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Road trip Tijuana to Baja California whale watching.

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Newbury, United...
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Road trip Tijuana to Baja California whale watching.

Just trying to put a trip together for two of us mouldy oldies from the UK to Baja California for whale watching in Jan/Feb next year.

Proposed at the moment is fly UK - San Diego.

Car hire in Tijuana seems best for ease and possibly rates.

Q- Quickest and easiest transfer from San Diego to Tijuana airport to pick up a hire car.

From there drive to Guerrero Negro. Distance approx 450 miles. Might like to do it in two hops.

Q- Anywhere pleasant along the way to stay overnight?

Transfer to San Ignacio 126 miles.

Q - are the roads ok once you leave the main roads. Are they all paved. Any type of car suitable, we would be looking at a mid size saloon.

Drive back to Tijuana, then to San Diego. Total time not decided yet. My wife wants to see humpbacks and I want to see the greys so it is two locations to visit.

Looking at MiraMar adventures in Guerrero Negro and Panchitos EcoTours in San Ignacio. Any comments on either?

I have been researching it but can't get all my questions answered, many seem to be four or five years old so am looking for something more up to date.

Thanks in anticipation

San Diego
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1. Re: Road trip Tijuana to Baja California whale watching.

A1> most expatriates of Mexico ride the trolley from San Diego to San Ysidro and use the pedestrian crossing.

A1 part B> Alamo and National Car rentals are both recommended to me by people with 1st hand experience to rent a car, (hire a car), in Tijuana.

A2> Driving guides, which include information of places alone the way are on Instant Mexico Auto Insurance. The Kilometer Marking are broken down into three sections, the guide is as well.

Toll road from Tijuana to Ensenada - instant-mex-auto-insur.com/baja-log/… - about 50 miles. Four lane divided highway with bridges, ramps, and shoulders. Note the free road is a two lane with intersections and dirt shoulders or no shoulders.

Free rood from Ensenada to San Quintin - (112 Miles, 179 km, 2:30 hours @ 45 MPH) - instant-mex-auto-insur.com/baja-log/… - The road has been upgraded to a 4 lane highway with ramps going all the way down to near the entrance of Santo Tomas. South of Santo Tomas you are looking at two lanes, intersections, and dirt shoulders or no shoulders. Be prepared to slow or stop for children or animals who enter or cross the road.

Free road from San Quintin to Guerrero Negro - 254 Miles - becomes a bit mountainous past El Rosario - instant-mex-auto-insur.com/baja-log/… - two lanes limited shoulders; be prepared to slow down for animals etc. It is fully paved.

Q3> which is the best eco-tour company. I don't have 1st or direct 2nd hand experience with any of them. I would use tripadvisor reviews.

Edited: 1:50 pm, August 08, 2013
Sun City West
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2. Re: Road trip Tijuana to Baja California whale watching.

1. car hire: you will probably save money by renting in Tijuana; Americans do, but I don't know how insurance works for U.K. people on out-of-country rentals. For most Americans, credit card insurance covers the insurance on the vehicle itself (or for additional cost, you can buy it from the car rental agency). Everyone must buy--from the car rental agency--Mexican (and it must be Mexican, from a Mexican company) 3rd party liability. 3rd party liability insurance covers any damage you do to others or their property (not the vehicle itself). 3rd party liability insurance costs about $10.00 a day. Purchased from the rental company, coverage on the rental vehicle could be an additional $20.00-$30.00 a day; it depends on the coverage and rental company. If Americans have their credit card coverage apply (they must turn down the rental car coverage--both cannot apply), there is no charge for the coverage on the vehicle itself. Of course, that may be entirely different on a U.K. credit card. I suppose it is even possible the terms could be better in the U.S. for those from the U.K.

If you decide to rent the vehicle in the U.S. rather than Tijuana, be certain the company allows their vehicles to go into Mexico; not all do. Avis and Hertz do I know, and so do others--but be sure to check; if they don't allow it and you do it anyway and there is an accident, it violates the terms of the rental and insurance doesn't cover you.

