New Mexico : Safety by CityUnited States - safety as a country New Mexico - state review
You “Better Call Saul” if you’re visiting Albuquerque, New Mexico.
The hit show, along with “Breaking Bad,” made this high desert city even more tempting for visitors.
Albuquerque goes by many names – ABQ, the 505, and the most popular Burque (Boor-kay).
It’s a mix of Native American, Latino, and Hispanic influences.
The food is spicy, the nightlife is hot, and the outdoor adventures are sometimes full of hot air.
ABQ is the Hot Air Balloon Capital of the World, with the International Balloon Fiesta taking to the skies each October.
Another reason to look up?
The dynamic night skies with stars are so vivid you feel like you could reach out and touch them.
The city sits at a higher altitude than most U.S. cities, so you might need to take a day to adjust.
The elevation is between 4900 and 6700 feet above sea level.
The famous Route 66 runs through the Burque, and it’s not just a derelict road here.
Neon lights the way with restaurants and attractions sure to tap into your sense of nostalgia.
The Buruqe has several distinct neighborhoods, including:
- Historic Old Town: Founded in 1706 and still a cultural hub of the city.
- Downtown: Route 66 runs through it, and the convention center brings many visitors.
- Nob Hill: Tap into your electric side in this vibrant community.
- Airport Area: Not just for the airport. Major sports teams and national laboratories call it home.
- Midtown: University of New Mexico camps area.
- Uptown: A great shopping destination.
- Eastside: Get outdoors and enjoy the foothills.
- North Valley: Right along the Rio Grande.
- Westside: Where you’ll find Petroglyph National Monument.
- South Valley: The Hispanic cultural core of the city.
From ABQ, you are also three and a half hours to White Sands National Park and less than five hours to Mexico.
Warnings & Dangers in Albuquerque
OVERALL RISK : MEDIUM
There's a medium risk in Albuquerque, but it's bordering on a high risk due to high crime rates. Violent crime has been on the rise in recent years, but property crimes have been going down. We will dig into the data to see how much crime rates impact tourists.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : MEDIUM
ABQ Ride is the public transportation system here with 40 fixed routes daily. Through June 2023, rides are free. However, it's important you know about some of the violent behavior reported and caught on camera on some buses. One bus driver said, "We’re dealing with mental illness. We’re dealing with alcoholism, drug addiction, homelessness – on every route, every day." The Route 66 bus to Uptown historically has the most violence. I can't recommend riding the bus, but if you have no other choice, use the utmost caution. Much of the violence is targeted at bus drivers. You can get taxis and rideshares here too, and rental cars are available. Overall, there's a high risk of riding the bus and a medium risk overall. Especially when you consider half of the thefts are related to car break-ins.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : MEDIUM
Theft rates have been cut in half since 2017. That sounds like good news, right? Kinda. The theft rate is still two and a half times the national average. There's a medium risk, even though pickpockets and purse snatching have also been cut in half over the past five years. Don't walk around with cash, and try to avoid carrying a purse if you can.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : MEDIUM
Wildfires are the biggest risk here. Even smoke from fires far away can impact air quality. Flash flooding is another risk, and you should never try to cross a flooded roadway. You might get severe thunderstorms here with an occasional tornado. There's a medium risk overall.
MUGGING RISK : MEDIUM
This is another medium risk. The robbery rate peaked in 2017, but even with a decline, it is still four times the national average. About 20% or fewer of the robberies are in public places.
TERRORISM RISK : MEDIUM
With a strong military presence at White Sands Missile Range and Los Alamos National Laboratory, on top of the large population, there's a medium risk in Albuquerque and all of New Mexico. There's also a strong Homeland Security presence.
SCAMS RISK : MEDIUM
A recent scam exposed a man posing as a military officer to get money out of women through online dating apps. Fraud was up 64% in 2020, so there's medium risk. Avoid any "too good to be true" deals and never wire money or buy gift cards to pay someone.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : MEDIUM
The sexual assault rate is four times the national average, and women need to use a great deal of caution here. This includes avoiding being out at night alone. Always let someone know where you are going and when you plan to be home. Don't bring big purses out with you, and never take a drink from someone if you haven't seen the bartender make it.
