This travel guide is not for rookies. Juarez is one of the world’s most dangerous cities, at least according to the news. News aside, is Juarez safe to visit?
Ciudad Juarez, one of the biggest cities in Mexico, is a really cool place with a culture that is very distinct from the rest of Mexico. Living in Mexico, we’ve never been anywhere else in the country that is very similar to Juarez, and we really enjoy it there.
The only problem is that Juarez has a reputation as one of the most dangerous cities in Mexico, and generally speaking, it has earned it. This post will dive into Ciudad Juarez safety, really just trying to tackle the question “Is Juarez safe to visit?”
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You can watch our whole experience in El Paso & Juarez on our YouTube Channel!
Is Juarez Safe to Visit in 2023?
Let me be clear: If you’re asking yourself “Is Juarez, Mexico dangerous?” the answer is pretty simple. Yes, Ciudad Juarez is dangerous, and it does remain one of the most dangerous places in Mexico.
The homicide rate used to be higher than in Damascus, Syria during the Syrian civil war. While all of Chihuahua state is known for its criminal activity, drug cartels are particularly interested in Juarez. Border towns are some of the most dangerous areas of Mexico due to the various criminal organizations and their drug trafficking activities, and Juarez is one of the biggest border cities in the whole country.
However, it is not a war zone (anymore) and is absolutely visitable – especially if you have experience in places that don’t have the best reputation for safety. Now, why is Juarez dangerous?
Why Is Juarez Dangerous?
There are enough factors to write a book about. But to sum it up, the vast amount of very poor, vulnerable refugees at the U.S.-Mexico border, combined with the proximity to the United States market, provides a really strong business opportunity for some people who are looking to run some not so nice businesses.
The drug cartels have fought over Juarez for the past couple of decades, and at times the city and entire border city was literally a war zone. Now, is this still the case? Is Juarez dangerous? Is Juarez safe to visit in 2023?
Juarez is safe during daylight and in popular tourist destinations.
More or less. Juarez is safe during the daylight hours and in popular tourist destinations. In fact, I’d dare to say that the odds of anything happening to U.S. citizens in a tourist zone during the day are virtually non-existent.
Juarez Is Safe for Americans
These days, you’d almost have to be in the wrong place at the wrong time for anything worse than petty crime to occur. Here’s why.
Firstly, violent crime is mostly contained in particular areas, like the slums of the city. In the past, even tourist areas could be targets, but this has largely faded in recent years, and the murder rate has gone down. Generally, Juarez’s high crime rates have little impact on American tourists with the exception of occasional petty theft.
Secondly, the violence is no longer indiscriminate, meaning it is not only contained to the rural areas and bad parts of the city but also usually only within gangs. If you don’t affiliate with or search out any of the gang activity, you should be fine.
On top of that, there is a much higher police presence in touristy areas than in other parts of the city. While police officers in Mexico have a bad reputation for being controlled by criminal groups, it is still usually better to be in a heavily policed area than one with no local authorities around.
Juarez is safe enough to visit during the daytime in tourist zones, and honestly is really worth the visit! There are several great things to do in Juarez and several reasons that you should make the trip.
As it is just a short walk across the Paso del Norte Bridge, Juarez is a great place to experience authentic Mexican culture along the border. While there is no perfectly safe area of Juarez, there is no perfectly safe area of any city in the world! This local guide is going to lay it all out for you.
Safe Places to Stay in Juarez
I recommend staying in El Paso, Texas if you are able to. It is simply much safer at night. We stayed at the Gardner Hotel, which was affordable and unique.
If you can afford it, an even better place to stay in El Paso is Aloft El Paso Downtown. The rooms are comfortable and the place always gets great reviews.
If you are locked into staying in Juarez, I recommend staying in no less than a 4 or 5 star hotel. The costs are cheap compared to the United States, and the added security is a must. One great option would be the Hotel Lucerna Ciudad Juarez.
Best Things to Do in Juarez
1. Drink a Margarita
Believe it or not, Ciudad Juarez is the original home of the margarita – everyone’s favorite Mexican cocktail. Juarez has always been known for its nightlife, and there is no better place in the world to try an authentic margarita than Juarez.
The actual bar that claims to be the creator of the margarita is the Kentucky Club, and they stand by that claim regardless of what anyone has to say!
While we visited during the COVID-19 pandemic the Kentucky Club was temporarily closed, so we couldn’t actually try a margarita there. However, the place has since reopened!
Drinking a margarita at the Kentucky Club is definitely one of the best things to do in Juarez.
This museum is extremely informational and worth visiting, even for someone who already knows a lot about Mexican history! We lived in Mexico for a while and know a good bit of Mexican History, and this museum is still fully worth the visit. It’s very cool to learn about the history of the border region and the Mexican Revolution from the eyes of Mexico.
