The Mexican currency is called the peso, which is abbreviated as MXN and uses the same symbol ($) as the U.S. dollar. It’s printed in denominations of Mex$20, Mex$50, Mex$100, Mex$200, and Mex$500. There are also 5, 10, 20, and 50 centavo coins and Mex$1, Mex$2, Mex$5, Mex$10, Mex$20, and Mex$100 coins. If you see the abbreviation m.n. next to a price, it stands for moneda nacional (national money), which is another term for pesos.
U.S. currency is accepted in many places on the peninsula, but you may not always get the current market exchange rate. It’s better to bring an ATM card and withdraw pesos from a Mexican bank when you arrive. You can also use a major credit card at many businesses in the larger towns and cities.
If you need to exchange currency, banks offer the best rates but have limited hours (in the mornings only).
Tips of 10–15 percent are the norm at restaurants, unless a service charge appears on the bill. Tip bellhops about US$2, maids US$2–5/day, and Pemex attendants US$1 if they wash your windows or check your oil.
Standard business hours for small businesses in Baja are 9 A.M.–2 P.M. and 4 or 5 P.M. until 7 or 8 P.M. Monday–Friday. Many open on Saturday as well. Government offices are generally open 8:30 A.M.–3:30 P.M., although hours do vary day to day.
Banks are usually open 8:30 A.M.–3 P.M. Monday–Friday, but the foreign exchange service usually closes around noon.
Mexico’s national Secretaría de Turismo (SECTUR) has an office in La Paz that distributes free brochures, maps, hotel and restaurant lists, and information on local activities (Km. 5–6, Mexico 1 or Abasolo, tel. 612/124-0100, toll-free Mex. tel. 800/903-9200, toll-free U.S. tel. 800/482-9832, www.sectur.gob.mx ). It’s located outside town on the way to the airport and the Fidepaz marina.
SECTUR maintains the Mexican Tourism Board (www.visitmexico.com ) offices in the United States and other countries to market the country’s tourist destinations.
A few Baja-specific travel clubs offer information, services, and discounts to members. For example, Discover Baja Travel Club (3089 Clairemont Dr., San Diego, CA 92117, U.S. tel. 619/275-1836 or 800/727-2252, www.discoverbaja.com , US$39/yr.) has a conveniently located San Diego office, which many members visit for the latest information before entering Baja.
The best road map currently available for the Baja Peninsula is the Baja Almanac for US$24.95 (www.baja  almanac.com). Our copy was the talk of the plane on a recent flight to Loreto.
National Geographic Baja North and Baja South Baja Adventure Travel Map (www.natgeomaps.com , US$19.95) are printed on waterproof, tear-resistant paper and feature insets of the larger cities, with most of the popular dive, fishing, sailing, and surfing locations identified. We used these maps for much of the research for the last edition and found them to be a significant improvement over previously published maps by AAA and ITM.
Guia Roji (www.guiaroji.com.mx ), the largest map publisher in Mexico, publishes city maps (scale 1:20,000) for Tijuana (2007, US$11.95) and La Paz (hasn’t been updated since 2004), plus state maps for Baja California Sur (scale 1:350,000) and Baja California (Norte) (scale 1:1,000,000). The complete 2008–09 Mexico Tourist Road Atlas (English edition, paperback, US$38.95) is invaluable for extended trips that include the mainland.
For serious off-road exploration, topographic maps are essential. Order them before your trip, unless you’re going to be in the La Paz area, where the Instituto Nacional de Estadística Geografía e Informática (INEGI, in Plaza Cuatro Molinos at Altamirano 2790, Col. Centro, tel. 612/123-1545 or 612/122-4146, www.inegi.gob.mx ) sells them.
Mexico uses the metric system for measuring weights, volumes, temperature, and distances. Driving directions are given in kilometers (1 km is 0.6 mi), meat is bought by the kilo (1 kg is 2.2 lbs.), temperature is measured in degrees Celsius (27°C is 80°F), and Pemex stations sell gas by the liter (1 liter is 0.26 gallons).
In this book, distances are given in kilometers. Most other measurements are given in the metric system, except for boat lengths and fishing-line tests, which are given in feet and pounds in Baja.
Baja California (Norte) follows Pacific time, whereas Baja California Sur follows Mountain time. Don’t forget to adjust your clocks when you cross the state line. Daylight saving time takes effect in both states from the first Sunday in April to the last Sunday in October.
Mexico uses the same electrical system as the United States and Canada: 110 volts, 60 cycles, and alternating current (AC). U.S.-style outlets work with appliances that have standard double-bladed plugs. This means you can recharge your electronics without bringing an adapter.