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Baja Guide : Baja Guide : Travel : Home
 

Visit the NEW and much improved home of the Baja Guide:
New Baja Guide.

The daily Human wind forecast for La Ventana and Los Barriles is now active Dec. 1, Click here to go to the NEW HOME FOR THE HUMAN FORECAST!!!.



Driving down Baja this season? Be sure to see all the updates with close up maps and places to stay. Use the Travelogue link to the left.

A Baja trip is not just a vacation...it is an adventure. For kiters and sailors the reliable, steady winds combined with a fetch of hundreds of miles means huge rolling swell. On days when it does not blow the kayaking, dirt biking, mountain biking, fishing, hiking, ATVing are world class.

Whether you are just dreaming about winter sailing or kiting, planning your first trip or preparing for your annual winter migration you will find the Baja Guide links to the left useful
If this is your first drive to Baja check out the Travelogue link and the Driving Baja links on the left.
After over 40 trips ranging from San Carlos to Cabo Plumo and a total of over 4 years spent in Baja I still have lots to learn.
Contact me at mike@iwindsurf.com for suggestions or additional information. Have fun exploring this guide and Baja!

Here are several kite and windsurfing La Ventana videos:
Videos.

Dengue Fever Report Nov. 21, 2013:
As you know parts of Baja Sur received heavy rain during this hurricane season. When this happens the population of the Aedes aegypti mosquito that carries the Dengue Fever virus briefly spikes. This mosquito is a weak and low flying mosquito that bites around the ankles mostly at dawn and dusk indoors and in shady areas within 100 meters of standing water. Since La Ventana and Los Barriles do not have standing water except for an occasional old tire or uncovered septic vent the population of these mosquitos is normally not an issue. Moreover the frequent wind makes it impossible for the weak mosquito to thrive. However if you travel about Baja Sur early in the season before all the water evaporates use caution. And if you are arriving very early in the season with young children you might want to consider bringing mosquito shelter and DEET.

La Ventana Dengue Fever Report from Dean dean@la-ventana.com: We do not have dengue here but there is a outbreak in Todos Santos & the east cape. I believe they had significantly more rain than we did. Have not heard anything about LaPaz but todos Santos I have read that there are about 100 cases as reported on the baja nomads and 640 cases baja sur.I heard that people took off from LV over the weekend to todos santos. If you did or you know someone who did please ask them to take some major precautions to protect those who they come in contact with. While they may not feel any symptoms if they were bitten in Todos, it is not clear when their blood can pass the virus on. In general it is 2-10 days before they may have the full sickness. If they take proper precautions & they do end up with dengue that can help prevent it from spreading here. Ask anyone that has been there to have deet on at all times on their legs or wear socks and long pants for 2 weeks from when they were in high risk area. Also if going to LaPaz make sure you spray yourself as a safeguard, make sure you have deet in the vehicle. I have been bit by mosquitoes in the LaPaz movie theaters, so I spray myself before going in on the legs.. take active measures to eliminate breeding areas I have suggestions at the www.la-ventana.info site. Remember this mosquito has a flight range of about 100 meters. dean@la-ventana.com

If this is your first driving trip to La Ventana you will find it hard to navigate from the outskirts of La Paz to the road La Ventana. To help you I have made a map of this area at the bottom of this page.

Oct. 10, 2013: The majority of model forecasts indicate that this winter will be a be a neutral pattern with neither a El Nino or a La Nina. This pattern will continue into the Northern Hemisphere spring 2014. Historically neutral patterns provide the most consistent wind patterns for La Ventana and Los Barriles as storms are able barrel across the west coast of the USA followed by high pressure settling into the 4 corners. So we see frequent combo winds of weak El Norte wind + modest local sea breezes that keep upper teens to low 20's wind most days. These winds will be punctuated every 2-3 weeks or so by either blustery strong major El Norte winds or 3-5 day lulls.

New Crossing UPDATE: Oct. 15, 2013. (see map below) The new El Chaparral border crossing into Tijuana opened Thursday Nov. 1 2012 and the old border crossing is closed. DO NO USE YOUR GPS UNTIL YOU ARE 5 MILES PAST THE BORDER. IT WILL BE INACCURATE DUE TO NEW ROADS. At the bottom of the page is a map showing how to get to the new border crossing. If you follow the map you will find it much easier than the old crossing to get your visa and to pay your bank fee at the inspection area. The Secretary of Tourism office in Tijuana reports that the Migracion office and the bank are both open 24 hours/day. See the map and description at the bottom of this page.

