If you’re driving offroad, make sure to horn before entering a bend
The 14 second video above shows exactly why you should prove your presence on the road when you can’t see behind a hill or around a curve.
This was shot on a dirt road leading to the Pacific Coast just south of Ensenada. The guy in the other car came around the bend ahead of us on OUR side of the road! We barely missed a bad crash and now always remember to honk on dirt roads.
Pay in dollars – you’ll actually get a better exchange rate
Everyone told us never to use dollars in Mexico because the locals would take advantage of us and raise prices. However once we crossed the border, converting dollars to pesos at a money exchange shop would give us a rate of 16.50 pesos to 1 dollar; using dollars at gas stations, supermarkets or restaurants gave us an exchange rate of 17.00 or even 18.00 pesos to each dollar.
That meant that any change we received was also converted to up to 18.00 pesos meaning we saved up to 1.50 pesos for every dollar we used. When you add it all up it makes a big difference!
Stand your ground when stopped by the police
We were stopped by police on our second day in Baja (just south of Ensenada). The policeman kindly accused us of not allowing an old lady to cross the road at a stop sign.
We didn’t remember seeing this lady, and firmly told the policeman so, adding that we could check on our dash cam to confirm the facts.
We’re still not sure if he was looking to make some money out of us, but as soon as we stood our ground and mentioned the dash cam he said it was “better if we continued on your journey” and let us go.
If you’re sure you’re in the right, always stand your ground with Mexican police (eventually they’ll probably give up and let you go). If you have actually broken the law in some way, make sure you insist on following the right procedure to amend it (including only paying a fine once you receive the infraction in writing).
Install a dash cam before you enter Mexico
We bought and installed a dash cam to the van while we were still in the U.S for $49. The best $49 spent of our lives!
A dash cam will be invaluable if you have a crash (it’ll show the police/courts what really happened and can determine if the crash was your fault or not) but it’ll also give you proof in the event corrupt police accuse you of doing something wrong or if someone tries to fake being run-over (believe me, this has happened before)!
You can also buy dash cams that come with a speedometer – meaning you can prove your speed at any time on the road.
Bring a tire repair kit
A lot of Baja’s roads (even Highway 1 at points) are in pretty rough shape. You’ll come across deep pot-holes, crumbling road edges, debris everywhere and a lot of dirt roads.
We’re not saying you’ll pop a tire, but it’s a place that a tire repair kit will come in VERY handy – especially if you’re in the middle of the desert under scorching midday heat and your tire has a nail in it.
Don’t drive at night
Driving when its dark is a big no no in Mexico, and there’s no exception in Baja. By driving during the daylight hours you’ll avoid putting yourself at risk of robbery and hitting wild animals, but you’ll also make the most of the beautiful scenery.
Hide any electronics or bags in your car
Baja is pretty good when it comes to crime. We spent over a month on the peninsular without any problems. However, most break-ins that we’ve heard of have happened because of opportunism. If someone sees a camera or a bag on your back seat, it’s an easy temptation to break the window and run off with the goods.
If you hide your valuable belongings behind seats or in the glove box you’ll deter a lot of prying eyes. If they can’t see it, they’re most likely not going to go to the effort of breaking in and searching around the car for something valuable.
Fuel stations in Northern Baja can be scarce and far-in-between. And then there’s that moment when you find a gas station but it doesn’t have any diesel/gas because the fuel truck hasn’t arrived yet! This happened to us multiple times when we were looking for diesel.
Just make sure you know where the next gas station is and, if you’re driving a diesel, carry an extra jerry can just in case!
Skip La Paz and dive with whale sharks in Bahia de Los Angeles instead
If you’re on a budget and want to dive with the whale sharks in Baja then Bahia de Los Angeles is the place you want to go! Not only is it a lot closer to the U.S border, but you’ll pay as little as $30 for a half-day boat trip (as opposed to double this in La Paz).
Did we mention that our favourite free camp is in Bahia de Los Angeles too? Check out La Gringa just out of town if you’re looking for free camping with the best views of your life.
Skip August and September if you’re not a fan of heat, humidity or hurricanes!
Summer in Baja gets extremely hot, especially along the peninsular’s East coast. We’re not just talking over 40C/100F almost every day – we’re talking about humidity levels over 85% and sea temperatures that feel like you’re taking a bath.
If you don’t like the heat or humidity, take our advice and skip the summer months to explore Baja. You’ll also avoid hurricane season!
Take enough water
Baja is a dry desert where water is a precious commodity. If you’re camping or overlanding, make sure you have enough potable water with you to drink, clean and cook. We recommend at least 2 gallons or 8 litres per person, per day.
Also keep in mind that restaurants and bars do not offer free tap water for drinking (as generally it’s not potable). You’ll have to buy a bottle instead.
When you’re looking to fill up your water gallons or tank, make sure you go to a paid ‘Agua Purificada’ (purified water) shop instead of filling up at any tap. You’ll pay about 11 pesos (around US 0.70c) per 20litres/5.5 gallons of water, but you’ll know its clean and drinkable.
Have a chat with the locals
They’re a wealth of knowledge on great camp spots, where’s safe, what roads to take etc. Every time we took the effort to chat to someone in Baja they were so helpful, friendly and generous! Once we got cooked a fish stew and hand-made tortillas in one family’s tiny shack – it was probably the best meal of the entire trip!
Get off the beaten track
Highway 1 is Baja’s main road that criss-crosses from the west to the east coast all the way to the southern tip of the peninsular at Cabo San Lucas.
However, there are so many beautiful places that Highway 1 doesn’t take you to. Punta Cabras, Bahia de Los Angeles, Scorpion Bay and Cabo Pulmo are just some of the stunning, must-visit spots off the Highway.
Use iOverlander for tips on where to camp, eat, get water and repair your car
This free app can be downloaded on Apple Store or Google Play and has helped us a lot to find secure, free/paid camping, good restaurants, places we can go to service the van or fill up on potable water. It also shows military/customs checkpoints and what to expect as well as information on ferries and hotels! Priceless!
Most importantly – just have fun!
Baja is spectacular. If you’ve visited Baja and have your own tips we’d love to hear from you! Comment below!