RVers are often surprised to learn about the abundance of travel opportunities south of the border. Mexico has networks of nice roads that lead to amazing destinations, many catering to RV travelers. If you want an oceanfront retreat, a big lake, or a beautiful mountain escape, consider taking a trip to one of the many great places in Mexico.
Things You’ll Need:
Foreigners driving in Mexico must adhere to the following legal requirements. RVers specifically will also want to plan ahead and be selective about the border crossing chosen. Borders without size limitations and quick access to developed highways are ideal. Have your paperwork in order, and your entry into Mexico should be smooth. Read this in-depth guide to crossing the border for more information about the process.
- Passport – You will need a current passport to cross the border with an expiration date longer than your FMM Visa allotment. There’s a common myth that you will need 6-months, but the passport expiration must only extend beyond the legal time you are allowed in the country.
- Forma Migratoria Multiple Visa, otherwise known as an FMM Visa, or in layman’s terms, a Mexico tourist card – This is your visa (obtained online or at the border), and it determines the number of days you’re allowed to stay. It ranges from 7 to 180 days. There is no cost for 7-day FMM cards, but additional days come with a minimal fee. It’s roughly $30-USD for a longer period.
- Temporary Import Permit – This is not required for driving in Baja or Sonora but is mandatory beyond those two regions. It allows your RV and any other vehicles to stay in Mexico while you travel and typically matches your FMM time period. You must turn it back in after leaving the country. DO NOT underestimate the importance of this permit. There are too many horror stories and one, in particular, stands out in my mind. A couple spent nearly two years building out a custom bus RV conversion and did not understand the need for an import permit. They traveled for several months, and when they attempted to exit Mexico, the camper was confiscated and impounded. They never had it returned and lost everything. The laws are very strict when it comes to temporary imports, so make sure you have when traveling beyond the free zone.
- Mexico RV Insurance – Mexico RV Insurance is very important as your U.S. insurance stops after the border, and you will need a Mexican policy. The minimum requirement is liability coverage at $300,000, but drivers are encouraged to purchase $500,000 in liability. Full coverage policies are also available to protect you in the case of an accident or accidental damage.
Choosing the Best Border Crossing
RVers must pay special attention to the border crossings because of size limitations. For example, the border at Tecate is fairly narrow and has lower clearance than Mexicali West. With 50 legal border crossings, only a few are fit for RVs. San Ysidro, Mexicali East and West, Lukeville, and Eagle Pass are among the most popular for towing 20’ and longer trailers or Class C and Class A rigs.
Driving Tips for RVers in Mexico
Plan your routes in advance and stick to the main highways. In Baja, that means Highway 1 and Highway 5 for well-paved roads with plenty of room. On the mainland, the Quota roads are designed for driving big rigs. They come with fees, but it’s better than navigating the potholes and speed bumps on the roads.
When driving into any city, use the main streets as alleys, and side routes are often very narrow. Once parked at your destination, you can use taxis or a tow vehicle to explore the city attractions. When in doubt, look for the routes commercial truckers are using to check for clearance and space to maneuver.
Otherwise, the rules of the road are similar. Go the speed limit, give others space, left blinker in the slow lane means it’s safe to pass and red/yellow/green are the same symbols as the USA and Canada.
Top RV Culture Destinations in Mexico
Puerto Peñasco – Sonora
Did you know Tucson and Phoenix are only a few hours from sandy ocean beaches? Puerto Penasco (also called Rocky Point) is a small resort town with incredible beaches on the Sea of Cortez. It has full-scale resorts but is also a hopping spot for RVers. Some resorts have RV parks attached, and plenty of beachfront independent RV parks are also available. The border crossing at Lukeville is easy, and the drive is a smoothly paved highway and a straight shot from the border.
Spanish skills are always useful in Mexico, but English is very common here, and most park managers speak English. It’s close to the border, and the resorts are popular with American and Canadian visitors.
Costs – This varies widely as you will find mellow boondocking sites for $10-15 bucks a night or resort sites with beach and pool access at $25+ per night with 3-5 night minimum stays. Long-term sites are also available at monthly discounted rates.
Mexico Border Crossing | Puerto Penasco (Video)
San Felipe – Baja
Much like Puerto Penasco, this is a quick shot down Baja’s Highway 5 and places you directly on the Sea of Cortez. Cross at Mexicali, and you will be beachfront in no time. The area is popular with off-road rallies, and the town is charming and fun. You will have great restaurants, gorgeous sunsets, and good opportunities to go boating and fishing.
