Is Ensenada safe? You may be concerned about safety in Ensenada if you are traveling to Baja California for the first time.
After all, Mexico on the whole doesn’t always have the best reputation when it comes to safety. It can often feel as though the country is always in the news for all the wrong reasons.
Still, gorgeous Ensenada is one of the most popular Mexican travel destinations for Americans due to its proximity to the US-Mexico border. The port city is just 80 miles south of San Diego, so tons of Californians travel here every year to enjoy the beautiful beaches, surf spots, and local culture.
More than 30 million international tourists travel to Mexico every single year and most visits to the country are trouble-free. Ensenada can be a safe place as long as you use the same common sense precautions you would elsewhere and are aware of which areas you are venturing into.
This comprehensive guide to safety in Ensenada Mexico has been written by a British Travel Writer that lives in Merida, Mexico. It will cover everything you need to consider when planning your trip, and how to stay safe during it.
Rest assured, you are in good hands here. 😉
Is Ensenada Mexico Safe to Visit in 2023?
Ensenada can be a safe place to travel to as long as you take precautions for your safety. Locals are generally friendly and welcoming, and most tourist areas have a heightened police presence.
Crime Statistics in Ensenada Mexico
On the whole, Ensenada has a relatively low crime rate. The violent crime that does happen here is usually restricted to incidents between drug cartels rather than random acts of violence that affect tourists.
Numbeo is a statistics website that awards different cities around the globe with a safety rating from 0 to 100 based on how safe the residents of that city feel. (Where 0 is very unsafe and 100 is safe).
Ensenada has a safety rating of 61.50 and a low crime rating of 38.83. The risks of being attacked, mugged, robbed, insulted, or having your car/property broken into here are very low.
Some residents are concerned that the rate of crime in the area has been increasing over the last three years but not to the extent that Ensenada is considered in any way dangerous. Ensenada actually has a lower crime rate than Los Angeles (52.72), New York (53.34), and a number of US cities.
Check your government travel advice for Ensenada
It is a good idea to check your government travel advice before traveling to any country for the first time and that includes Mexico. The U.S. State Department provides a state-by-state breakdown of the safety situation in each of Mexico’s 32 states.
The advice can come across as a little sternly worded, but the website is frequently updated to reflect any new developments or safety concerns in Mexico, so it is a good starting point when planning your trip.
Baja California currently has a level 3 travel warning and is flagged as somewhere that you need to ¨reconsider travel¨ to. However, there are no warnings in place for traveling to Ensenada.
Is the cartel in Ensenada?
The Tijuana cartel is present in Tijuana, Ensenada, and other cities around Baja California. Most incidents of cartel-related violence are usually restricted to clashes between criminal groups but innocent civilians have been caught in the crossfire in the past.
Unfortunately, Ensenada’s location close to Tijuana and the US border means it is right on one of the key drug smuggling routes that lead into the United States.
In August 2022, the Tijuana cartel made a public announcement that they would create violence on the streets of Mexicali, Tijuana, and Ensenada. Consequently, a lot of local businesses closed and tourists were advised to shelter in place.
Still, the chances of being at the wrong place at the wrong time here are slim as long as you take precautions for your safety. By that I mean, you do not wander into dangerous/sketchy areas, you check the local news for any developments and you follow your government travel advice.
How to Stay Safe in Ensenada in 2023
Some practical tips for staying safe in Ensenada Mexico are detailed below. A lot of these things are common sense measures that are good practice wherever you travel but they are still worth reiterating here.
Top tips for staying safe in Ensenada
- Never walk alone at night
- Watch your personal belongings, especially in crowded marketplaces
- Don’t leave any valuables unattended at the beach when you go swimming. Leave them in your hotel safe
- Don’t wear flashy jewelry, expensive designer sunglasses, or walk around with a pricy DSLR camera hanging around your neck
- Use Ubers instead of taking random street cabs. Failing that, ask your hotel to order a trusted taxi driver for you
- Don’t be naive and be wary of over-friendly strangers
- Before booking accommodation, check past reviews and make sure the area is safe
- Use ATMs in banks or malls rather than standalone ATMs which are more likely to have been tampered with
- Don’t carry tons of cash around with you each day. 4000 pesos worth of cash should be the maximum amount you have on you at any time. Keep a spare debit card and an extra $50 USD or so locked away safely in your suitcase for emergencies
Watch your personal belongings
Always keep an eye on your backpack and your personal belongings. In crowded marketplaces like Mercado Los Globos, keep your bag in front of you and never have any valuable items on display or in your back pocket where they are easily accessible.
