A first-timer’s guide to RVing in Mexico
With a bit of preparation in advance, your trip south can be an unforgettable adventure
Why consider RVing in Mexico? It doesn’t have to be the horrors it’s made out to be. Yes, unfortunately there is crime in Mexico but there’s also a great deal of crime in the US and Canada.There are definitely areas that should be avoided but there are also many areas that should be explored because of Mexico’s rich history, breathtaking scenery and wonderfully kind people. Whether you seek spectacular beaches, stunning architecture or studying a historic culture, it really comes down to common sense and doing a bit of planning in advance.
Safety when travelling to Mexico
We may as well get this topic out of the way first. Use common sense. Don’t spend any more time than necessary in border towns and don’t travel at night. Flashing a wallet full of money or fancy jewellery could get you into trouble. You will find the citizens of Mexico very helpful and willing to assist you if you ask them for directions or questions about their area. It will also give you an opportunity to practice your Spanish.
Plan your route in advance and do some research on the towns and roads you will travel so that you know whether the road is rough or the town is too big to manoeuvre your way through easily. Both Canada and the US post advisories as to which areas are having any current difficulties so check them regularly.
Crossing the US/Mexico border
Be prepared to spend a little time at the border because there is a process you have to follow and there is no avoiding it. Sit back and relax. Not every border crossing has the same hours of service but it is advisable to cross in the early morning for a couple of reasons. The process will take a while and once you are back on the road you will have more time to reach your destination and you will not have to drive at night, which is not advisable.
If your travel is within the border zone (usually up to 20 kilometres south of the U.S.-Mexico border) or the free trade zone (including the Baja California Peninsula and the Sonora Free Trade Zone), there are no procedures to comply with. However, if you wish to travel beyond these zones there are special procedures to follow. They are not difficult, just time-consuming.
One note of caution: When leaving Mexico, the vehicle temporary importation permit must be cancelled at customs—no exceptions.
Documents you need for travelling to Mexico
You will require the following:
- Valid passport
- Tourist card (obtain at border)
- Valid vehicle registration certificate in the driver’s name stating legal ownership
- Valid driver’s license
- International credit card in the name of the driver of the vehicle
- Valid Mexican insurance (obtain prior to arriving at the border)
Vehicle insurance for travel to Mexico
Mexican insurance is mandatory and your Canadian or American vehicle insurance is not valid while you are travelling in Mexico. There are many reputable companies who offer Mexican insurance and it is recommended that you research each for cost and what they provide.
Highway driving in Mexico
Roads in Mexico range from freeway style toll roads to dirt trails, and every type of road in between. Drive defensively and learn the rules of driving in Mexico and you shouldn’t have any trouble.
Watch out for topes! These are bumps in the road created to slow down traffic and if you hit one at a high speed things will go flying inside your rig. I found this out quite quickly when my computer landed on the floor because we failed to slow down. Get yourself a good map and a set of road logs when planning your route.
Campgrounds in Mexico
There are camping facilities that range from rustic camping on beautiful secluded beaches right up to first class resorts with all the amenities. For the most part they are not up to the standards of our resorts and you may encounter difficulty with the electricity, but the options for parking your RV are extensive.
Beware though—just because a campground was in business a couple of years ago does not mean it is still in operation. Things change quickly in Mexico and not
always in the way we expect.
Mexico caravan tours
For those who are hesitant about travelling into Mexico for the first time, consider joining up with a caravan. You will then have someone who will guide you through the border crossing details, arrange campgrounds and provide you with historical and cultural data about the regions you will visit. There will also be others travelling with you which offers companionship and give you more of a feeling of security.
The fact is Mexico is not for everyone. However, for those who wish to explore this beautiful country there are ways to do it so you can experience as much as possible.
Stay safe, be aware of your surroundings, and know the route you wish to travel and make your plans in advance. Not only will you reduce the risk of not having a parking spot at the end of the day, but you will have a much more relaxed trip and will be able to enjoy the spectacular scenic view from outside the windows of your vehicle.
If your vehicle is insured by ICBC then you may be eligible for a refund for the time your RV is in Mexico provided it has been outside of Canada and the US for 30 days or more. You will need to provide proof of entry and exit dates (when entering and leaving Mexico) and this can be in the form of gas or campground receipts and proof that the vehicle was continuously in Mexico which could be proven by a photocopy of your Mexican insurance with your Vehicle ID number on it. Contact ICBC for further information.