Baja and Back — Part 1

Beach camping in our truck camper in Cabo Pulmo, Baja MexicoBeach Camping Perfection

Returning from Baja seems the appropriate time to get back to the blog!  Of all the places we’ve been, we’ve had the most questions (and concerns) about heading over to the ‘other side’ of the wall.  We’ll share our experiences and answer some of the questions we’ve most often heard about heading down south.

We spent a total of 45 days in Baja.  We went to Baja with no specific plan on how long to stay.  We got the standard 6 month tourist card as well as 6 months of insurance so we were covered for any plans really.  We spent a good amount of time traveling with old and new friends, 22 days, which was unexpected but more than welcome.  We explored all of Baja from the popular and easy to reach city of San Felipe up north all the way to Cabo San Lucas; nearly deserted beaches to the busiest city.

We felt like we barely scratched the surface.

Our dog spent most of his days playing on the beaches of Baja Mexico.

The Stats

Forty-five days
865 liters of gas
4087 kilometers (2452 miles)
$382 in camping fees
$768 in gas costs
$600 truck insurance
$1204 for food, restaurants, beer, tequila, tours

We didn’t plan a budget before we left and admittedly, we treated this like more of a vacation than our every day life as we generally do.  We ate out most days and enjoyed margaritas and beer.  That said, if we traveled like that in the US, our cost for 45 days would be at least 3x as much.  I’ll take our costs as a win.

Driving on Baja Mexico roads can be a challenge

The Nitty Gritty

Insurance:  You must have a Mexico policy.  It’s the law.  We had full coverage which isn’t necessary but that’s what we felt comfortable can’t imagine what you’ll see on Mexican roads.

Tourist Cards (FMM):  Good for up to 6 months.  $500 pesos if you stay for more than 7 days, free for 7 days or less.  We walked across at Los Algodones two days before we planned to enter Mexico for our trip to pay for our FMM and get it stamped.  It’s an all in one shop in Algodones and we didn’t have to stop when we crossed at Mexicali a couple days later.  We had our FMM checked once in Mexico at a military checkpoint where they wrote the number down on a piece of paper.  I’m not sure it would have been checked if I hadn’t had it in my passport.

Border crossing to Mexico:  We crossed at Mexicali East.  It took about 5 minutes total.  They asked where we were going, how long we were staying and peeked in the back of the truck camper.  Easy.

Border crossing from Mexico:   We crossed at Mexicali East again.  It took about an hour to cross.  They didn’t look in the back, just asked if we had fruits or veggies.  We should have brought more tequila!  Come into the border from the East, it’s easier.

Our dog:  We had rabies paperwork.  No one asked to see it.  We decided to forgo the Health Certificate, personal choice.

Mexican flag flying above San Felipe Mexico

Military Checkpoints:  They asked to look in the back of the camper most of the time.  I had to get out of the truck with Kenai one time when they were being extra picky looking at all the Baja 1000 rigs going back north.  I think they really just wanted to check out the cars.  All the guys were really nice.  All of them asked if Kenai would bite them.  “Amable pero ladra mucho” I told them (friendly but he barks a lot).   Some asked to pet him.  Some were terrified of him.

Local Cops:  We were never pulled over.  We were extra sure in cities that we came to a complete stop at all stop signs despite no one else stopping as well as followed the speed limit.  We did have a couple Cokes in the fridge to offer if we did get pulled over.  We would not have paid a bribe.

We picked up water at the purification station.

Agua:  All purified, all the time.  Kenai got purified water and so did our water tank in the camper.  We were generally okay with filling our 5 gallon water bottle with fancy manual pump (available at Amazon here) before reaching another purification station.  Sometimes we’d get a little extra for beach showers with our flexible water cubes to fill our solar shower.  Water is cheap.  I can’t imagine we spent over $50 total.

Dangers:  Topes and vados = speed bumps and washes.  We found the topes to be far more dangerous than vados because sometimes they were sneaky and unpainted.  We hit three at speed.  The truck camper shifted and so did our stomachs.

Roads:  The roads in the south are generally good.  The roads in the north can be a challenge.  Potholes can extend across the entire lane and they are quite deep at times.  The worst road we felt was Mex 1 from Guerrero Negro to the turn off to Mex 5.  The roads in this area are also very narrow and with quite a drop off the side so no inching over.  Kudos to those who drive a Class A or pull a trailer down this road!  We cut a travel day short because this road is tiring!

Driving on Mexico Highway 5 requires airing down tires.Mexico Highway 5 south from San Felipe turns to dirt for the last 23 miles before reaching Mex 1.  The first time we aired down to 50psi and it took us 2 hours.  The second time we aired down to 30psi and it took us 1:20.  While the road will be fully paved eventually, it’s pretty cool that a main highway is a washboard dirt road.

Roads in Mexico under construction

Final comment on roads; I don’t know what exactly this sign translates to but I just call it ‘Devastation’.  That’s what the road work in Mexico feels like on your vehicle.

Where to stay: We used a combination of Campendium and the iOverlander app to find places to stay.  We also got a few tips from locals on what beaches were safe to camp at along with the Church’s Camping in Baja book.

I hope this information helps!  Part two will be much more fun!


  • Scott - Wait, you went to Mexico and weren’t killed by banditos? Come on man!

    Great to see you guys in San Felipe. Really wanted to join you further South.ReplyCancel

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