We drove our RV, Gordito, into Mexico – to San Felipe. It was not an entirely pleasant experience, but at least we learned what to do and what not to do when driving an RV into Mexico.
Firstly, you must get your FMM (temporary visa) BEFORE you go through the Mexican customs line with your RV. This means that you can get it online well before you travel, or you must stop right before customs to go into the FMM office to get one. Don’t skip this step like we did. You’ll have to go back and get it anyway, so do it before you get into the country.
As of this posting (May 2022), the Mexican gov’t requires everyone who visits the country to have an FMM – even if you are only gonna be there for a few days. The FMM office is usually off to one side right before you have to stop and get your RV searched. Look hard, or you’ll miss it like we did. AND: It is not called the FMM office.
And yes, they will most likely stop you and want to walk through your RV (and look inside cabinets, etc.), your toad, your trailer, etc. after you go in and get your FMM, get back in your vehicle, and drive into the customs line. However, they were super nice and polite during the inspection, and it took hardly any time at all.
We drove the two hours to Pete’s Camp without incident on a quite decent road, even though it was really windy. We took Highway 5 south from Mexicali, which has one military check point along the way. Again, they were polite and nice, and after telling them our destination, they waved us through. Note that they did not require us to show our stamped FMMs, but we learned that they sometimes do.
We did finally make it to San Felipe. And it was so worth it. We stayed at Pete’s Camp, which is just north of the town of San Felipe, and right on the Sea of Cortez. It was a bit spendy for our taste, but again, so worth it. Each site has its own canvas shade area and full hookups.
The beach is right there. And it was fabulous. Each day, the tide worked its way out and then back in. And when it went out, it went way out – almost a quarter of a mile. But that meant it left some excellent sand bars for walking and exploring. The beach was clean and smooth and beautiful.
I got in at least one – usually two – long, solitary walks a day, as I made my way down the beach in either direction (beach for miles). Introvert heaven! Pete’s Camp was clean and well taken care of. It had the restaurant and gift shop up on the hill, and bathrooms (take your on TP each trip) down on the beach. They wanted payment in cash or pesos only.
I can highly recommend Pete’s Camp for introverts – with some caveats. Don’t go on weekends, Mexican (or American) holidays, Mexican spring break, or the “on” season (when it’ll be full of Americans escaping the winter in the U.S.).
During the week, it was heavenly and almost empty. We were there in late April and most of the time had the place almost to ourselves. However, when Friday evening rolled around, that completely changed. The place filled up with locals and other Americans.
And not only did it fill up, it got loud. The folks at each site turned up their music (loud, loud, loud!), so that we had to listen to competing music all weekend. There was the music coming at us from all directions, kids running everywhere (including through our site), loud sand toys (side-by-sides, ATVs, etc.) constantly creating more noise and dust, and even fireworks all weekend. It was not pleasant for this introvert.
However, come Sunday morning, nearly everyone but us left and it was all quiet again. So, lesson learned about Pete’s Camp. We heard it was pretty much the same at all the RV parks in the area. One RV camp manager told us, “It can get wild and loud on weekends, but we keep it under control,” whatever that meant. LOL
On our way back, and at the military checkpoint, they stopped us and wanted to walk through Gordito. We welcomed them in, as they were super nice – and so young. Just young boys in the military. And still, very polite.
We made it back to Mexicali, and then into Calexico, CA with no problems. However, this time, instead of making our way out via the West border crossing (where we came in), we opted for the East one. And if and when we go back to Mexico in that area, we will definitely choose to enter via the Calexico East border crossing. It was bigger, newer and more easy to navigate in an RV. Not only that, but it does not empty you out right into downtown Mexicali, which is tight, tight, tight for an RV with toad.
Another note about the Mexican customs crossing. They insisted we needed to have registration for our tow dolly. We readily showed them our (specially purchased Mexican) insurance and registration for the RV and Prius, but they also wanted the same for the dolly. They advised us to go back into the U.S. and go to the DMV and get it registered, b/c it might be asked for further on in our trip into Mexico by other officials. We explained that it did not need registration in the U.S., and therefore, we not only didn’t have it, but would be unable to go back and get it.
We tried to explain that even if we went to the DMV and asked for such a document, they wouldn’t administer one, b/c it’s not required in the U.S. Finally, they waved us on, telling us it might cause problems later. It did not. No one asked about it.
IMPORTANT: Even though cannabis is legal in many states in the U.S., it is illegal to cross the border (either direction) with cannabis products of any kind into Mexico – even CBD lotions, etc. Likewise with guns, ammo, and even pepper spray. Do your research before going. Keep in mind that they have the right to use drug- and weapon-sniffing dogs at the border.
Also: Remember to purchase your Mexican auto insurance before going. I used my own insurance agent in Colorado, and she emailed me the documents before we crossed over so I could print them. We had to get insurance for both car and RV.
And last, but certainly not least, our T-Mobile phone/service was all but useless once we crossed into Mexicali. Yes, we had our phones on “roam,” but it did no good. That meant we couldn’t use our GPS to get to Highway 5, to San Felipe, to find the FMM office, to call anyone to ask for help finding that office, or to do some translations (our Spanish is muy malo). Service was spotty to nonexistent. (Remember at the first of this post when I mentioned the unpleasant part?) It was super stressful.
What’s the remedy? Get a paper map. Study the route beforehand, etc. If your Spanish is not up to speed, look at online photos of the specific border crossing you plan to use and the lines you need to be in – both entering and exiting. Also look at photos of the signs pointing you to the office in which you get your FMM. Check out that office’s parking lot photos. Is it big enough for your RV? Have it all planned out before you get there, so you don’t stress yourself out like we did.
Even with the difficulties we had, I can still say it was worth the trip and stress – b/c the beach and sea were so excellent. If you decide to drive your RV into Mexico, prepare well and know it’ll be worth it.