Baja Travel Tips
Preparing for your journey to Baja?
The very best way to experience Baja is by driving, but make sure to…Be Prepared! Check out our travel tips below.
If you are driving to Baja from California we recommend that you use our Tijuana border crossing map!
Getting ready for a journey to Baja can present completely different scenarios, depending on how you plan to travel and how long you plan to stay. For many, it can be as easy as throwing a few pairs of shorts, some shirts (or blouses) and a bathing suit, or two, into a bag. For others, it can be considerably more complicated.
If you are flying to Baja, your task can be pretty easy, again, depending on the length of your stay. If you are driving, it can become as involved as preparing a well-equipped 4×4 vehicle for heavy-duty off road use. For others, it can mean packing of a motorhome or large trailer for a multi-month trip to a deserted beach where few supplies are available nearby. We have witnessed some really incredible examples of RV packing tricks, that defy the limits of both space and gravity.
Do I dare drive the family car to Baja? Of course, this is done every day. Make sure it has recently been serviced and be sure to check it over very, very carefully. Follow our instructions on the Be Well Prepared… The List page and remember that you are not in an off road vehicle. You should be OK.
Fishing-oriented travelers may have to get the boat, trailer and all of their fishing equipment dusted off and put into good working order for their next Baja adventure. Quite possibly, they will end up having to buy some extra coolers for all of the fish they are going to bring home.
For others, it may involve the prep of motorcycles or quads for the desert, dusty roads and sandy beaches they plan to explore during their next Baja adventure.
In any case, getting ready for your first or your 30th Baja journey will usually bring on a feeling of exhilaration not usually associated with any normal vacation. Getting ready to experience “The Baja Feeling” is usually accompanied by a wonderfully exciting inner emotion.
Preparing for a drive down the Baja peninsula.
Second: Be sure to get a Mexican Insurance Policy, your U.S. policy is not good in México. Try to get it online, or at one of the many insurance outlets, near all border crossings. Do not wait until you get into México! Change some dollars into pesos. Keep a bunch of small dollar bills (1’s, 5’s and 10’s, just in case). Do not count on all Mexican gas stations accepting your credit card (some do – some don’t). Not all gas stations will accept U.S. dollars, although most will.
Third: You will need to obtain a tourist form FMM (they do not call it a Visa anymore) if you are planning on driving south of Ensenada or San Felipe on the eastern coast. For information on how and where to get your FMM, call the Mexican Consulate in San Diego at (619) 231-8414, in Phoenix at (602) 242-7398 or in Yuma at (928) 343-0066. No special auto permit or bond is necessary as long as you intend to stay on the Baja peninsula. Alert: You may not be able to get a FMM in Ensenada, so do it at the border just to be safe.
Fourth: First Day of Driving. Try to drive to San Quintín, El Rosario, Cataviña or even Guerrero Negro for your first overnight stop. We often drive as far south as San Ignacio but that is really pushing the limit, for most drivers. For your second day, you may then plan a much more leisurely pace. Enjoy your drive, take in the beautiful scenery and enjoy the abundant pleasures that Baja has to offer.
If you know just a few words of Spanish, always try to find a chance to use them, even if your pronunciation is not correct. If you know nothing of the Spanish language, try to learn a little before your trip. Just trying to speak a little Spanish can mean an awful lot to many Mexicans, who will take this as an extremely friendly gesture. Spanish for Travelers
How do I get to Baja?
It is “muy” easy to get to Baja! The question is; which means of travel is best for you?
The very best way to experience Baja is by driving, it is usually a truly incredible experience!
If you are driving to Baja, from California, we recommend that you use our Tijuana border crossing map!
FMM Tourist Permit:
You will need to obtain a tourist permit (FMM) if you are planning on driving south of Ensenada or San Felipe on the eastern coast. You also need to get a permit if you plan to stay near the border for more than 7 days. For the best information about the FMM, call the Mexican Consulate (Visa Section) in San Diego at (619) 308-9953. The Consulate can also advise you as to what you need if you intend to travel with a pet. No special auto permit or bond is necessary as long as you intend to stay on the Baja peninsula.
