Is Albuquerque Safe? According to Researched Travelers

Discover the real safety landscape of Duke City, where vibrant culture meets urban challenges, through the eyes of seasoned explorers.

West Parker
West Parker
July 18, 2024

"Is Albuquerque safe?" It's a loaded question that often gets polarizing responses. Our parents would probably say no, imagining us getting caught up in some "Breaking Bad" style drug cartel drama. Ask the TripAdvisor community, and you'll get a mixed bag of opinions. Some say it's perfectly fine if you're street smart, while others warn of sketchy areas. So, what's the real deal? Is the Duke City a safe haven for travelers or a risky destination?

My wife Sarah and I spent a week in Albuquerque as first-time visitors, and boy, did we have some experiences to share! We're going to spill the beans on how we sussed out Albuquerque's safety situation and give you the lowdown on our honest-to-goodness experiences during our stay.

Now, full disclosure: we're not exactly spring chickens (though I'd like to think we're still "29" forever, wink wink). As a middle-aged couple from Florida, recently hitched and working remotely while globetrotting, we've got a unique perspective to offer. We're all about finding those win-win situations – staying safe while uncovering the best local eats and experiences. So, whether you're a solo traveler, a couple, or a family, we've got insights to help you navigate Albuquerque like a pro.

Ready to dive into the Land of Enchantment? Let's break down how we determined if Albuquerque felt safe for us and share our unfiltered week-long adventure in this desert gem.

3 Safety Factors to Consider

Before we packed our bags and headed to the high desert, we did our homework. Here's our three-step safety check that helped us get a feel for Albuquerque's situation:

01 - State Department Travel Advisory

First things first, we always check the U.S. Department of State travel advisory. It's like a safety report card for destinations, ranging from Level 1 (exercise normal precautions) to Level 4 (do not travel).

Now, here's the kicker – Albuquerque doesn't have its own specific rating. It falls under the general advisory for the United States, which is currently at Level 2 (exercise increased caution) due to COVID-19. But don't let that fool you into thinking it's all sunshine and rainbows.

We dug deeper and found that while New Mexico as a whole isn't singled out, there are some areas near the U.S.-Mexico border that carry a Level 3 (reconsider travel) advisory. Albuquerque, being smack dab in the middle of the state, doesn't fall into this category.

So, what does this mean for Albuquerque? Well, it's a bit of a mixed bag. While it's not red-flagged by the State Department, the lack of a specific advisory means we needed to look at other sources to get a clearer picture.

State Department Check: CAUTION (due to lack of specific information)

02 - Latest News

Next up, we dove into the recent news about Albuquerque. This is where things got interesting, folks.

On the positive side, we found out that property crimes in Albuquerque have decreased by 40% over the past six years. That's a pretty significant drop! It seems like the city has been making some real efforts to tackle this issue.

However, it wasn't all good news. We also learned that there's been a significant increase in crimes against society, with a 136% rise from 2018 to 2023. This category includes things like drug offenses and weapons law violations. Yikes!

But here's a silver lining – the city has recently opened a new headquarters for its Community Safety Department. This department focuses on addressing issues like homelessness, addiction, and mental health crises without involving law enforcement. It's an innovative approach that caught our attention.

We also found out that New Mexico has implemented some new gun safety laws, including a 7-day waiting period for firearm purchases. While this might not directly impact tourists, it does show that the state is taking steps to address safety concerns.

Latest News Check: CAUTION (mixed developments)

03 - Community Forums

Last but not least, we turned to the wisdom of the crowds. We scoured TripAdvisor forums and Reddit threads to get a feel for what other travelers were saying about safety in Albuquerque.

The opinions were as varied as the flavors in a bowl of green chile stew (more on that deliciousness later!). Some travelers reported feeling completely safe, while others advised caution, especially in certain areas after dark.

One Reddit user said, "I've never felt any more or any less safe in ABQ than I have in any other city I've lived in or traveled to." Another chimed in with, "ABQ is safe unless you're already involved in crime. Period. Violent crime rarely, rarely happens to random people here."

