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Mexicali is the capital of Baja California State, and one of the most popular entry points to Mexico from the United States. Although thousands of travelers pass through Mexicali on their way to other destinations in Mexico, questions remain about whether Mexicali is safe.
If you are traveling to Mexicali, and are wondering about the safety in this border town, this article is for you.
As of 2023, The U.S. State Department advises to reconsider travel to Baja California State due to crime and kidnapping, which might be a scary warning for some travelers, but remember that the U.S. State Department warnings change all the time based on the recent events that could affect their level of safety in a specific destination.
✅Check my complete guide to the cheapest cities in Mexico
Keep reading to find answers to the most common questions about safety in Mexicali if you plan to visit this popular border town.
How far is Mexicali from the U.S. border?
Mexicali is located along the U.S.-Mexico border. The town is a convenient entry point to Baja California and the rest of Mexico.
What is the best time to cross the border at Mexicali?
The best time to cross the border at Mexicali is early morning. If you cross the border early, you will skip the line and avoid the busy afternoon hours.
Can I walk across the border to Mexicali?
Yes, you can cross the border to Mexicali on foot. Many travelers who cross the U.S.- Mexico border through Mexicali, leave their cars in Calexico and walk across the border, which takes a few minutes.
Is Mexicali Mexico safe to visit?
Statistically, Mexicali is one of the safest border towns in Mexico, with well-developed tourism and service industries. However, in recent years, Mexicali has experienced an increase in crimes related to drug trafficking. Like any other town, Mexicali is not 100 percent safe, and you should always do your research before visiting the city.
What are the main safety concerns in Mexicali?
The main safety concerns in Mexiali are petty crime and scams targeting tourists. Purse snatching and pickpocketing can occur on busy streets, and there’s no lack of con artists looking to take advantage of tourists who don’t know the city and have limited Spanish skills. Be wary of overly friendly people and politely decline any food and drinks offered by strangers.
Violent crime in Mexicali
Mexicali has had cases of violent crime like kidnappings and muggings in the past. Although statistically, you are not likely to get affected by this type of crime, you should exercise caution at all times and always be aware of your surroundings.
Is it safe to drive to Mexicali?
Driving to Mexicali from the United States is safe. Have all your documents ready, limit your driving to daytime, and avoid sketchy dark places.
Is Mexicali safer than Tijuana?
Although Mexicali is safer than Tijuana, according to statistics, don’t lower your guard down. Some of the most prevalent types of crime in Mexicali are theft, corruption, vandalism, and drug trafficking.
Mexicali vs Tijuana: differences
Mexicali and Tijuana are border towns in Baja California between Mexico and the United States. While they share some characteristics, they also have many differences including their geography, climate, safety, and people.
- Tijuana sits across the border from San Diego and has a more mild climate thanks to its location along the coast. Mexicali is located inland and has a desert climate that’s similar to California’s Imperial Valley, with plenty of sunshine and hot temperatures.
- Tijuana has sunny, mild weather with Pacific breeze most of the year, while Mexicali gets unbearably hot in summer with median temperatures above 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Tijuana has more varied topography as it’s surrounded by desert hills, while Mexicali is completely flat.
- Tijuana is a bigger city than Mexicali and has more bars, restaurants, and nightlife.
- Mexicali has a less of a “cosmopolitan” feel to it, and many things are kept uniquely local, so you will typically find more or less similar options when you go out to it, for example. Tijuana, on the other hand, has a better variety of international establishments.
- Unlike Mexicali, Tijuana is a more transient city with many temporary residents and has less of a “community feel” to it. Not many transplants stick around because of its hot temperatures, so the city has more locals than Tijuana.
- According to statistics, Mexicali is safer than Tijuana and receives less of a bad rep in the news.
Is English spoken in Mexicali?
Most people who work in the Mexicali tourism industry speak English. While it’s common to hear English in hotels, popular restaurants, and tourist spots, expect less of it, once you get away from the tourism zone.
