Is It Safe to RV in Baja California?
The allure of exploring Baja California in an RV never ceases. From coastal villages to street tacos and open-air markets to bustling cities or vast potholes that arise seemingly out of nowhere, Baja will keep you on your toes.
It will also incessantly draw you to its sea life and desert wonders. But is it safe?
Let your curiosity about this intriguing country outweigh worries when thinking of RVing through Baja California. We’ll show you why.
Is It Safe to RV in Baja California?
Letting your desire to explore Baja doesn’t mean you should throw everything you’ve learned about being safe in an RV out the window. In reality, you should keep those tips and tricks even closer. Closer because you’re in a different country – a place that has different customs, rules, and lifestyles than what you may be accustomed to.
But don’t let those unknowns unnerve you. Of course, there are safer places than others, but bad things can happen anywhere. Safety is never guaranteed. However, RVing in Baja California is generally safe as long as you aren’t planning on contributing to or partaking in illegal activities.
Just as in any RV trip, being prepared with basics such as water, fuel, maps, and other necessities helps increase your safety. You’ll also want an emergency action plan covering what to do if you feel threatened or what to do if your RV breaks down.
In fact, you should have one ready no matter where you travel. Having thought of this ahead of time and making a plan to resolve these issues will keep you safe and comfortable in the long run, even in remote areas.
Baja By the Numbers
According to the U.S. Department of State, from June of 2017 to June of 2018, around 35 million Americans visited Mexico. Out of that number, 238 people died there, and 76 were homicides. Compare this with the second-highest country on their list, Costa Rica. Just over three million Americans visited there during the same timeframe, with 40 deaths, two of which were homicides.
As you can see, there’s a large difference in the number of visitors (nearly 12 times!) Extrapolating would put the number of American deaths higher for Costa Rica, though the number of homicides would still be much lower. In addition, keep in mind that those statistics for Mexico are for the entire country, not just Baja California.
So be aware and take precautions, but at the end of the day …Go!
Baja California is a Popular Winter RVing Destination
From November through April, thousands of tourists flock to Baja California for its sandy beaches, blue skies, and inexpensive everything. Everything that is, except the cost of fuel. But tourists don’t let that stop them. The chance to escape winter’s cold, drink margaritas on the beach, and watch whales far outweighs the price of gas.
Once the border crossing formalities are in the rearview mirror, there’s a heightened sense of relaxation, an understanding that it’s now Baja California timelines and deadlines. People joke about it, but it’s quite true. Being on Mexican time means not stressing so much over the time, as much as where to spend it.
As long as you’re out of the cities, such as Tijuana or Ensenada, people here have a relaxed view of time and how it works. You may not see this on the roads, but you’ll see it when strolling a beach or ordering tacos from a street vendor. From the mouth-watering food to the desert landscapes of Baja California’s interior all the way south to Cabo, there’s a vacation sense of time felt here.
Because of that and the beauty within the peoples, the land, and the wildlife, Baja can get quite crowded during the winter months. But if you view that as an opportunity to meet new friends from all over the world, the many English and French-speaking tourists here won’t disenchant you too much.
Can You Drive a Big Rig in Baja?
You most definitely can drive a big rig in Baja. Thousands of people drive all sizes of rigs there every day. But beware, the roads aren’t made specifically for big rigs. The main thoroughfares throughout Baja California are relatively well-maintained roads. You’ll come across a few potholes here and there, but nothing too much to worry about as long as you stay on the main highways.
However, one of the biggest concerns with driving big rigs through Baja is the lack of shoulder space on many roads. Combine that with steep drop-offs on some sections, and you’ve got yourself a bit of a stressful drive. On the other hand, if you’re already used to driving a large RV and paying attention to disparities on the road, you’re set for driving in Baja.
Should You Travel With a Caravan?
If you feel more comfortable in unfamiliar places with a group of people, by all means, travel with a caravan. But this is not a necessity when RVing to Baja California. There are pros and cons to both.
The most significant advantage of traveling with a caravan is that you’re surrounded by friends. On the other hand, you’re surrounded by friends. And when that’s the case, it’s often more challenging to meet new people because you’re already with a large group of people. Sometimes putting yourself in an uncomfortable situation, such as traveling without a caravan, forces you to say hi to others when you need a helping hand. Lifetime friendships often grow from such situations.
So, yes. We may love the thought of safety in numbers, but there are disadvantages to caravans as well. It’s not easy to go off on your own down a dirt road if others in the caravan don’t have rigs equipped for that. It may be difficult to book campgrounds because of the large group size.
