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My wife and I are visiting El Paso and NM next week. While at El Paso, we may opt to walk across the Rio Grande to Juarez for some shopping. We've heard that some border cities (Nuevo Laredo, etc) are unsafe due to Drug trafficing. So, is Juarez safe to visit? Are there some areas that should be avoided? Thanks in advance for the info.
Jaybee...I can only offer you my kind words of advice but take them as you wish. I used to live in Las Cruces which is about 45 minutes from Juarez/El Paso border area and I have family in Juarez which is why I used to go visit so often. I was never afraid to go over there, especially during the daytime. You just park in one of the many paid parking lots near the bridge, just remember not to leave any noticeable valueables in your car (including cd players, ipods, cd's, cell phone charges, luggae, etc). Take some change with you to pay the toll when you cross over and back. There are plenty of nice little shops on the main street once you cross. If you want to go to the market (mercado) just go straight on the main street (about 8 blocks) and take a left at the church, not sure of the name (might be 16 de septiembre), but it sorta turns into a dead end. The market is about 4-5 blocks from there, a large pink building. You cannot miss it, its also a good place to eat at as you will be overwhelmed by the waiters wanting you to sit at their place. Oh, and you have to pay to use the restrooms so double up on the change. There is a nice store right across the from the market with tons of pottery, kitchen stuff, knick-knacks, etc....if you go to the restroom at the market is is located directly in front of the restrooms.
I would only caution you not to stray from the main streets, and do not take any shortcuts or offers from people to drive you anywhere. Believe me, the mercado is only like a 15 minute (if that) walk so you don't need a taxi unless you plan on buying large items. There are plenty of pharmacies on the way also, but remember the US laws and only buy if you have an RX, otherwise be prepared to explain that to Customs when you come back. Try to avoid crossing late at night as with all downtown areas it may become unsafe, also if you go on Thur, Fri or Sat night be prepared to deal with the massive crowds of drunken college students going to the bars right on the "strip".
Others may advise you not to cross into Juarez, but I have gone many times, with friends and by myself and you just have to be smart and stay alert at all times and respect their laws, which are totally different than ours. I live in Laredo right now and have never crossed in Nuevo Laredo on the advice of practically 99% of the people I have talked to, they say the threat of gang violence/shootings is just too high and not worth the risk to go for a leisurely shopping trip....Juarez is not like that. If you have any more questions directly relating to Juarez, do not hesitate to ask! Have fun!
You're welcome...some people might not agree with me about going to Juarez due to the negative publicity it gets from some of the high profile stories coming out of there, most specifically the serial killings of young women over the past few years. What most people don't realize is that the women being targeted are the young Mexican girls who work in the maquiladoras and use public transportation---NOT American tourists who go to the mercado. The majority (or all) of tourists are not going to be put in those kinds of situations to be targeted. Like I said before, just be alert and aware of your surroundings and respect their laws and you will be fine. Do not pay attention to peddlers or people who hassle you to take shortcuts. Stick to the main streets and avoid going at night. Juarez is a beautiful city, and has a lot more to offer than just the shops and mercado near the bridge. There are some beautiful churches, great restaurants and plenty of entertainment there (horse races, night clubs, concerts) but you have to be a little brave and somewhat familiar with the area in order to see it all.
I don't know if I can say with authority that going over to Juarez is safe or not, because I have not gone ther. Why haven't I? Because several of my neighbors, who are Hispanic, feel that it is not even safe for them to go. The drugs, kidnapping of white woman goes as far as this town also, in their opinion. A neighbor is a San Antonio cop, and he said he would only feel safe taking his wife over if they had several Hispanic (his wife is Hispanic) people with them, and they Must speak with the mexican slang. Also, when you go, make sure you wear old, crappy clothing, no jewelry-don't look like a 'tourist'. Anyway- this is what the cop/neighbor says.
Now I know why my college friends always wanted me to go with them! Seriously though, I always offered to go with them because I knew most of them didn't speak a lick of Spanish and were not familiar with Mexico at all. Like all travel in Mexico, its safer in groups.
I am a 30-year old, medium-sized "typical" American male, and I am as absolutely Gringo as Gringo can be! (Let's just say I was born and lived in Wisconsin for 27 years and am of German ancestry).
However, I have gone to Juarez in the last 3 years approximately 10 or 12 times. I have never once - NOT ONCE - felt in the least bit threatened physically, or even close.
I even went at approximately 3pm on New Year's Eve this past year.
Recently, I went and spent three hours absolutely by myself on a Saturday afternoon.
However, my wife's grandmother and mother, both of whom are native Mexicans (her grandmother still resides in El Paso), state how horrible Juarez is, and how crime-ridden and terribly dangerous it is.
Part of this reputation I believe is myth and legend, but part is probably very true. I personally wouldn't feel comfortable going to Juarez at night time (although a Gringo colleague of mine here in ABQ frequently stays in a hotel there for several-night blocks thorughout the year to study Spanish). I also would not want my wife to go there by herself, or without a male being with her at all times.
I would say - just in my own experience - yes, it probably is more dangerous than a typical American big city, but no, that should not in any way prohibit tourists from going.
But I think everything that nmnative505 stated in his first post were pretty much right on the money, and probably the best guide to follow when going to Juarez. Stay "with the crowds" (eg: on the main streets, which will be easy to do). Don't get into conversations with panhandlers or flim-flam artists (just ignore them or briskly say no thanks and keep walking). Go during the DAY TIME (between 10a and 5p preferrable). I have imbibed some cold Tecates there, (which is next-to-heaven in the summer), but I wouldn't frequent classic bars there much, or get too involved in alcohol (and certainly, absolutely no drugs...of course that is sound advice for here in the States too!).
But as stated above, I am a Gringo in every sense of the word and actually know very little Spanish, and yet every time I have gone there, I have been treated fairly well and have never felt in danger.
(I even took my parents walking around there the day after Christmas, they rarely get out of the Midwest, and they survived!).
I will say though...if you are not used to border towns, there can be some considerable "culture shock" for Americans. It can be rather loud, crowded, chaotic, very dirty, etc. I personally love those aspects, but some could be turned off, especially if they are not braced for it. Also, Americans are "targets" for the beggars for money, etc., so just be prepared.
I heartily endorse anyone visiting though, the food is tremendous (and cheap), the shopping is fun, and some of the sights are really neat. Just doing so using some good common sense.
I'am considering teaching English in a Mexican Border town on the Mexican
side. Is there a market there? I would live in Laredo or El Paso and go across
during the day. The cultual aspects of a border town as EnjoyEP stated would
be refreshing relief from suburban culture in the snow belt where I'am temporarily agonizingly enduring. It seems the colder the climate colder the people.
I used to go to Juarez for lunch of dinner quite often. Never a problem with safety - its the **** traffic thats annoying.
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