Where To Camp Overnight in Mexico

Where to camp overnight in Mexico was one of our biggest concerns before we decided to enter the country with our DIY camper van. Are there many RV campgrounds in Mexico? How much do they cost? Is it safe to sleep for free? We had many questions, and finding comprehensive information on where to sleep safely in Mexico on a budget was difficult.

But after 15 months of exploring all of Mexico in our camper van, we decided to put together everything we’ve learned about camping overnight in this country. We usually pay to sleep but have also slept for free numerous times.

If you want to learn more about all the many different types of places you can camp overnight in Mexico, keep reading!

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The Best Camping Information Smartphone App

Most places where we camp overnight in Mexico are in the iOverlander app. If you are planning a road trip through Mexico, this app is a must.

Campgrounds

Camper van parked in an RV campground in Oaxaca Mexico
At an RV campground in Oaxaca, Mexico

Price Range: 100-350 Pesos/night (5-18 USD)
Best For: Safe, affordable overnight parking

For security, convenience, and peace of mind, we pay to camp much more often than we did in the USA and Canada—roughly 70% of the time, we pay to sleep at an official campground.

Most campgrounds in Mexico usually cost between 100 and 200 pesos ($5-$10) per night, but some of the newer and nicer RV parks can get up to 350 pesos ($18) per night.

Ask for the Price First

In Mexico, asking for the nightly price before you decide to sleep there is essential. Prices can be flexible depending on how many people are camping, whether or not you need electricity/water, or even how desperate you look.

Specifically, it’s important to confirm the following:

  • How much is the nightly rate?
  • Is the nightly rate a per/person amount? Or inclusive of everyone?
  • Does the price include electricity? (Sometimes they charge extra for that)

In our case, inquiring about the nightly rate is the first question I ask the campground owner when I get out of my vehicle.

Check the Facility Before Staying

Before paying any money, we like to check the campground first. Specifically, we look for:

  • Cleanliness of the toilet & shower rooms.
  • Does the shower have hot water? Decent water pressure?
  • Ant/mosquito/sand fly infestations.
  • Is the campground regularly cleaned & maintained?

If the campground isn’t up to your standards, you can leave or negotiate for a lower price.

Family-owned campgrounds can be flexible if you ask nicely. But more established campgrounds may be more firm on their prices.

Don’t Pay for Multiple Nights in the Beginning

Many official campgrounds have daily, weekly, and even monthly rates. However, once you’ve paid, you rarely get your money back. So be careful before handing over large sums of money to pay for the weekly or monthly amount.

Even if we plan to stay for a while, we almost always way the daily rate for the first night.

That way, we can see the real conditions of campground facilities, the employees, and the surrounding neighborhood.

  • Is the facility cleaned regularly? 
  • Is the shower acceptable?
  • Is it a convenient distance from downtown?
  • Are the staff and guests friendly?

We usually start paying for multiple nights if and when we are satisfied with the campground services. Otherwise, we move on.

Auto Hotels

An auto hotel by the highway in Mexico
A standard auto hotel by the side of the highway in Mexico

Price Range: 300-700 Pesos/night (15-35 USD)
Best For: Simply passing through & AC for hot nights

The ‘Auto Hotel’ is a drive-in hotel usually found outside cities and towns along the highway. These hotels are generally pricier than most campgrounds, but if you are doing a long drive and just looking for a safe place to sleep, these hotels are great, affordable options.

Most auto hotels offer a convenient drive-in option, and there are usually no height restrictions to enter the property. So those with bigger RVs and overlanding rigs can generally park their vehicles without any parking stress.

We’ve used auto hotels several times during the summer in Mexico when we need good hot water showers and AC for the night.

Go Back: Van Life Mexico Guide

Hostels

Camp Overnight In Mexico - Hostels
Source: La Abuelita Hostal & Terraza

Price Range: 150-300 Pesos/person/night (7-15 USD)
Best For: Central urban location and clean facilities

Most hostels in Mexico are cheaper than in the US and are clean with modern amenities.

While we’ve never slept IN a hostel, we’ve parked in the hostel’s parking lot and slept in our camper van while using the hostel bathroom and kitchen facilities. You can often get better rates by sleeping in your vehicle instead of a room.

Prices to only use the shower, toilet, and wifi can range from 40 to 100 pesos per night.

If a particular hostel doesn’t have a parking lot, it’s common to park your rig just outside on the street side.

24-Hour Parking Lot

24-hour parking lot in Mexico with large security gate and staff
24-hour parking lots are great for urban camping

Price Range: 100-250 Pesos/night (5-12 USD)
Best For: Cheap, central urban location. Big vehicle friendly

24-hour parking lots are a great resource when exploring Mexico’s urban areas without campgrounds nearby. Many urban parking lots will have an hourly rate, a daily rate, and a cheaper overnight rate.

