Van Life in Mexico: An Overlanding Guide to the Land Of Tacos

Have you ever thought about taking your van life journey to Mexico? The food, the architecture, the beaches, and the highlands; there is so much to do and see in Mexico; this country needs to be on your places to visit with your vehicle.

We’ve spent over 15 months traveling throughout Mexico in our DIY campervan. This page will show you how to have your own unique “Van Life in Mexico” experience.

We know that there are many questions and concerns about traveling in Mexico with your vehicle—issues like travel safety, police corruption, and travel documents & insurance.

This page will try to answer all your initial questions about traveling throughout Mexico with your vehicle, whether with your campervan, car, or motorcycle.

Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate, this site earns from qualifying purchases. Though we may earn a commission, the price you pay always remains the same.

Mexico Border Crossing Guide

Google Maps showing US-Mexico border and the main ports of entry into Mexico
Seven primary ports of entry into Mexico from the US

Begin your van life adventure in Mexico by crossing one of the many border entry points along the US-Mexico border.

A good number of documents and paperwork are required to drive your camper van legally in Mexico. But if you are patient and organized, the process isn’t overly complicated.

We crossed the border into Mexico multiple times with our camper van and compiled correct information about what you need to know about crossing the border into Mexico.

For more detailed information, read: Crossing The US-Mexico Border With Your Camper Van.

In summary, you will need to do the following steps.

Purchase Mexico Auto Insurance Online

Your US/Canadian auto insurance likely won’t insure your vehicle during your time in Mexico. But you should ask anyway to be sure.

When we drive in Mexico, we use Baja Bound to insure our camper van.

Learn more: How To Get Auto Insurance For Mexico

Get Your Tourist Permit (FMM)

Mexico’s ‘Forma Migratoria Múltiple’ (FMM) is a tourist visa that all tourists must obtain at the border.

Bring your passport and two copies.

An FMM is usually valid for six months.

Obtain a Temporary Import Permit for Your Van (TIP)

Getting a TIP for your camper van is VERY important to drive your vehicle in Mexico legally.

Baja California Free Zone: If you only plan to drive your vehicle around the Baja Peninsula, you do NOT need a TIP. The entire peninsula is a TIP-free zone.

You will need your passport, valid FMM, driver’s license, original vehicle registration papers, and proof of Mexican auto insurance to obtain a TIP.

How To Get Mexico Auto Insurance

Mexico does NOT accept US and Canadian auto insurance.

If you plan to drive in Mexico, you must purchase additional insurance for Mexico.

Our article discusses everything you need to know about purchasing Mexico auto insurance.

  • What is legally required
  • Where to get the best auto policy
  • What to do if you get in an accident
Ford Transit camper van parked on a dirt road while driving to the bottom of Copper Canyon in Mexico
Driving down to the bottom of Copper Canyon in Mexico

Van Life Mexico Safety Tips

Is Mexico dangerous? Keeping safe while traveling in Mexico is one of the biggest concerns for those planning a trip here.

It was a priority for us as well before we crossed into Mexico.

But we’ve learned throughout our months traveling in Mexico that common sense goes a long way here. While Mexico has its fair share of safety issues, we’ve been able to mitigate 99% of these potential issues with the advice below:

Facing Corruption in Mexico

Mexican police
Police in Mexico

Questions over police corruption in Mexico are understandable.

“Will I be pulled over and asked for bribes?”
“What am I supposed to do?”
“How often does this happen in Mexico?”

In this chapter, we discuss how rampant corruption is in Mexico and how to deal with it if it happens to you.

How Common Is Corruption & Bribery in Mexico?

First, it’s essential to know that getting pulled over by corruption police in Mexico is not nearly as common as you might initially guess.

In our 500+ days in Mexico, we’ve only been pulled over twice. Although we’ve met camper van travelers who have been pulled over more often and none at all.

How often you get pulled over depends on several factors:

1. The Size & Flashiness of Your Camper Van

Are you driving a modest-looking vehicle? Or is it a large, flashy RV with all the bells & whistles?