However it appears they are sometimes enforcing the importation limits of only one of any item per person without paying a duty:


First timers guide getting your FMM "tourist card" stamped and paying your bank fee at the new "El Chaparal" Tijuana border crossing:
If you are NOT importing any products into Mexico or no NOT have large trailer, boat or RV:
1. After you curve into the crossing you will see a mass of check points that look like toll gates.
2. ignore the cars you see just driving through the gates and departing. There are locals who do not need their FM stamped.
2. Proceed through one of these gates very slowly watching for instructions from any police.
3. Once through these gates you will see see parking ahead.
4. Park your car and bring your car registration, passport and mexican insurnace and walk back towards the large building.
5. Entering the building and you will find the "inmigracion" office. Present your paperwork here and fill out the FMM.
6. Head west about 50 feet inside the building and you will find the "Banco". Pay $24.50 USD or Peso equivalent.
7. Return to "inmigracion" office and have your FMM stamped.
8. Return to your car and exit looking for the sign saying "A Playas De Tijuana, Rosarito Y Ensenada.
9. Go up this exit then merge with the road that runs parallel to the border fence for several miles.

View Larger Map
If you are importing any products into Mexico or have large trailer, boat or RV:
1. If you have a large RV or trailer or need to declare goods you want to stay in the far RIGHT lane as you make the left turn towards the crossing. After you curve into the crossing you will see a mass of check points that look like toll gates.
2. Ignore these gates and continue straight and park in the large parking lot on the north side of the large building.
3. Park your vehicle and bring your car registration, passport and mexican insurnace and walk into large building.
4. Walk down a long wide hallway then turn left to the "inmigracion" office.
from this point follow the instructions above.


At the bottom of the page you will find more details about duties and a link to the customs page put out by the Mexican Government.

Here is a video which, after the ad, shows exactly how to cross the border and get to the toll road. Be sure to pull over at the red shade shelters at the crossing shown in the video to get your FMM, pay your bank fee and declare any imported stuff.:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zKgKsfl1sn0&feature=plcp

Thinking about buying land or building a house in La Ventana? I have been watching different mexican contractors and gringo "supervisors" build houses for over 12 years in this area. There are several good ones but many poor ones. Contact me at mike@windsurf.com for my opinions.


The new El Chaparral border crossing into Tijuana opened Thursday Nov. 1 2012 and is much easier to navigate and to get your FMM visa and pay your bank fee than the old crossing. Just study the maps at the bottom of this page.

To access the new border crossing from Hwy. 5 you will be directed to take a very sharp cubing 5 lane that curves of Hwy. 5 right at the border near the old crossing. This road heads west for 0.2 miles parallel to the border inside of Mexico. Then it makes a left into the new border crossing which you can see in the bottom photo below.

As you approach the new crossing look for a sign saying "Declaración" and park. Bring with you 1. $24.50 UDS or pesos. 2. Car registration, 3. Driver License. 4. Passport

Enter the building and walk pass the sign for saying Banco". Ahead you will see "Inmigración"

Then fill out the FMM visa form. Take the completed form to the Banco and pay your $24.50 UDS or pesos.
Return to the "Inmigración" to get your form stamped.

Return to you car and leave. Doug reports that as of Nov. 4 there were no signs of the old green light red light inspection stop.

Leaving the crossing take the "A Palyas de Tijuana, Rosarito Y Ensenada turn off over the dry river bed. This will merge with the old route running parallel to the border and on to Hwy 1D toll road to Ensenada.

The photos and maps below should help you through this new crossing.


Border violence involving tourists has continued to dramatically decline in the Tijuana area. 2012 and so far in 2013 there have been no reports on any issues.
Entering Baja if you cross the border and take the direct route to the toll freeway to Ensenada you are very unlikely to have any problems.

Coming back to the USA by way of Tijuana is more problematic since it is easy to miss the turn off to San Diego or it may be full forcing you to wander about the streets of Tijuana trying to find the Otay border crossing. I strong recommend you take leave Hwy. 1 just north of Ensenada and cross the border at Tecate. Yes, it is a longer drive but you will actually save time since you will have a much shorter wait at the border. The route is very scenic and you avoid the whole Tijuana scene.

Remember criminal events involving tourists happened to people who drove through the TJ area in the dark early AM hours when the Tijuana streets are almost empty.

