Wondering if Guadalajara is safe to visit right now?
That is a valid concern. As someone who has lived in Guadalajara since 2009 and traveled all over Mexico, I can relate. My personal safety and that of my family is my top priority. Let’s explore the question, “Is Guadalajara safe right now?”
Guadalajara is the quintessential Mexican travel destination that conjures up images of mariachi, tequila, and cowboys. Today, it is also a college town, a tech hub, and a destination for medical tourism. But is it safe?
The Guadalajara Metropolitan Region (ZMG or Zona Metropolitana Guadalajara) has a population of more than 5 million people in nine independent municipalities. That is comparable to Washington DC in the United States and Belo Horizonte internationally.
The capital of the central state of Jalisco, is the third largest metropolitan region in Mexico according to the 2020 census, after Mexico City and Monterrey. The city of Guadalajara is the 8th largest municipality in Mexico (1.38M). Zapopan, which is also a part of the metro region is a little larger with 1.47M inhabitants.
Guadalajara is different from popular tourist destinations in other parts of Mexico like Puerto Vallarta, Playa del Carmen, and Los Cabos because of the sheer size of the population. Big cities have more complexities. Tourist areas are usually some of the safest places to visit in Mexico simply because they are smaller and more manageable.
I have lived in Guadalajara since 2009 where I have started a family, operated a business, and generally enjoyed being a part of the community. I want to help you avoid the most common mistakes and thrive in Guadalajara like I have.
Guadalajara Safety Concerns: An Overview
In short, No, Guadalajara is not safe. It is not safe in the same way that San Francisco is not safe because there are both safe and unsafe areas. You can not leave anything in a car parked on the street and you need to be careful with your cell phone because of thieves on motorcycles.
However, with just a little bit of advanced planning travelers can avoid most risks and have a lovely vacation.
US State Department Travel Advisories
The US Government has a heavy footprint in Guadalajara. They do a good job answering the question, “Is Guadalajara Safe?” There is lots of information and help given out to US citizens. I highly recommend looking at the travel warnings the OSAC puts out. They are very honest and based on real events. The best line I read in the July 2019 report says,
Regarding cartel violence, wrong-place/wrong-time incidents present the greatest threat to personal safety. The best ways to reduce the risk is to practice good personal security habits, especially by maintaining high situational awareness and departing promptly from potentially dangerous situations.US State Department OSAC Crime and Safety Report July 2019
The U.S. State Department has no restrictions on travel for U.S. government employees to the Guadalajara Metropolitan Area. The travel restrictions on U.S government employees in the state of Jalisco pertain to three areas that are somewhat removed from the capital.
First, Federal Highway 110 on the Jalisco-Michoacan border near Tuxpan is off limits. Second, the Federal Highway 80 south of Cocula is restricted. Lastly, U.S. government employees may not travel on State Highway 544 between Mascota and San Sebastian del Oeste.
Travel advisory mentions violent crime and gang activity but does not have any restrictions on the tourist areas in Guadalajara, Puerto Vallarta, Chapala, or Ajijic.
Guadalajara Safety Statistics
This article is based on statistics published by the Mexican government’s Secretariado Ejecutivo del Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Pública (SESNSP) on crime rates, Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Geografía (INEGI) on the perception of safety by local residents, and the U.S. State Department Travel Advisory reports.
Every quarter, the Mexican National Statistics Institute (INEGI) surveys residents about their perception of safety where they live. In the first quarter of 2022, 87% of survey respondents in Guadalajara reported they felt unsafe in the city. In the second quarter of 2022, the figure dropped to 85%.
According to Numbeo, an aggregator of survey data in English, the crime index and safety scale of Guadalajara are very similar to that of San Francisco.
According to the SESNSP data, the rate of intentional murder in Guadalajara and Zapopan is low for Mexico but would be comparable to a high-murder part of the U.S. like Oakland, CA. It is a little bit higher in Tlaquepaque and Tlajomulco.
In the United States, Oakland has a rate of 17.1 murders per 100,000 residents and is usually in the top 20 most violent cities. New Orleans has a rate of 40.60 and is consistently in the top 3 most violent cities in the U.S.
