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Sage Baja advice, and perspective

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Since 13 Jan 2006
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PostTue Nov 27, 07 6:48 pm    Sage Baja advice, and perspective Reply with quote

<<November 21, 2007
Violence in Baja California (Norte)

There are well publicized reports of violence against travelers in Baja California (Norte) including robbery, assault and kidnapping. Attacks mostly occurred at night in remote locations, but at least one attack was reported to be brazen. Travelers should take precautions and not camp in isolated areas and not travel at night. Traveling in convoy with others could be helpful. North American travelers are often spoiled by the security of our State and National Parks and Forests, but US parks have security for a reason. Even with this security acts of violence occur in US parks as well.

This is not to diminish the situation. I have traveled worldwide for many years and there are few countries where I would camp in remote rural areas and not expect trouble. At this time the state of Baja California (norte) is no exception. Even experienced Baja travelers should elevate their level of awareness.

This week the Sud Californiano announced that at least one of the described attackers had been apprehended red handed with the weapon he was alleged to have used in previous attacks. There may still be others at large. Reports in North American press allege local authorities did not take this issue on promptly but now appear to be treating the situation with priority.

None of these attacks have occurred in Baja California Sur.

It is important to remember that bringing a firearm to Mexico to protect yourself IS NOT AN OPTION. Should the weapon be discovered in one of many possible military searches you are very likely to spend time in a Mexican prison. Should you be so misfortunate as to have to USE the illegal weapon to defend yourself and someone is injured you will almost certainly be looking at several YEARS in a Mexican prison.

November 8, 2007
Traffic Infractions

Traffic and Touristica Police in La Paz are enforcing a much broader scope of traffic infractions recently. If you are driving with non-Mexican license plates, you seem to be under greater scrutiny. Once again, the offence of "Driving While Gringo" seems to be on the rise.

The best way to avoid getting dinged is to be squeaky clean. Mind you speed, neither the slowest nor the fastest car be. Your speed is judged by the eye of the beholder, there is no radar to contest. The 'fee' for this seems to be around $1000 pesos while the actual infraction coast is about $250 pesos.

Seatbelts are mandatory in Baja. The legitimate fine for this infraction is $500 pesos
Cell phone use while driving is illegal in Baja. I believe the legitimate fine for this is $300 pesos, It is costing some folks as much as $80USD Gringos must be doing it more as they are certainly getting busted more often for it. (wink)

Drunk driving laws are being enforced. Again this fall we have seen the return of roadblocks for sobriety check points. This is a serious offence here now too. If you are a pale face from north of the border it is gonna cost you serious too. You can expect anything from $1000 pesos to 10,000 pesos of hurt here. (yes, $1000USD) Besides, Baja roads are challenging enough just don't do it.

The days of expired registrations are over too. Your car must be legally registered to operate on the roadways of the state/country you are plated in. You can be fined here for expired registration and I would almost count on it in the last week of each month in La Paz. (wink)

Also for those of you with 'computer altered tags' beware. An acquaintance told me last week the moto cop near Soriana in La Paz pulled him over at night and flicked his flashlight across the 'cloned' tag, When it didn't reflect, the cop knew it was fake. The car was impounded until he produced valid registration. That took 5 weeks. Good thing it wasn't his smog inspection year or he would have been @#&%.

Driving with an expired license will cost you $500 to 1000 pesos. Don't have a license? You get hauled to jail until somebody produces valid ID for you. Bummer if you are traveling alone.

Driving down an urban street in La Paz slinging mud from the treads of your off road adventure is a $500 pesos fine. This applies to commercial vehicles as well.

Remember, on Hwy 1 local police can write infractions within locales. You will see 'End of Federal Highway" signs near El Rosario, Catavina, Santa Rosalia, Loreto, Constitucion, La Paz, Todos Santos and Cabo. Also a variety of other little pueblos along the way, too numerous to mention.

Driving without Mexican Liability Insurance is just plain silly. My full coverage policy cost me less than $400 per year. Liability only can be even less. If you have an accident you can be detained until the fault of the accident is determined. If you are determined to be at fault, you will be detained until you can provide evidence of (or ability to make) restitution. This can prevent you OR YOUR PASSENGERS from being airlifted to superior medical facilities in the US, Canada or even Guadalajara and the red tape involved even applies to life threatening situations. We would of course encourage you to purchase your insurance from our advertiser, Adventure Mexican Auto Insurance.

Baja's roadways have about 10 times as many accidents per 100 miles as US roads. This is because freeway miles are far safer and Baja doesn't have even a mile of controlled access roadway. Compared to US rural 2 lane roads, Baja Highways are only slightly more dangerous. First time drivers also have a hard time with Baja's 'rolling stops' and other unique driving etiquette. All these challenges can even add up to just a fender bender, as I had, which without insurance would have ruined a vacation. Purchase a policy from Adventure or other reputable agent, it makes sense.

