AsoboLife

Van Life In Mexico: Guide To Camper Van Living In Mexico

Culmination Of 12 Months Of Van Life In Mexico

Ever thought about doing your own van life journey in Mexico? The food, the architecture, the beaches and highlands; there is so much to do and see in Mexico, this country needs to be on your places to visit with your own vehicle.

We’ve spent over 15 months traveling all throughout Mexico in our own DIY campervan. And in this page, we will show you how you can have your own amazing “Van Life in Mexico” experience.

We know that there are many questions and concerns about traveling in Mexico with your own vehicle. Issues like travel safety, police corruption, and travel documents & insurance.

This page will try to answer all your initial questions about traveling throughout Mexico with your own vehicle; whether it be with your campervan, car, or even motorcycle.

Table Of Contents

Learn more? Check out our
Mexico Travel Guide

U.S.- Mexico Border Crossing Guide

Mexico Border Crossing Guide - Points Of Entry

Begin your van life adventure in Mexico by crossing one of the many border entry points along the US-Mexico border.

There is a good amount of documents and paperwork that is needed in order to legally drive your own camper van in Mexico. But if you are patient and organized, the process isn’t overly difficult.

We crossed the border into Mexico multiple times with our camper van and compiled correct information about what you need to know about crossing the border into Mexico.

For more detailed information, read: Crossing The US-Mexico Border With Your Camper Van

In summary, you will need to do the following steps.

Purchase Mexico Auto Insurance Online

Your US/Canadian auto insurance likely won’t insure your vehicle during your time in Mexico. But you should ask anyway to be sure.

When we drive in Mexico, use Baja Bound to insure our camper van.

Learn more: How To Get Auto Insurance For Mexico

Get Your Tourist Permit (FMM)

Mexico’s ‘Forma Migratoria Múltiple’ (FMM) is essentially a tourist visa that all tourists will need to obtain at the border.

Bring your passport and 2 copies.

An FMM is usually valid for 6 months.

Obtain A Temporary Import Permit For Your Van (TIP)

Getting a TIP for your camper van is VERY important to legally drive your vehicle in Mexico.

Baja California Free Zone:
If you only plan to drive your vehicle around the Baja Peninsula, then you do NOT need a TIP. The entire peninsula is a TIP-free zone.

To obtain a TIP you will need your passport, valid FMM, driver’s license, original vehicle registration papers, and proof of Mexican auto insurance.

For more detailed information, read: How To Cross The US-Mexican Border With A Camper Van

How To Get Mexico Auto Insurance

Mexico does NOT accept US and Canadian auto insurance.

If you plan to drive in Mexico, you will need to purchase additional insurance for Mexico.

In our article, we discuss everything you need to know about purchasing Mexico auto insurance.

Roads can be rough, insure your vehicle!

Van Life Mexico Safety Tips

Is Mexico dangerous? Keeping safe while traveling in Mexico is one of the biggest concerns for those planning a trip here.

It was a priority for us as well before we crossed into Mexico.

But what we’ve learned throughout our months traveling in Mexico is that common sense goes a long way here. And while Mexico has its fair share of safety issues, we’ve been able to mitigate 99% of these potential issues with the below advice:

Facing Corruption During Van Life In Mexico

Is Mexico Dangerous To Travel - Police Corruption

Questions over police corruption in Mexico are understandable.

“Will I be pulled over and asked for bribes?”
“What am I supposed to do?”
“How often does this happen in Mexico?”

In this chapter, we discuss how rampant corruption is in Mexico and how to deal with it, if it happens to you.

How Common Is Corruption & Bribery In Mexico?

First, it’s important to know that getting pulled over by corruption police in Mexico is not nearly as common as you might initially guess.

In our 500+ days in Mexico, we’ve only been pulled over twice. Although we’ve met camper van travelers that have been pulled over more often and some none at all.

How often you get pulled over depends on several factors:

1. The size & flashiness of your camper van

Are you driving a modest-looking vehicle? Or is it a large, flashy RV with all the bells & whistles?

