When it comes to possible RVing destinations, many travelers overlook Mexico. Some RVers avoid Mexico primarily because of significant news stories that cause safety concerns. However, the country offers much potential for adventures and making memories. So is it safe to take your RV into Mexico?
Today, we’re taking you south of the border to answer this question. We’ll provide you with what you need to know to help you enjoy a safe and smooth adventure.
Let’s get started!
Why Is Mexico Popular with RVers?
Mexico has become very popular with RVers due to its beauty, affordability, and warm weather. Many travelers love the ease of beach camping along the coast of Baja California and the Yucatan Peninsula. The views are incredible, and the region has a rich culture.
The Mexican people have a reputation for a warm and hospitable nature. This makes it easy to feel welcome and at home during your adventures. There are plenty of opportunities to experience the culture by visiting local festivals, listening to music, and tasting the delicious cuisine.
RVers love Mexico because filling their schedules with exciting activities is easy. From whale watching in Guerrero Negro to fishing in the deepest ocean in the world, there’s much to see and do. Whether you want to dive into aquatic activities, explore rugged terrain on foot or ATV, or relax while taking in the views, it’s all possible.
How Is RVing in Mexico Different From the United States?
One of the first things many travelers realize when they RV in Mexico is that it’s very different than RVing in the United States. For example, the road conditions in the United States make it much easier to travel in big rigs. However, many of the roads throughout Mexico desperately need some maintenance.
This can cause severe wear and tear on your RV and requires drivers to be extra cautious while driving. When taking your rig into Mexico, traveling with spare parts and tools for repairs is a good idea. RV repair and support services aren’t nearly as standard throughout the region.
Another significant difference is the availability of RV parks and campgrounds. While this is changing more recently as RVing becomes more trendy, RV resorts are nowhere near as typical as in the United States. This means you’ll need to plan your route wisely and research campgrounds. Thankfully, our favorite research tool, Campendium, has plenty of options in Mexico.
The campgrounds and campsites in Mexico are very different than in the United States. Camping is more relaxed and informal. There are typically fewer regulations and more freedom to camp in remote and undeveloped areas. However, like in the United States, it’s crucial to consider your safety selecting a spot.
Pro Tip: Stay safe on the road by always packing these 13 Most Important RV Safety Devices You Need For Your Camper.
Is Mexico as Dangerous as You Hear?
Mexico, like the United States, is a vast country. There are certain areas with more significant dangers and risks for criminal activity. There is an increased amount of drug and gang activities throughout the country. Unfortunately, the news sensationalizes many of these stories for political purposes.
The U.S. Department of State monitors activities nationwide and creates travel restrictions and advisories based on the information they receive. When planning your travels, it’s wise to check these restrictions and plan accordingly.
To paint the entire country of Mexico with a broad brush would be ignorant of us. Is every city or area in Mexico safe? Absolutely not. However, that doesn’t mean you should avoid the entire country.
Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York have incredibly high crime levels, but over 330 million people live in the United States. You should take precautions when visiting these massive cities and do the same when visiting Mexico.
Safe Places to RV in Mexico
Many RVers in Mexico stick to a few areas with a history of being safe. Let’s look at some places you should consider for your trip south of the border.
Baja California is one of Mexico’s most popular options for epic RVing adventures. This peninsula extends from the southern border of California. It has the Sea of Cortez on one side and the Pacific Ocean on the other.
The roads in this region are a mix of well-maintained highways and rural roads that can be pretty rough. Additionally, there are a generous amount of campgrounds and boondocking spots. So take it slow and steady, and avoid driving at night.
Some popular activities in Baja California are hiking, fishing, surfing, and whale watching. Additionally, they’ve earned a reputation for their delicious food and local wines. Many find that the prices for these items are very friendly on their budget, too.
If you don’t like taking your trip alone, Vagabundos del Mar is one option you should consider. They’re experts at planning trips to Baja California and have worked in the travel industry since 1966. They make the process a breeze, so all you have to worry about is enjoying yourself.
Another trendy spot for RVers in Mexico is San Carlos. This city sits in the northwestern portion of the country along the Sea of Cortez. It has a reputation for sandy beaches, scenic landscapes, and wildlife.