But a large group size can offer the advantage of having somebody else plan for you, resulting in less research on your end. Some caravans will have everything planned out. You’ll know exactly where you’re going, where you’re staying, where you’re eating, and what you’re doing. That could be great, or it could stress you out. It all depends on how you like to travel.
On the other hand, you may not ever RV to Baja California unless you travel with a caravan. If that’s the case, find one or create one, but do it. RVing in Baja California is an experience you’ll always remember.
What Kinds of Campgrounds Are Available in Baja California?
For the most part, the campgrounds in Baja have similar options when traveling in the United States. There are boondocking spots in well-known places or very remote places. There are fancy RV resorts, and there are campgrounds that aren’t so fancy.
But be prepared. Many of the RV parks in Baja aren’t what you’d normally expect from an RV park. Some can be quite lavish on paved spaces, while others could be a spot on the beach with ungrounded electricity. Some will have flushing toilets, and others may have outhouses or even no services at all.
Many could have showers that are heated by propane, and when that propane is gone, so is the hot water. Most campground hosts will stay on top of this, replenishing the propane as needed, but that might not happen immediately.
As for WiFi, some campgrounds will have it. But even if they do, it will more than likely be spotty at best – even spottier than the WiFi in U.S. campgrounds. And the same goes for cell service. It’s there, but the quality depends on your carrier and the location. In that way, it’s the same as in the States.
Water surrounds Baja California with the Sea of Cortez on one side and the Pacific Ocean on the other. Because of this, there are many campgrounds located along the beach. Some of the best spots are remote and require a 4WD vehicle to get you there. No matter how badly you want to be camped on the beach in Mexico, ensure you have the proper vehicle to get you there. Getting rescued in a place you know is one thing. Doing it in a foreign country where you may not speak the language is an entirely different ordeal.
There are plenty of campgrounds to choose from all along the peninsula. Don’t worry. Just because you can’t get to one campground doesn’t mean that you can’t get to the next. The whales will still be there. And you will, too.
Safety Tips for RVing in Baja Mexico
Being safe while RVing in Mexico boils down to two simple tips: don’t drive at night and be aware of your surroundings. If you follow these guidelines, your RV trip to Baja should be full of the right kind of excitement and adventure.
Don’t Drive At Night
Daylight should become your best friend when RVing in Baja California. New areas are much easier to explore and get around during the day. Do your best to arrive at a new place with enough daylight to access your spot, set up, and get to know the terrain before nightfall sets in.
This is good advice no matter where you travel, but it’s crucial in Mexico. Potholes and topes are hard to see in the dark, and neither of these two things is small or innocent. You all know what a pothole is because they’re common everywhere. But they’re prevalent on the streets in Baja, even in the big cities and on the main highways. Hitting one during the day when you can see it and slow down is usually manageable. Hitting one at night at top speed could bring you unwanted adventures.
Topes are similar to speed bumps. In the U.S., these are generally well marked. In Baja, not always. And unless you want to go airborne in your 40-foot rig because you didn’t see it, drive during the day.
Be Aware Of Your Surroundings
It doesn’t matter if you’ve been to a place once or a million times before, be aware of your surroundings. No matter how badly you want to stay at a place that’s supposed to be the best of the best, now is not the time to be blinded by that. Trust what you feel.
If all’s good, that’s great. Keep those blinders off, though. There’s no need to be paranoid, but you should still be aware of what’s happening around you. Take the time to say hi to people, especially the campground hosts and locals. They just might become your best friends when exploring unknown places.
And speaking of being aware, don’t simply rely on your cell phone since you may not have service. Use your apps on your phone, yes. But bring paper maps as backups since they work even without a cell signal.
If anything feels off, even if it’s just a weird feeling, listen to it. If you can do so safely, leave. Find another spot. There’s no campsite worth losing your life over. That may sound drastic, and most times if you stayed put, nothing would happen. However, something might. So if your instincts are telling you to leave, then leave.
On the other hand, don’t let trash and jumbles of things immediately turn you off. Some of those places are where you’ll meet the kindest and most interesting people ever. Trusting your gut is different than judging. Learn to recognize the difference and believe in yourself.
RVing in Baja California – An RV Rite of Passage
RVing in Baja California is almost like a rite of passage. Camping on the beach in a foreign country when you don’t speak the language? If you’ve done that, you can do anything.
Whether this pushes your comfort level or it’s as easy as tying your shoes, an RV trip to Baja California will quickly become one of your most treasured RV tales. And as for safety here, there’s no guarantee of safety anywhere, so join the thousands of tourists that embark safely upon Baja California every year, where your biggest safety concern might be that you forgot the Pepto.
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