You may be going to another country when you visit Tijuana, but you won’t be going far from San Diego. In fact, it's only 15 miles from downtown San Diego to the border crossing.
Crossing the U.S.-Mexico border to visit Tijuana doesn't have to be a frustrating, confusing experience. In fact, it's dead easy if you know a few things before you go and take the right stuff with you.
Where to Cross the US-Mexico Border to Tijuana
If you take the San Diego Trolley to the border, use the San Ysidro crossing. You can also drive or take a rideshare to the Pedwest Crossing. Detailed directions for getting across both crossings to downtown Tijuana are below.
The Tijuana crossing at Otay Mesa is far from the places in Tijuana you will want to go as a visitor.
Border wait times can range from minutes to hours, and there is no way to predict how long it will take ahead of time. Use the Customs and Border Patrol wait time app to choose the fastest crossing.
Know Before You Go
Mexico requires visitors to show a book-style passport (not a Driver's License or other ID) to enter their country. Before you take off toward the border, double- and triple-check your bag or pocket to be sure you have that with you.
Technically, U.S. citizens always needed a passport to re-enter the U.S. at Tijuana, but it wasn't always enforced. Today, you won't get back across the border without proper documents, either. Check the current requirements.
If you plan to park near the Pedwest crossing, the Border Station parking lot sometimes fills up. To avoid any confusion that might cause, reserve a parking spot online using SpotHero. Employees may not know about it, so be prepared to show the attendant not only your confirmation but also a receipt that includes how much you paid.
How to Fill Out Your Tourist Permit
These tips will help you fill out your permit with no worries:
- Fill out both the top and bottom sections, even though some information is requested twice.
- Enter your birth date and the current date in the format DAY-MONTH-YEAR
- If you plan to walk across the border, leave boxes 11 and blank
- In box 13, enter Tijuana
- If you are making a day trip, leave box 14 blank
PedWest Crossing by Automobile
If you go to Tijuana by automobile, it's easier to use the Pedwest crossing, which is for pedestrians only and has a paid parking area nearby.
Pedwest is open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. for going into Tijuana and 24 hours a day for crossing north into the U.S.
Pedwest is at 499 Virginia Ave. San Ysidro, CA. The Border Station parking lot is at 4570 Camino de La Plaza. The lot is fenced, well lighted, and attended 24 hours a day.
If you use a ridesharing service to go to Pedwest, give your driver the address above, and don't let them tell you that you should go to the trolley stop instead. Not only are wait times often shorter, but Pedwest has a drop-off and pick up area.
After you pass through immigration at Pedwest, walk down the covered walkway to the street. Walk across the parking lot and cross the street, heading toward a small shopping center and a pedestrian bridge to join the walking route below.
San Ysidro Crossing from the San Diego Trolley
This picture shows the arrival location of the San Diego Trolley. The border is straight ahead, but you'll go slightly left to get to it.
Next to the trolley stop are a few shops and a McDonald's, which is a good place for a quick toilet stop before crossing. They charge a small fee to use their facilities.
When you're ready to go to Tijuana, walk toward the blue building shown in this photo. Just past that blue building, you'll see a sign pointing toward the border. Follow the sign and walk up the ramp.
After you pass under the sign that says "Mexico," it's super easy. Just keep walking. It's nearly impossible to get lost. Enter the building, fill out your tourist permit and present it at the Mexican Immigration Department checkpoint.
Walk out under the covered walkway and exit onto the street. That's where things get a little trickier, but don't worry. Just keep reading to find out what to do.
Use this handy Google map to see the route from the border to downtown. It shows the route from the San Ysidro crossing. From Pedwest, you will come out just before it crosses the Tijuana River.
In words, here's what to do:
- After you get past the covered walkway and outside at San Ysidro, look for an elevated crosswalk over the highway. It's very close and will be on your right.
- Use the crosswalk to get to the other side of the road. At the bottom of the crosswalk ramp, keep walking straight across Avenida de la Amistad.
- If you want to get a taxi, ignore the yellow ones you see first. They are unregulated and often cheat you — or worse. Instead, keep walking to find white-and-orange Taxi Libre, which have regulated fares. Walk to Avenida de la Amistad and look for one.
Walk Toward the Tijuana River Bridge
If you're walking to Avenida de la Revolucion, keep going straight ahead across Avenida de la Amistad and look for the arch in the distance of this photo. It's the easiest-to-find landmark in Tijuana.
If you come from the Pedwest crossing, you will join the walking route here.
Walk toward the arch, cross the Tijuana River bridge, and you'll be almost there.
Cross Avenida Negrete
From Avenida Negrete, it's only two blocks to Avenida Revolucion. Go straight ahead through the arch.
Tijuana Arch Landmark
Turn left when you reach the big arch, and you'll be on Avenida Revolucion, the city's main street. Remember what it looks like. It's the landmark to head back to if you get lost, or when you're ready to go home.