Mexico RV Life

Do I Need To Speak Spanish To RV In Baja, California, Mexico?

When friends and family hear that we’ve embarked on a Baja RV Adventure, they often ask about needing to speak Spanish to RV in Baja.

Sometimes the question comes from curiosity about our trip, and sometimes their curiosity about the possibility of RV camping to explore Baja themselves with understandable concerns about a language barrier.

None of us are fluent in Spanish (actually, we sometimes ask our boys if we blank for a moment – especially on Spanish numbers for some reason) and up until recently, the extent of our Spanish was what we learned from Seasame Street growing up, but there are a few things to keep in mind if you’d like to RV in Baja California – one of the most amazing areas of the planet that is easily accessible for RVers from the US.

Good news is that the term “RV” is very well known (even though it may not be a Spanish term itself) so you won’t have to figure out how to say “recreational vehicle” or “RV camper” in Spanish – RV will do!

RVing on the beach in Baja, Mexico at Tecolote Beach
Our free campsite on the beach in Baja Mexico at Tecolote


MOST businesses in tourist areas of Baja Mexico speak English

Just to clarify, the state that is in the top half of the Baja peninsula is called Baja California, and the southern state is called Baja California Sur. The split is just north of Guerro Negro (on the pacific coast).

Guererro Negro map location

Most northern areas of the Baja peninsula are used to US visitors coming to visit Baja either for day trips, weekends, or short RV camping trips.

San Felipe, Baja is on the Sea of Cortez (East side of the peninsula) and only 122 miles (197km) from Mexicali, California.

Ensenada on the west coast is 71 miles (114km) south of Mexicali.

With that in mind, most businesses who serve tourists (Restaurants, RV parks, hotels with space for RV camping) know enough English to help them order food, pay their bills, and find the bathroom.

Even the guards at military checkpoints and border agents that you’ll find along the way often know enough English for a smooth border crossing from north to south or between counties.

In San Felipe (the first stop on our Baja RV Adventure), we went out for fish tacos, and our friend stumbled through her order in Spanish when the server said to her, “Wow, you must have been practicing your Spanish. That was really good,” in perfect English.

We all laughed at the irony.

Speaking Spanish at a restaurant in Baja Mexico
Enjoying spicy jalapenos and practicing our Spanish at a restaurant in Baja Mexico


Businesses in Northern Baja and Southern Baja Speak English – Not as much in the middle

Restaurants, hotels, gas stations, grocery stores, and border crossings in the north expect visitors from the United States. They want your business, so they’re happy to speak English. I’m sure it’s also the same for the northern sections of mainland Mexico.

Visitors in La Paz or Los Cabos areas expect visitors to fly in. In our experience, the least English is spoken in the middle section between San Felipe and La Paz.

A map of the Baja peninsula
Our route from San Felipe to Los Cabos on the Baja Peninsula

The two major cities between San Felipe and La Paz are Guerro Negro (hailed as the best grey whale watching in Baja between November and March) and Loreto, a common stopover for RVers traveling south.

Both Guerro Negro and Loreto have people in hospitality roles who speak English, but it’s just as likely you’ll be ordering or working out details for your RV park stay in Spanish – probably a 50% split.


Some Basic Spanish You’ll Need To RV in Baja California

We use the DuoLingo iPhone App to learn Spanish as a family (and as part of our boys’ homeschooling).

DuoLingo to learn spanish
We use Duolingo to learn Spanish

The app is helpful if you’d like to learn to be conversational in Spanish, want to eventually immigrate to Baja Mexico, or if you’re going to stay in small towns along the way and navigate all of the local restaurants.

For practical needs to get by RVing in the Baja, a few things will help you cover your bases.


Using Google Translate App

You can use the Google translate app set to ‘From English to Spanish.” This will do exactly what it says and translate whatever you speak into the app into writing, and then you can show your phone screen to whoever you’re speaking with.

The Google Translate app is so well known in Baja that the person you’re talking to will then speak into the app in Spanish, so it translates back to English.

This is our go-to if we can’t find the words – it’s easier than charades.

Google translate app for buying tacos in Baja

You can also download Spanish for offline translation, so you’re not dependent on having a cell service when you need a translation while beach camping halfway down the Baja.

We still like to know a bit of functional Spanish so we don’t have to pull out our phones when arriving at RV parks or when someone wanders by our RV selling fresh tamales.

We watched people pulling a big rig into a tiny village gas station, and I’m sure the last thing you want to do at that point is mess with your phone to translate “Fill up please.”


Here are a few Spanish Phrases that have helped our Baja RV Adventure go smoothly:

How do you say please and thank you in Spanish?

Please = Por Favor

Thank you = Gracias

Like in English, please and thank you go a long way. You may not know enough Spanish to ask someone to hold the door for you, but if they open it while your hands are full of tacos, a “Gracias” is fitting.


How do you say Yes and No in Spanish?

Yes = Ci (see)

No = No

Sometimes in English we’ll say “No” to mean “Without” – like coffee without sugar = Coffee, no sugar.

In Spanish, without is “sin” = Coffee without sugar = Cafe sin azucar.

“With” is con – you might ask at RV parks for a site with water = espacio con agua por favor? (a space with water, please?)


