Tijuana is a Mexican city that sits beside San Diego, California. If you plan to visit this city, you’ll be in another country. So, naturally, one of the main concerns is safety. So, if you’re wondering if Tijuana is dangerous, here’s our answer:
It is not surprising that Tijuana is considered dangerous due to multiple crime and safety issues. It’s risky since there are so many people from both sides. However, with safety precautions, you’ll find it a safe city to enjoy Mexican culture and return to the US without problems.
Of course, there are many things to consider, especially safety, since Tijuana is another country. However, thousands of people cross into this Mexican city and return without problems. As such, if you plan on visiting this place, you can also enjoy what it offers if you follow some safety precautions.
In this article, you’ll read through our in-depth take on Tijuana and understand the safety risks it involves. This information includes crime rates, food and drink safety, scams, and other problems. We’ll also include the safety tips you need to enjoy the city without experiencing any risks and dangers.
Without further ado, let’s get into it!
Is Tijuana Safe at Night?
Tijuana isn’t a safe place, especially at night. During such a time, you’ll find more crimes and robberies happening. In addition, most scammers and con men also start appearing at night. As such, it’s best to lay low at night by staying at your hotel and enjoy the city only by day.
Is Tijuana Dangerous for Tourists?
While Tijuana is more dangerous than other places, you’ll find it safe if you remain within the main areas and tourist locations. It’s best to avoid the local neighborhoods and remote locations since it’s where most gang activities happen.
Is Downtown Tijuana Safe?
Some areas in Downtown Tijuana are safe, while others aren’t. For instance, tourist spots like the Zona Centro are safe since they are well-patrolled. Also, if you’re coming from the border, you can reach downtown on foot without worries since the road is highly patrolled.
Why Is Tijuana Dangerous?
There are many cartels and gangs in Tijuana, making the area dangerous. Further, drug cartels fight tooth and nail over the city’s lucrative routes for smuggling drugs to the US. In addition, several gangs control street dealers in the city, fighting for territory.
Even though Tijuana is dangerous, many travelers don’t have a problem traveling there. However, it would be best if you didn’t let the potential threat deter you from visiting. If you stay within tourist areas, you’ll avoid the threats of cartels and gangs.
Crime Rate in Tijuana
Looking at the records, you’ll see Tijuana as the city with the highest murder rate, about 138 for every 100,000 people. So while it may sound dangerous, you can avoid potential threats and risks as long as you know where to stay and avoid them.
8 Safety Concerns to Beware of in Tijuana
Tijuana is a safe place to visit if you avoid trouble and remain in tourist areas. However, since Tijuana is a large city that sits beside the US-Mexico border, you should be aware of the safety risks to be ready. Among these are the following:
1. Petty Crimes
Tijuana is full of scams, muggings, and petty crimes. It is common for tourists to be victimized by petty crimes such as thievery, especially in tourist destinations.
There are cons everywhere, from taxis to hotels to tours. It would be best if you were on the lookout for mugging outside touristy areas since it isn’t as common.
However, most crimes occur at night, so try to return to the US by dusk or stay in your room.
If anything is stolen in a crime, you won’t be able to recover it. Furthermore, the police officers will likely ask you for a fee even if they locate your belongings. Usually, it isn’t worth it.
These crimes aren’t the only ones. Outside downtown, local communities are Tijuana’s main crime sites. Most of the violence is related to gangs and cartels, not tourists.
As a general rule, it’s best to keep an open mind and keep an open mind. Therefore, staying alert to your surroundings and being cautious when visiting the city is essential.
2. Cartels and Gangs
The city’s violence caused by gangs and cartels explains the astronomical murder rate. In addition, US gangs and cartels fight for territory, and lucrative smuggling routes compete for control.
Though tourists are rarely the target of violence, you shouldn’t tempt fate. If you stick around downtown, you won’t have any interaction with anyone. Under no circumstances ever purchase drugs within the city.
The severity of their behavior is evident to you. Secondly, it is impossible to determine who is cooperating with authorities. Often, a dealer approaches you and offers to sell you drugs.
3. Violent Neighborhoods
It would be best if you stayed away from the city’s neighborhoods. The red-light area of Zona Norte needs extra precautions to keep you secure and safe.
Besides the tourist spots, you won’t want to venture outside the city, so learn the map. There are plenty of safe areas in the city, but you can find yourself in a bad neighborhood if you wander a few blocks beyond them.
Some tourist spots are relatively safe places to walk at night. Regular patrols of these streets by officers make them safer than in other parts of the city at night.
Avoid wearing or showing anything expensive in crowded places and dark areas. No matter where you go in Tijuana, keep all other essentials in your room safe, except for the cash you need for the day.
4. Nighttime Risks
Whether you are in your room or at the border, stay safe. Tijuana is not a good place to roam around at night. If you need a ride after dark, call a cab or an Uber.
The nightlife in Tijuana is well known, but drunk people are often targeted, mainly when they walk alone. Therefore, you should always rent a vehicle, especially if you are unfamiliar with Tijuana’s streets.
Despite regular patrols during the night, you can still become a victim. Therefore, it’s best to be inside your room once it gets dark.