Some of the most popular activities in San Carlos include snorkeling, scuba diving, kayaking, and fishing. Additionally, you can spot dolphins, sea lions, and sea turtles. Sign up for a boat tour or hike in the hills to experience diverse wildlife in their natural habitat.
There are several RV parks and campgrounds in San Carlos. While some offer full hookups, WiFi, and laundry facilities, that’s not always the case. Some offer a more rustic or basic experience with limited amenities. Do your research before booking a spot.
San Carlos’s rich cultural experience is a relatively even mixture between Mexican and American. You can explore local markets, try delicious Mexican cuisine, and enjoy various festivals and cultural events. While it has a unique flare, it’s not so different that visitors feel out of place.
Lake Chapala is in Central Mexico and has a thriving ex-pat population. As a result, Americans traveling in the area feel at home. The lake is south of Guadalajara and southeast of the popular tourist hotspot of Puerto Vallarta.
Like the other RVing destinations, the availability of RV parks and campgrounds varies. However, there is a mixture of parks and campgrounds in the area. So take the time to read reviews and ensure they can accommodate your RV.
Some activities in this area are hiking, birdwatching, and water sports like kayaking and fishing. There’s no shortage of authentic Mexican cuisine to enjoy and opportunities to learn about the history and culture of the area. You can stroll through an art gallery or take a day trip into the mountains and hot springs nearby.
Did you know? You can rent an RV in Japan! Learn more here.
What Do You Need to Drive an RV into Mexico?
Having your ducks in a row would be best when crossing an international border. However, maintaining paperwork is vital when driving an RV into Mexico. Let’s look at the things you need for a smooth border crossing.
Your passport is one of the first things you must show when crossing the border. While children under 16 can use a birth certificate, naturalization certificate, or other documents to prove their US citizenship, everyone else will need a passport or passport card.
Obtaining a passport can take a considerable amount of time. It can vary from six to eight weeks or 10 to 12 weeks. Plan and give yourself plenty of time, so you don’t have to stress about whether your passport will arrive in time for your trip.
Temporary Importation Permit (TIP)
Depending on where you’re traveling in Mexico, you may need to obtain a Temporary Importation Permit (TIP). If your travels take you further than 16 miles from the border, there’s a chance you’ll need a TIP. However, the Baja peninsula and the Sonora Free Zone do not require this permit.
These permits are good for six months, and you can acquire them at designated border crossings, consulates, and online. All you need to do is show your personal ID and proof of vehicle ownership and pay the associated fee. The fee typically depends on the age and value of your vehicle.
You may have a quality insurance plan on your RV and vehicle, but it’s likely useless in Mexico. You must obtain Mexican insurance to operate a vehicle in Mexico legally. If not, you could risk having your vehicle ceased, and you could spend the duration of your stay in a Mexican jail.
This is another benefit of joining Vagabundos del Mar, as you can purchase your insurance through their services. You won’t have to worry about having sufficient coverage or getting ripped off by a sketchy service.
Permission Letter from Lien Holder
In addition to your vehicle registration, driver’s license, and proof of insurance, having a permission letter from your lien holder is a good idea. If you’re applying for a TIP, you will need this document. Most lien holders know these documents and can churn them out without issue. All you need to do is contact your lien holder and request they email or mail you the document.
Forma Migratoria Multiple (FMM)
If traveling to Mexico by RV for less than 180 days, you must complete a Forma Migratoria Multiple (FMM). This is a visa-like document that allows you to travel legally to Mexico. You must visit Banjercito (IMN office) to complete this form.
Completing the form online can make the process easier for you and border officials. This allows you to pay the required fee and bring your receipt to the IMN office. Instead of a lengthy process, you’ll need their stamp of approval, and you can be on your way.
It’s crucial to know that no one will remind you of this essential document. You must obtain one before setting off on your Mexico adventures. If officials request to see your FMM and you do not have one, it won’t end well for you.
Vaccination Records for Pets
As of 2019, Mexico no longer requires travelers to provide vaccination records for their pets. However, you should have them if you plan to bring your pet along for the adventure. Doing so can help keep your pet safe during your travels.
Traveling can be unpredictable, and you never know what might occur. Vaccination records for your pets can be instrumental if you need to visit a vet. It will allow them to see your pet’s history when planning treatment.
