I'm going to be staying in San Diego for 2 weeks and would like to travel to Tijuana 2-3 times for a day trip. I'm a Global Entry member but I'll have a rental car, so I won't be able to use SENTRI lanes to come back.

What's the fastest way to make this day trip? To avoid "fly by helicopter" as an answer, my maximum transportation budget is $100 for the day.

  • 1
    @Midavalo get food, go to their side of the border wall, check out the city, maybe get a haircut. I won't need my car.
    – JonathanReez
    Commented Apr 1, 2022 at 17:44
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    There's so much more to TJ than just that. The tequila bars, the burros painted as Zebras, the gun battles! There's something for everyone.
    – Peter M
    Commented Apr 1, 2022 at 20:23
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    @PeterM the... gun battles? As in, shoot outs between gangs?
    – JonathanReez
    Commented Apr 1, 2022 at 23:03
  • TJ is currently averaging over 5 murders per day. Which puts it up there in world standings. So there is scope to see almost anything. I wouldn't say don't go and I'm not trying to scare you, but for any area that has potential for violence and crime I would do my own research (which saved me from being robbed in Buenos Aires one time). Using common sense would be the starting point, but it's always what you don't know that will get you. So reading things like this blog is useful.
    – Peter M
    Commented Apr 2, 2022 at 2:15
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    @PeterM unless you go looking for it you're unlikely to see "gun battles" in TJ. Most violent crime in TJ is either cartel vs cartel (or people who owe them money), or domestic. You're more likely to be done by thieves or scams (same as many tourist hotspots around the world), so stay street savvy and you'll be OK.
    – Midavalo
    Commented Apr 2, 2022 at 3:20

3 Answers 3


As someone who lives in the area, any time I hear of someone planning on coming down I tell them to walk across the border unless they specifically need a car.

If you're planning on being further out than just TJ then a car is recommended, but if you plan on staying within the city, and only for a day or two, then my recommendation is to walk across the border - bring your passport (or passport card) and your Global Entry card. The Tourist Zone is a very short Uber from the border.

Uber will get you anywhere you need to go for very little money. I can uber from the border to Rosarito (the next city to the south) for $10 USD, so anywhere within TJ should be in that range or less.

There will be taxis (you will need to speak Spanish) or Uber as soon as you're down the ramp from the border crossing. Make sure your phone plan has international or Mexico roaming enabled otherwise you won't be able to get your Uber!

A passport or passport card is officially required for entry into Mexico. You may or may not be asked for one, but always best to have one just-in-case.

  • Do I also need to get an FMM for a day trip within Tijuana city borders?
    – JonathanReez
    Commented Apr 1, 2022 at 17:56
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    @JonathanReez in practice, the answer is no. Commented Apr 1, 2022 at 17:59
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    @FranckDernoncourt Just don't get asked for one by police
    – Midavalo
    Commented Apr 1, 2022 at 18:00
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    @Midavalo I got stopped by the police right after crossing into Mexico one day because I mistook their car with my Uber, they searched me for drugs and looked at my passport, but didn't care about FMM. MX border officers also never asked me for FMM. So I think really unlikely. Commented Apr 1, 2022 at 18:01
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    @FranckDernoncourt I personally know people who have been sent back to the US because they didn't have an FMM on them. I have been asked to show Residency or FMM on more than one occasion. It is happening more often. Just because you were lucky that one time doesn't mean it doesn't happen. Legally it's required, and it's free for less than 7 days.
    – Midavalo
    Commented Apr 1, 2022 at 18:03

If you need a car in Tijuana and Didi/Uber don't suffice: drive back and forth. Crossing from the US to Mexico typically just take a few minutes. On the way back, try to pick a time with a minimum waiting time. To see the wait time: https://bwt.cbp.gov/index.html 30 to 45 minutes in the evening is quite common in the ready lane. Where can one see the border waiting time in real time or historical data, for people queuing from the US to Mexico? be careful if you have windows tint: https://law.stackexchange.com/q/76605/31 also you might need to purchase a car insurance for Mexico.

If you don't need a car in Tijuana: park near the border entry on the US side and walk through the border. There are plenty of paid parking lots near the border. Walking back to the US in the evening with global entry typically only takes a few minutes. You can get a cab/Didi/Uber right after crossing MX or US on foot. Didi is currently typically the cheaper option. San Ysidro Border Parking Options? ; For how long can one leave one's car parked in San Diego Old Town's free parking lots?

FYI: Does a French with US green card need a Mexico’s Visitor Visa (FMM) when entering Mexico by land for a few days, and if so can it be done at border?

  • The CBP border wait times are notoriously inaccurate
    – Midavalo
    Commented Apr 1, 2022 at 17:36
  • @Midavalo was reasonably accurate the few times I used it in San Diego in the evening from MX to US. Commented Apr 1, 2022 at 17:36
  • +1 for the park near the border and walk across
    – Midavalo
    Commented Apr 1, 2022 at 17:37
  • Can you clarify where exactly I should park the car? I'm a bit confused looking at Google Maps. Can I get a cab/Uber right after crossing on foot?
    – JonathanReez
    Commented Apr 1, 2022 at 17:45
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    @JonathanReez plenty of paid parking lot near the border, you can walk from there to the MX entry. You can get a cab/Didi/Uber right after crossing on foot. Commented Apr 1, 2022 at 17:57

The San Diego light rail system has a station across the street from the CBP entry point. It's a straight shot from north and downtown.

The run is fast, it is on dedicated railroad right-of-way once it gets out of downtown. It's about a 45 minute run from the Santa Fe depot (the hub) to the border (San Ysidro).

Check their website but most stations, especially suburban ones, have parking.

enter image description here src. Orange line now goes to Arnele Ave.

Arrive a few minutes early to the station, and find a ticket vending machine at the station. It will sell you a ticket valid from "now" until a few hours from now. Don't board without it; you cannot buy a ticket on the train.

The system uses a modified honor system, called "Proof of Payment", where a fare inspector might check everyone for a valid ticket. Not having one is a civil infraction like a speeding ticket. This can also be done on a smart phone via an "app" but I advise doing it before boarding, because they have safeguards to prevent people from buying tickets only when they see a fare inspector coming...

Despite being called a "trolley", it's actually an interurban using an old railroad line - the San Diego & Arizona Eastern, in fact - known for the world's largest trestle at Carrizo Gorge.

Obviously you have to evaluate public transit vs the still-lingering COVID-19 risks. Masks are still required on public transit because immunocompromised people have to ride it too.

  • What's the optimal place to park my car though, assuming my hotel is far from a station?
    – JonathanReez
    Commented Apr 2, 2022 at 22:47
  • @JonathanReez If you're a long drive from a station I gather you're not downtown. Suburban stations will have parking, check their website. Commented Apr 2, 2022 at 22:55

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