Motorcycle Travel Guide: Baja California

Welcome to Baja California Mexico! This packed guide explains everything you need to know about motorcycle travel in Baja California so you can get the most out of riding this incredible peninsular…

Contents

Motorcycle Travel Guide: Baja California

What and where is Baja California

Baja California (not to be confused with the State of California in the USA) belongs to Mexico. It is a peninsular running down the west of mainland Mexico and separates the Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico.

Baja is split into two Mexican States: Baja California (sometimes referred to as Norte [North]) and Baja California Sur [South]. There are no border checks when crossing between the States.

The peninsular is around 750 miles long and 25 miles to 200 miles wide at its narrowest and widest points.

Why is it popular with motorcycle travellers?

Baja California (north and south) is an awesome motorcycle travel destination! You’ve got beautiful beaches, stunning deserts, delicious food (the best fish tacos) and endless adventure riding. You can travel through the whole of Baja off-road or purely on asphalt, so there’s something for every rider.

Accommodation and food are cheap (not as cheap as mainland Mexico), there’s plenty of options and it’s easy to navigate and travel through the states with towns and cities at manageable intervals.

Motorcycle Travel Guide Baja California Mexico

Safety in Baja California

Baja California is seen as a ‘softer introduction’ to mainland Mexico. You’ll find lots of adventure riders, tourists, travellers, van folk and holiday makers. Safety concerns in Baja California are not what they are on the mainland.

However, you should still follow standard travel safety advice and check your government’s foreign office safety advice before travelling.

The UK Gov website is a good source of information for regional dangers in Mexico.

Notably, it’s border towns you need to be careful of, such as Tijuana, but many people cross there without issue.

Use common sense, ride slowly at border towns, exercise caution, be careful walking around at night and never ride in the dark. You may also want to consider where you park your motorcycle overnight and if possible, try and find safe off-street parking.

READ MORE: How to Stay Safe on a Motorcycle Trip

Police in Baja

There are plenty of reports of police asking for bribes in Baja. You’ll primarily find this around border towns. Of course, if you are stopped for something legitimate – like running a stop sign or speeding, you will need to pay your fine. But if you are being asked for money for something you didn’t do then that’s a different story.

Try and not pay any money on the spot, always ask for a ticket and insist that you will pay at the police station. This will nine times out of ten result in you being let off.

The difficulty arises if you’re asked for your passport and you hand that over. Because then they on occasion may keep your passport until you pay the bribe.

Instead, hand over copies of your passport, driver’s licence and vehicle registration. Your originals are in the hotel! We carry two driver’s licences (one for situations like this and another in our wallet) and if it gets dicey we are happy enough to leave our old licence behind.

Remember, if you are being bribed they will ask for money there and then. If it’s a legitimate ticket then you’ll be asked to go to the police station.

For more info on dealing with bribes in general, check out this guide.

READ MORE: How to Deal with Bribes When Travelling

When to go

Baja is pretty good all year round. But here’s some info to help you plan your ride there.

January to March is busy and is the best time to see the grey whales on the west coast.

The prices are highest at Christmas and lowest in summer when it’s boiling hot.

May to November is hurricane season on the west coast.

Ultimately, November to April appear to be the best months with the coolest temperatures.

Watch out for holiday breaks and the Baja races. We arrived in San Felipe during the Baja 250 race and everywhere was booked out. We hit a beach in the south during the Easter Break and that was rammed too so check your dates.

Accommodation in Baja

You’ll find no shortage of both hotels and camping spots in Baja Mexico. However, there’s not much in between towns and cities and there can be long stretches.

Hotels

For hotels, you can try websites like Booking.com to give you a general idea of prices, but it really depends on what your budget is. If you’re a long-term motorcycle traveller and on a tight budget, then note that booking.com does show higher priced hotels and not is not indicative of how many hotels there actually are in a town.

It is, however, the easiest way to book and reserve something in advance.

Personally, we use a mixture of Google Maps and iOverlander. iOverlander is a free and fantastic app for finding fellow travellers’ reports on everything from hotels and campsites to mechanics and border crossings. Check the app and look up recent reports of hotels – the same goes for camping spots.

Google Maps is also a great way to find accommodation. Simply zoom in on your desired destination and type hotel and see what’s about. The majority of these places won’t appear on booking.com.

You can expect to pay anything from 400 pesos for a very basic hotel room to thousands for a luxury place. Note that from La Paz down to

Camping

Camping is brilliant and easy in Baja Mexico. There’s plenty of campsites – especially in the south where you’ll find fantastic options on the beaches. We roughly spend 200-300 pesos for two people, one tent and two motorcycles and expect hot showers and a flushing toilet for that price.

Again, a great way to find these sites is by using iOverlander. Camping is cheap, safe and popular. You’ll find plenty of travellers (especially Americans and Canadians) in vans camping at these spots.