TAP WATER RISK : LOW
Nearly 6000 samples are taken each year to test water for contaminants. The 2021 Water Quality Report shows full compliance and no violations in tap water. This is the only area that gets a low risk in all the safety concerns of New Mexico. Keep in mind that flash flooding could have an impact on water quality. If it floods when you're there, check with the city for any water issues.
Safest Places to Visit in Albuquerque
Tours are a safe option in the Burque, as you’ll be with a tour guide and a large group.
There’s safety in numbers.
You can choose from various tours in the outdoor areas outside of Albuquerque, but one of the most popular in town is the Breaking Bad RV Tours, which takes you to some of the top filming locations for the hit show and follow-up Better Call Saul.
Another tour is available to see some of the broader scope of shows and movies made here, including Transformers and Avengers.
It’s also hard to find an unsafe spot in the skies, so take advantage of all those sunny days and ride a hot air balloon.
There are at least half a dozen options, but Rainbow Riders, Inc. is one of the most popular.
You can watch the sun come up or take in a romantic sunset.
Grab a self-guided tour map, and you can visit the area’s top attractions from the safety of your vehicle.
The Route 66 Tour is one of the most popular, and try to take the ride after sunset if you can to get the full neon-glow experience.
At the west end of Route 66, you can visit the ABQ BioPark Aquarium and go under the sea, then take a stroll in the beautiful Botanic Garden on a 1.5-mile path.
For a cultural lesson, plan a day between the Indian Pueblo Culture Center, the National Hispanic Cultural Center, and the Albuquerque Museum of Art & History.
There is so much history here.
Touring these centers will give you a stronger appreciation for the different communities around the city.
The Wildlife West Nature Park is a great place to see unique animals of this region, like javelinas.
There are more than 20 species of animals across more than 122 acres.
If you’d like, schedule an overnight camping trip at the nature park.
If you want to be rattled, take a few hours at the American International Rattlesnake Museum.
The Sandia Peak Aerial Tramway takes you more than 10,000 feet above sea level for incredible panoramic views.
Hike in the summer, ski in the winter, and enjoy the natural side of New Mexico.
Petroglyph National Monument is another natural wonder to explore on the west side of town.
From ancient carvings on rocks to volcanic cinder cones, there’s a lot to see.
Stop by the visitor’s center to learn the figures so you can better read the stories told on the rocks during your adventure.
Places to Avoid in Albuquerque
Crime is widespread across the city, with the northwest side of the city having the overall lowest crime rate.
The highest crime neighborhoods are on the south and east sides, mostly south of I-40 and east of I-25.
The closer to the interstate, the higher the crime rate is in a neighborhood.
The city also has a Traveler Safety section on its website and a dedicated phone number from Albuquerque Crime Prevention.
If you have questions about crime prevention, call (505) 768-2006.
You definitely want to do as much as possible during the day and limit nightside travel to the tourist areas like Route 66.
Never travel alone at night, and take taxis or rideshares instead of walking whenever you can.
If you are visiting for the International Balloon Fiesta, book your reservations as early as possible so you can get into a safer part of town and avoid driving long distances.
One additional note – there is a Las Vegas in New Mexico, but it is not THE Las Vegas.
“Las Vegas” translates from the Spanish phrase for “The Meadows,” so the name has nothing to do with gambling, even though the name Las Vegas has become synonymous with that.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Albuquerque
- The Albuquerque Police Department (APD) has a great crime mapping function on its website. It’s easy to use and very interactive. Just put in the address of your hotel or a tourist attraction and specify which crime(s) you wish to search for. Add in a customized time range or select week or month. You can see what types of crimes happen in that area. You can also set up alerts for certain types of crime. For example, you want a notification whenever a car theft happens near your hotel.
- ABQ has the most alcohol-related deaths in the country and can also fuel violence due to a lack of self-control and accountability at the moment. Understanding this will help you be more aware if you enjoy the nightlife in Albuquerque.
- If you come from a place close to sea level, the altitude in the Burque might make you a little dizzy or short on breath. Spend your first day or two acclimating to the elevation before you head up to the mountain peak or go hiking at a higher elevation. Drink plenty of water and go easy on yourself. It’s perfectly normal to feel the effects of altitude.
- Homicides reached a state high in 2021 and were up more than 50% from the previous year. Robberies are four times the national average. Do not fight back against a robber and take all steps you can to survive an attack, should one happen. This is a city where a violent attack is more likely to turn deadly. Try to avoid any situation that appears to be dangerous, like a verbal argument starting at a street fair.