2. Where in Mexico You Are Driving

Are you driving in known tourist areas like the Yúcatan or Mexico City? These areas are much more likely to have corrupt cops.

3. Are You ‘Technically’ Breaking Any Rules?

Tourists are held to a much higher driving standard than locals, like speeding. So don’t give the police any reason to pull you over.

4. Does Your Camper Van Look Like It Might Be Carrying Marijuana?

The police know that many foreigners smoke marijuana in their country. And often, how a camper van looks reflects the type of person driving that vehicle. Police in Mexico are eager to find marijuana in camper vans, and if they do, expect a bribe request.

How To Get Out of a Bribe Attempt in Mexico

Luckily, getting out of a police situation without paying ANY bribes is a simple enough process. We knew a van life traveler in Mexico who got pulled over often but never once paid any money to the local police.

This is how to get out of a bribe attempt without paying any more.

  1. Play nice: Being kind & respectful goes a long way here. The police don’t have a good reason to detain you, so don’t give them more incentive to keep you longer.
  2. Play the ignorant foreigner: Learning the local language is always important when traveling. But playing the dumb tourist card and only understanding minimal (if any) Spanish will help you here. If the police can’t communicate with you, they can’t efficiently ask for bribes, and you’ll waste their time.
  3. Waste their time: The only way you can get out of a bribe is by having the police allow you to carry on. But since you can’t force your way out, the best way to be let go is to prolong the interaction and do whatever you can to waste the officer’s time and frustrate them.
  4. All else fails? Ask for an official ticket: If the officer is persistent and you feel you’ve exhausted all other avenues, flatly refuse to pay any cash and ask for an official ticket to pay for the supposed infraction at a police station. When the officer knows that they won’t get anything from you, they will usually let you go with a stern warning.

What You Should Not Do

The goal of any interaction with corrupt officials is to frustrate them enough to let you go. But there are things you should not do that undermine this objective.

  1. Don’t give attitude: Being irritated and disrespectful to an officer with all the leverage in this situation is counter-productive to your efforts. It gives the other side all the incentive to harass and detain you even longer. Trying to bully your way out of a bribe rarely works.
  2. Don’t hand over any real identification: You may be asked to hand over your driver’s license or passport. Under no circumstances should you do this, as it only gives the officers even more leverage in the situation. Hand them a black and white copy of your identification. If this is not accepted, our strategy is to waste the officer’s time by feigning having lost our IDs and spending lots of time “looking” all over our campervan for them.

Dealing With Corruption Is a Learning Process

Corruption is a reality in Mexico and worldwide, especially in developing countries. And many of us are not accustomed to dealing with these interactions.

If you end up paying a bribe, don’t get frustrated and beat yourself up. It’s not the end of the world; treat the interaction as a learning experience.

But remember that corruption in Mexico towards van life travelers is not nearly as rampant as one might think.

Top Traveling Tips for Van Life in Mexico

We didn’t know what to expect when we first entered Mexico from the USA. Our first couple of weeks in Mexico was a learning process. Below are our top 10 travel tips for van life in Mexico.

1. Confirm the Campsite Rate at Arrival

It might feel awkward at first, but asking the price of the campsite right when you arrive is the smart thing to do.

In Mexico, campsite prices can vary and are sometimes negotiable. But if you’ve already slept a night or two at a campground without confirming the ‘per day’ rate, you leave yourself open to being gauged a higher price when you’re ready to leave & pay.

Per Person Rate: Campsite prices in Mexico are often ‘per person.’ So, if there is more than one person in your camper van, confirm the total price for all of you.

2. Pay Attention to Gas Station Pumps

Although it has never happened to us, we have heard of gas station scams where the attendant does not ‘zero out’ the pump from the prior customer before adding gas to your vehicle.

Then, when it comes time to pay, you will be asked to pay the amount shown on the pump, which would equal the total gas pumped into your vehicle PLUS the prior customer’s vehicle. The gas station attendant then pockets the difference.

