Monday, February 25, 2008

Free Baja Travel Guide!

I got the crazy idea to write a relocation guide for the Baja California Peninsula last summer while living in Morelia, Mexico for a month. My son was in an arts school ($75 for the month paid for dance, music, drawing and theater classes, very cool & why we were there) and I was sitting around the main square in cafe´s, sipping espresso with little to do. Woe is me and why not write a book? Or something like that.

Three months later Viva La Baja! Relocation Guide to the Baja California Peninsula was born and set into the eversphere (made available as an eBook through a website).

I really sunk my teeth into the project, grinding out chapters on real estate, medical insurance, environmental issues, tons of topics. Mid-way through I decided that the book would not be a valuable resource on Baja without a basic travel guide included. Driving the Peninsula, taking a ferry to the mainland, riding a bus, all these topics needed to be covered. So I did.

And afterwards, put together a separate document that could easily be printed-out for travelers to take on the road. Hence, Viva La Baja! Travel Guide was created and is now available to you for free (hey, if you read this blog, you should get something out of it!).

The guide includes: driving directions from Tijuana to Los Cabos; information about towns with a link to a website with more info; side trips to Bahia de los Angeles, Magdalena Bay and Cabo Pulmo; mileage between towns; car insurance & where to get a Mexican auto insurance policy; green angels & emergency assistance; riding a bus and ferry locations & schedules.

Also included is information on crime & safety with contact information for U.S. & Canadian embassies and where to report a crime.

Email info@vivalabajba.com and I will send you a copy.

Buen Viaje, Molly, author of Viva La Baja! Relocation Guide to the Baja California Peninsula

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Mail in the Baja & How to Receive a Package

The Mexican mail burro has grown a set of wings. O.K., maybe not but he does have a bit more air under his feet. Receiving mail while living in Baja is slow, but not overly-so. Similar to other international destinations outside of the U.S. or Canada, two to three weeks seems to be the average time frame for delivery of a package.

If the package is later than two weeks it could be held-up in customs. One package of ours sent from Seattle went to Mexico City first, and took over a month to clear customs before being shipped back to Baja. During the extended wait, I was clueless to the cause of the delay, but became quite the familiar face at our local postal post, with weekly, then twice-weekly inquires "es mi caja aqui?" (is my package here?).

Here is one online service - USA2Me - to obtain a U.S. address for items to be sent to and then forwarded to Baja. After an initial $15 set-up fee, the monthly charge for basic service is only $5.

A better way may be to set-up this service in person while north of the border. If like me, you will have many interactions with this service provider, and knowing who is handling your personal items personally can be comforting when you have to call or email to figure out the cause of a delay or lost package.

The biggest drawback to buying new items in the U.S.or Canada and having them shipped is custom fees. You can be charged up to 38 percent of the declared value of your package. If you use an express mailing service to expedite delivery (5-10 days) such as DHL or Federal Express, you may be charged a fee of approximately $15 (even if the contents are not dutiable) to cover the services of the customs broker.

If you do not want to purchase a mailbox at your local Baja post office, you can have mail sent to you general delivery or 'Lista de Correos' (in Spanish). Your address will look something like this:

Your Name
Lista de Correos
Your Baja town, zip code, Baja California Sur or Norte
(city, postal code, state)
Mexico


Packages can be shipped from Baja town to Baja town via bus. Take the package to your local bus station and request it to be delivered to you chosen address... but make sure you have someone on the receiving end (bus stop at end destination) to pick it up.

Molly, author of Viva La Baja! Relocation Guide to the Baja California Peninsula

Friday, February 15, 2008

Movies in the Baja & Where to See a Good Flick

The most recent movie we saw in a movie theater -- un-researched & spur of the moment -- was "The Woman of My Nightmares" (title of the movie in Latin America, "The Heartbreak Kid" in the U.S.). Ben Stiller (big like) plus deviated septum chick from Hell added up to the movie of our nightmares. And I thought 'SuperBad' was bad.

The first for my son and maybe second for me, we walked out mid-way through, not caring that the plot seemed to be picking up with actress Michelle Monaghan entering the scene. This review from eFilmCritic.com wasn't too favorable either. Mail-order DVD's and computer downloads here I come. Love the big-screen experience, but home-made popcorn is better for you anyways.

If living in Baja (no Blockbusters in site) and wanting the home movie experience as well, DVD's can be mail-ordered from these locations: Movies Unlimited, Buy.com, or DVD Empire. And of course there is always Amazon.com and BestBuy.com, though not the lowest cost options.

Another option is online DVD Clubs (join and get five DVDs for 49 cents or less each...) such as Columbia House and Disney.

Whether they will ship to Mexico or not is a good blog topic for another day. My work-around is to have a U.S. address at a mailbox company in the states, have my online purchases shipped there, and then re-packaged and shipped to my Baja address.

If you are the owner of a large gigabyte hard-drive computer, and wouldn't mind watching the flick on your computer screen, you can avoid shipping costs and hassles all together by downloading films from one of these online locations: MovieFlix.com or Apple.

MovieFlix.com (Windows & Mac) For you oldies out there, they give free downloads to ancient... I mean golden oldies television series and movies such as "Dragnet", "American Empire", "A Christmas Carol" and others. With a $9.95 monthly subscription, you have thousands more (and more current) options.