5. Local Scammers
Tijuana has a reputation for scamming tourists. You’ll get robbed in the streets by people who act victimized, shortchanged by food vendors, and fleeced by hotels.
At least once, you’ll be the victim of a scam. Don’t be swayed by people you meet; read reviews before booking a hotel. Prostitutes often touch you before taking your valuables to distract you.
It is common for people to communicate perfectly in English to you in public. Then, after acting friendly and helpful, they launch into tears.
If it’s your first time visiting a Mexican city, you may wonder if you need to speak Spanish. Read: Do You Need to Speak Spanish in Tijuana to know more?
Please don’t pay any attention to them. Just keep on walking. Many people provide their services for free. They will move on if you politely refuse and say thank you.
6. Traffic Problems
Mexico will accept your license if you cross the border. A car is expensive, and it paints a bigger target for theft. The safety of the road is another alarming issue.
If you’re visiting other areas near Tijuana, you’ll find it handy to bring your car. However, safety concerns will always be in question. For instance, if you’re driving to Los Cabos, read: Is It Safe to Drive from Tijuana to Los Cabos?
There is a typical disregard for traffic laws, which makes speeding a common occurrence. Lastly, you may be stopped by dishonest police officers who will demand a fine even if you don’t have any violation. A car is the best way to move around, but walking is also an option.
Parking lots are available, and you can walk across Tijuana’s border. However, the Tijuana river bridges and the border bridges become hazardous when it gets dark.
When crossing a bridge, walk in a group. It would be best to negotiate the fare before getting into a taxi. It is common for taxis not to operate their meters, charging you a hefty sum once you arrive.
It’s also important to be wary of taxi drivers who take a long route and suggest you book elsewhere because the establishment you’re looking at is already fully booked.
You pay more if you take scenic routes, plus they get paid if you stop at a restaurant or hotel while you’re there. In addition, they tend to recommend more expensive restaurants.
Since this service sets its rates, it offers better value. However, Uber users should keep its head low to avoid drawing attention to themselves since most taxi drivers dislike Uber and believe they are taking their business away.
While passengers have not been targeted in altercations between Uber and taxi drivers, you don’t want to start a trend. Alternatively, you can opt for a Colectivo. It’s like a bus but without a schedule.
These Colectivos run once filled, and their routes cover all of Tijuana. So if you visit the city on a budget, this is the perfect mode of transportation compared to other options available.
7. Corrupt Police Officers
Despite improvements over time, Tijuana’s police are corrupt to this day. You can be stopped at any time and patted for no reason to fine you.
They’re there not to assist tourists but to prevent violence against tourists. Avoid eye contact and confrontation with them. You should receive a summons and pay it at the station if you are accused.
A judge reads the ticket and reduces the fine. Then, instead of going to the corrupt officer’s pocket, it ends up at the police station. Usually, they ignore the matter because it’s too complicated.
If you wish to report police corruption, then you can use the number provided, which will likely enrage them.
Alternatively, you can pretend to be a clueless American who doesn’t understand Spanish. If they become dissatisfied, they may leave. Then, of course, you can pay bribes as well.
Most officers in the city are corrupt, but they’re not all out to make money. You’ll find some honest officers, so you must pay a fine or serve jail time when you break the law.
8. Consumption Risks
Tijuana is known for its delicious food. It’s close to the border, so there are dishes from all over Mexico and America. But, in contrast to America, regulations for the preparation of food here are slack.
As a result, you should make sure eateries adhere to your standards. In this situation, it is best to eat at restaurants or food spots with plenty of customers, ideally locals.
It is best to avoid food poisoning by drinking purified water or using water filters instead of tap water. Usually, food vendors and restaurants serve bottled or purified water. Also, the ice they provide is safe.
Please bring it to a boil when you plan to cook or drink with tap water. It is alright to drink vending machine water since it is purified. To know more about water safety concerns in the city, read: Is Tijuana Tap Water Safe to Drink?
Finally, keep an eye on your drink if you are drinking in a club or bar. Women need to be vigilant when it comes to drinking spiking. Stay away from seedy bars in tourist areas and choose well-lit places popular with locals.
Safety Tips When Visiting Tijuana
It’s no secret that Tijuana is a dangerous place to visit. When you visit the tourist areas, you will have a wonderful time and stay safe. Here are some helpful safety tips to remember:
- Avoid staying out late at night
- Avoid wandering outside tourist-crowded areas
- Avoid carrying valuables and other expensive stuff
- Dress casually and avoid flaunting jewelry
- Stay sober, especially when roaming around in the dark
- Stay with a group as much as possible
- Always secure your items
- Make sure food is cooked through
- Avoid consuming exposed food and drinks
- Wash vegetables and fruits before consuming
- Never purchase illegal drugs
- Avoid talking to strangers
In a nutshell, Tijuana is a dangerous place because of the high crime rates, but it’s not reason enough to stop tourists from visiting the place. The higher crime rate is because the vast area houses many people. As a tourist destination, you’ll find most of the spots you’ll visit as safe places to enjoy.
As always, all travelers are responsible for making sure they are safe. As such, if you visit Tijuana while following all safety measures and avoiding risks, you’ll return to the other side of the border without issues. Thousands of people have done it, and it’s also possible for you.