2. Transfer from San Diego to Tijuana: a cab is the quickest and easiest, but not the most economical. The U.S. cab PROBABLY (I don't know for sure) won't cross the border. You will be "let out" at the border. Then you will have to walk across to Mexico, with all your luggage. Once in Mexico, get a cab to the airport--though there are probably car rental agencies inTijuana itself that aren't at the airport--but I don't know if that is true. If you are really looking for quickest and easiest, rent the car in the U.S. and drive it for the trip; then you'll have transportation back to the San Diego airport also.

Alternatively, take a cab to the closest San Diego trolley location and take the trolley to the border. Get out, with your luggage and walk across. In Mexico get a cab to the car rental. The airport is closest to the Otay border crossing, which is east a considerable distance (about 8 miles) from the coast. The most used border crossing is San Ysidro, which is, essentially, directly south of the San Diego airport.

3. We live in Rosarito Beach, Mexico, over half the year, and have driven to Guerrero Negro several times to see the whales. You could spend the night in Rosarito or Ensenada, which wouldn't help much with the distance to drive the next day. It would give you a chance to accustom yourselves to the time change and to driving on the "right" side of the road. After Ensenada, there isn't much. San Quintin would be the possibility that would probably be most helpful to divide the drive. I can't recommend enough that you purchase The Baja Adventure Book by Walt Peterson and take it with you. It's available on Amazon.com.

Product Details

Baja Adventure Book by Walt Peterson (Dec 30, 1998)

$24.95 $22.46 Paperback

Order in the next 5 hours and get it by Friday, Aug 9.

Only 8 left in stock - order soon.

More Buying Choices - Paperback

$11.01 new (18 offers)

$2.92 used (37 offers)

Unfortunately, it was written a while ago, so restaurants/gas station locations/etc. have been outdated, but what to see/flora/fauna/rock formations/etc. haven't changed, and it is, in my opinion, an invaluable resource to have with you. Since it is outdated, a used copy would be just fine in terms of information.

4. Roads: there is only one road, highway 1. You will travel on highway 1 to Guerrero Negro. The roads in San Quintin and Guerrero Negro are fine. You'll take highway 1 to San Ignacio; then you'll have the road into the National Park. In Guerrero Negro, you take highway 1 south of town; you turn at the salt plant--guard for the plant will be in a guard shack there. You tell him you are going to the whales. He will direct you to stay left. Do not, under any circumstances, go right: if you go right, you can wander for hours on the salt roads throughout the area--I speak from experience. If you stay left, you'll be at the National Park in less than 10 minutes.

Highway 1: it is the same width as a normal, U.S. 2 lane highway. However, in the U.S. all roads have a shoulder which allows you to pull off the road or "wander" off the highway slightly when driving. In Mexico, south of Ensenada, there is no shoulder--shoulders cost money to produce. The result is that most of the time, there is a drop-off at the edge of the pavement--sometimes 6 inches, sometimes 500 feet. Guard rails are scarce. The driver must be alert. It is not a difficult drive, and the road is wide enough--but the drop-offs are a reality. That factor is why you might want to take one night for staying in Rosarito or Ensenada before proceeding south on the "shoulderless" highway.

Driving at night in Mexico is discouraged. Mexican cars often lack headlights and/or taillights; people who know the road often pass when they shouldn't; animals frequently sleep on the roads because they are warm. The days will be short in Jan/Feb, so plan accordingly.

From Rosarito, we usually leave at 6:00 a.m. and arrive in Guerrero Negro about 3:00, in time for a late lunch, but that's without stopping much. Gasoline stations are more plentiful that The Baja Adverture Book says, but far from on every bend in the road. Keep your gas tank 1/2 full or above. Take a roll of toilet tissue with you; there will probably be none in the gas station restrooms.

I'll be sending you a private message: top right of this screen, pull down menu under "Your Trip Advisor."

Newbury, United...
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3. Re: Road trip Tijuana to Baja California whale watching.

Thanks for the information so far, including the PM.