Violence in Baja continues in parts of border cities where drug cartels are having turf wars.
Baja California Norte reported a 44% percent hike in homicides from November 2007 to April 2008. To put this in perspective the most recent statistics shows Mexico has a current rate of 1200 violent crimes per 100,000 residents. The USA as a whole has has a violent crime rate of 467 per 100,000 so overall Mexico is a more violent country. But violence in Mexico is like the USA in that certain cities and neighborhoods harbor most of the violent criminals.
To put this in perspective: Washington, D.C.'s 2007 violent crime rate was 1,413. This is even higher than Mexico yet no one is suggesting that people not visit the nations capital.

Since most of you will be passing on the highway on the outskirts of Tijuana let's focus on that violence ridden city. In 2007 Tijuana's murder rate was 17.5 murders per 100,000 people. Pretty scary but Tijuana had a significantly lower lower murder rate than Las Vegas, Houston, Dallas while New Orleans had a murder rate 300% higher than Tijuana.

But the bottom line is that violence is scary especially when you are in a foreign country and don't speak the language. Personally you could not pay me to drive around the streets of Tijuana these days especially at night or pre dawn. But then again I have same feelings about parts of Los Angeles. So follow the guide lines below and look at the map at the bottom of the page very carefully so you don't get an undesired tour to unsavory parts of Tijuana.

I try to keep in a tight caravan and keep on the highway until south of Ensenada. This is the area where the vast majority of the violence has occurred.
Remember thousands of old folks in their late 60's and 70's drive down this road every year in monstrous RVs. If they can handle it so can you. Just use some common sense.
The key to safety is WHERE and WHEN you make your border crossing. Below is what can happen if you "just do it" without planning your border crossing:


There are ongoing issues with ATM machines in Baja. One problem is ATM fraud. If you use your ATM to obtain cash while you down in Baja for a long trip you run the risk of your USA bank closing your account. Bankers I have talked to suggested you call the 800 number on the back of your card and notify them that you will be making cash withdrawls in Baja during a certain time period.

In recent years the mainland has had a few kidnappings at ATM machines where a person is forced to use their ATM card and number with draw cash over a period of days. The following is the current advisory from the U. S. government:

"U.S. citizens should be very cautious in general when using ATMs in Mexico. If an ATM must be used, it should be accessed only during the business day at large protected facilities (preferably inside commercial establishments, rather than at glass-enclosed, highly visible ATMs on streets). U.S. and Mexican citizens are sometimes accosted on the street and forced to withdraw money from their accounts using their ATM cards."

There is now a serious speed trap and a bunch of topes (speed bumps) in El Rosario and Cativina and they are quick to issue tickets for speeding or passing slow moving trucks.
* If you feel you have been treated unfairly by a police officer get his badge number and license plate number and tell him you will be contacting the Sindicatura (seen-dee-kah-too-ra). In most cases if you are clearly in the right this will send the cop on his way. The Sindicatura investigate corrupt police officers.

If you have a complaint against a police officer or other city official, you can contact the City of Tijuana Internal Affairs at 688-2810, 24 hours a day. You can also register your complaint, in person at City Hall, or via the Internet at the following address: http://www.sindicatura.gob.mx/
complaints/index.asp
USA Consulate in Cabo:
Consular Agent in Cabo San Lucas
(An extension of the Consulate in Tijuana)
Blvd. Marina Local C-4
Plaza Nautica
Centro
Cabo San
Lucas, B.C.S. 23410
Monday-Friday: 9:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m.
Phone: [52] (624) 143-3566,
Fax: [52] (624) 143-6750
E-Mail: usconsulcabo@yahoo.com


I am keeping this story in the Baja Guide in memory of Moni and his daughter.
I had spoken to Moni just before he left La Ventana and told him never to drive Tijuana northbound in the dark since it was extremely easy to miss the turn off to San Diego.
Tijuana report from my Baja neighbor Moni S. dated February 19 2008 at 2am in the morning. (Moni speaks good spanish.)


Hi Mike,
"From your tip about the bad road sign to the turn off for the San Diego border crossing in Tijuana near the border I was very careful and drove slowly. I even asked for some directions from the last toll both. They just said it was very easy and did not offer more than that. I caught all the road signs and made the right turns until I got to the last split in the road before US customs. I could not tell which way to go. I stopped and searched for a clue. Traffic was not bad there. That was my big mistake.
I finally spotted a small sign about 3 foot off the ground sitting on the cement barrier. It was about 40% obscured. I crept close and saw that San Diego was to the right. I proceeded to the right , came around a curve and got in the line to enter the US.

