Travellers Worldwide is reader-supported. If you buy a product we link to, we may earn a commission.
Skip to Content

Is Guadalajara Safe to Visit in 2023? | Safety Concerns

Is Guadalajara Safe to Visit in 2023? | Safety Concerns

Guadalajara ranks not only as the geographic center of Mexico but also as the center of Mexican culture. Tributes to the foundations of Mexican music, art, and food traditions are celebrated in large festivals and also through daily life in Guadalajara.

This thriving Mexican city serves as an alluring travel destination. Foodies yearn for authentic eats, and music enthusiasts thrill at the mariachi roots within Guadalajara. However, is Guadalajara safe?

In this article, we will describe the real safety concerns within Guadalajara, and detail neighborhoods to avoid. Continue reading for additional travel considerations and safety tips to provide further guidance for your next trip to Guadalajara.

Is Guadalajara Safe to Visit in 2023?

People in the street in Tlaquepaque for a piece titled Is Guadalajara Safe to Visit

GUADALAJARA, JALISCO, MEXICO – NOVEMBER 23, 2017: street of Tlaquepaque/Luis Alvarado Alvarado/Shutterstock

In general, Guadalajara is generally safe to visit, especially in the day. Current United States travel advisories from the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs recommend tourists exercise caution when traveling to Guadalajara, a city within the state of Jalisco.

Violence, crime, and kidnapping are listed as a credible threat, but this can be misleading. Specifically, the advisory says that Guadalajara can be safe, with crime mainly occurring near the Federal highway 15D between Mexico City and Guadalajara and the Jalisco-Michoacan border.

Here, territorial fighting among gangs can result in violence in public areas. However, it also says that within Guadalajara, kidnapping also ranks as a reason for the Do Not Travel advisory from the American government.

The exact quote is:

“Violent crime and gang activity are common in parts of Jalisco state. In Guadalajara, territorial battles between criminal groups take place in tourist areas. Shooting incidents between criminal groups have injured or killed innocent bystanders. U.S. citizens and LPRs have been victims of kidnapping.”

However, it then goes on to list the following travel restrictions for government employees (which most civilians heed as a warning):

  • Jalisco-Michoacan border and Federal Highway 110: U.S. government employees may not travel to the area between Federal Highway 110 and the Jalisco-Michoacan border, nor travel on Federal Highway 110 between Tuxpan, Jalisco, and the Michoacan border.
  • Federal Highway 80: U.S. government employees may not travel on Federal Highway 80 south of Cocula.
  • State Highway 544: U.S. government employees may not travel on State Highway 544 between Mascota and San Sebastian del Oeste.

We interpret this as saying that, while crime can happen anywhere, it’s more common in the bulleted areas above. We recommend exercising caution and using common sense, just as you would in a crime-ridden cities like Portland or San Francisco.

That said, most gangs build drug and gun operations to amass wealth and power. Citizens of the United States provide a valuable asset for criminal operations to earn money or gain influence through ransom kidnappings.

If a person isn’t stolen, belongings like cars or electronics experience frequent theft in this city of more than four million people.

Some limited health and safety precautions exist based on natural and cultural factors. Avoid drinking the water or eating unwashed fruits and vegetables. Eat only at verified restaurants or food stalls.

The persistent rain in Guadalajara can present safety risks and discomfort for some travelers. The occasional earthquake can shake the mountains surrounding this Mexican metro area.

Crime in Guadalajara

Guadalajara holds an extensive history of drug trafficking and associated gang violence. The notorious Guadalajara Cartel began within this central Mexico city and rose to prominence in the 1980s.

This cartel trafficked marijuana and cocaine to the United States starting in the late 1970s and controlled most of the country’s drug trade within the next decade.

Today, successful cartels like the Sinaloa cartel trace their roots to the Guadalajara cartel. Gang violence presents the most significant threat to visitors and residents of Guadalajara. The rate of intentional homicides in Mexico was 28 per 100,000 people in 2020.

This number ranks almost four times as many murders per 100,000 in the United States, which holds a murder rate of seven. Keep in mind two things when considering the murder rate in Mexico.

Many murders are never reported because of intimidation from gangs and other corrupt figures. The crime rate within Mexico today is largely much higher than reflected in statistics.

June 2018 marked the deadliest month in Mexico since reporting began. A total of 2,530 murders occurred that month in Mexico, or 93 intentional homicides each day. If you decide to travel to Guadalajara, it’s best to do your sightseeing and activities during the day.

Travel in an official tour group or visit Mexico with friends to maintain safety and reduce the risk of kidnapping. Avoid traveling at night, especially if you’re walking alone, distracted, or inebriated.

