach out to me if you need something. Safe travels!