On TripAdvisor, we found similar mixed opinions. Many tourists reported positive experiences, especially in popular areas like Old Town. However, there were also warnings about car break-ins and advice to be cautious at night.

What stood out to us was the consistent advice to use common sense, be aware of your surroundings, and avoid certain areas after dark. This isn't too different from what we'd do in any unfamiliar city, so it felt manageable.

Community Forum Check: PASS (with awareness)

First Hand Experience in Albuquerque

Alright, now for the juicy part – our boots-on-the-ground experience in the Duke City. We spent a week exploring different neighborhoods, sampling local cuisine (hello, green chile everything!), and getting a feel for the city's vibe. Here's our neighborhood-by-neighborhood breakdown:

01 - Old Town

Tourists exploring historic adobe buildings in Old Town Albuquerque, highlighting the area's cultural charm
Old Town's adobe architecture and narrow streets transported us back in time. The area felt safe and welcoming, even as night fell.

Old Town is the historical heart of Albuquerque, and let me tell you, it's got charm in spades. Think adobe buildings, quaint plazas, and enough turquoise jewelry to make your head spin.

We spent our first day here, and I've got to say, we felt pretty safe. The area was bustling with tourists and locals alike, and there was a visible police presence that was reassuring without being overwhelming.

We enjoyed wandering through the San Felipe de Neri Church, which has been standing since 1793 (talk about old!). The Church Street Cafe was our go-to spot for authentic New Mexican cuisine – their sopapillas are to die for!

As night fell, the area took on a magical quality with twinkling lights and the sound of live music drifting from restaurants. We did notice fewer people around after dark, but it never felt unsafe.

Is Old Town Safe? YES

02 - Downtown

Pedestrians near the historic KiMo Theatre in downtown Albuquerque, showcasing the area's unique architecture
Downtown Albuquerque's mix of historic and modern buildings fascinated us. We felt safe during the day but opted for Uber at night.

Downtown Albuquerque was a bit of a mixed bag for us. During the day, it was alive with the hustle and bustle of business folks and locals going about their day. We felt perfectly comfortable exploring the area and checking out some of the local shops and cafes.

We had a great time at the Albuquerque Museum, learning about the city's rich history and art scene. The KiMo Theatre, with its unique Pueblo Deco architecture, was another highlight.

However, as night fell, the vibe changed a bit. The streets emptied out, and we did spot a few individuals who seemed to be struggling with homelessness or substance abuse issues. While we didn't experience any direct safety concerns, we decided to play it safe and Uber back to our hotel rather than walk.

Is Downtown Safe? YES, but exercise caution at night

03 - Nob Hill

Lively street scene of outdoor dining on Central Avenue in Nob Hill, Albuquerque, showcasing the area's vibrant nightlife
Nob Hill came alive at night with locals and tourists enjoying the eclectic mix of restaurants and bars. The bustling atmosphere made us feel secure.

Nob Hill quickly became our favorite neighborhood in Albuquerque. This hip area along Central Avenue (part of the historic Route 66) is packed with cool boutiques, trendy restaurants, and a vibrant nightlife scene.

During the day, we felt completely at ease strolling along the sidewalks, popping into quirky shops, and people-watching from cafe patios. The area has a young, energetic vibe thanks to its proximity to the University of New Mexico.

We had an amazing dinner at Frontier Restaurant, a local institution known for its green chile cheeseburgers and sweet rolls. The place was packed even late into the evening, which added to the sense of safety.

At night, Nob Hill comes alive with bars and live music venues. We did notice an increased police presence, especially on weekends, which was reassuring. While we stayed alert as we would in any urban area at night, we never felt unsafe.

Is Nob Hill Safe? YES

04 - Uptown

Shoppers at the ABQ Uptown outdoor mall, highlighting the area's modern and secure shopping experience
Uptown's sleek outdoor mall felt worlds apart from Old Town. The area's visible security made for a relaxed shopping experience.