What is Mexicali famous for?
Mexicali is known as one of the safest border towns in Mexico that have developed tourism and services industries. Most people stop in Mexicali on the way to other destinations in Mexico, but in recent years, the city has also attracted many people traveling to Mexico for medical purposes.
What is the safest place in Baja California?
According to statistics, one of the safest cities in Baja California is La Paz, the capital of Baja California State known for its wonderful beaches and eco-adventures in places like Isla Espiritu Santo, Balandra Beach, and El Mogote Dunes.
Crime in Baja California
While Baja California is a relatively safe place to visit, it still has crime. The most common types of crime in Baja California are cartel activity, robberies, and theft, including petty theft and scams targeting tourists.
Is it safe to drive from Tijuana to Mexicali?
The drive from Tijuana to Mexicali is safe. You can take highways 2 and 2D, the two main roads connecting these cities.
Is Mexicali safer than Tijuana?
While Mexicali is safer than Tijuana, according to statistics, you should always exercise caution, even if you stay in the center.
Consider buying a travel insurance for your trip to Tijuana
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Best things to do in Mexicali, Mexico
Mexicali has a handful of landmarks and points of interest worth your attention. Here are some of them:
Catedral Nuestra Señora De Guadalupe
One of the top landmarks in Mexicali, Catedral Nuestra Señora De Guadalupe dates back to the 1940s and is one of the most important churches in town. It’s a perfect spot for your Mexicali itinerary if you like art and culture.
China Town Mexicali (La Chinesca)
Did you know that Mexicali has the biggest China Town in Mexico aside from China Town in Mexico City? Mexicali Chinese heritage goes back to the 1800s when large numbers of the Chinese migrated to Mexico t work on irrigation projects in the Mexicali Valley.
Today, there are about 5,000 people of Chinese descent in Mexicali – the largest concentration of Chinese in any town in Mexico.
Art Passage Mexicali
One of the best places in Mexicali to enjoy local street art, Art Passage Mexicali houses a collection of murals by local artists. This place also sees many art events like exhibits, festivals, and live concerts.
The day of the Virgin of Guadalupe takes place on December 12 and is celebrated in Mexicali and throughout Mexico.
University Museum is one of the highlights of Mexicali that belongs to the Autonomous University of Baja California that boasts permanent and rotating exhibits. If you want to visit this place, don’t forget to check out their website, as their open times tend to change.
The State Center for the Arts
The State Center for the Arts in Mexicali offers some of the best art and culture in town. Here you can enjoy a concert or check out recent exhibitions. Check their upcoming events online before visiting.
If you are an adventure lover and are traveling to Mexicali by car, don’t miss the spectacular Algodones Dunes 40 minutes by driving from Mexicali. This natural landmark is a popular place for sandboarding, a popular sport that involves riding on the dune with a sandboard.
If you are driving to Mexicali, don’t forget to visit the majestic Guadalupe Canyon – a desert oasis where you can enjoy camping, hiking, and mountain biking. Here you can also explore the archeological sites and observe wildlife.
Hardy River is an amazing place for thrill seekers since it offers a variety of fun water activities like kayaking, water skiing, and paddle boarding.
Baja California Valley of the Giants
Valle de Los Gigantes (Valley of the Giants) is located about 220 km south of Mexicali and is home to incredible towering cardón cacti, the tallest cactus in the world, which can be found only in Baja California and the neighboring state of Sonora. The reserve is just outside the small town of San Felipe and is one of the most popular stops on the Baja California itinerary.
Where to stay in Mexicali?
Mexicali is a relatively small town, but you still have quite a few options when it comes to the best hotels in Mexicali. Prices on hotels in Mexicali tend to be better during the low season which is fall and winter.
Here are some options for the best hotels in Mexicali:
- Hotel Araiza Mexicali – One of the most popular hotels in Mexicali, Araiza has free parking, delicious breakfast and any restaurants in the area. The US border is only 10 minutes away.
