the local's guide to camping in mexico

Mexico is extremely diverse, both geographically and culturally. You can go one week from shivering in the mountainous Sierra Gorda to sweltering hot camping in the beach towns, so packing for both hot and cold is essential. Even within the same day, many areas experience temperature changes of 15–20 degrees.

The rainy season starts around June and ends in September, when you can expect daily downpours, although usually only for a couple of hours. For waterside camping, you don’t usually get the vibrant blue and transparent colors. September is to March is a better time for camping, although as the winter season, nights can be cool.

Likewise, amenities and services vary widly, from luxury resort-style camping to virtually nothing but wood for sale.

For RV camping, you can find a list of sites here.

Police, civil protection, fire and ambulance:

066 

This is exclusive for emergencies, but also for security inquiries 24 hours a day.

Roadside Car Assistance

078

Known as “Green Angles” (Ángeles Verdes)

Camping etiquette in mexico

A common complaint is camping etiquette in Mexico. Because of the safety issue, the concept of “camping to escape and be alone in nature” is not as revered in Mexico as in other countries.

Probably feeding from the ‘safety in numbers’ mantra, it’s not uncommon to have neighbors set their tents right next to yours, even if there is copious space around. Personal space is not the preference; but in exchange, you get hearty conversations with the locals and invitations to share their food.

Loud blasting music is another headache, as people are happy to share their music with the entire campground.

Some campsites have tried to combat these trends by banning music and alcohol, or setting a noise curfew; people strictly oblige, so you can be sure to have peace by 11pm if there are such rules.

Early to bed, and early to rise tends to be the custom in Mexican campgrounds. If there is a tamale or coffee seller around, they have no qualms waking everyone up by hawking their goods at 7am in the morning.

As for the campgrounds, many are run by communities, called ejidos, rather than the government. This means that prices and conditions can change on a whim – as a “flush” foreigner, that whim might be you – although the more developed campgrounds have advertised prices and official tickets. For example, in 2019 during Easter, the ejido of Rio Ayutla decided to put up barriers and charge everyone wishing to swim in the river that passes through the town. Speaking Spanish helps a lot. In any case, camping prices are never usually more than USD 10 per person, plus USD 3–5 for parking overnight.

Almost all camping sites in Mexico offer firewood (ask for leña, said len-ya), usually from 30–70MXN per bundle. Toilets are also usually extra – 5MXN per visit, for campers and visitors alike – and showers are usually 10–15MXN. Almost all camping grounds in Mexico will also have at least a taco seller or two, plus drinks for sale. Some also have grill areas, table and chairs, and occasionally bags of ice.

Tips for Camping in Mexico

01

Most sites don’t have lights and electricity in the camping zones, so arrive with plenty of time before dark. Some places are run by local families and they don’t usually hang out after 6–9pm.

02

Be prepared for connectivity issues. In remote areas the internet and phone coverage comes and goes, which can land you in a pickle if your GPS suddenly cuts out and that was the only map you had.

03

Always keep cash on you; many camping grounds don’t accept anything else. Campgrounds range from USD 5–20 per night (100–400 MXN) but there are plenty of little extras; firewood, entrance and parking fees, mandatory life jacket hire, toilet and shower fees, a tip for someone to wheelbarrow your stuff, and sometimes just because your tent is a bit bigger. A couple thousand pesos can last a few days, although this varies wildly depending on the tours and how touristic is the area.

04

Never let your petrol run low; keep a healthy quarter-tank at least. Petrol stations can be plentiful and suddenly you won’t see any for hours.

05

You’ll always need to take your own drinking water, as Mexican water is rarely portable.

06

It’s better to camp in regulated areas where the local authorities or communities allocate some kind of 24-hour security, no matter how lax it seems. These communities are small, and you’ll find much better favor when you pay for all the little services they offer.

07

Be careful with your belongings; while many campsites have general security, this often doesn’t extend to watching tents. Try to keep your most valuable belongings locked in your car.

08

If you’re not driving, know your transport options for each place; ‘improvising’ transport is not recommended (hitch-hiking, getting a taxi off the side of the road, not knowing the bus schedule). This leaves you vulnerable to scrupulous drivers – where kidnapping and extortion are not uncommon – and in some cases the next public transport might not be for hours or until the next day.

09

There are not usually big supermarkets in the remote towns and camping areas, so it’s handy to bring some non-degradable essentials. Although, almost all towns have an OXXO or some kind of mini-mart that sells the basics, and most campgrounds have a taco stall or two nearby. Then you just need to sniff out the local butcher, bakery or vegetable stall for the rest.

10

Bug repellent is your best friend. Many natural sites ask you to wear natural or mineral sunscreens when swimming.

11

It’s best to pre-plan where you will camp and let a close friend or relative know your travel route. Never camp alone.

12

Feeding a street dog may earn you a free guard for the night. The same goes for the opportunist who offers to watch your car in a parking lot for a small fee.

13

Expect the unexpected – and prepare for it – and you’ll havea great time.

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