Uptown is Albuquerque's modern face – think shiny office buildings, upscale hotels, and the massive ABQ Uptown outdoor shopping center. This area feels a world away from the adobe charm of Old Town, but it has its own appeal.

We spent an afternoon here, mostly window shopping and people-watching. The area felt very safe, with plenty of security visible in the shopping areas. It's clearly designed with visitors in mind, and we saw lots of families and tourists enjoying the facilities.

We treated ourselves to a fancy dinner at Seasons 52, and even walking back to our Uber pickup point after dark felt completely safe. The well-lit streets and constant flow of people contributed to a sense of security.

Is Uptown Safe? YES

05 - International District

Now, here's where things get a bit tricky. The International District, formerly known as the "War Zone" (yep, you read that right), has a reputation for being one of the more challenging areas in Albuquerque.

We'll be honest – we didn't spend much time here. Based on advice from locals and our own research, we decided to limit our exploration of this area. During a daytime drive-through, we noticed that while there were some vibrant pockets with interesting international markets and restaurants, there were also visible signs of economic struggle.

If you're a foodie like us, there are some gems here worth checking out, but we'd recommend visiting during daylight hours and staying aware of your surroundings. Maybe consider a guided food tour if you want to explore the area's culinary offerings safely.

Is the International District Safe? EXERCISE CAUTION

06 - North Valley

Visitors enjoying wine tasting at a North Valley winery in Albuquerque, showcasing the area's rural charm
The North Valley surprised us with its scenic wineries. We felt safe and relaxed while sipping local wines at Gruet Winery.

The North Valley offers a completely different vibe from central Albuquerque. This more rural area is known for its farmland, wineries, and the beautiful Rio Grande bosque (that's a fancy word for a cottonwood forest along the river).

We spent a lovely afternoon here, starting with a visit to the ABQ BioPark Botanic Garden. The lush greenery and peaceful atmosphere were a welcome change from the urban environment.

Later, we ventured to one of the local wineries, Gruet, for some wine tasting. The experience felt safe and relaxed, with friendly staff and fellow visitors creating a welcoming atmosphere.

As the sun set, the area did get quite dark due to fewer streetlights than in the city center. While we didn't feel unsafe, we were glad we had decided to Uber rather than drive ourselves after the wine tasting.

Is North Valley Safe? YES, but be prepared for rural conditions

07 - University Area

Students walking on the University of New Mexico campus, highlighting the area's youthful and academic atmosphere
The UNM campus bustled with energy during the day. We enjoyed the Pueblo Revival architecture and friendly vibe.

The area around the University of New Mexico has that classic college town feel – lots of young people, cheap eats, and a generally lively atmosphere. We spent an afternoon exploring the campus and the surrounding neighborhoods.

During the day, we felt completely at ease. The campus itself is beautiful, with some stunning examples of Pueblo Revival architecture. We enjoyed browsing the bookstores and grabbing coffee at Winning Coffee Co., a local favorite.

As evening approached, the area got busier with students heading to restaurants and bars. While it felt generally safe, we did notice some aggressive panhandling near the intersection of Central and Harvard, which made us a bit uncomfortable.

Is the University Area Safe? YES, but stay alert, especially at night

Albuquerque by Foot

One of our favorite ways to explore a new city is on foot, and Albuquerque was no exception. However, we quickly learned that this is a city where you need to choose your walking routes carefully.

In areas like Old Town, Nob Hill, and Uptown, we felt completely comfortable walking around, even in the evening. The sidewalks were generally in good condition, and there were always other people around.

However, we did have one slightly unnerving experience while trying to find a metro station to buy a transit card for the bike share program. We followed Google Maps into an area that felt less safe, with some makeshift homeless encampments. We quickly turned back and found a different route.

The lesson? Stick to well-traveled areas and trust your instincts. If an area feels unsafe, it's better to change your plans than to push on.

Albuquerque by Uber

We found Uber to be a convenient and generally safe way to get around Albuquerque, especially at night or when traveling to less familiar areas. The service was reliable, and most of our drivers were friendly locals happy to chat about their city.

