Tijuana Gringo : Touristic Information

How to Get Through the Border Gate with Minimum Hassle (Legally).


You MUST carry identification even if you are obviously (accent/speech/behavior) an United States American.

To PROVE United States citizenship and be allowed to re-enter the USA, you must either have a U.S. Passport or two forms of official identification, one of which may be a birth certificate. Or participate in the SENTRI "fast-pass" program] (See also: Best times to cross.)

HERE is a quote from the U.S. Customs & Border Protection website (copied February 2009):

ALL persons, including U.S. citizens, traveling by air between the United States and Canada, Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean, and Bermuda are required to present a valid passport, Air NEXUS card, or U.S. Coast Guard Merchant Mariner Document.

Oral declarations are no longer accepted from U.S., Canadian or Bermudan travelers seeking to enter the U.S. by sea and/or land. Travelers will need to present a valid government issued ID and a birth certificate or naturalization certificate.

On June 1, 2009 all U.S. and Canadian citizens who are 16 and older traveling between the U.S. and Canada, Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean, and Bermuda by land or sea (including ferries), will be required to present a valid passport or other alternative documents as determined by the Department of Homeland Security. U.S. and Canadian citizens who are 15 years old or younger will still be allowed to travel with just a copy of their birth certificate, as will teens between the age of 16-18 if they are part of an adult supervised school, religious, cultural or athletic group.

Lawful Permanent Residents (Green card holder's) do NOT need a passport to enter the United States, however you may need a passport to enter another country. Please contact the embassy of the foreign country you will be traveling to for their requirements.

FOR YOUR VIEWING PLEASURE while inflight through xibalba cyberspace,

  • Visit the CUSTOMS and BORDER PROTECTION Website with your questions and smile at their official warning: answers provided are for general information purposes only.


  • The border gate at San Ysidro is open 24 hours.
  • Otay gate is also open 24 hours.
  • Daytime and weekend lines are usually long at either gate.
  • Drivers with time to spare may opt for a trip into the hills and cross at the "back-country" Tecate gate.

    Pedestrian Walkers @ San Ysidro going to catch the Trolley: see below or (we dare you) to figure it out for yourselves. *wicked laugh*

    By the way, the Gringo reminds you to: NEVER, Ever, EVER NEVER carry ANYONE else's luggage -- NO Matter WHO -- sweet little old lady, innocent-looking child, or ANYONE asks you....

    WE Repeat: Carry NOTHING that is NOT Yours. Smugglers (and terrorists) would LOVE you to be STUPID and help them get something across!

    Tips for easy crossing:

    1. Do not cross into the U.S. on weekday mornings or weekday afternoons. Wait until 01:00 a.m.
    2. Wait your turn. [ HAVE YOUR IDENTIFICATION READY -- PASSPORT, VISA, or Driver's License and 2nd ID (birth certificate) ARE NOW REQUIRED FROM EVERYONE. NO MORE SIMPLY SAYING "U.S. CITIZEN" AND BEING WAVED THROUGH. ] Smile and say hello, good morning, good afternoon, whatever. This gives the officer a chance to quickly check you out and hear your accent.
    3. Be honest. The usual questions are "Where are you going? Where are you coming from? What are you bring from Mexico?"
    4. Be polite.
    5. GET A PASSPORT — they are superb identification and the border officers prefer them.
    6. Remember that under the Constitution, the federal government has full authority [ AND THE CONSTITUTIONAL "RIGHT" ] to guard the borders. You have no "rights" here except not to be tortured. Sorry, but... *sigh*
    7. If you drive, often, think of getting a new SENTRI lane pass.
    8. If you can choose, walk. This is usually faster than driving (45 minutes versus 100). [ TIMES ARE LONGER NOW WITH NEW SECURITY PROCEDURES See: Best times to cross. ]
    9. Alternatively, ride one of the shuttle busses or vans from downtown Tijuana or jump on right from the border lines themselves (minibus hucksters are everywhere yelling Five Dollars U.S.-- and it's a long wait, too, but at least you're sitting down...
    10. If you are walking, and there is a wait, think of it as a line at Disneyland, waiting to get on a ride -- SEE, EXPERIENCE the U.S. roller coaster!
    11. Think of it as a supermarket check-out stand.
    13. Don't tell them they work for you....
    14. Be aware what may not be legally brought into the U.S.: many fruits and produce, most fresh meats (some cooked meats), fireworks, etc., ARE NOT ALLOWED. Ask questions of the U.S.Govt. ON-LINE here or maybe not.
    15. Be confident. Carry identification. If you are a United States Citizen, say so simply and clearly when you are asked your citizenship, and equally, if you are a citizen of another country, have your passport and/or visa ready.
    16. When they official asks what you are bringing in from Mexico, just say what you have. Don't give big explanations of how you went shopping for one thing and found another, just tell her or him what you have right now.
    17. If you are bringing back drugs (LEGAL drugs) from the pharmacies, make sure you have your Prescription ready to show.
    18. Just answer the questions you are asked. Don't waste time telling long involved stories or babeling about what we are telling you here (which is a joke, sort of.... Just Only Answer the Questions you are Asked).
    19. Be polite.
    20. Be honest.
    21. Smile and say thank you.
    22. Enjoy the United States. Spend money. That is why they are letting you in heh heh heh cackle cackle pay no attention to this little man behind the curtain....