Buen Viaje & Mucho Ojo!>>


<<I have a little experience with Baja, driving (and flying) to Baja since 1967. I have a house just south of San Quintin (El Socorrito) plus a trailer at P. San Carlos. I go down for about a week once a month; retirement has its benefits.

My take on these incidents is:
1. Duh! 2. Duh! 3. Duh!

If you drive through a poor area, late at night, in a shiny truck loaded with high priced stuff, the probability of your coming out with it are slim. Forget Mexico, try it in Watts, Inglewood, Compton, Logan Hts... take your pick. And if you don't speak English in those areas, double duh.

How would you feel toward hoards of obnoxious German tourists breezing through Calif. in brand new Mercedes and Beemers with fists full of euros, shouting loudly, not speaking a word of English other than "Beer," and having no inclination to learn another?

My surprise is that there have not been more of these robberies. Living among Mexicans I have heard of numerous robberies and, yes, murders.

All the crimes have one thing in common: Gringos -- even Mexicans -- were far from anybody, alone (or a small group), and it was nightfall.

Do these incidents put me off Baja? No more than planes crashing into the World Trade Center put me off NY, or the murders in LA every night put me off Tinsel Town (however, the traffic does).

Over the years of visiting Rio Vista, Crissy Field, the Gorge (brother lives in Portland), Hawaii, South Africa, Holland, Los Banos and other "hot sailing spots" touted in glossy magazine pictures, I have come to the conclusion that few places can match Baja, and almost none surpass it. Not just my (biased?) opinion, ask Dave Ezzy, his son, Graham, Jason Polekow, Matt & Kevin Pritchard, Ian Boyd, and the other top sailors who you will rub boards with at P. San Carlos.

If nothing else, the water won't give you cancer -- and if there are two sailors on a wave, it is crowded (and time to sail to another point).

My advice is: just use common sense driving, staying, and camping in Baja. Think of what precautions you would take with those activities in Inglewood or Watts:

1. Avoid driving at night. (Bandidos may be the least of your worries, cows love the warm blacktop and a close encounter with one could ruin your whole day, and probably many to follow. Also, young muchachos love to get pissed after work and their blood alcohol level is far above 0.08. Those little crosses and shrines by the side of the road are no small accident, they are from numerous big ones -- almost all at night.)

2. Camp at a campground with a big sign and somebody who collects $5 - $10. (Especially if he has a wife and kids.) Many small hotels/motels near the beach have attached campgrounds with fences. Bandidos, south of Ensenada, are local and, I am told, if (when?) they are recognized they risk a handling by the Mexican Policia worse than anything that happened at Abu Ghraib. (Big time hoods don't bother with anything less than a kilo of cocaine, and the last thing they need is attention in the gringo press. If small time artists draw unwelcome attention that could threaten their operation, they will often deal with amateurs terminally.)

3. If night falls, just turn into the nearest little motel, take your stuff off the racks, and pay the $30 asked for. If your stuff is too large to lift off, run a heavy cable or chain through it then click the lock. Nimble fingered local amateurs don't carry bolt cutters (most don't even have flashlights -- they use matches for light). Then get up fresh and early and actually enjoy the drive. (A bicycle cable/chain is a good idea... period. It costs a lot less than replacing a board.)

4. Don't spend the night in TJ or Ensenada; plan to drive at least to Santo Tomas or San Vicente. Crooks in the cities are invariably organized gangs and armed. Many have turned to crime frustrated with trying to jump the border, out of dinero, and with no jobs.

5. If you need to stop to buy provisions, do it in Ensenada at a Gigante, Calimax, or Comercio Mexicana -- large supermarkets on the main drag. (There is even a Costco and Home Depot plus Burger King and yellow arches. Besides, the meat/cheese is wrapped in plastic, the servers wear gloves and caps, and the floor is spotless -- just like the good old USA, except half the price.) Pull into their ample parking lots, put 50c in the palm of a guard and tell him "Mas quando regresso," (More when I return) and give him 50c when you come back. Cheapest insurance anywhere.

6. If you absolutely, positively insist on driving at night, convoy behind a big truck or, best of all, a bus -- and be patient. (They will hit the cow first... Or at the very least block the view of any bandido. Besides, bus drivers know every pothole and turn; if you go faster than them at night, your chances of sailing the waves is slim.)

!Vaya bien, cuate!>>

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Since 16 Aug 2006
356 Posts

PostTue Nov 27, 07 8:53 pm     Reply with quote

Good advice. Follow the rules and you can have this to yourself. Very Happy

   s baja.jpg 

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Since 28 Nov 2007
1 Posts

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PostWed Nov 28, 07 3:19 pm    Sources Reply with quote

Hey, just chiming in to confirm that the above post wasn't posted my me, Eric Byers (I happen to be in Baja right now also).... because if it was, I would have put a link back to in exchange for using their content. Those guys work night and day to gather and create that original content, so the least we can do is direct some traffic their way. Happy driving and remember to make full stops on the La Paz Malecon --- $260 peso fine there, paid at the Police Station, of course.

- Eric_B

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