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  1. #1
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    May 2011
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    Default Camping in Mexico (the country)

    Public Camping in Mexico

    Mexico, the country south of the US that borders with the States of California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas, has some beautiful places to visit. It is a country rich in history. A number of our regulars here in RTA have traveled in Mexico and found it to be a rewarding experience, for its beauty and difference in culture. That said, the prepared traveler should read up on what's out there and how to keep yourself safe and healthy while you travel.

    Public camping in the country of Mexico is NOT like public camping in the United States or Canada. Mexico does not have state forests, parks and recreation areas, nor do they have national recreation areas. They DO have national parks, and those with camping will be listed within this thread. Unlike the US and Canada, however, there are far more “parque nacionales” (national parks) without any form of camping, than there are national parks with camping. Those campgrounds are very primitive --- Bring Your Own Everything – you'll be lucky to get a pit toilet, much less a picnic table or running water (which you shouldn't drink anyway, more on that later).

    Safety in Mexico

    There is a good deal of unrest in Mexico, but then too, haven't there been issues recently in the US? Use the same instincts you would when in the US and Canada. If a place doesn't seem right, it probably isn't. If you talk to other travelers and they tell you a given place is not safe because they have been through there, do yourself a big favor and believe it. You may NOT transport a gun or illegal drugs into Mexico, though you are welcome to bring your prescription medications with you (and probably get them refilled at a fraction of the cost, depending on the medication). Don't bring mace or pepper spray, either.

    Also, do not offer money, food or drinks to any official. It can be considered bribery and land you in a Mexican jail. No food, no water brought to you. Mexico uses the Napoleonic law: guilty until proven innocent.

    Driving should be done carefully. There are maniacs everywhere; North America is full of them, and Mexico is not exempt. Just remember if you are in an accident: you are to blame no matter what. Carry auto and rig insurance purchased in Mexico, such as Sanborn's, Lewis and Lewis and others.

    Fuel/Gasoline

    A lot of folks worry about the availability of fuel in Mexico. The good news: there are more stations than in the past, they are all the same brand name (Pemex), the price is the same throughout the country, there is Unleaded and premium, and many stations (but not all) have Diesel. For diesel owners, diesel is BLACK labeled. Don't take the green label because that is Unleaded and will damage your engine and tank. The bad news: they aren't everywhere like American stations. Start looking for fuel before you get to the half-tank mode, especially if your rig takes diesel.

    Maps and Toll Roads

    Mexico has recently started to publish their own road atlas, called the Guia Roji (2015 is the latest edition). Amazon and other sellers carry it; it's around $19 US. In addition, some Rand McNally Road Atlases include Mexico, plus National Geographic has a decent fold-out map that's around $6.

    The best highways in Mexico are four-lane toll roads, but they are also costly, especially if you are in a rig that has more than your average number of axles or if it's a dually pick-up (i.e. 6 tires). Alongside them is the old road, free, but it is usually not as maintained and has “topes” (TOW-pays) in them, which are speed humps. You will be driving twice as long on the free roads because of their poor maintenance and higher traffic levels, to avoid blowing a tire or (worse yet) breaking a strut, spring or an axle, and there are more commercial trucks on them blowing by you faster than they should. So many “norteamericanos” just decide to pay for the toll roads.

    Things to Bring/Things Not to Bring

    Your normal camping/RV'ing gear should be included. Other things, such as electrical pigtails to downgrade your rig from 50 amp service to 30 amp, are a necessity. Don't bring too much food, as Mexico has grocery stores and Walmart too. (Shopping is part of the cultural experience.) Also, make sure you bring your own toilet paper, even if you are tent-camping and don't have your own porta-potty with you. Few campgrounds, even the privately-owned ones, have TP! You'll also want a way to purify your drinking water, especially if you are going to be in the country for any length of time. (See below.)

    Leave guns, mace and pepper spray at home. They will be confiscated and you run the risk of legal issues. Read up on how much liquor/beer you can bring in as well, remembering that these things are sold in the country.

    If you're bringing a dog, make sure you bring the proof of a rabies vaccination. Your veterinarian can help you with the proper paperwork.

    Border Stuff

    Highly recommended is Mike and Terri Church's book, Traveler's Guide to Mexican Camping, as a source for border crossing and lots of other information about traveling in Mexico. He also runs a website, Rolling Homes, which updates his (and his wife's) books in a more timely manner than book publishing will allow. That book, and other websites, can also lead you through the process of tourist permits, insurance (your own vehicle insurance is NOT good in Mexico, and with their Napoleonic laws, you DO want vehicle insurance that is good in Mexico), passports (necessary for return to US and savings of paperwork to get into Mexico in the first place), and the inspection process both in Mexico and returning to the US.

