Mexico for the Full Time RV’er

Over the last month or so I have been quite tied up getting some more Personal Development training, and preparing for a trip to Mexico. Hence I have not been able to do much about updating my blog. But now we are comfortably settled in Mexico for a month, and the company that was with us for a week has left. This will allow me to get back into doing some more blogging, and other writing.

We did not take the RV down with us this time since I only had about 6 weeks total to do this trip. Instead we took down our 4 wheel drive Mazda van so we could make some really good time getting here.

We have rented a bungalow in La Cruz which is on the south side of the bay of Banderis, and overlooks all of Bucerais and Puerto Vallarta. We have a million dollar view from here for about $25. per day.

View of Puerto Vallarta From Our Bungalow

View of Puerto Vallarta From Our Bungalow

The property we are on has about 6 RV spots also available, but they are all empty right now. You can see them in the bottom right of the photo. We also checked a number of the RV parks on the way down, and most of them were either empty, or only had a few RV’s in them.

For an RV’er a holiday in Mexico would be a real bargain right now. To give you a bit of perspective, it cost us $450 in fuel for our 20 mile per gallon vehicle to get here all the way from Vancouver British Columbia. In a 10 mile per gallon RV it would cost less than $1000. But most RV’ers would not have to come near as far.

Mexican Insurance for 6 months cost us $89. and in most cases you can get a rebate from your US or Canadian insurance provider for the time that you were in Mexico, and they were not covering you. The rebate is usually much more than the Mexican insurance cost you in the first place.

The only other real expense will be highway tolls, but that only works out to a couple of hundred dollars total for the round trip.

RV park prices are all over the map, but except for in the big cities are much more reasonable than in the US or Canada. Monthly rates of $300 or less are common away from the big cities. You usually are still more than close enough to go the the big cities to visit the Costco, Sam’s Club, or WalMart.

For the first timer traveling to Mexico in an RV it may be a bit daunting, but rest assured it is very safe. In fact it is statistically much safer than the USA and actually even Canada. Right now the USA is on the list of some of the most dangerous countries in the world to travel in.

If you are a first time RV’er I would recommend crossing at Nogales Arizona and taking the freeway down towards Mazatalan and Puerto Vallarta. Get a good map such as the Guia Roji which is available at amazon, and a copy of Mike and Terry Church’s book “Mexican Camping” which lists all the RV parks in Mexico along with directions to get there.

Cross at the truck crossing at Nogales and proceed south about 12 miles to the customs and immigration center. Here you will have to get a temporary import permit for any vehicles you are bringing into Mexico. You will have to leave a credit card imprint for any vehicle you bring in. Also one person cannot bring in two vehicles. If you are bringing in a Motor Home towing a car, each vehicle has to be in a different name, and the person who’s name is on the registration has to be present, with a credit card with their name on it. The name on the credit card has to match the name on the registration. This rule does not apply to motorcyles and quads that are under 250 cc.

The reason you leave a credit card impression is that if you do not get the vehicle out of Mexico within 6 months your credit card will be charged with import duty for the vehicle. You do not have to worry though since you will be given a receipt when you return out of Mexico to prove that you have taken the vehicle out of the country.

You will also have to have about 250 Mexican Pesos per person with you to pay for your tourist visas at this time. You can buy Mexican pesos in Nogales USA or you can go into Nogales Mexico and get Pesos from almost any bank machine. This is the best way to get money in Mexico since you will be getting the bank rate for that day, and not getting charged a commission by a money exchange. Do not even bother with travelers checks  since they are a real pain to cash in Mexico. Get enough cash to pay for your diesel or gas at gas stations, since most do not take credit cards.

I have gone into quite a bit more detail on what you need to know to enter Mexico in my book “Full Time in an RV“. To try and put down all that information here would make the post too long. There are also other good guides for entering and traveling in Mexico. Among them Mike and Terry’s book Mexican Camping which I have already mentioned, and also the website “On The Road In

So if you have not done so before, take the plunge. The people are great, the roads are good, there are many good RV parks, and your money is worth a lot here right now.

Enjoy

Texting from your email while Full Timing.

Here I am writing about Texting, when this is an RV Full Time website. But texting can become a large part of the RV Lifestyle. You want to text your kids, your parent, or your friends that you have arrived safely. You want to coordinate a meet. You want to ask a quick question and the list goes on. The problem is that many people still do not have a smart phone with a keyboard, so they are stuck trying to type on the dial pad of a regular cell phone.

Well there is an easier way. You can text to almost any phone from your email program. When you get to that RV park, and you have your computer connected to the WiFi or your satellite Internet system, you can quickly send text messages to as many phones as you want. You can also send the same message to multiple phones all at the same time.