What to Expect RVing in Mexico
RVing in Mexico differs significantly from the United States. There are some things you should expect when RVing in Mexico. Let’s take a look!
Crossing the Border
When crossing the border, you should expect officials to check your documents. If you want to avoid potential issues, organize your records, so they’re ready to go. This is when all of your hard work will pay off.
Additionally, border officials may request to enter your RV to inspect for contraband. Since you’re crossing an international border, this isn’t an optional search. We strongly recommend checking the list of prohibited and permissible items. You don’t want to bring contraband with you to the border.
Finally, expect that border officials will ask you some questions. They’ll typically ask where you’re going, where you’re coming from, and what you plan to do during your stay. You must answer these questions and maintain respect for the officials. If not, your border crossing might take longer, and they may pull you aside for more extensive processing.
If you thought roads in the United States were bad, wait until you drive an RV in Mexico. The streets are generally narrower, full of potholes, and can experience flooding in many places. You’ll need to go slower and likely want to avoid driving at night.
This is also an excellent opportunity to inform you that “ALTO” signs are the equivalent of stop signs in the United States. They share the same shape and color design as American stop signs, but they can be hard to spot in some areas.
Stopping at checkpoints is a relatively unfamiliar experience for many Americans. However, they’re another standard adjustment for RVing in Mexico. These are not optional stops. You must stop at these checkpoints and chat with officials.
The two most standard types of checkpoints are military and agricultural. Officials may inspect your vehicle, looking for any contraband. Do yourself a favor; answer any questions and treat them respectfully, especially if you want to get back on the road as fast as possible. In our experience, these checkpoints were no big deal, as these officers are mostly there for our protection.
You should never connect your RV to a power source without a surge protector, even when RVing in the United States. You want to ensure the wiring is correct and the voltage is safe for your rig. Voltage issues can do severe damage to an RV and its sensitive electronics.
Many RV power sources in Mexico may be inconsistent and unreliable. As a result, we strongly encourage travelers to come with a backup power source. Whether it’s a gas-powered generator or a roof of solar panels, it’s beneficial to be as self-reliant as possible for power.
Pro Tip: We uncovered What Is the Best RV Power Surge Protector to make connecting your RV to a power source safe and easy.
If you haven’t heard yet, you shouldn’t drink the water in Mexico. Trust us; if you do, you’ll regret it. You may spend the next several days near a toilet and questioning your life choices. Drinking water in Mexico requires you to use a .2 micron filter. This removes any bacteria or impurities in the water and makes it safe for drinking.
If you do not have these capabilities, you’ll want to buy all your drinking water. Luckily, there are water stores where you can purchase water. Don’t forget to be extra careful when brushing your teeth, using ice in your beverages, or getting a bite to eat at local restaurants. You don’t want to catch Montezuma’s Revenge, the illness associated with consuming water in Mexico.
Experience the Beauty of Mexico in an RV
Traveling in an RV to Mexico can be a unique and rewarding experience. Take your time and enjoy the culture and natural beauty of this underappreciated country. If you take the proper precautions, you can have a safe and enjoyable trip. However, you need to educate yourself and prepare for this unforgettable adventure.
Where would you like to RV in Mexico? Tell us your top spots in the comments!
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Sunday 2nd of April 2023
Topes! Drivers need to be warned about them! One got us- it was late afternoon, yellow paint had worn off and it was in the shadows when I hit it going 20 mph. Bent the tow arms which had to be straighten.
Also, NEVER drive at night. Besides animals, bikes(motorized and not) often do not have any lights or reflective tape. Many roads do not have lights or road markings.
As a late 60's age female who butchers English let alone Spanish, I have no problem venturing out on my own to the stores, etc. Mexico is an incredibly warm, gracious and beautiful country that deserves to be explored.
Mortons on the Move
Thursday 27th of April 2023
Oh yea those Topes (Speed bumps) We had a similar instance, The locals know where they are or don't care but in an RV! Yikes
Sunday 2nd of April 2023
Its INM not IMN. Been RVing Baja a couple years and love it.
Thursday 30th of March 2023
This was a very informative article. Thanks for pulling it all together.