New Mexico : Safety by City
- Elephant Butte
- Las Cruces
- Los Alamos
- Red River
- Rio Rancho
- Santa Fe
- Silver City
- Truth or Consequences
In a red rock mesa landscape, Gallup, New Mexico, has a rich history and culture that makes it a unique destination in the American Southwest.
Originally established in 1881 as a railroad town, Gallup became an important trading hub and outpost on historic Route 66.
Known as the “Heart of Indian Country,” the city borders the Navajo Nation and Zuni Pueblo and celebrates its vibrant Native American heritage.
Nearly half of the population here is American Indian.
Gallup is an excellent place to buy authentic arts and crafts like weaving, pottery, jewelry, and more in its many trading posts and galleries.
Several major Hollywood films have been shot in the stunning landscapes around Gallup, like The Lone Ranger, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, and Starman.
Recent movies like News of the World and No Country for Old Men also filmed scenes in town.
The El Rancho Hotel has an old Hollywood connection, once hosting stars like John Wayne, Katharine Hepburn, and Humphrey Bogart during their movies’ productions.
Gallup also offers great outdoor recreation nearby, like hiking among the otherworldly boulders of Bisti Badlands and rock climbing in Chaco Canyon.
Despite all the amazing things to see here, we need to talk in-depth about the high crime rates, as it’s the most dangerous city in the state and one of the most dangerous in the country.
Warnings & Dangers in Gallup
OVERALL RISK : MEDIUM
There's a medium risk in Gallup as a community with exceptionally high crime rates. While there's a lot for a tourist to do, you definitely need to pay attention to the safety steps we'll discuss in this article.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : LOW
Gallup Express is the public transportation system in town. The routes were being redeveloped post-pandemic, so check the city's website to make sure this fits your needs before you rely on it. Taxis and rideshares will be available, but having your own car offers the most flexibility. Plus, you'll need a car to get here unless you're arriving by bus or train. Any risk is low, but you need to keep safety a priority since there's so much crime around the transportation areas.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : LOW
Over the past five years, an average of six pickpockets or purse snatching happen each year. While that's a low risk, it's more concerning how many thefts end up being aggravated assaults. It's just more likely that someone will take your items by force instead of manipulation.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : MEDIUM
Treat this with a medium risk to stay weather aware. Even though winter weather isn't too common here, a bigger storm could catch you off guard and leave you stranded. High winds can make interstate driving challenging, and summer thunderstorms can drop heavy rain in a short period of time, leading to flash flooding.
MUGGING RISK : MEDIUM
This is another medium risk with a robbery rate more than four times the national average. Avoid stopping for gas or shopping after dark, and always stay in well-lit areas. If a robber confronts you, don't fight back for your own safety.
TERRORISM RISK : LOW
There is little chance of an international terror attack, but you should always report anything suspicious to the police. There are some racial tensions in this town. An SUV drove through the Gallup Intertribal Ceremonial Centennial Celebration parade in 2022, but it was not a hate crime.
SCAMS RISK : LOW
Most scams here target elderly or tribal members, but you should always be on the lookout for pressure tactics or deals that seem too good to be true.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : MEDIUM
Women are 10% less likely to be a victim of a violent crime, according to 2021 statistics. However, don't let that give you a false sense of safety. Every gender and gender identity should treat this high-crime town as a medium risk.
TAP WATER RISK : LOW
The 2022 Water Quality Report shows no violations and full compliance. It also details the importance of water conservation, so you should read through it to get information on how you can help during your visit.
Safest Places to Visit in Gallup
Visit Gallup is the name of the tourist website.
You can email any specific questions about tourist safety to email@example.com.
The phone number is (505)722-2228.
There is an updated blog and an option to sign up for a tourism newsletter on the site as well.
A Visitor’s Guide is available for download on the website, but I don’t like that you have to give your name, address, and phone number to get it.
That’s just asking for spam calls or emails.
Explore Historic Downtown Gallup
The historic downtown area is compact and very walkable.
Wander along old Route 66 and check out charming galleries, trading posts, restaurants, and shops selling Native American art and crafts.
Don’t miss the downtown murals depicting Gallup’s history.
Visit the Gallup Cultural Center
This state-of-the-art facility highlights the cultures and histories of the Navajo, Zuni, Hopi, and other tribes.
See cultural displays, watch native dance performances, and browse the extensive gift shop.
Make a Museum Stop
Two museums here can help you learn more about the northern New Mexico heritage.
The Red Rock Park Museum is just east of Gallup and offers stunning views of 200 million-year-old cliffs and interpretive exhibits following the culture of the Ancestral Puebloans with more details about the present-day tribes.
The Rex Museum taps into the mining and railroad history of Gallup.
It’s also along the famed Route 66, so it’s an easy stop during your trip.
Shop at the Gallup Flea Market
Open on weekends from March to October, this huge outdoor market has over 300 vendors selling traditional jewelry, pottery, blankets, and more.
It’s a great place to find unique Native American-made souvenirs and handicrafts.
See El Morro Theatre
This historic 1928 Spanish Colonial-style theater shows independent films and hosts various performances.
Even if nothing’s scheduled, it’s worth peeking inside at the elaborately decorated interior.
Learn About Navajo Code Talkers
The Navajo Code Talkers exhibit at the Gallup Cultural Center honors the brave Navajo men who used their language as a secret code during WWII.
An excellent video provides more context about their vital role.
Hike Nearby Trails
The area surrounding Gallup offers wonderful hiking opportunities.
Head to the Bisti Badlands to see otherworldly rock formations or hike to protected petroglyphs at Nash Wash Rock Art.