The way you do this is to put the 10 digit phone number in the “To” line along with the routing for the particular cell company that the owner of the phone you are sending to is using.

For example I use Telus. To send a text message to a cell phone on the Telus network with the number 604 555 1212, you would type in 6045551212@msg.telus.com. To send to multiple phones you just have to put the multiple phone addresses in the to line just like you do email addresses. In fact you can send the same messages to regular email addresses mixed in with the phone addresses.

You have to keep the message short, usually 80 characters or less including the subject. Some phones will accept larger messages, but 80 was about all my phone would accept, longer messages were split into multiple messages.

You also want to turn off any signatures that you may have set up in your email software, and another thing you can do is set the email software to send text only instead of HTML. In many cases you can put the names of your friends and relatives in your contacts, or address book, and put their cell phone address in as one of their email addresses. Then in their card in your contacts there is usually a place where you can specify to send text only to this particular recipient.

If you cannot set up your email program for text only, don’t worry, because it usually only means that a few extra characters are sent, which means your message has to be a few characters shorter.

If you follow this link, you will find a list of addresses for different cell phone providers. If you do not see the provider you want, you can usually find them by  typing “email to text message provider” into Google or Yahoo, where provider is the cell provider you are looking for.

Where I have used this when we are out in our RV  is to let someone know that an important email is waiting. I will send them the email, and since I am already sitting at the computer, I will text their phone to let them know about the email.

Your kids or grand kids will be amazed that you can text their phones, even though you have never texted before.

There is only one caveat to this, and that is the fact that on most systems, the people who you are texting cannot reply back to your computer. They have to reply to your cell phone. But if you let all the recipients know this in one of your first texts to them you should be fine. You could send them a text to the effect of  “Please send all responses to ##########. The #’s being your own cell phone number.

This is just one more of those little things that make the Full Time RV Lifestyle more pleasurable, knowing you can stay in touch more easily.

WiFi for the Full Time RV’er

Almost anyone who has been around a computer has heard about WiFi (Wireless Fidelity). Some of us know of WiFi as Hot Spots. Many companies set up these WiFi hot spots to attract customers, think Starbucks and similar places. What these businesses hope for is that you will come in to use the hot spot and spend money in their premises as you are doing so.

Hot spots can be found in many places such as coffee shops, restaurants, truck stops, and most importantly to the full time RV’er, RV parks.

Hot spots allow you the full timer to get on the internet, usually for free. If you need to check email, or work at your business, they are the literal cats meow. Usually the connections are quite good, and they are usually high speed.

To make your WiFi experience better it helps to know a few things. First of all most RV parks now have WiFi, if not you can usually find it at a nearby business. If you are checking into an RV park one of the things you will want to do is ask about the WiFi. You will want to know if there is a password required, and also where the actual WiFi antennas are.

One of the problems that happen is RV park WiFi systems is the fact that they are often installed by the RV park owners, and not by professionals. What the biggest problems is, is that they use home type equipment instead of professional equipment. This equipment is usually very low power and only has a very short range. So if you are not within 2 or 3 hundred feet of the transmitting antenna, you may not be able to get a connection.

If you can see the actual antennas you can see if they are in a vertical or horizontal position. If they are vertical, you can park in almost any direction from the antenna, but if the antennas are horizontal, you will want a spot that is broadside to the antenna. Also in most computers the WiFi antenna is built into the lid of the computer, and will be vertical when the lid of the computer is up. To get around this you can buy external WiFi units that have an antenna that can be rotated from vertical to horizontal. You want your antenna to be parallel to the parks antenna. Broadside to broadside.

If the park has panel type antennas, you do not have to worry about polarity. The panel type antennas transmit in both polarities. But you still want to be in front of the antenna as they are directional, and most of the power comes off the front flat side of the antenna.

You can get much better results by using a high gain antenna connected to your computer.

High gain WiFi Marine Antenna by Radio Labs

High gain WiFi Marine Antenna by Radio Labs

In the picture on the right you will see a high gain antenna by Radio Labs. They claim up to 1 mile for this antenna but that is usually only under ideal conditions. But you will definitely get much better range than with your built in WiFi antenna.

Click on the picture to get to the radio lab site and get more information.

Mounting this antenna on your RV will get you above the neighboring RV’s and usually a clear path to the Parks or Truck Stops WiFi system.

I have gone into this subject much deeper in my book “Full Time in an RV”. It would take 3 or 4 posts on this blog to cover all this information.

As opposed to the cellular and satellite Internet systems that I discussed in earlier posts, WiFi is usually free but is much more limited in area. If you are running a business out of your RV that depends on an Internet connection, the cellular or satellite Internet systems are definitely the way to go, but if all you need Internet for is the occasional email and a bit of web surfing, WiFi will probably meet your needs.