Check the below guide for more info on iOverlander.

READ MORE:

Entering Baja from the USA

Crossing the border from the USA into Baja is simple and straightforward. There’s no exit procedure from the US or any stops or checks. Entering Mexico you may be checked at the border by customs to make sure you’re not bringing any prohibited items. You may be waved on through by the guards, but read the below section on paperwork first.

READ MORE: How to Cross the Border from the USA to Baja on a Motorcycle

Paperwork for motorcycle riders in Baja

To enter Mexico on a motorcycle, you will need your passport, driver’s licence, motorcycle insurance for Mexico (we recommend Baja Bound) and vehicle registration and title. Once at the border, you also need to get an FMM, which is like a visa waiver that you must purchase from the immigration office. This will allow you to stay in Mexico for up to 180 days.

You do not need a Temporary Import Permit to ride your motorcycle in Baja California (North or South). But you do need a TIP if you plan on taking your motorcycle to mainland Mexico. So if you’re thinking of getting the ferry from La Paz to Mazatlan on the mainland, we recommend getting your TIP at the border. More info on paperwork can be found here.

READ MORE: Motorcycle Paperwork Guide for Mexico

Exiting Baja to mainland Mexico

There are two ferry services running from La Paz in Baja California Sur to mainland Mexico. Remember that to get to the mainland you must have a Mexico Temporary Import Permit, which you can obtain at the border when you enter or at the port before you leave. It’s recommended to get it at the border though.

For loads more information on the ferry crossing, check the below guide.

READ MORE: How to Get the Ferry from Baja to Mexico with a Motorcycle

How to catch the Baja Ferry from La Paz to Mazatlan Mexico with a motorcycle

Main destinations in Baja and route guide

Here are the main visiting destinations in Baja from north to south. You’ll find thousands of little gems around these areas and off-road routes. The West of Baja is packed with adventure riding too.

  • Baja de los Angeles – beautiful and secluded beaches
  • Guerro Negro – grey whale watching
  • San Ignacio – stunning oasis town
  • Concepcion Bay – perfect beach camping
  • Loreto – jumping off point for Isla Carmen
  • La Paz – capital of Baja Sur
  • The loop further south of La Paz to Cabo is pretty, but more expensive as that’s where cruise ships dock.

Baja California route map

Here’s a rough map on the most popular route motorcycle travellers take from the USA border to La Paz. If travelling primarily down the east coast, it’s always worth returning up the west – provided you’re not heading to the mainland after!

Top tips for motorcycle travellers in Baja California

Cash, cards and ATMs

You can use a credit or debit card in most towns and cities to pay for food, drink and accommodation. However, you should definitely carry enough cash to see you through as there’ll be plenty of hotels that only accept cash and little shops for food and drink between towns won’t accept cards.  

ATMs are easy to find at any of the border towns and at towns along the way. They may charge a small commission, and remember that if the ATM gives you the option of converting the currency for you, always decline.

Mobile phone coverage

When crossing the border, head to any Telcel shop (can be found on Google Maps) and ask for a SIM card with however much data you want preloaded on there. That’ll give you a new SIM, unlimited calls and texts and a data package.

It’s handy having a Mexico phone number so you can make calls to hotels in advance. If you don’t feel like you need to make calls, then you can download an eSIM using a service like Airalo and get far more data.

Download Google Translate

Unless you already speak Spanish, downloading Google Translate and the Spanish language is a must. The app can be used offline and is very useful when you don’t know the lingo.

iOverlander

iOverlander is a fantastic free app for finding everything an overlander needs when travelling, from hotels and campsites to restaurants, border info, water sources, mechanics and much more.

Prepare for the weather

The weather can change quickly in Baja. In a single day we have ridden through a mini rain storm to boiling hot temperatures. Note that the wind can be particularly bad in certain areas and at certain times of the year. We recommend packing warm clothing for cold nights, mesh riding gear for hot days and waterproofs. It’s also worth downloading the ‘Windy’ app so you can gauge the winds throughout your ride.

Riding gear

We always recommend all the gear all the time. It’s worth investing in a lightweight and breathable motorcycle riding suit and decent boots. Carry throwover waterproofs and a lightweight jumper so you can add layers dependent on the weather. Check out our riding gear guides for more info.

READ MORE: Motorcycle Riding Gear Guides

Facebook groups

There are some brilliant sources of information for motorcycle travellers in Baja on Facebook. Feel free to join the groups and ask any questions you may have. Here’s some recommended groups:

Read more on motorcycle travel in Mexico

Thanks for checking out the How to Cross the Border from the USA to Mexico with a Motorcycle Guide. We hope you enjoyed it! Here’s a few more articles on motorcycle travel in Mexico and North America that we recommend you read next. 

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Are you planning a motorcycle trip in Baja California, Mexico? Do you have any questions, tips or suggestions? Let us know in the comments below. 

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