Edited by Brenna Harris on 21-Nov-2023
Baja California is one of Mexico’s largest states, and it’s a big hit among avid travelers thanks to its beautiful beaches, granite mountains, and mesmerizing islands. Surely, this all sounds great on paper, but is Baja California safe?
According to the U.S. State Department, Baja California is safe to travel to, with moderate crime. There are low levels of robberies, carjackings, and hate crimes and a high level of corruption and bribery.
Among the safest cities, Ensenada, Rosarito, and Guadalupe Valley have the lowest crime rates year over year and are some of the most highly touted destinations throughout Baja in their own regard.
Ready to do a deep dive on safety in Baja? This comprehensive guide has everything you need to know to ensure your holiday goes smoothly and everyone gets home safe and sound.
Jump to 👇 – Exploring Baja As A Solo Female Traveler
Here’s What We Cover
Is Baja California Safe?
According to Numbeo.com, Baja California is moderately safe. However, you should still travel with increased caution. In the past three years, crime has been on the rise due to uncertainty among the people and their government.
As a tourist, you’ll most likely encounter petty crimes like theft- if any. That’s assuming you’re not doing things that could get you in trouble, such as breaking the law, making a scene, or hanging out with the wrong people.
If you decide to travel to Baja California, it’s best to go with a group of people and not alone. Also, sticking to towns that are known to be touristy such as Ensenada, Rosarito, San Felipe, and Guadalupe Valley is a great way to ensure high security levels.
What Makes Baja California Safe?
Considering the size of Baja, Mexico, and the population factor, the crime rate is actually relatively low compared to other areas in Mexico. But what is it that makes Baja, Mexico, a safe place?
Baja, Mexico is safe because the people are friendly and welcoming, and the crime, although prevalent, is usually petty.
Moreover, more than 1.9 million tourists travel yearly to Baja California Sur, Mexico. Being home to popular tourist towns such as Cabo and La Paz, you can rest assured knowing police present a strong presence in the touristy areas.
What Are The Most Common Crimes in Baja?
According to Numbeo.com, the most common crimes in Baja are:
- Petty Theft/Pickpocketing
- Drug Crimes
- Car Theft
- Assault/Armed Robbery
What Are The Safest Areas in Baja California?
When it comes to deciding if Baja California is safe, choosing the right destination is key. Below are some of the safest areas you can visit in Baja, Mexico.
If you’re interested in discovering the safest cities across the whole of Mexico, read my other article as well.
San Felipe is a very safe town on the eastern coast of Baja California. This fishing village is home to less than 20,000 citizens and is known to be much calmer than bigger cities within the state, like Rosarito.
San Felipe also has a lot of gorgeous beaches where you can soak up the sun, swim, and of course, fish.
Ensenada, Mexico, is one of the most laidback cities in Baja Mexico, and as a result, this town has lower crime rates. Additionally, police and citizens carry a strong level of trust in each other, ensuring the city remains safe.
Ensenada is a coastal city and also happens to be the third-largest city when it comes to population. You can find local wines, delicious seafood, and a lot of fantastic beaches. As if that’s not enough, the weather there is consistently superb for almost nine months out of the year.
Since Todos Santos is a popular tourist city, local police presence is apparent, and quick to respond to any petty crimes that may occur while visiting. This makes Todos Santos a safe and enjoyable place to visit.
Plus, it’s a hip surf town where you can find some of the most breathtaking views in the entire country. It’s situated on the Sierra de la Laguna Mountains’ foothills and the Pacific coast of the (Baja California) Peninsula. This natural paradise is made of stone streets and uncrowded beaches but it also features a ton of natural beauty and world-class waves.
Overall, the southern part of Baja is known to be the safest place in the entire country. This part of Mexico is not attributed to the drug war and has had no major problems.
In addition to the aforementioned cities, here are some popular tourist destinations with a safe rap:
These are some of the safest areas in all of Mexico and some of the most exciting because they’re the home to acclaimed national parks and amazing caves.
Hiking and camping are generally considered to be quite safe throughout Baja, but it’s highly recommended that you never venture out alone and try to stay close to other outdoorsy groups.
While “safety in numbers” is always a good strategy to employ, this is not just to protect you from wildlife or backroad criminals.
Many of Baja’s remote locations have really poor (or nonexistent) cell and Wi-Fi service. In the event of an emergency, you’ll want other people around to get you some help.