  • Other Turinfo Pages: Tijuana Maptext.

    Getting Around
    Busses / Taxis




    Leaving Town

    Things to See.

    Revolution Avenue.




    Markets/Swap Meets

    Shopping Malls



    Buying Liquor

    Baja California wine



    U.S. entry gate from Old Tijuana in 2002 ~ A Sepiatone View Today (klik 2 go there)

    Entering Mexico:

    Almost all of these rules listed above also MIGHT apply when you cross into Mexico, although the inspection is USUALLY (not Always) much less rigid -- often you just walk or drive right through. You might be asked your citizenship. If you are carrying a bag or two, you might be asked to push what looks like a "Cross-Walk Signal." If it turns green and says "PASE" then you pass, if it turns red, you show your bags.

    A similar arrangement applies if you drive into Mexico, the red and green lamps indicate pass or stop for revision. If an officer waves you over, you pull over and answer his questions.

    Remember, to visit the border area for less than 72 hours you are not required to have any visa or special car permits (but you should have bought insurance before crossing). This is the law even as far south as Ensenada on the Pacific coast and San Felipe on the Gulf. Some gringos stay longer than the 72 hours, but....

    BUT the geography is more definite. If you are going to go south of Ensenada into Baja California, or deeper into mainland Mexico, you are required to have a visa -- the tourist card in most cases. GET IT! It is an excellent form of identification in Mexico, is very easy to get, and is a statement of your respect for Mexico. WE REPEAT: Having a tourist card shows you respect Mexico, and believe me, the officials will respect that when they stop you at a drug-war checkpoint and shoot everyone who doesn't have their papers in order

  • (WHAT???!!!)
        o h  --   you ARE awake, eh? No. They don't shoot people. Usually. Tourism is one of Mexico's biggest businesses, and if you have a tourist card you really get double respect. Once for obeying the law, and once again for coming to travel here.

    that's not the problem, it was your grammar, dude, you said "shoot everyONE who doesn't have THEIR papers in order" and frankly, Mikey, after all that education you had, if you can't talk right and.... ACK ACK ACK ACK ACK ACK ACK    ACK ( the sound of hands dusting off their dirty business )

    THEN There is the QUESTION of vehicle permits. If you are going into mainland Mexico with your car you will need to pay fees and be licensed to drive your car beyond Baja California.

    AGAIN, if you are just going to Tijuana or Ensenada, no tourist card or vehicle permit is necessary. But if you go further south, get it/them.

    OH AND BUY temporary AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE in the U.S. before you cross over. Just in case. And drive carefully.

    The tourist visa for Mexico costs twenty something dollars. IF YOU ARE WALKING ACROSS it is available right at the border -- in the offices on your left hand a little ways up the corredor past the info cabin, etc., after you cross from San Ysidro to Tijuana. IF YOU ARE DRIVING ACROSS PULL OVER INTO THE BIG SHADED METAL ROOF AREA on the right and ask for Tourist Card Office. You will need to show your passport or U.S. birth certificate. You will need to make the very short walk (a few feet -- right there) to the bank office window right there in the customs inspection area to pay the fee (twenty something dollars) and then return to the first official for final authorization. Normally you will then be good to go anywhere in the country -- Mexico is a huge country -- for up to 180 days (like almost six months!) or maybe 90 (three months). Enjoy! We are not responsible for the accuracy of any of this information, BUT unlike much on this site, this is NOT a deliberate fiction like shooting tourists without visas, above.

  • Trolley Info:

  • Weeknights: The last trolley north to San Diego and Mission Valley leaves the border at 11:30 pm; there are three more trains only to downtown and Old Town at 12:00, 12:30 and 01:00. After that the first train north in the morning is at 04:30.
  • Weekends: If we little cyberbalba gringos are reading the schedule right, it looks like there are trains to downtown and Old Town at 01:30, 02:00, and 03:00 a.m. on Saturday(Sunday morning) night only. We dare you to figure it out for yourselves.

    The San Ysidro trolley station at the border recently underwent reconstruction and is now reborn as a splendid example of shining postmodern architecture. Sometimes there are bathrooms available inside the McDonalds restaurant. But you gotta pay a quarter or something like that to get in the turnstyle (EXACT CHANGE ONLY).

    don't let it be forgot
    that once there was a spot
    for one brief shining moment
    that was known as Camelot


  • Gringo : Turinfo

    Send e-mail to tijuanagringo@yahoo.com

    Copyright 1999-2009 Daniel Charles Thomas