This past December the Cross Border Xpress opened, connecting San Diego directly to the Tijuana Airport (TIJ). This has opened up a whole new world – making Mexico a much more accessible destination for those of us in Southern California. Matt and I flew out of TIJ twice before the Cross Border Xpress opened. The first time was for a destination wedding in La Paz and the entire trip was orchestrated by the bride and groom. The second time, we flew from TIJ to La Paz, Baja on our way to Todos Santos. We drove across the border at Tijuana and parked our car in long-term parking. On the way home, we attempted to drive back across the Otay Mesa crossing and somehow ended up in the commercial truck crossing – in the “you’ve got something to declare” line. For four hours we were stuck in a long line of stinking, fuming trucks. Finally, a bollard was missing that separated our lane from the next and we were able to sneak our car into the “nothing to declare” line and zipped to the front, where we were turned back and directed to the proper border crossing only to spend another two hours in line.
For our recent trip to Mexico City both Matt and Theo and I flew out of Tijuana on Volaris direct to Mexico City. Rather than having to connect through LA or Phoenix and spend 6+ hours traveling for a flight from San Diego, our flight was a mere 3 hours direct. We used the Cross Border Xpress and found it to be simple and convenient.
Here’s 8 steps to follow for success crossing CBX …
- Getting to the Cross Border Xpress is really simple. We took 805 southbound to the 905 eastbound. Exit at Brittania Blvd and follow the very clearly marked signs.
- If you aren’t getting dropped off (or Ubering) there is a short-term and long-term parking option. Short-term is $16/day and long-term is $10/day. To get to the long-term parking lot, you enter the short-term lot and then drive to the very back left of the lot, where there is another gate. You insert your ticket again and it marks that you were in the long-term parking.
- You must have a boarding pass for every person crossing Cross Border Xpress for a flight departing within 24 hours or having arrived within 2 hours. You can either print your boarding pass at home or they have agents in the Cross Border Xpress terminal on the U.S. side (you can actually buy your ticket here too).
- To cross the Cross Border Xpress you must purchase a ticket – $12 one-way or $24 round-trip. There is a ticket stand right at the entrance of the crossing.
- You hand your ticket to the security agent, and then head up either an escalator or elevator and walk 5 minutes across the bridge (covered and indoors) to Mexico. There is even a cool sign marking the exact spot where you cross from the U.S. to Mexico.
- At the end of the bridge there are Mexican immigration officers. You will need your passport at this point. If you are staying in Mexico fewer than 7 days (I’ve read previously that it is 72 hours, but this is what they told me), your tourist card is free and they’ll just stamp your passport. If you’ll be staying longer, you’ll have to proceed to a second (bank) station, pay approximately $22 (depending on the exchange rate), then return to the first station to receive your stamp. They accept cash or credit card. Children get the tourist card for free (at least those who are 2 and under).
- Once you’ve processed through immigration, your last and final stop is the baggage check. You push a button – if it turns green, you are free to proceed. If it turns red, your bags get a thorough search.
- And then you are in the Tijuana Airport! Proceed to the ticketing agent to check your bag, go through security, and then sit back and enjoy a margarita or cerveza while you wait for your flight.
AND SOME MORE TIPS FOR YOUR WAY HOME…
- If you bought a roundtrip Cross Border Xpress ticket, after collecting your baggage you can immediately proceed to the Cross Border Xpress terminal. Do not exit the baggage claim area through the typical exit. If you bought a one-way ticket, then you can purchase another one-way ticket from the kiosk in the baggage claim area.
- You’ll need your boarding pass from your flight (so don’t lose it like we did somewhere en route to Tijuana) and your Cross Border Xpress ticket. After checking your tickets, proceed back across the bridge.
- Pass through U.S. immigration and baggage check (note – no fruit or vegetables are allowed back across the border).
- You are home! Easy as that.
Other helpful info…
- Volaris, Interjet and AeroMexico are the three main airlines that fly from Tijuana Airport. Almost all direct destinations are within Mexico, except AeroMexico has a direct flight to Shanghai.
- Flights from TIJ to other cities within Mexico City are domestic flights; however, I’d still recommend getting there 2 hours ahead (and add another 15-30 minutes for the Cross Border Xpress). The ticketing/baggage check lines can sometimes be a bit more chaotic than we are used to, so it helps to have some extra time to navigate the system. There is rarely any line at security though (procedures are the same as in the U.S. – liquids in small containers only, remove electronics from cases, etc.).
- If flying Volaris, you can use the website Optiontown to reserve the empty seats in your row so you can have the entire row to yourself (or keep the middle seat empty if flying with another person). With a lap infant this has been extremely convenient for us! It is usually $6 each way.
Safe and Happy Travels!