San Ysidro, San Diego, California | Customs and Immigration



7 months ago
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MOD NOTE. TIP not required for Baja BUT an FMM (tourist visa) IS if you are going beyond the immediate border zone.

The Tijiuana crossing is the busiest land crossing border in the world, with over a million people crossing the border everyday.

Southbound (USA to MEX): A very straight forward border crossing. If you need a FMM and/or TIP use the "Something to declare" line for entry. After the inspection, park, enter the office to do your paperwork. It's very easy to miss the office and drive straight through. You can get the FMM online ahead of time, if you do this ensure you print both the FMM and the receipt.

Northbound (MEX to USA): You don't need to cancel you FMM on the MEX side, just get in line and head straight to US Customs.


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Adding our experience about going north bound from Mexico to USA. We got in the border line around 10a on a Sunday and crossed by 11:30a. Lots of vendors if you get hungry in line. We didn't need to do anything on the Mexico side (no FMM cancellation required, we didn't have a TIP) just went straight to the US border and no problems.

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Easy thanks to all the information on here and from various YouTube videos we watched before going. Just pull into the ‘something to declare’ area all the way to the right to get your FMM. Even if you don’t have anything to declare. Only took a few minutes to complete. We paid in pesos. You don’t need TIP if you’re just going to Baja.

We did get searched after pulling through the actual border after leaving the ‘something to declare’ area. Took about 2 minutes tops. Nice staff. Asked a few questions like where are you going and do you have anything to declare. They asked to open the doors. They looked in the back. Looked in the slider door of our van with a flashlight (didn’t step inside) Opened the passenger door and looked around …then sent us on our way. Didn’t double check FMM or passport. Nothing. I think they just assume you took care of it already at the offices.

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We did the bordercrossing at a sunday-morning! Right after leaving the US we went to the `something to declare` lane .. We almost missed it! You have to turn right, before the several gates you can drive trough!

We got our Tourist Visas within 15 Minutes from a good english-speaking woman! After that we wanted to import our swiss Car and they didnt understood anything .. The guy talked to several people on the phone, before he sent us to an office in the middle of Tijuana! Actually he didnt spoke a single word of english, so he translated everything with google translator .. So we went to 'Fray Junipero Serra 20-5, Garita Internacional`..

The people there also couldnt speak anglish but after calling several other people, they could import our dar finally .. We had to get some copies of the passport, the tourist visa, and the car papers though!

It took about 2 hours to do everythint! Good luck!

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I am traveling with a truck camper and I was one that was randomly selected to be searched. The guy asked if I spoke Spanish I said no. He then spoke perfect English after (not sure why he would ask then?!?). 2 military members quickly searched my camper (they did not make me pop the top) and the cab of the truck. Simple and Fast. The guy only asked for my vehicle registration and looked at it only for a second. Took maybe 10 minutes total.

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you get your ffm here and possibly your TIP.

for the TIP we have a 2017 promaster that is over the gvw allowed for normal TIP. they sent us to the otay mesa banjercito to get a special permiso stamp from the aduana commandante.

if you have a built out van that has a max weight of > 7500lbs, see if they will give you a RV tip otherwise they might send you to the Otay office.

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I just walked across, the line was super long but luckily I had global entry.

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If you do not have a "fast pass" to go straight into Mexico, then you must pull all the way to the RIGHT side, park your vehicle, and walk into the customs office with your passport, papers for pup (if you have one), and money (dollars or pesos accepted). The guard also checked our pup. Then, wait in your vehicle until a guard tells you to pull into the scanner - you park, get out and stand outside of machine until it's done, then hop back into vehicle. The guard will also check your vehicle registration and driver's passport. Super easy but the guards speak limited English. Good luck!

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Tip for getting your FMM tourist permit (allows you to stay in Mexico for longer period). This is different from a vehicle import permit. If you need an FMM for your trip - DO NOT LEAVE THE BORDER AREA UNTIL YOU GET IT.

