Nevada : Safety by City
- Battle Mountain
- Blue Diamond
- Boulder City
- Burning Man in Black Rock City
- Carson City
- Incline Village
- Las Vegas
- Moapa Valley
- Mount Charleston
- North Las Vegas
- Virginia City
- West Wendover
West Wendover, Nevada, shares the state line with Wendover, Utah, along the major interstate of I-80.
So much West Wendover is a stark contraction to its Utah counterpart.
First, when you arrive from the east, you’ll see “the Wendovers” after a long drive through the Booneville Salt Flats.
If you’re crossing into Utah, this will be the last stop before taking the straight shot to Salt Lake City across the secluded flats.
Wherever you arrive from, West Wendover sticks out as a neon sign of life.
Given that it’s in Nevada, that means all the gambling freedom and 24-hour casino action is here.
While some would argue with this statement, West Wendover claims it is “Where the West Begins,” just about anyone who has driven through here will agree it’s a place to stop and get gas or snacks since there isn’t a stop for 60 to 100 miles, depending on which direction you’re traveling.
In fact, it was the legalization of gambling that really put the town on the map.
The railroad brought some business to the region in the early 1900s, but gambling made this a tourist destination for people wanting to try their luck.
This city also played a critical role in World War II and has direct ties to the dropping of nuclear bombs.
The Bonneville Salt Flats hold history for their role in breaking land speed records.
West Wendover might be a town of fewer than 5,000 people, but the tourists double that population daily.
Warnings & Dangers in West Wendover
OVERALL RISK: LOW
There's a low risk here by standard crime standards and even lower when you figure in the number of travelers who come through in a day. Since it is such a transient area, it makes sense to use common safety precautions.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK: LOW
This is a small town with a lot of neon signs, so you won't find public transportation here, but taxis or rideshares should be available. The town is somewhat walkable, but there's a steep incline (or decline) between some locations. Having your own car is critical here. Amtrak does go through West Wendover, but it doesn't stop there. Elko and SLC are the closest boarding points.
PICKPOCKETS RISK: LOW
Two purse snatchings were reported in 2021, with an average theft of $50. Even with low crime rates, thieves know people in casinos and associated businesses plan to spend money. This is another reason it's important to carry as little cash as possible. If you win big at the casino, as for a security escort to your car and try to wait to show your excitement until you're not in a public place.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK: LOW
There's a low risk here, barring a wildfire burning nearby. Winds can be intense on the interstate and kick up a lot of dust. All concerns here will come with plenty of warning. Since this is such a dry area, even a little bit of rain will make the roads extra slippery.
MUGGING RISK: LOW
This is a low risk, with anywhere from one to four robberies a year. One was reported in 2021. Again, it's important to hide your valuables and cash to keep that risk low.
TERRORISM RISK: LOW
There's a low risk here. While Wendover would've once been a top target as training for military bombers during World War II, that airfield is now a museum.
SCAMS RISK: LOW
Most fraud and scams here happen against casinos or businesses, but a tourist should be aware of any casino environment in the state. Even if someone approached you with a sob story about needing gas money and having children hungry, it's likely a ploy to get your money in a place where you clearly have money to spend. The risk is low if you're not a sucker.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK: LOW
The town can feel safe, but it does have seedy sections, so women can enjoy a low risk as long as they don't let their guard down. As someone who lived in Nevada for more than a decade and visited almost every major city, I can attest that women will likely get hit on at any casino bar if they are alone.
TAP WATER RISK: LOW
The 2022 Water Quality Report shows full compliance and no violations. Follow the City of West Wendover on social media to look for more routine water issues, like broken water mains or flooding issues.
Safest Places to Visit in West Wendover
West Wendover’s city website has a tourism section to review.
You can also watch tourism videos on the city’s YouTube Channel, “West Wendover Nevada.”
If you want to learn more about the Bonneville Salt Flats, you’ll need to check out the Utah tourism website or the Bureau of Land Management page.
WendoverFun.com is the website for three of the casinos.
All the casino resorts have the same amenities as those in Las Vegas, Reno, and Lake Tahoe (the Nevada side), but just aren’t quite as massive.
They are still worth visiting for all the gambling action, dining options, and entertainment.
Look for the iconic “Wendover Will” standing along the road to welcome you (or say goodbyes) as you drive past.
You are encouraged to stop for a selfie and sent it to the city to be posted on the world map of West Wendover travelers.
Does it look familiar?
It’s the same designer who made the Vegas Vic sign.
Historic Wendover Airfield has so much history in its preserved walls.
It’s a must-see attraction just across the state line, and I don’t want to spoil the tour information, but you can download the app to get a preview of the exhibits.
Suffice it to say – if the training that was done here never happened, who knows how World War II would’ve ended.
You can even walk through the Enola Gay hangar before the fateful mission that changed history.
The Bonneville Salt Flats does have a public area where you can explore, but check the website and social media pages before you go.
Spring thaws and wet weather can close off large chunks of the former lake (former being 10,000 to 30,000 years ago).
You can also check the schedule of events for land speed races.
It’s by far one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen!
There’s a Wendover scenic viewpoint on a gravel road you can either drive or hike.
It is on the west side of town along West Wendover Boulevard.
There are no signs for it, so check maps or trail guides before you go.
Places to Avoid in West Wendover
There’s only one main road through the town, and it’s where you’ll find most things to do on this side of the state line.
If you see an open desert in front of you – you missed it.
You won’t find bad parts of town, but you could run into bad situations.
Mind your own businesses for the safest experience.
If you choose to explore the trails and gravel roads, you’ll do so at your own risk.
There aren’t designated parks or camping areas in the mountains around the town.
You might see a lot of references to the Danger Cave Historic Site.