So when you drive up to the pump, ensure the gas station attendant ‘zeros’ the pump before filling your tank.

Additional Pro Tip: It can be hard to break 500 peso bills into smaller denominations in shops & restaurants in Mexico, but we’ve found gas stations to always have change for 500 notes.

3. Take Advantage of Cheap Urban Parking Lots

Every city and large town in Mexico has several large parking lots near the downtown areas. These are usually gated lots with 24/7 security.

Many of these parking lots usually have a ‘per hour’ charge and a good value 24-hour fee.

When we want to explore an urban area, we arrive in the late morning and pay the 24-hour fee. This allows us to keep our vehicle parked securely while exploring the city. And then, in the evenings, we sleep in the van in the guarded parking lot. This is a stress-free van life option when visiting an urban area in Mexico.

And because these parking lots are guarded, there is often a basic toilet you can use.

4. If Urban Camping on the Streets, Ask Locals First

If you are looking to free camp in an urban area, we recommend searching a bit until you find a middle to upper-class neighborhood.

We found that upper-class neighborhoods tend to have more frequent police patrols to keep the area safe.

And, if possible, we ask the locals whether they think it’s safe to park in that neighborhood at night. If they say ‘yes,’ we usually trust them. If they say otherwise, we may look elsewhere for another option.

5. Heading to the Beach? Bring a Shovel & Air Compressor

Hundreds of unregulated beaches exist along the coasts of Baja California. The peninsula is a fantastic place for van life in Mexico.

You can often drive right onto the sand with your vehicle, and it is up to you to decide how deep into the beach you want to go.

Everyone wants to get as close to the water as possible but drive too far out, and you’ll likely get stuck.

In reality, van life travelers in Mexico are always stuck in the sand. Including us!

Pick Up a Foldable Shovel

We recommend bringing a Foldable Shovel with you before coming to Mexico. We’ve used this shovel to help dig our camper van out several times on the beaches in Baja California.

SOG | Entrenching Tool
$23.9616
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Getting stuck in the sand is no fun. Take it from us.

Pick Up an Air Compressor

To help get our van out of the sand in Baja, we significantly deflated our tires to 15 psi.

Once out of the sand, we used our Viair Air Compressor to reinflate our tires.

VIAIR Portable Compressor Kit
$76.84

A van life essential for getting your camper van out of sticky situations. Perfect for reinflating tires after you get a flat, or when you purposefully deflated your tires to cross mud, sand, and soft dirt.

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We recommend traveling with one of these, not only for if you’re stranded on the beach but also for flat tire incidents.

6. Don’t Always Trust the Google Maps Route

Google maps recommended route in Mexico
A route that Google Maps recommends in Mexico

When driving our camper van in Mexico, Google Map’s recommended route is accurate and works great 95% of the time. But for the other 5%, Google has wanted us to veer off the yellow highways and drive down dusty, dirt roads. Or to venture straight through a city’s downtown area.

So when we enter our destination on Google Maps and analyze the suggested route, we look to see if Google wants us to drive down likely dirt roads or downtown areas and look to avoid those as much as possible.

Your vehicle and sanity will thank you!

7. Know Your Vehicle Import Permit Dates

Depending on the vehicle type and how it’s listed on the ownership title, you can easily bring a foreign vehicle into Mexico for either six months or ten years. The 10-year permit is only if it is listed as a camper van/motorhome.

It is a clear and transparent process with little opportunity for scams or corruption if you do everything correctly and all registrations are up-to-date.

However, it is crucial to know precisely when your expiry date is. Letting the vehicle’s TIP expire in Mexico is a huge mistake, and you risk getting impounded and costing you thousands of dollars to get it back.

At the very least, you’ll likely lose your TIP deposit, ranging from $200 to $400, depending on the vehicle’s year.

8. If You See a Clean Toilet, Use It.

If you travel in a camper van without a toilet like us, you’ll use public toilets frequently.