The very best place to get an FMM is right after you pass through the customs lanes in Tijuana. The immigration office is on the right, just past the divided lanes. If you are staying seven days or less, the visa is free, if you are staying more than 7 days the cost is $20.00 U.S. You can request a multiple entry visa that will be good for 180 days. If you wait until Ensenada or Guerrero Negro to get your permit, you will probably be subject to a fine (it’s not the good old days any longer) of up to $75.00 U.S. Airlines and cruise ships will provide the FMM for you.
This is the poorest choice of any! Walking across the border, into México, is just not something we can recommend to anyone. It does not matter how many times you have done it in the past, walking across the border is just not a good idea. If you are thinking about taking a bus down the peninsula, think about using a U.S. based tour company to get you to the bus station inside of México. Check the Internet yellow pages, you should be able to find a transportation company near the border that has the proper permits to take you across the border.
We do not hesitate to recommend flying into México, except for the border cities. The border cities are what you want to stay away from, for now. Flying to any location in southern Baja is the safest option. If you are planning to fly into Southern Baja, there should be no cause for any changes to your travel plans. Los Cabos, La Paz and Loreto each have international airports, and these areas are some of the safest in all of México. Major U.S. and Mexican airlines have many flights scheduled into these airports, on a daily basis (except for Loreto).
Private aircraft make flights into Baja on a daily basis. There are several remote resorts and beach camps in Baja where this actually has become one of the preferred means of travel to get to these particular locations. Private pilots must clear out of the U.S., with customs officials, and then check in with Mexican customs and immigration officials. You just reverse the situation when leaving México.
Cruise ships serve Ensenada, Cabo San Lucas, La Paz and Loreto. Even though we do not currently recommend visiting Ensenada, there must not have been many problems reported by their passengers. If there were any problems, the cruise lines would halt service to that destination. There are several smaller cruise lines, with much smaller boats, that offer whale watching trips and ecological cruises out of Cabo San Lucas and La Paz.
Driving is my favorite way to travel in Baja. It is a relatively easy option and this is the very best way to enjoy all of the incredible scenery that the wonderful Baja peninsula has to offer its visitors. This option offers travelers a free choice of how much time you choose to spend in each special location.
If you are driving, it is impossible to avoid the border area cities in northern Baja. With that in mind, there are some extra precautions you should be prepared to take.
If you are going to drive to Baja from anywhere east of California, we suggest you drive, at least, to Yuma, AZ on Interstate 8, before crossing the border. You can also cross the border just west of Yuma, at Andrade, CA (not recommended) or better yet, drive farther west to Calexico (recommended) where there are two places to cross the border. Crossing into Mexicali from the easternmost border crossing is your best bet. Many Baja aficionados who travel from all over the eastern U.S. prefer to cross at Tijuana. This route just seems to get you into the heart of Baja much quicker. Remember, that recent U.S. laws require you to have a passport to return to the U.S.
Bus or Shuttle:
You also have the option of taking a shuttle to Tijuana or a bus to Rosarito Beach. Mexicoach runs shuttle and bus service from the parking lot by the end of the San Diego trolley line, on the U.S. side of the border.
DRIVING PRECAUTIONS: Purchase your Mexican auto insurance (this is a must) before you enter México. We recommend AmigoMex Insurance, they are reliable and they make it real easy. Cross the border as early in the morning as possible and do it with a full tank of gas and some pesos in your pocket (get these on the U.S. side of the border). When possible, try to travel in groups or small caravans. Keep an eye out for others on the road, or when you are stopped, that are driving south and try to arrange some sort of an impromptu caravan. Try to get as far south as possible before stopping for the first night.
Try to drive to San Quintín, El Rosario, Cataviña or even Guerrero Negro for your first overnight stop. Cataviña and Guerrero Negro are pretty long drives so plan for an early departure if this is your choice. We often drive as far as south as San Ignacio, but that is not something I recommend for everyone. For your second day, you may plan a more leisurely pace. Enjoy the drive, take in the beautiful scenery and enjoy the abundant pleasures that Baja has to offer.
