Just south of San Diego, California, you will find one of many U.S./Mexico border crossings. In fact, it is one of the busiest borders in the world. On the other side, you'll find Tijuana, the state of Baja California and the greater Baja peninsula. If you are planning a trip, don't forget to keep security in mind. What are some of the things you can do to protect yourself during your travel?
Baja is in the westernmost part of Mexico and has some of the most beautiful scenery in the country. Its resort communities are among the most popular destinations for American tourists. Yet, like everywhere else, Baja has its good places and its bad places. It is best that you learn what areas to avoid when traveling.
Security Problems in Baja
Unfortunately, many people associate Baja and Tijuana, its largest city, as violence-ridden, corrupt and unsafe for Americans. In some cases, they are right. Baja does present security risks, particularly in the areas closest to the U.S. border. That is primarily due to the drug and smuggling trade in the area. Violence often can affect tourists, so you do have a good reason to keep up your guard.
Still, don't assume that all parts of Tijuana, Baja and beyond are unsafe. In fact, often, this couldn't be further from the truth. Baja has its safe and dangerous areas. Therefore, you must use your own judgement to determine where you will and will not go.
If you are in the major cities, you will likely find that tourist areas are completely safe. Certain are as well. Rural communities usually present little problem either, and roadways generally remain safe. However, no place is immune to any risk. Petty theft, property crime and physical threats might strike at any time.
Like anywhere in the U.S., you could become a crime victim while in Mexico. Keep a close watch on your surroundings, possessions and travel partners at all times. If you feel unsafe in any way, leave the area. There are plenty of other, more secure places to visit.
Protecting Yourself When Driving into Mexico
Thousands of Americans drive into Baja at border crossings in California and Arizona. If you plan to do so, think about how to protect yourself in case you have to pass through areas at-risk for violence. Here are just a few tips to get you started:
Remember, when you cross the border, you enter another legal jurisdiction. So, you'll have to take care of a few legal matters to drive in the country as a permitted visitor.
- If possible, travel with more than one vehicle. You might even be able to find other tourists headed to the same destination as you. A caravan, with plenty of people in it, is often a lot more secure. You can look after each other. Of course, team up with strangers only if you find them trustworthy.
- Don’t stick around near the border. A general rule is that the further south you travel, the safer you will be.
- It is not a good idea to drive in the major cities after dark. Traveling in rural areas might prove moderately safer. However, after-dark travel still is not our recommendation. Lack of lighting, loose livestock and pedestrian-strike risks might all present at night.
- Never spend the night outside of a hotel, camp ground or trusted acquaintance's home. Do not sleep in your car.
- Do not stop for anyone on the side of the road. There is a threat of highway robbers posing as stranded motorists.
- If you become stranded, call the police. You can also call Mexico's roadside help service, The Green Angels (Angeles Verdes). The Green Angels are a government-funded program. The service can provide simple car repairs, battery service, gas, accident help and more. They even have a good knowledge of safe local roadways and attractions in the area.
- Stick only to major highways, the federal roads and toll roads. These provide the most convenience and access to assistance.
- Keep your gas tank full and fill up frequently.
- Do not leave valuable items in your car unattended and visible to passers-by. If you park the car, lock it and arm the security system. Place electronics, purses, medication and loose money in the glove compartment or trunk.
- You must have your passport, driver's license and a Mexican tourist permit (an FMM), to enter the country and drive. Mexico will recognize your active license as valid.
- All American drivers have to carry Mexican car insurance. Your American policy will not insure you once you cross the border. Your policy can cover liabilities, physical damage, legal help, U.S. repair options and more.
With the right attention to security, you'll have no problem driving in Greater Baja. Just don't forget to take all necessary steps to keep yourself safe within Mexico's border. When in doubt, you can contact us for more information.
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