Driving the Baja Peninsula: Traveling Mexico's Highway 1
Driving the Baja Peninsula
One thousand miles separate the adventurous spirit from the border crossing at Tijuana to their final destination of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. For the traveler that has never made this journey, the task of navigating this trek can be daunting. The drive can be both rewarding and enriching if they just follow a few simple rules.
Highway 1 stretches from Tijuana to the tip of Baja California Sur. It is a relatively narrow road that spans desert, mountains, the Pacific Ocean, and the Sea of Cortez. Frequented by large semis and Baja aficionados, the road has been paved since 1973.
No one should travel south of the border without insurance. Mexican car insurance can be bought just North of the border in Otay Mesa. Car insurance is required by Mexican law, so it is a good idea to spend the money and buy a policy before your journey.
Anyone traveling South of Ensenada must get a tourist Visa. These can be bought immediately after crossing the border in Tijuana, and as of this writing the fee is roughly $20. Your tourist Visa will be checked at the midway point between Tijuana and Cabo San Lucas, in Guerrero Negro, and you will run into trouble if you do not have one.
Speaking of checkpoints, there are several military stops along the highway. At most of these checkpoints, you will be asked to get out of your car for a revision. Mexico has installed these stations in order to try and decrease the trafficking of drugs and guns in their country and to the United States. The young military men are usually friendly, and if you cooperate you should not have any problems.
The government run gas stations, Pemex, exist in almost every town. They are an easily recognizable green color, and are usually located right off of the main highway. It is recommended that you never pass one up if your gas gage is less than half full. This will ensure that you don't run out of gas in between towns.
Whether you are traveling North or South, one of the biggest dangers you will face come not from cars, but from animals. Any Baja Californian worth their salt will advise you never to drive after the sun goes down. Several ranches border Highway 1, and cows and horses often walk onto the road at night. There are many collisions each year, and these can be life-threatening.
If you time it right, the journey from Tijuana to Los Cabos can be almost as fun as the destination. If you travel during daylight hours, make sure to gas up at the right locations, and obey the laws, you are sure to have a safe a safe and soul-enriching trip.