Is Guadalajara Safe For Tourists?
Guadalajara can be safe for tourists by taking some basic precautions. There are a number of risky behaviors that need to be avoided but Guadalajara is an amazing tourist destination.
In fact, Guadalajara is one of the top tourist destinations in Mexico for national tourism (Mexican tourists) for both leisure and business. The Mexican government is invested in creating the safest city possible.
Why Is Guadalajara So Dangerous?
There is a level of impunity that most of society wants to resolve. From motorcycle thieves to forced disappearances, very few crimes are resolved. Each person must take responsibility for their own personal safety.
In September of 2023, the mayor Cotija, Michoacan was kidnapped while leaving the Andares shopping center. Two weeks earlier, a protracted gunfight between armed civilians and security forces in the Jardines del Bosque neighborhood resulted in no arrests.
October 2022 was a particularly violent month due to a high-profile shootout in a wealthy neighborhood, the assassination of a corrupt politician in front of a crowded restaurant, and a cock fight at the fair that ended in violence.
An important part of Guadalajara’s safety is learning how to mitigate risk. Taking a little time to familiarize yourself with the most common risks in a new city could save you from losing a cell phone, having your car broken into, or possibly being kidnapped. Prevention is the most important factor when it comes to safety.
According to experts, security is about avoiding risks. It is 5% luck, 5% reaction, and 90% prevention. More than anything, it is about identifying safe places and safe activities.
Violent Crime in Guadalajara
In the last decade, violent crime statistics have gotten worse. However, these sorts of crimes are less likely to affect travelers or tourists. For example, the three film students that disappeared in 2018 setting off a wave of marches for peace were taken from a neighborhood that no tourist will see. I don’t want to discount the severity of the disappearance of three human beings but I want to stress that travelers are not targets for kidnappings. There would have to be some very extraordinary circumstances as to why tourists would be on the side of the road on the outskirts of Tonalá or Tlajomulco.
In July 2018, a former district attorney with a heavy reputation was attacked while leaving a high-end restaurant. A dozen hitmen tried to kill him with high-powered assault rifles in a very crowded part of town. Bodyguards were able to repel the aggression and even capture 6 of the bad guys. They were so high on methamphetamine that one died of a heart attack shortly after being taken into custody. Several police officers were shot as well as one bystander.
Not to sound callous but the probability of being that one bystander is so small you are better off playing the lottery. As for the district attorney, he was leading the raids and busting down doors into cartel safehouses. The guy is a badass, but a lower profile will suit you and me much better.
Kidnappings are a real problem in Mexico. There are two basic profiles: kidnapping for ransom and kidnapping express.
Kidnapping for ransom is not an issue for tourists. Express kidnappings have been known to occur when tourists don’t take precautions.
If you spend time in Guadalajara you will meet people who have been victims of kidnappings. It is heartbreaking to hear the stories.
Kidnapping for ransom used to only affect the upper class but has been increasingly affecting the middle and even lower classes as well. Kidnapping for ransom involves researching a target’s movements, planning, and execution. It requires time and resources.
Most Mexicans recommend limiting the amount of personal information that one shares on the internet. If you will be driving, it is a good idea to change up the routes that you take to avoid easily recognizable patterns. And again, ostentatious behavior should be avoided.
Unfortunately, the crime rate has been on the rise in recent years but that is in line with the rest of Latin America and the world.
The pandemic of 2020 set off a wave of unemployment and economic uncertainty. Mexico did not have the same government-funded safety net that people in the developed world found. Armed robbery increased dramatically during the pandemic.
I am in a lot of community groups and I have seen the security footage of many robberies. Don’t carry a lot of expensive stuff with you when you go out at night. Avoid carrying a debit card and lock your phone well. Don’t resist if you are held up.
The State of Jalisco has a very high rate of auto theft and the numbers continue to rise. Unfortunately, this includes armed robbery. You need to be aware of your surroundings at all times. We see security camera footage every day of carjackings at places we still frequent. Stoplights and parking lots make my wife very nervous. We usually do not leave the windows down while driving in the city.
