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How To Put together for a Baja California, Mexico Street Journey – Bearfoot Idea

Stretching 760 miles south from the US/Mexico border, the Baja California Peninsula is a jaw-dropping worldwide highway journey vacation spot that’s simply accessible from the US. Cut up into two states – Baja California (North) and Baja California Sur (South), the northern area is known for its wine whereas the south is thought for its unbelievable seashores and marine life.

With the Sea of Cortez to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west, the Baja Peninsula gives limitless alternatives for exploration – every part from waterfall hikes, sizzling springs, browsing, avenue tacos, UNESCO World Heritage marine websites, and colourful small cities – all at a a lot slower tempo of life.

However planning a highway journey – not to mention a global one – might be tense with navigating border crossings, language limitations, and unfamiliar roads and surroundings, in order that’s why I’ve put collectively this Baja highway journey information. I spent two months doing van life in Baja and gathered all the information you’ll have to have a secure and enjoyable time in Mexico.

Wish to go on a Baja California highway journey? Study every part from what to anticipate crossing the border, tenting information, how one can get web, what to pack, and extra.

US/Mexico Border Crossing

There are two fundamental border crossing choices that individuals take when beginning their Baja California highway journey: San Ysidro and Calexico/Mexicali. The San Ysidro border crossing takes you into Tijuana and down the western route which runs by Ensenada alongside the Pacific Ocean earlier than heading inland by various small agricultural cities. The Calexico border crossing takes you into Mexicali and down the jap route which runs alongside the Sea of Cortez and passes by San Felipe.

The route you select can be as much as you and primarily based in your itinerary. I selected to cross into Mexico at Calexico/Mexicali as a result of the drive alongside the Sea of Cortez is extra scenic and fewer hectic than the western route.

Crossing the border into Mexico isn’t practically as intimidating because it appears. While you arrive on the border, brokers will both wave you thru or ask that you just pull apart for inspection. I used to be directed to drag apart and the agent requested to open my facet and again van doorways. He rapidly seemed round and the inspection took lower than 5 minutes. As a result of I used to be planning on staying in Mexico for greater than 7 days, I then pulled into the small parking zone to go inside to get my FMM visa (extra on that beneath). From arrival to departure, it took about 20 minutes complete to drive by the Mexicali border. 

Observe that crossing from Mexico again into the US usually takes for much longer. On my return to the US, the wait to get to the border took about 1.5 hours at Mexicali, however it may well take for much longer than that, particularly if returning through the Tijuana/San Ysidro border (which tends to be the busiest). I wasn’t pulled apart for inspection when crossing again into the US though that’s one thing that might occur.

Paperwork You’ll Must Drive to Mexico


Alongside along with your bodily passport, I like to recommend bringing a number of copies of your passport to stash in your car. When you cross the border, you must by no means want handy over your bodily passport once more. At all times current a replica if you’re requested.

FMM Vacationer Card

For those who plan to remain in Mexico for greater than 7 days, you might be required to get a brief vacationer visa, which prices $35 USD and permits you to keep in Mexico for as much as 6 months. You possibly can apply on-line forward of time, or get it in individual on the border. For those who apply on-line, make sure you print out BOTH the receipt and the vacationer card. If you don’t print each paperwork, you’ll have to pay once more on the border. It’s necessary to notice you can’t use a bank card to pay on your FMM on the border – it’s money solely, however they settle for USD.

Even in case you apply on-line, you continue to should cease to get your visa stamped inside on the border. I extremely suggest skipping the web utility and simply getting your FMM card on the border. I utilized every week earlier than crossing however my visa was by no means processed, and I needed to pay once more on the border. This occurred to your complete group I used to be touring with and I’ve heard of different vacationers having points with the web utility as effectively. Save your self the headache and cash and simply purchase your FMM on the border.

A US passport with a Mexican FMM Card temporary tourist visa next to it
Passport & FMM Vacationer Card. Photograph: Courtney Stephenson

Mexican Auto Insurance coverage

Automotive insurance coverage is required by Mexican regulation as a result of US insurance policies can not show your monetary accountability to the Mexican authorities – your US automotive insurance coverage is not going to work in Mexico. There are various corporations that you could get automotive insurance coverage by, however essentially the most extremely beneficial (and what I went with) is Baja Sure.