Then two TJ police walked up to my car with flashlights and a military style machine gun. The looked like soldiers with full military gear except that it was all black. I rolled down the window and they said I stopped in traffic and that was dangerous. They told me to follow them to the police station to pay a fine of 100 (did not say pesos or dollars). I said ok. They opened a gate in the barrier next to their booth and directed me there. It was a tight squeeze but my car got through.
I followed them and they led me to a dark area under a freeway overpass where no one else could see us. They told me to get out of the car and the officer with the gun directed me to the back of the car so the other one could search my car for “beer, or drugs or guns”. They spoke English. They put their hands in my pockets and emptied them. They took my wallet and emptied it on the hood of car and asked for registration which I gave them. At one point I though they were going to hand cuff me. They kept saying they were going to take me to the police station. I was scared but I remained as cooperative as possible. Maybe that was a mistake too.

While one officer kept me at the back of the car trying to distract me by saying I would go to jail for not having Mexican prescriptions for my pills. They were a type of Motrin which I explained can be purchased at any store no prescription needed. He was just trying to distract me from his partner that spend about 20 minutes searching my car until he found one of my stashes of cash. It was in a pill bottle Hidden behind a seat. They even searched my toiletry bag. They were persistent. I had money left over from paying the workers for the construction on our properties. He pocketed the $500 US as if I did not see him take it. I don’t know how much more they would have taken if had found more.
They told me to take off. I looked for a badge number but could not see it. I saw their white pickup truck had the number 066 on the back. The cop with machine gun was about 5’6”tall a little stocky. The other one was taller, thinner and wore black rim glasses. I walked to the place where he took the money from to let them know that I know they took it. They got angry and yelled and started to come back from their car toward me. I told them I was closing up the car and putting things away so I could drive off safely. They backed off and I left. and made my way back to border.

I think having my red kayak on top was a red flag that attracted too much attention.
I tried to get the complaint form from the sindictatura but that link is no longer valid. I also tried to call without success. They said it was the wrong number."


These are scary reports but keep in mind that far worse things happen every day in american big cities. Thousands of people travel Mex. Hwy. 1 in Baja every day and reports of major trouble are still very rare. The real Mexican police are increasing patrols from the border on Mexico Highway 1 leading to the Ensenada toll road.


Baja California (South): Cabo San Lucas is a major city/travel destination in the Southern portion of Baja California No advisory is in effect.
California (north): Tijuana is a major city/travel destination in the Northern portion of Baja California -see attached map to identify its exact location: You should exercise caution in the northern state of Baja California, particularly at night. Targeted TCO assassinations continue to take place in Baja California. Turf battles between criminal groups proliferated and resulted in numerous assassinations in areas of Tijuana frequented by U.S. citizens. Shooting incidents, in which innocent bystanders have been injured, have occurred during daylight hours throughout the city. In one such incident, an U.S. citizen was shot and seriously wounded. In the majority of these cases, the killings appeared to be related to narcotics trafficking. There are some indications that criminals have particularly targeted newer and larger vehicles, especially dark-colored SUVs.
USA Consulates & Consular Agencies:
Tijuana (Baja California Norte and Baja California Sur): Tapachula 96, telephone (011)(52)(664) 622-7400.
Cabo San Lucas: Blvd. Marina local c-4, Plaza Nautica, col. Centro, telephone (011)(52)(624) 143-3566.
In case of an after-hours emergency involving U.S. citizens, please contact the Duty Officer. From Mexico dial 001 (619) 692-2154, from the U.S., call (619) 692-2154.


La Paz, Baja Sur, Thursday, October 4, 2012, PeninuslarDigital.com:
Health officials in La Paz reported that since the recent rains the number of reported cases of dengue fever has tripled. They have verified 31 cases of classic dengue, and one of the more dangerous hemorrhagic type.

There are four types of Dengue fever; each one can only be contracted once. However, a second infection from a different virus is more likely to result in hemorrhagic symptoms. Hospitalization and intravenous fluids are sometimes required to prevent dehydration and secondary infections that can cause death. The last major Dengue epidemic in Baja Sur occurred in the fall of 2003, after the rains from hurricanes Ignacio and Marty. Those who have had the disease report it is a very unpleasant experience.

