• Jan
    18

    Day 1 of Driving the Baja California Highway

     

    Crossing into Mexico from San Diego/Palm Springs, there are several options. These are Tijuana, Tecate and Calexico/Mexicali. Of these, avoid Tijuana like the plague. There are many problems there and I’ve heard stories of shootings on the autopista (toll highway) south of there.

    We decided on Tecate because we’d been told it’s a nice crossing, which is true. We also wanted to be on the US highways to get us as close to Ensenada as possible without traveling on the Mexican side.

    We could have taken the Calexico/Mexicali crossing, as well, since it’s a good location and the highway to Ensenada is a 4 lane road, unlike the one south of Tecate, which is a two lane crossing.

    After taking a rather winding highway down to the border, we were waved through without incident (other than a cursory look at my trunk).

    It literally took about 30 seconds, but once we got across we had no idea what to do. I knew we had to get an FMT and a declaration to return the car when we left Mexico but we had no idea of where to go as it wasn’t obvious.

    Fortunately, there were a couple of helpful Mexican men on the corner who directed me to the customs building (behind us). After getting thoroughly lost by going around the block, we came back to where we started, only tofind that the parking was off to our right.

    After parking the car, I went intothe customs building and got the FMT, along with another document that lists the fee ($262 pesos). Unfortunately, there’s no cashier in the building, so you have to walk 3 blocks down the street to the Bancomer (it’s sitting right on the corner after the third block).

    The other downer is the lineup, which can be quite long. You’ll have to wait in the first lineup (yup, the longest one) because you’re not a client of the bank. Look for this sign (Usarios sin cuenta en Bancomer. Adelante). That should be in front of the first cashier/teller (Caja 1).

    You have to pay the fee there, get a receipt then go back to the customs building to get your FMT stamped. Once you do so you’re ready to go. All told, it took us over an hour and a half to get everything done.

    So much for efficiency! (An up side is that we got 180 days on our FMT’s, which was great. That doesn’t always happen, so you need to check when you get your paperwork done, otherwise you’ll need to visit customs wherever you are and get an extension if you need one – that can result in a long wait.)

    I also found out that since we were on the Baja, you don’t need to get the declaration to return your car. You will need that if you go to the mainland, so make sure you get the proper paperwork before you take a ferry (more on that in another post).

    bajacombo

    Here are a couple of images of what life is like on the Baja California highway. As you can see, it’s pretty desolate, windy (and cold). Another striking thing about being on the Baja is the utter silence. With the exception of wind noise over my ears, it was utterly still out here.

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