Van Camping in Mexico

Our early Mexico overlanding adventures began in Baja California. It's incredibly easy to trek across the Tijuana/San Diego border; the entire peninsula is ripe to explore once doing so. Beaches in Mexico are legally public property, so camping on the beach has never been easier or more accepted. We've found countless beautiful beaches along the fascinating Baja coast to call home for the night.

One morning we woke to a fisherman and his adorable family, sharing stories and coffee, but never have we experienced any problems where we've camped. For us, the more rural the area, the better. We like seclusion. More popular destinations are often too congested to offer good camping spots, and may not "allow" it, or will try to charge for overnighters. The tranquil less-traveled beaches have always given us what we hoped for. 

The coast has always provided for us and we didn't know how we would overland without it. Our current trip was bound to challenge all of our camping comforts. We would be driving right through the middle of Mexico, for many days, and we weren't quite sure where we would sleep. Needless to say, we were anxious about our safety. This didn't stop us from taking the plunge. 

The first few nights were the most difficult as we conquered fears and traveled South. In the evenings, we'd look for infrequently traveled dirt roads off the highway. Many of them were lined with fencing, too rugged to traverse, or simply passed by too fast to stop and make a turn. After a few peaceful nights of sleep in beautiful and ever-changing geography, we began to loosen up immensely. No longer were we worried with every passerby. No longer were we plagued with visions of being robbed or harassed, extorted by police, or chased out of our camp spots. We show kindness to anyone we encounter and that kindness has been returned exponentially. We're liable to begin taking everything we hear with a ‘block of salt’ after discovering Mexico for ourselves.

Our style of camping has varied while on the road. We've begun to feel more comfortable with unfurling our set-up on a newly discovered terrain. Sometimes, we simply lean our seats back and play the ultimate discreet overnighter. After 16 days, we've parked near abandoned homes in the mountains, in friendly well-lit town squares, off of random tucked away dirt roads, and on private properties with the permission of the owners.

Safety is always our motivating force. When it gets close to dusk on the road, we make a safe overnight spot our priority. Driving at night is not the best choice and we cannot recommend it. Potholes, poorly marked construction areas, spontaneous rain showers, gnarly speed bumps, and wandering livestock are all real obstacles that you will discover. Visibility is essential. 

In regards to the attitude towards car camping in Mexico, we've gathered that it is quite accepted. Once we were approached by police on the outskirts of a small puebla near Oaxaca City because they preferred us to sleep near the well-lit public square. We were actually commended for pulling off of the road when we were tired. Sure, a loaded shotgun isn't our favorite way to be greeted, but these policemen were protecting the safety of their puebla and were nothing short of respectful to us.

After the first 2 weeks of the rest of our lives, we are excited to see what the rest of Mexico has to offer. We are no longer nervous about what the road will provide; rather, we are excited about the interactions we will have with locals, the foods we will eat, the landscapes that we will discover, the waves that we will surf, and the lives that we will lead.

Written by Kevin Mayberry