Please see the original post with more info HERE.
Walking across the border from San Diego to Tijuana couldn’t be easier. After getting to the border, you simply show your passport to the Mexican official and you’re free to cross. There were no forms or paperwork to fill out and crossing shouldn’t take more than a minute or two.
I always park at the parking lot across the street from the border (previous post HERE). It’s a large lot, well lit, and I’ve never had an issue. It looked like they repainted the parking spaces so that it’s a little easier to navigate because before, it was a bit of a mess. The rates there are $18 per 10 hours (on the weekends). I actually think that’s a pretty good deal considering you might be spending $54 (for 30 hours) or more for an Uber or Lyft round trip.
Another option is the trolley and the stop literally spits you out in front of the US border check. Depending on when you decide to come back though, you’ll have to keep an eye on when the last trolley runs. You could park at a station one or two stops from the border and then take the trolley if you really don’t want to pay for parking but remember you’re only allowed to park cars at the station for 24 hours. I don’t know how aggressively that’s monitored though.
The pedestrian bridge is pretty much right across the parking lot so it’s a quick walk towards the border.
Using Uber in Mexico After Crossing
Once across, I always walk to the right and over the bridge (you can’t make a left so you’re forced to either walk straight or right). Just walk past all the taxi drivers and walk about 2 blocks down. I noticed that I didn’t have cell service immediately after crossing the border so I couldn’t request an Uber. However, by walking about 5 mins down, I soon had service. I walk down to the first major intersection and get an Uber at that corner. The major cross street is Amistad but you’ll see it because it’s the first (and only) road you’ll have to cross. That corner (Amistad and Frontera) is a busy intersection but it’s easy for drivers to spot you so it’s where I go.
Side note: As you walk, look to your right. You’ll see a small grassy hill area. That’s where you’ll go to cross back into the US.
Once you get an Uber, it shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes to get anywhere you want to go in TJ. Traffic can be bad but the distances aren’t far and all the stores, bars, and restaurants are pretty much located near each other.
Crossing Back to the US
Depending on the time, coming back across can either be a breeze or a line waiting nightmare. If you have thought about getting a Sentri Pass or Global Entry but don’t have it, I would STRONGLY recommend getting it. (You can read my post HERE about Global Entry).
If you have Global Entry, you’re probably used to using the lanes at the airport and not carrying your actual card. Remember that you need your card to use the special lanes at land borders. Having your passport isn’t enough and if you forget your card, you’ll have to wait in line like everyone else…and that line does NOT move quickly.
With Sentri or Global Entry, you can bypass the line entirely and walk straight to the front. The sidewalk may be crowded with people in line so you can walk on the street to the left of the line and go to the front. There, just show your card to the border patrol agents and they’ll wave you through.
That’s the first border checkpoint. Next, stay to the right of the long hallway. You’ll probably see a line of people standing to the left. That line is for those WITHOUT Sentri or Global Entry. I’ve seen that line really backed up and I can’t imagine how long it takes to go through. You’ll basically walk past everyone again until you’ll be asked to show your card to another set of agents (these agents are typically there only when it’s busy). Finally, you’ll make it to the main processing hall. You’ll see a separate line and multiple booths with agents. There, you’ll finally present your card, they’ll snap a photo, and you’re on your way.
If you have any bags, you’ll have to get those x-rayed before you can exit. If you have Sentri or Global Entry, this line should be the longest line you’ll stand in (and even then it’ll only take a couple minutes).
If you’re visiting San Diego and want to take a fun day trip to Mexico, TJ is an easy destination. Great people and food are abundant and getting across is simple. Getting into Mexico is a breeze so getting back across is going to be the more cumbersome border crossing. That said, your experience will be significantly improved if you have Sentri or Global Entry since you’ll be able to cross in seconds.