Being close to the border, English goes a long way here, but it helps to learn basic Spanish at a minimum. Learning to pay your restaurant tab, gill the gas tank, and use formal greetings is something every visitor should attempt.
Prices fluctuate with the seasons but are often $15 a night with a palapa for shade. For electric hookups, a palapa, and beachfront, you might spend $25-30 per night. Always check the local event schedules because sites fill fast during the Baja rally events hosted here. Otherwise, plenty of RV parks and sites are available in San Felipe.
Victor’s RV Park | San Felipe | Campground Review (Video)
Loreto – Baja
Farther down the Baja Peninsula is Loreto, another Sea of Cortez community with RV parks right in town and a few outside the proper town. It has a laid-back vibe with a national park backdrop with stunning mountains rising against the sea. For recreation, Loreto is fantastic with boating, fishing, hiking, and a ton of opportunities to explore the protected mountains and marine area.
Being farther south, it helps to know some Spanish while exploring the town here. There are plenty of expats and restaurants that cater to English-speaking clientele, but a little Spanish goes a long way. There are several parks and even some private RV sites in the area.
Loreto Shores is a good option with 30 amp power, water, and sewer hookups. They also have large pull-through spaces and 24/7 security with a bi-lingual staff. At roughly $25-30 a night, it’s a good deal with the full hookups.
Tour of Rivera Del Mar RV Park In Loreto Baja (Video)
Todos Santos – Baja
While Baja has plenty more on the Sea of Cortez, the Pacific side is also loaded with RV parks and campsites. For travelers wanting to drive the entire peninsula, stopping to camp in Todos Santos is a must-do. Take in the cool spray of the Pacific Ocean and enjoy watching surfers catching waves. It’s a short drive to Cabo San Lucas if you want the resort scene, and it’s also a quick drive to the Sea of Cortez.
Fewer RVers reach this town because it’s so far south and that means there are fewer options compared to a place like San Felipe. That said, some nice RV sites do exist here at reasonable prices. El Litro is a great spot with options for the day, month, and long-term stays. $15 per night, $100 a week, and $300 per month make lodging in such an incredible destination reasonable.
RV Living In Todos Santos Mexico (Video)
Puerto Vallarta – Nayarit
You’ll need the Temporary Import Permit for the remainder of the destinations, but it’s worth the minor inconvenience. This big tourist destination is great for folks wanting plush campsites with ocean access in a vibrant city. Amazing food, nightlife, and recreation make this a great destination for RVers.
Being such a major destination also means rates are slightly higher but generally still very reasonable. Tachos is located in the city, but those willing to go a short 60km to the north will find La Penita. This is more isolated from the city traffic and has a resort feel with plenty of privacy. It’s $35 per day with monthly rates and water, Wifi, 20 amp, pickleball courts, and a long list of other amenities included.
Puerto Vallarta | Top Things to Do (Video)
Lago Chapala – Nayarit
Just south of Guadalajara is a giant lake surrounded by colorful communities where locals and expats enjoy the perfect year-round weather. There is no shortage of culture, crafts, restaurants, and lake activities. The area is popular with RVers, and you will find well-maintained parks with full hookups and services. For those wanting to travel inland, consider spending some time here.
Being a popular expat destination, long-term RV sites are common, but there are several parks on the lake and more in the hills about the lake with day, week, and monthly rates. Roca Azul is a great option, as is RV Trailer Park Chapala. Prices are on-par with the latter parks, and $20 per night is normal.
Chapala RV Park (Video)
Yucatan Peninsula – Yucatan
The entire Yucatan Peninsula has beautiful beaches and great campsites for RVers. If you’d rather explore the nooks where the Caribbean is close and the resort noise is distant, do some exploring here. That said, you can always go straight to Cancun and enjoy the amenities that come with the numerous resorts as well.
That said, Camping Cancun is a modest park with dry sites and full hookups available. They don’t list the rates but do store RV’s which makes it attractive for repeat visitors wanting their own space. A little south of Cancun is Camping Chavez in Tulum and a few more parks even farther south. Prices range from $30-$50 per night, which is still reasonable in this more expensive region of the country.
Van Life Mexico in the Yucatan Peninsula (Video)
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These are just a few of the many places that cater to RVers in Mexico. You will find resorts and parks scattered across the country, some in beautiful mountain towns like Morelia and others hugging the stunning coastlines. Do some research and explore, and you might have a hard time peeling yourself away from the culture and RV campsites in Mexico.
"Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore."
-- Andre Gide