Our time in the USA had come to an end and we spent our last few days in San Diego. As it turned out we actually ended up really liking the place, and would have stayed longer had we had the time. Despite being only 2 hours away from Los Angeles it had a completely different feel.
We arrived pretty late but had found what seemed like a good place to camp with an unbelievable location. An old access road to Sea World, which has since been replaced became our base for the city. With a bunch of other campers / residents there we felt safe and that we wouldn’t be hassled by the police, which turned out to be true.
On our first morning we headed to the Gas Lamp district for Brunch, a celebration of our time in the USA. We haven’t been eating out much at all due to budget so were really excited to not have to cook a meal of the day. We also treated ourselves to a bottle of champagne and a jug of juice for mimosas, to the tune of only $13! We shares some pork belly benedict and fried steak, a top start to our day.
After that we meandered around the Gaslamp district, which became famous during the prohibition years, and the original gas lamps were restored to reflect the feel of the area. It was very artsy and full of nice places to eat, much reminding us of a gentrified south London borough. On our way back to the van, an hour walk, we decided to try the locals means of transportation and rented some electric scooters! We enjoyed half an hour of childish fun for only $10 and agreed it would be great fun when these finally came to the UK, if a little chaotic.
On our next day in San Diego, our final day in the states, we went surfing. Groupon was offering a full day of surf rental for only $10 each which was too good to pass up so we enjoyed the quiet nature of the beach, again a great contrast to LA. After we’d enjoyed the fantastic surf (warm water, good waves – just a little full of seaweed!) we spoke to the surf shop to ask if they had any old rental boards for sale, and turned out they had 2 up for $40.
We’d previously just assumed that with the solar panels taking up the roof rack space we’d have no room for anything else, especially an 8ft long board. With a little trial and error, and utilising the tie-downs we’d bought in Canada for our impromptu rain shelter, we decided the board would fit and bought it. It’s a great feeling that we can find secluded beaches all down the Pacific coast of Baja and surf without first needing to find a rental shop! Then we headed to a nice quiet unofficial campsite and enjoyed a bottle of wine before our border crossing the next day.
We chose to cross at the Tecate border, which would be much less busy than Tijuana, even if 40 miles in land. In short this turned out to be a mistake as we didn’t have the forms which we needed. It all in all took 3 hours to make the crossing, and the immigration officer offered us a selection of salsa, honey, and empanadas which was a unique experience! We’ve laid out our whole crossing experience below for reference, but we have limited photos as you aren’t allowed to take them at the border.
- Drive through the gate into Mexico. Stopped by a guard for a precautionary check & search, where he only seemed interested if we had a dog or not. As we didn’t this was over in 5 minutes. We promptly asked where to get our visa & he showed us where to park and where to go.
- Park on the side street (for 30 mins permitted only) and walk back through the border and into Mexico again to the immigration officer. The officer tells us they have no immigration forms (?!) so we must go and find and print them ourselves.
- Back in Mexico visit a copy shop with a super helpful owner and explain the situation. Spend 30 minutes filling out the forms online and printing. Pay $5. She told us it’s super tranquillo and no need to worry about a parking ticket.
- Return to the immigration office (through the border) with the receipt of payment & completed form notice. He tells us we need to find the actual form and print it. Enter Mexico again.
- Return to the copy shop and try to figure out how to print the actual form. After another 30 mins of searching realise we need to access the form via our emails and have it printed.
- Return to immigration office for a 3rd time and are granted a tourist visa. During which the officer tries to sell us empanadas for $3, honey, sauce etc. We politely decline, and are grateful it is easier to say no to than a bribe!
- Visit the Banjercito to get our Temporary Import Permit for our vehicle. Show him copies of our passport, drivers license but discover we need copies of our tourist visa.
- Enter Mexico again (4th time today!) to get necessary copies. Head back to the Banjercito to get our TIP. Pay $51 and a $200 deposit which we will get back when we leave Mexico.
- Finally we had to enter the USA one last time to give our exit forms so they know we have left the country. This was by far the worst experience of the day, with an absolute piece of work on the border. Rude doesn’t begin to cover it and it was such a different experience to the Mexican Authorities. We were glad to be leaving the USA at this stage!
- Enter Mexico for the 6th time that day, retrieve the car which has been in the 30 minute parking zone for 3 hours. Drive to nearest taco shop for $7 lunch of tacos & pop. Enjoy Mexico!