2. Where In Mexico You Are Driving

Are you driving in known tourist areas like the Yúcatan or Mexico City? These areas are much more likely to have corrupt cops.

3. Are You 'Technically' Breaking Any Rules?

Tourists are held to a much higher driving standard than locals. Like speeding. So don’t give the policy any reason to pull you over.

4. Does Your Camper Van Look Like It Might Be Carrying Marijuana?

The police know that many foreigners smoke marijuana in their country. And oftentimes, the way a camper van looks is a reflection of the type of person driving that vehicle. Police in Mexico are eager to find marijuana in camper vans and if they do, expect for a bribe request.

How To Get Out Of A Bribe Attempt in Mexico

Luckily, getting out of a police situation without paying ANY bribes is a simple enough process. In fact, we knew a van life traveler in Mexico that got pulled over often but never once paid any money to the local police.

This is how to get out of a bribe attempt situation without paying any more.

1. Play nice

Being kind & respectful goes a long way here. The police don’t have a good reason to detain you, so don’t give them more incentive to keep you any longer.

2. Play the ignorant foreigner

Learning the local language is always important when traveling. But playing the dumb tourist card and only understanding minimal (if any) Spanish will help you here. If the police can’t communicated with you, they can’t efficiently ask for bribes and you’ll end up wasting their time.

3. Waste their time

The only way you can get out of a bribe is by having the police allow you to carry on. But since you can’t force your way out, the best way to be let go is to prolong the interaction and do whatever you can to waste the officer’s time and frustrate them.

4. All else fails? Ask for an official ticket:

 If the officer is persistent and you feel you’ve exhausted all other avenues, flatly refuse to pay any cash and ask for an official ticket to pay the supposed infraction at a police station. Most times when the officer knows that they won’t get anything from you, they will simply let you go with a stern warning.

What You Should Absolutely NOT Do

The goal of any interaction with corrupt officials is to frustrate them enough into letting you go. But there are things you should not do that undermine this objective.

1. Don't give attitude

Being irritated and disrespectful to an officer who has all the leverage in this situation is counter-productive to your efforts. It gives the other side all the incentive to harass and detain you even longer. Trying to bully your way out of a bribe rarely works.

2. Don't hand over any real identification

You may be asked to hand over your drivers license or passport. Under no circumstances should you do this as it only gives the officers even more leverage in the situation. Hand them a black and white copy of your identification. If this is not accepted, our personal strategy is to waste the officer’s time by feigning having lost our IDs and spend lots of time “looking” all over our campervan for them.

Dealing With Corruption During Van Life In Mexico Is A Learning Process

Corruption is a reality not just in Mexico but all over the world, especially in developing countries. And many of us are just not accustomed to dealing with these kinds of interactions.

If you do end up paying a bribe, don’t get frustrated and beat yourself up over it. It’s not the end of the world and treat the interaction as a learning experience.

But just remember that corruption in Mexico towards van life travelers is not nearly as rampant as one might think.

Top Traveling Tips For Van Life In Mexico

When we first entered Mexico from the USA, we didn’t know what to expect. Our first couple of weeks in Mexico was a learning process. Below are our top 10 traveling tips for van life in Mexico.

1. Confirm The Campsite Rate At Arrival

It might feel awkward at first, but asking the price of the campsite right when you arrive is the smart thing to do.

In Mexico, campsite prices can vary and are sometimes negotiable. But if you’ve already slept a night or two at a campground without confirming the ‘per day’ rate, you leave yourself open to being gauged a higher price when you’re ready to leave & pay.

Per Person Rate:
Campsite prices in Mexico are often 'per person'. So if there is more than one person in your camper van, be sure to confirm the total price for all of you.

2. Pay Close Attention To Gas Station Pumps

Although it has never happened to us, we heard of gas station scams where the attendant does not ‘zero out’ the pump from the prior customer before adding gas to your vehicle.

