We crossed the border this morning and I immediately felt fifty pounds lighter. I don’t know exactly what it is about being here—Ali asked me, and I tried to explain, but at the end she said, “Jesus, you better not say that to anybody else.” So I won’t. I’ll just say that I’m happy to be here, and everyone else seems to be as well.
Back in our VW days we used to give a bit of info on the border crossings themselves, so I’ll do that here again with the bus.
US to Mexico via the Calexico/Mexicali border crossing.
There are two border crossings in Mexicali—Mexicali Downtown and Mexicali East. Mexicali East is about ten miles down the road from downtown and is way bigger and quieter—perfect for plodding through in an RV.
We followed the signs for CARS with NOTHING TO DECLARE. We were waved over, as were most cars, by a customs officer who asked to see our registration (not title, but the State Registration card) and passports. He came inside and did a very cursory inspection, not even looking inside the refrigerator or closets. That was it. He apologized for his poor English. I laughed and told him we were in Mexico, I should be the one apologizing for my Spanish. Though in truth we communicated just fine.
If we were only visiting Baja for a couple of weeks this would have been all we had to do to continue driving around the country, but since we’re headed further and for a longer time period, we needed to get Tourist Visas and a TIP. The TIP is the permit for the vehicle. In the case of RVs the TIP is good for a full ten years. Cars only get six months, boats get ten years as well.
Anyway, the immigration office here is completely empty. We went inside, handed over our passports, and were quickly asked if we had our kids’ birth certificates. We did. Being Mexican citizens they don’t have to pay for a visa and are free to stay as long as they like, unlike Ali and I who have six months. He gave us our papers, and we walked next door to the Banjercito office to pay for them (about $25 each). We returned with our proof of payment, and received our Visas. Easy.
I went back to the Banjercito office while Ali went back to the bus with the kids. I asked for a permit for my casa rodante, handed over the registration and my passport, paid about $60, and received a sticker showing our bus is good to stay down here until 2024.
The whole process took under an hour. In addition to being super efficient, everyone was exceedingly friendly, going out of their way to speak halting English to me even though I could understand their Spanish just fine. Honestly, we’ve crossed a lot of borders in our day, and this ranks as one of the easiest.
From the border we wound our way through the Mexicali suburbs, following the well marked signs for San Felipe. A few days ago Ali’s dentist mentioned a campground that’s just a half hour outside of town, and we decided that would make a nice easy first day stop.
Driving directions in Baja are simple. The address of this place was Highway 5 KM 48.5. Everything in Baja is marked this way. All you need to know is the KM marker and you can’t possibly miss it. The highway kilometer markers are always there.
We pulled into a totally empty Baja Cucapah, which is sort of a day use type campground and restaurant set alongside a river with a backdrop of mountains and blue sky. Very nice. There are no RV hookups, but we were more than welcome to dry camp. The kids played with their fishing poles, made river soup, and climbed around inside rusty old trucks while Ali and I lounged under a palapa.
Not a bad first day back in the Estados Unidos Mexicanos.