Baja Mexico Road Trip Advice

When you cross the border into Mexico, all of the stresses and worries of hectic United States living evaporate, leaving you instantly refreshed and rejuvenated.  Do you stay feeling so awesome after hitting your first pothole, the first American tourist that flies past you over 100mph, the first time soldiers with machine guns are digging through your car?  Here is a quick recap of problems, suggestions, annoyances, and misconceptions and general Baja Mexico Road Trip Advice.

-If you drive into Mexico your car insurance is no longer valid.  You can buy Mexican insurance at the border and there are several different options.  Since we have an old dumpy car, we got the cheapest available plan, $6 per day which would at least keep us out of prison in the event of a fender bender.  No one ever asked if we had this or not and I think a lot of travelers skip it. I wouldn’t take my chances.

-To travel south of Ensenada, tourists are supposed to get a card from immigration for $25 each.  We got them but this was also probably unnecessary, as no one once looked at our passports.  One soldier at a checkpoint did ask for my passport once but I told him “No tengo (I don’t have it)” and handed him my California driver’s license without a problem.

-Everyone told us to keep a $20 bill in a visible spot in the car.  Apparently $20 is “the fine” if the Federales (Mexican federal police, notoriously corrupt) stop you.  We were also advised to never give them your passport because to get it back you’ll have to pay much more than $20.  We never had any encounters with the Federales.

-Watch out for potholes!  We hit some bad ones but were lucky enough to not blow any tires.   Some of the worst we spotted had to be more than a foot deep.  No recovery after hitting that.  Also, there are a lot of unmarked speed bumps.  If you were driving the speed limit these wouldn’t be a problem.  However, you won’t be driving the speed limit.

-Don’t run out of gas!  Most Baja maps show you which towns have gas stations.  There are some very long stretches without and you’ll need a full tank!  Plan wisely, or you’ll end up stranded!

-No one drives the speed limit.  If the sign said “40 km per hour” I tried not to exceed 40 miles per hour.

-People hassle you to buy tours and souvenirs, especially in Tijuana and Cabo San Lucas.  Just say “No gracias,” firmly and continue like they aren’t there.   If you make eye contact you will never be left alone.

-Drugs will be offered to you all the time (especially if you have dreadlocks or other hippie-ish characteristics).  Rarely do tourists ever have a problem in México unless they are looking for that stuff.  It’s a great way to get robbed, kidnapped, or jailed.  The booze is cheap and legal!  Stick with that.

-There are about eight military checkpoints (different from the Federales) along the way.  Headed south we were searched at two of the checkpoints.  Northward we were searched at all but one stop.  We always hid our money but at times we forgot to put away the bribe $20 bill.  The soldiers never took it or anything else and were always pretty polite.  Just don’t bring anything into the country that you don’t want found.

Waiting in line at one of many military checkpoints. Baja Mexico road trip advice
Waiting in line at one of many military checkpoints.

-When you’re eating and drinking you should tip around 15%.  Nothing is expensive so don’t get cheap on people.

-The tap water is safe to consume in some places.  Ask the locals!

Mexico is a lot of fun, and actually really easy to travel in.  Don’t let the scary news reports keep you away from a good time.  We hope this Baja Mexico road trip advice article helps all our fellow travelers out there!

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The Long Way Back – A Road Trip in Baja California

Pristine beaches near Mulegé on the drive back north
Pristine beaches near Mulegé on the drive back north

Randomly browsing the Internet while sitting in our Cabo hotel, Zach happened upon a news report concerning Hurricane Erick!  We were on a road trip in Baja California and although Baja rarely gets hit by hurricanes, apparently Erick was headed right towards us.  Forecasters were predicting it would hit the whole peninsula and even cause storms in San Diego!  This turned out to be false, as weather reports often do, but nevertheless, we felt the pressure was on to “get while the gettin’s good!”  We definitely did not want to get stuck on a washed-out road in the crazy desert during a hurricane/flash flood!

Sadly, due to our desire to stay in front of the hurricane, we only got to see one more town on our trip.  Mulegé, a quiet small town on the Sea of Cortez, didn’t have a lot going on.  It was a nice change from the bigger cities though.  The nearby coastline boasts some of the most gorgeous beaches we’ve ever seen and we wished we had more time to hang out and do some kayaking.  Whenever we go back to Baja, we’ll definitely head straight here!

road trip in baja californai

The second day’s drive was pretty tedious.  We did get hit with some rain on windy mountain roads, but nothing too bad.  Because we were heading north and because of the recent election in Baja Norte, the military was patrolling in force, and we got stopped and searched at each of the five checkpoints we passed.  Nevertheless, we managed to survive a record-breaking 18 hour day in the car and pulled up at our casa just before midnight.  We’re sad that the trip is over, but it won’t be our last excursion into México!

Click here for the beginning of the story.

Click here for the previous chapter of the story.

Click here for some advice on road trips in Baja California Mexico.

Click here for a financial summary of our Mexico road trip.

Like this story about our road trip in Baja California? Check out our archives and don’t forget to follow us on Instagram @laaventuraproject and our subscribe to our Youtube Channel.