Then, when it comes time to pay, you will be asked to pay the amount shown on the pump, which would then equal to the total gas pumped into your vehicle PLUS the prior customer’s vehicle. The gas station attendant then pockets the difference.

So when you drive up to the pump, make sure the gas station attendant ‘zeros’ the pump before filling your tank.

Additional Pro Tip:
It can be hard to break 500 peso bills into smaller denominations in shops & restaurants in Mexico, but we've found gas stations to always have change for 500 notes.

3. Take advantage of cheap urban parking lots

Every city and large town in Mexico has a number of large parking lots near the downtown areas. These are usually gated lots with 24/7 security.

Many of these parking lots usually have both a ‘per hour’ charge and also a good value 24-hour fee.

When we want to explore an urban area, we arrive in the late morning and pay the 24-hour fee. This allows us to keep our vehicle parked in a secure space while we are out exploring the city. And then in the evenings, we sleep in the van in the guarded parking lot. This is a stress-free van life option when visiting a urban area in Mexico.

And because these parking lots are guarded, there is often a basic toilet you can use.

4. If urban camping on the streets, ask locals first

If you are looking to free camp in an urban area, we recommend searching a bit until you find a middle to upper class neighborhood.

We found that nicer neighborhoods tend to have more frequent police patrols to ensure the area is kept safe.

And, if possible, we try to inquire with the locals whether they think it’s safe to park in that particular neighborhood at night. If they say ‘yes’, we usually trust them. If they say otherwise, we may look elsewhere for another option

5. Heading to the beaches in Baja? Bring a shovel & air compressor

Hundreds of unregulated beaches exist along the coasts of Baja California. The peninsula is an amazing place for van life in Mexico.

And many times you can actually driving right onto the sand with your vehicle and it is up to you to decide how deep into the beach you want to drive.

Everyone wants to get as close to the water as possible, but drive to far out and you’re likely to get stuck.

And in reality, van life travelers in Mexico are getting stuck all the time in the sand. Including us!

Pick Up A Foldable Shovel

Foldable Shovel

Now we absolutely recommend to bring a Foldable Shovel with you before coming to Mexico. We’ve used this shovel to help dig our camper van out several times on the beaches in Baja California.

Getting stuck in the sand is really no fun. Take it from us.

Pick Up An Air Compressor

Mexico Road Trip Tip #5b
Viair Air Compressor

To help get our van out of the sand in Baja, we significantly deflated our tires to 15 psi.

Once we were out of the sand, we used our Viair Air Compressor to reinflate our tires.

We highly recommend traveling with one of these. Not only for if you’re stranded on the beach, but also for flat tire incidents.

6. Don’t always trust the Google Maps route

Van Life Mexico Tips

When driving our camper van in Mexico, Google Map’s recommended route is accurate and works great 95% of the time. But forthe other 5%, Google has wanted us to veer off the yellow highways and drive down dusty, dirt roads. Or to venture straight through a city’s downtown area.

So when we enter our destination on Google Maps and analyze the suggested route, we look to see if Google wants us to drive down likely dirt roads or downtown areas and look to avoid those as much as possible.

Your vehicle and sanity will thank you!

7. Know your vehicle import permit dates

Depending on the vehicle type and how it’s listed on the ownership title, you can easily bring a foreign vehicle into Mexico for either 6 months or 10 years. The 10 year permit is only if it is listed as a camper van/motorhome.

It is a clear and transparent process with little opportunity for scams or corruption, if you do everything correctly and all registrations are up-to-date.

However, it is crucial to know exactly when your expiry date is. Letting the vehicle’s TIP expire in Mexico is a huge mistake and you risk your vehicle getting impounded and costing you thousands of dollars to get it back.

And at the very least, it’s highly likely you’ll loose your TIP deposit, which ranges from $200-$400 depending on the year of the vehicle.

8. If you see a clean toilet, use it.

If, like us, you travel in a camper van without a toilet, then you’ll be using public toilets frequently.