How to Stay Safe in Baja California
Traveling to Baja is not dangerous as long as you come prepared and know what to watch out for. Here are a few tips on how to protect yourself during your travels:
1. Check your country’s recommendations for travel to Baja Mexico
Many countries will put out safety advisories for destinations/cities that will help you understand the current political/crime climate at any given moment. It’s important to remember that the safety situation can change in an instant, so turning to the government for up-to-date information is wise.
That said, especially when it comes to Mexico, these safety concerns can be overblown. Do your homework, read the references they provide, and then you can make an informed decision in combination with articles like the one you’re reading right now.
Seeking a healthy mix of local and international context is the key to being a cautious traveler.
Need help finding resources? Here are a few helpful government advisory links:
2. Follow the laws while driving
Many travelers make the trip to Baja California in their vehicle as it’s right across the border from California. That said, the moment you cross the border, driving conditions and laws change, so make you understand all the requirements to travel to Mexico by car. To get started, these are a few quick things to keep in mind:
- Furthermore, the streets of Baja are littered with potholes and stray dogs, so always be observant while driving and drive during the day if possible.
- Be aware that you need Mexican car insurance to drive in Baja California and surrounding areas. Otherwise, you risk huge legal fees. Plus, many locals don’t have insurance, so if you do get into an accident, at least you’ll be covered. Pro tip: Don’t get just any insurance; it’s best to get affordable yet reputable insurance like Baja Bound, who’s been in business for decades.
Driving to Mexico? You MUST have third-party liability insurance. Ensure you read my guide for more info.
- It’s best to avoid driving at night if possible, as your visibility is reduced, and criminals are generally more active at this time. Cartels have been known to create illegal roadblocks as a way to demand money before allowing you to pass through.
- Also, armed muggings can occur while stopped, especially in crowded cities, so try to limit how often you stop and plan your trip ahead to ensure you’re taking the best routes.
3. Stay vigilant while wandering the streets
When it comes to exploring the cities in Baja, there are a few very simple rules you should follow to increase your safety.
- Never walk alone. Walking around alone is never a good idea, especially in a foreign city. It’s best to travel in a large group, or at least with two other people. Venturing around a city in Baja alone is just inviting trouble. Skip the trouble, don’t walk alone. Simple.
- Avoid exploring Baja at night – Exploring a city at night is not the best idea, as this is when crime is at its highest and you’re most vulnerable. If you do decide to explore at night, go with a group and make sure to bring an extremely bright flashlight and try to stay near the tourist areas as they tend to be safer.
4. Watch out for petty crimes
Thefts, snatch-and-grabs, and pickpocketing happen a lot in Mexico, especially in crowded areas, so try to avoid them. With that being said, be aware of who is around you at all times, don’t leave your personal belongings lying around, and certainly don’t carry all of your money with you.
Use common sense, stay alert, and don’t draw attention to yourself. Avoid wearing fancy jewelry and brand-name clothes, which may draw unwanted attention, ultimately leading the criminals right to you.
There are a also few common tourist scams you’ll want to look out for, especially in the larger cities. For example, people asking you to take their picture/offering to take yours do not always have the best intentions, and if anyone offers you assistance at the ATM, you should politely decline and walk away.
Trust me, at the end of the day, staying vigilant and keeping to yourself should be enough to keep you safe, so there’s no need to panic.
5. Don’t resort to violence
Although petty crime is the most common experience for all visitors, both physical and sexual violence is also at an all-time high. In fact, in recent years, it’s been well documented that Mexico has had a notably high murder rate (with most of the victims being Mexican nationals).
If you’re in a situation where you are being threatened for money or valuables, do not resist and/or fight back.
My aim is not to scare anyone but rather to inform you of the reality. Although, violent crimes should be easily avoidable using common sense.
Here are some key tips to avoid violent crimes:
- Don’t get involved with the wrong people
- Avoid attracting any kind of attention to yourself
- Be respectful and courteous
- Never find yourself in a situation where you are alone
- Don’t buy, sell, or use drugs
6. Don’t get involved with drugs
Most of the violent crimes in Mexico revolve around cartels and drugs. So the equation is simple. Avoid drugs and cartels. Then you avoid violence.
Expect to find yourself in trouble if you consider buying drugs while in Baja, Mexico. If I were you, I would avoid drugs, drug dealers, and any drug-related activities altogether in order to increase your overall safety.
Exploring Baja As A Solo Female Traveler
As we all well know, traveling on your own as a woman comes with its own unique set of challenges and safety concerns. While Baja is considered a safe destination for solo female travelers, you’ll want to take some additional measures to protect yourself.
