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.
I am wondering if you might be able to answer one question for me or lead me in the right direction. I am planning on moving to Playa del Carmen in the next few months. Is it possible to take with me or have transported, my 2 jetskis that I own on a double trailer? A transporter company told me that I might only be able to take 1 of them to Mexico with me. Also, how does it work to legalize vehicles in Mexico? Is it a similar process to a car?
Manny's Answer: Hi Efren,
The process of legalization for a car in Mexico is rather complicated. Some American cars (especially newer cars that are less than 10 years old) cannot be legalized. Also, by law you must hire the services of an authorized customs agent if you officially want to "import" your cars.
Because of the hassle as well as the costs involved, We didn't take our cars with us when we moved to Mexico. We sold our two American cars and purchased two vehicles in Mexico with existing Mexican plates.
Now, there are attorneys that specialize in this sort of thing, but in our research, we quickly realized that the transport costs, the shipping, and the costs for the attorney to "legalize" our cars would have exceeded the actual value of the vehicles. It was thousands and thousands of dollars. We just didn't bother to take them with us for that reason. Nissan, Ford, and Chevy, etc, all of those car companies exist here, and you can also buy used cars, boats, and jet skis fairly easily. We used Mercado Libre Mexico to find one of our cars (a website similar to Craigslist where you can search by state). The dollar is very strong against the peso right now so we got a screamin' deal on a used minivan that would have easily cost us 10K in the U.S. (it only cost $3,500 down here, based on the currency conversion right now is 20:1!)
If you are going to do this, consider watching the peso closely and converting your dollars when it drops. Our dollars have been stretching very far down here, we now own our house outright as well as two cars that are completely paid for in less than 3 years. This was an impossible dream for us when we were living in CA.
And to give you some more honest advice about shipping cars: having American plates and an American trailer in Quintana Roo is going to make you a target for the police. You might end up getting pulled over very frequently.
You don't have to make this decision right away. We held on to our American cars for about 6 months before we "pulled the trigger" and sold them, but we never actually brought them into Mexico. We just kept the cars at my brother's house in Nevada and eventually sold them when we decided to remain as expats permanently.
I suggest contacting an attorney if you decide that you really want to transfer your cars to Quintana Roo.
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