A passport is required to enter the United States from Juárez. Juárez is part of Mexico's zona frontera, and no visa or passport is required to enter from the United States. Pedestrians are rarely stopped or asked for identification. Vehicles may be stopped at random: usually indicated by a red light at the border crossing. Your vehicle may be searched if stopped, and the most serious matter is to carry a firearm or ammunition without a permit to do so: even one spent shell casing may result in serious charges.
Highways exiting Juárez have checkpoints that do require foreigners to present a visa. If you do not have one, you may fill out a tourist card at the checkpoint.
Near the Stanton Street bridge in downtown El Paso, most visitors that come for a single day choose to park on the US side of the border and walk across the bridges as to avoid dealing with traffic, lack of parking in the city center, and long waits for vehicles reentering the United States. Parking is generally $3.00 U.S. near the bridges.
Abraham González Airport (IATA: CJS, ICAO: MMCS) offers flights to several destinations in Mexico, including Chihuahua, Monterrey, and Mexico City. El Paso International Airport (IATA: ELP) is the most convenient airport for U.S. travelers .
Juarez is a large Mexican city located in the middle of the Chihuahuan Desert. While you are in Mexico, you are nowhere near the tropical Mexico with beautiful beaches and Aztec and Mayan culture many people expect. Juarez is home to the Mexican vaquero (cowboy) culture and you will be more likely to encounter people resembling cowboys than any other vision of a Mexican one might have. However, Juarez is rich in the northern culture of Mexico, and most travelers will find this more charming and realistic than the culture they experience at many other locales that are not off the beaten path in Mexico.
However, special attention must be paid to criminal activity in Juarez, as well as the city and state of Chihuahua in general; there have been recent revelations of police corruption in the area, some incidents quite violent in nature as they pertain to the border area's prevalence in illegal drug and/or human trafficking. Also, visitors, especially females, should be aware of the sexual violence/murder rate amongst the female populace; since 1993, perhaps earlier, hundreds of women, most of them underpaid workers at sweatshops known as "maquildoras," have been killed by persons unknown, their bodies found beaten, raped, tortured and murdered in and around Juarez. As most of the victims are local women, deemed by their killers and indeed quite often by those investigating their deaths to be disposable.
Foreign visitors should not have much to worry about as long as they follow common sense; if you avoid venturing out alone into suspicious areas of town, particularly after dark, making obvious your personal wealth to strangers, and staying well clear of any illegal activity, particularly involving drug purchase/smuggling, you should be fine. Just remember that Mexican police are notoriously lacking in concern for those whose activities are considered "high-risk." The US Border Patrol can also be quite mercurial about these matters, and neither American nor Mexican prisons are very enticing places to spend one's vacation.
Juárez experienced over 1600 murders in 2008, 2700 in 2009, and 3100 in 2010 (out of a population of 1,500,000). While many of the victims have been connected with drug trafficking, the random nature of this violence requires precaution.
There is a public bus system in Juarez; however, it is not very easy to use and is often overlooked by tourists. In general, buses have their final destination on a board in the front window. They make frequent stops, and often run in close succession to one another; if you miss a bus, another of the same route is likely to appear in a matter of minutes. Many routes continue to run overnight: exercise extreme caution on buses at night and buses that go into poorly policed barrios of the city (especially to the west and south). In recent weeks, buses have been targeted in attacks, mainly aimed to collect protection money for route operators.
Taxis are abundant and inexpensive, but always ask for the ride fee and if possible ask two different drivers to get the best fare. Taxis are not metered, and initial fares may be given based on one's perceived ability to pay (a tourist or wealthier Mexican may be quoted a higher fare). However, most sites of touristic interest in Juarez can be reached by walking in the historic center. Upon arrival in Juarez, it is likely that most foreigners will received by a plethora of taxi drivers offering to drive them to the market. While the market cannot be seen from the border crossing, it is a relatively short walk: after crossing the Santa Fe street bridge, walk down Avenida Juarez to 16 de Septiembre, turn left and then walk about seven blocks (street blocks are much smaller in Juarez than in neighboring El Paso).
Driving in Juárez, while less chaotic than in Mexico City, is not recommended for a casual visitor. While the lack of high-speed freeways means many accidents that happen in the central parts of the city are relatively minor, fender benders in Mexico may involve frustrating red tape. If you do drive in Juárez, make sure you have Mexican automobile insurance as not having Mexican insurance may result in criminal charges and a visit to jail.
Most larger businesses have parking lots with attendants that will ask for a nominal fee ($0.25 US, or two to three pesos). Watch where you park; cars that are illegally parked on streets may have their license plates removed by a transit cop. The idea is to ensure you will pay the fine before leaving the country (and your plates should be returned after doing so). If this happens to you, the ticket should indicate where to pay your fine, should you chose to do so (you should be able to re-enter the United States in any event, but you may face some added complications with a missing plate).
Juarez is unlike many border towns in that it is a major city with over a million inhabitants. However, most foreign tourists will still enjoy the same elements of stereotypical Mexican culture that they do in other border towns such as Nogales, Tijuana, and Nuevo Laredo.
