During the trip in Baja California through the mythical Highway 1, you will find different military checkpoints. Its objective is obviously not to annoy or scare travelers, but to have control of the territory.
When you start the journey, you will soon find a sign indicating one of these controls within walking distance.
The number of these checkpoints usually varies during the year, but generally, on the highway from Tijuana to Cabo San Lucas, there are 6.
As you approach the first one, you will see young boys in military clothing and armed with automatic rifles and you will quickly realize that these boys (some seem so young that they could still go to school) carry out their work very seriously.
They often recognize travelers and will let you pass without checking, but otherwise don’t panic. If the officer on duty orders you to stop, stop the vehicle and roll down the window. If it happens at night, turn on the interior lights so that they can have a good view inside the car. It is a good time to remember the motto of an old song: smile and the world will smile with you.
Soldiers are trained to be nice but firm to tourists. The conversation will inevitably be in Spanish and usually the first question will be “¿Habla español?” (“Do you speak Spanish?”) If you don’t speak Spanish, you can try to explain yourself in English or Italian. They might also ask you “A dónde va?” (“Where are you going”) or ” De donde viene?” (“Where are you coming from?”)
If the officer asks you to inspect the vehicle, they will ask you to get out of the car in order to do so.
If this happens, a line will form behind you, so the faster everything goes, the happier everyone will be.
They will wait for you to open the trunk or the back door to be able to inspect what is inside. They can also check the glove compartment, look under the seats or open the suitcases.
These military points may seem intimidating to first-time travelers to Mexico, but they are necessary for the control of illegal activities carried out by the Mexican government. It is evident that possessing narcotic substances or weapons is illegal in Mexico.
My experience is that having a non-confrontational attitude and a good smile will make everyone feel comfortable, and you will be pleasantly surprised by how friendly and professional these young people can be.
Keep in mind that all this control operation does not usually last more than ten minutes and that soon, you will be able to calmly continue with your trip through Baja California.