The best thing you can do is give the key over without a fight. Buy good insurance and don’t resist.
This is my biggest security concern in Guadalajara. Writing this article I started to think about all the people that I know who have been carjacked. It is a lot and they are not rich either. One was carjacked for a Chevy Aveo.
Unfortunately, Guadalajara has a problem with people going missing and never being heard from again. It only takes one loop around the Glorieta de Los Niños Heroes (traffic circle) to understand the magnitude of the problem.
If you live in Guadalajara for any period of time you will see the pictures of missing people that your friends are looking for. Writing this section brings tears to my eyes thinking about people I know who have lost loved ones and the never-ending deluge of missing person flyers.
One of the highest-profile cases is that of a young lady by the name of Wendy Sanchez. Wendy was from Guadalajara but lived in the beach community of San Pancho, Nayarit. She went missing on the drive to Guadalajara to see her family.
You need to take extra caution when doing business like selling a car online or meeting people that you don’t know.
In Puerto Vallarta, there was a high-profile case of a Canadian man that was drugged and disappeared. The man’s Mexican girlfriend was ultimately convicted but only after his daughter hired a private investigator and spear-headed the investigation. The vast majority of disappearances in Mexico are never resolved.
Obviously, buying illegal drugs is going to be a dangerous endeavor.
Violence Against Women
Every March, we are reminded that the level of violence against women is unacceptable. Much like the disappeared, there is a level of impunity that most of society rejects.
I stand with the feminists. They are one of the few segments of society that refuses to accept the status quo and bury the problem. The methods are controversial but that is the point.
Solo female travelers are very common in Guadalajara but they need to be aware of machisita attitudes that still exist in society. Cat calls on the street and unwanted sexual advances are all too common.
Short skirts and revealing clothing are seen by a small yet significant percentage of the population to be an invitation for sexual harassment. One uncomfortable situation that I vividly remember is showing some friends around Mercado de Abastos. My friend was wearing a short dress that would be very common in the Southern California beach communities or in Rio de Janeiro, where she is from. There was a wave of whistles and cat calls as we walked down the street that made us turn around and leave.
It is common for local women to wear revealing outfits but they tend to cover up when they are on the street or in large public spaces.
Feminism in Mexico is a complicated topic. If you speak Spanish, I suggest watching some videos by Alessandra Rojo de la Vega who is an outspoken warrior for accountability in government and society.
Cartel & Drug Violence
The term narco-violence is a catchall for situations that make the international news.
There is one transnational criminal organization that is firmly in control of Guadalajara and the entire state of Jalisco. There is no struggle for power like there is in the border region.
Do not talk about narco violence or the leaders of drug cartels in public. A young YouTuber from Sinaloa was killed in Guadalajara after insulting the leader of the cartel.
You never know who is listening and how they might understand your comments on the current geopolitical situation.
The bad guys know how to create panic to hide behind like a cloud of smoke. They burn a couple of vehicles at major intersections and the city traffic is paralyzed, including emergency vehicles.
On May 1, 2015, a major cartel leader was nearly apprehended in a ranch really far away from Guadalajara in the mountains. The bad guys took retribution and said ‘Burn it down.’ They burnt hijacked vehicles in four different states but concentrated their fury in the Guadalajara Metropolitan Area.
Mind you, this was on a Friday afternoon at the start of a three-day weekend. Probably the worst three-day weekend ever. Everybody’s travel plans changed in an instant.
While the events are sensational, the actual number of people hurt is very low. Again, I don’t want to sound callous but the probabilities of being affected are very, very low. There are sensational events but for the most part, Guadalajara is very safe.
In February of 2021, there was a high-profile shoot-out in the luxury business district of Real Acueducto.
The incident made the international press because of the sensational nature of a prolonged shoot-out between rival criminal organizations that happened to be videotaped from the high-rise buildings above.
There was one injured bystander who was a food server waiting on the table targeted by the rival group. Several hitmen were injured or killed and an off-duty police officer was injured.
The chances of being an innocent bystander injured in the crossfire of narco-violence are much lower than being injured in a mass shooting in the United States.
