|How safe is Baja? Friends and strangers often ask me this reasonable, but difficult question. I always try to give a balanced answer of my personable, first-hand observations that stretch over more than four decades of traveling in Baja. I hesitate to comment on the country in general, just as I would hate to comment on the United States overall, though I've never been a victim of crime in the U.S.
But when a popular Baja forum thread posed a similar question in a Google search recently, the original post basically outlined a 30-year history of Baja adventures with few problems … one being a flashlight missing after an inspection at a military checkpoint. The post went on to ask for only first-hand experiences good or bad, not hearsay stories. I was interested in the comments that grew to more than 10 pages in length. Responses ranged from frivolous to serious and thoughtful. When the frivolous comments were removed, the length decreased by one-third.
The WON Baja editor was quoted, "Jonathan Roldan from Tailhunter told me his van has never been broken into in Baja, but gets broken into almost every year in the States."
On my post where I wrote that I hadn't incurred any crime personally, a response was, "I hear you, and your 30 years of Baja traveling speaks for itself. I say @#$% ’em … if they want to believe that fishing and vacationing in Baja are dangerous, then they shouldn't go."
"The news sensationalizes everything! Otherwise what would they cover to get you to tune in? Gee folks, sorry! Nothing happened in town. You can all change the channel now."
"The press makes their money off advertising. They need to sensationalize it to get the ratings so they can charge more. They take the worst case examples and make it seem like it's everywhere."
"Have fished, camped, and worked in Baja for over 20 years and I have never once had a bad experience. Maybe a couple of traffic tickets settled car-side that were dodgy, but I definitely feel safer in Baja than most areas in the States or Canada. We always breathe a collective sigh of relief once we cross the border into Mexico. I once left my laptop on a table at Verdugo's in Los Barriles for two days and it was sitting right there when I got back. Also left two high-end mountain bikes for a day west of Colonet so we could hike around a headland. We talked to two locals before we left them there asking if it was safe and they looked at us puzzled and said, ‘This is Mexico, nobody is going to take your bikes.’ If you act respectfully and politely and avoid crazy party areas, Baja is probably one of the safest places you could ever visit.”
"Baja is scary … North of Ensenada."
"Never any real problems in Baja. At least none that were not my fault."
"The closest I've ever been to dying in Baja was the shotgun start of the 2011 WON Tuna Challenge"
. . . and so on.
These comments basically were very similar to my own experiences in Baja and the answers that I habitually respond with when asked the question.
Please don't misunderstand. I am not attempting to minimize the risks. They exist anywhere you visit. I just scheduled a trip to Costa Rica. After booking the trip, I received a lengthy e-mail titled Costa Rica Travel Advisory – a laundry list warning of things to be concerned about.
Anywhere we travel there seems to be more risks, and our 24/7 world of 2012 electronic media we live in will not let you forget it. While we don't want to hear of the negatives, it is probably a good thing … reminding all of us of the real dangers that do exist, however small. After all, regardless of the country, learning the rules, laws, where to go and not go should be a consideration; you aren't in Kansas anymore.
Baja is a special place for many, and what it offers far outweighs the oftentimes overblown media reports of danger; on the other hand, it is very frightening to others. I am not fond of the border area and usually begin to feel better the farther south I go; by the time I reach San Quintin I begin to feel like I'm back home. I've left the border town “feel” behind and have reached the soul of Baja, which is the same in the U.S. and probably most countries.
Having said all of this, my advice is pretty simple: it's kind of like tequila, if you don't like it, don't drink it …
I AM NOT fond of the Border area and usually begin to feel better the farther south I go, and by the time I reach San Quintin I begin to feel like I'm back home.