Mary Beth Abate

Mary Beth Abate is a Reader contributor. See staff page for published articles.

Baby Steps in Baja

John, Thank you for reading and taking the time to comment. Selecting a safe travel destination falls under the “a little planning” part I mentioned, akin to making sure your passport isn’t expired and packing your prescription medication. Some trips take more planning than others, obviously. There are plenty of online resources to facilitate. Other behaviors – being aware of your surroundings, not flashing your designer clothes, expensive jewelry or wallet full of cash, being polite and respectful to locals and other tourists, avoiding public drunkenness, staying in well populated areas and absolutely not buying, selling or using illegal substances are just common sense in Medellin, Baja, the Gaslamp District, or the UTC mall. I use experienced and well-reviewed travel assistants who live and work in my destination country whenever I travel outside the U.S. They are invaluable, especially when there is a language barrier. They will be in or close to the same time zone if you do need to call them. They’ll explain cultural differences, and tell you where to find the best shoes, the best bars, and the best bakeries. They’ll customize your trip for you, so you get the most bang for your buck and avoid what doesn’t really interest you. For this trip, though, I used an excellent San Diego travel service just to get a visitor’s visa ahead of time, rather than purchasing it at the border crossing. A visit to a municipal tourist center is another a good way to familiarize yourself with your surroundings. I spent about 10 minutes in the Ensenada tourist center and explained that I was writing about the Baja culinary scene. The gentleman who assisted me provided directions to several restaurants, wineries, artisan breweries and food producers, ranging from white tablecloth to very rustic, that weren’t on the tourist map. Many countries, including Mexico and the U.S., are releasing dangerous, violent criminals as cost cutting measures. But it’s important to look at facts, not sensational headlines that may be profit or politically motivated. According to, which uses U.N. based data to assess the crime rates of cities and nations worldwide, Mexico ranks at 14 per 100K for homicides in 2010-2011, behind other popular vacation destinations like St. Lucia (19), the Bahamas (25), St. Kitts (52), Jamaica (62) and Honduras (67). Mexico has substantially lower crime rates for assault, kidnapping and rape than Canada, yet the U.S. State Department has issued no warnings against travel across our northern border. (Source: Prominix 2012, adjusted for unreported crime). In comparison to major U.S. cities, the per capita homicide rate for Mexico City is 9, Mexico overall, 14, Chicago, 15.2, Philadelphia, 19.6, Washington, D.C., 21, St. Louis, 40.5 and New Orleans, 49.1. If I had been writing about taking a road trip to New Orleans, would you still have said “I hope you don’t get anybody killed”?
— September 13, 2013 1:01 p.m.