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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. Break up into two states – Baja California (North) and Baja California Sur (South), the northern area is legendary 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 provides countless alternatives for exploration – the whole lot from waterfall hikes, sizzling springs, browsing, road 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 – may be irritating with navigating border crossings, language boundaries, 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 data you’ll must have a protected and enjoyable time in Mexico.

Need to go on a Baja California highway journey? Study the whole lot from what to anticipate crossing the border, tenting data, tips on how to get web, what to pack, and extra.

US/Mexico Border Crossing

There are two essential border crossing choices that folks 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 via Ensenada alongside the Pacific Ocean earlier than heading inland via numerous small agricultural cities. The Calexico border crossing takes you into Mexicali and down the japanese route which runs alongside the Sea of Cortez and passes via San Felipe.

The route you select can be as much as you and based mostly 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 almost as intimidating because it appears. Whenever 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 tug apart and the agent requested to open my aspect and again van doorways. He shortly 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 under). From arrival to departure, it took about 20 minutes complete to drive via 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 will possibly 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 would occur.

Paperwork You’ll Have to Drive to Mexico


Alongside together with your bodily passport, I like to recommend bringing just a few copies of your passport to stash in your car. When you cross the border, you need to by no means want handy over your bodily passport once more. All the time current a replica in case you are requested.

FMM Vacationer Card

If you happen to plan to remain in Mexico for greater than 7 days, you’re required to get a short lived vacationer visa, which prices $35 USD and lets you keep in Mexico for as much as 6 months. You’ll be able to apply on-line forward of time, or get it in individual on the border. If you happen to apply on-line, remember to 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 vital to notice you can’t use a bank card to pay in 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 net software and simply getting your FMM card on the border. I utilized per 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 the whole group I used to be touring with and I’ve heard of different vacationers having points with the net software as nicely. 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 legislation as a result of US insurance policies can not show your monetary duty to the Mexican authorities – your US automotive insurance coverage won’t work in Mexico. There are a lot of firms that you may get automotive insurance coverage via, however probably the most extremely beneficial (and what I went with) is Baja Certain.

Pet Vaccinations Data

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

Greatest Time for a Baja California Street Journey

One of the best 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’re close to the water, it doesn’t begin to get uncomfortably sizzling for tenting till Could.

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 houses 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 are ready for warmth and largely stick with the coast for tenting if visiting in the course of the summer season shoulder season, it’s manageable.

I might keep away from driving to Baja in the course of 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
mountain climbing in La Ventana, Baja California Sur. Photograph: Courtney Stephenson

Driving in Baja

There are principally two main roads that run via Baja: Freeway 1 (crossing from Tijuana all the way in which south to Cabo) and Freeway 5 (crossing from Mexicali). The roads are fairly slim with potholes and minimal shoulders, so remember to take it sluggish and listen whilst you’re driving. 

Army Checkpoints

There are roughly 6 army checkpoints alongside the highways in Baja all the way in which all the way down to Los Cabos. These are often fast checks to be sure you would not have any medicine 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. Typically they may wave you thru the checkpoint, and generally they may ask to look inside your car – I used to be requested to open my aspect door about 50% of the time. I extremely suggest protecting your valuables out of sight and staying within the car or standing proper alongside to observe as they search your van, simply to be protected. I personally didn’t have any points throughout these checkpoints.

Ideas for Driving in Baja

  • Keep away from driving at evening: this isn’t a private security situation, it is because there are usually cows and different roadside hazards which might be exhausting to see.
  • Gasoline up typically: Gasoline stations may be few and much between on the lengthy stretches of highway and generally they run out of gasoline. You’ll want to replenish typically.
  • Convey a spare tire: Baja has tons of bumpy grime roads and the possibilities of getting a flat are excessive. Be sure to have a spare tire and it’s aired up.
  • Watch out for velocity bumps: Baja is infamous for sneaky velocity bumps as you get nearer to cities. Typically they’re signed as “Tope”, however many occasions they don’t seem to be and so they can actually take a look at your car’s suspension.
  • Have pesos available: Some gasoline stations are money solely, so remember to 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’ll 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 executed 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 just a little extra preparation and packing than most different highway journeys. If you’re heading all the way down to Mexico with buddies, be sure you have all of the necessities lined between you. For instance, I didn’t personally carry restoration boards or an air compressor, however just a few of my journey companions had these gadgets. This record is tailor-made to these planning on automotive tenting in Baja and/or touring in a van, so maintain that in thoughts in case you are renting a automotive or staying in accommodations/Airbnbs.