So whether we’re at a gas station, restaurant/cafe, or even a grocery store, we make sure to use the restroom before we leave (even better if you can go #2). With this strategy, we’ve honestly rarely had bathroom troubles.

An Informal Bathroom Solution

Van Life Essentials For Her - Female Urination Device
Female Urination Device

However, we do have a bathroom solution, which includes our Female Urination Device + plastic bottle, and a Camping Shovel (aka the Poop Scoop).

9. Familiarize yourself with police/military check questions

As a van life traveler in Mexico, one of our biggest annoyances are the constant police and military checkpoints on the road. And at these checkpoints they usually ask the same questions IN SPANISH:

“Where are you going?”
“Where are you from?”
“Where do you come from (nationality)?”
“What is in your van?”

 And rarely do they speak in English.

For us, familiarizing ourselves with these basic Spanish questions was helpful to get through these checkpoints faster.

Really learning these phrases helped us ace these checkpoints and carry on with our travels unimpeded.

10. Pay the toll roads. Local roads won't save you money

Is Mexico Dangerous - Toll Road
Toll booth in Mexico

In recent years, Mexico has done a great job in building fast and smooth expressways all throughout the country. With these highways you can skip so much of the infamous potholed roads.

The downside of these expressways is that they aren’t free. Depending on the length of the highway, expect to pay anywhere from $1 to $15 for most tolls. And if you are planning to travel a fair amount in one day, these tolls can quickly add up.

It can be tempting, therefore, to skip the toll roads in favor of the free local roads. We have done this a number of times during our travels in Mexico.

Local roads are usually longer, full awful speed bumps, and lots of twists and curves, ups and downs, and traffic.

Not only do you spend considerable additional time traversing these roads, but with the constant breaking and acceleration and additional distance traveled, you are spending more gas (and thus $) getting to your destination.

We don’t believe you are saving any considerable amount of money by avoiding the tolls and taking local roads.

Plan Your Tolls In Advance:
(Use this Government Site to calculate the total toll amount from one point to another.)

11. Join The Facebook Group 'On The Road In Mexico'

We’ve found that the Facebook group, ‘On The Road In Mexico’ provides invaluable support and information to all van life travelers in Mexico.

In this group you can ask questions regarding border crossings, places of interest to visit, travel safety, and more.

12. Drive Defensively With Your Van In Mexico

Van Life In Mexico - Drive Defensively

Driving your camper van in Mexico requires considerably more attention and awareness to your surroundings than in the USA.

From unmarked speed bumps (‘topes’ in Spanish), to reckless drivers, to bumper-to-bumper traffic, it really pays to drive your van defensively when in Mexico.

We often drive well below the speed limit when in Mexico and allow fast drivers to simply pass us by. Getting into an accident in Mexico is not worth the hassle.

Read more regarding our recommended auto insurance provider in Mexico.

13. Keep The Front Front Cab Of Your Van Clean

Although we never had any experience of anyone breaking into our van while in Mexico, it is always good to be cautious. Especially when parked in urban areas, it’s smart to keep your van’s front cab clear of all personal belongings.

This includes any bags, small coins, phone charging cables, etc…

Don’t give would be thieves a reason to break into your van.

14. Don't Drive At Night In Mexico

When driving in Mexico with your camper van, try to avoid driving at night at all costs. Doing so puts yourself and your van at risk.

From an increased likelihood of running over an unmarked speed bump at full speed, or hitting a unseen car due to malfunctioning tail lights, or meeting a ‘bad hombre’, there’s just too many reasons why it’s not worth to drive in Mexico at night.

When we drive in Mexico, we plan to arrive no later than 4:00pm at our next destination. This gives us an hour or two of extra sunlight in case our trip takes longer than planned.

15. Don't Stealth Camp in Small Mexican Towns

While possible to do in larger Mexican cities, we’ve found that successfully stealth parking in smaller towns and villages in Mexico is much more difficult.