If you travel to Latin America/Mexico regularly, it might be worth investing in a theft-proof backpack like those offered by Pacsafe. Theft-proof backpacks are waterproof, slash-proof and come with a TSA-approved mesh locking system.
Know which areas are safe and which to avoid
When booking hotels and accommodations in Ensenada, check the property’s rating and past reviews before booking. There are no areas in Ensenada that would be considered overly dangerous and random acts of violence do not really happen in tourist or residential areas.
Sao Bras, Batista Campos, Nazaré, Marco, and Umarizal are particularly safe districts. The Valle de Guadalupe, Playa, and Zona Centro are also very safe and offer hotel options for every budget and travel style.
Is Ensenada safe at night?
In any world city, you need to be more careful at night than you do during the day. You don’t need to lock yourself away in your hotel room in Ensenada after the sun sets but you do need to be more cautious about walking around the city.
Ensenada has a more laid-back nightlife scene than Tijuana and Rosarito but there are still plenty of bars, clubs, and dining options. 1st street is essentially the main nightlife strip and it is fine to walk along here in the early evening.
For a quintessentially Mexican experience, you should go for ice-cold cervezas (beers) at Hussong’s Cantina – the oldest and most famous cantina in Baja California, which first opened its doors back in 1892. Legend has it that the margarita was invented here.
At the entrance, there are even little tubes where visitors used to tie their horses. Los Columpios Daiquiri Bar (Primera 498, Zona Centro) is a super fun, colorful bar that specializes in frozen daiquiris served in a wide variety of flavors.
Cervecería Aguamala (Carretera Tijuana – Ensenada Km 104.5, El Sauzal) is a great place for craft beers, while Bar Andaluz is a cute, rustic bar that dates back to the 1930s and feels like a journey back in time.
Obviously, if you decide to experience Ensenada by night, you should never leave your drink unattended, or walk home from bars alone intoxicated, etc. You know this anyway 😉
Purchase comprehensive travel insurance before you go
Despite our best planning, you never know what is around the corner and you could fall sick or have an accident anywhere in the world. Today’s health is not promised tomorrow.
For that reason, it is always a good idea to purchase comprehensive travel insurance before traveling anywhere. A good policy will offer at least $250k worth of medical coverage, and it will cover you for additional extras such as repatriation, hiking, adventure sports, loss/theft of luggage, etc.
Medical care in Mexico is much cheaper than in the US. However, if you need treatment or need to be hospitalized, costs can quickly accumulate so it is better to be prepared.
Taking taxis in Ensenada
Uber exists in Ensenada and it is preferable to order a cab via this app than to take a random street taxi. Mexicans generally consider Uber and other ridesharing apps to be the safest transport option as there is more accountability.
You can see the driver’s name, license plate details, experience, and past reviews on the app and you simply don’t have that when you get into a random street car. (Uber is banned in some parts of Mexico but fortunately not in Ensenada).
Some street cabbies might try and trick you by charging a massively inflated price, taking you on a roundabout route through town, or refusing to turn on the meter. At the more extreme end, express kidnappings are an issue in Mexico.
These happen when a tourist gets into a taxi and the taxi driver drives them a short distance before his/her accomplices enter the vehicle and hold the tourist at knife/gunpoint, forcing them to hand over their valuables. Sometimes the tourist is forced to make maximum withdrawals at ATM machines around town until the tricksters have gotten everything they can from them.
For this reason, taking street cabs in Ensenada simply isn’t worth the risk.
Is Ensenada safe for solo travelers?
Ensenada can be a safe destination for solo travelers of all ages, genders, and backgrounds. You will see plenty of Americans that come here for the day to surf and hang out, as well as plenty of expats that have moved to Baja California independently.
Rest assured, you will not stand out or get weird looks for being by yourself because locals have seen solo travelers 10,000 times before. Even solo female travelers can feel comfortable here (this entire website has been written by a solo female traveler based in Mexico).
