Getting to Tijuana
Trolley. The preferred method. You can hop on the
trolley from many locations in San Diego - downtown, Old Town, La Mesa,
even Santee. You want the blue line trolley that goes to San Ysidro. The East
line of the trolley connects with the south-bound trolley (blue line)
going to San Ysidro at 12th and Market Streets in downtown San Diego,
requiring you to transfer. It takes nearly an hour to ride the trolley
to San Ysidro from Old Town.
Trolleys run 7 days a week. Weekdays, they start running about 5 a.m.. The last trolley leaves San Ysidro to return to San Diego at 12:58 a.m.
trolley runs every 15 mins. (or less) or every 1/2 hour after about 9 pm. The complete schedule and map are located on the San Diego Metropolian
Transit System website, trolley schedule.
Parking your car while riding the trolley. A good
place to park your car while riding the trolley is the Old Town station,
there is ample lighted, free parking. There used to be a few free parking
spaces downtown, but now that the city of San Diego has decided it is
more important to tear up downtown for a commercial ballpark (at government expense!) you might
as well abandon the idea of parking downtown for free.
Parking your car at the border. If you insist on driving
to the border, there are large commercial parking lots where you can
park for about $8. for 24 hours. You can even catch a Mexicoach bus right
in the parking lot for a small fee and they will whisk you across the
border in no time and deposit you on Revolución between 6th and
7th streets. If you are familiar with the area, you can hop off before
arriving to Revolución. Sánchez Taboada and Marquez de
Leo makes a good jumping off point to be only one block from the
Mercado and Zona Rio Shopping Center. Be aware the bus stops running
at 9 p.m.; so you're on your own to get back if you have a late dinner.
Bussing Across the Border. If you really can't walk
across the border, there are buses on the U.S. side that will take you
across the border and into downtown Tijuana for $1. Grab one right at
the trolley stop, follow the flow of pedestrian traffic and hop on the
bus before entering the concrete building that takes you back over the
Driving. If you insist on driving your car, just
take interstate 5 or 805 South to San Ysidro, where they converge to
cross the border. There is another entrance at Otay Mesa, but no there
few restaurants reviewed in that area of town. There are parking
lots where you can pay to park your car while you walk across the border.
Insurance. If you drive across the border, be aware
that most American car insurance policies are not recognized in Mexico.
It is Very Highly recommended that you buy Mexican auto insurance from
one of the numerous vendors on the U.S. side of the border. Policies
are available by day for about $10. (liability only) or you can buy
a booklet that covers multiple trips; this can bring the price down
to $6 with a 15-day policy. You fill out a coupon each time you drive
to Mexico and deposit the coupon in the vendor's handy ATM-like slot.
Best bets: Buy your policy in one of the gas station minimarts near
the border. They accept payment by credit card for any amount, and the
service is good. For frequent border crossers, get insurance through
Vagabundos Del Mar.
Crossing into Mexico. There is never a wait crossing
the border on foot into Mexico. From the trolley, head southeast (towards the McDonalds) when you get off. Follow the crowd on the road between McDonald's and the market. When you emerge through the checkpoint you will go down a short stairway. Depending on the time of day, you might see the line of pedestrians going back to the states. Cross this line and turn left (south) to continue into Mexico.
Taxis in Mexico. As you will see as you emerge from
the passageway immediately after going through the turnstiles, the taxi
business flourishes in Mexico and taxi drivers are not at all shy about
soliciting your business. They are open to negotiation. There is much
competition. Always establish the fare prior to getting into the cab.
A reasonable fare from the border to, say Don Pepe's (on Fundadores),
is a total of $8. (U.S.), quite a bargain if split 7 ways. Taxi drivers
are quite willing to allow you to stuff 10 people into a taxi built
Be aware that taxis right at the border are the most expensive taxis
you can get in Tijuana. If you're willing to walk into town a bit, you
can flag down a "libre" taxi which is not free, but is less expensive than the yellow taxis. The libre taxis also congregate over by the bus stops near the shopping center to the right after you cross over the border. More detailed directions to the bus stops here in the directions to Las Playas . They tend to move their congregating spot, but if you look around the bus stops or ask someone you should be able to find them. Libre taxis are metered taxis. They are not permitted to
pick up passengers right at the border.
There are also route taxis that run predefined routes and are very
inexpensive. You probably will want to know a bit of Spanish to take
one of these and have pesos ready. You can pick one up along their route
or on Second Ave. between Revolución and Constitución.
Money. American dollars are accepted everywhere in
Tijuana. There is no advantage to converting your money unless you plan
to take Mexican buses and collectivos or travel more into the interior
of Mexico. Check out up-to-ddate conversion of pesos to dollars here. Credit cards are also widely accepted. Beware of the new foreign transaction fee that many U.S. credit card companies charge, a percentage of the charged amount, regardless of whether the amount charged is pesos or dollars.
ATM's. A friend oncewithdrew a small amount of money from
his U.S. account from a Tijuana Banamex ATM machine. The transaction
charge was $6. Best bet is bring just enough cash with you.