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From Norte to Sur! A Baja Mexico Road Trip

The second day of our Baja Mexico Road Trip we faced the toughest drive of the trip.  Ensenada to San Ignacio, a grueling 800km trek across the desert from Baja Norte to Baja Sur.  We set out around 8am and drove for a few hours before stopping at a roadside restaurant for delicious huevos rancheros and coffee.  The simple, delicious food-homemade tortillas, numerous condiments, and spicy salsa-is one of our favorite parts of México!

Baja Mexico Road Trip

After breakfast, the sun got stronger and the road rougher as we would our way through one of the craziest cactus-filled deserts we’ve ever seen.  Thank God we got our A/C fixed!  Luckily we had been advised to have a full gas tank and plenty of water as there were no services for hours and hours.  Nothing but a 2-lane, potholed highway winding its way through more and more “curvas peligrosas” (dangerous curves).  Getting stuck behind semis a couple of times was annoying because the road was hardly ever straight enough to pass without risking a head-on collision.

Baja Mexico Road Trip

After nearly 12 hours of driving, just before the sun set, we finally made it to San Ignacio.  Out of nowhere, a tiny lake and a palm-covered oasis town in the midst of all the dryness!  We found a wonderful $10 campground right on the laguna (Camping Los Petales) with basic showers, bathrooms, and kayaks for rent.  Walked into the tranquil town for some tacos and slept peacefully in our tent, despite the croaking bullfrogs.

Baja Mexico Road Trip
Camping San Ignacio

Baja Mexico Road Trip

San Ignacio was tiny but pleasant and full of friendly people!  Highlights were the gorgeous old Domincan church and buying a cheap bag of delicious dates (they grow on the palms all over town).  Sad we couldn’t stay longer, we headed off to La Paz!

Baja Mexico Road Trip San Ignacio Cathedral

Click here for day one of the adventure!

Click here for day three of the adventure!

Like reading about this Baja Mexico Road Trip? Check out our archives for more great aventuras! Also, don’t forget about our Instagram and Youtube Channel!

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Ensenada, Mexico. Our first stop down the Baja.

Baja Wine Country

Before this trip we had only been to one town in Baja California.  Slimy and shady,  Tijuana is a close stop for some cheap food and drinks but not very exciting unless you’re into drugs and hookers.  Ensenada was surprisingly different.  We crossed into Mexico at Tecaté where we didn’t even need to wait in line, nor talk to anyone about coming into the country.  We drove through the Valle de Guadalupe, beautiful Baja wine country.  The only wine region in Mexico, the vino there was AMAZING.  We first stopped at Vinos Lechuza, whose owner, Ray Magnusen, Zach had met through work in San Diego.  After we had a whole tasting of Lechuza’s magnificent wines (some of the best in Baja wine country), Ray gave us a whole second round straight out of his aging barrels, showed us around the area a little bit, and took us to Michelin-starred chef Drew Deckman’s new popup restaurant right across the road.  Deckman’s setup was incredible and totally changed our views on what gourmet dining can look like!

Deckmans in Baja Wine Country
Picnic-chic restaurant with a view! Wish we could have stayed for dinner!

The Valle de Guadalupe had really taken off in the last few years with more and more places opening every season.

That evening we made our way to Ensenada town, only a 15-20min drive from the Ruta del Vino.  The city has everything you need but isn’t super big and obnoxious.   We ate some awesome tacos and tasted more vino.  It was a nice spot to walk around and, to say again, awesomely different from Tijuana.  We stayed at the Ensenada Inn, which was nice and quiet and had a good place to park our car.

We only spent one night, but since its so close to our home in San Diego, we hope to make it down to Ensenada again for a weekend in the near future.  Click here to check out day 2 of our Baja road trip adventure!

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Ensenada Inn in Ensenada, Mexico

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Ensenada Inn is a comfortable and welcoming place to stay in the northern half of the Baja Penninsula.  Close to the famous Valle de Guadalupe wine country, Ensenada is a city with a lot of potential.  It lacks the hustle and bustle of it’s dirty neighbor Tijuana, but still retains a lot of the charm that everyone loves of Mexico  The rooms are affordable and clean, and the facility is a walkable distance to the center of town.  You can’t really go wrong with an included pool and hot tub.  This was the first stop on our Baja Mexico Road Trip!

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With all the comforts of home, you could stay for days in a place like this.  Mexico always makes you wanna settle down, buy a little bar, and stay forever.  However, soon you drift back to reality and meander back to the bore of the states.  The Ensenada Inn is where you sleep while having those dreams.

Services:

Secure parking lot

Hot showers

Cable TVs in rooms

Pool/hot tub

Bar/restaurant on site

WiFi

Kitchens in suites

Address: Av. Sanginés # 237
Fracc. Playa Ensenada
Ensenada, Baja California
C. P. 22880

Phone: From E.U.A. : (01152646) 176-1361
(01152646) 182.9891
(01152646) 182-9882

From Mexico: 01(646) 176.1361
01(646) 182.9881
01(646) 182.9882

Email: info@ensenadainn.com

Website: http://www.ensenadainn.com

Prices: (weekday/weekend)

Suite: $80/$90

Double: $65/$75

Single: $55/$65

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