Pet Vaccinations Data

If you’re bringing your pet(s) throughout the border, you will want to have their vaccination information useful. In talking with a number of canine house owners, none of them have been requested for any information on the border, anytime throughout their keep, or upon re-entry to the US. Nevertheless, it’s best to have them readily available simply in case. Get extra recommendations on highway tripping with pets right here.

Greatest Time for a Baja California Street Journey

The most effective time to do a Baja highway journey is between November and March. The highs vary between 70s-80s with lows within the 60s, and mixed with the ocean breeze, it’s close-to-perfect climate. It begins to warmth up in April, however so long as you might be close to the water, it doesn’t begin to get uncomfortably sizzling for tenting till Might.

Winter and early spring are additionally the prime whale-watching seasons in Baja. Gray whales, blue whales, and humpback whales migrate alongside the Baja Peninsula every winter from November to March as they make their yearly journey from Alaska all the way down to their winter properties within the Sea of Cortez.

I used to be in Baja from early February till the second week of April and had near-perfect climate. It did begin to get actually sizzling inland by mid-March, and the temperatures driving north have been 95F+ in early April, however so long as you’re ready for warmth and principally keep on with the coast for tenting if visiting throughout the summer season shoulder season, it’s manageable.

I’d keep away from driving to Baja throughout the summer season months due to the scorching warmth, humidity, and excessive probability of tropical storms from August till October.

Large cacti next to the Sea of Cortez in La Ventana, Baja California Sur
mountaineering in La Ventana, Baja California Sur. Photograph: Courtney Stephenson

Driving in Baja

There are principally two main roads that run by Baja: Freeway 1 (crossing from Tijuana all the best way south to Cabo) and Freeway 5 (crossing from Mexicali). The roads are fairly slim with potholes and minimal shoulders, so make sure you take it gradual and concentrate whilst you’re driving. 

Navy Checkpoints

There are roughly 6 army checkpoints alongside the highways in Baja all the best way all the way down to Los Cabos. These are often fast checks to be sure to wouldn’t have any medication or weapons with you, and they’ll often ask questions like “¿de dónde vienes?” (the place are you coming from?) and “¿adónde vas?” (the place are you going?).

It may be intimidating seeing males with giant weapons, however they’re usually pleasant and non-confrontational. Generally they are going to wave you thru the checkpoint, and generally they are going to ask to look inside your car – I used to be requested to open my facet door about 50% of the time. I extremely suggest conserving your valuables out of sight and staying within the car or standing proper alongside to look at as they search your van, simply to be secure. I personally didn’t have any points throughout these checkpoints.

Suggestions for Driving in Baja

  • Keep away from driving at night time: this isn’t a private security difficulty, it’s because there are usually cows and different roadside hazards which might be laborious to see.
  • Gas up typically: Gasoline stations might be few and much between on the lengthy stretches of highway and generally they run out of fuel. You’ll want to refill typically.
  • Convey a spare tire: Baja has tons of bumpy dust roads and the probabilities of getting a flat are excessive. Be sure to have a spare tire and it’s aired up.
  • Watch out for pace bumps: Baja is infamous for sneaky pace bumps as you get nearer to cities. Generally they’re signed as “Tope”, however many occasions they aren’t and so they can actually take a look at your car’s suspension.
  • Have pesos readily available: Some fuel stations are money solely, so make sure you have sufficient pesos in your car.
  • Save the Inexperienced Angels quantity: The Inexperienced Angels are a government-funded patrol crew that acts much like AAA in Baja. Save this quantity: 01-800-987-8224 in case of emergency. They will help with mechanical points, towing, accidents, and extra.
  • Know frequent driving etiquette: Drivers will flash their hazards to sign you to decelerate, usually as a result of there’s a highway hazard (often cows or goats) forward. When drivers flip their left-hand flip sign on the freeway, it means it’s clear/OK to move (that is often achieved by semis or slower autos).
A two lane highway in Baja Mexico
roads in Baja are usually slim with minimal/no shoulder

What to Pack for a Baja California Street Journey

A Baja highway journey requires somewhat extra preparation and packing than most different highway journeys. If you’re heading all the way down to Mexico with pals, be sure to have all of the necessities coated between you. For instance, I didn’t personally carry restoration boards or an air compressor, however a number of of my journey companions had these objects. This record is tailor-made to these planning on automotive tenting in Baja and/or touring in a van, so preserve that in thoughts if you’re renting a automotive or staying in accommodations/Airbnbs.

