Baja, Mexico is one of the most beautiful places we have driven to from the USA. However, driving the roads in Baja are not for the faint of heart!

View of stunning bay in Baja California, Mexico

We decided to drive through the Baja peninsula for the first time while sitting around the fire on December 21, 2021. We crossed the boarder on December 23, 2021 which left little time for preparation. We had found some information online but nothing cohesive. We knew we needed to address this so others could get all the information in one place, making preparation that much easier. This article will go into detail about preparing your vehicle/rig and yourself for the journey ahead as well as preparing to cross the border to Baja, Mexico in your RV.

Baja roads can be rough. You will encounter very large speed bumps, pot holes, random gravel sections, rough pavement, drivers that frequently pass or don’t obey traffic signs, livestock, and crumbled away or no shoulders. You need to make sure your vehicle can handle the drive. This includes your driving vehicle and towable if applicable.

  • Check your tires and spares to make sure all are in good functional order. We highly recommend making sure you have a spare tire and proper equipment to change a tire if needed.
  • Check all fluid levels and get an oil change if needed. Some people suggest to bring extra DEF with because it can be difficult to find.
  • Routine maintenance checks as needed.
  • Download an offline map of the entire Baja peninsula as there are many sections of the drive with zero signal
  • Most likely, your US car insurance will not cover you in Baja. Look into getting Mexican Liability Insurance and if needed upgrade to full coverage for the amount of time you are in Mexico. Don’t forget to insure your towable too! We used Lewis and Lewis and found that they had the best prices.
  • Verify that your vehicle registration is current and will be for the duration of your trip. You MUST have your paperwork with you to cross the boarder. This applies to ALL vehicles, even towables.
  • If you are with other people in a caravan, it helps to have radios (walkie talkies) to communicate during the drive. Test these before you leave to make sure that all parties can hear each other.
  • If you are driving alone, let someone else know your basic itinerary for driving. These roads are no joke and we’ve seen some pretty horrific accidents in very desolate areas.
  • Prepare yourself mentally for the roads. Know that the roads can be sketchy at best, but also know that many other families with large rigs do it every year. Do not plan to do too many hours of driving in one day. It will always take longer than what Google Maps indicate. We limit ourselves to 5-6 hours per day when driving in Baja…MAX. We are most comfortable doing 3-4 hours per day.
  • Also, prepare yourself for frequent military checkpoints where you will have to stop and possibly get searched again. We passed through about 5-6 checkpoints going down the peninsula from Mexicali to La Paz. Some are just agricultural to see if you’re transporting things like citrus and avocados. For us these were always quick stops asking where we were headed, but we have heard of people needing to go through their rig with the officers to various extents. If an officer asks to take something in your rig or for a bribe a firm “No” is suggested, or possibly avoid this scenario by recording the process on your phone to help to keep them honest.
This is a section of road near Mulege that shows how narrow the roads can be.

You’ve mentally prepared and your vehicle is ready. Now, what do you need in order to cross the border? Border crossings are not all created equal. We’ve crossed the border with our RV two years in a row and each time was a different experience. The experience was different even among the people in our group! The following list is what we had ready both years JUST in case:

  • Passports and copies of all passports. Passport books and passport cards both work. Both times we crossed, we had friends who used Birth Certificates for their kids who didn’t have another form of ID. The border agents let them through but it was a big hassle and I would avoid this if you can.
  • Your FMM paperwork (visa). You can pay for this online ahead of time but will still need to go into the office at the border to get it stamped. We always just buy at the border because we’ve heard it really doesn’t save much time. You will need $35 per person and your passport. You can pay using credit card or cash.
  • Print a copy of your Mexican Liability Insurance and full coverage car insurance. Have this with your vehicle at all times. They specifically asked us for this the first time we crossed the border, but not the second time.
  • Vehicle registration for ALL vehicles. This was the one thing that they asked for from us both times.
  • Driver’s license and copies of drivers licenses for all people that may drive during your trip.
  • Proof of rabies vaccination for pets. We were never asked for this.
  • Make sure that you review the list of items that cannot cross the border into Mexico or that need to be declared. This can include big things such as guns, ammo, and drugs. This is very serious, the second time we crossed one of our friends RV got searched and they found a stray bullet that my friend didn’t know was in the back of his dresser. He almost got arrested and it was a very traumatic experience. It can also include small things such as house plants, certain types of foods like fresh fruits, raw meat, or certain seeds, and excessive amounts of alcohol. We even had friends that were charged a very expensive importation tax for having an uninstalled solar panel in their RV.
  • Pesos– Some people preorder Pesos before they cross the border. We have never done this. We usually stop at the bank in San Felipe, Loreto, or in La Paz to get them as we make the trek down.

Both years we crossed at the Mexicali East Border Crossing to go into Baja, Mexico and then back up to the United States. We try to cross as early as possible to avoid a wait, and this method has been successful as the wait time was less than 10 minutes both times. You will need to stay to the far right lanes with your rig and follow the direction of the agents. You will need to get out of your rig to go in the offie and get your FMM paperwork completed. We recommend having your paperwork all ready and easily accessible as the more prepared you are the smoother the process will likely be. For us, the agents just briefly peeked in our rig both times. The second time they did look in the refrigerator but not the freezer. We’ve have had friends in our party that didn’t even have to open their doors at all, and friends who have had their whole rig searched including the engine bay. This may be random, but the friends who had everything searched also couldn’t find their vehicle registration for their Jeep they were towing behind their Class A. To keep it safe, have everything ready to show and get out of there as soon as possible.

If you cross at Mexicali, you will have to go through the city on Hwy 5. If you have never seen a Mexican border city, it might be a bit of a culture shock. It was for us! The city is busy, drivers don’t always follow road signals/signs, and there are police trucks with actual policemen standing up in the back with machine guns. The speed is in km/hour which can be a little tricky if you are used to miles/hour. There are also a lot of stray dogs, a lot of trash EVERYWHERE, and ill-maintained roadways. In fact, by the time we made it through Mexicali the first time, I was already ready to turn around. I thought, “We made a rush decision. I want to go home.” However, I had seen the beautiful pictures and heard the magical stories of people I know who had been there before and knew we had to keep going!

We chose to head down Hwy 5 toward San Felipe. The road between Mexicali and San Felipe was actually really nice and overall in good condition. We stopped for gas just before San Felipe, although there is a nice gas station in San Felipe that can handle larger rigs as well. In Baja, you will need to pay attention to your gas meter, as some areas in the north are very sparse in terms of gas stations that can accommodate bigger rigs. We never let our gas tank get below 1/3- 1/4, and recommend you do the same.

These are the gas stations we stopped at on our journey down, that fit our 37 foot pull behind with ease. In Baja Sur, there will be many more options than what is listed, but these just worked well for us.

  1. Gasolinera Redpetroil (north of San Felipe)
  2. Pemex (Gonzaga Bay)
  3. Pemex (just after Villa Alberto Andreas Alvarado)
  4. Pemex (after Mulege)
  5. Numerous gas stations (right before Cuidad Constitucion)
  6. Pemex E06526 (right before La Paz)
  7. Pemex Servicio El Pescadero SA de CV E07513– if heading down toward Cerritos Beach or Cabo area

In case you blow a tire or something else happens while on the road, keep you insurance information handy. If it is not worth an insurance claim, mechanics and “Llantera” shops are all over Baja, Mexico. People are also very friendly and we’ve found that they are more than willing to pull over and help out those stranded to get them the help they need. Baja, Mexico is such a special destination, but you NEED to be prepared to have the best (and safest) experience.

Check out our article 12 Stops We Made in our RV in Baja, Mexico for a detailed explanation of all the places we stayed in Baja, Mexico.