Episode 13: What it’s Like Living Van Life in Mexico

We’ve been living at Cabrales Boatyard in Puerto Penasco, Mexico for two months now, getting our sailboat ready for winter cruising in the Sea of…

We’ve been living at Cabrales Boatyard in Puerto Penasco, Mexico for two months now, getting our sailboat ready for winter cruising in the Sea of Cortez. Tom spends his days sanding and painting the sailboat, and I sit in the Sprinter van working on my computer.

Sailboat and Sprinter van parked at a boatyard in Mexico
Sailboat and Sprinter van parked at a boatyard in Mexico

In Episode 13 of The Wayward Home podcast, I’m going to give you a behind-the-scenes look at our current life in Mexico, plus answer some common questions. I’ll also tell you about my likes and dislikes about living here.

Listen to the Podcast:

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Crossing the Mexican Border in our Sprinter Van

In order to drive our campervan to Mexico, we first had to buy local Mexican insurance. This isn’t an option, but a requirement to drive your vehicle in this country.

We used a website called BajaBound.com to purchase insurance. I did get full comprehensive insurance for the Sprinter van, which wasn’t cheap, but worth it given this is a new vehicle. When we bring my Chevy Astro down here, I only get Liability, which is a lot cheaper.

Crossing the border turned out to be super easy. The Lukeville crossing in Arizona is used to seeing all types of RVs drive down to the beachfront campgrounds in Puerto Penasco. They did a quick search of the Sprinter van but didn’t even ask to see our passports. Then, we were on our way!

What I Like About Living in Our Van in Mexico

Woman sitting inside a Sprinter van in Mexico
Hanging out in my Sprinter van in Mexico

There are a lot of things to like about living in Mexico in our van, especially during the winter months when it’s cold up in the states. Here are the top pros:

  • Super cheap. Everything here is cheap, especiallly groceries and restaurants. Living in the boatyard only costs us $200 per month, with a small price for unlimited electricity. 5-gallon jugs of water cost just $.50.
  • Friendly. The people who work at the boatyard and who live in Puerto Penasco are all very friendly. We also love the community of cruisers here. It’s easy to find friends!
  • Nice restaurants. There are a variety of restaurants here. We love getting $6 pizzas on Wednesdays from a placee called Pane y Vino. There’s also a nice wine and craft beer bar, good burgers, good seafood and tacos. We also just started eating at a wonderful mole place called Ole Mole Penasco
  • A beautiful beach. I love that there is a beach within walking distance of the boatyard! I love walking barefoot in the crystal-clear water

A Few Things I don’t like about Van Life in Puerto Penasco

There are a few things I don’t like that much about living in Puerto Penasco:

The grocery situation

I usually have to go to 3-4 different stores to find the things I want while living here. And when I do go to the main market, the Super Ley, a lot of the vegetables are wilted or rotting. When we were here last spring, there were flies in all the produce sections of grocery stores, which really grossed me out.

As I’ve lived here longer, I’ve finally figured out where to buy some good products, including where to find good wine. I still can’t find craft beer or good coffee.

Never mind products that help me be a vegetarian like tofu and tempeh. You also can’t find many Asian cooking supplies like sesame oil or rice vinegar.

I am learning to adapt what I eat (a lot of beans!!), and I finally found a local fruteria that has good quality fruits and veggies, although I can never find good leafy greens.

Crazy Drivers

Another thing I don’t like is that the drivers are all over the place and fairly crazy. Plus, on weekends, American tourists rent side-by-sides and quads which are noisy, and I’m pretty sure they drive them drunk. It doesn’t seem like a safe place to roam around at night due to the crazy drivers.

I also hesitate to drive my Sprinter van around very much here as I don’t want it to get hit, or doored at a supermarket.

Internet

Working remotely here was challenging at first as I didn’t know what to do about the internet. Now, I have a local SIM card, and have to renew it every 2 hours. For 15 pesos, I can get 2 hours of unlimited WiFi, which is about $0.75. Given that I renew this many times throughout the day, the price of internet really adds up.

What Questions Do you Have?

Do you have any questions about van life in Mexico? Leave them in the comments below and I’ll get ack to you!

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7 Comments

  1. mike j HICKEY says:

    what did you need to cross border as far as paperwork

    1. Kristin Hanes says:

      Hi Mike! I don’t think you need extra paperwork to come to the states of Sonora and Baja. However, if you travel further into Mexico I think you need a Temporary Import Permit for your vehicle. And you always need Mexican auto insurance no matter where you go. Crossing the border, the Mexican border patrol agents didn’t ask us for anything.

  2. Nice to see where you are when you talk about it. Sounds like a great place.
    I think we got about 10 inches of snow. I left work 2 hours early or may not have made it home. I grabbed the shovel, I like to shovel snow. Started from my Rav 4 end and did across to my daughters. Got one walkway done to my neighbors car. My front door to down driveway. it was a bit much. Didn’t get all since the snow plow man, from around the corner stopped by. He did the end of driveway. We cant really go anywhere yet, Snow emergency is out. It snowed more up to 12 & more in spots. Yesterday it was 45 * to the good. Enjoy where you are . Till you hit the water. PS we have beans & rice & tortillas all the time. Gotta have cilantro or avacados. I like Pazole’. soup. We make that too.

  3. Mary Harbaugh says:

    Puerto Penasco has a really nice Sams Club with fresh veggies, etc and plenty of spirits and other supplies.

    1. Kristin Hanes says:

      Hi Mary! Yep, I have a membership to Sam’s Club. THey sell veggies in huge quantities that I can’t fit in my little fridge, sadly. I typically go to Fruteria Sinaloa for fruits and veggies, although last time half the stuff was rotting

  4. Gerald & Viv Pang says:

    Kristen, We loved reading your article on
    living in Puerto Panasco. We have been going
    there from 2018 & have stayed @ Playa de Oro
    RV Park & the Reef, several months @ a time.
    Can you stay in the boat yard, if you are not
    working on a boat?The parks are around $600
    per month in 2021 & want if you know if they
    may have raised their monthly rent?
    Thankyou & keep up the good stories on Rocky Pt.

    1. Kristin Hanes says:

      Hey there! I’m not sure if you can stay in the boatyard without a boat. You probably wouldn’t want to, though. It is a working boatyard and not very relaxing, hah. I’m not sure if the RV parks have raised their rents as I’ve never visited one. Glad you have enjoyed coming down here!

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