- Hotel Lucerna Mexicali – If you are looking for a great all-inclusive stay with modern facilities for your trip to Mexicali, Lucerne is a must. This hotel has two restaurants, big swimming pools, great breakfast and friendly and welcoming staff.
- Sleep Inn Mexicali – A perfect basic stay, Sleep Inn has a fitness centre, free private parking and a shared lounge. Breakfast is available daily.
What areas of Mexicali to avoid?
Not all parts of Mexicali are safe. While the center is safe because it’s a major tourist spot, some areas of Mexicali have crime. Avoid areas like Villafontana and New Mexicali to stay away from trouble.
Tips for staying safe in Mexicali
- Don’t walk alone at night – While Mexicali is safe to explore during the day, it’s best to stay put at night, especially if you travel by yourself.
- Learn Spanish – Because Mexicali is located along the border with the United States, you might assume that most people here speak English. While people who work in the tourism industry speak English, the majority of population in Mexicali have limited English skills or none at all. Speaking Spanish will ensure you have better situational awareness.
- Don’t dress in your best clothing – If you plan to explore Mexicali, dress down and wear plain clothes that don’t attract any attention.
- Don’t divulge your travel plans – Keep your travel plans to yourself and don’t divulge too much personal information to strangers, even if they appear to be friendly. Stay polite, but refrain from oversharing.
- Stick to popular places – Although Mexicali is said to be safer than many border towns in Mexico, you should stick to popular spots with high traffic. Avoid secluded and poorly lit areas, where criminals might hide.
- Travel with someone else – Mexicali doesn’t have a high crime rate, and statistically speaking, your biggest worries should be petty theft and scams targeting tourists. Yet, it’s best to err on the side of caution and travel with someone else, instead of going by yourself.
- Watch out for pickpockets – petty theft like pickpocketing and purse snatching are among the most common types of crime that affect tourists in Mexicali. Be careful when taking public transport, and walking around in crowded places where criminals often operate. Don’t leave your belongings unattended and get an anti-theft purse or backpack.
- Do not accept food in drinks from strangers – While most people in Mexicali are friendly and welcoming, it’s best not to accept any food or drinks from strangers for safety reasons.
- Don’t use taxis, take Uber instead – If you want to get around Mexicali, you should use Uber and not local taxis. Some taxis in Mexico are operated by criminals, and your best bet is to take Uber whenever possible. If you use a taxi, make sure to ask for their license.
Can you Uber from Mexico to California?
At this time, Uber drivers are not allowed to cross the border between Mexico and the US. If you want to take an Uber from Mexicali to Calexico, you will need to get a ride to the border, then walk across the border and request another ride in after you cross.
Is it safe to travel to Mexicali as a solo female traveler?
If you are a solo female traveler looking to visit Mexicali, the biggest thing you need to worry about is whistles and catcalls, which are particularly common in areas with bars and restaurants. If you are visiting Mexicali by yourself, avoid wearing revealing clothing that can draw unwanted attention.
Is Mexicali safe to drive through?
Mexicali is among the safest Mexican border cities. Still, you should stay cautious as no destination is 100 percent safe, even if the statistics tell you so.
Is it safe for US citizens to drive in Mexico?
As a US citizen, you are safe to drive through Mexico, as long as you know what areas to avoid and exercise reasonable caution.
If you are continuing your trip after spending time in Mexicali, there are some things you should know about driving in Mexico that will help you stay safe on the road.
Safety tips for driving in Baja California
There’s a good chance Mexicali will be your first stop before continuing your Mexico road trip. Whether you plan to stay in town for a few days and drive back home or keep on going, there are some things that you should be aware of when it comes to driving in Mexico.
Watch out for reckless drivers
Mexico has its fair share of reckless drivers. When driving around the country, you might encounter people speeding, disregarding the posted speed limit, or violating road signs. Drive slowly and always give way, if you see that someone is driving too fast.