Theft In Guadalajara
Guadalajara is a big city. There are all sorts of petty theft. Much of the petty theft is avoidable by taking extra precautions. Don’t leave your car parked on the street, especially at night. Don’t get distracted on your phone in public places. Your house and rental need to have good locks. The cheap locks can be broken in seconds.
One of the most common forms of theft in Guadalajara is cell phone theft. Motorcycle thieves snatch cell phones right out of the hands of unassuming targets on the street. They quickly try to gain access to the cell phone to extract as much cash as possible through banking apps and social media profiles.
At least once a month someone posts in the expat groups that they lost their cell phone to a ‘moto-ladron’ motorcycle thief in the Colonia Americana.
Always pay attention to your surroundings. Two people riding a motorcycle on the sidewalk near Avenida Chapultepec are assumed to be up to no good.
Lots of neighborhoods have started community watches with WhatsApp groups to communicate information.
We have the neighborhood police patrol on speed dial. Any suspicious people are reported immediately to the Mexican authorities and the patrol quickly responds.
Having a good relationship with your neighbors is very important and helps deter crime when everyone can communicate easily and keep an eye on one another.
Common Scams In Guadalajara
Organized criminal groups use a device to clone a telephone number to call you. They have already done enough research to know the names of your family or friends. That device makes it look like a child or relative is calling you but they have just fooled your caller ID.
You think they are calling from your loved one’s phone and the screams are from your loved one. There is a guy on the phone threatening you and explaining how to make a transfer or buy some prepaid cards.
Hang up right away. Do not talk to them, and do not give them any more information.
At the restaurant, these calls would happen from time to time. We had training with all the restaurant staff about how to respond to strangers fishing for sensitive information about the owners and managers.
If someone calls asking who is the owner, we would respond, “Who are you looking for.”
Telephone extortion is somewhat common but isn’t something that affects someone with a non-Mexican telephone number. The best thing you can do is hang up if someone calls you trying to extort money.
Never volunteer personal information to unknown people over the phone!
In January 2023, both my father-in-law and uncle were called by a telephone extortion scam on the same day with almost the exact same speech. While neither of them fell for the scam, they were both really worked up about the situation.
The Mustard Scam
This scam is a little more prevalent in Lake Chapala but I have heard of it in Guadalajara as well.
A team of thieves works together using the good cop/bad cop routine. The first thief will spill something like mustard on the mark. The second thief will come in from the opposite direction and point out the mustard blotch on your pants and offer a napkin and to help you clean up.
While the volunteer is helping to clean up the mustard stain on your pants he is also taking your wallet out of your pocket. The scam almost exclusively involves food spilled on the pants because they use the patting of the stain on your leg to distract you from the wallet being removed from your pocket.
Recently, I heard of an instance where credit cards were stolen and the wallet returned to the pocket without the victim realizing it. In less than an hour, thousands of dollars had been charged to the credit cards, and the victim only realized the cards were missing when the credit card company started calling because of questionable transactions.
It is a good idea to tell strangers not to touch you.
Guadalajara is not prone to natural disasters like other parts of the country. Large earthquakes from nearby regions can be felt but they are typically not centered on the metropolitan region.
Hurricanes are common along the Pacific coast every year bringing rain but they aren’t going to make it past the Sierra Madre Mountains. We have had some warnings but never a direct hit.
Wildfires are common in the forests surrounding Guadalajara in the springtime but they do not threaten large swaths of housing. They do create air quality problems.
Health & Hygiene
In Mexico, health and sickness come down to two basic categories: foodborne illness and mosquitos. I include water in the foodborne illness section because it is always a concern.
Covid-19 Sources of Information
The State of Jalisco took an aggressive stance to confront the pandemic. The state-level government tried to balance the health crisis with the economic hardship that the extended quarantine precipitated. During the stay-at-home order in 2020, there was a spike in brazen, violent armed robberies.
As of 2023, there are no longer any COVID-related restrictions. There has been talk of new restrictions as the numbers increased again but they never materialized.
