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How To Put together for a Baja California, Mexico Highway Journey – Bearfoot Principle

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 legendary for its wine whereas the south is understood for its unimaginable seashores and marine life.

With the Sea of Cortez to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west, the Baja Peninsula provides infinite alternatives for exploration – the whole lot from waterfall hikes, scorching 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 – could be disturbing 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 information you’ll have to have a secure and enjoyable time in Mexico.

Wish to go on a Baja California highway journey? Be taught the whole lot from what to anticipate crossing the border, tenting data, the way to get web, what to pack, and extra.

US/Mexico Border Crossing

There are two most important 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 means of Ensenada alongside the Pacific Ocean earlier than heading inland by means of quite a few 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 by means of San Felipe.

The route you select might 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. Once you arrive on the border, brokers will both wave you thru or ask that you simply pull apart for inspection. I used to be directed to tug apart and the agent requested to open my facet and again van doorways. He shortly regarded 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 car 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 by means of the Mexicali border. 

Notice that crossing from Mexico again into the US typically 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 could actually take for much longer than that, particularly if returning by way of 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 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 must by no means want at hand 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 brief vacationer visa, which prices $35 USD and means that you can 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. If you happen to apply on-line, make sure 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 on your FMM on the border – it’s money solely, however they settle for USD.

Even when you apply on-line, you continue to must cease to get your visa stamped inside on the border. I extremely suggest skipping the web software 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 all the group I used to be touring with and I’ve heard of different vacationers having points with the web 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 regulation as a result of US insurance policies can not show your monetary accountability to the Mexican authorities – your US automotive insurance coverage won’t work in Mexico. There are lots of firms that you may get automotive insurance coverage by means of, however essentially the most extremely beneficial (and what I went with) is Baja Sure.

Pet Vaccinations Information

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

Greatest Time for a Baja California Highway 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 scorching 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 right 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 scorching inland by mid-March, and the temperatures driving north had been 95F+ in early April, however so long as you are ready for warmth and largely keep on with the coast for tenting if visiting throughout the summer season shoulder season, it’s manageable.

I might keep away from driving to Baja throughout the summer season months due to the scorching warmth, humidity, and excessive likelihood 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 means of 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 make sure to take it gradual and concentrate when you’re driving. 

Army Checkpoints

There are roughly 6 army checkpoints alongside the highways in Baja all the way in which right down to Los Cabos. These are often fast checks to ensure you 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 massive weapons, however they’re usually pleasant and non-confrontational. Typically they’ll wave you thru the checkpoint, and generally they’ll ask to look inside your car – I used to be requested to open my facet 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 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 concern, it’s because there are usually cows and different roadside hazards which can be laborious to see.
  • Gas up typically: Fuel stations could be few and much between on the lengthy stretches of highway and generally they run out of fuel. Make sure to refill typically.
  • Deliver a spare tire: Baja has tons of bumpy filth roads and the possibilities of getting a flat are excessive. Ensure you 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 aren’t and so they can actually take a look at your car’s suspension.
  • Have pesos available: Some fuel stations are money solely, so make sure 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 cross (that is often completed by semis or slower automobiles).
A two lane highway in Baja Mexico
roads in Baja are usually slim with minimal/no shoulder