So whether at a gas station, restaurant/cafe, or even a grocery store, we use the restroom before we leave (even better if you can go #2). With this strategy, we’ve honestly rarely had bathroom troubles.

An Informal Bathroom Solution

However, we do have a bathroom solution, which includes our Female Urination Device + plastic bottle and a Camping Shovel (aka the Poop Scoop).

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Female Urination Device (aka "Pee Funnel")
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Product Recommendation: Used in conjunction with a water bottle. Yuko swears by this method and says she'll never go back to having a toilet in our camper van again!

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9. Familiarize Yourself With Police/Military Check Questions

As a van life traveler in Mexico, one of our biggest annoyances is the constant police and army checkpoints on the road. At these checkpoints, they usually ask the same questions IN SPANISH:

“Where are you going?”
“Where are you from?”
“Where do you come from (nationality)?”
“What is in your van?”

 And rarely do they speak in English.

Familiarizing ourselves with these basic Spanish questions helped us get through these checkpoints faster.

  • Where are you going? – ¿A dónde va/van?
  • Where are you from? – ¿De dónde es/son?
  • Where are you coming from? – ¿De dónde vienes?
  • What are you bringing/carrying (in the van)? – ¿Que llevas/llevan?

Learning these phrases helped us ace these checkpoints and continue our travels unimpeded.

10. Pay the Toll Roads. Local Roads Won’t Save You Money

Toll booth in Mexico
Tollbooth in Mexico

In recent years, Mexico has done a great job building fast and smooth expressways throughout the country. You can skip so many of the infamous potholed roads with these highways.

The downside of these expressways is that they aren’t free. Depending on the length of the highway, expect to pay anywhere from $1 to $15 for most tolls. And if you are planning to travel a fair amount in one day, these tools can quickly add up.

It can be tempting to skip the toll roads in favor of the free local roads. We have done this several times during our travels in Mexico.

Local roads are usually longer and full of awful speed bumps, twists and curves, and traffic.

Not only do you spend considerable additional time traversing these roads, but with the constant breaking and acceleration and additional distance traveled, you are spending more gas (and thus $) getting to your destination.

We don’t believe you are saving much money by avoiding the tolls and taking local roads.

Plan Your Tolls In Advance: (Use this Government Site to calculate the total toll amount from one point to another.)

11. Join The Facebook Group ‘On The Road In Mexico’

We’ve found that the Facebook group, ‘On The Road In Mexico,’ provides invaluable support and information to all van life travelers in Mexico.

In this group, you can ask questions regarding border crossings, places of interest to visit, travel safety, and more.

12. Drive Defensively

Driving on the highway in Mexico
Even in Mexico, highway roads are paved.

Driving your camper van in Mexico requires considerably more attention and awareness of your surroundings than in the USA.

From unmarked speed bumps (‘topes’ in Spanish) to reckless drivers to bumper-to-bumper traffic, it pays to drive your van defensively in Mexico.

We often drive well below the speed limit in Mexico and allow fast drivers to pass us by. Getting into an accident in Mexico is not worth the hassle.

Read more regarding our recommended auto insurance provider in Mexico.

13. Keep the Front Front Cab of Your Van Clean

Although we never had any experience of anyone breaking into our van while in Mexico, it is always good to be cautious. Especially when parked in urban areas, keeping your van’s front cab clear of all personal belongings is wise.

This includes any bags, small coins, phone charging cables, etc…

Don’t give would-be thieves a reason to break into your van.

14. Don’t Drive at Night

When driving in Mexico with your camper van, try to avoid driving at night at all costs. Doing so puts yourself and your van at risk.

From an increased likelihood of running over an unmarked speed bump at full speed, hitting an unseen car due to malfunctioning tail lights, or meeting a ‘bad hombre,’ there are just too many reasons why it’s not worth driving in Mexico at night.

We plan to arrive at our next destination no later than 4:00 pm when we drive in Mexico. This gives us an hour or two of extra sunlight in case our trip takes longer than planned.