We drove this border crossing incredibly quickly, we had nothing to declare, they quickly searched our van and waved us through. Next thing we know we entered Mexico. We quickly realized that we need our Canadian passports checked to get our 180 day tourist visa. We paid 3$ street parking and attempted to walk back into the border zone to go through customs... 45 minutes later, after speaking to 5 security guards and border guards we were escorted down to get our visas and pay the $27 tourist fee. Initially they all insisted that we had to walk back into the USA and walk back into Mexico to go through customs... Well there was no way I was going to leave this country without our vehicle. Finally a guard walked us down to the customs agent. As we got our tourist visas completed (totally an easy process), I asked the woman how do we do this better next time- she smiled and said she gets this question a lot, we weren’t the first!

THERE ARE TWO OPTIONS: you can take the “something to declare” lane when you first enter the border, then park your car, and walk into customs.

OR park your car on the USA side, walk into Mexico, go through customs to get your FMM visa and then walk back into the USA to drive your car over.

Either way works. I asked her why there is no signage for FMM, she nodded and smiled agreeing that this is an issue. Haha, a good welcome to Mexico :)

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Don't listen to the Gringos TJ has lots to offer and is a dynamic and fascinating boarder city with tons of history and great food. If you are interested in cities snd mexican culture it is definitely worth stoping here.

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If you enter Mexico:
Tourist visa you make in Ensenade (see Ioverlander), TIP for car you don't need in Baja.
If you want to buy a sim card in Mexico buy Telcel, no Moviestar (much better signal).

If you enter US:
After drive trough the border you have to drive to "San Ysidro land port of entry" (32.5425, -117.0361) for the tourist card. For the car you don't need a paper.

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When enter to Mexico, keep te bank receipts for the Tourist Cards (25$ each) to avoid paying again when leaving Mexico. This is a big scam... when leaving they call that exit fee.

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There is no reason to avoid this border crossing. It's busy but really straight forward. 99% of the vehicles they just wave trough and so there usually aren't even traffic jams. We were stopped for inspection and as we couldn't answer their questions (we don't speak any Spanish) our car was sent through a 'High-Tech Scanning Device'. After about 15 minutes everything was done. They didn't even check our passports or car papers. As you don't need a Temporary Vehicle Import Permit for Baja California (if you're heading down to mainland Mexico you get it in La Paz) and you get your Tourist Card in Ensenada (but don't forget to get your vehicle's insurance beforehand) there is no need to drive into the City of Tijuana. Just stay on MEX1D. The toll all the way down to Ensenada is US$ 5.10. You can pay in US$ (no notes bigger than $20) and get your change in US currency. We started in downtown San Diego at 1:30 on a Thursday afternoon and arrived in Ensenada before 4 pm, early enough to visit an ATM and get our Tourist Cards there. Enjoy!

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A very straight forward border crossing. As it enters Baja California, a temporary import is not necessary. The Tijiuana crossing is the busiest land crossing border in the world, with over a million people crossing the border everyday. Cross the border with a full tank and keep moving south. There is no reason to spend the night in Tijuana when Ensenada is so close just a bit futher south. A great entry point to cross via Motorcycle.

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Border Crossing: USA / Mexico originally posted at
We cross borders by land in a CR-V with US passports and our two dogs. We do not carry drugs or weapons or disallowed fruit (usually).
When, Where, and Which Direction: December 30, 2012 – San Ysidro, California, USA > Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico

What We Needed (or what we thought we needed):  Consistent and consolidated information on what we needed was hardly well organized by the Mexican authorities, but by piecing together information from a few different sites (including  Drive the Americas [LINK:] ) we gathered that Americans crossing from the US to Mexico in a vehicle with dogs requirePassports or Passport Cards,Tourist Cards (needed if staying longer than 72 hours or leaving the tourist zone, purchasable at border),Vehicle Registration and/or Title,Driver’s Licenses,Proof of Mexican Auto Insurance,Temporary Vehicle Import Permit (purchasable at border),Signed International Certificate of Good Health for dogs, andSigned Certificates of Rabies Vaccinations for dogs.The Process:  I-5 south from San Diego leads directly to Mexico. After passing multiple signs for the last highway exit, the road leads straight into the border facilities and cars are ushered into parking spots for review. Once waved on, travelers should find the Immigration office to get passports stamped and tourist cards purchased. We’d love to tell you how to get to the Immigration office*, but as we share in our experience below, we never saw it. Being waved on, little direction was given to guide drivers out of the border area. Soon the main roadway produced signage that spat us out onto Mexico Highway 1.

Costs:Tourist Cards cost approximately $22USD per person and should be purchased at the Immigration office. Tourist Cards are needed by visitors leaving the tourist zone, which, though varying by state, generally includes only the first 12-18 miles along the border. The Temporary Vehicle Import Permit can be purchased at Banjercito, supposedly next to the Immigration office*, and costs about $45USD and also requires a credit card for a deposit. The price of the deposit depends on the year of the car and is usually between$200 and $400USD. The deposit is returned (or unheld?) upon departure from the country.
Dogs:  At a military checkpoint many hours south we were told we should change Olmec’s name to Saul (why didn’t we think of that?), but no attention was paid to the dogs at the border.
Our Experience:  Upon parking our car, a Mexican Border Patrol Officer asked us to open our hood and tailgate (finally someone who wanted a peek under the tarp!). He spent about 10 seconds looking at each area and then waved us on. We pulled forward a few cars length, waiting for someone to tell us where to head, and when no one did, we followed the car next to us in the direction of what appeared to be the place we were supposed to go next. As we rounded the bend, we quickly realized that rather than “the next step”, we were instead set free in Tijuana. Not about to exit the highway there though, we cruised on, leaving our problem to be solved another day (and most likely with a fine, hey Mexico? Why must you hide your Immigration office?)*.

After some research we’ve found that our best bet for rectifying our whole tourist cards and passport stamps oversight is going to be to head to the Immigration office in La Paz, where we’ll be catching a ferry to the mainland at the end of the month. The passport stamp is apparently a non-issue because no one is going to check our passports if we have a tourist card. We may have to beg or cry or lie or (more than likely) pay a fine, but they should be able to give us tourist cards there, and we’ll be on our merry way*.

*IMPORTANT UPDATE: Please check out our posts about our  visit to the Immigration office in La Paz [LINK:]  and our subsequent  trip back to the border [LINK:]  after learning that as of November 2012, they no longer issue tourist cards there (even with a fine). Having revisited the border, what we can tell you is that the Immigration office is to the right of the far right lane as you’re entering customs, that the auto import permit can only be purchased 25 miles away in Otay, and that even after having completed the process, we still don’t know how we were supposed to have found them. We recommend asking the first person who stops you. We’ve also put the Otay Banjercito on  our route [LINK:]  in case that might be helpful to someone.

Photos available at:

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This post is from Life Remotely. To read their full experience and see photos, see the detailed article here at
Border name: San Ysidro
Between cities: Chula Vista, USA and Tijuana, Mexico
Cost for visas: $20 USD per tourist card
Cost for vehicle: $48 plus $200 USD refundable deposit
Total time: 1 hour 15 minutes

The steps:
Drive through the borderClear Mexican customs (red light, green light)Find the Banjercito / Migración officeGo to the Migración office and fill out the tourist card paper.Go to the Banco and pay the tourist card fee. The bank and Banjercito are the same place at this border.Go back to the Migración office with your receipt and get a stamp on your tourist card.Go to the copy shop and make copies of your vehicle permit and the vehicle owner’s passport, tourist card and green card (if applicable).Go back to the Banjercito line. Give them the official copies and originals of vehicle and driver IDs. Pay the vehicle import fee. Give them a credit card for the vehicle deposit.Affix the registration sticker to your car.Have a taco.Get outta Tijuana.