This is a truly fascinating cave with proof of Native American life going back 11,000 years.
The cave is only open to tours once a year through Metcalf Archeology.
If you do go near the cave, do not try to enter outside of being a tour guest.
A lot of archeology work is ongoing, and vandalism there a few years ago has security extra tight.
Safety Tips for Traveling to West Wendover
- West Wendover does have its own police department, as does Wendover (Utah). You can “Ask a Cop” of West Wendover any question you want by emailing email@example.com. The Elko County Sheriff’s Department oversees the Nevada side of the unincorporated areas of the county.
- Sign up for CodeRED emergency alerts through the city’s website, and you can get Nixle alerts too. Between the two, you’ll get weather alerts and safety alerts from the National Weather Service and local law enforcement.
- Nevada 511 is the app to use for checking road conditions, weather, and traffic issues in the state. UDOT Traffic is the website and app for traveling through Utah.
- West Wendover is one of just a few Nevada towns in the Mountain Time Zone. The Pacific Time Zone covers most of the state, but West Wendover is so tied to Wendover that it made sense to have the sister cities at the same time. Mountain Time is one hour ahead of Pacific Time.
- If you’re driving across Nevada, you might see some signs that suggest there are sex clubs along the way. You aren’t seeing things. Brothels are legal in most Nevada counties outside the major metropolitan areas. West Wendover is one of a handful of rural cities that bans prostitution. That might change in the 2024 election. If you’re traveling with children, the major billboards for brothels might be hard to explain, so I wanted to give you a heads-up.
- Since this city has miles of empty desert surrounding it, you should check the AAA list of supplies to pack in your car in the event of a breakdown or overheating incident. Help could be a long way away, but in my experience, there’s good mobile phone service along I-80.
- If you want to drive the salt flats, you should know you’re doing so at your own risk and will have no resources nearby to help. Cars can easily get stuck near the edges, so use extra caution. Only drive on the flats when everything is completely dry.
- You will share the roads here with a lot of semi-trucks. Too many people drive dangerously around these road monsters. Especially when going up the hill from Wendover to West Wendover, the trucks will go slow as they tackle the incline. Give them space and be patient. They are just doing their jobs and trying to be as efficient as possible. Never tailgate or cut off a semi-truck.
- I can’t tell you how many drunk driving crashes I’ve read about in West Wendover researching this story. There’s no reason to drive drunk in a town this small. Rides are available, and if nothing else, get a room at the nearest hotel. The 24-hour service of casinos can make it easy to lose track of time and drinks, plus the drinks are free to gamblers.
- If you plan to gamble, set a budget. The endorphin rush of winning can create an addiction called “chasing the win,” where people are trying to throw more money at losses to win everything back. Those neon lights and large buildings weren’t built on winners, as we like to say in Nevada. Casinos have plenty of “Know Your Limits” brochures and hotlines around the casinos.
So... How Safe Is West Wendover Really?
West Wendover is a safe city, even when you look at the crime number compared to the population.
That’s how the FBI releases crime data “per 100,000 people” to have consistency across cities of all sizes.
However, when you add in the thousands of drivers who pass through this city each day, the rates go even lower.
There’s potential for crime here, as the city has all the amenities of a Las Vegas-type town—24-hour casinos, strip clubs, and dive bars.
Just because it’s in a remote area and has low crime rates doesn’t mean you should ever let your guard down.
Violent crime has been cut in half since 2020 and 2018, the two years in the past five with the highest incidents reported.
Here’s another look at how important context is with crime rates—burglary was up 44% in West Wendover in 2021.
In reality, it went from nine to 13 reports.
While all those numbers are accurate, it helps to know both sides of the equation.
On that note, theft was up 13%, with 20% of those coming from car break-ins or accessory thefts.
I’m honestly surprised car theft rates aren’t higher here with so much interstate activity, but just 10 have been reported on average over the past five years.
Even with the tourism industry and locals dedicated to keeping visitors happy, you can’t account for the people who will travel through.
That’s why good situational awareness, common sense, and standard safety steps will go a long way here.
How Does West Wendover Compare?
|Sao Paulo (Brazil)||45|
|Rio de Janeiro (Brazil)||43|
|Siem Reap (Cambodia)||63|
|Phnom Penh (Cambodia)||61|
|Niagara Falls (Canada)||87|
International visitors will need a passport and visa to get into the country. Some countries are eligible for the Visa Waiver program, but you'll need to check the U.S. State Department website to see if you're able to apply for that. You can travel between all states without having to go through processing.
The U.S. Dollar is the only currency allowed here, and you can bet the casinos have figured out a way to exchange anything you need. Be prepared to pay higher fees for that. Your best currency exchange option comes from your home bank, where they will lower the fees and have more time to prepare for your specific denomination needs.
West Wendover is a four-season place, so plan accordingly. The humidity is low, which allows for more fabrics that won't get sweat-soaked. Casinos can be cold, so bring a jacket or sweater even in summer. Comfortable shoes and sunscreen are helpful.
Elko Regional Airport is 90 minutes away with service from Delta. Please remember Elko and West Wendover are in different time zones, so plan accordingly. The Salt Lake City airport is just a slightly longer drive while offering a much larger number of flights and connections.
Comprehensive travel insurance that covers your flights, belongings, and road trip is the best option. You should have accident insurance if your health coverage isn't valid in the United States.
West Wendover Weather Averages (Temperatures)
Average High/Low Temperature
|Temperature / Month||Jan||Feb||Mar||Apr||May||Jun||Jul||Aug||Sep||Oct||Nov||Dec|
Nevada - Safety by City
|Burning Man in Black Rock City||70|
|North Las Vegas||54|