- You can sign up for emergency alerts via text message. These alerts cover everything from air quality concerns to food recalls. Text “ABQHEALTH” to 226787 for English alerts, or “ABQSALUD” for Spanish alerts.
- If you want to take the Sandia Peak Tramway, you must buy your ticket online the day before. If you wait until you get there to purchase a ticket, there’s a good chance they’ll be sold out.
- You might hear or read about the War Zone in Albuquerque. This is a section of town known for having very high crime rates and a lot of violence. The “War Zone” is along Central Avenue, between San Mateo Blvd and Wyoming Blvd. There is a horse track in the center of that area, so please keep this in mind when you’re visiting. It’s recommended to avoid this area at all times. Even the light of day doesn’t make it any safer.e
- There are nearly 8,000 known gang members in Albuquerque, and one sign of gang activity is graffiti. If you spot fresh graffiti, you can call 311 from any mobile device to report it. You do not have to leave your name. Never confront gang members directly about any crime, including vandalism.
- More than 5,550 cars were stolen in Albuquerque in 2021. This is a big problem for local police, and many of these cars make it across the border, never to be seen again. Do not leave any personal identification information in the car when you park it. That means no title, rental car papers, or similar documents. Don’t give a valet or parking attendant anything more than the ignition key. When you park on the street, turn the wheels sharply toward the curb to make it harder to tow.
- APD recommends that you avoid carrying a purse as much as possible. Dress creatively to have inner pockets available to store personal belongings. Don’t carry a lot of cash in your wallet, and don’t dress in any way that might grab attention, like the signature red heel of a Louboutin or large diamond studs in your ears.
So... How Safe Is Albuquerque Really?
Albuquerque, by and large, isn’t a safe city.
It has high crime rates in all categories, even the ones that are dropping.
The main concerns for a tourist will be car break-ins, petty theft, and robberies.
Car break-ins account for nearly half of all thefts, so you need the best safety practices you’ve ever used with a rental vehicle or personal car.
The risks break down like this:
- Violent Crime: 1 in 64 risk
- Robbery: 1 in 301 risk
- Theft: 1 in 32 risk
23% of the violent crime in 2020 was against strangers, and 43% of the violent crimes happened in homes.
There’s less of a risk that a tourist will be a victim of a violent crime, but you just can’t let your guard down here.
I’ve driven myself through Albuquerque several times in my life, both times with a pet in tow.
I can say I never felt the imminent threat as I stopped for breakfast on my way out West, but I also chose specific locations.
For example, I saw a couple of police officers at a gas station, so I stopped to get gas.
I noticed a restaurant in a non-busy area, and I ordered there instead of going to a more crowded part of town.
There are so many amazing things to do in ABQ, but you must be constantly aware of your surroundings.
As much as possible, take in the events during the day.
Leave the “party time” for another city, just to be safe.
How Does Albuquerque Compare?
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- Visas - You'll need a U.S. Travel or Work Visa to enter the United States through Customs at the airport or when you cross the border. That will cost a minimum of $160. You'll need to go through several steps of the approval process, including an in-person interview. You will only need to show your visa at the airport, so store it in a safe place during your trip.
- Currency - The U.S. Dollar (USD) is the only currency accepted here. There are plenty of places to exchange currency in this large city, and the airport has the option as well.
- Weather - Albuquerque is sunny for 378 days of the year, so bring a hat or sunglasses. It rarely gets below freezing here, but winters are somewhat chilly. A warm jacket should suffice. Summers can be hot and dry, so bring extra lotion and a water bottle for hydration. You'll need to drink more water here than in more humid climates. Spring can bring strong winds and dust storms, so those COVID masks might be helpful to avoid respiratory irritation.
- Airports - The Albuquerque airport is just 5 miles from downtown, so it's an easy trip to and from, whether by car or taxi. Since ABQ is so isolated, it will be the only airport nearby. For example, if you want to fly out of Phoenix it would be more than six hours on the road.
- Travel Insurance - Travel insurance for your flight, baggage and health protection will be a great way to enjoy the trip with peace of mind. No trip is perfect, but being protected will go a long way.
Albuquerque Weather Averages (Temperatures)
Average High/Low Temperature
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