Travel Guide: Safety in Juarez and El Paso [2023]

· Everything you need to know about safety in Ciudad Juárez and El Paso plus the best things to do and the best ways to get around ·

Jan, 02, 2023

This travel guide is not for rookies. I repeat, this travel guide is not for everyone. Well, half of it at least. Let me explain.

El Paso, Texas is situated literally on the border with Mexico, and the only thing between the city of El Paso and its southern neighbor is the Rio Grande River. This location has given El Paso a really unique vibe and culture, and it is a really cool, often overlooked place to visit.

So then why would I say that this city isn’t for rookies?

One of the best things to do in El Paso is actually to leave El Paso…and hop the border into Juarez.

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. We’ve never been anywhere else in Mexico that is very similar to Juarez, and we really enjoyed it there.

The only problem is that Juarez may or may not have the reputation as one of the most dangerous cities in Mexico, and generally speaking, it’s earned it. If you plan on stopping in Juarez during your trip, read the next section about safety in Juarez very carefully. If not, skip ahead to the best things to do in the El Paso area!

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.

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, 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?

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 area 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.

Yeah, 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 tourists (especially U.S. citizens) in a tourist zone during the day are virtually non-existent.

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.

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 gangs, 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.

If you’re thinking of making a trip to El Paso or Juarez, keep reading for the top things to do in El Paso and Juarez, how to get to each city, tips for crossing the border, and most importantly, tips for safety in Juarez.

Is El Paso Safe to Visit in 2023?

Unlike its Mexican neighbor, El Paso is generally a safe place to visit and explore. While there are parts of the city (especially along the outskirts) that are not extremely safe, the downtown area of the city is a generally safe place where you have little to worry about.

There was a period several years ago where the violence started to creep up through to the US side of the border, but that is now completely squashed and no longer a concern. While you should still take the general precautions that you’d take in any other city, El Paso is a place where you have a lot less to worry about. So yes, El Paso is safe!

man in yellow shirt with outstretched arms overlooking texas border

Best Things to Do in El Paso

1. Hike to the Top of Mount Cristo Rey

Cristo Rey is a mountain that’s actually located in New Mexico, but it’s only a short drive away from the center of El Paso. This mountain is really cool, as it has a giant cross at the top and has been a pilgrimage site for Mexicans for years. The hike is ranked as intermediate difficulty, and the trip to the top and back is about a four- or five-mile loop.

The best time to do this hike is in the evening, just in time for the sunset! The views of both Juarez and El Paso from the top of the mountain are breathtaking, and there are memorials of the Stations of the Cross along the hike as well.

It is advised that you don’t hike alone, as there has sometimes been danger here due to the proximity to the border. Hiking with a partner and not staying long after sunset should keep trouble at bay. Whether you’re a Christian or not, this mountain is definitely one of the best things to do in El Paso.

2. Catch a Sunset at the Scenic Drive Overlook

If you want to catch an awesome sunset and don’t want to hike 5 miles to do it, head to the Scenic Drive Overlook. This awesome area at the top of a big hill in El Paso provides incredible views of both El Paso and Juarez.

While both are some of the best things to do in El Paso, the Scenic Drive Overlook is much easier to access than Mount Cristo Rey. You can Uber to the foot of the hill and hike up, or even Uber right to the viewpoint if you don’t want to hike.

This area is totally safe and is much closer to downtown El Paso. This is also a really good spot for a picnic!

3. Check Out the National Border Patrol Museum

This museum is really neat and is a great thing to do if you’re trying to fill up your El Paso itinerary. As the only Border Patrol Museum in the country, this museum offers a unique view into what border enforcement is really like, especially next to the infamous city of Juarez. According to the website, this museum is entirely funded by donations and receives no government funding at all.

While the border crisis has been an extremely sensitive and divisive issue in current events, the museum is still very educational and worth visiting. The museum is open from 9-5 from Tuesday to Saturday and is closed on Sundays and Mondays.