If socializing is important to you during your trip, you will find that its easy to meet other travelers to hang out with. You can download Couchsurfing and use the hangout function of the app to meet other people in the area, or you can join Facebook groups for expats in Mexico/Baja California.
Natural disasters in Ensenada
Ensenada has an arid, sub-tropical climate, and hurricane season runs in the area from June through to October. (Although late August/September are usually the months with the highest risks.)
Still, most of the time this just results in storms and heavy rainfall. (Although sometimes the rain can flood some of the roads in rural areas or knock our internet/power out for a day or two).
How Safe is Ensenada Mexico? FAQs
Do you have any further questions or concerns about staying safe in Ensenada Mexico? The answers to some frequently asked questions on the topic are detailed below.
Hopefully, you will find the information you are looking for there. If not, please do not hesitate to reach out to me.
Is it safe to drive to Ensenada?
It is safe to drive to Ensenada – whether you are driving along the Ruta del Vino, driving in from Tijuana, or crossing the border from the US into Mexico specifically to visit Ensenada. Things have been pretty calm as of late (at the time of writing in July 2023).
However, things can change quickly if there are clashes between criminal groups. For that reason, you should always check the news and the latest developments in the area before you travel.
The roads in the area are generally fine, although there are a fair few potholes that you need to look out for. Driving in Mexico is not as daunting as it may sound, although a lot of drivers drive more aggressively than in the US so to an extent, you have to drive defensively.
Is it safe to drive from San Diego to Ensenada?
It is pretty safe to drive from San Diego to California. To get here, you will most likely cross the San Ysidro International border into Tijuana – one of the main (and safest) crossing points from the United States into Mexico.
Just make sure that you have your passport and everything in order. The border agents on both the US and the Mexican sides of the border are usually friendly and professional but the queues for traveling back into the United States from Mexico can be long so it is important to be patient.
Once you have crossed San Ysidro, follow the signs to Playas, Rosarito, and Ensenada. Take the right turn and follow Avenida Internacional, then follow the signs for Tijuana to Ensenada Highway #1-D.
Join the toll road and follow the signs for Ensenada. The drive is scenic and beautiful and should take just over an hour and a half.
Is it safe to drive from Tijuana to Ensenada?
It is safe to drive from Tijuana to Ensenada. You can take Highway 1 or Highway 1D and both roads are safe and well-maintained.
There are always plenty of cars on the road and no stretch of the journey feels in any way creepy.
Can you drink the tap water in Ensenada?
No. You cannot drink tap water in Ensenada or anywhere in Mexico for that matter. It is not clean and is potentially infected with bacteria and parasites that can make you sick.
Even Mexicans do not drink it. Fortunately, hotels and Airbnbs provide you with complimentary bottled water when you arrive, and large, multi-liter bottles of mineral water can be purchased at any convenience store for just a few pesos.
Is Ensenada safer than Tijuana?
Ensenada is considered safer than Tijuana and it has a much lower crime rate than its neighbour. (Tijuana can be safe for tourists but it is considered one of Mexico’s most dangerous cities).
Is it safe to walk in Ensenada Mexico?
Yes. It is safe to walk around downtown Ensenada, Playa, and most residential neighborhoods in the city.
Is Ensenada Mexico safe? Final thoughts
So is Ensenada Mexico safe? Yes, this is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Mexico and you will be fine provided that you take precautions for your own safety and practice situational awareness.
Mexico doesn’t have the best reputation, but this is often blown out of proportion, particularly in the United States. You should never let a fear of the unknown stop you from traveling to the places that you really want to visit.
Ensenada makes a great jump-off point for a road trip around the wider areas of Baja California and Baja California Sur. From here you can continue onwards to Cabo San Lucas, Todos Santos, La Paz, and the small town of Rosarito.
Do you have any further questions about visiting Baja California? If you are traveling to Mexico for the first time, you might also enjoy reading these Mexico travel tips.
Alternatively, feel free to reach out to me. I am currently living in Merida, in the Yucatan and I am happy to help where I can. Safe travels and enjoy Mexico!
Buen Viaje! Melissa xo