In a recent post, I talked about how we took a taxi to Puerto Nuevo, Mexico during our last cruise to experience the famous lobster and the Baja Coast. During the ride, we noticed lots of affordable homes right on the coast and the driver said that he thought it was possible for Americans to actually own them.
One of my lifelong goals has always been to have a beach house and although I felt this goal was attainable, when the choice was between having a beach house and having to work for many more years, or retire early and have more control of my time, of course, I chose my time. Still, the idea that I might be able to have both made me curious enough to want to go back and check it out.
With this in mind, my family and I decided to spend a week in Baja Mexico for New Year’s because our kids would still be on holiday break. I decided to do some research but couldn’t find much recent information for the area that we were planning on going to so I decided to write one myself.
With this background, here are my experiences of my road trip to Baja, Mexico.
As soon as I told people about my plans, quite a few people told me about all the dangers they’d heard about of driving in Baja Mexico (drug cartels, carjacking, kidnapping, waiting at the border, etc.), I almost reconsidered going.
I wasn’t necessarily concerned about it being very dangerous. Over the years, we’ve visited many places in Mexico, including Tijuana, Cabo San Lucas, Puerto Vallarta, Cozumel, Ixtapa, Mazatlán, Manzanillo, Acapulco and Ensenada and never felt any danger in any way. The only difference this time was that I was driving.
Because of what is reported in the media, many people are worried about the things they see on television. In my experience, overall, the Mexican government and the Mexican people go out of their way to make sure Americans are protected. First, because the Mexican people I’ve met there tend to be friendly and caring in general, if you treat them with respect. Secondly, it’s just good business. The more people hear the horror stories, the more the tourism industry in Mexico suffers and this is bad for everyone there.
Although it’s possible anywhere to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, generally drug cartels have issues with each other and the government, not Americans. If you stay away from places where drug trafficking occurs, you’re pretty likely to be fine. Honestly, if you take the same safety precautions you do in the United States, you’ll probably be OK in Mexico.
What scared me most about the trip was the horror stories about waiting 6 hours to cross the border on the way back. The last time I drove to Mexico was over 15 years ago and it happened to be a day when there was a power outage in Tijuana and all the traffic signals were out. It was such a miserable experience that I have never driven there since.
Of all the bad things you hear about Mexico, this one is most likely to be true. To avoid this, we left at 7 a.m. and made it to the border at 7:45 am. It took us about 45 minutes to go through the border checkpoint. By 8 a.m., the line was already much longer.
The restaurants we visited this time were Angel Del Mar in Puerto Nuevo and Charly’s Place just south of Rosarito. I like Angel Del Mar because they open very early, sit right over the ocean and have great food and margaritas. Charly’s was just down the street from where we stayed and had great food of all types as well as friendly staff.
We decided to rent a condo. The one where we stayed was right on the ocean and had a great view. We saw whales spouting every day, several times a day. It wasn’t necessarily in the middle of town so we had to drive a little to restaurants and such but everything was very close.
We also visited other condos while we were there that were also pretty nice. Here are a few pics.
If you drive, you must get Mexican insurance. It’s cheap and you can even do drive-through if you get off at the last off ramp before the border. You can also get it online. I used this one – MexPro.
The hardest part about driving in Mexico I found was that they don’t have the same sort of turnouts and turnarounds that we have in America so U-turns are slightly more complicated and you might have to drive a little further to turn back and go the opposite direction.
Language and Currency
We found that many Mexican people here spoke English and most purchases showed amounts in both US dollars and the Mexican peso. Still, there were other situations where speaking a little Spanish was handy. I’ve always be able to speak a little Spanish but I found this audio course especially helpful because of the shortcut methods they used to teach.
I also recommend downloading Google Translate to your phone for use in a pinch if you don’t have time to practice the language before you go. I also recommend a currency conversion app for your phone. This came in very handy.
Hope this helps.