1. Bring mosquito repellent and mosquito netting with you. In 2003 Dengue event, stores in La Paz quickly ran out of mosquito repellent. Many outdoor/recreation type stores in the US and Canada carry inexpensive mosquito netting hoods that can be worn over a hat to protect your face from bites.
2. Especially at dawn and dusk, wear long pants and long-sleeve shirts. Use repellent on exposed skin.
3. Make sure window screens are in good repair and keep unscreened doors closed from dusk to dawn.
4. Check for and repair any mosquito breeding environments in the neighborhood where you are staying. Since Aedes mosquitos usually remain within a 180 meter radius of where they hatch out, places where they lay eggs will be near their hosts -- people. Drain standing water. Empty rain water collected in containers around houses and other buildings. Litter, bird baths and drainage systems can also hold stagnant water.
5. Make sure water storage and septic tank vents for houses and trailers are screened; if you screened vents a few years ago, they may have rusted through or disintegrated as a recent check of properties in El Sargento found. Check and replace.
6. Old car tires collect water; check any used in retaining walls, or any you see disposed of outdoors.
Do your part to make this a safe winter in Baja Sur. Tom S.


The 2009/2010 season saw an El Nino pattern with the winter storm track more southerly than typical. So the wind on the popular East Cape sailing sites was lighter than normal but pretty reliable especially for kites. There were very few of the big El Norte winds this season. As is typical of an El Nino pattern the swell was smaller than normal since the northern portion of the Sea of Cortez received little wind. Also typical was the very warm water which brought lots of sea turtles to the beaches and made dorado fishing great!


The 2010/2011 winter season was a La Nina pattern with only a few big El Norte wind patterns but lots of days with a combo many modest El Norte events that jazzed up the local sea breezes making for days and days of moderate winds.


Visit this web site for the most current regulations:

http://www.aduanas.sat.gob.mx/aduana_mexico/2008/pasajeros/139_10210.html

WHICH ITEMS MAY BE INCLUDED IN MY PERSONAL LUGGAGE EXEMPT FROM DUTY?

Goods for personal use, such as clothing, footwear and personal toiletries and beauty products, as long as they are appropriate for the duration of the trip, including wedding party items.
Baby travel accesories, such as strollers and baby-walkers.

Two photographic cameras or video recorders, 12 rolls of film or videocassettes;
photographic material;
three portable cell phone or other wireless networks;
global positioning equipment (GPS);
a portatil typewriter;
an electronic calendar;
a portable computer (laptop), notebook, omnibook or similar items;
a copier or portable printer; a portable projector, and their accessories.

Two sports equipment, four rods, three speedboats with or without sails and their accessories, trophies or recognitions, provided that they can be transported normally and commonly by the passenger, one stair climber and bicycle

A portable radio for the recording or reproduction of sound or mixed tapes; or a digital sound reproducer or portable reproducer of compact discs and a portable reproducer of DVD’s, such as a pair of portable speakers, and their accessories.

Five laser disks, 10 DVD disks, 30 compact disks (CD) or magnetic tapes (audiocassettes), for the reproduction of sound, three software packages and five storage devices or memory cards for any electronic equipments.

Books, magazines and printed documents.

Five toys, —included those that are collectible— and a video game console and five videogames.

One device that permits measurement of arterial pressure and one for glucose, as well as medications of personal use; in the case of psychotropics the medical prescription should be shown.

One set of binoculars and a telescope.

Valises, trunks and suitcases necessary for the movement of goods.

Passengers over 18 years of age, may introduce a maximum of up to 20 packs of cigarettes, 25 cigars or 200 grams of tobacco and up to three liters of alcoholic beverages, and six liters of wine; in excess of the above, cannot be imported without complying with applicable regulations and restrictions.

Two musical instruments and its accessories.

A camping tent and camping equipment, as well as their accessories.

A set of tools including its case, it might have a hand drill, wire cutters, wrenches, dices, screwdrivers, current cables, among others.

Up to two dogs or cats, maybe introduced as well as their accesories, provided that the corresponding zoosanitary import certificate issued by (SAGARPA) is presented to the customs officials.

If you are carrying more than US$10,000, or its equivalent in other currencies, in cash, checks, money orders or any other monetary instrument, or a combination of them, you must declare the amount exceeding US$10,000. You will not have to pay duties or taxes, but you must declare it on the Customs Declaration form. Failing to declare it is a violation of Mexican Law and such violation is sanctioned with administrative and even criminal penalties.



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