Crime In Mexico: Is Baja Safe For Travelers?
Most observers agree that southern Baja, including Cabo San Lucas is generally regarded as safe. But in an effort to help readers decide if northern Baja is safe to visit, I reached out to two writers with extensive experience there. Nikki Goth Itoi is the author of the indispensable Moon Guide to Baja, the guidebook you want to pick up if you are considering a visit to Baja. And Carla White, a resident of the Ensenada vicinity for ten years, is the editor of Baja.com , a terrific resource for anyone planning a visit to the region.
Nikki Goth Itoi, author of the Moon Guide to Baja
Q: Mexico has gotten a lot of negative publicity due to the narco-violence there. How has that impacted Baja?
Tijuana is a much more interesting place now for visitors because it's become a city for locals. All the tourism dried up, so now it's a local scene. There are galleries, cafés, artsy places that don't just cater to people from San Diego popping over for the night. It's not as Americanized.
Q: What safety tips do you have for visitors to Baja?
In terms of safety, all the basics apply. Be careful where you go. Don't go out late at night. Don't go to the red light districts. Be as inconspicuous as possible. Stay in well-lit places and don't drive at night. It comes down to common sense in traveling to a foreign country. There's going to be petty crime and that kind of stuff happens.
Q: You have two young boys, ages 6 and 4, would you hesitate to take them to northern Baja right now?
No, I wouldn't at all. I'm planning that trip right now.
Some would call you crazy, right?
People have this sense that Mexico is to be avoided, period. Rosarito is a ghost town. But those who live down there think there's a comeback in the making in northern Baja and it's centered on food and wine.
People have to do what they are comfortable with. If you're worried about safety and headlines you saw in the news, you're not going to have a good time. I don't try to win people over.
Crime in Mexico is covered in the U.S. media more than crime in U.S. cities is. If you look at crime data for major U.S. cities, the numbers are lower in Baja. If they're not comfortable, some are better off staying in San Diego, but Baja has a lot to offer.
The people are very warm. The hospitality is wonderful. Between the eco travel opportunities and the food, wine and cultural opportunities, there's a lot to discover in Baja. So if you are intimidated by Tijuana, go east and use one of the quieter border crossings. You can also go in a caravan - with a group, there's always safety in numbers.
Q: You spent time traveling alone and also with your kids researching the book in Baja. Did you ever have any safety issues?
I've never had any issues whatsoever. We've been pulled over for questionable reasons in Tijuana, but it's always been fine.
Carla White, editor of Baja.com
Q: You've lived just outside Ensenada for ten years. Is Northern Baja safe?
We are very aware of the articles that come out about safety in Mexico and we roll our eyes. We watch the San Diego news down here and we look at the U.S. and go 'wow,' the crime that goes on up there is so random. I have friends and relatives in L.A. and Orange County who won't come down here because they're afraid. It's difficult to explain to them that we find it safe here. They think we're crazy.
Q: Have you ever been robbed or had any other safety issues there?
I had an ATM issue in Rosarito a couple years ago. Someone tried to grab my card. I was robbed. I went to the police and they were very responsive, in fact, the Rosarito government was very responsive as well. But this same kind of thing happens in the U.S.