The best information comes from the official government sources:
- Mexican Government’s Epidemiological Stoplight website (In Spanish)
- US Embassy in Mexico COVID-19 Information for U.S. Citizens in Mexico
It rains in Guadalajara during the summer as I have never seen. I’m from San Diego doesn’t have rain like Guadalajara does during the summer. The rain and humidity make mosquitoes inevitable. Wear long sleeves, keep the door closed, and avoid places that are infested.
Dengue was a serious concern in the summer of 2019. Jalisco State had over 5,000 confirmed cases of dengue and the number is most certainly to be higher because of unreported cases.
The governor of the State of Jalisco blames the increase on climate change. The neighborhoods that were hardest hit by the virus claim the government didn’t start spraying until late in the season and they were using expired chemicals when they did finally start spraying. Take precautions if you are going to be outdoors.
Take steps to avoid mosquitoes during the rainy season
If you are going to be outdoors during the summer months you should carry insect repellent. Early in the morning and late in the afternoon the mosquitoes become aggressive. If you are in the city DEET is probably not necessary.
My infant son woke up with mosquito bites from mosquitoes that I never saw. It breaks your heart to see a baby with bug bites. The mosquito net that you hang over the bed works wonders. The only time mosquitoes are going to get in is when you don’t close it properly.
The most enjoyable way to execute mosquitoes is with the electric racket zapper. I used the t-shirt as a whip method for many years and found the electric racket to be much more effective. You can buy one at the stoplight but those don’t last as long as the one you get on Amazon.
In 2019 instances of Zika virus are basically zero. There were some cases in 2015-2018 but they were isolated in parts of the country that do not look like Guadalajara. Dengue and chikungunya are concerns every rainy season. The government rallies the community each year to actively fight the mosquito population.
Neighborhoods with lots of gardeners and manicured green spaces will have fewer mosquitos than overgrown lots and the jungle, obviously. If you are going to places with lots of mosquitos take precautions. If you are staying in a decent hotel, it should not be a concern.
Food and Water Safety in Guadalajara
The water that comes out of the pipes of the city water system is not safe to drink. This includes private residences, hotels, restaurants, and everywhere that get their water from the city or neighborhood wells and reservoirs.
There may be an exception to this rule somewhere but for the most part don’t drink the water out of the faucet, anywhere! You can boil the water for a couple of minutes to make it safe but purified drinking water is available everywhere.
Dozens of companies deliver clean, great-tasting, drinking water to restaurants, your home, office, taco cart, mini-market and everywhere else you can imagine. Also, nobody is making ice at their restaurant with tap water, it’s not economical. They are also buying ice made with clean drinking water from a professional sanitary supplier.
Look for restaurants that are full and have lots of customers. It is the best way to observe that people are not getting sick. Mexicans know how to eat well. Follow famous chefs and see where they eat. A good chef is not going to allow his kitchen to cut corners and let people get sick. He will always know a good, clean kitchen when he sees it. Famous chefs are not eating where people get sick.
In theory, most fruits and vegetables need to be washed with a disinfectant solution. In practice, it is important for lettuce and other greens. The solution is sold at all supermarkets and minimarkets. I personally like the natural one made out of grapefruit.
Transportation in Guadalajara is different from most major cities that I have lived in. It is much more difficult to drive in Guadalajara than it is to drive in San Diego. The infrastructure is very different. Plus, you don’t want to leave your car on the street overnight in most neighborhoods.
Do not pay traffic violations in cash directly to the official. Ask for a ticket and pay at the station.
The ‘viene vienes’, ‘franileros’, or professional car parks will subtly extort money from you to park on the street. The best option is to park in an off-street lot if it is possible.
Is Uber Safe in Guadalajara?
Yes, uber is safe in Guadalajara but you need to be a smart user. There are thousands of white Nissan Versas in Guadalajara because of Uber.
Make sure to always check the license plates of your Uber before stepping into the car. Do not get into a car if the plates do not match no matter what the driver says.