We used Uber for:

  • Airport transfers
  • Getting back to our hotel after evening outings in Downtown and Nob Hill
  • Visiting more distant attractions like the Sandia Peak Tramway
  • Any time we felt uncomfortable walking, especially after dark

One tip: always check that the license plate matches the one in the app before getting in the car. It's a simple safety precaution that we follow no matter where we are.

Final Thoughts

So, is Albuquerque safe? Like many cities, the answer isn't a simple yes or no. Albuquerque has its challenges, with higher-than-average crime rates compared to other U.S. cities. But it's also a city rich in culture, history, and natural beauty, with many areas that are perfectly safe for tourists.

During our week-long stay, we never experienced any direct safety issues. By staying aware of our surroundings, avoiding certain areas after dark, and using common sense precautions, we were able to enjoy all that Albuquerque has to offer.

Here are our top safety tips for visiting Albuquerque:

  • Research your accommodation's location carefully
  • Stick to well-populated areas, especially at night
  • Use ride-sharing services like Uber for nighttime transportation
  • Don't leave valuables visible in your car
  • Be cautious when using ATMs, especially after dark
  • Stay alert and trust your instincts
  • Enjoy the popular tourist areas

Despite the city's challenges, we found Albuquerque to be a fascinating destination with much to offer. The blend of cultures, the stunning desert landscapes, and yes, the incredible food (green chile on everything, please!) made for an unforgettable trip.

We particularly loved exploring the Old Town area, which felt like stepping back in time. The ABQ BioPark, including the zoo, aquarium, and botanic garden, was another highlight that felt very safe and family-friendly.

For outdoor enthusiasts, the Sandia Peak Tramway offers breathtaking views of the city and surrounding landscape. We felt completely safe during this experience, with well-maintained facilities and attentive staff.

One of our favorite discoveries was the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, which unfortunately wasn't happening during our visit. However, locals raved about it, and from a safety perspective, it seems well-organized with good security measures in place.

It's worth noting that Albuquerque, like many cities, has seen some changes in its safety landscape recently. The city has implemented new initiatives, like the expansion of the Albuquerque Community Safety Department, which aims to address issues like homelessness and mental health crises without involving law enforcement. This innovative approach could potentially improve safety and community relations over time.

When it comes to transportation, we found the city's public transit system, ABQ RIDE, to be generally safe and convenient during the day. However, we opted for Uber for any late-night travel, just to err on the side of caution.

One aspect of safety that surprised us was the altitude. At over 5,000 feet above sea level, Albuquerque's high altitude can affect visitors, especially if you're not used to it. We made sure to stay hydrated and pace ourselves when engaging in physical activities. It's not a direct safety threat, but it's definitely something to be aware of when visiting.

For our fellow foodies out there, you'll be happy to know that exploring Albuquerque's culinary scene felt safe and rewarding. From the iconic Frontier Restaurant near the university to upscale dining in Nob Hill, we never felt uncomfortable while indulging in the local cuisine. Just remember to practice the same caution you would in any city when dining out late at night.

It's also worth mentioning that Albuquerque has a rich Native American and Hispanic heritage, which adds to its unique character. We found that respecting local cultures and customs not only enhanced our experience but also helped us navigate the city more safely. Locals were generally friendly and willing to help when we had questions about safe areas to explore or the best routes to take.

For our LGBTQ+ readers, we observed that Albuquerque seemed to be generally welcoming. The Nob Hill area, in particular, has several LGBTQ+-friendly establishments. As always, it's wise to exercise the same caution you would in any unfamiliar city.

Families traveling with children might want to focus their activities in areas like Old Town, the BioPark, and Explora Science Center and Children's Museum, which are not only educational and fun but also felt very safe during our visits.

Now, let's address the elephant in the room - yes, Albuquerque has been portrayed in popular culture (hello, Breaking Bad!) as a city with a significant crime problem. While it's true that the city faces challenges, our experience was far from the dramatic scenes depicted on TV. Most of the popular tourist areas felt safe, and we didn't encounter any situations that made us seriously uncomfortable.

