Is Baja California Safe?
Let’s review some Baja safety tips. The most rewarding way to experience Baja is by driving and living out an incredible adventure. If you are driving to Baja from California, we recommend using the Tijuana border crossing map. We do not recommend taking the Otay Mesa border crossing because you’ll experience quite a bit of traffic.
Is Baja really safe? This is a very good question and it is certainly warranted by these unprecedented times that we are living in.
To put it simply, Baja is much safer than Mexico and parts of the United States. In fact, many people believe that Baja is much safer than many major cities in the US. However, like with any other place in the world, there are places in Baja that should be avoided and there are places that are also much safer than others.
First, there are many real problems that exist in Baja that the Mexican government is doing its best to combat. Almost all of these problems are caused or related to drug use in the United States.
Example: If you were traveling to California, from anywhere in the U.S. would you avoid the whole state because of the constant news reports about the violent crime and brutal murders that happen daily in South Central Los Angeles?….Answer: NO! Would you avoid Los Angeles?….Answer: NO!
The northern part of Baja should be avoided. Places such as Tijuana experience lots of criminal activity from drug cartels to gang violence. The Mexican government has cracked down on criminal activity in the area, however, it is still a dangerous place and you should exercise caution.
Other areas to avoid are Tecate and Mexicali. These border cities are known for major problems and we recommend staying away from border cities when you can. Gang violence and drug cartels are serious issues in northern Baja. Staying away from cities known to have gang violence and drug activity is recommended and encouraged. Be sure to research the place you’re visiting to update yourself on the safety of the area.
Southern Baja is known to be the safest place in all of México. There have been no major problems, attributed to the drug war, in any area of Southern Baja.
While visiting Baja, you should always be ready for anything. Some general rules of thumb are to keep all your belongings in a secure place. Leaving valuables in cars or in the open will almost always result in the loss of those items. When out and about, make sure to never leave your things unattended. Pickpockets are common and may sometimes carry weapons. It’s important that you always keep your eyes peeled and your belongings secured.
Additionally, never go anywhere alone and stick to well-lit areas. While some places may be safer than others, there is always a risk of crime. Ask the locals about safe places to visit and places to avoid. Drink conservatively as you will need to be able to navigate back to your lodgings after. Be careful if you are offered a free drink as there have been reported cases of these drinks being spiked or poisoned.
There is also the risk of running into scam services such as scam taxis or fake policemen. When in need of a taxi, have your hotel or restaurant call a taxi for you. When the taxi arrives, make sure that the driver has a driving license and that it looks safe (taxi drivers will usually display their license on the window or seat and will usually wear a uniform). Always try to use licensed taxis or your own car when traveling, especially after dark.
Be wary of fake police officers as well. Often, these individuals will ask you to pay a fine or return to the station with them. If you believe that a false officer has approached you, call 9-1-1 or 1-1-2 immediately for emergency services.
Some safe places we recommend visiting are San Felipe (great fishing!), Loreto, and Ensenada.
If you are driving to Baja from anywhere east of California, we suggest you drive, at least, to Yuma, AZ on Interstate 8, before crossing the border. You can also cross just west of Yuma, at Andrade, CA (not recommended), or drive even farther west to Calexico where there are two border crossings. If you are driving to Baja, from California, we highly recommend that you use our Tijuana border crossing map. Remember that recent U.S. laws require you to have a passport to re-enter the U.S.
If you plan on flying to Baja, there is no need to change your plans. The Los Cabos Airport and the La Paz Airport are well connected to American and Canadian Airlines. Once you’ve arrived, make sure to use common sense. Stay low-key and remain polite.
Baja Safety Driving Tips
DRIVING PRECAUTIONS: Fill up with gas, get some pesos, and purchase your Mexican Car Insurance (this is a must) before you enter México, either online or from one of the many outlets on the U.S. side of the border. Cross the border as early in the morning as possible and do it with a full tank of gas. Do not forget to get your (FMM) Immigration form, if you are planning on driving south of Ensenada or San Felipe on the eastern coast.
Travel in groups or caravans, if possible. Look for others, when you are stopped, that may be driving south, and try to arrange a small caravan. Get as far south as possible before stopping for the night.
After you cross the border, try to drive to San Quintín, El Rosario, Cataviña, or even Guerrero Negro for your first overnight stop. We often drive as far south as San Ignacio. Then, for your second day, you may plan a more leisurely pace. Enjoy your drive, take in the beautiful scenery, and enjoy the abundant pleasures that Baja has to offer.
COVID Baja Safety Info
COVID-19 has changed the world, and it has certainly changed the way we travel. Traveling to Baja in these strange times has certainly changed as well. If you are entering Baja from the United States, Mexico has maintained its borders open through air travel to North American visitors with no need to quarantine. This means that you don’t need to quarantine if you are traveling to Baja.
In order to travel to or back into the United States by air, you will need to take a negative viral COVID test no more than 3 days before you fly. This only applies to those going to Baja by air. More information about traveling to Mexico and Baja with COVID can be found here. The vaccine is not mandatory to travel in Baja/Mexico. Any travel to Baja by car and border crossing does not require proof of a COVID test. Travel requirements may vary per state, so be sure to look up your state’s travel requirements for more specific information.
COVID cases in Baja Mexico are surprisingly low. As of June 2021, there have only been 48,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19; 44,000 of those cases recovering quickly. In addition to this, there are over 60,000 negative cases in Baja California. Of all these cases, there are only 400 or so active cases. In short, Baja California is much more COVID-safe than other places!
In Mexico and Baja, it is recommended that you continue to practice social distancing and wear your mask when in crowded public spaces. Due to high civilian traffic, the US Government advises that any unvaccinated persons not travel to Mexico unless it’s for an essential reason.
Additionally, the CDC recommends that you be fully vaccinated before traveling to Baja, however, it’s not required. The CDC has designated that the COVID risk in Mexico/Baja is level three, or “high.” After returning or arriving in Baja, it is suggested that you get another COVID test to ensure that you didn’t pick up the virus on your trip.
2023 Baja Travel Advisory Update
According to the U.S. State Department, Baja California is a **Level 3 – Reconsider Travel** destination due to an increased risk of crime and kidnapping¹. However, some areas like Rosarita, Ensenada, and the Guadalupe Valley are relatively safe for visitors¹. If you do decide to travel to Baja California, you should exercise caution and avoid remote locations, travel during daylight hours, and stay on highways¹.
(1) Mexico Travel Advisory. https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/traveladvisories/traveladvisories/mexico-travel-advisory.html.