Guadalajara doesn’t often make it onto the tourist list of places to visit. That’s a shame for many reasons, although safety is sometimes—and understandably—among them.
So, is Guadalajara safe?
Guadalajara isn’t among the safest destinations in Mexico. It has a pretty high crime index, and cartels are active in the city.
However, knowing where (and where not) to go, practicing basic safety standards, and choosing well-located accommodations go a long way toward protecting you and your belongings.
Guadalajara is architectural eye candy with friendly people and local delicacies; you’ll miss out on a lot by avoiding it. So, I’ll walk you through the ins and outs of safety in Guadalajara using a combination of statistics and personal experience.
First Things First: A Disclaimer
I spent one month in Guadalajara. Overall, I had a positive experience safety-wise, though I took higher-than-average precautions.
The information I share here, with the exception of statistics from linked sources, is my personal opinion based on my encounters.
Everyone has unique experiences that shape their perception of any given destination.
So, take what you want from this article and leave the rest. And above all, never let your guard down just because I or anyone else tells you that a destination is relatively safe.
Trusting your gut and following basic safety practices are vital to improving your security in any destination.
An Overview of Mexico’s Safety
Before we talk about safety in Guadalajara, the chart below offers insight into the health and safety of Mexico as a whole.
|Organization||Index score||Country ranking|
|Global Health Security Index||57.0||25 of 195 (good)|
|Global Peace Index||2.61||137 of 163 (bad)|
Safety in Guadalajara: What the U.S. Department of State Says
Before embarking on my trip, I turned to the U.S. Department of State (DOS) to find answers to the question, “Is Guadalajara dangerous?”
As it turns out, the DOS labels Jalisco state, which is home to Guadalajara, as a Level 3, meaning you should reconsider travel. Crime and kidnapping are the reasons they list.
However, this information is misleading.
If you scroll to the detailed section on safety in Jalisco state, you’ll find that while violent crimes and gang activity are widespread in most of Jalisco, the U.S. government doesn’t restrict its employees from visiting the Guadalajara Metropolitan Area.
Instead, they have travel restrictions in place for nearby highways, including:
- Jalisco-Michoacan border and Federal Highway 110
- Federal Highway 80 south of Cocula
- State Highway 544 between Mascota and San Sebastian del Oeste
Nevertheless, this doesn’t mean you get a full stamp of safety approval from the United States.
On the contrary, they warn that criminal groups have no shame in battling out territories in the heart of tourist areas. While it’s rare for disgruntled groups to point their aggression at tourists intentionally, injured or killed bystander situations have occurred in Guadalajara.
Check out the chart below for context on what a Level 3 means to the DOS.
|1||Exercise normal precautions|
|2||Exercise increased caution|
|4||Do not travel|
Safety in Guadalajara: What the Statistics Say
In addition to the DOS’ data, Numbeo also helps shed light on the question, “Is Guadalajara safe?”
According to Numbeo, Guadalajara has a crime index of 62.12 on a scale of 0 to 100, with 100 being the highest crime. So, Guadalajara has a higher rate than you want to see.
Furthermore, Numbeo states that Guadalajara’s crime rate has increased over the past three years.
For context, Mexico City has a slightly higher crime index, at 68.39.
But this is where the numbers will throw you for a loop: Los Cabos, a place touted for drawing in luxury-seeking tourists, has a cringe-worthy crime index of 80.29.
In contrast, Numbeo ranks Oakland, California, a place known for its high crime, as having a crime index of 67.06.
The reality is that none of these numbers are great; they’re a far cry from the low crime index in Merida, Mexico.
So, if you choose to travel to Guadalajara, staying alert and taking care of when and where you explore is paramount to having a safe trip.
Visiting Guadalajara as a Solo Female Traveler
With less-than-ideal statistics so far, you might be wondering: How safe is Guadalajara for solo female travelers?
Guadalajara isn’t as safe as other destinations in Mexico for women traveling alone, but I did it for a month without incident.
Cat calls happen.
Questionable characters are around.
And solo nighttime exploration is out of the question in most areas.
But by staying within the safest districts, not getting inebriated in public alone, and calling taxis to bring you to and from unfamiliar areas or taking you around at night, you’ll significantly decrease the chances of a negative solo female experience in Guadalajara.
That said, I don’t recommend Guadalajara if you’re a newbie solo female traveler. Solo travel comes with countless benefits; easing yourself into the rhythm of it in a safer destination is best to keep you coming back for more, in my opinion.
Is Guadalajara Safe at Night?
I’m going to come right out and say it: Guadalajara isn’t safe at night.
Yes, there are exceptions. Namely, what kind of “night” are we talking about? 6:30 pm during the winter months or 2:00 am any time of the year?
Furthermore, certain areas, such as the immediate area around the main plaza in Guadalajara, are safe in the early to mid-evening. Avenida Chapultepec in touristy Colonia Americana is packed with bars and restaurants, making it on the safer side for exploring at night.
But it doesn’t take long to encounter a dangerous street.
Even streets that are quite safe by day in downtown Guadalajara and Colonia Americana can turn more desolate and sketchy after dark.
