Get Ready for Heading South of The Border
Nothing screams van life like a road trip through Mexico. Before you head south of the border, here are some tips to keep you safe and have fun while camping in Mexico.
Van life is all about exploring new places and taking the path less traveled. Limiting your travels to your home state or even the United States leaves so much potential fun undiscovered.
When people think of Mexico, there are usually two trains of thought. The first is sunshine, beaches, tacos, and freedom. The second is the unknown wild country that people are hesitant about exploring. While both ideas are valid, sunshine and tacos are definitely the more accurate.
A van trip to Mexico will not be like your family vacation to an all-inclusive resort. That being said, it will also be much more fun and authentic! Experiencing Mexico from a resort is like experiencing lemon marang pie watching the Food Network. Van life and Mexico are perfect if you’re prepared and open-minded.
Is Camping In Mexico Safe?
Let’s get this out of the way before we go any further. Lots of people are of the opinion that traveling through Mexico isn’t safe. If you don’t think you would be safe camping in Mexico, this article probably isn’t going to change your mind. If your mindset is that you’ll be unsafe, you won’t enjoy yourself, and perhaps Mexico isn’t for you.
I can speak from my personal experience of over two years of continuous travel and life in Mexico, including camping in a van; I’ve never been in a situation where I felt unsafe. I apply all the same common sense safety rules I would anywhere else in the world, and it’s been the best two years of my life.
Some of the following tips will be centered around safety, and others making the most of your trip. If you’ve been thinking about camping in Mexico, take these tips, do some research and start packing!
Have A Co-Pilot
Traveling with a partner has a few benefits that will make your camping in Mexico experience a great one. Splitting the driving duties is a big one. Driving in Mexico can be mentally exhausting if it’s your first time. Being able to sit back and enjoy the landscape for part of the trip will make travel days less daunting.
Having a second person will help with safety as well. If you have vehicle issues, the second set of hands may save the day. As with travel anywhere in the world, traveling alone always comes with more risks.
Know The Local Climate
I know what you’re thinking, it’s Mexico, it’s gonna be warm and sunny… possibly, but it may be 40F or rainy for a week as well.
Mexico is a vast country with many different climates, and weather can vary within these individual climates month by month. Baja California Sur in the winter months can drop to 40F at night and be 115F during the day in the summer months. The Yucatan has humidity in the 80s and up almost year-round, while central mountainous areas can be colder than expected year-round.
Make room with your tank tops and bathing suits for some warmer clothes and rain gear, as you will probably use both. Research the areas you plan on being in during a certain time of year and be prepared for the expected weather.
Learn Some Spanish
¿Hablas español? If not, try learning some basic Spanish before heading across the border. Knowing some Spanish can help in certain situations and make you feel a little less helpless. It can be frustrating not to understand someone or have them not understand you.
Remember, you’re not in America anymore, and nobody is expected to be able to speak English. Sure, Google Translate is great, but stumbling through some Spanish is part of the experience, and locals appreciate the effort.
There are free apps and many free YouTube Spanish lessons that can help you. If you’re planning a Mexico trip and don’t speak Spanish, practice for 30 minutes a day, and you’ll be surprised how quickly you learn.
Take Spare Parts
Camping in Mexico is all about setting up at the beach, but first, you have to make it there. Van parts won’t be as readily available in many parts of Mexico, and a breakdown could cost you days.
Obviously, you can’t take everything with you. However, having the main spare pieces such as tires, engine belts, and any small things you have spares of, like an alternator, is a smart move. Things you can realistically fix yourself still require tools, so have the necessary tools for basic repairs.
Join Mexico Van Groups
It is 2023, and as with everything in our lives, the internet is the place for everything. Online Facebook groups are a great resource for planning your drive through Mexico and meeting others traveling the same area.
Caravaning with other campers can make your trip extra exciting and enjoyable. You’ll have an extra sense of confidence knowing others are there to help if needed, and spending time with people with similar interests is always fun.
Don’t Drive At Night
Driving at night in Mexico is kinda like running full speed through a cornfield. Livestock isn’t fenced and gathers by the road at night, potholes you can hide in are left unrepaired, and the list goes on.
Many areas in Mexico have little or no cell service, and if you have vehicle issues, you are more likely to encounter help during the day. Gas stations often close early, and you can find yourself without fuel in remote areas. Mexico has some stunning landscapes, so why miss them by traveling at night?
Have Recovery Gear
Mexico van life will almost certainly involve beaches, and where there are beaches, there is sand and stuck vans. Getting stuck on a beach is almost a right of passage, so be prepared.
Mexican people are extremely willing to help, as are fellow van lifers, but you need the gear to get yourself out. A shovel, tow strap, and traction aids can save the day for you or someone else. 4-wheel drive vans are preferred; however, as the saying goes, a 4WD gets you farther before you get stuck.
New Year, New Adventure
A Mexico van trip is on many people’s lists, and with good reason. Camping and van life in Mexico is an exciting way to have a more unique camping experience. For many, it’s also a great way to escape cold winter weather.
Like any other camping trip, camping in Mexico just takes some planning. 2023 can be the year you finally check this one off your bucket list!