Some roads have potholes
While major highways throughout Baja California and the rest of Mexico are usually well-maintained, it’s not uncommon for secondary roads to have potholes and poor markings. Always make sure to drive carefully and watch the road, so you could avoid wrecking your car.
Don’t pump your gas
Mexican gas stations have attendants who put gas in your car when you get to the pump. The same applies to gas stations in Baja California. Specify the amount of gas that you need and clarify the price before they begin doing it. Many people who work at gas stations make only minimum wage, so leave a little tip before driving off.
PRO TIP: Pay close attention to how much money you are giving to a gas pump attendant. A gas pump scam is one of the most common petty scams in Mexico, and if you are not paying attention, you could easily get ripped off.
How do you pump gas in Mexico?
You do not pump your gas in Mexico. All gas stations in Mexico have attendants who will pump your gas for you, and also wash your windshield and check your tire pressure if you ask for it.
How to avoid gas station scams in Mexico?
Before you tell your gas station attendant how much gas you need, make sure to check that the pump is at zero. This is one of the most common scams in Mexico aimed at travelers who don’t pay a lot of attention to gas pumps.
Do you tip gas pumpers in Mexico?
It’s common to tip gas station attendants in Mexico. Most people leave 10-15 Pesos regardless of the amount go gas purchased. If you feel like you received excellent service, tip more.
Always carry cash
Speaking of tipping gas station attendants in Mexico brings me to my next point – Carrying cash when driving in Mexico. You can give tips to gas pumpers, buy road snacks from local vendors, and pay people who might come up to wash your windshield while in traffic.
Mexico uses kilometers
Mexico uses kilometers, not miles. A mile equals about 1.6 kilometers, but when it comes to driving, your best bet is to follow the posted speed limit to avoid trouble.
Use major roads
When traveling around Baja California, stick to major highways. They have better conditions than secondary roads and are safer.
Watch out for cattle
Baja California has a problem with cattle and other animals being on the roads when it gets dark. If you plan on driving at night, slow down and keep a close eye on the road, to avoid an accident.
Understand the corruption in Mexico
Corruption in Mexico can occur in many situations, and you should know that police in Mexico take bribes, whether you have broken the rules or not. If you get a ticket while driving in Mexico, you can pay it at Multas de Transito (Traffic Fines) government site.
While it might be easier to pay off the bribe, it’s illegal, and if you are caught doing so, you could face consequences, including jail time.
Be aware of fake police
Mexico has also had instances of police impersonators who were involved in various crimes including kidnappings. If you suspect that you have been stopped by a fake cop, ask for their identification and see if you can speak with their supervisor.
Follow the posted signs
Your best bet to avoid trouble is to follow the rules. Wear a seat belt, respect the signs, follow a posted speed limit, and put down your phone. It will help to avoid any unwanted attention and not get pulled over by police in the first place.
What is the speed limit in Mexico?
Speed limits vary in different areas in Mexico. For example, two-lane highways in Mexico usually have a speed limit of 90 km per hour (56 miles per hour), while highways connecting bigger cities like Guadalajara and Mexico City have a speed limit of 90–100 km per hour (56–62 miles per hour). Rural roads in Mexico have a speed limit of about 70-90 km per hour equaling 43-56 miles per hour.
However, different jurisdictions might have their speed limits, so do follow the posted speed limit, when you travel around the country.
Can you turn right on red in Mexico?
It’s illegal to turn right at a red light in Mexico unless there’s a sign allowing you to do so.
Drive during the day
As a standard safety precaution, limit your driving to the daytime. Parts of Mexico are considered less safe than others, and you should check the most up-to-date information before planning your trip.
If you are traveling to Mexico from the United States, check the information on the U.S. State Department for the state you want to visit ahead of your trip.
Why is there a recommendation not to drive at night in Mexico?