Listed here are the necessities to pack for a Baja highway journey:

  • Max Trax – to get unstuck from comfortable sand seashores. Restoration boards are a should for Mexico!
  • Foldable shovel – additionally important to dig your self out in case you get caught.
  • Tire deflator – in case you plan to spend so much of time seashore tenting or offroading, with the ability to deflate your tires to a set PSI simply and rapidly is actually handy.
  • Transportable air compressor – to have the ability to refill your tires to the correct PSI once you hit pavement once more
  • Tow strap – one other manner that will help you get unstuck
  • Spare tire – there are many bumpy, dust roads in Baja so be sure that your spare is aired up simply in case.
  • Walkie-talkies – important if you’re caravanning. That is the simplest solution to talk about army checkpoints, highway hazards, fuel station stops, and simply passing the time on lengthy drives! There may be restricted cell sign on many sections, so walkie-talkies are a should.
  • Further water jug or adapter – there are “agua purificada” water refill stations all over the place in Baja, however when you’ve got a hose fillup (particularly one which screws on), you might have a more durable time discovering locations to get water. Both carry an additional water jug, funnel, or discover an adapter to make refilling water a breeze.
  • Sand-proof mat – sand is inevitable throughout a Baja highway journey, however a sand mat makes it rather a lot simpler to handle.
  • Shade construction – my van has an connected awning which got here in useful on sizzling, sunny days. For those who don’t have one, we suggest the transportable MoonShade because it matches on quite a lot of autos and is price range pleasant (use the code “BEARFOOTTHEORY” to get 10% off and discover our full overview right here).
  • Snorkel gear – there are tons of superior snorkeling spots proper from the seashores so I extremely suggest bringing your personal gear!
  • Inflatable SUP or raft – carry your favourite water toys as a result of there are unbelievable paddling alternatives, particularly on the Sea of Cortez facet of the peninsula.
  • Prescriptions and private care objects – be sure to carry sufficient meds to final you the period of your journey, and perhaps additional in case you’re not fairly certain how lengthy you’ll be staying since not all prescriptions might be stuffed in Mexico. I’d additionally suggest bringing alongside digestive enzymes when you’ve got a delicate abdomen.
  • Specialty meals – it was laborious to seek out nice vegetarian/vegan choices on the grocery shops in most cities (outdoors of main cities like La Paz and Cabo). I like to recommend stocking up in your favourite dry/non-perishable meals and objects reminiscent of tofu, shelf-stable oat milk, snacks, plant-based meats/cheeses, and so on.
  • Pet food – replenish in your favourite model (and produce additional!) as a result of you’ll probably not be capable of discover your favourite model in Mexico.
  • Jerry can – I personally didn’t carry a jerry can for additional gas and as an alternative made certain to refill anytime I noticed a fuel station, however carry one alongside in order for you peace of thoughts or plan to go severe off-roading.
  • Inflatable lantern or string lights – Some seashore campsites have adjoining palapas (shade buildings) and it’s good to create somewhat ambiance on your out of doors dwelling house. I liked having the inflatable MPOWERED Luci Photo voltaic Lantern which lit up our complete palapa within the evenings.
  • Transportable rest room – dispersed tenting in Baja is just not like dispersed tenting within the US. More often than not you might be on uncovered seashores or round a number of different campers, and public bogs aren’t as frequent. In an effort to preserve the seashores clear (nobody needs to see a seashore overrun with poop and/or rest room paper), I like to recommend determining a #2 toilet resolution, just like the foldable Go Anyplace Bathroom.
  • Transportable bathe – with out quick access to gyms or truck stops, it’s useful to have a solution to simply rinse off salt & sand on the finish of the day earlier than climbing into mattress. The compact Geyser Methods Transportable Bathe offers sizzling water to rinse your self and your gear (learn our full Geyser overview right here).