In small towns and suburbs, people tend to know each other and are aware of which vehicles are owned by whom. Therefore, if they see a foreign vehicle parked on the streets, there’s a good chance the police will be called or the local security gang will come knocking on your door.

Instead, try asking local people if you can park overnight . Or better yet, if you can find the local police station, the police usually allow camper vans to park near them overnight for security.

16. Buy Local, Eat local.

Van Life Mexico Guide - Buying Food in Market

Although you can find a big box groceries stores, like Walmart, in Mexico as well, we highly recommend purchasing as much as you can at local markets.

Going to the market is one of the most fun parts of traveling in Mexico, and fruits and vegetables are really cheap and fresh. Also spending money at local business is the best way for travelers to help local people. So we try to shop at these local markets as often as possible!

Read More: shopping & eating local in Mexico

Where To Get Purified Drinking Water While Driving In Mexico

Drinking Water In Mexico
Distributing the water from our garafon into smaller bottles

If you don’t want to purchase large disposable plastic water bottles during your van life travels in Mexico, purchasing a “Garafon” is the most environmentally friendly way to go.

In Mexico, a garafon is a refillable/exchangeable 20 liter (~5 gallon) water jug.  Once you have a garafon, it’s easy to find places that can either fill up your empty jug with purified drinking water or allow you to exchange your empty garafon for a full one.

Traveling with a garafon is the easiest way to purchase drinking water in Mexico and costs an average from 20 – 40 pesos ( 1 – 2 USD ).

Look for ‘agua purificada’ (purified water) stations using the iOverlander app or simply exchange your garafon for a new one at the many, many Oxxo convenience stores all throughout Mexico.

Garafon Tip:
Purchase your first garafon at an Oxxo store. This way, Oxxo stores all across Mexico will allow you to exchange your garafon for a new one of theirs. If you get your first garafon elsewhere, Oxxo may not allow you to exchange with them.

Getting Money In Mexico

Money-in-Mexico

Cash is king in Mexico. Though many hotels and higher-end restaurants accept credit cards, many local eateries, businesses, and campsites only accept cash. So being able to get money in Mexico is crucial.

In this chapter, we discuss how to obtain Mexican Pesos during your van life in Mexico and what we do to get great exchange rates and pay no commissions.

AVOID Money Exchange Stores On The Streets

There are no shortages of money exchange stalls in Mexico that are willing to change your US dollars into Mexican Pesos. But with the terrible exchange rates and commissions that these stores charge, you’ll end up paying the most money to get your Pesos.

So far in our 1+ years in Mexico, we’ve NEVER exchanged our US dollars for Pesos using these currency exchange stalls.

“So where do you get your Pesos then?”

Bank ATMs Are Your Friend

When getting money in Mexico, we only get our Mexican Pesos at ATMs from major banks brands.

Not only do ATMs give us the best exchange rate, but there are:

  • no commission fees,
  • no minimum amount requirements, and
  • Are hassle-free.

You will need a debit card tied to your bank account to be able to use ATMs in Mexico.

What About ATM Fees?

Most Mexican bank ATMs will charge an ATM fee of roughly US$2-4 per transaction. The amount depends on which Mexican bank your transaction is with.

Our bank in the US refunds all international ATM fees back to us. So even though we pay for the ATM fees up front, we get our money back later.

If you’re in the USA:

  • Schwab Bank offers an account with zero ATM fees
  • Chase Bank also offers zero ATM fees with the opening of an Premier Checking Account or higher

If your bank does not have a zero ATM fee offer, consider taking out larger amounts from the Mexican ATM so that you are reducing the total number of times you withdraw from these machines.

Warning: ATM "Scam" Attempt

Many ATMs in Mexico will often try to trick you into accepting a worse exchange rate.

When withdrawing money from a Mexican ATM, the last screen on the ATM machine, right before you money is dispensed, will show you the amount you want to withdraw and will show you the proposed exchange rate.