I’ve heard that people cross the border just to go to this museum, it’s that good! It was temporarily closed during the COVID-19 pandemic, but it has since reopened and is not just one of the best things to do in Juarez; it’s a must-do if you visit Juarez!
3. Try Sandboarding in the Samalayuca Sand Dunes
The Samalayuca Sand Dunes are located about an hour south of Juarez in the Chihuahuan Desert and are more of a day trip than they are a quick stop, but they’re easily one of the best things to do in Juarez. The Samalayuca Sand Dunes are literally epic – they feel and look like the Sahara Desert.
There are tours running from El Paso and Juarez all the time to visit this tourist spot, and sandboarding here is a really cool experience. If you’re heading to Juarez, this one takes a little bit more planning but is absolutely worth building into your schedule if you have the time!
The Rodadora Museum is a museum filled with interactive exhibits designed to teach about the region and explore the identity of the local people of Juarez. This museum is one of the biggest museums in all of Latin America, and it only costs about $4 to enter.
The exhibits at the Rodadora Museum range from paleontology and sustainability to the social environment of Juarez and more. This museum is extremely safe to visit and, especially for a family, is one of the best things to do in Juarez.
5. Visit the Zocalo and the Cathedral
No visit to a major Mexican City is complete without a visit to the zocalo and its cathedral. The zocalo in a Mexican city is essentially its city square, and the city’s cathedral is always located right off of the zocalo.
The cathedral in Juarez is very pretty, and the zocalo is a very active place to pass some time and buy some street food. There is also all kinds of shopping to do in the blocks off of the zocalo is you’re looking to buy any trinkets or souvenirs to take back home with you!
The Zocalo is also the best place in the city to try some great street food, which is absolutely one of the best things to do in Juarez. If you’re getting hungry thinking about some good tacos, check out my guide on Mexican Street Food!
How to Get to Juarez
To get to Juarez, you have the option of flying into either Juarez or El Paso, Texas. Both airports are safe and comfortable, and they’re equally good options depending on a few factors.
As neither one is an especially big airport, you may have a little trouble finding reasonably priced flights. But don’t worry! My in-depth guide to finding cheap flights will help you with that.
Crossing the Border Between Juarez and El Paso
Can You Walk into Juarez from El Paso?
If you’ve never done an international land border crossing by foot, you’re not alone. Many people have never actually walked across a border and don’t know what it’s like!
It’s natural to have doubts and concerns about crossing the Mexican border. In fact, our trip to Juarez and El Paso was our first time hopping the border on foot. While there are a few things you should know, rest assured – it’s not hard to do.
As the Rio Grande is the natural border between Texas and Mexico, the border crossing is always going to be over a bridge. The two most common bridges connecting El Paso and Juarez are the Stanton Street Bridge and the Paso del Norte Bridge. This is also known as the Santa Fe Street Bridge.
Crossing the Border from El Paso into Juarez
Believe it or not, crossing the border from El Paso into Juarez is actually the tricky part. While it is easier in theory to cross the border from Texas into Mexico, there are a few things you need to consider that don’t apply when heading north.
Other than these two things, the only thing to know is that you may need to pay a small toll – less than a dollar – to use the bridge. Payment will be due in cash.
Crossing the Border from Juarez into El Paso
Heading back north, crossing the border from Mexico into Texas, is even easier than heading south – so long as you remembered your passport.
To cross the border from Mexico into Texas by foot, you will only need to do two things. First, turn in the bottom half of your FMM visa at the INM office on the Mexican side of the bridge. Second, pass through the American Immigration office on the other side of any of the many international bridges between the two cities, like the Bridge of the Americas.
While I mentioned that there is very little border security heading south, that is certainly not the case going north. After crossing the bridge over the Rio Grande, you will enter directly into a large U.S. Customs and Immigration building that looks a lot like the immigration area of an airport. It is packed with security personnel.
There is no way you can miss it – you literally need to pass through it.
Upon entering, all you need to do is get in line and wait your turn. Show the CBP officer your passport when it’s your turn. She or he may ask you a couple of questions and then will ultimately wave you through.
And that’s it! Crossing the border between Juarez and El Paso is really straightforward.
If you have any further questions, read my guide to crossing the Mexico and United States border.
Traveling Safely Around Juarez
UBER | BY FOOT | BUS
There is a very clear best overall option for getting around Juarez. It’s Uber.
Firstly, as I mentioned in the section about Juarez International Airport, when you’re in Juarez you should really only use Uber. I would not use any other form of transportation there, including taxis, buses, or a rental car.