That said, it's important to stay informed about current events that might affect safety. During our visit, we learned about recent efforts to improve public safety on city buses, which was reassuring for times when we chose to use public transportation.

For those considering a longer stay or even a move to Albuquerque, we chatted with some locals about the safest neighborhoods. The consensus seemed to be that the Northeast Heights area is generally considered one of the safer parts of the city, which aligns with the lower crime rates we found reported for that area.

One tool we found helpful was the ABQ311 app, which allows users to report non-emergency issues to the city. While we didn't need to use it during our stay, it's a good resource to have on hand, especially for longer visits.

In terms of emergency services, it's always good to be prepared. The emergency number in Albuquerque, as in all of the US, is 911. For non-emergency police matters, you can call (505) 242-COPS (2677). We also noted the locations of major hospitals, including Presbyterian Hospital and the University of New Mexico Hospital, just in case.

As remote workers, we were also interested in the safety of working from cafes or co-working spaces. We found several coffee shops in Nob Hill and Downtown where we felt comfortable setting up our laptops for a few hours. Just use the same precautions you would in any city - keep your belongings close and be aware of your surroundings.

Looking back on our week in Albuquerque, we can say that while the city certainly has its rough edges, we felt that with proper precautions, it was a safe and rewarding place to visit. The key, as with any urban destination, is to stay informed, be aware of your surroundings, and use common sense.

Here's a quick recap of our top safety tips for Albuquerque:

  1. Research your accommodation's location thoroughly before booking
  2. Stick to well-lit, populated areas, especially after dark
  3. Use ride-sharing services for nighttime transportation
  4. Don't leave valuables visible in your car
  5. Be cautious when using ATMs, especially at night
  6. Stay alert and trust your instincts
  7. Enjoy popular tourist areas like Old Town and Nob Hill
  8. Stay hydrated and be aware of the effects of high altitude
  9. Respect local cultures and customs
  10. Use the ABQ311 app to report any non-emergency issues

Remember, every traveler's experience is unique, and what felt safe to us might feel different to you. Always trust your instincts and prioritize your personal safety above all else.

Would we visit Albuquerque again? Absolutely! The city's unique blend of cultures, stunning natural beauty, and incredible cuisine more than make up for the extra precautions we needed to take. Just remember to pack your street smarts along with your sunscreen, and you'll be set for an unforgettable adventure in the Land of Enchantment.

About Us

Hey there! We're Tobi and Sarah, a middle-aged couple (though we prefer the term "seasoned travelers") from Florida. We tied the knot recently and decided to combine our love for travel with our careers by working remotely while exploring the world. Our goal? To provide diverse perspectives on safety and share mouth-watering food recommendations for all types of travelers.

Sometimes one of us explores solo while the other works, so we've got insights on safety for both couples and solo travelers. And let's not forget - we're major foodies. We're always game to try everything the local cuisine has to offer, from street food to fine dining.

We believe that with the right information, everyone can travel safer and smarter. Our experiences - both good and, occasionally, not so good - help us provide practical, real-world advice for fellow travelers. We're all about finding those win-win situations: staying safe while uncovering the best local experiences.

So whether you're a solo adventurer, a couple on a romantic getaway, or a family planning your next vacation, we hope our insights help you navigate new destinations with confidence. Remember, the world is full of amazing places waiting to be explored. Stay safe, stay curious, and happy travels!

West Parker
West Parker
Article updated:
July 18, 2024 8:17 AM

West Parker, a Cornell University School of Hotel Administration graduate, has spent two decades as the secret weapon of the jet-set elite, crafting bespoke adventures that redefine luxury travel. Now a resident writer for Town & Tourist, this 45-year-old "Architect of Extraordinary Journeys" combines razor-sharp insights with unparalleled industry connections to deliver experiences that even the most discerning globetrotters can't help but rave about. West's expertise spans from exclusive real estate to fine dining, making him the go-to strategist for those who demand nothing but the extraordinary in their travels.

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