How Narcos Mexico on Netflix made us rethink about travel safety in Guadalajara
Thanks a lot for your words. I really appreciate it! To be honest, I was a little freaked when I first went to Mexico but solo female travel in Guadalajara is absolutely safe. The city is super female-friendly and is very modern. I’ll provide more details below but I hope you won’t miss this opportunity, especially if your work will pay for the trip. You should check it out and stay a bit!
I stayed in Guadalajara for 30 days and loved it. It’s not a place where I will choose to live though – but for a visit, it is worth it! Good luck and I hope you’ll push through!
Is Guadalajara safe for solo travelers?
I bet YES is a hard answer to believe due to buzz of Narcos Mexico on Netflix. I didn’t follow the Cali Cartel season but when the Mexican version was added, I suddenly got intrigued. We’ve all followed Pablo Escobar’s life and the journey of Medellin Cartel on the show but how is the Mexican Cartel different? If you’ve seen it and watched all the seasons, you probably wouldn’t think about visiting Mexico anymore, or at least the places that were highlighted there such as Sinaloa and Guadalajara.
If you haven’t seen it, well, let’s start with an introduction to Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo, the man behind the Guadalajara Cartel formed in the 1980s. He controlled all the drug trafficking not only within Mexico but in the USA borders as well. Miguel is from Sinaloa, and the show highlighted his life growing up in that state. But most of the series is set in Guadalajara, where he formed the strongest Mexican cartel in the ’80s. The show is violent and sometimes very graphic so by the time you finish the show, you will really feel like Mexico is a brutal country that shoots people on the street for no reason.
But we are missing the keyword ‘1980s’ here.
The day I checked-in Guadalajara, my mom immediately freaked out and didn’t even give me the chance to tell her I was safe and was staying at a friend’s house. My friend is French and lives in Guadalajara. She was visiting family and friends in France when I visited so I had her house to myself. She wasn’t there to tell me what to do or where to go. But she did warn me not to walk at night and that I should always take the Uber.
Uber in Guadalajara is very cheap. Most of my 15-minute rides are about $50 MXN ($2.50 USD approx). The only time I paid $200+ MXN ($10 USD) was when I went to Tlaquepaque, about 30 minutes from Guadalajara. The Uber app is widely used in Guadalajara so for your safety, do not go with normal/regular taxis. I am sure lots of regular taxis are good guys but whenever I am traveling, I am more comfortable in using taxi apps as they are more secure and it’s very easy to identify the humanity of the driver. You can even forward your current location to friends and families which is something you cannot do when riding a normal taxi.
Walking alone in Guadalajara at night: is it an issue?
I’ve been told that it is though I never really pushed my luck. I’ve walked a lot of times by myself at night and did not find it scary. However, I only did this once or twice when I already have a grasp of the place. When I already have this fixed route I was comfortable with, I did walk at night but I need to clarify that what I meant with ‘night’ is from 18:00 – 21:00 max. Beyond those hours, I always took the Uber because it’s really cheap!
My friend also lent me her bike and while I was riding to go work at a cafe in Guadalajara, one of the guys there told me that I shouldn’t also bike at night because there are many instances that bike riders were robbed (and probably hurt). These are stories that I heard from locals while I was there. It didn’t happen to me so I really have no proof. But still, it’s great to be vigilant.
On another note, I walked a lot with friends at night (even up to 2:00 in the morning). Guadalajara is a very walkable city and the weather is great so when you are with a group, walk!
Have fun in Guadalajara without worrying!
I hope you won’t come to Guadalajara and spend your vacation worrying about safety. There is really nothing to worry about! Guadalajara is a fun city, especially for young travelers so do your best to enjoy it. The nightlife is very vibrant and there are always interesting people everywhere!
I particularly love the cafe culture of Guadalajara and the decent Internet speed. Most of my days there, I go to cafes and sit there all day! These cafes are made for digital nomads so the office setting is very comfortable. I even challenged myself to go to different cafes every day because there are lots of them!
It’s also nice to walk at night at the Chapultepec (city center) because it’s a good way of seeing the Guadalajara lifestyle. Street food vendors, stalls selling Mexican souvenirs, lots and lots of street performers, etc. I even had a chance to join a dancing class which they are literally doing in the middle of the plaza! Now that I remember, that was really fun!
Of course, I’ve had my share of late-nights in Guadalajara which I did a lot with friends. Having local friends really makes a difference when you travel. I came here without knowing anyone but when I put myself out there, I was able to meet people whom I now call my friends.
Where to stay in Guadalajara
Guadalajara is a big city. But since Uber is really cheap, I never thoughtfully planned where to stay. Wherever I am staying in Guadalajara, the taxi was never more than $100 MXN ($5 USD). Often, I am staying with friends who live in the city center. They told me that the Chapultepec area is the best area in Guadalajara since it’s very centric.