What To not Pack for A Baja California Street Journey

There are a number of objects you aren’t allowed to cross into Mexico with – listed below are a number of of the large ones:

  • Produce – fruits, greens, meat, or cheese. There are many grocery shops and markets in Baja for contemporary produce.
  • Weapons or ammunition
  • Medicine (together with CBD)
Cacti with mountains in the distance in The Sierra de la Laguna Biosphere in Baja
The Sierra de la Laguna Biosphere in Baja

Tenting on Your Baja California Street Journey

As I discussed beforehand, I used to be doing Baja van life and camped for almost all of my time there. There are tons of fantastic campsites in Baja, together with seashore spots, lagoons, RV parks, and extra. iOverlander is a good useful resource for locating each free and paid campsites. Right here’s what it’s good to learn about tenting in Baja:

Seaside Tenting in Baja

  • Most seashores are public (free), however some require a small charge that goes towards upkeep, trash assortment, and (generally) pit bogs.
  • Common paid value: 100-200 pesos/night time ($5-10 USD). Some spots will cost additional in order for you a palapa (shade construction). Money solely.
  • Charges are often collected within the afternoon, however generally there’s somebody who will accumulate the charge upon arrival.
  • Beware of sentimental sand – it’s a ceremony of passage getting caught in sand in Baja. You’ll want to be ready with restoration boards and a tow strap.
A white campervan on the beach doing Baja van life road trip
a free seashore campsite in between Mulege and Loreto. Photograph: Courtney Stephenson

RV Parks and Paid Campgrounds

  • Common value for dry tenting: 160-600 pesos/night time ($8-30 USD). Usually money solely.
  • Many RV Parks are first-come, first-serve and don’t settle for reservations.
  • Most cost a unique value for hookups vs. dry tenting, so make sure you ask for what sort of spot you want.
  • Typical facilities embody on-site laundry, showers, and Wi-Fi (though Wi-Fi is usually very gradual and unreliable).
  • Some RV parks will assist you to bathe even in case you don’t keep in a single day. I paid 50-100 pesos ($2.50-$5) to bathe at RV parks, and would attain out through Whatsapp forward of time.
A white campervan doing Baja van life in San Felipe
La Palapa RV Park in San Felipe – 490 pesos ($25 USD)/night time. Photograph: Courtney Stephenson

Cell Telephones + Wifi in Baja

Some cafes in bigger cities could have sturdy Wi-fi, however generally, Wi-fi is tough to come back by and fairly gradual in Baja. It’s a lot simpler to remain related in case you both carry your current T-Cell plan with you to Baja (they use native Telcel towers) or purchase a neighborhood Telcel SIM card in Mexico. 

If you don’t require sturdy cell sign or limitless information, you may get by utilizing T-Cell or doubtlessly one other US provider, though most individuals I spoke with had very spotty reference to Verizon and AT&T.

If you need the quickest, most dependable service, I extremely suggest shopping for a neighborhood Telcel SIM card from any OXXO retailer (much like a 7/11). You have to an unlocked telephone to be able to use Telcel. Though T-Cell makes use of the identical towers, the sign was by no means as sturdy as these with Telcel plans. I initially paid USD $7.50 + $2.50 activation charge for a SIM card with 4.5GB of knowledge that lasts as much as 30 days. Since I work remotely, I wanted extra information than the plan supplied, however with a Tecel plan, you can too purchase limitless information at 2 hours for $.75 and high up when wanted. That is by far the most effective and most financial solution to get dependable web in Baja in case you’re working remotely and/or staying for an prolonged time period. 

Roaming Rivers put collectively a working in Baja e-book that I purchased forward of time that helped information me step-by-step by the method of getting a SIM card and organising limitless information that I extremely suggest. I additionally suggest turning on “Low Information” mode as quickly as you cross the border and leaving your telephone on airplane mode anytime you’re not utilizing it to make sure you protect your information.

Along with getting your telephone arrange, listed below are a number of useful apps to obtain:

  • iOverlander: nice for locating campsites, water refill stations, dump stations, laundromats, mechanics, eating places, showers, and extra.
  • Google Maps: make sure you obtain maps for offline use forward of time.
  • Google Translate: you possibly can obtain Spanish for offline use.
  • XE Conversion: simply convert pesos to USD.
  • Libby: hyperlink a library card to obtain e-books and audiobooks on your journey.
Sunset on Playa Tecolote in La Paz Baja California Sur
sundown on Playa Tecolote. Photograph: Courtney Stephenson

I hope this weblog submit makes planning your Baja California highway journey a breeze! When you have any questions or need to share any Baja ideas, please depart a remark beneath.

Want to go on a Baja California road trip? Learn everything from what to expect crossing the border, what to pack, wifi, camping info, & more.

Written by
Courtney Stephenson

Courtney is an avid hiker, yogi, and music lover who left her company profession in trend to pursue a life on the highway. She’s backpacked all through Europe and Southeast Asia and is at present touring the US in a transformed Ford E150 van. Courtney is a contract author targeted on the outside and sustainable dwelling.

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