The driving doesn't hold any fears. I have driven in Chile including crossing the Atacama Desert a few times so that sounds very similar. I wanted to make sure we had the right kind of car rather than anything else.

I have had bad experiences with Alamo including breaking down seventy miles from any town, and they were less than helpful in trying to rescue us, so I won't be using them.

UK credit cards will not act as insurance as far as I know.

My wife is Chilean so there is no language problem.

Still at the planning stage, the airline prices are right so it looks like it might be happening.

Any further info welcome.

San Diego
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4. Re: Road trip Tijuana to Baja California whale watching.

You may want to consider landing at the Tijuana airport. You may get a better price and US customs has not gotten any better over the years since 2001. Car Rentals are available at the Tijuana airport, but its been said that you can get better prices at the car rentals away from the airport.

If you rent a car in San Diego. You must get permission from them to take the car into Mexico and purchase a Mexican Insurance policy. As Pstreet pointed out. Then you must also bring the car back into the US - The car would be limited to areas that do not require a temporary import permit ... Baja does not require one. Unless you want to drive the car in the US it would make the most sense to get the car in Baja.

Newbury, United...
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5. Re: Road trip Tijuana to Baja California whale watching.

Already considered the Tijuana option until you see the difference in price and flight times.

A minimum of $400 per person extra, plus at least eight hours extra on the flights as they go via Holland or France and then Mexico City.

Still looking though! We know about the US Customs, men without humour!

Always wanted to visit the US West coast anyway. It's all very flexible at the moment!

San Diego
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6. Re: Road trip Tijuana to Baja California whale watching.

San Diego has one of the world's best zoos and a safari park where animals get to go for R&R with several square miles to walk around in. There is also Sea World but if you intent to see whales in the wild then Sea World has nothing to offer - These type of human whale encounters http://youtu.be/BFk3QK1fmcw don't take place with whales in captivity and even if they did the fact that the whales have no choice in the matter remove the enjoyment of the encounter.

This video was taken in the lagoons of Baja, where female gray whales give birth to their calves. This calf did not loose its mother at the time of this video. She is with the calf in the lagoon. Moms often bring their baby whales over to the boat to be touched and petted. This is how gray whales have become known as the friendliest whale.

San Diego
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7. Re: Road trip Tijuana to Baja California whale watching.

Mex 1 - Guerrero Negro to San Ignacio from Baja Log Book (C) 2000 by Instant Mexico Auto Insurance is online at instant-mex-auto-insur.com/baja-log/… (C) 2013

The last ten miles of the section off the highway to the camp sites are gravel on a dirt embankment over the salt flats - a spring 2013 photo is shown at the posted URL.

Sun City West
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8. Re: Road trip Tijuana to Baja California whale watching.

I don't know about that. We've done it several times, and I don't think it's anything like 10 miles from where you enter the salt plant lands from the highway to the National Park. If that's what the map says, I guess it must be right, but it really doesn't seem like it. I think it took only about 15 minutes to get there from the gate, and we certainly weren't driving over 25 or 30 miles an hour.

San Diego
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9. Re: Road trip Tijuana to Baja California whale watching.

Pstreet1, thanks for your update. They keep improving roads, so the maps need to keep being updated. I read the forums.bajanomad.com/viewthread.php?tid=65758 road reports weekly to attempt to get updates. Nobody has posted a GPS location of where the pavement ends and salt flats begins. The "map" data is more than 3 years out of date.

Should I assume its about 5 to 15 miles to the camp sites instead of 10-15 miles? Is that safe to tell people.

Sun City West
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10. Re: Road trip Tijuana to Baja California whale watching.

I think so, and 10 could be correct; however, it didn't seem like it took us long at all from the guard shack, and we were, of course, driving slowly. The REALLY important thing to say is that they bear left from the guard shack. We didn't one time, and that resulted in, literally, hours roaming the salt plant roads trying to get back to where we started from. Finally, some supervisors found us and led us out. We had not understood the guards directions properly--obviously--and the result wasn't good.