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This is a guest post from  Sjoerd Bakker  for a July 2013 border crossing.
Tijuana City Center border crossing is the busiest US/Mexico border point and can be agonizingly clogged during rush hours, especially so for traffic going to the USA. However if you take those busy spells into consideration and you have your Mexico insurance and have no need for getting a Tourist Card or a TVIP (or you got them all online), then there is no reason not to use this crossing from downtown San Ysidro.
The San Ysidro crossing is fed by US1, I-5 and I-805 south from San Diego. The entry point lies on the east side of the Rio Tijuana and Tijuana City Center is to the west of the river channel. You will quickly be deposited onto the busy multi-lane streets through and office and commercial district and then onto a bridge over that river bed and several busy traffic arteries, into a spiral bridge with a number of descending, curving exists radiating to various directions. Fun, really, it is if you stay calm. 

You should be confident in your Mexican driving skills and not be easily frightened or confused by the traffic and road designs you will encounter in the next kilometer. 
It has recently been reported that the San Ysidro to Tijuana City Center border crossing no longer has the services for issuing Tourist Cards and TVIP. However, in reality that service is not at the border terminal but in an office building several blocks south of the border and it is very difficult to find. If you wish to obtain a TC or the TVIP or cancel it before returning to the USA, I would suggest you not cross here to San Ysidro but use the Otay Mesa crossing instead where these services are much easier to find.

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Documents needed

We needed:
Tourist Visa (FMM)
We went to Discover Baja in San Diego the day before we crossed the border. It was 39 USD for a years membership and then 22 USD each for the Tourist Visa. They gave us receipts from Banjercito as well as copies, which you need to exit Mexico.
Truck Title and Registration
Driver’s Licences
Proof of Mexican Insurance
We bought this in advance at Discover Baja as well. It was around 500 USD for 6 months. There are way cheaper options out there…
(What we thought ) Neli needed:
International Health Certificate
NOTE: Everything you will read online will tell you need the USDA Approval. This has turned out to not be true. We didn’t get it as it meant FedExing back and forth to Sacramento and we couldn’t be bothered.
Valid Rabies Vaccination Certificate (not more than a year old, not less than 30 days)
Vaccination Record
Exit US

The 5 South from San Diego leads directly into Mexico. You do not ‘check-out” of USA.

Enter Mexico

Mexico Immigration: This is totally confusing and most people miss the Immigration office, we’ve heard stories of people getting all the way to La Paz and having to drive back to the US border to Ensenada to have their FMMs stamped. We are including step by step directions so this doesn’t happen to you.
As you near the end of the freeway, you’ll want to be in the far right late. You’ll approach the old border crossing, follow traffic to make a 90 degree right turn.
Continue about a third of a mile along the border (still in the US). Stay in the far right lane for FMM validation or to declare anything at Immigration.
Stay in the far right lane and follow signs for autodeclaration.
While all the other traffic will turn left to cross the border, stay to the far right and head into the yard with a giant Mexican flag.
Park and go into the blue building. Go to the Immigration Office to have your FMM stamped.
NOTE: If you have not paid for it yet, the Banjercito is here as well.
Mexico Customs: After leaving Immigration, follow the road to Customs. You will push a button and and get either a green light (free to go) or a red light (stop for inspection).
NOTE: We got a red light. The Customs official asked us if we were importing anything, opened the back door to the camper, saw how much stuff we were carrying, prayed over the contents of our camper, laughed at our Perro Peligroso sign, smiled at Neli sitting on Victoria’s lap, and sent us on our way.

Total Cost: 600 USD

Discover Baja Membership (not necessary but it made everything really easy!): 39 USD
Tourist Visa (FMM): 22 USD/per person, 44 USD total
Mexican auto insurance: 517 USD

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