15. Don’t Stealth Camp in Small Mexican Towns

While possible in larger Mexican cities, we’ve found that successfully stealth parking in smaller towns and villages in Mexico is much more difficult.

In small towns and suburbs, people tend to know each other and know which vehicles are owned by whom. Therefore, if they see a foreign car parked on the streets, there’s a good chance the police will be called or the local security gang will knock on your door.

Instead, try asking local people if you can park overnight. Or better yet, if you can find the local police station, the police usually allow camper vans to park near them overnight for security.

16. Buy Local, Eat Local

Yuko selecting vegetables in a local market in Mexico
Vegetable shopping at a market in Mexico

Although you can find big box grocery stores, like Walmart, in Mexico, we highly recommend purchasing as much as possible at local markets.

Going to the market is one of the most fun parts of traveling in Mexico; fruits and vegetables are cheap and fresh. Also, spending money at local businesses is the best way for travelers to help local people. So we try to shop at these local markets as often as possible!

Where To Get Purified Drinking Water While Driving in Mexico

Pouring water from a large 5 gallon tank to a smaller 1 gallon tank
Pouring drinking water from larger tank to smaller container

If you don’t want to purchase large disposable plastic water bottles during your van life travels in Mexico, buying a “Garafon” is the most environmentally friendly way to go.

In Mexico, a garafon is a refillable/exchangeable 20 liter (~5 gallon) water jug. Once you have a garafon, it’s easy to find places to fill up your empty jug with purified drinking water or exchange your empty garafon for a full one.

Traveling with a garafon is the easiest way to purchase drinking water in Mexico and costs an average of 20 – 40 pesos ( 1 – 2 USD ).

Look for ‘agua purificada’ (purified water) stations using the iOverlander app or exchange your garafon for a new one at the many Oxxo convenience stores throughout Mexico.

Garafon Tip: Purchase your first garafon at an Oxxo store. This way, Oxxo stores across Mexico will allow you to exchange your garafon for a new one. If you get your first garafon elsewhere, Oxxo may not allow you to exchange with them.

Getting Money in Mexico

Mexican peso bills and a wallet on a table
Cash is king in Mexico.

Cash is king in Mexico. Though many hotels and higher-end restaurants accept credit cards, local eateries, businesses, and campsites only accept cash. So, being able to get money in Mexico is crucial.

In this chapter, we discuss how to obtain Mexican Pesos during your van life in Mexico and what we do to get great exchange rates and pay no commissions.

Avoid Money Exchange Stores on the Streets

There is no shortage of money exchange stalls in Mexico willing to exchange your US dollars for Mexican pesos. But with these stores’ terrible exchange rates and commissions, you’ll pay the most money to get your Pesos.

During our time in Mexico, we’ve NEVER exchanged US dollars for Pesos using these currency exchange stalls.

“So where do you get your Pesos then?”

Use ATMs Instead

When getting money in Mexico, we only get our Mexican Pesos from major bank brands at ATMs.

Not only do ATMs give us the best exchange rate, but there are:

  • no commission fees,
  • no minimum amount requirements, and
  • Are hassle-free.

You will need a debit card tied to your bank account to use ATMs in Mexico.

What About ATM Fees?

Most Mexican bank ATMs will charge an ATM fee of roughly US$2-4 per transaction. The amount depends on which Mexican bank your transaction is with.

Our bank in the US refunds all international ATM fees back to us. So even though we pay for the ATM fees up front, we get our money back later.

If you’re in the USA:

  • Schwab Bank offers an account with zero ATM fees
  • Chase Bank also provides zero ATM fees with the opening of a Premier Checking Account or higher

If your bank does not offer a zero ATM fee, consider taking out larger amounts from the Mexican ATM to reduce the total number of times you withdraw from these machines.

Warning: ATM “Scam” Attempt

Many ATMs in Mexico will often try to trick you into accepting a worse exchange rate.