Admission is free, but donations are encouraged to keep the museum open. There is also a nature trail behind the museum that is fun to visit, especially during poppy season from January through April.

4. Visit a True Texas Steakhouse at Cattleman’s

While Cattleman’s is a bit outside of the city, the journey is worth it if you’re looking for a true, Texas style dinner. This steakhouse is located at Indian Cliffs Ranch, about 40 minutes southeast of El Paso. Cattleman’s Steakhouse is on a large, family-style, fully functional ranch.

While the food here is incredible and literally farm to table, they offer much more than just food. There is a playground, live animals like buffalo and longhorns, a children’s zoo, a maze, and more!

This is definitely the best dinner experience you’ll have on your trip to El Paso, if you decide to make the trip! In fact, a trip to Cattleman’s Steakhouse at Indian Cliff Ranch is one of the best things to do in El Paso, even without the food!

5. Visit the Most Popular Museums in El Paso

El Paso is loaded with great museums, and many visitors fill up their itineraries with them. Some of the best museums in El Paso are the El Paso Museum of History, the El Paso Museum of Art, the Fort Bliss Museum, the El Paso Zoo, the Centennial Museum, and the El Paso Museum of Archaeology.

One museum that I recommend in particular (apart from the National Border Patrol Museum that I mentioned earlier) is the El Paso Holocaust Museum. This museum is especially well done, very unique, and is located right in the heart of downtown El Paso. While every city has its art galleries and history museums, not every city has such a well-done Holocaust Museum.

6. Commemorate American History at the Don Haskins Center

If you’ve never watched the movie Glory Road, you should. Whether you’re a basketball fan or not, this movie commemorates one of the biggest moments in American sports history, as coach Don Haskins was the first coach in a major college basketball program to allow black men to play on his team.

This did more than just ruffle feathers around the country.

I won’t spoil anything from the movie, but Don Haskins became a key figure in the integration movement, and the arena at the University of Texas El Paso (UTEP) is named after him because of what he did there. While I wasn’t in town during basketball season and couldn’t go to a game, I think this would easily be one of the best things to do in El Paso.

Basketball swishing through net in arena in El Paso, Texas

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.

2. Learn About Mexican History at the Museum of the Revolution on the Border

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!

person holding snowboard in sand dunes

4. Spend an Afternoon in the Rodadora Museum

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 El Paso and Juarez

The answer to this is completely dependent on where you’re coming from. As these cities straddle the border, you have the option of flying into either city for this trip. 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.

Flying into Juarez

Regardless of your point of origin, I highly recommend checking out flight prices into both airports. While flying into Juarez will require you to cross the border afterwards, this route can yield cheaper flights – especially if you’re coming from somewhere outside of the United States.

This is largely because the airport is served by the Mexican budget airlines as well as airlines that are better connected with Latin America. If you’re worried about flying on a budget airline or are interested in learning how to avoid their dumb, hidden fees, make sure to read my post on budget airlines.

Ciudad Juarez International Airport (CJS) is located about a 30-minute drive from the Paso del Norte Bridge, and the Uber will only cost you a few dollars. If this is the route that you decide to do, just know that Uber in Juarez is completely safe and is absolutely your best option.

While I am a big proponent of public transportation, Juarez is not a place where I’d recommend it. There are some little things you can do to stay safe in Juarez, and Uber instead of taxis and buses is one of them.

Just know that this option is inconvenient if you have a lot of luggage with you. We travel very lightly, which makes this a great option for people like us. However, crossing the Paso del Norte Bridge into Texas is a long walk, and it would be a pain with large suitcases.

Flying into El Paso

If you’ve decided to fly into El Paso International Airport (ELP), either because of prices or convenience, getting to your hotel will be very straightforward. You can either opt to take a local bus on route 33 or 50 into the city, or you can simply call an Uber. The bus route takes about 45 minutes depending on where you’re headed, and the Uber will take closer to 15 minutes.

As this airport is relatively small for an international airport, flights are sometimes on the pricier side. However, it’s still worth looking into, as you never know when you’ll find a good deal!