In the picture below, the ‘proposed rate’ is 1 USD = $18.6463 MXN

But this rate, as indicated on the screen, “Includes 5.99% markup”

That day, the market exchange rate was 1 USD = ~20 MXN.

Getting Money In Mexico - ATM Exchange Rate Scam
Press "Do Not Accept" here. The current rate was $1:20 pesos that day.

You will be given a choice whether to ‘accept’ or ‘decline’. DO NOT accept. The ATM is asking you whether you accept the Mexican bank’s proposed exchange rate (which includes the 5.99% markup).

By declining, you will use the exchange rate offered by your own bank, which will be substantially better.

Essential Spanish Phrases For Van Life Mexico

Terrible at Spanish? Tell me about it!

As with most other countries, the locals appreciate it if you try to speak their language. It’s a great way to respect and understanding their culture thorough language.

But speaking a bit of Spanish also goes a long way to aiding your van life journey through Mexico.

In this chapter we share some useful phrases we’ve learned driving along Mexico.

'Tope' = Speed Bump

tope1
Credit: Re:Whatever
topes - speed bumps in Mexico
Credit: Mexpro.com

You’ll learn the Mexican word for ‘speed bump’ on your first day of camper van life in Mexico, guaranteed.

Be constantly on the lookout for ‘tope’ signs, especially when driving in rural areas. Hitting these rough speed bumps at high speeds is the last thing you want to do for your vehicles.

'Cuota' & 'Libre' = Toll Road & Free Road

Mexico_Driving_Sign
Is Mexico Dangerous - Toll Road

‘Cuota’ and ‘libre’ are two words you need to be aware of when driving on the highways. 

Cuota means toll roads. You pay the fee at a toll booth in order to drive on newly constructed and smooth highways. The price for each toll is almost always posted right before the toll booth.

Libre means free road.  While these roads don’t have a cost to drive on, it will take you considerably longer to get to you destination if you only stick to the free roads.

'Lleno' = Full

At the gas station, you are not allowed to pump your own gas. You have to tell staff how much gas you wish to put. 

Please fill up the tank full with regular/supreme/diesel. – “Lleno de regular/supreme/diesel, por favor.”

Or…”lleno” for short.

When At A Police/Military Check Point

  • Where are you going? – ¿A dónde va/van?
  • Where are you from? – ¿De dónde es/son?
  • What are you bringing/carrying (in the van)? – ¿Que llevas/llevan?
  • Where are you coming from? – ¿De dónde vienes?

At a Campground in Mexico

At-Campground-in-Mexico
  • How much for one night? – ¿Cuanto cuesta por un noche?
  • Is the price per person? Or total? – ¿El precio is por persona o total?
  • How much is the rent for a week (month)? – ¿Cuánto es por semana(mes)? 
  • Do you have a hot shower? – ¿Tienes una ducha caliente?
  • Do you have a toilet? – ¿Tienes un bano?
  • Do you have a kitchen? – ¿Tienes una cocina?

How To Get Internet During Van Life In Mexico

Purchase A Mexico SIM Card

Purchasing a local SIM card is the easiest way to get Internet while traveling in Mexico. SIM cards can be readily purchased at any Oxxo Convenience Store (which are everywhere in Mexico).

The Oxxo front counter sells SIM cards. This includes:

  • A SIM card
  • Mexican Number
  • A small amount of initial data (~200MB)

Once you’ve used your initial allotted data, you can visit any Oxxo store to top-up your account. We usually purchase 200 pesos worth of data at a time, which is 3.5GB of data and good for 30 days. But you can add anywhere from 20-500 pesos worth of data. It’s up to you.

In order to top-up your account, you’ll need to present the Oxxo employee with your Mexican phone number.

What we say: “Quiero recargar para TELCEL, solo datos” (I want to recharge my TELCEL account, only an Internet plan)

Sim Card Tip:
When recharging your SIM card, you can either recharge with a "paquete" - package deal (phone, messaging, & data) or only Internet data ("solo datos"). We recommend only going with an Internet plan so you get more data for your Pesos.

