I wanted to share this message as I receive calls and emails regarding making the drive down the Baja towards Cabo San Lucas or back up towards the United States from Los Cabos. Be sure to print this before you depart your destination.
Approximate distance from the border (Tijuana) to Los Cabos:
- 1,000 miles / 1609.34 kilometers
My Baja driving experience:
Here are some important things to know and consider:
First the Baja is VERY safe and the drive is amazing, however there are some things you should know! Cross the border EARLY in the am like before 6:00 or if it is raining as in general Mexicans don’t like early morning shifts or standing in the rain. Do NOT have any items in the original factory box as NEW items can be taxed 10% coming into MX, so take any new items out of the box so it looks used. When you stop and get asked, the answer is always “We are on vacation and heading to Cabo San Lucas” If you are staying past 180 days, stop at the border and get a temporary VISA (it is free and just needs to be completed and documented). If you are staying in Cabo San Lucas a couple of months, you need the temporary VISA. Purchase MX vehicle insurance as this is MANDATORY. If you buy in MX at the border it is more expensive, so I would contact your current insurance provider and tell them you need MX vehicle insurance for the length of your stay. MX insurance is fairly inexpensive – I pay $300 a year for full coverage MX insurance (theft coverage is optional, but don’t bother as the claim process is painful and most petty theft will not be covered while traveling the Baja).
Take the toll road as soon as you exit Tijuana to bypass all the traffic! You will need small pesos – total cost will be about $100 pesos, but there are two toll roads that you have to stop and pay. The first 400 miles across the Baja is boring and not much to see unless you venture off, so I would try and make it to the half way point on the first day which is Guerrero Negro. This is ALSO where the gray whales lay their calves in the lagoons during the month of February. Ask when you arrive if the whales are visible in the lagoon.
ALWAYS fill up with gas if you are at ½ tank as there is a stretch of the Baja without gas stations for 175 miles and you don’t want to run out of gas. NEVER drive at night because there are NO LIGHTS along the streets and cows / animals roam at night plus many MX’s drive without their lights on because they think it saves energy – whatever… The Baja roads are nice, but VERY narrow so be cautious when passing! BIG Semi’s will turn their LEFT BLINKER on – this doesn’t mean they are necessarily turning LEFT, it means the road is safe in front and they are giving you permission to PASS, but be careful as most of the roads have NO shoulder to pull over on. It is OK to venture off on the Sea of Cortez side which is the last 400 miles before arriving to Cabo, but the rule of thumb is to stay on the main road unless you know where you are going. Purchase the MOON BOOK online I suggested you purchase as this will have accurate information about what to see and where to go. Remember this is MX so just be aware of your surroundings!
You will come to 6 or 7 military stops along the Baja. These stops seem VERY intimidating because of full military gear and machine guns, however they are NOT there to regulate the tourists coming or leaving Cabo San Lucas, they are there for OUR safety… They will ask where you are going and may look inside the vehicle, but these stops have NEVER been anything less than procedure! Just say hi, smile and say you are on vacation heading to Los Cabos. There is one area near Guerrero Negro where you will be stopped and have to pay $20 pesos (less than a dollar) and they will have you drive over the device that sprays underneath your vehicle. I think this is for agricultural contaminates but not 100% sure. Just pay and drive forward while the machine sprays under the car…
BANKS / CREDIT CARDS / PESOS:
I suggest you install a FREE money converter APP onto your smart phone! Set up the settings so you can convert dollars to pesos and pesos to dollars. There are plenty of FREE apps so just download one. The exchange rate converting US to PESOS is STRONG right now. $100 usd right now equals $2,000 pesos!!! So $500 usd will get you $10,000 pesos! When I first moved to Cabo San Lucas four years ago, $500 usd got me $7,000 pesos…
NEVER pull money out of CASHOLA machines!!! ONLY pull pesos from LARGE BANKS using their ATM’s such as Bancomer, Banorte and Scotia. When pulling money from ATM’s there is an option about DONACION – do NOT say YES unless you want to DONATE to MX. The first year in Cabo San Lucas I donated $5 usd each time I went to the ATM as I thought DONACION was part of the ATM process – DON’T be a MIKE 🙂 I would convert as much money as you need to make the trip and only withdrawal pesos when crossing the border and remember at the bank ATM as the bank will provide the best exchange rate with little chance of fraud. AVOID those exchange cashiers as they will charge an extra processing fee that I still haven’t figured out – my loss your gain…
If you plan on using your credit card, call the card issuer before you leave the USA or Canada and inform them you are traveling to MX for “X” amount of months. The card issuer will update the system so the card works – this is a good thing! Most of the newer hotels and restaurants accept USD and credit cards, but always ask before using your credit card. IMPORTANT NOTE: ALWAYS choose pesos while in Mexico when using a credit card because of the exchange rate!
If on Verizon, YES add Travel Pass onto your phone as it is a free upgrade and allows your phone to work in MX and includes FREE text messages and phone calls to the USA. Make sure you have at least 2 gigs per month if you are going to use data while in MX OR shut data off and ask for the WIFI username and password when at hotel or restaurant to access their WIFI when available. Sharing their WIFI is always customary in Los Cabos! Travel Pass will cost you $2 USD per day and ONLY if you use it within 24 hour period…
FOOD, LOCATIONS and BEACHES:
OMG the food is amazing! There are so many restaurant locations that I would recommend, but just explore and enjoy! Most places along the Baja only accept pesos and many places don’t look like restaurants – they are actually homes along the main street. You go inside and the whole family is cooking and serving you. NO menus, NO choices just whatever the family is making – these were the BEST stops as the food was amazing and we would eat until we were full and the whole thing cost like $10 usd or around $200 pesos! I have NEVER gotten sick from food in Baja – 100% organic and fresh. Disregard the flies – just extra protein…
Visit the museums and churches, appreciate the history and obtain an education! The MOON BOOK is accurate as what museums are worth the visit and which hotels you should stay at. I wouldn’t stay at a hotel that cost less than $50 USD. A nicer hotel with WIFI, clean rooms and running water will cost $75 – $100 USD – will NOT be 5 star, but occasionally you will find a 4 star . EVERYWHERE along the Sea of Cortez must be explored! As I stated not too much to see along the Pacific Ocean that is why I would get to Guerrero Negro on your first day and take 2 – 5 days visiting spots along the Sea of Cortez – AMAZING food, lovable people and the beaches have white sands, crystal clear water and beautiful scenery. There are plenty of spots to drive out on the beach and secure a palapa. You will find many American’s and Canadians camping on Mulege Beaches so spend time here as you won’t be disappointed! Here is more information about Mulege Beaches
Must stay in Laredo and have dinner there! Laredo is a small fishing town that is growing. There is a resort and a top golf course located about 15 miles from Laredo that is attracting a lot of tourists to purchase homes. $350K USD will get you an ocean front beach house and there is an airport in Laredo with direct flights out of San Diego. The chocolate covered clams in Laredo are the best in the world – basically cooked clams smothered in cheese, AMAZING!!!
Be sure to use your GPS in La Paz as I always get lost there. You will discover the street signs are only suggestions and it is easy to get lost – just go SOUTH and be sure the ocean is on the correct side. So many places to see in La Paz and the beaches in La Paz – Balandra are a MUST see! More information about Balandra Beaches
I know there is more, but this is a start to prepare for your road trip! Have questions about your Baja Road Trip? Please contact me here: Contact Me
Until we meet along the beaches of Los Cabos!