While it’s not likely that something bad would happen to you on a Juarez bus, there is simply no need to take that chance. While taxi drivers may be trustworthy, Uber drivers are all centrally verified by Uber. Uber is cheap and easy, it runs checks on its driver’s license plates, and uses GPS technology.
Tips for Safety in Juarez in 2023
I’ve mentioned a few times in this guide that Juarez is not a very safe place. It has previously held a reputation as the most dangerous place in the world. And the violence used to be indescribable and indiscriminate.
From gang violence to sexual assault and armed robbery, your chances of being the victim of a crime in Juarez used to be very high.
However, that has largely changed, and visiting Juarez is safe in 2023. Safety in Juarez will probably always be a touchy issue. But you can take a few steps to make sure you stay safe in Juarez while having a great time.
1. Don’t Go Out at Night in Juarez
Firstly, don’t go out at night. While Juarez used to be known for its awesome nightlife, I wouldn’t recommend checking it out just yet.
While Juarez is safe enough during the day, the night invites a whole different world of threats. Combining darkness and alcohol in one of the most dangerous cities in the world is probably not a great idea. Even most safe places get much more dangerous after dark.
2. Leave Valuables at Home and Dress Simply
To stay safe in Juarez is to dress simply and leave all of the valuables at home. Don’t wear flashy clothing or jewelry, and only bring whatever wallet items you’ll need for your visit.
If someone tries to rob you, give them your wallet, and don’t fight back. It isn’t worth it. If you left your IDs, wads of cash, and credit cards in the hotel, you won’t be losing much, anyway.
3. Don’t Carry a Debit Card
On that same note, leave your debit cards behind, too. You just have no use for it, and a credit card offers you a layer of protection. If someone steals your debit card and figures out your PIN, you’ll never get your money back.
4. Don’t Do Anything Illegal
Finally, and probably most importantly, don’t try to do anything illegal. Like I wrote in my Tijuana travel guide, cartels leave you alone until you give them a reason not to. The two biggest industries of cartels in border cities are drugs and prostitution.
Marijuana and all other drugs are completely illegal in Mexico. As is prostitution, and looking for either of those things can only open up bad doors. Anyone that offers you either of those things is someone you want to walk away from without acknowledging, too.
If you follow these four tips, as well as my advice about transportation in Juarez, you shouldn’t experience any issues. While there’s no guarantee, the odds of anything happening are slim if you follow these tips on safety in Juarez.
Is Juarez Worth Visiting?
As the second largest city on the Mexican side of the U.S. border and the biggest city in the state of Chihuahua, there is a ton to see and do in Juarez. Juarez has been one of Mexico’s most important major cities for a very long time. And it is a place that foreign tourists avoid far too much.
The city center is lively and fun. The Kentucky Bar is the literal home of the margarita. And the main attractions are all perfectly safe to explore!
While Ciudad Juárez may not have any beautiful beaches like beach resort cities such as Playa del Carmen, Los Cabos, or Puerto Vallarta, it is filled with authentic experiences waiting to be had.
We Recommend Visiting Juarez
We thoroughly enjoyed visiting Ciudad Juarez. I highly recommend it to any traveler looking to explore one of the less visited parts of Mexico.
If you use common sense and avoid illicit activities, you will likely have a blast in Juarez. You’ll also have visited a place that most other foreign visitors to Mexico avoid. Who needs Mexico City!
Frequently Asked Questions About Safety in Juarez
Which is safer Juarez or Tijuana?
Tijuana is probably safer for the average tourist than Juarez. While both are dangerous cities, Juarez has fewer tourist zones than Tijuana. There are fewer tourists in Juarez, while Tijuana’s crowds help to offer some protection against flare-ups of violence.
Where should I avoid in Juarez Mexico?
The places you really want to avoid are the outskirts of the city. This is where most criminal activity occurs. However, you really shouldn’t venture anywhere beyond popular tourist areas, like the zocalo and the area immediately near the Paso del Norte bridge.
Which cartel controls Juarez?
The Juarez cartel controls most of Juarez. Ciudad Juarez is largely considered to be this cartel’s headquarters.
Is Juarez Safe for US Citizens?
Juarez is safe for US citizens that take various precautions. The city is not overwhelmingly safe, but it is safe enough to visit. US citizens are at lower risk than some other nationalities, as the cartel usually tries to steer clear of Americans.
That’s all we have for you about safety in Juarez! Hopefully this travel guide helps you to plan a nice trip. More importantly, we hope it makes you feel more comfortable with Ciudad Juarez safety in 2023.
If you have any questions, be sure to drop a comment in the comment section. We would love to personally guide you in planning your Juarez trip.