"But My Cell Provider Offers Free Roaming To Mexico"

Our USA cell service provider is T-Mobile and with a monthly plan, you can roam in Canada AND Mexico on your current US plan. We could get the same 5GB of high-speed data per month. After your 5GB is spent, you get downgraded to 128Kbps until your plan renews.

But after 2 months, we got an warning message that if we didn’t return back to the US soon, T-Mobile would suspend our account.

After talking with a T-Mobile rep, we learned that the free roaming plan for Canada and Mexico is only intended for short term travelers. For travelers intending to be in Mexico longer than 6-8 weeks, an alternative solution is required.

"What About An International Roaming Plan?"

Purchasing an international roaming plan from your home cell service provider is a good solution. It’s quick and easy to do. But it’s not cheap. T-mobile offers the following international roaming rates:

  • $5 – 512MB (24 hours)
  • $35 – 5GB (10 days)
  • $50 – 15GB (30 days)

But with a Mexican SIM card we can get 3.5GB for just $10 and it’s good for 30 days.

"Will A Mexican SIM Card Mess With My Messaging Apps"

Even with a Mexican SIM card, you can still get messages sent to your Whatsapp, Signal, & Line accounts with your home number. Just be sure to select “Keep My Old Number” when these apps ask you if you want to change to your Mexican number.

Google Fi

Getting Internet In Mexico

Google Fi is becoming a popular option for international travelers, especially for van life travelers in Mexico.

The Pros

For travelers who require a lot of data (Youtube, Netflix, Zoom Meetings), Google Fi’s unlimited plan gives you 22GB of high-speed data. Speeds slow down after that.

For long-term travelers planning on visiting multiple countries, Google Fi lets you roam internationally on just one SIM card. No need to buy new SIMs when entering a different country.

The Cons

Technically you must be in the USA to sign up for Google Fi. You can work around this if you’re creative and have a VPN and a USA shipping address (to send the Google Fi SIM card). But otherwise, it is for USA customers only.

In order to use Google Fi you will need to terminate your plan with your current cell phone carrier and bring your current cell number over to Google’s service. If you like your current cell plan, like we do, you’ll be faced with a tough decision!

Google Fi is convenient, but it is by far the most expensive option. Currently, you can choose between an unlimited plan or a pay-as-you-go plan.

If you have a large travel budget, Google Fi is a decent option. You pay more, but in return you get hassle-free convenience.

But for those that travel on a tighter budget, just getting a local Mexican SIM card is cheaper and more flexible.

Cafes With WIFI

Getting Internet when traveling in Mexico is easy with the thousands of cafes all throughout the country. Every major city is almost guaranteed to have a Starbucks or two and even some of the smallest towns and villages have an independent cafe with WIFI service.

But cafes in Mexico can be hit or miss. Sometimes the WIFI is slow or not functioning that day, sometimes the electrical outlets don’t work, and sometimes the cafes inadvertently close early at arbitrary times.

Where To Camp In Mexico

Just like in the USA and Canada, there are lots of different overnight options to take advantage of all throughout Mexico. In this chapter, we take a look at several of the main overnight camp options for your van life journey in Mexico.

Standard RV & Campsites

Yes, regular campsites that you might be familiar with in the US and Canada are available in Mexico as well. All throughout Mexico you can also find RV parks with full hooks, which includes electric, water, and dump.

Use the iOverlander app to locate these campsites and RV parks.

Auto Hotels

Auto hotels are usually drive-in hotels located on the outskirts of Mexican cities. These auto hotels are a great,clean, and affordable option if you are only passing through town and need a safe play to park overnight in a gated lot.

Gas Stations

Just like in the US, it’s usually possible to park overnight at some of the larger 24/7 gas stations. If you plan to park overnight at a gas station, just make sure to ask for permission from the gas attendants first.

A small tip is usually appreciated as well from the attendants.

