February 2010 - The President of Adventure Mexican Insurance spent 18 days driving the entire Baja Peninsula in order to provide our customers with the most current Baja road travel information and travel tips.
OK - So you want to drive to Baja - great!
I personally believe that all adventurous spirits should drive the entire Baja Peninsula at least one time in their lives. It is one of the last wild frontiers accessible by vehicle from the US, but every year a portion of the wildness fades due to land development and population growth throughout Baja. So don't put off your plans for too many years! In fact right now - 2010 - is a great year to make the trek because tourist road travel is very low due to the slumping economy and reports of drug gang violence in Mexico. Even though there have not been any murders of US tourists in Baja in recent years, and very few crimes perpetrated against US tourists (no more than any other years), the hype has people scared. So for people who can see through the hype, 2010 is a great year to have Baja all to yourself! I was able to pick the best waterfront camping spots at all of the campgrounds, and I only had to share a panga with 3 other people while whale watching in Guerrero Negro - more whale petting for me!
In the following pages I will attempt to provide you with all of the information you will need to have a happy, successful, and fulfilling Baja road adventure. I had not been able to take a road trip to Baja for a few years (due to work and family commitments), so this latest Baja road trip almost felt like my first time driving the peninsula. I needed to refresh myself with all of the planning, packing, and road routes. My Baja trip and experiences will be used as an example of good ideas and recommendations, but I will also share some pitfalls and mistakes that were made. I hope this Baja road trip guide will be able to help both first time Baja travelers and well seasoned Baja explorers.
I spend a lot of time on the planning section, because your planning can make or break your Baja road trip. Poor planning can seriously hamper your adventure or put you in danger while good thorough planning will help to ensure a safe and happy Baja trip.
Before embarking on your Baja adventure, you will need to have all of these documents in place.
- Mexican Auto Insurance - buy online now!
- Vehicle Registration Paperwork
- Drivers License
- Fishing Licenses ( * acquired at San Diego CONAPESCA office in person or through mail in advance of trip)
- Tourist Visa ( * acquired at the border)
- Do you need to get a temporary vehicle import permit? Required if you travel to mainland Mexico from Baja on a ferry! ( * Vehicle permits can be acquired at the border or online. * You may also need to get a permission letter from your lienholder if you are financing the vehicle.)
- Bring photo copies of all of these documents in case originals get lost!
Choosing Your Baja Vehicle
Your vehicle choice is important for achieving the specific goals of your Baja trip, but don't get too hung up on trying to create the perfect Baja vehicle. Finding your perfect Baja vehicle is learning process that will evolve as you drive multiple times through Baja. Example: If you want to go surfing in as many Baja surf spots as possible, do not assume that you absolutely need a 4X4 truck to have a great Baja surf trip. Many of the great Baja surf spots (some legendary spots that are not very crowded) can easily be accessed with a standard low clearance car. Without a 4X4 high clearance truck you will not be able to access some of the more remote surf/camp spots, but surf conditions and camping may actually be better and less crowded at some of the surf spots accessible by car. Also, don't think you need a 30 foot RV for a great camping trip in Baja. A small Jayco camping trailer or even sleeping in a tent or the back of your SUV may turn out to be even more pleasurable than driving a giant RV through Baja. So don't delay your plans because you do not currently have your ideal fantasy Baja vehicle. You may come up with a totally new concept of your ultimate Baja vehicle once you spend a few weeks driving around and exploring Baja!
Gear for your vehicle and vehicle preparations
- Roof racks and cargo carriers
- Tune up, oil change, and tires
- Anti-theft devices
- Satellite radio - XM Radio works in almost all of Baja!
- GPS navigation with Baja information loaded (optional)
- Recommended equipment and tools
Mexican Auto Insurance - Our website offers the best coverage at the best prices
- Make sure to buy our Mexican auto insurance which automatically includes medical evacuation and plane tickets home
- Buy online before you go - do not buy Mexican insurance at the border
- Full coverage or liability only?
- Make sure to put copies of your Mexican insurance in your wallet (in case car gets stolen with insurance policy inside glove compartment!)
Books on Baja Travel
There is not one definitive Baja book that fully covers all of the information you need. Instead, this collection of books will work together to provide you with the best information on each book's specialized topic.
- Moon Handbooks - Baja - Tijuana to Cabo San Lucas
- Baja California Almanac
- Baja Camping - The Complete Guide to More Than 170 Tent and RV Campgrounds
- The Surfer's Guide to Baja - for surfers
- The Baja Catch - A Fishing, Travel & Remote Camping Manual for Baja California - for fishing
Planning Your Trip Agenda
- Essential Destinations - Things you do not want to miss
- Great Baja activities: whale watching, surfing, windsurfing, kitesurfing, kayaking, scuba diving and snorkeling, fishing, hiking, wine tasting
- Scheduling - be flexible
- Bring a buddy - you should not drive the Baja peninsula alone
Camping or Hotels
- Recommended hotels if you are not camping
- How to choose your campsites
- Towns that you do not want to spend the night in
- Cell Phones - Set up for Mexico (NOTE: cell phones do NOT work in most of Baja)
- Satellite Phones - Rentals - Essential if you need to stay in communication with work or family - Highly recommended for emergencies!
- Internet Access
Bringing Food and Eating in Baja
- Foods to bring - Non-Refrigerated
- Dehydrated foods - a personal favorite!
- Food storage and refrigeration
- Rules on Bringing Meat and Fresh Produce
- Eating at Restaurants in Baja
- Organic food in Baja
- Vitamins and Supplements
Things Not to Bring to Baja
- Illegal Drugs and Firearms
- Prescription drugs that may need documentation
Bringing Pets to Baja
- Bringing dogs to Baja
- Bringing cats to Baja
- Bringing a dog or cat you found in Baja back to the US
Packing Lists - Complete list of things to bring with you on your Baja Road Trip
- General Packing List - For all Baja travelers
- Camping Packing List - add onto the general list
- Surfer Packing List - add onto the general list and camping list
- Fishing Packing List - add onto any of the above lists
Entering Mexico - Crossing the Border - Logistics and Tips
- Choosing your border crossing location
- Best times to cross the border
- Getting your tourist visa
- Do you need to get a temporary vehicle import permit?
- Don't forget your Mexican auto insurance!
- Driving directions for accessing the toll roads when crossing at the Tijuana (San Ysidro) border crossing
Road Log - activities, campsites, and restaurants I visited (good and bad)
- My Baja Road Log - Day-by-day breakdown with maps, lodging, food, activities, and other tips and advice
- Driving safety tips
- Buying fuel in Baja
Exiting Mexico - Logistics and Tips
- Choosing your border crossing exit location
- Best times to exit Mexico
- Tourist Visa - you do NOT need to cancel tourist visas when exiting Mexico
- Vehicle Permits - if you have a vehicle permit, you MUST cancel it at the border before you leave Mexico!