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Is Baja California Safe? Travel Advisory 2023

Baja California is a relatively safe part of Mexico for visitors, especially if you’re careful about where you go. Rosarita, Ensenada, and the Guadalupe Valley are low-risk, tourist-friendly areas.

However, the U.S. State Department has issued an advisory for the state: “Level 3 – Reconsider Travel.” If you do go there, you need to exercise caution, whatever part of the state you visit.

Suggested: Is Cabo San Lucas safe? Travel Advisory 2023

Types of Dangers in Baja California

Petty crime is the most likely threat to American tourists. This includes pickpocketing, mugging, and break-ins.

Cartels are active in Baja California, particularly near the border. Their main businesses are human trafficking and the drug trade, and they don’t normally target tourists. Still, it’s prudent to avoid areas where cartels operate. There’s a chance, albeit small, of getting caught in the crossfire.

Furthermore, while robbing tourists isn’t their main line of work, there’s no guarantee that they won’t.

Kidnapping is another cartel specialty. They mostly target Mexican nationals and people with money, so the danger to the average tourist is minimal.

Many tourists drive in Mexico without incident. However, driving entails risks you should know about. The biggest danger is other drivers. Many Mexican drivers speed, ignore traffic laws, and drive drunk.

Furthermore, roads are in generally poor shape, and potholes are common. In some areas, cartels may set up roadblocks and extort money in exchange for the privilege of passing unharmed.

Police may not be of any help, and some are corrupt. They may demand bribes for traffic violations, real or invented. Sometimes bad actors pose as police. Always ask for an ID. If you do pay a fine, do so on the government traffic fine website, Multas do Transito.

Natural disasters are another risk, albeit a small one. There are earthquakes, mostly low-level and low-magnitude, but severe quakes occur occasionally. Also, Zika and other communicable diseases can be a threat.

Places to avoid/reconsider visiting in Baja California

Many tourists like to visit strip clubs or hire prostitutes in the red-light districts. These places aren’t safe, especially the Zona Norte – “North Zone” – in Tijuana.

These areas abound in thieves, both pickpockets and violent robbers. Sometimes prostitutes drug and rob their clients.

The city center in Tijuana, Zona Centro, is reasonably safe during daylight hours, but it’s best avoided at night.

Cartel activity takes place mainly in areas that tourists don’t frequent. However, cartels are active near the border. Stay away from border areas outside of the official crossing.

Tijuana is a diverse city with a lot to offer. However, navigating the city requires more caution than in some other parts of Baja California.

Safe places to visit in Baja California

Rosarito, Baja California

For ocean lovers, Rosarito is a relatively safe town with lovely beaches. Ensenada is a nice waterside community with interesting nightlife.

In any place like this, the safest areas are the “touristy” ones. Avoid isolated beaches and the outskirts of towns, which tend to be sketchier.

Stay in secure hotels or hostels or reputable Airbnb.

Some of these towns have red-light districts which are enticing but dangerous.

Suggested: Safest Cities to Visit in Mexico

If you do go to Baja California

As on any vacation, follow this basic safety checklist:

  • Give a family member or friend your itinerary. If you change plans, let them know.
  • Check the State Department’s most current travel advisory. Refer to the CDC website for warnings about hurricanes or infectious outbreaks.
  • Stay in safe hotels or BNBs and spend your time in safe neighborhoods where there are other tourists.
  • Keep a low profile and don’t flash money or valuables. It helps to learn a little Spanish.
  • Photocopy your passport and keep the copy with you.

With reasonable caution, there’s every reason to believe your trip to Baja California will be an untroubled one. Enjoy your travels!

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