When withdrawing money from a Mexican ATM, the last screen on the ATM, right before your cash is dispensed, will show you the amount you want to withdraw and the proposed exchange rate.

In the picture below, the ‘proposed rate’ is 1 USD = MXN 18.6463

But this rate, as indicated on the screen, “Includes 5.99% markup.”

That day, the market exchange rate was 1 USD = ~20 MXN.

Getting Money In Mexico - ATM Exchange Rate Scam
Press “Do Not Accept” here. The current rate was 1:20 pesos that day.

You will choose whether to ‘accept’ or ‘decline.’ DO NOT accept. The ATM asks whether you accept the Mexican bank’s proposed exchange rate (which includes the 5.99% markup).

By declining, you will use the exchange rate offered by your bank, which will be substantially better.

Essential Spanish Phrases for Van Life Mexico

Terrible at Spanish? Tell me about it!

As with most other countries, the locals appreciate it if you try to speak their language. It’s a great way to respect and understand their culture through language.

But speaking a bit of Spanish also goes a long way to aiding your van life journey through Mexico.

This chapter shares some useful phrases we’ve learned while driving along Mexico.

Tope‘ = Speed Bump

Street sign indicating a speed bump ahead
Speed bump warning in Mexico

You’ll learn the Mexican word for ‘speed bump’ on your first day of camper van life in Mexico, guaranteed.

Be constantly looking for ‘tope’ signs, especially when driving in rural areas. Hitting these rough speed bumps at high speeds is the last thing you want to do for your vehicles.

‘Cuota’ & ‘Libre’ = Toll Road & Free Road

Mexico_Driving_Sign
Is Mexico Dangerous - Toll Road

You must know ‘cuota’ and ‘libre’ when driving on the highways. 

Cuota means toll roads. You pay the fee at a toll booth to drive on newly constructed and smooth highways. The price for each toll is almost always posted right before the toll booth.

Libre means free road. While these roads don’t have a cost to drive on, it will take you considerably longer to reach your destination if you only stick to the free roads.

‘Lleno’ = Full

At the gas station, you are not allowed to pump your own gas. You must tell the staff how much gas you wish to put in. 

Please fill up the tank full with regular/supreme/diesel. – “Lleno de regular/supreme/diesel, por favor.”

Or…”lleno” for short.

When at a Police/Military Check Point

  • Where are you going? – ¿A dónde va/van?
  • Where are you from? – ¿De dónde es/son?
  • What are you bringing/carrying (in the van)? – ¿Que llevas/llevan?
  • Where are you coming from? – ¿De dónde vienes?

At a Campground in Mexico

Ford transit camper van parked on the grass in a campground in Mexico
Paid campgrounds are nice, but costs add up
  • How much for one night? – ¿Cuanto cuesta por un noche?
  • Is the price per person? Or total? – ¿El precio is por persona o total?
  • How much is the rent for a week (month)? – ¿Cuánto es por semana(mes)? 
  • Do you have a hot shower? – ¿Tienes una ducha caliente?
  • Do you have a toilet? – ¿Tienes un bano?
  • Do you have a kitchen? – ¿Tienes una cocina?

How To Get Internet During Van Life in Mexico

Eric working on his laptop from the back of a camper van
Working during COVID at a campsite in Mexico

Purchase a Mexico SIM Card

Purchasing a local SIM card is the easiest way to get Internet while traveling in Mexico. SIM cards can be readily purchased at any OXXO convenience store (which is everywhere in Mexico).

The OXXO front counter sells SIM cards. This includes:

  • A SIM card
  • Mexican Number
  • A small amount of initial data (~200MB)

Once you’ve used your initial allotted data, you can visit any Oxxo store to top up your account. We usually purchase 200 pesos worth of data at a time, which is 3.5GB and suitable for 30 days. But you can add anywhere from 20 to 500 pesos worth of data. It’s up to you.

To top-up your account, you must present the Oxxo employee with your Mexican phone number.

