It's a good idea to know a little bit about banks in Baja just in case a financial need pops up during a Peninsula getaway.
Banks in Baja share some similarities to banks in the United States, but in other ways they are very different. One thing you can expect at almost any bank in Baja is plenty of company. It seems like all of the local people have something to do at the local bank.
Banks are easy to spot in most Baja cities.
PICK A BANK - ANY BANK
Although there are not nearly as many different types of banks in Baja as there are in the U.S., there are at least a handful to choose from. Don't loose too much sleep worrying over which one to visit for your Baja banking needs. They all provide pretty much the same services and the costs and exchange rates are similar.
SORRY - WE'RE OPEN
Banks in Baja are generally open by 10:00 a.m. and often stay open until 6:00 p.m. The hours of operatation can vary from bank to bank and from branch to branch, depending upon how large the city is that is being served. Generally banks are open longer hours in the larger cities. See the note below regarding banks being closed for siesta.
NO SHOES, NO SHIRT, NO PESOS
While it might be okay for a customer to walk into a Bank of America in Venice, California in a bathing suit and flip-flops, banks in Baja expect a bit more formal attire from their customers. Shorts are okay and there is no problem with t-shirts and tennis shoes. But minimizing the amount of bare skin exposed to the other bank customers is always appreciated.
TAKE A NUMBER
Looking for the ultimate frustrating experience? Go to a Baja bank in a hurry. It won't take long before you start to pull your hair out. Seems like everyone and their hermano has something to do at the local bank, and they all seem to be there the same time you are there. Plan accordingly, bring a book, and chill. And if the bank has a place to take a number, take one as soon as you get in. Taking a number after you have been there for a half hour only results in pulling out more hair.
TAKE A NAP
The Baja tradition of closing a business for a short afternoon siesta is still a part of some Baja towns. If you visit a bank at 2:30 p.m. and see the lights on and a few workers inside, but the doors are locked, go get an ice cream or talk a walk around the plaza (or take your own siesta!). The bank should be open again by 4:00 p.m.
Some Baja travelers choose to convert at least a part of their funds from U.S. or Canadian dollars into Mexican pesos. This avoids the 'conversion profit' from the various vendors who will gladly take your dollars...for a price. Converting dollars to pesos is a very formal process at a Baja bank, and the customer is given a receipt showing the exact exchange rate and the conversion amounts.
TOURIST CARD PAYMENTS
Baja aficianados who will be staying in Baja more than 72 hours or who plan on traveling beyond the tourist zones (Ensenada or San Felipe) will need to obtain a Tourist Card to be legal. Although the Tourist Card can be obtained at any Mexican immigration office, the $20 US Tourist Card fee must be paid at a Baja bank. U.S. dollars or pesos are accepted at the bank for the fee, and the bank will provide the visitor with a stamped receipt which must be returned to the immigration officer before the final stamp is placed on the Tourist Card.
AUTOMATIC TELLER MACHINES
Each year more and more banks in Baja offer ATM machines. These machines are usually located in a separate room which can be accessed by an exterior glass door when the bank is closed. Just like anywhere else in the world, all one needs to make a Baja ATM work is a valid ATM card and a PIN (Personal Identification Number). Jackpots from Baja ATM machines are paid off in pesos, not dollars. Remember 10 pesos is worth approximately 1 US dollar.
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