Women traveling to Latin America, including Guadalajara, must also take other steps to stay safe. Remember there is strength in numbers! Choose a tour group or travel with friends in Mexico.

The traditional, machismo culture of Mexico can still be prevalent. Try not to react to harassment and catcalling to maintain further safety when traveling to Guadalajara. Leave flashy and expensive jewelry at home to avoid pickpocketing or violent theft.

Look like a local to avoid drawing attention to yourself. Know your destination instead of wandering around with a map or navigation app in front of you.

Never leave any purses, luggage, or laptops unattended, as petty theft happens quickly — taking these simple steps will help you look less vulnerable to scams, which can be plentiful in Guadalajara.

Common tourist scams in Guadalajara and other tourist destinations within Latin America revolve around a spontaneous person helping you.

Be wary of someone who appears from nowhere, offering help to wipe bird poop off your shoulder or to assist with salsa dripping on your shirt. Often these courteous strangers are distracting you from thieves.

Using public transportation like trains opens you up to pickpockets and scams in Guadalajara. But it’s not just pickpockets who thrive in Guadalajara.

Several schemes overcharge and otherwise take advantage of gullible travelers. Book a private taxi in advance as your transportation of choice for maximum security and convenience.

Safe, registered taxis are prominently labeled. Also, Ubers and unregulated taxi drivers can be susceptible to corrupt overcharging scams. Overcharging scams can also pop up if you meet friendly folks at a bar or club.

Beware of friendly locals who lure you to a second location and urge you to run up a tab. Tourists have been scammed by being left with the bill at the end of the night.

Similar to pickpocket schemes that offer to help, be careful of those eager to take photos of you. Often these seemingly helpful locals are scamming you to pay them exorbitant fees for the picture they took.

Avoiding Bad Neighborhoods

The Gospicio Cabanas in Jalisco for a piece on is Guadalajara Safe to Visit

Guadalajara, Mexico – Oct 30, 2016: Hospicio Cabanas (Cabanas Cultural Institute) – Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico/Diego Grandi/Shutterstock

Just like many cities around the world, certain neighborhoods within Guadalajara remain primarily safe for tourists, and others should be avoided entirely. Generally, it’s wise to stick to lively downtown areas and tourist avenues instead of outskirts and hidden corners. 

A major thoroughfare bisects this major Mexican city, dividing the city into east and west. This clear dividing line is called the Calzada de la Independencia.

An avenue running north to south, the Calzada provides clear boundaries for visitors to abide by. Districts like the Historical Center, Puerto de Hierro, The Americana, Chapalita, Zapopan, and Providencia provide vibrant and safe places to explore.

Much of Guadalajara’s famous architecture, museums, and cultural landmarks lie within these beautiful and essential districts. Puerto de Hierro boasts extravagant homes, similar to a Beverly Hills atmosphere.

Providencia provides a Westernized city that is very welcoming to ex-pats. Take in a classic car show or enjoy a full-scale concert in the park within The Americana district.

All of these regions exist west of the Calzada de la Independencia. Avoid the east side of the Calaza de la Independencia, especially after dark. This underdeveloped half of the city remains in poverty.

Areas like Cerro de Cuatro rise up the Guadalajara mountains in a sprawling blighted area, similar to the favelas of Rio de Janeiro. Petty theft of cell phones and other expensive belongings is persistent in areas like Tlaquepaque.

Stay aware of your surroundings when imbibing tequila and other local specialties in Tonalá. The difficult reality of avoiding bad neighborhoods in Guadalajara is many areas of interest exist within challenging areas for tourists.

Tlaquepaque thrives as a vibrant artist colony but contains dangerous corners at night. The brilliant Mexican culture alive in this neighborhood is best enjoyed during the day only.

Consider booking an official tour to provide further security and educational context for your visit. Enjoy the expansive street market in Tonalá, which swells with wares from local artisans and exotic wholesale goods.

Sip tequila in this city, which boasts the origins of the liquor. However, keep your wits about yourself when enjoying the local brews in Tonalá. 

Memorize a few key Spanish phrases to assist you when traveling in Guadalajara, Mexico, or most Latin American nations. The phrase “¿Habla inglés?” means “do you speak English?” and “Me gustaría” is a polite way to say, “I would like.” 

Health Precautions

Traveling in Mexico also demands a more vigilant stance on another aspect of personal safety: hygiene and personal health. If you make a few thoughtful decisions, you can still enjoy the authentic Mexico experience while traveling in Guadalajara.

Choose to eat at lively restaurants and food booths. Many stalls will display government permits. Take a minute to observe the restaurant before eating.

An eating establishment with robust foot traffic shows the community trusts the hygiene standards of that particular restaurant. Wash all fresh fruits and vegetables with bottled water before eating.