What we say: “Quiero descarga para TELCEL, solo datos” (I want to recharge my TELCEL account, only an Internet plan)

Sim Card Tip: When recharging your SIM card, you can either recharge with a “paquete” – package deal (phone, messaging, & data) or only Internet data (“solo datos”). We recommend only going with an Internet plan so you get more data for your Pesos.

“But My Cell Provider Offers Free Roaming to Mexico”

Our USA cell service provider is T-Mobile, and with a monthly plan, you can roam in Canada AND Mexico on your current US plan. We could get the same 5GB of high-speed data per month. After your 5GB is spent, you get downgraded to 128Kbps until your plan renews.

But after two months, we got a warning message that T-Mobile would suspend our account if we didn’t return to the US soon.

After talking with a T-Mobile rep, we learned that the free-roaming plan for Canada and Mexico is only intended for short-term travelers. An alternative solution is required for travelers intending to be in Mexico longer than 6-8 weeks.

“What About an International Roaming Plan?”

Purchasing an international roaming plan from your home cell service provider is a good solution. It’s quick and easy to do. But it’s not cheap. T-mobile offers the following international roaming rates:

  • $5 – 512MB (24 hours)
  • $35 – 5GB (10 days)
  • $50 – 15GB (30 days)

But with a Mexican SIM card, we can get 3.5GB for just $10, and it’s suitable for 30 days.

“Will a Mexican SIM Card Mess With My Messaging Apps?”

Even with a Mexican SIM card, you can still get messages from your WhatsApp, Signal, & Line accounts with your home number. Select “Keep My Old Number” when these apps ask if you want to change to your Mexican number.

Google Fi

Comparing GoogleFi plans

The Pros

  • Great for high-data users: For travelers who require a lot of data (YouTube, Netflix, Zoom Meetings), Google Fi’s unlimited plan gives you 22GB of high-speed data. Speeds slow down after that.
  • Convenient. One SIM card for all countries: For long-term travelers planning on visiting multiple countries, Google Fi lets you roam internationally on just one SIM card—no need to buy new SIM cards when entering a different country.

The Cons

  • USA customers only: Technically, you must be in the USA to sign up for Google Fi. If you’re creative, you can work around this and have a VPN and a USA shipping address (to send the Google Fi SIM card). But otherwise, it is for USA customers only.
  • Requires changing carriers and porting number: To use Google Fi, you must terminate your plan with your current cell phone carrier and bring your current cell number over to Google’s service. If you like your current cell plan, like we do, you’ll face a tough decision!
  • Expensive

Google Fi is convenient, but it is by far the most expensive option. Currently, you can choose between an unlimited plan or a pay-as-you-go plan.

Google Fi is a decent option if you have a large travel budget. You pay more, but in return, you get hassle-free convenience.

However getting a local Mexican SIM card is cheaper and more flexible for those who travel on a tighter budget.

Cafes With WIFI

Getting Internet when traveling in Mexico is easy with the thousands of cafes all throughout the country. Every major city is almost guaranteed to have a Starbucks or two; even some of the smallest towns and villages have an independent cafe with WIFI service.

But cafes in Mexico can be hit or miss. Sometimes, the WIFI is slow or not functioning that day; sometimes, the electrical outlets don’t work, and sometimes, the cafes inadvertently close early at arbitrary times.

Where To Camp in Mexico

Ford Transit camper van parked under trees in a paid campground
Parked in a campsite in southern Mexico

Just like in the USA and Canada, there are lots of different overnight options to take advantage of all throughout Mexico. In this chapter, we take a look at several of the main overnight camp options for your van life journey in Mexico.

Standard RV & Campsites

Yes, regular campsites that you might be familiar with in the US and Canada are available in Mexico as well. All throughout Mexico, you can also find RV parks with full hooks, which include electricity, water, and a dump.

Use the iOverlander app to locate these campsites and RV parks.

Auto Hotels

Auto hotels are usually drive-in hotels located on the outskirts of Mexican cities. These auto hotels are a great, clean, and affordable option if you only pass through town and need a safe play to park overnight in a gated lot.

