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Baja newbie - driving advice?
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bobgatpdx

Since 04 Oct 2008
206 Posts

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PostSun Oct 10, 21 9:38 am    Baja newbie - driving advice? Reply with quote

Hi All,
We are planning to drive down to La Ventana this winter in our Sprinter Campervan. We have never done the drive and are looking for tips about how to do this safely and enjoyably.

We are thinking about taking Hwy #5 route through Mexicali and taking 4 or 5 days to make our way down. Potential stops in:
San Felipe
Bahia San Luis Gonzaga
San Ignacio
Loreto/Bahia Concepcion

Some questions:
Mexicali border crossing - east or west?
Condition of Hwy #5 - paved all the way?
How is Bay of LA? Worth a stop?
Anybody done the whale watching near San Ignacio?
How is Bahia Concepcion?
Scorpion Bay worth checking out?
Magdelena Bay worth checking out?

We are wingers and would like to score some sessions on the way down if possible. We are concerned about have a huge GRINGO bullseye on our backs due to our shiny new sprinter van. We are hoping for a no drama trip and would love to hear how y'all have done it over the years.

thanks,
Bob

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apctjb

Since 19 Aug 2007
396 Posts

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PostSun Oct 10, 21 10:32 am     Reply with quote

Hwy 5 is the faster route. Once south of Mexicali its pretty much wide open country with good road and beautiful places to explore and camp the entire way to LV. Enjoy!

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niknas

Since 18 Sep 2006
166 Posts
North of OR, South of WA
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PostSun Oct 10, 21 12:20 pm     Reply with quote

We have been driving to Los Barriles for 21 years straight, with several exploratory trips in the late 80s and 90s. First trips were driving a VW camper van. Then dragging a 21’ Airstream, next a truck camper and the past 3 years in a Sprinter camper van. Knock on wood we have never had a negative incident in Baja. Lucky I guess. The border agents, military inspectors, cops have mostly been professional and friendly. Knock on wood.

Drive like little old lady and respect Mexican laws.
Don’t drive after dark…..
Make small talk with any uniform, they love it.
Don’t offer a bribe if stopped.
Tip the gas station attendants a buck or 20 pesos. You’ll get a big smile and thanks.

We always plan three days and two nights traveling at a very leisurely pace.

Try to fill up your fuel when you hit 1/2 tank. Not so critical now with all the new gas stations operating. But why chance it, the next station could be out of gas.

We visit friends in SO CAL so crossing at Tijuana is a no brainer for us. It is the easiest south bound crossing, easy because it has wide lanes and the emigration office is easy to find and park at. Cross at 7am traffic is very light. Ensenada is still asleep as are the cops. I think Baja 1 for the first time traveler is best. You will get the full flavor of Mexico with all the little towns narrow twisty roads and beautiful ocean views, landscapes worthy of national park status.

Gas up at El Rosario, super friendly place. Next gas station in a couple hundred plus miles down the road.

We only drive as far south on day one to Catavina and stay at Rancho Santa Ynes around 4:30 5:00. Gives us time to hike the arroyo and then unwind with our favorite cocktail. Sometimes we’re the only campers there, maybe a couple more might show up.

The next day we’re up early, walk the dogs and hit the road around 8. The drive here spectacular. Very little traffic ……

Stop hold the presses, I not writing a travel log…..

What I am getting at is enjoy the drive south. Do Baja 1 going south. There a lot to see and do. Then return north doing Highway 5. Fast and boring, spend the night at San Felipe (we like Pete’s) going north. Cross the border on a early Saturday morning, very short lines.

Enjoy the drive,
Nik

Brace yourself when you return to the states. The US border agents will either be friendly and you will breeze though or the agents will drag you into secondary for a full inspection.

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niknas

Since 18 Sep 2006
166 Posts
North of OR, South of WA
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PostSun Oct 10, 21 12:46 pm     Reply with quote

Mexicali border crossing - east or west?
East
Condition of Hwy #5 - paved all the way?
Paved all the way
How is Bay of LA? Worth a stop?
So, so….
Anybody done the whale watching near San Ignacio?
Friendliest whales in Baja, camping on the bay with guided tours. Check in town for booking.
How is Bahia Concepcion?
Definitely worth spending a night at Playa el Requeson, Can be windy, can be buggy.
Scorpion Bay worth checking out?
Yes
Magdelena Bay worth checking out?
So So
Loreto
Two small campgrounds in the middle of town, great downtown square within walking distance. Must do for first trip to Baja.

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shred_da_gorge

Since 12 Nov 2008
1081 Posts
Local, not Low Cal
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PostSun Oct 10, 21 3:04 pm     Reply with quote

I've not driven this myself, but curious if anyone has Global Entry and if that makes a difference? With registered plates?

I was flying United for work a lot so I got their credit card, which is free the first year, but also if you sign up and charge the $100 Global Entry fee (good for four years) to their card they will credit it back - no brainer!

Upon signing up I registered our vehicles also, which they say helps expedite border crossings north or south, though we've not driven out of the country since. (It's an additional fee to add vehicles once you've initially signed up).

Safe travels!

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wylieflyote

Since 30 Jun 2006
1607 Posts
Puget Sound & Wa. Coast
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PostSun Oct 10, 21 3:54 pm     Reply with quote

There's a Facebook group called Baja Road Conditions that is active with a wealth of information.

If you are considering the Baja Ferry, I've road that 6 times and have some history.

