My husband and I crossed the border for the first time just about year and a half ago. We have been in Mexico except for a few trips north during the heat of the summer. The first thing we did was read through the Church's book. There is one for Mexico and one for just the Baja.
I created a checklist to make sure we had all of our documents in order for crossing into Mexico and crossing back. I put them in a notebook that we kept in the cab of the truck. This included (and will be different for different people depending on where you are going):
- pet documentation
- travel visas (FMMs)
- passports (for getting back to the US)
- maps and pictures from Google earth of the border crossings and landmarks to our planned RV parks
- telephone numbers (066 is like 911, 078 for any issues with authorities, etc.)
- copies of registration
- insurance documentation (in English and Spanish with phone # to call in case of accident highlighted)
- pesos to have handy for toll booths (we try to have exact change)
- short checklist for fueling up (i.e., know capacity of fuel tank in liters so we don't buy more than we should, always use "llaves" (or keys) to unlock fuel tank and make sure the pump is set to "cero" or zero before the attendant starts. Get a receipt if you're interested in tracking your mileage or converting your consumption to gallons and dollars.
I put dividers in the notebook so I could quickly flip through it as we were driving.
Someone else also mentioned MS Streets and Trips which is awesome. However, be careful because it is not specific to RVing and some roads are not good depending on the size RV you are driving. I used GPS coordinates from the Church's book and plotted them in MS Streets and trips. Then I used those same coordinates to find them on Google Earth in Street View and printed off a picture for my notebook. That ensured we would recognize them as we drove by (didn't want to have to make U turns because we missed it, etc.) Some signs in Mexico are homemade or faded -- or don't show up until you're right there. So having a picture captured of what the landmarks are combined with Streets and Trips and descriptions from the Church's book did the trick.
Have some backup RV parks as well so that if you don't like the looks of one you see, you can easily find another.
We also used Dorthy and Bill Bell's road log from their website which includes landmarks and km markers along the road, Pemex stations (very important!) and any cautionary information - like the gas gap and the cuesta del infierno grade.
Our traveling down the Baja was one of the most fun, exciting, and rewarding trips we have ever made and we've had a blast. I'm detail oriented - so once I got the planning done, we just sat back and really enjoyed the trip.
Safety in the Baja - we've found it safer than any city we lived in the US - so I'm sure there is violence somewhere, but we're just not seeing it. There is a great recent article in the San Diego Union Tribune called Tijuana is safe again. It's a good read - but even with that, we don't spend ANY time driving around TJ in our RV. We cross the border, hit the toll road and we're way out of town before we know it.
Anyone out there who decides to take a trip down the Baja - feel free to send me a PM or stop by and see us here in La Paz. We'd love to show you "our Mexico" which is really magical. Besides kayaking with pods of dolpins, whale sharks, rays, and other wonderful wildlife on the beautiful aqua-blue water of the Sea of Cortez, we have met wonderful people here that we will be friends with for life.
Do your research about where you want to go, but don't over plan. By that I mean be flexible and don't plan a tight schedule. When I first started going to Baja, I had every day planned, but was always frustrated by changes in weather and other events. Now I just generally plan, but I am ready to change with whatever opportunities come along. These are often the most fun. Don't rush, I think that many if not most of the problems people have, it is because they are in a hurry. Let the wonderful people of Mexico help you, they pitch in and love to help tourists. Be cautious but not afraid, relax, go on Mexican time!
rocmoc, while we won't be able to travel SOB for a while, I think it would be a blast! I love reading about it and have so many simple questions. I think RVing down to Cabo would be very interesting, have you been there?
Yes we have been to Cabo twice, Lorato three times and all points in between. We will be Rving down to La Paz this coming winter.
Must add a tip since that is what this Topic is about!
ASK Questions on this site. If you don't know, ask on here and someone will!
Plan your trips that are short, do not plan on driving past sunset, use toll roads to get to your primary destination if possible.
Once you have reached your destination, you can take day trips, to the sights that you have planed.
As stated before, place a lock on the gas cap, get out of the RV, the attendant will be waiting, before you unlock the gas cap, tell him or her, what fuel you want, then when they zero the pump, make it a habit of looking at the numbers, unlock the gas cap, and imeditly look at the pump numbers, to see that they do not jump several sents or pesos. That happened to me, not in Mexico, but in Long Beach, California, USA.