***Once you arrive in México there are a few practical ways to go that extra step to assure a safe and pleasant trip. Always use common sense and avoid any overt displays of wealth, such as wearing a lot of fancy jewelry, expensive watches or flashing large wads of cash. (If you must wear the jewelry or that Rolex, wait until your are comfortably situated in your hotel).
Remember, to always be polite and respectful of the local people. Leave the “Hurry Up” attitude at home, things happen at a much less frantic pace south of the border. Get used to it – it is very real – go with the flow and you should have an enjoyable trip.
Even if you know just a few words of Spanish, always try to find a chance to use them, even if your pronunciation is not correct. If you know nothing of the Spanish language, try to learn a little before your trip. Just trying to speak a little Spanish can mean an awful lot to many Mexicans, who will take this as an extremely friendly gesture. We have a page, “Spanish for Baja Travelers“, that you can print and take with you, although I suggest you purchase a good Spanish language book.
There are also two ferry routes that bring travelers from mainland México to Baja. If you’re using this means of transit to arrive in Baja, you are probably already well-versed in what it takes to use the ferries, so we will not go into any detail about this method of travel. If you plan on going to the mainland from Baja, you will have to post a special bond.
So far, there have been no major problems in any areas of Southern Baja. Baja Sur is considered to be the safest place in all of México.
Baja Mileage Chart – Highway Distances
Routes, Highways and Driving Distances in Baja, Mexico.
To print this Baja mileage chart – Click on the link directly below. The map will open in a new window as a PDF file.
NOTE: The chart will print only as the first section of the Baja mileage chart – “Highway 1 – Distances In Miles”
Print the Baja Mileage Chart from the open PDF window – then close the PDF window and continue browsing this site.
Important Telephone Numbers
Tourist Assistance – Toll Free from anywhere in México 01 (800) 903-9200
Green Angels: (Roadside Assistance) 01 (800) 987-8224 or dial 078, where possible.
When dialing a local number from the U.S. or Canada:
Dial: 011 – 52 – three digit area code (from the list below) – dial the local number.
To dial a Mexican cell phone from the U.S. – Dial 011 – 52 – 1 – three digit area code (from the list below) – dial the local number.
From within México: Dial 01 – the three digit area code – then the local number.
Locally: Just dial the number shown (as you would at home).
Emergency Telephone Numbers
Emergencies: (Police, traffic, fire, etc.)
Northern Baja: 066
Southern Baja: 066
Tijuana: (664) 636-6017
Ensenada: (646) 174-0164
La Paz: (612) 122-0429
Los Cabos: (624) 143-0135
Tourist Assistance Hotline: 078
Area Codes: Northern Baja
Rosarito Beach: (661)
Mexicali and San Felipe: (686)
Area Codes: Southern Baja
Guerrero Negro, Santa Rosalia, Mulege: (615)
Ciudad Constitucíon and Loreto: (613)
La Paz and Todos Santos: (612)
Los Cabos and The East Cape: (624)
Lost or Stolen Credit Cards/Travelers Check (Toll Free)
American Express: 01 (800) 001-3600
Visa: 001 (800) 847-2911
MasterCard: 001 (800) 307-7309
Citibank: 01 (800) 849-4479
Dial: 066 for Police, Ambulance or Fire from anywhere in Baja.
If you are going to be staying in an area away from a town, always check with the nearest hotel to get a local number for a doctor in the area that speaks English. Write that number down and give it to all members in your group.
Consulates & Tourism Offices
Tijuana: (664) 622-7400
Los Cabos: (624) 143-3566
Tijuana: (664) 684-0461
Los Cabos: (624) 142-4333
British: (Los Cabos) (624) 173-9500 Ext. 220
Mexican Tourism Office in Los Angeles:
Banks (Toll Free)
Banamex: 01 (800) 111-2020
Bancomer: 01 (800) 112-2999
CitiBank: 01 (800) 681-9875
Scotiabank Inverlat: 01 (800) 704-5900
HSBC: 01 (800) 712-4825