Driving to La Paz and GPS Waypoints
Important note: Starting in 2008 you will require a US passport to re-enter the US. Apply now!
Now that you have made up your mind to do the blacktop trip here are a few things to help you prepare.
First thing is you need to realize that you'll be traveling through a foreign country and just like where ever you come from you need to have proof of your citizenship and permission via a visa for you and all that travel with you including kids and animals. For you and the little ones it's pretty simple. Get together your passport or a certified copy of your birth certificates and an official picture ID such as a driver's license. Once you have these you have three options.
The first being contacting your nearest Mexican consulate and making arrangements thru them to acquire your visas. If this method is used you should start the process way in advance because it may take awhile.
The second option is acquire your visa upon entry Mexico in Tijuana (GPS: 32° 32.54'/ 117°01.75'). The immigration building is on your right just as you enter Tijuana. With the exception of finding parking it's fairly simple and doesn't take much time. You should plan on about an hour.
The third option and the one I used to use was driving thru Tijuana straight thru to Ensenada (GPS: 31°51.60'/ 116°36.34'). When you arrive in Ensenada you make a right hand turn at the very first light and it's about 400 yards up on your right. Unlike Tijuana the Ensenada office is only open during normal business hours. I must also warn you that I have heard of people being ripped off in Ensenada by being told they have to pay a penalty for not stopping in Tijuana. This is of course a bunch of crap as you don't need a visa to visit to Ensenada. It recently happened to a friend of mine who said the women who charged him the $20 bucks just put it in her purse. Yes, they can be that blatant at times.
Ok, your legal, your contents are legal and I know you already bought a map, checked the air in the tires and changed the oil so let's go.
The roads are narrow and I do mean narrow with only 6/8 inches of shoulder for the most part.
Cow, donkeys, goats, buzzards, slow cars and drunks are on the road day and night. The only difference is you can't see them at night so take heed.
Carry enough water to take care of you, your pets and your car if need be.
Always drive with your lights on.
If it's bigger then you, move over.
The visa's (FMT) cost about $20 bucks and are good for up to 180 days or six months.
For animals traveling with you, you'll need to find a vet and get a "Certificate of Vaccination" and a "Certificate For Interstate Or International Movement Of Small Animals". Not all Vets' offer this service but those that do normally charge about 20 bucks or a little more.
Ok, you're all legal now and you want to know what you can bring with you. For that info you should check out the Mexican Tourist site at http://www.sre.gob.mx/english. One mistake people often make is checking out the US site and the US has nothing to do with what you can or cannot bring into Mexico. Of course, drugs, guns, ammunition and the like will get you 5 to 10 in the Hotel California in TJ,,,, not a nice place to spend Christmas. Also, you may not find it on the website but if your crossing into southern Baja, Guerrero Negro and beyond you are not allowed to pass fruit and there is an inspection station just for this purpose.
Entering Baja via TJ is pretty simple, just get in line and in a few minutes you'll be in Mexico. They have a green light - red light system for checking vehicles entering Mexico, of course, green light proceed on through, red light, you'll be directed over to the right of the road and inspected. Most inspections take less then thirty seconds and you're on your way. Just remember to be honest and polite.
At this point if you haven't obtained insurance it's time to do so. In the first few hundred yards on your right you'll see places selling it. You can stop and purchase or better yet you can click here and purchase some on-line before you go, your choice, just get some. Insurance offered through this site is only done by companies that are -A- rated or better.
After crossing the border, stay in the second lane from the right. Follow the signs that say "Rosarito Beach, Ensenada Scenic Route". This road will take you along the Mexico/U.S. border (as you start up the hill you can to see San Diego to your right).
When you come down the big hill, take the first off ramp on the right, ("Rosarito Beach, Ensenada Scenic Route") then get in the left lane. You will pass an off-ramp saying "Tijuana Playas" on the right. Staying to the left will put you on the toll road. Tolls are 26 pesos / $2.50 Dlls ea. (at the time of this writing)
There are three tollbooths in total. The first tollbooth is just past the TJ Playas off ramp. Second is about 15 miles south just passing the last Rosarito Beach off-ramp. The third and end of the toll-road is at San Miguel, just north of Ensenada.
After you pass the last tollbooth it's about six miles to Ensenada proper. About one mile before you get there you'll come to a fork in the road, stay to the "right" and this will take you into the front end of town. At the first signal, you will be on Boulevard Costero. The drive is about 1 1/2 hours once you cross the border.