Whenever I am on a work trip, I always stay at Barrio Mexico, a serviced apartment in the Americas area. What I love about Barrio Mexico is the self-check-in/check-out. When you book a stay with them, they will send you all the door codes (including a garage manual if you’re traveling by car). Everything was smooth and I never had to deal with someone in person. In my opinion, this is how hotels or Airbnbs should re-invent their properties, especially now that we are living in very strange times.
I also had a chance to stay in hostels during my short trips where I didn’t want to bother my friends. Below are the three hostels that I have stayed in and truly recommend because of their location and value for money:
- Hostal Bohostel Chapultepec is just 2km away from the center. A bed in a dorm starts at $200 MXN ($10 USD).
- La Casa de Garces is a way cheaper option. They only charge $120 MXN ($5 USD) per night on a shared dorm. Their common areas are really cute and I’ve stayed twice in this hostel.
If you are really a crazy planner and want a thorough explanation on the neighborhoods of Guadalajara, get in touch with me and we’ll plan your trip together! I do a lot of Mexico travel consultations where I will give you the most local tips around the cities you want to visit in Mexico. All you have to do is send an email to trisha[at]psimonmyway[dot]com.
Guadalajara travel and safety tips for solo travelers
While I believe that no city in the world is 100% safe (you know, there are many petty crimes all over), I really feel like you can have a good time in Guadalajara if you know how to take safety precautions. Just the let you know, the crime rate in Guadalajara is labeled ‘medium risk’ and is definitely has lower crime rates than Mexico City.
According to my research, there are still a lot of cartel wars in Guadalajara but while I was there for a whole month, I didn’t really feel it. I’m sure you’ll only feel it when you are directly involved with it but if not, relax and follow these solo travel in Guadalajara safety tips.
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Take the Uber all the time
Again, if you are completely alone, Uber is your best way to go around Guadalajara. If you are with a group, I find walking a great way to explore this city. Transport wise, Guadalajara is in low-risk. Uber drivers were reported very honest. I even had a time when I forgot my tripod and the driver returned it!
Do not leave your stuff unattended
Petty theft or pickpocket is ‘medium-risk’ in Guadalajara. Avoid wearing flashy jewelry (thank God I don’t do this) or anything that will attract thieves. Personally, I’ve walked around Guadalajara carrying all my camera gears but I was never robbed. It’s just a matter of organizing yourself. It doesn’t mean that you can never go out without carrying your camera in public. Just be vigilant!
Get in touch with your country’s embassy/consulate in Guadalajara
I always do this, especially when in doubt in the countries I visit. I send an email to the embassy or consulate of my country to see the situation. When I planned to go to Pakistan, I wrote to the Embassy of the Philippines there and asked if it’s safe for a Filipina woman to travel to Pakistan. The consulate staff, which was also a Filipina responded and told me it’s okay. She gave me a go signal and wished me well in my travels to Pakistan.
Consider your source
Guadalajara has a lot of bad press but think about it: how did you find this post? Why are you researching solo travel in Guadalajara? Something interests you about this city, correct? If you try to follow your gut and read thoroughly about Guadalajara, you will see how many people had been here without problems. For me, I always connect with locals or the embassy to get valuable information. Otherwise, the people around me will just always say Guadalajara is not safe – and I refuse to believe that. I need to see it for myself! Make sure that your source is a local or someone who has been to Guadalajara.
How to meet locals in Guadalajara
This is going to be funny and strange but during my very first trip to Guadalajara (the 30-day one), I was 100% dependent on the Bumble app. My intention wasn’t to date (though I was with 1 or 2 interesting romantic dates; more on that later) but to meet people. Using Bumble in a different way made me realize that I can also connect and make meaningful friendships without the idea of hooking up or getting laid. Believe it or not, most of my friends in Guadalajara are from Bumble! I still see them up to this day whenever I visit.
Another interesting way of meeting people in Guadalajara is to just simply sit down at a bar and chat with bartenders. Guadalajara is full of young people so most of them are very approachable. I even got a lot of free drinks just by sitting alone!
Finally, if you visit the Chapultepec area on weekends, there is a free dance lesson (by donation) that is happening and there’s a lot of them. As you’ve already seen on Instagram, I love dancing so one Saturday, while I was walking alone at the center, I saw this group dancing on the streets and without asking, I joined in! I didn’t even know it was a formal class as they were just casually dancing on the street but it really was a class!
If you’re visiting Guadalajara, I can definitely connect you to my friends. I’ve introduced blog readers to my local friends a lot and they were always willing to accommodate. Just get in touch via e-mail or send a DM via Instagram, @psimonmyway.
I also live four hours away from Guadalajara so if you ever are in the city, you can never miss my beach town. You have to come here!