Gas Stations

Just like in the US, it’s usually possible to park overnight at some of the larger 24/7 gas stations. If you plan to park overnight at a gas station, just make sure to ask for permission from the gas attendants first.

A small tip is usually appreciated as well from the attendants.

Urban Parking Lots

Every Mexican city and town has large, gated parking lots that often allow you to park and sleep in your camper van overnight. These parking lots often have an on-site guard 24/7 and lock their gates at night.

Bonus: many of these parking lots have basic bathrooms that you can use.

Family-Owned Restaurants

Parking next to small, family-owned restaurants is a good way to sleep for free. It’s a good idea to purchase a meal before asking, but usually, the restaurant owner will allow you to park overnight, no problem.

For more info, read: Where To Camp In Mexico

Helpful Apps & Resources for Van Life in Mexico

Eric and Yuko sitting inside their camper van
Figuring out where to travel next!

Smartphones have made traveling in our camper van in Mexico easier than ever. In this chapter, we discuss our six essential van life apps in Mexico.

Uber

When in Mexico’s major cities, Uber is a great way to get around town without having to drive a clunky van.

We love using Uber in Mexico because:

  • Cars are new & clean
  • Low cost ($3-$5 gets you almost anywhere)
  • Drivers are professional and friendly
  • Quickest path to your destination

That’s it. There’s no need to haggle the price with taxi drivers or stand around trying to flag down a taxi in public.

Whatsapp

No matter your views regarding WhatsApp’s privacy encryption (or lack thereof), one thing is certain: WhatsApp is THE mode of communication in Mexico.

Whatsapp is not just used between individuals and friends; it is a popular method to communicate directly with businesses.

Want to make a dinner reservation? Send the restaurant a WhatsApp message.

Want to get pizza delivered? Send them a Whatsapp message.

Need to communicate with the hotel front desk? You get the idea…

Message conversation with a business over WhatsApp
Making a reservation for lunch with a restaurant in Mexico

Facebook

We join various Mexico-related Facebook groups to get great and timely information when we arrive at different destinations in Mexico.

For general Mexico travel information, we join “On The Road To Mexico.” There you can get:

  • Current travel safety advice
  • Great travel itineraries
  • Border crossing tips
  • Travel buddy information

Every day, people are asking the very same questions in these groups that you might have and are getting answers from experienced foreigners who have lived in these cities & towns for years.

iOverlander

If you are doing a road trip through Mexico with your own camper van, the iOverlander app is a must have.

An incredibly useful app with a wealth of information relevant to road-tripping through Mexico.

  • Best places to sleep & park overnight;
  • Where to get gas and propane;
  • Where to get drinking water, and;
  • Discover unsafe areas

Google Maps

Google Maps is the app that we use the MOST while in Mexico. More than just a navigation app, we also use Google Maps to:

  • Locate great restaurants and cafes;
  • Find nearby places of interest;
  • Check user reviews for updated information
  • Plan our driving route in advance by understanding driving times & distances

For finding the best things to do in your area quickly and efficiently, Google Maps is one of our most essential apps for traveling in Mexico.

Last But Not Least: Google Translate

Google translate sample

Learning the basic Spanish phrases goes a long way in Mexico. Though this app won’t teach you the Spanish basics, this app helps support a basic Spanish language foundation by translating specific words and/or phrases when you need them. 

Baja California Road Trip Guide

Camper vans parked along the beach in Baja Mexico
Camper vans and RVs parked on the beach in Baja California

No Mexico beach tour is finished without visiting Mexico’s Baja Peninsula! Beaches for resort lovers, surfers, and those wanting to get “off-the-grid.”

Some of our favorite beaches in the Baja include:

  • Playa Escondido, Bay of Conception (best water!)
  • Punta La Tinaja (most isolated!)
  • Playa Los Barrilles (best wind for kite surfing!)

Head over to our Baja California Guide for much more information.

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