Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Is Baja safe?
Yes, and no. Baja California Sur (anywhere south of Guerrero Negro) is the safest state in all of México and you will, most likely, feel safer than you do in your hometown. At this time, we cannot recommend spending any more time than is absolutely necessary in the border areas of Northern Baja. If you are traveling to Baja California Sur (La Paz, Los Cabos, the East Cape, Loreto, etc.) you should feel free to go ahead with any travel plans. See: Baja Safety – Driving in Baja – How do I get to Baja.
Can I drink the water in Baja?
Almost all water in Baja comes from wells or springs, so theoretically, it should be good to drink. It is usually the system of delivery (pipes, etc.) that gets dirty and contaminates the water. In most hotels and restaurants, you will get purified water. If there is the slightest doubt – ask for it. (Agua purificada, por favor). We suggest that you do not drink the water from drinking fountains, in private homes or condos, or any tap water unless you know there is a purification system installed and you know it is in good working condition. Splurge a little bit and buy bottled water. Why not be completely safe? You shouldn’t take the chance of spoiling an otherwise perfect vacation.
What about the money? Can I use dollars? Should I exchange my money for pesos? Where do I get the best rate?
U.S. dollars are widely accepted (sometimes actually preferred) all over Baja, even at many very small local stores. BUT…it is a very good idea to have pesos as well! If you have no pesos, it is a sure bet that you will come upon one of the few places that will not accept dollars. Be aware that you will usually receive your change in pesos. If you are driving, change enough dollars into pesos so that you can use pesos to purchase gas and miscellaneous small items. If an unusual situation should arise (flat tire, car breakdown, tow truck, etc.) you may need pesos. If you are going to be in a remote area, remember to have plenty of small denomination U.S. bills. Many small stores, even some of the larger ones, do not keep a lot of change on hand. The best rates are usually in banks and the worst are usually in airports. If you are crossing the border, the exchange rate is usually better on the U.S. side, in the many Casas de Cambio, close to the border. There are not many (if any) businesses that accept Canadian dollars, but they are readily changed in most banks and currency exchanges.
Will I be able to use my credit cards in Baja? Can I get cash from the banks with my credit cards?
Yes, to both questions. All major credit cards (except Discover) are widely accepted. Beware of the fact that many merchants in Baja will not accept American Express cards. In most smaller stores or restaurants, it is best to ask beforehand, as not every business accepts credit cards (just like back home). Most banks will render cash advances via ATM machines, most bank locations in Baja have ATMs for after-hours cash. If you lose a credit card, call one of the numbers listed on our Travel Tips page. Most of the malls and larger shopping centers have banks or ATMs where you can get cash if needed. All ATM’s in México dispense only pesos. Never let your credit card out of your sight, this is a practice that should be used even when you are at home. Carry a non-(800) telephone number for your credit card companies, in case of loss or other emergencies, as it can be very difficult to call a U.S. toll-free number from México.
Can we take our dog to Baja with us?
Yes, but there are some requirements. On the Mexican side of the border, you may be asked for a current rabies certificate (if flying, the airlines will require it). Going back to the U.S. you will be required to provide a current health certificate (a shot card) to prove that your pet is in good health and up-to-date on all necessary shots. Check with your airline or call the Mexican Consulate in San Diego at (619) 308-9953.
What can I use as proof of citizenship to enter Baja?
Basically, you will have to show a valid passport to receive a tourist visa. (See the next paragraph). If you have some questions you feel you need to have answered before your trip, call the Mexican Counsel General’s office in Los Angeles, CA at (213) 351-6800.
***This statement was taken directly off of The Counsel General of México (Los Angeles) website: IMPORTANT: Starting from January 1, 2008, all foreign permanent residents in the United States traveling to Mexico for tourism, transit, or business reasons should get the immigration form FMTTV directly through the airline, or port of entry to Mexico showing a valid passport, official ID and the “green card”, if applicable.
***Remember that a recent U.S. law requires everyone returning to the U.S. to have a passport.
What will the weather be like in Baja in July (or any other month)?
Nobody can predict the weather, even in Baja. Baja is a long peninsula and the weather varies greatly by location. We have many good weather links on our Baja Weather Info & Links page.
What is the legal drinking age in Baja? What time do the nightclubs close?
The legal drinking age is 18 in all of Baja. There is no set closing time for bars or nightclubs. Many of the more risqué (read FUN) bars and nightclubs stay open until the wee hours of the morning, three or four, even five AM. If you have a large party, that is spending freely, you may be able to determine the closing time of the establishment that you are in.
Will my hairdryer (portable curler, electric toothbrush, etc.) work in Baja?
Yes, if you are from the U.S. or Canada. All of México uses the same voltage as the United States. If you are coming from Europe, or any country that uses 220 volts, you will need the proper adapters.
Will my cell phone work in Baja?