Driving in Mexico at night is not recommended for several reasons. Some parts of the country have a high rate of attacks against drivers at night, so depending on where you are, your chances of getting attacked could be exponentially higher when you drive at night. In addition, many roads in Mexico are poorly lit and have potholes, and certain areas also have animals, so when you drive around in the dark, you could have an accident.
Watch out for topes (speed bumps)
The speed bumps in Mexico are called topes (toe-pe’s), and you can find them in many places. Speed bumps in Mexico are usually concrete and can be pretty high, so if you hit them at full speed, you could damage your car. Always watch out for topes when driving around small towns along the highway, where they are common.
Be aware of scams
Because of the tourism economy in Mexicali, some try to take advantage of visitors. One of the most common scams affecting visitors involves criminals hitting your car from behind and claiming that you hit them. I’ve heard reports of travelers who encountered this issue. Criminals demand payments and use different tactics to scare you threatening that they will call the police, but your best is not to give in.
How to stay safe during your trip to Mexicali?
While Mexicali is relatively safe to visit, it never hurts to get extra protection. One of the best ways to protect yourself ahead of your trip is to buy travel insurance.
Safety Wing is one of the best insurance plans for long-term travelers and digital nomads that covers you in the event of stolen and lost luggage, hospital visits, and other unforeseen circumstances. WorldNomads is one of the most popular travel insurance options for long and short-term travel.
Register for the STEP program
If you are a U.S. citizen traveling to Michoacan, consider enrolling in STEP, The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, a free service that allows U.S. citizens abroad to register their trip with the closest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
Here are some of the benefits of enrolling in the STEP program ahead of your trip:
- Get updates from the Embassy about safety conditions in your destination.
- Stay in contact with the U.S. Embassy in case of an emergency whether it’s a natural disaster, political unrest, or anything else.
- Help family and friends get in touch with you in an emergency.
Mexicali safety: FAQs
Do you need Pesos in Mexicali?
While the official currency of Mexico is Pesos, US dollars are widely accepted by many businesses in Mexicali, particularly in popular tourist areas.
Do I need a passport to go to Baja California?
If you are crossing the border between the United States and Mexico, you will need a valid passport, regardless of nationality. You might also need to have other documents depending on your purpose of travel as well as your vehicle registration.
How safe is it to travel to Baja California?
Baja California is relatively safe if you stick to popular tourist mainstays like Valle De Guadalupe, Ensenada, and Rosarito. Be sure to limit your driving to daytime and avoid desolate areas with a weak signal, as it could be tough to get help.
Is it safe to drive through Baja California?
Driving through Baja California is generally safe, however, you should stay on major roads, limit your driving to daytime, and avoid taking rest breaks in remote, poorly lit areas.
What is the weather like in Mexicali?
Mexicali has a dry sunny climate with moderate winters and hot summers when it’s common for temperatures to climb into triple digits. The best time for visiting Mexicali is shoulder seasons when the temperatures are ideal for staying outside and exploring the city and surrounding areas.
Is there an airport in Mexicali?
General Rodolfo Sánchez Taboada International Airport (MXL) is about 20 km east of the city and has charter flights from the United States and Canada.
Can you drink water in Mexicali?
No, you can’t drink water in Mexicali. Like the rest of Mexico, this town has no good drinking tap water, and you should carry a refillable water bottle or buy bottled water in stores.
Does Mexicali have a beach?
Mexicali is a landlocked city along the U.S.-Mexico border that doesn’t have any beaches. The closest beach to Mexicali is Tijuana.
So, is Mexicali safe?
While Mexicali is safer than other towns along the U.S.- Mexico border like Tijuana and Ciudad Juarez, it’s still not the safest destination. To stay safe while visiting Mexicali, avoid shady areas, always exercise caution, and don’t leave your valuables unattended. While you are not likely to become a victim of a violent crime while visiting Mexicali, petty crime should be your top concern. Keep an eye on your belongings, limit your driving to daytime, and be aware of who is around you.