Typical Mexican souvenirs such as blankets, pottery, and trinkets themed in Mexican culture.
Make sure to haggle as it will be expected. If you act disinterested, or begin to walk away, you should get quoted a lower price. The merchants speak English and are constantly encountering Americans so you will not seem very foreign to them if you are not Mexican yourself. Goods may range from kitschy trinkets to high quality artesan-made glassware, pottery, jewelry, leather goods, and woven cloth. Most markets also have good food and drink, and musical entertainment.
If one cannot live without US-style retail, Juarez has many shopping areas featuring familiar retailers such as Home Depot, Sears and Wal-Mart. Most US (and even some Canadian) banks have branches in Juarez as well.
Don't forget the "burritos."
Be aware that you can't drink in public places or in the street, ask before.
Juarez has its fair share of local and international hotels. However, many travellers will find it easier, and much safer, to spend the night across the Rio in El Paso, as it is a large American city with all the usual American services.
The situation in the state of Chihuahua, specifically Ciudad Juarez, is of special concern. Ciudad Juarez has the highest murder rate in Mexico. Mexican authorities report that more than 3,100 people were killed in Ciudad Juarez in 2010. Three persons associated with the Consulate General were murdered in March, 2010. You should defer non-essential travel to Ciudad Juarez and to the Guadalupe Bravo area southeast of Ciudad Juarez. U.S. citizens should also defer non-essential travel to the northwest quarter of the state of Chihuahua. From the United States, these areas are often reached through the Columbus, NM, and Fabens and Fort Hancock, TX, ports-of-entry. In both areas, U.S. citizens have been victims of narcotics-related violence. There have been incidents of narcotics-related violence in the vicinity of the Copper Canyon in Chihuahua. A recent series of muggings near the US Consulate General in Ciudad Juarez targeted applicants for US visas. Visa and other service seekers visiting the Consulate are encouraged to make arrangements to pay for those services using a cashless method.
Though authorities in both Juárez and El Paso have tried to curb underage drinking, the downtown districts fill with intoxicated club and bar patrons at night, many of these patrons are under 21 and sometimes under 18. A drunken fight or barroom confrontation can escalate into serious violence, so be careful. High-end clubs will very openly discriminate against anyone who looks like "trouble" (shaved heads, tattoos, gang clothing, or even a working class appearance), and despite this type of profiling, these venues cannot guarantee your safety as well.
At times, there will be suspicious activity in high-end clubs and bars. If you see this going on turn the other way. Also keep in mind, in traditional Mexican bars or cantinas, unaccompanied women may be seen as "fair game" or may even be rather unwelcome: bars known as "ladies bars" are more accepting and tolerant of female patrons.
While sampling Mexican beer and tequila is highly recommended for a tourist, it is probably wise to avoid heavy drinking in an unfamiliar border city. It is also best to keep a close watch on drinks in nightclubs, as they may be laced with date rape drugs by strangers, in order to initiate a robbery.
Currently, Juárez is being patrolled by the Mexican army, in an attempt to crack down on crime. Mexican military personnel are generally professional (in comparison to the police), if intimidating with their automatic weapons.
Stop at any checkpoints. Driving through a checkpoint may result in gunfire. Juarez municipal police are to be avoided, as most are tied to criminal gangs and engage in extortion, kidnapping, rape and contract murder. Federal police are perhaps just as corrupt, but are less likely to engage in "petty" crime directed at tourists. If you are in danger, actual military personnel are the best option.
Juarez is notorious for police setting up traps to pull over motorists or, sometimes, question people leaving bars and clubs. This is done so "mordidas" or bribes are offered. While bribes are widespread, a $20 bill will may not get you out of any situation (especially with military agents). Most police officers will at least go through the formality of writing a ticket, asking questions, or writing a report before any "arrangement" takes place.
If for some unfortunate reason you are eyewitness to public violence and/or shootouts (many in Juarez have been), immediately follow what everyone around you is doing. The people of Juarez have the routine down to a tee and it will behoove you to follow everyone else. If alone, look for cover under cars, in alleways, garbage cans, wherever. Do not knock on a random house or business; many of these lock their doors during fire exchanges and open for no one. DO NOT RECORD OR PHOTOGRAPH any violence or any suspicious behavior. Sicarios, or hitmen, have absolutely no scruples and won't hesitate to assassinate any person they suspect of playing for the other side.
One serious word of caution. Do not be caught with any type of weapon in Mexico. This can include a small pocket knife, or even ammunition or bullet casings. American motorists have been jailed for driving into Mexico with spent ammunition casings in their car trunk.
Recently, the situation has changed dramatically in Ciudad Juarez. According to the police, murders have been dropping alongside with crime since the police has started patrolling the streets again. In fact, a BBC reporter went on one patrol night and was mainly routine work, no drug-related murders. However, this does not mean you should feel completely safe. Continue to travel with caution, and expect the unexpected at any time.