Urban Parking Lots

Every Mexican city and town has large, gated parking lots that often allow you to park and sleep in your camper van overnight. These parking lots often have an on-site guard 24/7 and lock their gates at night.

Bonus, many of these parking lots have basic bathrooms that you can use.

Family-Owned Restaurants

Parking next to small, family-owned restaurants is a good way to sleep for free. It’s a good idea to purchase a meal in advance before asking, but usually the owner of the restaurant will allow you to park overnight, no problem.

For more info, read: Where To Camp In Mexico

Helpful Apps & Resources For Van Life in Mexico

After 2 Year of Van Life

Smartphones have made traveling in our camper van in Mexico easier than ever. In this chapter we talk about our 6 essential apps for van life in Mexico.

Uber

When in Mexico’s major cities, Uber is a great way to get around town without having to drive a clunky van.

We love using Uber in Mexico because:

That’s it. There’s no need to haggle the price with taxi drivers or stand around trying to flag down a taxi in public.

Whatsapp

No matter what your views are regarding Whatsapp’s privacy encryption (or lackthereof), one thing is certain; Whatsapp is THE mode of communication in Mexico.

Whatsapp is not just used between individuals and friends, but it is a popular method to communicate directly with businesses.

Want to make a dinner reservation? Send the restaurant a Whatsapp message.

Want to get pizza delivered? Send them a Whatsapp message.

Need to communicate with the hotel front desk? You get the idea…

Van Life Mexico - Best Apps In Mexico (Whatsapp)
Making a restaurant reservation using Whatsapp

Facebook

We join various Mexico-related Facebook groups to get great and timely information when we arrive at different destinations in Mexico.

For general Mexico travel information, we join “On The Road To Mexico”. There you can get:

For more city/town specific information in Mexico, we join the foreigner/expat Facebook groups for that particular town. For example, there are multiple foreigner Facebook groups for:

Every day, people are asking the very same questions in these groups that you might have and are getting answers from experienced foreigners who have lived in these cities & towns for years.

iOverlander

If you are doing a road trip through Mexico with your own camper van, the iOverlander app is a must have.

An incredibly useful app with a wealth of information relevant for road tripping through Mexico.

  • Best places to sleep & park overnight;
  • Where to get gas and propane;
  • Where to get drinking water, and;
  • Discover unsafe areas

Google Maps

Google maps is the app that we use the MOST while in Mexico. More than just a navigation app, we also use Google maps to:

  • Locate great restaurants and cafes;
  • Find nearby places of interest;
  • Check user reviews for updated information and prices; and
  • Plan our driving route in advance by understanding driving times & distances

For finding the best things to do in your area quickly and efficiently, Google maps is one of our most essential apps for traveling in Mexico.

Last But Not Least: Google Translate

Essential Apps For Traveling In Mexico - Google Translate

Learning the basic Spanish phrases goes a long way in Mexico. Though this app won’t teach you the Spanish basics, this app helps support a basic Spanish language foundation by translating specific words and/or phrases when you need them. 

Baja California Road Trip Guide

Is Mexico Dangerous? - Snow Birds In Baja California
Playa Escondido, Bay of Conception

No Mexico beach tour is finished without visiting Mexico’s Baja Peninsula! Beaches for resort lovers, surfers, and those that just want to truly get “off-the-grid”.

Some of our favorite beaches in the Baja include:

  • Playa Escondido, Bay of Conception (best water!)
  • Punta La Tinaja (most isolated!)
  • Playa Los Barrilles (best wind for kite surfing!)

Head over to our Baja California Guide for much more information.

Our Van Life Mexico Route

We’ve spent almost a year crisscrossing all over Mexico. We did not intend to stay so long, but the Covid-19 pandemic had other plans. The silver lining of the pandemic was that we got to see so much more of Mexico than we originally planned.

We love Mexico so incredibly much and we know you will, too!

Save this Van Life Mexico Guide on Pinterest for later!

Driving In Mexico Tips - Pin
Is Mexico Dangerous for Van Life - Pin

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