Baja California is a safe place to travel, and has welcomed adventurers from around the world for decades. It is not essential that you speak Spanish to travel in Mexico, especially in Baja, although any effort to speak the language will enrich your experience in the country.
The Baja Divide enters Mexico at Tecate, a small border crossing from rural California to a medium-sized city in the mountains. At the border, only one vehicular lane is open in each direction and very little traffic passes. Cyclists arrive through the main gate and proceed as pedestrians toward the sidewalk on the right. You must enter the immigration building and proceed to the office on the right where you fill out a form with your name, passport number, and a few other simple questions. You must also purchase a “tourist permit” at the teller outside, which is about $20 and must be paid in cash (dollars or pesos, no cards!). This permit is required for anyone entering the country for more than 7 days. Travelers from the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and most of Europe and South America are granted visa-free access to the country for a period of 180 days. You must have a passport to enter Mexico.
Once across the border, money exchange stands (cambios) are immediately available. A few blocks away is a large public plaza with a number of modern banks, where pesos may be withdrawn from ATMs. Be sure to contact your bank before leaving the country to notify them of your travel plans, as they may freeze your account if they suspect fraud when you enter Mexico. For this reason, it might be wise to bring a second card if possible.
Expect to use cash for all purchases on route. Pesos can be acquired from ATMs at banks found in cities, although there are several longer sections on the route without cash machines including: Tecate to Vicente Guerrero, San Quintín to Vizcaíno, Mulegé to Ciudad Constitución. There are no banks or cash machines in these larger towns, although you might expect it: Colonet, Cataviña, Bahía de los Ángeles, and San Ignacio. The average exchange rate in late 2016 is 19.5 pesos to $1.
Traveling in Baja is fairly inexpensive. Expenses include food, water and the occasional hotel. Groceries are about half the price of the US, tacos cost about a dollar, hotels range from $15-$35 and camping is mostly free. A typical budget with once-weekly motels would be about $15-$20 per day, but it would be easy to spend less than $10 per day.
Baja is safe. People are helpful and kind. Mexican drivers are courteous, although you will spend very little time on paved roads. Sun exposure and dehydration are the major environmental hazards, while flash floods occur during periods of heavy rain. In winter, snakes and scorpions are in hiding, although they may become more active in the spring as temperatures rise. When wading into the Sea of Cortez, shuffle your feet to alert stingrays. Try not to grab a handful of cactus. Update 10/17: Two related incidents affecting personal security– a robbery and an attempted robbery– have been reported just south of Tecate. Read more on the Tecate to Ojos Negros route description.
Medical services are available in Baja at local medical centers in smaller communities, larger hospital in cities, and at several American-style hospitals in the largest cities. Travel medical insurance might be a wise precaution. Since 2012, Mexicans have enjoyed a system of universal healthcare.
Transportation to and within Baja allows opportunities to customize your trip to fit your time frame. Four airports serve the Baja Divide at San Diego, Loreto, La Paz, and San José del Cabo. Regional buses are available from two major bus companies, ABC and Aguila, with stops in many towns along the route. Both bus companies will accept bikes as luggage (the ABC website prohibits bikes, but we have loaded bikes without issue). It may be challenging to travel with more than two or three bikes on a single bus, something which would be dealt with at the discretion of the driver. Buses serve the following communities: Tecate, Colonet, Vincente Guerrero, San Quintín, Cataviña (no official bus station, the bus stops in front of Mision Santa Maria Cataviña Hotel), Vizcaíno, San Ignacio, Mulegé, Ciudad Constitución, La Paz, Los Barriles, San José del Cabo, and Todos Santos. There are multiple buses daily from San José del Cabo and La Paz back north to Tijuana. These same buses serve all of the communities listed above.
Hitchhiking is possible in many rural parts of Baja California, and Mexicans are often willing to provide a lift. If you need to get somewhere on a rural part of the highway and have a broken bike, limited time to catch a plane, or simply don’t want to ride into a strong headwind, hitching is your best option.