    Cell Phone and Internet

    Well, good luck with either one. Generally speaking, cities have more service for both. Rural areas are still extremely spotty.

    Cell phone: It is hghly recommended to read these articles:
    Use Your Cell Phone in Mexico
    Communications in Mexico

    Also, call your carrier. They may have a plan that will allow you to use your cell phone without racking up a high bill to face when you get home.

    Internet: It is highly recommend to read these articles:
    Internet Access in Mexico
    Internet While You Travel Mexico
    Talk to your carrier before you leave, regarding data service on your cell phone (assuming you have a smartphone).
    For your laptop, you'll do better in the larger cities by finding an Internet cafe.

    Next post will contain the basics of actually camping in Mexico...

  2. #2
    Join Date
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    Default Types of Camping available in Mexico

    Boondocking

    A few places in Mexico will allow you to boondock, but you should always ask permission. Among the places that may grant you permission are stores with large parking lots and Pemex (fuel) stations and travel centers with a lot of space. If you receive permission to do this with your RV, please do the next RV'er a big favor by saying “thank you” to the store or station by buying something – a load of fuel, a batch of groceries. Do not assume that you can park in these places, as you may be in for a rude awakening. It is not advisable to just pull up into a neighborhood, park on the street, and sleep. Once again, you may be subject to either the police knocking on your door, or (worse yet) somebody trying to break in.

    Beach Camping and Boondocking

    Some beaches in Mexico will allow you to park your rig or pitch your tent for camping. There will be no services: no water (you don't want to drink or wash food with Mexican water anyway), no toilets, no showers. To find these beach gems or other places to free camp, ask at the local police station. There should be someone there that speaks English (if you don't speak Spanish) and can guide you, or (sadly) tell you that nothing exists. Unfortunately in recent years, some of the best beaches in Mexico have been encroached by hotels and resorts built on them, including Sandy Beach in Puerto Penasco (Rocky Point).

    There is a highly recommended website for Mexican camping, iOverlander.com, which lists both those elusive public places as well as the more commercial RV parks. This link will take you to their Mexico listings. You should still check locally, however, as places close or are closed to the public, faster than you can blink an eye.

    Bear in mind, if you are in an RV, camping on the beach could render you stuck in the sand or your rig exposed to a lot of rust-producing salty wet air.

    Private Park Camping

    Mexico is full of privately-owned campgrounds, RV parks and “trailer parks” (an antiquated name for RV parks, but some also have mobile homes, or manufactured housing, in them). Like the US, some are set up for tents and all sorts of RV's. Some are older and limited in the length of rigs that can fit because their sites are too short! Many do not have pull-through sites, so learn how to back up your rig before you go!

    Some have hookups, and some do not. Those that have electrical hookups may not have a steady source of power, which can play heavily on your ability to run things in your rig. Inquire at your local RV store before you go, about voltage regulators (if there isn't one already in your rig), and be sure to carry a little plug-in tool that will show you if the electrical post is wired correctly. Reverse polarity, common in Mexico, can cause damage to your rig! (It's happened to us in the U.S!) Another thing to carry for electricity are adapters. Though 30 amp service is becoming more common in Mexico, 50 amp is not. If your rig requires 50 amps, you'll need a converter “pigtail”. Some places only have 15-20 amp service (i.e. 2-prong plugs), and don't even think about running your rig's AC or electric furnace blower under that circumstance.

    Water hookups – um, no. You'll need to treat any water placed into your rig's storage tanks either with a purifier or bleach. Inquire at your local RV store for the best product for your rig. Some folks put bleach into their water storage tank and then use a filter such as the EverPure, for water to drink, make coffee or tea, or wash off the fruits and vegetables you buy. Do NOT hook your RV to the water hookup and leave it open. Instead, fill your tank, purify the water, and put the hose away. If you're only going into Mexico for a weekend, just fill your fresh water tank at home.

    Restrooms and showers – most of the private parks will offer restrooms and showers, but (like in the US) they will be in degrees of cleanliness and repair. If you are in an RV, you may not care. But if you're in a tent, you just might. If you're in a tent or have been boondocking awhile, truck stops often will sell you a shower (just like in the US). Once again, though, the degree of cleanliness and repair is dependent on the station.

    Dump stations – many campgrounds and RV parks will offer a way to dump your tanks. They may charge extra for the service. If you decide to fill your water tank at the same time, see the water information above.

    Mosquitoes and ants can be a problem in a rig or tent. Bring netting or get a tent that has a mosquito net over it. For ants, a bit of Comet-type cleanser around the tires and jacks can keep most ants from entering (it does a nice job on tents, too). Like in the US, make sure that all possible entrances for mice-rats-packrats are jammed with fine-grade steel wool on the underside of your rig. For extra assurance, place fresh dryer sheets (such as Bounce) in all of your storage compartments. Not only does it keep critters out, it helps them stay fresh smelling if you change them often – and they're cheap!