These parking lots are usually staffed 24/7 for security and include a gate, which they will lock after 10-11 pm. You can sometimes ask for a gate key if you think you will be out late.

Often, these parking lots will have a basic bathroom (but no shower). Toilet cleanliness can vary, but don’t expect too much.

We stayed in Mexico City for two weeks thanks to these parking lots.

Gas Station

Pemex Gas Station Mexico - Where To Camp In Mexico
It’s possible to camp overnight at many Pemex gas stations in Mexico

Price Range: Free
Best For: When simply passing through

Like in the US, camping overnight at major gas stations in Mexico is possible. Large, traveler-friendly gas stations are often found along the main highways throughout Mexico.

And just like in the US, these gas stations often have toilets (and sometimes showers!) and convenience stores nearby with food.

The downside is that gas stations are usually loud, even at night. So prepare for a sub-standard sleeping experience.

Before sleeping at a Mexican gas station, asking the attendant for permission is essential. This way, they’ll know your intentions and will keep an eye out for your vehicle throughout the night.

Street Parking

Stealth camper van parked overnight in Mexico

Price Range: Free
Best For: Cheap overnight option

Many travelers camp overnight in Mexico by parking and sleeping on the street. 

“Is it safe to park on the street in Mexico?”

We often get asked this question, and so far, we’ve never had a safety issue when parking on the streets.

Although we have been asked to leave certain places in the past, in terms of safety, we’ve never had a problem.

We even feel safer parking overnight in parts of Mexico than in the USA.

We’ve learned that parking on the street in bigger cities is much easier than parking in rural areas or quiet neighborhoods. Cities are more anonymous, and there are many transport vehicles like ours, so we can usually blend in quite easily.

Read: Is Mexico Dangerous For Travel?

Ask the Police When in Small Towns

In the suburbs and rural areas, locals know what is happening in the streets. If there are unfamiliar people or vehicles, they notice it right away.

Therefore, a big white van like ours stands out a lot; to some, it looks like a kidnap van. We had a security guard drive up to us because a neighbor was concerned about our vehicle.

Camper van parked at a parking lot by the beach
Parked at a nearby open parking lot by the beach

Although the security guard was professional and friendly, he told us we couldn’t sleep at that location and guided us to another acceptable location.

In small towns, the local police have the most power. And though it may sound intimidating, local police are usually very kind to tourists. If the police know you are planning to overnight in their town, they may allow you to park next to the police station or can point you to other safe areas to park at.

Read: Why Stealth Campervan Is A Terrible Idea

Restaurant Parking Lot

Parking lot next to a restaurant in Mexico
Common-looking parking spot next to a restaurant

Price Range: Free, but whatever you paid for your meal
Best For: Cheap overnight option in local areas

If you eat at a local restaurant with a bit of adjacent land where you could park your vehicle, you can ask the restaurant owner if it’s OK to park overnight.

Though it’s not guaranteed they will agree, they will likely allow you to camp overnight for free since you are a paying customer at their restaurant.

Most rural areas in Mexico are usually kind, safe, and welcoming. So if you’re parked overnight at a restaurant, the owner might even let you use their toilet or shower if you ask nicely.

Tourist Site Parking Lot

Camp Overnight In Mexico - Tourist Site Parking Lot
Lookout Point In The Copper Canyon

Price Range: Free, but whatever you paid for your entrance ticket
Best For: Visiting busy tourist sites the next day

Overnight camping at tourist site parking lots in Mexico is usually an informal overnight option. But if there is a security guard on-site, you can ask the guard if you’re allowed to park overnight to visit the tourist site the following day.

We’ve done this at archeological sites and waterfall sites.

This is an excellent solution if you are visiting a popular spot. Parking overnight at the tourist site ensures you can visit it early enough before it gets too crowded later in the day.

Walmart

Walmart parking lot in Mexico
Walmart parking lot in Mexico

Price Range: Free
Best For: Free parking when visiting urban areas

Like in the US, it’s sometimes possible to park overnight at Walmart stores in Mexico.

There is usually a security company responsible for overseeing the parking lot, so it’s wise to seek out a security guard to ask for permission in advance.

Conclusion: Choose Safety Wherever You Decide To Camp Overnight in Mexico

It can seem a bit overwhelming with all the different options to camp overnight in Mexico.

But the most important thing to consider when choosing your overnight spot is safety. If you’re at a parking lot, gas station, or even a campsite, and the area is giving you bad vibes, leave. We’ve done this several times where we’ve arrived at a supposed overnight spot but decided to drive out because we didn’t feel safe.

Most of the time, however, we’ve had little to no issues when overnight parking in Mexico. We do end up paying much more often for secure parking than we would in the USA and Canada, but peace of mind is worth it for us.

Go Back: Van Life In Mexico Guide

Please let us know in the comments section below if you have any questions about how and where to camp in Mexico with a camper van.

Happy traveling!

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