Both hikes showcase the region’s unique geology and archaeology.
Attend the Inter-Tribal Indian Ceremonial
Held every August, this four-day event includes parades, dancing, rodeos, and the crowning of Miss Gallup Ceremonial.
Visitors can experience the pageantry and celebrations of Native American culture.
Places to Avoid in Gallup
In a town with such a high crime rate, it’s smart to avoid any area that isn’t a tourist attraction or an entertainment district.
Stay out of neighborhoods, and don’t stop to ask random people for directions.
You should also avoid confrontations of any kind, especially if you like to enjoy the nightlife of a city.
I’ve seen too many bar shootings or stabbings in my research that it’s just not worth it to stand up for yourself if there is a confrontation.
Just leave and report any illegal activity to security guards or police.
While Gallup doesn’t get a lot of snow, you should still check the forecast before you head out on the road or go into the wilderness.
You should note any risk of extreme temperatures, the chance of storms, wildfire risk, and closures or construction related to storm damage.
NM Roads is the website to check travel conditions on all highways and interstates.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Gallup
- Gallup does have its own police department. To ask specific safety questions, call the main number at (505) 863-9365. It’s wise to store the non-emergency dispatch number in your phone as well. That is (505) 722-2002. You can follow the department on Facebook @GallupPD.
- Another great social media site to follow is the Emergency Management Division of McKinley County. This will cover safety issues, like storms and wildfires, throughout the county. That does include Gallup. The Facebook page is @mcoemgallup.
- You should check in with the website or social media sites for US Forest Service – Cibola National Forest & National Grasslands before you go to the wilderness location. It’s important to know about wildfire risks or other safety issues. The Facebook page is @cibolanf.
- When storms develop over this region, they can easily spark wildfires. You should never plan to hike into the wilderness when storms are in the forecast. You can check for controlled burns and wildfire burning at the NM Fire Info website.
- Alcoholism and alcohol-related issues are a big problem in this part of New Mexico. You should be prepared for DUI checkpoints, especially near holiday weekends. It’s another reason to avoid road rage while driving since you never know the condition of the other driver.
- Alcohol sales are limited to certain locations in Gallup. For example, you can’t drink in public. Always ask if a business is licensed to sell alcohol before you have a drink. Alcohol is not sold in stores on Sundays.
- Learn about the etiquette of being in a tribal region and around tribal members. For example, during pueblo dances, it’s inappropriate to clap afterward. While it’s common to do such a thing during a show performance, this is a religious and cultural tradition. For comparison, think of how you don’t applaud at church after the choir sings a song. Visiting the Gallup Cultural Center can answer many of your questions.
- For those driving through Gallup to Arizona, it can be hard to know what time it is. Arizona stays in Mountain Time throughout the year and doesn’t adhere to daylight saving time. That means for half the year, Arizona and New Mexico are in the same time zone. The other half of the year, Arizona is an hour behind New Mexico.
- Gallup has a sizeable homeless and poverty-stricken population. That could mean more panhandling than you might expect. It’s always better to donate money to a homeless shelter than directly to a person. Plus, if you give one person money or food, more will see that kind of act, and you’ll be overwhelmed by people asking for help.
- If you are invited to visit one of the tribal lands, you should know that U.S. laws aren’t in effect. The land is sovereign and managed by tribal laws.
So... How Safe Is Gallup Really?
The answer to this question would be much different if it were an article about moving to Gallup instead of just visiting.
Either way you look at it, there are certain dangers in Gallup that are too prominent to ignore.
Gallup historically has a violent crime rate that is among the worst in the nation.
The statistics have been high for at least the past decade.
The violent crime rate, as of 2021, was 450% higher than the national average.
Despite the number of domestic cases that make headlines here, crime data from 2021 also shows that 43% of violent crimes are against strangers.
That’s enough to make a tourist do more research before choosing where to stay or places to visit.
Then there’s the theft rate, which is 87% higher than the national average.
As shocking as that might be for a small town, in 2014, the rate was 518% higher than national averages.
- An average of three cars are stolen in Gallup each week.
- 38% of thefts were car break-ins.
- Shoplifting is the second most common theft.
The most important things you can do in Gallup are to spend extra money to stay in a newer hotel, only visit bars and restaurants recommended by the Chamber of Commerce, and leave any location where trouble is brewing (like a bar fight).
You also need wilderness and remote travel safety skills, prepared for everything from a car breakdown to getting lost during a hike.
Gallup does have great pieces of history to explore, but it’s not a place you’d want to stay long-term unless you’re used to a high-crime environment.
How Does Gallup Compare?
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- Visas - All international visitors must have a passport that isn't within six months of expiring. Then, either a visa or a visa waiver is needed. Only people from certain countries will meet the criteria for a visa waiver. You can learn more at the U.S. State Department website.
- Currency - You can only use the U.S. Dollar here. Due to the number of payday loan shops here, you want to avoid exchanging currency in town. Use your home bank for the best exchange rates and fees. There isn't a currency exchange at Albuquerque's Sunport.
- Weather - Gallup has a traditional cold winter and hot summer, so plan accordingly. Due to the arid climate, you'll want to bring moisturizing lotion and sunscreen. You'll want some electrolytes, too, so you can stay hydrated. Pack hiking boots to explore the wilderness.
- Airports - Albuquerque International Sunport is two hours down I-40, which is an easy ride on a well-established interstate.
- Travel Insurance - Travel insurance for your flight and baggage is just as important as insurance for your vehicle to cover all potential crime and safety checkpoints. You should also know that America has no free healthcare, so supplemental travel health insurance is wise.
Gallup Weather Averages (Temperatures)
Average High/Low Temperature
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