    Next post will be listing of the "parques nacionales" (national parks) that DO offer some form of camping. Mexico does not have their parks listed with their own websites, as the ones in US and Canada do. Instead, information has to be drawn from other sources, which may or may not be fully up-to-date.


    Donna
    Last edited by DonnaR57; 09-08-2019 at 08:51 AM. Reason: added link to iOverlander website

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2011
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    Southern California
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    Default Camping in Mexico's National Parks

    Parques nacionales (National Parks) with Camping

    Basaseachic Falls National Park, near Copper Canyon – Chihuahua
    Note: No official website. Information garnered from the following:
    Trans-America Description of Basaseachic Falls Camping

    Benito Juarez National Park – Oaxaca
    Note: No official website. Information garnered from the following:
    iOverlander Description of B Juarez National Park Camping

    Cumbres de Majalca National Park – Chihuahua
    Note: No official website. Information garnered from the following:
    ZonaTuristica's Desciption of Cumbres de Majalca Camping

    El Chico National Park – Hidalgo
    Note: No official website. Information gathered from Wikipedia, but other sites have very small mentions of the availability of camping here. There is a “trailer park” and a few “low impact/ecotourist campsites”.
    Wikipedia: El Chico, Description of Camping

    La Malinche National Park – Puebla, near the line with Tlaxcala
    Note: No official website. Information gathered from Wikipedia, but other sites have very small mentions of the availability of camping here. There are “40 cabins” for rent, as well as “a camping area”.
    Wikipedia: La Malinche, Description of Camping

    Nevado de Toluca National Park – Estado de Mexico
    Note: Like the rest of Mexico's national parks, there is no official website. Other sites, including Wikipedia, have mentioned a “camping area” at Toluca.
    Wikipedia: Nevado de Toluca, Description of Camping"

    Sierra de Organos National Park – Zacaticas and Durango
    Note: Like the rest of Mexico's national parks, there is no official website. Other sites, including Wikipedia, have mentioned that the camping here is boondocks only. However, this park was the location of many US films in the 1950's, 60's and 70s. If you ever saw Big Jake or The Cisco Kid, they were just two of the films who utilized this location.
    Wikipedia: Sierra de Organos, Description of Camping

    Sierra de San Pedro Martir – Baja California
    Note: While there is no official website, the one listed here had a nice article regarding recreation and camping at San Pedro Martir.
    Discover Baja's Description of Sierra de San Pedro Martir Camping



    Donna
    Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 08-07-2019 at 10:16 PM. Reason: replaced missing html tag

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2003
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    Green County, Wisconsin
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    Default more than pemex

    Quote Originally Posted by DonnaR57 View Post
    Fuel/Gasoline

    A lot of folks worry about the availability of fuel in Mexico. The good news: there are more stations than in the past, they are all the same brand name (Pemex), the price is the same throughout the country, there is Unleaded and premium, and many stations (but not all) have Diesel.
    Actually, that's not the case anymore. Mexico has opened things up to other gas stations. You'll now find BP/Arco, Shell, and several other brands south of the border. The prices are also no longer universal, although I didn't notice any huge price differences, just a Peso or two difference, when I was in Baja last month.

    I believe all stations are still full service - or at least all of the stations I stopped at were.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2016
    Location
    Phoenix, Arizona
    Posts
    376

    Default Some additional precautions

    I'll start by saying that I'm really happy to see this; I'm one of those people who has, does, and loves to travel south of the border!

    Regarding the service stations: to the best of my knowledge they are all full service, and while you can use a credit card to pay for your fuel, you should keep a supply of Pesos handy (smaller denominations are all coins) to give a small propina (gratuity) to the attendant. It's kind of nice, sitting back while attendants swarm over your car checking everything and cleaning your windshield, a bit like traveling back in time to the 1950's--but not exactly. When you pull into a station, pay attention to the numbers on the pump, which should always be reset to zero before they start pumping fuel for you. Many attendants will actually point it out: "You see? Zero Zero!" Why? Because it's a VERY common scam for those guys to "accidentally" leave the last transaction on the pump, and just add your purchase on top of it, which results in a significant overcharge when it's time for you to pay.

    I'll have a few more comments to add when I've got a little more time!

    Rick

  6. #6
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    Default

    Good to know that about the diversity of fuel stations. Everything I read pointed to Pemex, Pemex, and Pemex. I hesitated to say anything about cash vs credit card because everything changes so quickly.



    Donna

  7. Default

    This is comprehensive guide thread. Thanks

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