Learn to say the numbers 1-10 in Spanish


0=cero (Serro)

1= uno (Oo-no)

2= dos (dose)

3=tres (trace)

4=quatro (Coo-ah-tro)

5=cinco (sink-oh)

6=sies (sace – like ‘face’ with an s)

7= siete (See-et-ay)

8 = ocho (Oh-cho)

9=nueve (noo-ev-ay)

10= diez (dee-ace)

This helps request a table for two or telling your server how many tacos you’d like (I usually hold of fingers anyway), and if you need larger numbers, you can say 2-6 instead of needing to know how to say “Twenty-six”

Add on “Cientos” (see-en-toes) to say “Hundred.” Dos cientos (Dose see-en-tos) = Two hundred. Since the conversion rate is significant in Mexico, 200 pesos is around $10 USD, so “cientos” is common in pricing.

RVing on Santispak Beach, Baja Mexico
That’s us over on the far right. There’s room to join us in Baja!

Spanish words that are helpful for RV Camping in Baja Mexico

Water = Agua

Dump Station = estación de descarga

Electricity = Electricidad

Site (Space) = Espacio

If you’re looking for an RV space with water, electricity, and sewer = Espacio Con Agua, electricidad, y albanal por favor?

If you have solar panels and batteries and are looking to save a few pesos (to spend on tacos instead) then you might say “Espacio sin electricidad, por favor.” (A space without electricity please).

[In that case, if you don’t have air conditioning, you might find these ideas helpful: How to keep your RV cool]

Bathroom = Banos

Propane = Propano

Store = Tienda

Because they’re expecting English speakers to come RV camping, they’re really understanding if your pronunciation is off or not exactly accurate – they’re happy you’re choosing their business during your visit to Baja Mexico and pleased to help.


How do you say Day & Night in Spanish?

Day = Dias (Dee-as)

Night = Noches (No-chess)

If you’re going to say for three nights at an RV park in Baja, Mexico you would say = “Tres noches, por favor”


All gas stations in Mexico are full-serve. Here’s what to expect at a gas station in Baja Mexico:

Pull up to the pump and put your window down. Someone will come over to pump your gas for you.

If you need a fill-up, “full” is “Lleno (ye-no – the double LL is pronounced like a ‘y’) so you can say “Lleno, Por favor” (full, please)

If you don’t need a fill and just want to put in a set number of pesos, then you might say Five Hundred Pesos Please (About $25 USD) = Cinco Cientos Pesos Por Favor.

They will ask you to look at the pump to see that it’s reset to ‘0’ and point to it and say “Cero” – reply ‘ok’ or ‘ci’.

Unfortunately, some gas attendants will pump a jerry can of gas before you pull in, then hope you don’t notice as they put the nozzle in your vehicle and keep pumping, so you end up paying for what went into the can as well as what when into your gas tank.

If you see the pump isn’t at zero, politely say “Cero, por favor”

It’s now common practice that they ask you to check for zeros on the pump and that you acknowledge them before they start pumping.

When they’re finished pumping and ring through your credit card, it’s customary to give a tip – 20 or 30 pesos is sufficient (1-2 dollars) and we usually tip a bit more (50 pesos – around $3) if they wash the windows compared to just standing at the pump.


How do you say, “How much does this cost?” in Spanish?

How much does this cost? = Cuánto cuesta?

Locals will often come by to sell their wares when you’re at an RV park or dry camping at the beach. Sometimes this is fresh fruit, tamales, pastries, bread, fish or shrimp, wood carvings, sunglasses, or blankets.

If you’re interested, ask how much does this cost = Cuánto cuesta?

If you don’t understand their answer, then they’ll often bend down and draw the number in the sand to help you know.


Will Sales People On Baja Beaches Pressure You To Buy?

If you’re not interested in what someone sells on a beach in Baja, say, “No, gracias” (No, thank you), and they’ll often move on to the next person.

We haven’t felt any pressure or safety concerns from the salespeople wandering the beautiful beaches in Baja Mexico, and they’re quick to move on to the next person with a kind “No, gracias.”


Learn common Spanish phrases you’ll probably use RV camping in Baja Mexico

If you have certain food you’ll probably want or don’t want, then learn how to ask about those:

Solo Vegetales = Only Vegetables

Cafe con hielo y leche sin azucar = Coffee with ice and milk, without sugar (this would me my order)

Picante o no picante? = Spicy or not spicy?

Azucar = Sugar

Leche = Milk

Queso = Cheese

Pollo (poyo) = Chicken

Res = Pork

Carne = Meat


How Much Spanish Do I Need To Know to RV in Baja Mexico?

Instead of trying to learn all of the language, learn the parts that you’ll most likely use and rely on Google Translate for everything else.

The locals are happy that tourists are supporting their economy and couldn’t be happier to try and understand you in any way they can, whether you’re staying at RV campgrounds or Baja bound for beach camping.

If you’re heading to Baja and you might choose to go beach camping without electrical hookups (and air conditioning) or you want your a/c to be ass efficient as possible, you might find these tips helpful: 17 tips to keep your RV cool.

Enjoy Baja!

Celine on a hike near Balandra Beach
Celine looking over Balandra Beach, Baja, Mexico


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