So, use wise judgment if you meander around Guadalajara at night. Make sure to walk with a group and keep your alcohol consumption at bay.
Safest Districts in Guadalajara
There’s no 100% safe district in any city. However, by choosing to base yourself in one of the Guadalajara districts below, you’ll increase your chances of a safe experience.
- Colonia Americana
- Financial District
- Downtown historical center
Long ago, Guadalajara was divided into wealthy residents to the west and lower-class residents to the east. As a result, there tends to be less crime in western Guadalajara than in the eastern part of the city.
A good rule of thumb is to steer clear of most areas east of the Calzada and Oblatos.
On a personal note, I stayed at an Airbnb a 30-minute walk north of Guadalajara’s historical center in a district called Santa Teresita. It was cute and filled with local charm that I adored.
However, the streets became quiet at night, so I made sure to be in my apartment by dark or asked my Uber driver to wait until I was inside the door.
Transportation in Guadalajara
Guadalajara is a massive city, so the chances are high that you’ll use public and/or private transportation while you’re there. Read on for details on Guadalajara’s transportation safety.
Is it safe to take an Uber in Guadalajara?
Taking an Uber is one of the safest ways to get around Guadalajara. It’s often safer than walking, even during the day, depending on the district. I used Uber at least a dozen times during my stay and always had a positive experience.
Is it safe to take a street taxi in Guadalajara?
It’s safe to take a street taxi in Guadalajara if you call one in advance. However, it isn’t safe to hail a taxi off the street. There’s a high risk of encountering criminal pirate taxis in Guadalajara that pose as registered taxis.
Is it safe to drive in Guadalajara?
It’s safe enough to drive in Guadalajara. But it helps if you know where you’re going to avoid dangerous streets. Furthermore, drivers have a loose interpretation of road rules, making it challenging for many foreigners to drive there.
Is it safe to take a bus in Guadalajara?
It’s safe to take local buses around Guadalajara, although you should take care of your belongings to prevent pickpockets.
There’s a lower chance of encountering trouble if you take the bus during the day versus at night.
Guadalajara has a few long-distance bus stations as well. I took several long-distance buses during my stay, and you can read about my experience and tips on how to do so at the links below:
- Guadalajara to Ajijic bus
- Guadalajara to Chapala bus
- Guadalajara to Tequila bus
- Guadalajara to Sayulita bus
Is it safe to take the metro in Guadalajara?
Taking the Guadalajara metro is very safe. Guadalajara has a beautiful metro system, boasting 29 stations among two lines. I have no hesitations about taking the metro during daylight hours.
However, from a personal standpoint, I’d think twice before taking the metro at night. If you’re interested in traveling to Tlaquepaque by public transportation, check out my guide on how to take the metro to Tlaquepaque from Guadalajara.
Is the Water Safe to Drink in Guadalajara?
We’ve all heard the phrase, “Don’t drink the water in Mexico,” and this rings true for Guadalajara.
Even locals boil or filter their tap water before drinking it. So, do your stomach a favor and load up on cheap water bottles you’ll find at stores throughout Guadalajara.
Earthquake Safety in Guadalajara
As with so many parts of Mexico, Guadalajara is prone to earthquakes.
Most earthquakes in Guadalajara are too small to feel. Nevertheless, assessing the area where you live and determining the safest place inside and outside your accommodation should a large earthquake strike is never a bad idea.
You can check Volcano Discovery for details on the most recent earthquakes in Guadalajara. When I wrote this article, five earthquakes had occurred in the last 24 hours!
How To Stay Safe in Guadalajara
Below are some basic safety precautions to take in Guadalajara. As you’ll see, there’s nothing unique about them—it’s wise to practice these tips regardless of where you travel.
- Take a taxi at night
- Don’t walk around showcasing expensive electronics
- Only take out money from ATMs inside a bank
- Never carry around all your credit cards and cash
- Use a money belt
- Don’t wear flashy jewelry
- Ask locals for advice
- Don’t leave an unopened drink unattended
- If you’re going to get inebriated, do so with a trustworthy sober companion
Finally, trust your instinct. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.
Other Safe Destinations in Mexico
I’ve explored much of Mexico as a solo female traveler, and below are the destinations where I’ve felt safer than in Guadalajara.
Should you be considering a trip to Cabo, learn why I don’t recommend it for solo female travelers.
The Bottom Line: Is Guadalajara Safe?
There are several places in Mexico that are safer than Guadalajara. But although a trip to Guadalajara requires increased caution (to use the DOS’ phrase), it can be a great fit for the right traveler.
I strongly recommend checking the DOS’ website before booking your trip to Guadalajara and again shortly before you travel. It’s the best resource for having up-to-date information on knowing whether Guadalajara is safe to travel to right now.
I’d love to hear from you in the comments section if you have questions or if you’d like to share your experience visiting Guadalajara.
Above all, I wish you a wonderful trip to Guadalajara or wherever your travels take you.
Laura has been wandering the globe for over a decade. She’s an early bird and backpacker at heart and can often be spotted with a dog or ten that she’s befriended along the way. Much of the content Laura writes on A Piece of Travel includes details on wheelchair accessibility, with the support of her brother-in-law and sister. You can learn about their accessibility endeavors here.