New releases can be downloaded to your computer for a pay-per-view cost ($3-4) from Apple iTunes. The film will stay on your computer for 30 days, or until is viewed, whichever comes first. The file may take hours to download, but just select and load before going to bed. In the morning you should be ready to roll.

If you want the public theater experience, venues can be found in most large towns & cities on the Peninsula such as Tijuana, Rosarito Beach (Playas de Rosarito), Ensenada, La Paz and Los Cabos.

For all you high-class folks out there, there is a planetarium movie theatre in Tijuana. There are four Omni Theaters located in Mexico.

Here's to no more nightmares, Molly, author of Viva La Baja! Relocation Guide to the Baja California Peninsula

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Love in the Baja: Strip Clubs, Cantinas & Where are all the Singles?

You've found your life partner, man/woman of your dreams, your soul mate. Congrats! I am sure your Valentine's Day will be filled with heart-felt exchanges and sweet somethings. Now what about the rest of us?

True love may be hard to find, but for all the effort you may as well shoot for the stars. If in Baja Norte and looking for love - friend and family resources, and dates with available prospects, already taxed to the max - skip the brothels and head to Ensenada for a night out at the Octopus Discoteque or Carajo.

If a bit on the lazy side, this site - One Love Net - has two available hotties for gals living North. Yep, that's right TWO. Yahoooooo. Guys have more online dating possibilities at Amigos.com. For those in Baja Sur, online dating and chat services are available through Cafe Tropic.

Or how about a cooking class, and play the odds you won't be the only one unattached. For Baja Norte, an elegant option is the Rancho La Puerta in Tecate. They offer arts and craft classes, writing seminars, and have themed fitness 'specialty weeks' in yoga, Pilates, hiking or meditation.

If your'e a southerner (Baja Sur inhabitant) guy or gal, there is Cook With Us in Todos Santos. Or you can throw in a week of Spanish immersion lessons along with three nights of Mexican cooking classes with this program offered through Sea & Adventures Inc. in La Paz.

To take a trip to Baja geared for those seeking a match made in paradise, Singles Travel Company organizes fishing excursions to La Paz for singles. You may get lucky - catch a big one and find a new love all in one shot. In April, they offer a 3-day Baja Mexico cruise aboard the Carnival cruise ship Paradise, visiting Ensenada and surrounds.

Singles Travel International hosts trips to Baja for those looking for love as well.

If you are fortunate enough to be in a loving, committed relationship already, and want to keep that love strong, you may enjoy the book "Together Forever - A Relationship Book for Couples" by Suzanne Marie Bandick. Not pop pychology, just well-intentioned advice and musings from someone lucky enough to find love early and make it last.

Happy hunting and Valentine's Day! Molly, author of Viva La Baja! Relocation Guide to the Baja California Peninsula

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Brrrrr + Sun = Winter in Baja!

Last year we arrived back in our small town of Mulege on Dec 31st after two months in drizzly Seattle. Tropical Storm John (Sept 2006) had devastated the town and left many, including my son and I, temporarily homeless.

From summer sauna our small (I mean shoe-box size) casita had turned into a winter ice-box. Freezing with a capital 'F'. We slept that first night with a full set of clothes on, winter coats included.

The next morning it took five hours or so of daylight to remind me why I loved the place so much - brilliant sun high in the sky causing me to sweat while walking into town with only a T-shirt on.

Mulege is considered Central Baja (casually, not officially) and is approximately 176 miles from the 48th parallel point at Guerrero Negro -- the official designation separating Baja California Norte (North from GN to Tijuana) from Baja California Sur (South from GN to Cabo San Lucas). This middle of Baja terrain - San Ignacio, Santa Rosalia, Mulege, Loreto, Ciudad Constitution - has freezing temperatures in winter, scorching & humid highs during the summer months.

The southern-end of the Peninsula - La Paz to Los Cabos (Cabo San Lucas & San Jose del Cabo) has more warmth in the winter (including warmer nights), but similar oppressively hot (to most sane folks) summers, often continuing through September.

To steer clear of these temperature highs and lows, you can remain in Northern Baja - the area from Tijuana to Ensenada approximately - where the climate is more Mediterranean. This area has hot, dry summers and wet, warm winters with temperatures ranging from 85 to 50 degrees F, on average. Head into the desert extremes further south and you drop down to the 40s, and climb up into the 90s to 100s (La Paz can have temps up to 115 degrees!).

Today, Ensenada is experiencing temperatures ranging from the mid 50s degrees F to 46 degrees F. Mulege has a high of 70 degrees F, and lows in the 50s. La Paz is heating up to 76, and dropping to the low 60s. MSN weather covers most Baja cities and towns.

This Web page - Weather Mexico - is a good read on weather patterns and temps throughout all areas of Mexico, including the Baja California Peninsula.

In solidarity with all current Baja winter-inhabitants, we are freezing our buns off in Xela, Guatemala. The city is located in a dry, mountainous area with chill-you-to-the-bones nights and mornings, followed by sparkling sunny and warm afternoons. Much like many areas of Baja. Nights drop to the low 30s F and you wake up not wanting to get out from underneath the mother-lode of blankets on top of you. Heat... ha, ha! No such thing as heaters here... at least where we have stayed.

Can't wait to be Baja-bound, in the heat or cold! Molly, author of Viva La Baja! Relocation Guide to the Baja California Peninsula