There is local cellular service in all of the larger cities in Baja and even most of the smaller ones. Several U. S. cellular services will allow you to roam in México. Only GSM and 3G cell phones will work in most parts of México (AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile) but they may need to be activated for extended roaming service in México. Call your local service provider before you leave to find out if it needs to be activated for use in Baja. If you travel to Baja frequently and you really need cellular service, it might just be easier and cheaper to take advantage of one of the many low-priced local cellular promotions that include a phone and a pre-set amount of time. You will then have a phone that you can use whenever you are traveling to México. You can add more time by way of a prepaid card if needed, and you can use it again on every trip.
Can I use my laptop computer to get my email and access the Internet in Baja?
Bringing a laptop computer into México is a legal and accepted practice with no hassles with Aduana (Customs) agents. With so many people using services such as Gmail®, Yahoo® mail or others, accessing your email is really easy from almost anywhere. Many hotels in Baja have wireless service or modem ports that let you access the Internet. Many restaurants on the peninsula now offer wireless access points (WiFi) for customer use. There is also Internet service in many Internet cafes and long-distance telephone offices (Larga Distancia) in all areas of Baja.
Is it safe to walk around the towns at night in Baja?
Generally, yes. (In the Northern Border Areas – NO!) As you should do anywhere in the world, beware of walking alone on dark streets at night. Don’t wear flashy jewelry or carry large sums of cash if you are going to walk around at night. If possible, walk in groups and stick to the busier, well-lit, areas of the city you are in. Most restaurants and nightclubs will be happy to call a cab for you if you ask. This may take a little more time than hailing one on the street but it is generally a much safer way to go. You will probably feel safer in Baja than you would in almost any large city in the United States. La Paz and Los Cabos have special tourist police, you will usually see them in the central area of the cities. They are friendly and helpful and most speak some English. Remember to use common sense, and be careful.
Can you tell me what the taxi rates are?
No. As a general rule, taxi fares in most of Baja are very reasonable. The major exception is in Los Cabos, where taxi rates are abnormally high. It is always a good idea to check with the front desk at your hotel. They should be able to tell you what the approximate fare should be to your particular destination. Then, verify the rate with the taxi driver! Always do this before you get into the taxi. In Cabo San Lucas or San Jose del Cabo, it might be cheaper to rent a car, if you are planning to leave your hotel (depending on location) a lot and don’t mind driving. Many of the local hotels have shuttle service.
Buses are very inexpensive and are usually punctual, but all schedules are in Spanish and do not expect an English-speaking driver. For safety purposes, this should only be used as an option during daylight hours. In the smaller towns, they usually have small buses that will take you, pretty much, anywhere in town (again, probably no English is spoken). Your hotel should be able to offer good advice about local bus schedules and fares.
How will I know if I am getting a good deal on that special gold wrestling mask, or other fine merchandise?
This is one question that nobody but yourself can answer. A good rule of thumb is, with street vendors, always get at least a 30/40% discount, sometimes more. In most stores, especially in the malls, prices are fixed just as they are at home. If you are making large purchases or if there are several people in your party that are buying something, you can always ask for a discount. Diamond stores are the exception to this rule, where discounts of 70% are normal. Basically, it boils down to this, if you’re happy with the quality and price of an item, then you are getting a good deal. It’s pretty simple really.
What about hospitals and doctors in Baja?
Baja has some very good hospitals and some excellent doctors. Quite a few of the doctors in Baja speak pretty good English. Check with your hotel, many of the larger hotels have English-speaking doctors on premises or on call. If not, they can probably give you the name of an English-speaking doctor. Write the doctor’s phone number down and carry it with you. If there is any doubt in your mind about a doctor, a particular procedure or medication, check with your doctor at home, if possible. Always get an estimate (in writing, if possible) of charges before accepting any treatment. Generally speaking, medical service in México is not quite as sophisticated as it is in the U.S. or Canada.
Where can I get general tourism information while I am traveling?
For general tourism information, while in Mexico, dial 078 from anywhere in the country. Most hotels in the tourist areas have brochures about local activities and are more than willing to give them away. La Paz even has a small tourism office on the Malecón, near Applebee’s® restaurant, that has information about the many activities and side trips available in and around La Paz. They usually have brochures from other areas in Baja as well. Some other Baja cities also have official tourist booths, your hotel should have a good supply of activities brochures, ask at the front desk. Be careful of stands professing to be “Tourist Information” centers, many times they are just a front for a local timeshare operation, although they usually are well-stocked with brochures.
What about rental cars in Baja?
Rental car companies, everywhere in the world, seem to love playing games with tourists. In Los Cabos, we recommend a rental car if you are going to be sightseeing a lot. Taxi rates in Los Cabos are outrageously expensive. If possible, make your rental reservation from the U.S.-based office of the company, well before your trip, the rate will be better. Make sure to check with your credit card company (before you leave) to find out if their insurance covers you (and the car) in México. Always buy the liability coverage in México, as most credit card companies do not have that capability. Check the car over carefully and make sure there is a spare tire and a jack – before you leave the rental lot! Make sure to have the rental car check-in agent go over the car and sign off on the damage control form when you return the car.