All About Baja - Travel Guide to Baja, Mexico
 

Driving in Baja
Baja Mexico travel guide.
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A typical section of road in north Baja.

 

Beautiful coastline north of Ensenada.
The toll road between Tijuana and Ensenada.

Always watch for animals on the road!
A common sight along the Baja highway.

 

 



Approching some incredible beaches south of Mulege.
Highway 1 just south of Mulegé, going to Loreto.

The old Baja highway was really rugged!
A section of the old road (No thanks).

Driving in Baja can be one of the most rewarding means of travel.  It can also be, if one is not careful and alert, somewhat dangerous.  It is very difficult to get lost once you are out of the border area, as there are only five main (nationally numbered) highways along the entire length of the peninsula.   

The main highway, México 1, runs the whole length of the peninsula, from Tijuana to Cabo San Lucas.  This 1058 mile highway is mostly well paved but is in a constant state of repair.  While this is the most highly traveled tourist route, it is also the main route for the large trucks that bring most of the supplies from the border area to the southern regions of Baja.

México 2 (and 2D, a toll road out of Tijuana that connects with highway 2 near Tecate) )runs from Tijuana to the East through Tecate and on to Mexicali. It then continues across the Sonora desert and ends up connecting with México 15, north of Hermosillo, on the Mexican mainland.

México 3 runs south from Tecate through the hilly  northern wine country and connects with highway 1 just north of Ensenada.  The second part of highway 3 goes across the the mountains (out of Ensenada) to the east through Ojos Negros and Valle Trinidad to finally connect with México 5, on the Sea on Cortez, approximately thirty miles north of San Felipe.

Mexico 11, is actually an extension of the main seaside boulevard (Malecón) in La Paz and continues to the north, out of La Paz, ending at the ferry terminal (ferries to Mazatlan and Topolobampo on the Mexican mainland) at Pichilingue.  This highway (really just a road) travels along the Bay of La Paz and passes by some very beautiful beaches and coves.  

México 19 is in the far south of the peninsula, and branches off highway 1, 16 miles south of La Paz, and provides a shortcut to Los Cabos, through the charming town of Todos Santos.  Stay on México 1 to get to the beaches and resorts of the East Cape area and San Joe del Cabo.

You will need to obtain a tourist permit (FMM) if you are planning on driving south of Ensenada or San Felipe on the eastern coast.

Although driving in Baja can be very rewarding, and mostly trouble free, it comes with a few warnings that need to be heeded, also a few surprises.  The first and most important warning is that night driving is to be avoided by almost everyone.  The second (and equally as important) - get a Mexican Insurance policy before you cross the border!  Third (and equally important, again) drive at a reasonable speed.  Pretty easy rules for a safe trip, if you follow them you should be OK.

 

You may find cows (and other animals) on the road, slow moving vehicles (sometimes with no lights). The road is pretty narrow and has little to no shoulder in most places.  These are the factors that make night driving a big No-No, especially if you have not made this drive numerous times.  This means that you should carefully plan your trip to make sure that you arrive at your planned destination of the day, before nightfall.

Some other surprises can be the lack of gas (less of a problem these days), slow trucks in the mountainous areas, flooded sections of the road (usually in the summer) or long waits for construction crews to finish a section of work.  The road  has a tendency to be very twisty in places.  Somewhat lengthy (not always) random vehicle checks by the army or federal police, designed to prevent the flow of arms and drugs, can also make for a longer (time wise) drive than you had originally planned for. 

Watch out for topes!  Topes are speed bumps which may or may not have been placed by the proper authorities.  Some cities, even individuals, will place them on the road illegally, to control the speed of vehicles in their area.  If you hit them at speed, it can be bad and may even damage your car.  Most (legal topes) are marked with signs, or are painted yellow or white.

Don't let any of this discourage you from driving in Baja.  The scenery can be absolutely incredible and the locals are some of the most friendly people on the face of this earth.  There are endless stories of the locals appearing out of nowhere to repair cars, help with tire changes, provide gas, oil or other needed items.

Also on the positive side is the fact that all main highways are patrolled by the Green Angels, a branch of the tourism department that was created especially to help travelers with vehicle problems.  They carry gas, oil, tools, and other necessities and provide service to anyone who needs help along the highway.  The Green Angels only patrol during the daylight hours.

If you choose to drive you will be treated to some of the most spectacular scenery you could ever imagine. Driving in Baja Part 2 - Click Here

For a more detailed driving report - Tijuana to Cabo - go to our All About Cabo site.

See also:
Baja Maps
Baja Mileage Chart

Is Baja safe?

How do I get to Baja?
Driving to Baja?  Be well prepared...The List.
Tijuana border crossing map.
Driving in Baja Videos

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