Never accept a drink from a stranger and avoid tap water. Drink bottled water only throughout your visit to Mexico.

This rule stands whether you’re drinking water in a private home, restaurant, or hotel. It’s very difficult to confirm if ice cubes were made with bottled water. It’s best to skip using ice cubes entirely.

As always, know your limits when drinking alcohol, especially when in an unfamiliar place. Being aware of the weather patterns in Guadalajara will also keep you safe.

Rain is persistent throughout the year, so pack an umbrella, waterproof footwear, or a raincoat. Choose sturdy shoes to help you navigate Mexico’s streets in any weather.

Earthquakes and volcanic activity are infrequent in Guadalajara and the state of Jalisco. However, these are both possibilities. Hurricanes don’t present a risk to this Mexican city, which lies further inland.

Don’t let these precautions scare you away from enjoying authentic cuisines and libations while visiting Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico. Both restaurants and street vendors offer delicious Mexican food.

Local specialties include pozole soup and birria, or goat. Many of these recipes require ingredients unfamiliar to American palates, so dine with caution and don’t forget to ask questions!

Things to Consider

Stay safe and informed with this list of considerations for your next trip to Guadalajara:

  • Travel in groups
  • Protect and conceal valuables
  • Stay with friends or your travel group
  • Never accept drinks from strangers
  • Explore only during the day
  • Drink bottled water only
  • Eat at verified food stalls and street vendors
  • Avoid public transportation and rideshares
  • Bring waterproof clothing and footwear
  • Learn some basic Spanish phrases
  • Keep valuables concealed 
  • Reserve private or regulated taxis in advance
  • Stay in high-traffic areas and avoid the outskirts

Frequently Asked Questions

Rotonda de los Jalisciences Ilustres

Diego Grandi/Shutterstock

Take a deeper dive into the question, “is Guadalajara safe?” with these common questions.

Is Guadalajara safer than Mexico City?

Guadalajara and Mexico City offer similar experiences for tourists traveling in Mexico. These major metropolitan cities within Mexico hold bustling, safe cultural districts, and riskier outskirts. Stick to popular destinations in both cities for a safe and memorable vacation.

Do they speak English in Guadalajara?

Yes! English is spoken widely in Guadalajara and throughout Mexico. It’s never guaranteed to have an English-speaking person available to you at all times. We recommend learning a few key phrases in Spanish as a safety measure.

Why is Guadalajara so popular?

Guadalajara ranks as the birthplace of many essential parts of Mexican culture. This city birthed mariachi music, several Mexican food staples, and many famous artists. Stunning architecture and art, spectacular cuisine, and a mild climate make this a desirable Mexican destination.

Is Guadalajara tropical?

The city of Guadalajara offers a sub-tropical climate. This means Guadalajara experiences consistently warm weather, with some chances of cool nights. March to May offers consistent hotter and drier weather, with June to September serving as a rainy, humid period.

Are there beaches in Guadalajara?

Guadalajara rests far inland within central Mexico and isn’t near an ocean. The nearest beach is located at Lake Chapala, about an hour southeast of Guadalajara.

How far away is Guadalajara from the ocean?

Puerto Vallarta lies 200 miles directly east of Guadalajara and is the nearest coastal city. It would take about five hours to drive or one hour to fly from an oceanside city to Guadalajara. Driving in the open, interior spaces of Mexico isn’t recommended for foreigners.

What food is Guadalajara known for?

The comforting soups are known as pozole and menudo hail from Guadalajara. The stewed goat meat of traditional birria and barbacoa beef also trace their origins to this region. Of course, tequila famously hails from the Jalisco state, of which Guadalajara is the capital.

Is Guadalajara a nice place to live?

Much of the city of Guadalajara ranks as a nice place to live. A pleasant climate and reasonably-priced housing help attract a thriving metropolitan area. However, a large part of Guadalajara is undeniably much more unsafe, especially when traveling at night.

Is Guadalajara welcoming?

Guadalajara is known for being tourist-friendly and welcoming to visitors and new residents alike. Unlike other Latin American cities and tourist destinations, Guadalajara maintains a positive reputation for welcoming new people.

What is the best time to visit Guadalajara?

Visit Guadalajara during the last quarter of the calendar year, or the months of October, November, and December. This festive time of year coincides with delightful, mild weather in Guadalajara. The months of January through May reflect more affordable airfare and hotel prices for travelers to this western Mexico city.

So, Is Guadalajara Safe to Visit?

Guadalajara exists within the delicate balance between safe and enriching cultural environments and the reality of violence and crime in a large Latin American city.

Stick to well-traveled, urban areas within bustling tourist areas. Avoid hole-in-the-wall restaurants and tap water for further health and safety precautions. Happy travels!