What to Pack for a Baja California Highway Journey

A Baja highway journey requires somewhat extra preparation and packing than most different highway journeys. If you’re heading right down to Mexico with mates, ensure you have all of the necessities lined between you. For instance, I didn’t personally deliver restoration boards or an air compressor, however just a few of my journey companions had these gadgets. This checklist is tailor-made to these planning on automotive tenting in Baja and/or touring in a van, so hold 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 comfortable sand seashores. Restoration boards are a should for Mexico!
  • Foldable shovel – additionally important to dig your self out when you get caught.
  • Tire deflator – when you plan to spend so much of time seashore tenting or offroading, having the ability to deflate your tires to a set PSI simply and shortly is basically handy.
  • Moveable air compressor – to have the ability to refill your tires to the right PSI while you hit pavement once more
  • Tow strap – one other approach that will help you get unstuck
  • Spare tire – there are many bumpy, filth roads in Baja so be sure that your spare is aired up simply in case.
  • Walkie-talkies – important in case you are caravanning. That is the simplest technique 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 in all places in Baja, however in case you have a hose fillup (particularly one which screws on), you will have a tougher time discovering locations to get water. Both deliver 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 scorching, sunny days. If you happen to don’t have one, we suggest the transportable MoonShade because it suits on quite a lot of automobiles and is finances 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 – deliver your favourite water toys as a result of there are unimaginable paddling alternatives, particularly on the Sea of Cortez facet of the peninsula.
  • Prescriptions and private care gadgets – ensure you deliver sufficient meds to final you the period of your journey, and possibly additional when you’re not fairly positive how lengthy you’ll be staying since not all prescriptions could be crammed in Mexico. I’d additionally suggest bringing alongside digestive enzymes in case you have a delicate abdomen.
  • Specialty meals – it was laborious 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 reminiscent of tofu, shelf-stable oat milk, snacks, plant-based meats/cheeses, and many others.
  • Pet food – replenish in your favourite model (and produce additional!) as a result of you’ll possible not have the ability to discover your favourite model in Mexico.
  • Jerry can – I personally didn’t deliver a jerry can for additional gas and as an alternative made positive to refill anytime I noticed a fuel station, however deliver one alongside if you’d like peace of thoughts or plan to go critical 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 outside residing area. I cherished having the inflatable MPOWERED Luci Photo voltaic Lantern which lit up our total palapa within the evenings.
  • Moveable bathroom – dispersed tenting in Baja will not be like dispersed tenting within the US. More often than not you’re on uncovered seashores or round numerous different campers, and public bogs aren’t as frequent. With a purpose to hold the seashores clear (nobody desires to see a seashore overrun with poop and/or bathroom paper), I like to recommend determining a #2 rest room resolution, just like the foldable Go Anyplace Bathroom.
  • Moveable bathe – with out easy accessibility to gyms or truck stops, it’s useful to have a technique to simply rinse off salt & sand on the finish of the day earlier than climbing into mattress. The compact Geyser Programs Moveable Bathe gives scorching water to rinse your self and your gear (learn our full Geyser evaluate right here).

What To not Pack for A Baja California Highway Journey

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

  • Produce – fruits, greens, meat, or cheese. There are many grocery shops and markets in Baja for recent produce.
  • Weapons or ammunition
  • Medication (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 Highway 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 wonderful 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 you could find out about tenting in Baja:

Seaside Tenting in Baja

  • Most seashores are public (free), however some require a small payment that goes towards upkeep, trash assortment, and (generally) pit bogs.
  • Common paid worth: 100-200 pesos/night time ($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 accumulate the payment upon arrival.
  • Beware of soppy sand – it’s a ceremony of passage getting caught in sand in Baja. Make sure 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 worth 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 special worth for hookups vs. dry tenting, so make sure to ask for what sort of spot you want.
  • Typical facilities embody on-site laundry, showers, and Wi-Fi (though Wi-Fi is commonly very gradual and unreliable).
  • Some RV parks will assist you to bathe even when 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 by way of 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 may have robust Wi-fi, however on the whole, Wi-fi is difficult to come back by and fairly gradual in Baja. It’s a lot simpler to remain related when you both deliver your present T-Cell plan with you to Baja (they use native Telcel towers) or purchase an area Telcel SIM card in Mexico. 

If you don’t require robust cell sign or limitless information, you may get through the use of T-Cell or probably one other US provider, 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’ll need an unlocked telephone with a purpose to use Telcel. Although T-Cell makes use of the identical towers, the sign was by no means as robust as these with Telcel plans. I initially paid USD $7.50 + $2.50 activation payment for a SIM card with 4.5GB of information 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 technique to get dependable web in Baja when you’re working remotely and/or staying for an prolonged time frame. 

Roaming Rivers put collectively a working in Baja e-book that I purchased forward of time that helped information me step-by-step by means of the method of getting a SIM card and establishing 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 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: make sure 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 on your journey.
Sunset on Playa Tecolote in La Paz Baja California Sur
sundown on Playa Tecolote. Photograph: Courtney Stephenson

I hope this weblog publish makes planning your Baja California highway journey a breeze! You probably have any questions or need to share any Baja suggestions, 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 presently touring the US in a transformed Ford E150 van. Courtney is a contract author targeted on the outside and sustainable residing.



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