Travelers headed to Baja for the first time often bring along great expectations as well as a few anxieties. Visiting a foreign country...any country, is breaking 'out of the box' for many people. Some of the fears stemming from such an excursion come from hearsay and stereotypes, other fears are are just based on a lack of general information.
It has been said that knowledge is power, and that is certainly the case when traveling into Baja. The simple truth is that the more one knows about Baja before crossing the border, the more relaxed and enjoyable the adventure can be.
Here are a few key ideas put together specifically for people headed to Baja for the first time. By the way, these ideas work well for folks on their second or third trip to Paradise as well! These ideas are not a whole lot different that the ideas for visiting anywhere for the first time...enjoy!
EXPECT A GREAT TRIP
Most people go through life with the basic assumption that life is either good or bad. And consequently much of what happens to them on a day to day basis is a reflection of that belief. In reality, life is probably pretty much neutral, but it sure doesn't hurt to have a positive attitude in life and when traveling.
Approaching a trip to Baja with the attitude that it will be a positive experience can perform the same funtion as a rudder on a ship. Sure you might run a little off course on occassion, but most of the time you are going to stay on course and end up a lot closer to your intended destination than withouot the positive direction.
STUDY YOUR DESTINATION BEFORE YOU GO
Sure...you could go to Baja without any knowledge of the destination...and many people do. But for most of us it adds depth and joy to the trip if we know and understand a little bit more about where we are and what we want to visit once we reach our destination.
Studying Baja can be almost as much fun as the trip itslef. Reading guide books on your intended destination, talking to friends who have been there, and yep...even surfing the pages of Baja Expo can be a great way to shave down that learning curve and have fun at the same time.
DESIGNATE A SAFE PLACE FOR YOUR DOCUMENTATION
Take a tip from Carlos Fiesta...nothing puts a damper on your trip to Baja that loosing your legal documentation. Loosing important items like your passport, tourist card, and even your credit cards can be much more than a slight inconvenience when traveling in Baja. Loosing these items can cause you to miss your plane home, cost you extra money, and generally put you in an unnecesary funk.
Realizing the importance of these items is the first step. Designating a specific location in your luggage to consistently keep these important papers is the next step. There is usually no need to take these important items with you on your day to day treks while you are on vacation. Keeping them tucked away in your special place in your luggage back at the hotel will give you the peace of mind that, no matter what happens to you during the day (or no matter how much you drink), your important documents are safe and waiting for you when you get back to your hotel.
LEARN A FEW KEY WORDS IN SPANISH
One of the great things about going to Baja is that you don't have to know one word of Spanish to have a good time. Most of the local people you will meet speak enough English to help you get whatever you want or need. But a good trip to Baja invloves more than just getting by. A small amount of personal interaction can add a lot to a Baja adventure.
It doesn't take much to learn a few key words in Spanish. Both English and Spanish share the same Latin root, so it's not like you are trying to tackle Korean or Portuguese. Common words like hello, yes, no, thank you, good-bye, etc. can make your trip more fun and the local people love it when you make an attempt to communicate with them in their own language. Drop by the DOGGY BAG OF SPANISH section of Baja Expo for more information.
DON'T BOTHER OBTAINING PESOS
Yep...you can go through the hassel of obtaining pesos for your Baja trip if you want to. It's always fun to look at the currency of other countries. And you can even do it for a few good practical reasons. But don't do it because you think it is necessary, because US dollars are accepted virtually everywhere in Baja.
There is one reason some people will sometimes convert dollars to pesos before crossing the border. Tourists who pay for products or services in Baja with US dollars will be subject to the cost of the dollar/peso conversion from the vendor providing the service. This cost is generally small, but the benefit always falls on the side of the vendor. Paying with pesos eliminates any confusion.
UNDERSTAND YOU ARE NOT IN KANSAS
Much of Baja is raw nature. Blue skies, clear waters, and mile after mile of beautiful stark geography. With so much nature at hand a road trip into Baja doesn't seem much different than the drive from Los Angeles to Las Vegas. And it's easy to forget you are in a completely foreign country. The truth is....the culture, the laws, the language...you are definately out of your box when traveling in Baja.
Being in a foreign land in and of itself is not a problem. But if things go sideways while you are in Mexico you will have very little control over your destiny. In an effort to keep the shiney side up from begining to end, a few simple suggestions might make a difference. Take things slowly, respect those you interact with, and try not to break any laws. If you follow these rules there is an excellent chance that your Baja getaway with provide you with excellent memories for the rest of your life.
BE OPEN TO MEETING FRIENDLY PEOPLE
As much as Baja has to offer geographically and culturally (and it indeed has much to offer) without question the biggest treasure to be found in Baja are the people. Both the local Mexican people and other visitors in Baja are the core of most Baja trips. This being said, it's hard to gain value from the people in Baja if you don't make at least some effort to get a conversation started.
It's easy to talk to people in Baja! Most of the people in Baja are not in a hurry, which is a big part of the formula. Mexicans and gringos alike seem to enjoy 'chewing the fat' with others, and its amazing how much joy (and good information) can be garnered from even the shortest conversation from the friendly people in Baja. From gas stations to taco stands...Baja offers plenty of venues to strike up a conversation!
Having a plan for your Baja getaway is a good idea. But Baja travelers looking for a true adventure will remember that the plan is just a guideline...something to shoot for to keep the vacation headed in the right direction. Ultimately every trip has its own set of diversions that were not part of the original plan, and for many travelers these unplanned events end up being as much fun as the original plan.
To summarize...it's a good idea for Baja travelers to keep an open mind when an opportunity crosses thier path that wasn't part of the original itinerary. Meeting new people and taking a short side trip to an interesting destination off of the beaten path, trying a restaurant that was recommended by that couple in the pool, or taking a last minute boat ride to a place that sounds interesting can be huge fun. These are all events that add color and cherished memories to a Baja adventure.
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