Visit for shopping, great deals on cocktails or to simply soak up the Latin vibe
As the border of Mexico is less than 20 miles from downtown San Diego, millions of people travel to Tijuana from the Californian city annually to visit family or shop.
The easiest way to get to the border is by the San Diego trolley and then walk through the checkpoint.
How to get there
Trolley: From downtown San Diego, a trip to the Mexican border takes around 45 minutes on the Imperial Way blue line.
The blue line travels throughout downtown San Diego and connects to the city’s other green and orange lines.
To get to Tijuana, hop on the blue line at any station going south toward San Ysidro. You will take the line all the way to the end and get off at San Ysidro.
The trolley departs every 15-20 minutes. A one-way fare costs $2.50.
The last trolley departs San Ysidro at 12:58am.
Drive: Head to the Pedwest crossing that is a pedestrian-only crossing but has a paid parking area nearby. Pedwest is open from 6.00am – 10.00pm. PedWest (also called pedestrian West at El Chaparral) and PedEast are closest to the main tourist areas of Tijuana.
If you decide to drive across the border, there are 24 lanes. Drive south on Interstate Highway 5.
Buses with more than 21 passengers have separate designated lanes.
Crossing the border
Once you arrive in San Ysidro, take the short walk to the Mexican border. There will be signs in both English and Spanish guiding the way to the swivel gates and Mexican custom lines that lead to Tijuana.
The Mexican Immigration Department has a checkpoint where your passport will be checked.
You may be charged for a visa depending on how long you plan to stay.
Note: It is fairly quick to enter Mexico but crossing the border back into the US can take a while – sometimes a couple of hours. Therefore, make sure to plan this into your trip. Be sure to get into the right lane also. Stay up-to-date with border wait times here.
TIP: The Cross Border Xpress is a bridge exclusively for Tijuana International Airport passengers who cross the border between US and Mexico. One round trip costs around $30.
Do you need a passport?
A US citizen can visit Mexico for 72 hours or less without visas, but they need proof of citizenship when they return eg, a passport.
Other nationals will need to take their passport to enter the country and exit.
Be sure your passport is valid for at least one month past your travel date.
Pedestrians crossing into Tijuana at the San Ysidro crossing need to complete a Mexico Visitor’s Permit (FMM ‒ free if the trip is 7 days or less and you cross by land) and present a passport. The FMM is a simple form, you can acquire one at all land border crossings.
When crossing back into San Diego by foot, US customs will check your passport and question what you have bought or carrying into the US. Gifts and personal items acquired in Mexico whose value exceeds the $800 exemption must be declared. Some fresh vegetables and cut flowers are prohibited.
Things to see
If you arrive in Tijuana by foot, you will walk along a walkway that goes over four lanes of traffic coming in and out of Mexico. This is quite something to see and provides excellent photo opportunities.
This distinctive area offers a range of restaurants, bars and shops, presenting a taste of Mexican culture. Many of the restaurants offer meal and drink deals.
A traditional characteristic on Avenida Revolucion is the many artisan crafts shops with some items produced by Tijuana natives. Sellers accept US dollars.
Also known as Millennium Arch or Monumental Clock, this famous symbol of Tijuana can be seen from different parts of the city. It is located at the beginning of Avenida Revolución and is within walking distance from the Mexican and US border.
The banderas monumentales (monumental flags) are situated all around Mexico. In Tijuana, you can see the huge flag blustering in the wind on Brazil St between Huitztlac St and Xochitl St. It’s just a few blocks over from Avenida Revolución. The flag can also been seen from the US border side.
Catedral de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe
This modern Catholic church is situated downtown just a few blocks from Avenida Revolución, this church, offering tranquillity from the busy, beeping streets.
The Cathedral is open Tuesday to Saturday from 9.00am – 5.00pm and Sunday 9.00am – 1.00pm.
TIP: When hailing a taxi, avoid using the yellow ones, which are unregulated. Taxi Libre (white-and-orange) have regulated fares.
Checking out C & J.