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

  • Max Trax – to get unstuck from delicate 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 seaside tenting or offroading, having the ability to deflate your tires to a set PSI simply and shortly is absolutely handy.
  • Moveable air compressor – to have the ability to refill your tires to the correct PSI once you hit pavement once more
  • Tow strap – one other approach that can assist you get unstuck
  • Spare tire – there are many bumpy, grime roads in Baja so be sure your spare is aired up simply in case.
  • Walkie-talkies – important in case you are caravanning. That is the simplest strategy to talk about army checkpoints, highway hazards, gasoline 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 in all places in Baja, however in case you have a hose fillup (particularly one which screws on), you’ll 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 lots simpler to handle.
  • Shade construction – my van has an connected awning which got here in useful on sizzling, sunny days. If you happen to don’t have one, we suggest the moveable MoonShade because it matches on quite a lot of autos and is funds pleasant (use the code “BEARFOOTTHEORY” to get 10% off and discover our full evaluate 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 aspect of the peninsula.
  • Prescriptions and private care gadgets – be sure you carry sufficient meds to final you the period of your journey, and perhaps additional in case you’re not fairly positive how lengthy you’ll be staying since not all prescriptions may be crammed in Mexico. I’d additionally suggest bringing alongside digestive enzymes in case you have a delicate abdomen.
  • Specialty meals – it was exhausting to search out nice vegetarian/vegan choices on the grocery shops in most cities (exterior of main cities like La Paz and Cabo). I like to recommend stocking up in your favourite dry/non-perishable meals and gadgets corresponding to tofu, shelf-stable oat milk, snacks, plant-based meats/cheeses, and so forth.
  • Pet food – replenish in your favourite model (and produce additional!) as a result of you’ll possible not be capable to discover your favourite model in Mexico.
  • Jerry can – I personally didn’t carry a jerry can for additional gasoline and as an alternative made positive to replenish anytime I noticed a gasoline station, however carry one alongside if you’d like peace of thoughts or plan to go critical off-roading.
  • Inflatable lantern or string lights – Some seaside campsites have adjoining palapas (shade buildings) and it’s good to create just a little ambiance in your out of doors dwelling area. I beloved having the inflatable MPOWERED Luci Photo voltaic Lantern which lit up our whole palapa within the evenings.
  • Moveable rest room – dispersed tenting in Baja isn’t like dispersed tenting within the US. More often than not you’re on uncovered seashores or round a lot of different campers, and public bogs aren’t as frequent. In an effort to maintain the seashores clear (nobody desires to see a seaside overrun with poop and/or rest room paper), I like to recommend determining a #2 toilet resolution, just like the foldable Go Wherever Bathroom.
  • Moveable bathe – with out quick access to gyms or truck stops, it’s useful to have a strategy to simply rinse off salt & sand on the finish of the day earlier than climbing into mattress. The compact Geyser Programs Moveable Bathe offers sizzling water to rinse your self and your gear (learn our full Geyser evaluate right here).

What To not Pack for A Baja California Street Journey

There are just a few gadgets you aren’t allowed to cross into Mexico with – listed here are just a few of the massive ones:

  • Produce – fruits, greens, meat, or cheese. There are many grocery shops and markets in Baja for recent 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 seaside 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 essential find out about tenting in Baja:

Seashore 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/evening ($5-10 USD). Some spots will cost additional if you’d like a palapa (shade construction). Money solely.
  • Charges are often collected within the afternoon, however generally there’s somebody who will acquire 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 seaside campsite in between Mulege and Loreto. Photograph: Courtney Stephenson

RV Parks and Paid Campgrounds

  • Common value for dry tenting: 160-600 pesos/evening ($8-30 USD). Sometimes 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 remember to ask for what sort of spot you want.
  • Typical facilities embrace on-site laundry, showers, and Wi-Fi (though Wi-Fi is usually very sluggish 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)/evening. Photograph: Courtney Stephenson

Cell Telephones + Wifi in Baja

Some cafes in bigger cities can have sturdy Wi-fi, however usually, Wi-fi is tough to return by and fairly sluggish in Baja. It’s a lot simpler to remain related in case you both carry your present T-Cellular plan with you to Baja (they use native Telcel towers) or purchase an area Telcel SIM card in Mexico. 

If you don’t require sturdy cell sign or limitless information, you will get through the use of T-Cellular or probably one other US service, though most individuals I spoke with had very spotty reference to Verizon and AT&T.

If you would like the quickest, most dependable service, I extremely suggest shopping for an area Telcel SIM card from any OXXO retailer (much like a 7/11). You have to an unlocked cellphone with the intention to use Telcel. Though T-Cellular 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 may also purchase limitless information at 2 hours for $.75 and prime up when wanted. That is by far the very best and most financial strategy 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 via 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 cellphone on airplane mode anytime you’re not utilizing it to make sure you protect your information.

Along with getting your cellphone arrange, listed here are just a few useful apps to obtain:

  • iOverlander: nice for locating campsites, water refill stations, dump stations, laundromats, mechanics, eating places, showers, and extra.
  • Google Maps: remember to 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 in 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! If in case you have any questions or wish to share any Baja ideas, please depart a remark under.

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 style 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 centered on the outside and sustainable dwelling.



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