Here are just a few tips and tricks if this will be your first trip without a companion:
1. Invest in an international phone plan so you can check in with your loved ones
It’s important that someone knows where you are and that you’ve made it back to the hotel safely. You can also share Uber driver information and other tracking info this way in case it’s needed.
2. Be mindful of your social media use
I totally understand the urge to post about your vacation as soon as you set foot on international soil, but giving away your location as a solo female traveler isn’t the wisest course of action. I typically avoid placing any geotags on my content and keeping my location ambiguous if I really can’t wait.
Otherwise, I will avoid sharing any highly specific content (hotel partnership anyone?) until I return home. Get those brand deals and brag about staying at that 5-star resort, by all means, but protect yourself while you’re at it.
3. Read reviews written by other solo female travelers
If another woman felt unsafe or insecure at any given hotel/vacation rental/attraction/part of town, chances are she’s going to warn others. We have to stick together, right? Before booking anything, I always comb through reviews for ones that seem to be written by someone like myself. If the overwhelming consensus is that they felt safe during their stay, then I go ahead with my plans.
4. Don’t feel bad about telling a fib
I get it, you don’t want to lie to someone’s face. But if you feel like a conversation is veering in a direction you’re uncomfortable with or you have to get into a taxi alone, there’s no harm in mentioning that you have a boyfriend/husband waiting for you back in the hotel room/at the restaurant. Being polite is never worth sacrificing your safety.
5. Take a walking tour before venturing out on your own
This might sound a little silly, but local tour guides know all the best spots in town (and the shadiest). If you want to know which areas to avoid, they’ll almost certainly point them out, and there’s no harm in asking about which areas are okay after dark or where to steer clear of. That said, I’d avoid mentioning that you’re on your own.
Police corruption and bribes in Baja California
Police corruption and “mandatory” bribes are not a huge concern in Baja, but this is something that occurs in some of the larger, more dangerous cities, especially those near the border.
Namely, this is more of a concern in Tijuana. Mexicali and Tecate. While the chances of being stopped are low, if you are, it is important to remain calm and level-headed. They will never be framed as a bribe right off the bat, and the officers will inform you that you have broken the law in some way, such as a minor driving infraction.
Generally, the bribes requested could range from $100-$500 USD, and will typically go up if they can see that you have a lot of cash on you. For this reason, it’s best not to flash your money around while counting it out.
Advice on how to handle these bribe stops is varied, but from what I’ve seen, it may be best to pay the fine and move on rather than run the risk of garnering too much attention.
You may find it’s worth requesting that they take you to the police station to pay the fine, but this is not a foolproof strategy.
Is Baja California Safe? – FAQs
Is the Food in Baja Safe?
The food in Baja California is relatively safe to consume. To minimize your risk of foodborne illness, here are a few tips:
1. Always check the reviews of restaurants online before dining out
2. Avoid eating perishable foods that are room temperature or look like it’s been left out for a long time.
3. Make sure the meat you eat is cooked all the way through before consuming.
4. If eating at a street stand, watch to see if the person who handles the money is also the same person making and serving the food.
Is it safe to drink tap water in Baja California?
Waterborne illness can also be a concern, so to avoid a medical emergency (or even some uncomfortable tummy grumbles) don’t drink the tap water.
You can easily stock up on bottled water at convenience and grocery stores, but you’ll also want to be mindful about ice at the bar or produce that doesn’t have a peel.
Is Driving through Baja Safe?
Driving through Baja is generally safe. Be sure to stick to the main roads, avoid picking up hitchhikers, and try not to stop unless it’s an emergency. Also, drive during the day if possible and have Mexican vehicle insurance in case of an accident.
Is the Cartel in Baja?
There is always a cartel presence in Baja California. However, the cartel does not generally wreak havoc on tourists because they are their main source of income. As long as you don’t get involved in any of the cartel’s business, they will leave you alone.
Is Baja California safe for the LGTQIA2S+ community?
Within the smaller, catholic communities throughout Mexico, there’s definitely still a lingering stigma when it comes to LGBTQIA2S+ people, and PDA is discouraged for your own safety. This is true of Baja as well.
That said, there are several “resort” destinations throughout the state that are gay-friendly and highly inclusive. Los Cabos, Cabo San Lucas, and La Paz all come highly recommend and purpleroofs.com is a great resource if you’re looking for places where you’re 100% free to be yourself.
In Conclusion – Is Baja California Safe?
If you’re looking to travel to Baja, Mexico, but you’re worried about the state’s overall safety, you can travel with confidence, knowing you’re already increasing your safety just by consuming helpful content such as this article.