Be aware of the situation, same as in Canada or the US, remember to always treat every one you meet with respect, and courtesy, and you will receive the effort back, 10 fold, remember you are the ambasador of your coutry in Mexico.
Canada, United States and Mexico, have places and sights, that are awsome in beauty, and magesty, I hope that those that do not like Mexico, or hear a lot of miss information, please refrain from making inacurate coments, or expresing your fears or dislikes, this forum is intended to help and guide, those that want to see other countries, remember that crime, and drug violence, is every where in the world.
We've found that the Columbia crossing near Laredo is quick and easy with lots of parking for RVs. Although probably not too convenient for people on the west coast of Canada or U.S.
Be aware and always on the lookout for Topes as thay can mess up your vehicle real bad if you hit them without slowing down.
Don't be concerned if you happen upon an army check point. They're usually very polite and just making sure you're not transporting anything you shouldn't. They also like to see what the inside of fancy rvs look like.
Watch your speed and obey all traffic rules in and around cities and towns as you will probably get pulled over by a Transit police. They will often try to get you to "pay" for any violations they can think of. If you know you're not guilty, insist on going to the police station to pay. (This may take awhile but the Transit police will usually give up after realizing that they won't get any money out of you)
Learn about traffic rules like how and when you can turn left and how truck drivers will turn on their left turn signal to let you know its ok to pass them.
Be aware that you'll be paying as much in toll charges as you will for fuel.
Don't be in a hurry, enjoy the sites, get to know some of the local people and you'll soon wonder why you didn't start traveling to Mexico years ago.
* This post was
edited 06/05/12 12:08pm by Graydon *
My tip is that you should be ready for a very pleasant surprise of meeting great, friendly, helpful,folks willing to help you out and a very safe atmosphere that is at least as safe, if not more so, as anywhere in the almost as pleasant winter climate areas of the US.
Oh, take a translation book with you (2 years of college Spanish wasn't enough). Microsoft Streets and trips was great. I didn't even need a paper map. Be meticulous about complying with the traffic laws and you probably won't get stopped (I didn't in over 3000 miles).
I would however suggest that if you are the type of retiree (or even a young person) that is a mean, intolerant old curmudgeon, you probably shouldn't go as you will be unhappy there too and why waste the fuel and "bum out" the rest of us.
(on edit: +1 for Columbia Crossing if you are coming from the eastern side of the US.)
Never assume anything. When walking on sidewalks watch out for low hanging tarps and electrical wires. Photocopy all your pertinent car papers and do not leave them in your vehicle when parked. Park you car where it is visible to others. Eat well, drink well and have fun!
* This post was
edited 06/06/12 04:49am by moisheh *
A little addition to Moisheh comments. Always keep at least one eye on where your feet are going as you walk. If you are window shopping, stop and look, do not move until you check outwhere your feet are going. Streets are uneven with holes, etc. A friend was looking over her shoulder for the bus and stepped off an 18" curb, breaking both of her ankles. My wife has fallen several times. It is just the way it is--you are responsible for where you walk. (Also wear sensible shoes--no flip flops or high heels).
Trucks signaling that it is clear to pass them by turning on the left turn signal sometimes are really signalling for a left turn although hardly anyone signals for turns left or right. Don't be in a hurry and if you have a problem on the road, someone will stop and help you. We have been lost several times and have hired a taxi to lead us to the correct road---make sure the driver understands how high your rig is.
Think about what spare items you need. In Mexico they don't have diesel pickups. Might want some spare fan belts and hoses. We always carry a spare water pump for the 5W. It has been used to wash the rig where the water pressure is low or to transfer water to the holding tank. Also have sold ours twice to RVers who were in need. Take at least 100' of water hose and 50' of sewer hose with necessary connects--have also provided such spares to other RVers SOB.
'06 Chev D/A--'08 Cardinal 35 SB
Fulltiming since 8/93
I agree with Bilmo on hiring a taxi. We do it frequently. They know the truck routes through town, how to deal with transito, and can keep you from getting caught on a small or narrow street with no outlet.
They have saved my rear end many times and you can save a lot of headaches with your co-pilot. Let them lead and you just follow. Many also know some cool places for boondocking, hotels that allow rvs with little cost, parques recreativos for locals, or friends who have a secure lot to hookup with electric for a small charge.