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Kip Wylie

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Freeride Kiter

Since 08 Jul 2011
678 Posts
Alaska / PNW / Baja
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PostSun Oct 10, 21 4:28 pm    Odd one in BDLA Reply with quote

Last week we drove down again with all the kite school gear loaded in the truck and a 6x12 trailer filled with household items and a moto. Every single military check point said hello, did glance, looked at the gattos, and waved us through, the ONLY rummaging we experienced this trip was a side trip to Bahai de Los Angeles. We stay Los Vientos and on our way to La Gringa there were three Nation Guardsmen (or military) at the entrance of Militar Base Jupiter that went through our stuff pretty aggressive. An hour later when we went back to the hotel, they were gone. Wierd.
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wylieflyote

Since 30 Jun 2006
1607 Posts
Puget Sound & Wa. Coast
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PostMon Oct 11, 21 9:38 am     Reply with quote

Buying gas in Mexico can be a troubling experience. Once in Los Mochis 8 years ago I purchased 500 pesos of regular, and just as I handed the 500 to the attendant a group of 3 young 8 year olds leaped up onto my hood to wash my windshield. Then a second or two later the gas guy says "Amigo, nesescitio mas dinero!", claiming I'd given him a 50. I knew absolutely that I'd given him a 500 since it was my last bill in my wallet. So this time it worked by just screaming at the guy. Later I learned the scam is particular to that Los Mochis station.
But.... I would always advise after my 11 years of driving in Mexico to always use two wallets. Wallet #1 is your immediate day's fun money with about 1'000p/ Wallet #2 is under the seat hidden with your larger bills. This also can come in handy if a traffic cop demands mordida and sees you're broke.

Here's a gas purchasing video I just discovered:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hTGWQSmeObQ

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watercamper

Since 08 Sep 2017
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PostTue Oct 12, 21 6:12 am    Other Reply with quote

Lots of good info here.

I've found the National Geographic Baja Road maps to be useful. (I like maps). There's a north and a south.

Also, there's a recently released Road Atlas by Benchmark.

You can find both on Amazon.

We camp on our leisurely 4 or 5 day drive down. In the desert or on the beach.

Beware any non locked items on the outside of your van. Bicycles in particular. A friend had his straps cut and kiteboards taken while shopping at the Walmart in La Paz.

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niknas

Since 18 Sep 2006
166 Posts
North of OR, South of WA
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PostTue Oct 12, 21 8:45 am     Reply with quote

One more thing. If you are google map user you can down load all of Baja in sections for when you are out of cell phone reach. Do it while you are stateside and have fast internet to download the maps. It really works for up todate detours and maping your route down Baja. The detail is very good and routing is excellent.

I have started over the past few years using my credit cards for gas. I have not had any issues with over billing at the stations or have I had my CC information stolen. I do have stations at which I have been using for several years that I trust. I use cash for tips.

Cheers,
Nik Cool

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bigjohn

Since 13 Mar 2012
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PostTue Oct 12, 21 8:26 pm     Reply with quote

wylieflyote wrote:
Buying gas in Mexico can be a troubling experience....


Gas station by SJD airport. If all the pumps but one have long lines you may think you just hit the jackpot pulling up directly to the pump and avoiding the long lines. However, it seems odd to me that I bought more gas than my car's gas tank could hold... And I wasn't even close to empty. Pointing this fact out to the local gas station attendant got me no where.

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bigjohn

Since 13 Mar 2012
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PostTue Oct 12, 21 8:36 pm     Reply with quote

wylieflyote wrote:
...Wallet #2 is under the seat hidden with your larger bills.


So kip are you suggesting that you leave large bills hidden in your car's seat?

Don't worry... Your secret's safe with me Very Happy

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ericvs

Since 05 Jul 2008
129 Posts

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PostTue Oct 12, 21 8:44 pm     Reply with quote

bigjohn wrote:
wylieflyote wrote:
...Wallet #2 is under the seat hidden with your larger bills.


So kip are you suggesting that you leave large bills hidden in your car's seat?

Don't worry... Your secret's safe with me Very Happy


He didn't say which seat though.

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wylieflyote

Since 30 Jun 2006
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Puget Sound & Wa. Coast
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PostWed Oct 13, 21 8:25 pm     Reply with quote

ericvs wrote:
bigjohn wrote:
wylieflyote wrote:
...Wallet #2 is under the seat hidden with your larger bills.


So kip are you suggesting that you leave large bills hidden in your car's seat?

Don't worry... Your secret's safe with me Very Happy


He didn't say which seat though.


My Subi when loaded for Mexico would take a crew of 6 three days to unload and search

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watercamper

Since 08 Sep 2017
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PostThu Oct 14, 21 6:23 am    Phone Reply with quote

And hopefully you've figured out your cell phone logistics. I can say that having my phone operate seamlessly when I cross the border is preferable to the other methods I've used before.

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knotwindy

Since 25 Sep 2011
558 Posts

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PostThu Oct 14, 21 7:52 am     Reply with quote

It’s dangerous, complicated and confusing. There are drug problems. And police problems. And food problems. And water problems. And electrical problems. And diseases. And it’s not worth it, the kiting/winging isn’t very good anyway.
Don’t even bother, just say no to going.

However, if you do go anyway, see you there

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flightmac

Since 14 Nov 2017
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PostThu Oct 14, 21 8:23 am     Reply with quote

knotwindy wrote:
It’s dangerous, complicated and confusing. There are drug problems. And police problems. And food problems. And water problems. And electrical problems. And diseases. And it’s not worth it, the kiting/winging isn’t very good anyway.
Don’t even bother, just say no to going.

However, if you do go anyway, see you there


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