There is a story circulating around Facebook that had my wife upset. A girl leaving a nightclub got into a cab without checking the license plate and was robbed and raped. The driver said that his car was in the shop and that his internet was failing, but he was the Uber driver the young girl was waiting for. This all happened outside of a nightclub at 3 am and I am sure there was alcohol involved. Make sure to take extra precautions when alcohol is involved.
In 2019, a serial rapist was apprehended by the police after posing as an Uber driver and picking up intoxicated women outside of nightclubs. He was sentenced to six years in prison.
Always ask the Uber driver who he is looking for WITHOUT telling him your name. Ask, “Para Quien” and NEVER offer your name so that he can just agree.
I prefer not to use Uber to pick me up at the airport. On several different occasions, the Uber driver has shown up in a vehicle that does not match the vehicle on the app. You should NEVER get in an Uber that has different license plates from the app. I prefer to think that this was just a scam to charge me $50 pesos rather than something nefarious like a kidnapping plot but it changed how I view safety on the platform.
Is it safe to use taxis in Guadalajara?
Most taxi drivers and Uber drivers are upstanding citizens. However, there are some people who see this form of transportation as an opportunity to steal.
I highly recommend calling a sitio de taxis rather than flagging them down on the street. The sitios are like a little neighborhood cooperative.
Every restaurant and hotel will have the telephone number for a trustworthy sitio de taxis.
Taking the bus in Guadalajara is crowded and uncomfortable during rush hour. The rest of the day is not so bad. Avoid the bus in bad neighborhoods, after dark, and during rush hour.
Our cleaning lady has been robbed twice while riding public transport in the five years that she has been with us. She has the keys to a lot of houses in the neighborhood in her bag and walks to the same houses all week long. We changed the locks because it would be so easy for the people that robbed her to find the houses that those keys belonged to.
The federal toll road system is the safest way to move between cities. The free roads in rural areas are less likely to be maintained as well as the main roads.
The U.S. Consulate prohibits its employees from traveling along the free roads to the rural areas along the Jalisco/Michoacan border. The toll roads tend to connect only the main cities.
There are plenty of beautiful and safe destinations that do not have toll roads. Just do a little research before taking a trip from Guadalajara.
Where Should You Stay In Guadalajara?
Guadalajara is a large metropolitan area with lots of unique experiences. Here is the full, 5,000-word article on where to stay in Guadalajara for first-time visitors.
Additionally, I recommend reading up on the neighborhoods of Guadalajara if you are looking to relocate and having a look at the list of best hotels and the list of the best cheap hotels in Guadalajara to get an idea about what is available.
If you are looking for a short answer, I love Casa Habita. I love the neighborhood, the architecture, and the amenities. It has some of the best coffee in Mexico on the ground floor, bomb street food all around, and lots of treelined streets to walk.
Casa Habita is one of the nicest places to stay in Guadalajara, without a doubt.
✅ Chapalita and Ciudad del Sol
Chapalita is my favorite neighborhood in Guadalajara now that I have a family. We use the parks and walk everywhere. Avenida Guadalupe and Avenida Tepeyac have a wonderful selection of restaurants, taco shops, and boutiques.
On Sunday, there is an art market that is set up in the Glorieta Chapalita where local artists sell their works next to food vendors. It is enchanting.
In recent years, more bars and coffee shops have opened up but the neighborhood still has a sense of community. I highly recommend checking it out.
✅ Colonia Americana
The Colonia Americana is kind of a blanket term for the area west of Downtown Guadalajara that includes the Colonia Fayette, Moderna, Reforma, and West End. It is one of the coolest neighborhoods in the world with excellent food, drink, and entertainment options.
Just watch out for motorcycle thieves snatching phones out of the hands of unsuspecting people.
✅ Providencia & Punto São Paulo
Providencia is a wonderful neighborhood that I love to explore. There are so tons of small restaurants and unique buildings that make walking a pleasure. The neighborhood is safe to walk during the day but because it is a wealthy area, residents can be a target at night on lonely streets. Stick to the main streets where there are other people at night.