Crossing the Border Between Juarez and 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, which is also known as the Santa Fe Street Bridge.

plack at El Paso Juarez Border Crossing Paso del Norte 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.

First of all, you need to bring your passport. While you may not even encounter a border control agent on your way into Mexico (true story, there might not even be any border patrol), you will most certainly need it when you return north. A photo copy will not suffice.

You must always have your physical passport on you. A photo copy does not suffice.

Secondly, since you may not encounter a border control agent at the Mexican side of the border, you need to make sure you stop at the Immigration (INM) office when you arrive on the Mexican side of the bridge. Everyone entering into Mexico – either by foot or air – needs to fill out an FMM, which is a temporary tourist visa.

Can you enter Mexico without doing this? Yes. Should you? No.

The Mexican government has the right to deport you if you don’t have your FMM! While this will not happen, what can happen is a 500 peso fine when you try to cross back into the United States. The FMM is a perforated, two piece document.

When you enter Mexico, they’ll keep half of it. When you leave, they’ll collect the other half.

You can get away without doing this, and you can even escape the fine if they don’t catch you. But really, it’s an easy thing to comply with, so you should just save yourself some trouble and fill out the form at the INM office.

blank FMM Mexico card
FMM Card

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: turn in the bottom half of your FMM visa at the INM office on the Mexican side of the bridge, and pass through the American Immigration office on the other side of the bridge.

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, and 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, wait your turn, and show the 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 and El Paso


My advice for getting around in both of these cities is pretty similar; I recommend 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 it is tracked by GPS.

Ride Ubers in Juarez for safety. Ride Ubers in El Paso for convenience.

In El Paso, the reason to use Uber is less about safety and more about convenience. There is a relatively extensive bus system in El Paso, and it only costs $1.50 per ride. However, we find that most of El Paso is actually very walkable, and if you need to get somewhere that is too far to walk, you’ll probably have an easier time just taking an Uber.

Also, while El Paso is a generally safe place, I’d recommend using Uber if you’re heading anywhere outside of the center of town at night, as the fringes of El Paso don’t have an immaculate reputation for safety.

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.

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.

The second thing to consider when trying 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.

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.

Finally, and probably most importantly, don’t try to do anything illegal. Like I wrote in my Tijuana travel guide, cartels will completely 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 three tips, as well as my advice about transportation in Juarez, you should not experience any issues. While there are no guarantees, the odds of anything happening to you are very slim if you stick to 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 Juarez may not have any beautiful beaches like beach resort cities such as Playa del Carmen or Puerto Vallarta, it is filled with authentic experiences waiting to be had.

We thoroughly enjoyed visiting Ciudad Juarez and we recommend it to any traveler looking to explore one of the less visited parts of Mexico – especially if you already plan to visit El Paso. If you use common sense and avoid illicit activities, you will likely have a blast in Juarez, and you’ll have visited a place that most other foreign visitors to Mexico avoid.

American Family at Cathedral in Juarez Mexico

Is El Paso Worth Visiting?

We visited El Paso out of necessity and not by choice. We only visited this city because we needed to figure out some visa issues for our time living in Mexico. While we didn’t choose to go to El Paso the first time, we would certainly choose to go back!

This small Texan city is loaded with amazing things to do, and it is certainly a destination in its own right. When you couple the wide offerings of El Paso with its proximity to Juarez, you’re left with a city that has it all and is absolutely worth visiting.

That’s all we have for you about safety in Juarez and El Paso! Hopefully this travel guide helps you to plan a nice trip and makes you feel more comfortable with safety in Juarez 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 your Juarez/El Paso trip.


Greg is a seasoned traveler who has lived in Mexico, Italy, China, and the United States. From New Year’s in Dubai to epic sunset hikes in Panama, his journeys have taken him to almost 50 countries all around the world.

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Greg | The Author

Greg is a seasoned traveler who has lived in Mexico, Italy, China and the U.S. From New Year’s in Dubai to epic sunset hikes in Panama, his journeys have taken him to almost 50 countries.

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