Dining. Mexicans dine late, so best bets are with
an early dinner. In general, the further a restaurant is from Revolution
(the main tourist drag, so to speak), the more likely it is to have
repeat business. The Hikers generally try to stay away from restaurants
on Revolution. Seafood restaurants can be counted on to be good; more
so than any other category. Go with the flow; if in an Italian restaurant-try
the Italian dishes; not the seafood. Unlike in the U.S., people selling
music, flowers, or photos may interrupt your meal. Smoking is not banned in Mexican restaurants. Mariachi bands are
ubiquitous, and while very festive, can easily overpower conversation.
Water. Mexican tap water is not potable. Most restaurants
serve bottled water. If you feel unsure, ask for bottled or mineral
water. We regularly order fresh salads and drinks with ice cubes and
have not had a problem with Montezuma's Revenge.
Walking. Walking in Tijuana is as safe as walking
in any American city. You must be alert and watch where you are going.
The sidewalks are full of cracks, the curbs are non-standard height
and it is not uncommon to find deep holes in the middle of the sidewalk
Drugs. Many people go to Mexico and buy drugs that
require prescriptions in the U.S. Many of the drugs require a prescription
in Mexico as well, although it is easy to find a pharmacy that will
sell you drugs without a prescription. A tourist from Wisconsin once
spent 6 months in La Mesa State Penitentiary for buying $500. worth
of drugs, including Valium, from a pharmacy in Mexico without a prescription.
He was arrested outside the pharmacy by Mexican police and charged with
trafficking in controlled substances. Fortunately for him, the charges
were reduced and later dropped, but it took six months.
Crossing the border. Delays are the rule if crossing
by car and the delays can be quite long if you choose to return at the
end of a holiday weekend.
We generally cross Saturday evenings on foot, sometime after 9 p.m.
It is quite rare for there to be a long wait at that time. We rarely
cross the border during the day on weekends. 12/23/12, we
deliberately rose early from Playas de Tijuana to avoid the mad rush to getting across the border on foot. We arrived at the border at 6 a.m. Our wait in the freezing cold was 2 1/2 hours! Fortuantely it was not raining.
We believe this long wait was due to holiday rush, and we heard reports that at 1 pm that same day there was a negligible wait.
Passports. As of Jan. 31, 2008 if you are a U.S. or Canadian citizen, you will need proper paperwork to return to the U.S., both walking and by car. According to the U.S. Department of State website you will need either a passport OR a government-issued photo ID, such as a driver’s license, plus proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate.
A limited-use, wallet-size passport card is under development and expected to be available in the future.
SENTRI (Secure Electronic Network for Travelers Rapid Inspection)
- If you are a frequent border crosser and pose little risk to border
security, you may apply for a "Sentri pass", (Dedicated Commuter
Lane Program) which enables you to cross to the U.S. in a vehicle in
a special "Sentri lane" for quicker entry to the U.S. You
must fill out U.S. Governmet Form I-823. If you have a criminal history, you do not qualify. I recently heard of a case where a long-time holder of a Sentri pass had his pass revoked for "criminal history" - the history was a drunk driving conviction 11 years prior. For those in the San Diego
area, you must visit the SENTRI DCL Office in Otay Mesa, CA in person
twice. Total cost for various fees: $129. If you are approved, on your
second visit your car will be inspected and a transponder installed
in your vehicle. For more information, see the
Department of Homeland Security site. Call (619) 690-7600 Monday through
Friday 8:00 A.M. to 3:00 P.M. to make an appointment.
Pedestrian SENTRI - Mid-year 2004 the U.S. Customs and Border
Protection agency began a new test program for border-crossing pedestrians.
Currently free, the passes will eventually cost you at least $25. The
pedestrian SENTRI lane will operate Monday through Friday during peak
crossing hours of 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. It is anticipated
that as more people enroll, the hours of operation will be expanded.
You do NOT need to have the Sentri car pass to enroll. To enroll, go
to "Old Border Building", which is on the east side of Interstate 5.
It is SOUTH of the car border crossing. It is the spanish style building
just north of the yellow line painted on the roadway which is the actual
border. You must show a passport, paycheck stubs or other proof of financial
stability, a utility bill, and a mortgage statement or rent receipt
. Individuals interested in applying for the program may call (619)
662-2227 (Confirmed they do answer at this number), 690-7601, 690-7602, 690-7603 or 690-7604.
A thoroughly entertaining first-hand account of obtaining a pedestrian
At one point after 9/11 a clever entrepreneur opened a new business
at the border, to ease your crossing pains. For $5, you could rent a
bicycle for 5 minutes, pedal right up to the bicycle-only lane and cross
the border efficiently. The company has drop-off point on the U.S. side
of the border where you can return the bicycle. However, this business
has not been open during our recent Saturday night treks. It appears to have gone out of business.
Bringing things back. You must declare anything you
bring back to the U.S. from Mexico. You are permitted only 1 liter of
alcohol and $400. worth of goods purchased in Mexico duty-free. Animals
and agricultural products are also strictly regulated and the rules
can be a little mysterious. You can bring back many fruits, including
bananas, cactus fruits, limes, melons, papayas, pineapples and strawberries, but the lists of acceptable items changes frequently. Check the U. S. Customs Service
website for specifics.
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