📍Budget Option – Casa Finlandia Boutique B&B
📍Mid-Range Option – HS Hotsson Hotel Guadalajara Country Club
📍Mid-Range Option – Grand Fiesta Americana Guadalajara Country Club
📍Luxury Option – JW Marriott Hotel Guadalajara
What Areas Should You Avoid In Guadalajara?
There are a number of neighborhoods in Guadalajara that are dangerous. The Calzada de la Independencia runs north to south splitting the metro area in two. Historically, the east side of the Calzada was underdeveloped, poor, and dangerous.
Oblatos should be avoided at night. A friend of ours who grew up in that area lost his brother in a violent event while he was returning home late at night.
It would be best to take a cab or an Uber if you must go there. This includes Mercado San Juan de Dios. According to the Informador Newspaper, this is the area with the most arrests for drug-related crimes.
❌ El Cerro del Cuatro and Miravalle
Tlaquepaque is an enormous municipality with a beautiful downtown area and lots of local galleries. The peripheral areas of Tlaquepaque are not as nice. Stick to the main streets and don’t spend a lot of time walking outside of the downtown areas after dark.
El Cerro de Cuatro and Miravalle are two places where tourists have no business walking around. Miravalle is right on the border of Guadalajara and Tlaquepaque where the train tracks come into town. The train tracks are a magnet for multinational criminal activity.
The priest that married my wife and I works with the migrants in Cerro del Cuatro. It is a challenging role, to say the least.
❌ Colonia del Fresno
Colonia del Fresno is another dangerous part of Guadalajara. The area grew up on the other side of the train tracks but today is well within the city limits and is due for a wave of gentrification.
The area around Av. Mariano Otero, Calzada Niños Heroes, and the train tracks are horribly dangerous for cyclists after dark.
I have a friend who was robbed by someone with a machete. The problem with the train tracks is that they are federal jurisdiction so the local Guadalajara cops don’t patrol there but neither do the federales.
Avoid the train tracks around Colonia del Fresno at all costs.
10 Safety Tips For Visiting Guadalajara
A little bit of advance planning goes a long way in Guadalajara. If you are aware of the most common scams, it is pretty easy to avoid being surprised.
1. Plan Ahead
Spending a little bit of time reviewing the most common safety problems makes them much easier to avoid. There are both safe and unsafe activities and it is best to not be surprised by something like an all-too-common scam.
2. Don’t get distracted by your phone on public streets
Motorcycle bandits are way more common than you realize and lots of tourists are preyed on in the Colonia Americana and the city center.
Watch out for motorcycles with a rider and passenger riding on the sidewalks and plazas. It’s better to leave the cell phone in your pocket when in public.
3. Don’t drink the tap water
There is filtered water everywhere in five-gallon jugs. Bring a water bottle and fill it up directly from the garrafón (5-gallon jug).
4. Be aware of the weather
It gets dangerously hot in May and hails in July. Driving in the rain can be dangerous because of the flooding. If it starts to rain really heavily, it might be best to pull over and wait it out. That is, of course, if you don’t have a 4-wheel drive vehicle.
5. Don’t drink too much
There is no better place in the world than Guadalajara to drink tequila. That being said, sometimes I feel like I am lucky to be alive after all the poor decisions I have made while drinking tequila.
6. Don’t accept help at the ATM
This may not be as common as it once was but a while back there were plenty of pickpockets offering to translate the ATM screen for easily identifiable tourists.
Enforce personal space norms at the ATM in Mexico. Don’t let people get too close.
7. Don’t carry debit cards or large wads of cash or jewels
Thieves know how to rack up astronomical bills on cards in just a few minutes. It is a lot more likely that a credit card company will be more successful in challenging an illegitimate charge than a debit card will. In Mexico, pickpockets are famous for emptying accounts in a matter of minutes. Guard your cards well.
8. Avoid lonely streets at night
It is a lot less likely to be held up on a busy street. Even the nice neighborhoods like Providencia suffer from motorcycle bandits that roll up on unsuspecting pedestrians, rob them, and are gone in seconds.
9. Don’t volunteer unnecessary information to strangers
The bartender doesn’t need to know where you are staying. The neighbors don’t need to know that you will be out of town all week unless you trust them. As they used to say, loose lips sink ships. Don’t overshare.