Satellite internet for the Full Time RV’er

Fully Automatic Satellite Internet System

Fully Automatic Satellite Internet System

Staying in touch is important to the full time RV’er. In my last post I talked about internet through your cell phone. In this post I am going to touch on Satellite internet. The attached photo shows a fully automatic RV mounted satellite internet system. The part of the system you can not see is the receiver and the satellite dish control. These systems are great because you can have internet access in your RV literally anywhere. About the only things that can hamper you are if you have a man made structure, tree or mountain in the way. But the coverage area is much greater than the cellular coverage that I talked about in the last post. As most of you know there are still a number of areas where there is no cellular. Quite often these are the remote areas where you want to spend time in your RV. If you are running a business out of your RV you want “always on” internet.

The beauty of these systems is that about all you have to do after you park your rig and opened that beer or bottle of wine, is push a button. The dish automatically aligns itself with the satellite and you are ready to go. The receiver inside also is set up like any ADSL or Cable modem in that it has an RJ type output that you can plug into a wireless router. That way you can take your computer outside, and if you use one of the higher power wireless systems that I will talk about in future posts, you can go a long way away from your RV and still be on line. Imagine being out on that lake fly fishing, and your significant other is in the boat beside you busy answering email or blogging.

You can also get fully manual internet satellite systems. These are actually made for fixed operation like at a permanent home or a business. The receiver is the same, so you can still plug in your wireless router. The advantage to these systems is they are a lot cheaper. About $1500 as compared to $5000 for the fully automatic one. Setting up a manual satellite dish is not that difficult, and there are signal strength meters available that make it very easy. Its a bit more time consuming than just pressing a button, but saves you a lot of money.

Once you own either one of these systems, about all you will be paying for is the access fees. From the last figures I heard were about $60 per month for unlimited use. You also get email boxes and most of the other goodies you would get from an internet provider. There are also lease options available so you can pay for your manual dish, and service, instead of the large up front payment for the dish. I have not been able to find a lease plan for the automatic dish, but they may be available.

The speeds for satellite internet seem to be about 1 megabit download, and 128 kilobit upload. The download speed is about the equivalent of ADSL light, and the upload speed is about twice as fast as the fastest dialup. You can get faster plans, but at a price of course.

As I mentioned in my earlier post, you may be paying a bit more for internet than you used to in your old house or apartment, but with the full time RV lifestyle you will be giving up a lot of your other bills so this one bill should should stop you from pursuing your dream of full timing.

A lot of good information can be found at the following website

http://www.nationwidesatellite.com

Internet Access in your RV Via Cell Phone

Laptop Tethered to a Cell Phone

Laptop Tethered to a Cell Phone to allow you internet access in your RV

In my last post I mentioned that you can run a business while full timing it. Well the first obvious question is, how do I stay in touch, and how do I get internet access into my RV? For most people the obvious answer to staying in touch would be a cell phone. Some will think it is expensive, but if you are moving into a Full Time RV lifestyle, you will soon find that many of the other bills such as power, water, cable, phone, property taxes etc, are now gone. So having to pay a bit more for your cell phone is really not a problem.

The other question regarding how to have internet access in your RV also has a number of possible methods, but right now I am only going to discuss one, and that is internet via Cell Phone. Yes you read that right, Internet via Cell Phone.

As you can see in the photo, it is possible to tether your cell phone to your computer. On newer phones this can be done via BlueTooth instead of a cable. You will need to add internet access to your cell phone account with your cell phone provider. These plans are quite resonable, and will usually give you about 3 to 5 gigabytes of data per month for about $50. This is usually plenty for most people as long as you do not start downloading movies etc. Being on line does not affect your on line minutes account, you can be on line as long as you want for the same $50 per month.

Many of the cell phone companies are now upgrading to 3G, 3.5G and 4G technologies which will give down and upload speeds of up to 5 or 6 megabits per second, which means that your can have faster internet speeds in your RV than many ADSL home internet connections.

So now you can have internet in your RV, where ever you have cell service. It is a good idea to go with a national provider since living a mobile lifestyle you will want to be able to move around and not incur roaming charges.

Also available from cell phone companies is a small unit that plugs into the PCI slot or into a USB port which is basically a cell phone. These will allow you to keep your cell phone free to make calls while also connected to the internet via cellular.

In my book “Full Time in an RV” I also talk about how you can add an antenna to many cell phones. These antennas can be mounted on the top of your RV. This allows you to take your full time RV lifestyle even further out into the wilderness, out onto that beach in Mexico, or that fly fishing lake in Canada.