BEFORE DRIVING ACROSS THE BORDER
Just a little bit of planning can go a long way when getting ready to drive south into Baja Mexico. Even last minute road trips into Baja can be fun and easy, and need very little planning. But reviewing these key suggestions can take the worry out of any drive into Baja.
Entering Baja by vehicle (car, truck, SUV, RV, motorcycle, etc.) is by far the most common way to cross the border into Baja. Literally millions of people cross the border into Baja by vehicles each year, most of them at the San Ysidro (San Diego) / Tijuana border crossing. It's usually an easy way to get into Baja, whether the trip is for just a day or for an extended vacation.
The most important item to bring along when driving across the border is some legitimate form of identification for each person in the vehicle (including the children), such as a valid passport. You might get lucky and be able to cross back into the U.S. with a driver's license and an original birth certificate, but maybe not. Proper identification will most likely not be necessary when crossing into Mexico, or even during a short stay in Baja when traveling in the border tourist areas, but will probably be asked for when crossing the border back into the United States by U.S. Immigration officials.
You are never alone when driving across the border into Baja!
Visitors to Baja who are planning on staying in Baja longer that 72 hours or who are planning to drive well south of Ensenada/San Felipe need to be prepared to obtain a Tourist Card. Obtaining a Tourist Card requires one of the following types of identification: (1) a valid passport, or (2) a certified copy of a birth certificate and a picture I.D. or (3) a notorized letter stating your citizenship and a photo I.D. This Tourist Card will cost you about $20 U.S. and can be obtained at Mexican Immigration offices in Baja, including offices at the border, in Ensenada, or at the Guerrero Negro Immigration stop. For more information visit the Toursit Card section of Baja Expo.
Probably the second most important thing to bring along on a driving trip into Baja is proof of liability insurance. You can drive across the border into Baja Mexico without liability insurance, but things get very complicated if you are involved in any kind of accident. For about $15 a day it's well worth getting insurance. Damage insurance for your vehicle is extra, if you want it. There is no shortage of insurance companies located on the US side of the border just before crossing into Baja.
If there are any children on your trip to Baja that are not your children, bringing along a notorized letter from the parents of the child allowing you permission to bring the child into Mexico is a good idea. It is smart to have this same letter allow you the right to make medical decisions for the child in the event of a medical emergency. This letter is not a requirement when driving into the tourist areas close the border, but it is still a good idea.
The same type of letter is good to bring along for a parent who is bringing a child into Baja when the second parent is not coming along on the trip. Again, this documentation will probably not be required by the Mexican authorities on a drive down trip, and probably not by the US immigration authorities either. But it's nice to have it along just in case they do.
Other items to consider before crossing the border include plenty of money in your pocket, a cell phone and a credit card for emergencies. The Auto Clum Baja map is good to have if you are feeling adventureous! And don't forget to review the information in Baja Expo for the destination you will be visiting before you get in the car to head south!