10. Be careful who you invite into your home
We had a cleaning lady whose sister was mixed up in organized crime. She left Guadalajara because her sister was involved in the murder of a gang member and was scared that the rival gang would use her to find the sister.
Visiting Guadalajara: FAQs
Contrary to what many popular blogs say, Guadalajara is not Mexico’s second-largest city nor the second-largest metropolitan region.  It is the capital of the state of Jalisco and is the second most important city in Mexico because of its contributions to Mexican culture.
Is Guadalajara safer than Mexico City?
Comparing safety situations in Guadalajara to Mexico City is like comparing apples to oranges. Mexico City is the size of a large Mexican state and functions as a federal entity rather than an individual municipality. Mexico City has some of the safest municipalities as well as the most dangerous municipalities in all of Mexico.
According to the INEGI survey on the perception of safety by local residents, the municipalities of Cuajimalpa and Benito Juarez are two of the safest places in all of Mexico. Azcapotzalco on the other hand is dangerous.
Because Mexico City is so large it is both safer than Guadalajara and less safe than Guadalajara at the safe time.
When Is The Best Time To Visit Guadalajara?
Any time of year is a great time to visit, but fall is the best time to visit Guadalajara. By October, the rainy season has ended and the weather is mild. There are lots of events and festivals such as the Guadalajara International Book Fair, Day of the Dead, the Fiestas de Octubre, Calaverlandía, and the Mariachi & Charrería Festival.
What is Guadalajara Known For?
The cliché answer is that Guadalajara is known for Mariachi, tequila, and rodeo. Today, Guadalajara is known as a tech hub with close ties to both India and the United States.
Luis Barragán, one of the world’s most celebrated modernist architects was from Guadalajara and left an important food print.
Club Deportivo Guadalajara, more commonly known as Chivas, is one of Latin America’s favorite soccer teams. The stadium where Chivas plays is slotted to host some World Cup 2026 games so a lot more people are talking about them these days.
Birria has absolutely taken over social media and most people will admit that birria is from Guadalajara.
There is a lot more to Guadalajara than just tequila, mariachi, and rodeo, but those are pretty cool too.
Is Guadalajara a Good Place to Live?
I love living in Guadalajara. It has taken me a little while to learn the differences between Guadalajara and San Diego but I feel safe in both places. There is a wonderful quality of life, the food is excellent, and I love the entertainment.
The only thing that I complain about is that the beach is 3 hours away. There are spectacular beaches nearby but I am not surfing every day like I was in San Diego.
Where is Guadalajara?
Guadalajara is in the western state of Jalisco, the westernmost point of the Bajío Region. It is west of Mexico City, east of Puerto Vallarta, and north of Colima.
The Guadalajara International Airport (GDL) is one of the busiest airports in Mexico with direct flights to many locations in Mexico and North America.
Why you should listen to me?
My first-hand experience with safety in Guadalajara is based on living here, studying here, and working for over a decade.
I have been following the security situation in Mexico for more than twenty years. I have a bachelor’s degree in global economics with a specialization in Latin America from UC Santa Cruz and an unfinished master’s degree in finance from Monterrey Tec (ITESM). After college, I interned at the Institute of the Americas where I met former presidents, ambassadors, and high-ranking political figures working toward binational cooperation on issues including security.
I have also seen the violence firsthand hand having been mugged, being stuck in traffic when the narcobloqueos broke out, and having a grenade go off at a bar across the street from my apartment. Security is important to me and my safety precautions have matured over time especially now that I have a family.
Conclusion: Is Guadalajara Safe In 2023?
Is Guadalajara Safe? I think Guadalajara is very safe. There are certain precautions that need to be considered as in all large cities but for the most part, Guadalajara is very safe.
If you enjoyed this article, please have a look at my Guadalajara City Guide with information about my favorite things to do around here.
I recommend looking through my additional content to find safe activities in Guadalajara. There are articles on the best things to do, the best places to stay, the best hotels, local restaurants, ancient ruins, and ideas for a day trip to the surrounding area.