Now would be a good time to stop and gas up. All gas in Baja is unleaded but you will be asked if you want "Magna" (regular) or "Premium". Gas prices are somewhere around $2.70 / $3.00 a gallon here. Most stories of bad gas in Mexico aren't true. Mexico has only five refineries for the entire country so more then eighty percent or the gas is refined in the US. If your vehicle absolutely requires "Premium" gas you will need to carry a few small bottles of gas additive as you may hit a station or town that only carries "Magna" (regular).
Leaving Ensenada you hit the first Military Check Point. These check points are setup to check for Guns, Drugs and other contraband. Most Inspections are done within a matter of one or two minutes. The solders are polite and courteous and if you do the same you'll never have a problem.
Heading south from Ensenada you'll be on Hwy 1, look for signs saying "San Quintin"(GPS: 30°33.89'/ 115°56.55'). It's about a two and a half hour drive. Once in San Quintin, you need to re-fuel your vehicle as San Quintin to Guerrero Negro is three hundred miles with only one other sure gas stop and that's in Rosario (GPS: 30°03.58'/ 115°43.50'), which is only about 40 miles southeast of San Quintin, your choice. Here or Rosario or maybe both.
Now you have been driving thru Baja for about 5 hours and the scenery has been pretty so so and your wondering why you went thru the hassle, well your ready to find out. Heading south from Rosario, Baja opens up into wide-open beauty. These are just driving directions so I will have to hold myself back and stay focused here but you are in for some spectacular scenery. If you forgot the camera it is now the appropriate time to kick yourself in the ass before the wife does.
San Quintin/Rosario to Guerrero Negro is pretty straightforward. The only part that may be a little confusing to some is you will notice signs that say Santa Rosalita, which looks like Santa Rosalia at cursing speed. Ignore them of course and stay on track to Guerrero Negro, Santa "Rosalia" comes later.
Entering Guerrero Negro. Guerrero Negro is the front door to Baja Sur and in Baja Sur the Policia Federal de Caminos (Highway Patrol) tend to be a little more vigilant then other parts of Mexico. They do use radar extensively and driving under the influence is a very serious offense. Last I heard the fine was $1,000 US dollars and the possible loose of the vehicle and they don't take payments or checks! Bottom line is, twenty miles prior to and leaving Guerrero Negro you need to slow down and take it easy. The road at this point is flat and straight making it easy to speed, so throttle back a bit.
As you get closer and closer to Guerrero Negro your gas gage may be on the low side. Not to worry, as there is gas right at the entrance or just before that big flagpole you see coming up. About a half mile after you gas up you'll come to the Agricultural Check Point that we talked about way at the beginning. You will be stopped and asked if you're carrying any fruit and of course you'll say no. There is a one-dollar fee for a little spaying there do under your car and you're on your way. Now contrary to what you thought, if you're making a bee-line to La Paz you will not actually be entering Guerrero Negro. Just after leaving the checkpoint you will come to a fork in the road.. decision time, lunch in Guerrero Negro equals "Right". On to La Paz equals "Left".
Leaving Guerrero Negro you will still be on Hwy 1 but now your cutting southeast over the Baja peninsula and only two to three hours from Santa Rosalia. How will you know when you get there? You'll be going through a mountain pass and making a sweeping downhill curve to your right when the Sea of Cortez opens up right in front of you, that's when you'll know you made the right choice.
Your still about 350 miles from La Paz but it probably won't bother you especially if this is your first trip. The scenery at times is spectacular. As you drive south the major cities your will be encountering are (in this order):
Santa Rosalia (GPS: 27°20.28'/ 112°15.87')
Mulege (GPS: 26°53.10'/ 111°59.11)
Loreto (26°00.59'/ 111°20.57')
Ciudad Constitucion, when you get to the "T" in the road turn left (GPS: 25°02.36'/ 111°40.56')
And finally La Paz (GPS: 24°09.53'/ 110°18.92')
From Guerrero Negro and on, Gas, Food, and Lodging are plentiful and can be found at any of the cities listed above.
I hope this small bit helps and Happy motoring!
Don't blame your morning rush to the pot on those tacos, better chance it was the mass consumption of spirits that did you in. Street stand tacos could be just what the doctor ordered.