Reader Question: I'm looking for advice on lodging in Loreto, Baja CA. I've never been there, nor have I ever been to any of Baja California. I've selected Loreto largely due to advice from your book "Expat's Relocation Guide: Baja CA SUR", the scenery, safety, small town feel, quiet, outdoor recreation, etc..
My main home is near Boise, ID, however I'm recently retired and 6-months of snow don't work for me anymore. I need a month or longer breaks from it. Do you have any advice on the best way to find short-term lodging in Loreto?
I've gotten some ideas from Craigslist, AirBNB, among some other websites. It's hard to select something site unseen that I might stay in for a month or longer. One of my thoughts was to come down with no reservations and just my tent and camping gear. That way I could see something firsthand, before committing to it.
All I really want is a small house for my wife and I and our little Aussie, and of course for a reasonable price. No fancy amenities, just quiet and close to the ocean would be nice. Any help is appreciated.
Nice to hear you are thinking about Baja. It's very nice there; there are a lot of retirees and "snowbirds" that come down just to escape the snow for a few months. As I have said in the book, you can drive down and use your own car (or truck) as a visitor for 180 days. I don't think a tent would be a very good idea, though, unless you are used to very rough living. A little cheap camper shell might be an affordable way to go that also gives you a reasonable place to cook, shower, etc, there are lots of RV lots that cater to Americans in Baja.
The peso is very weak against the U.S. dollar right now, (almost 20:1!) so your U.S. dollars can stretch very very far down here. You can even buy a lot of land for the price of a used car in the U.S. Some U.S. expats do this, then just come down and park their RV on their own lot and enjoy the warm weather, and drive back home when the snow subsides wherever they live.
A "luxury" RV is also cheap down here. For a few thousand dollars, you could have something like this that would give you cooking, eating, and sleeping facilities that would allow you to travel in comfort and see all of Baja at your leisure (note that the price is in PESOS, not dollars! So about $3,800).
You can also purchase a little pop-up in the U.S. and take it down with you, of course. I suggest getting a wheel lock if you take your own car or truck down. Baja is generally very safe but every little bit helps.
An RV is an affordable way to travel, (and the preferred way for retirees in Baja) but you have lots of options, including Airbnb. That is what we used for lodging, and it's easy to get cheaper prices if you book in advance. I looked and it seems that you can get a studio in Loreto for as little as $35 per night. Once you are there, it may be possible to negotiate a longer stay with the owner if you like the place. You can also "walk the town" and you will see lots of rental signs.
However, a word of caution: do not "wire money" or rent anything on the internet sight-unseen, (Craigslist is full of scammers with Mexican rentals that doen't exist). But you can be safe using a recognized service like Airbnb. Also, if you book on Airbnb, always book with a credit card, not a DEBIT card, so your personal funds are protected, get a card with good purchase protection, and make sure that you keep a spare hidden somewhere else with a copy of your passport and driver's license. We have never had a problem using Airbnb, but we also like more affordable travel options, so we are in the market for a nice RV this year so we can travel with all our extended family to all of the beautiful seaside cities in Mexico (Zihuatanejo is our next destination!)
Now, although Loreto is beautiful, I wouldn't decide on a place without seeing all of Baja first. It's easy to drive the entire peninsula in two days or so. My family and I did it together in our little minivan, if we would have had a camper, we would have enjoyed ourselves more. We only stayed in Loreto 1 day, but all the surrounding cities were also very nice. We stayed in San Jose del Cabo for weeks and thought it was beautiful, but there are so many breathtaking places that it's hard to pick a city that we liked more (we probably liked Cabo San Lucas the LEAST, but only because it was a "party" city-- I probably would have loved it in my twenties, but in my forties, not so much...).
I suggest taking your car or truck down and enjoy a lazy drive around the coast, stopping frequently to enjoy the beauty of the place. Assuming you are on Social Security, you can apply for a retiree visa very easily if you decide to settle and even transfer your Social Security funds right to a Mexican bank account, or just use ATMs to make a withdrawl down in Baja and enjoy retiree life for 1/4 of the cost of living in the U.S..
I hope you find a place in Mexico that you can enjoy and call home. We are so happy here and don't regret our move one bit.
Many of you know that we are planning an extended research trip to Baja California this year. We have thought about driving this year, rather than flying. So, which border crossings are the safest on the Mexican-U.S. Border?
A big thank you to Jorge Luna, who has offered this incredibly useful information (this comment has been used with his explicit permission):
Jorge: I'm a regular user of the highways that connects the Texas border. The safest crossing between Mexico and Texa is Colombia Bridge Border Crossing. This is the quickest and safest highway There is a cheap toll in advance (approximately $3 or $4 USD, can't remember the exact amount). You can pay this using a major credit card.
Laredo is also a good option, but the traffic is heavy there (more during the Easter holiday), however Laredo is the shortest distance between Monterrey and Texas.
Another option is to use the toll road to Reynosa (it will cost around $15 USD) and cross into Texas using Anzalduas Bridge, using these last bridge you can avoid the Reynosa downtown area. Reynosa has a bad reputation on security issues.
If you are looking for a good stopping point, you can overnight in the McAllen/Harlingen area where you can find hotels starting at $40USD/night or she can overnight here in Monterrey that is full of affordable and comfortable hotels and drive straight to Houston the next morning without making stop on the Texas Valley area.
A final advice, never use the riverside highway that connects the Mexico's border cities such as Laredo ,Mx-Reynosa-Matamoros. If you need to move around the Rio Bravo area, it's better use the American Riverside Highway (Laredo,Tx-McAllen-Brownsville)
Thanks, Jorge for the great tip!
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