Do you need a passport to go to Tijuana? Generally, the answer is yes. Most travelers do need a passport. There are some exceptions. Whether or not you need a passport depends on how you’re entering the country, your nationality, the length of your stay, and where you’re traveling after Tijuana. Whether you’re driving across the Mexican border, crossing on foot, or flying this guide will help you determine whether or not you need a passport to travel to Tijuana.
I’ve lived in Tijuana for the past two years. In that time, I’ve crossed the border hundreds of times using a couple of different documents. In this guide, I will outline all of the travel documents you may need to visit Tijuana. I’ll cover the FMM tourist permit, the passport card, Trusted Traveler cards (SENTRI, NEXUS, FAST, and Global Entry), the Temporary Vehicle Import Permit (TIP), Mexico visas, and much more.
This guide is designed for U.S. and Canadian travelers. Much of the info also applies to travelers of other nationalities as well.
Do You Need a Passport to Go to Tijuana?
In general, yes. Most travelers need a passport to go to Tijuana. If you’re flying to Tijuana, you will need a passport. If you’re driving, you could use a passport card, enhanced driver’s license, or SENTRI card. It is possible to travel to Tijuana without a passport.
In the following section, I’ll outline the documents you’ll need to cross the border on foot, drive across the border, and fly into Tijuana.
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A Bit of Info About Tijuana
Tijuana sits on the US-Mexico border, just 30 minutes south of San Diego. Due to its close proximity to the US, Tijuana is a popular tourist destination for those visiting Southern California. Visitors easily cross the Mexican border for the day to enjoy the city’s food, nightlife, and culture. Tijuana makes for an excellent day trip from San Diego.
In the past, U.S. citizens could travel to Mexico without a passport. All that was required to cross the Mexican border was a driver’s license or a birth certificate. When the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) passed in June of 2009, the regulations changed. Now, most visitors require a valid passport to travel to Tijuana. There are a couple of exceptions.
Crossing into Tijuana on Foot
Many travelers choose to either take the San Diego trolley to the border or drive to the border and park on the U.S. side in a border parking lot. From there, it’s easy to cross the border to Tijuana on foot. From the trolley station and border parking lots, it’s just a couple of blocks to the border.
You do not need a passport to walk across the border to Tijuana. There are a few alternative documents you can use to enter Mexico and re-enter the United States by land. Accepted documents to walk to Tijuana include:
Enhanced driver’s license
Other types of Trusted Traveler cards such as the NEXUS card, FAST card, and Global Entry card can’t be used instead of a passport when traveling to Tijuana. These cards can only help you re-enter the United States faster.
Minors under the age of 16 can travel to Tijuana with just a birth certificate or a naturalization certificate. I’ll talk more in-depth about this later on.
When walking across the Mexican border, you will also need to fill out an FMM form. You will receive this document at immigration.
Driving Across the Border to Tijuana
You don’t need a passport to drive to Tijuana. You can use a passport card, a SENTRI card, or an enhanced driver’s license. Everyone in the vehicle needs their own valid travel document. You can’t use other types of Trusted Traveler cards such as Global Entry, Nexus, or FAST.
In addition to your identification document, you will also need a number of supporting documents to drive to Tijuana.
Everyone in the vehicle will also need their own FMM tourist permit, including children. To get this document, you will need to stop and park at the border and go into the immigration building to fill out the FMM form. When you get to the border, follow the signs for ‘something to declare.’ You’ll find a parking lot in the declaration area. Park here and walk into the immigration building to get your FMM document.
The driver will also need to bring their driver’s license. An international driver’s license is not required to drive in Tijuana. The only requirement is that the driver’s license must be written in the Latin alphabet (the alphabet you’re reading now). If your driver’s license is written in a language that uses another script, such as Chinese, Russian, or Japanese, you’ll need to get an international driver’s license so that Mexican immigration officials and police officers can read it.
In addition, you’ll need proof of Mexican auto insurance for your vehicle. Your regular insurance isn’t valid in Mexico. You will need to purchase a temporary policy for your trip. You can buy temporary Mexican auto insurance online before your trip or at a kiosk before you cross the border. There are several locations in San Ysidro that sell insurance. You probably won’t have to show proof of insurance at the border but you will need it if you get pulled over while driving.
I recommend you buy online. I use Baja Bound Mexican Insurance. They offer reasonable prices and you can buy a policy in just a few minutes. You can check their rates here:
You will also need your vehicle’s registration to prove that you are the owner of the vehicle. If you are driving a rental car, you need a letter of permission from the rental car company that authorizes you to drive the vehicle in Mexico. Most rental car agencies don’t allow you to drive their vehicles across the border. Some charge an extra fee or deposit. If you are driving a leased vehicle or a vehicle that you have financed through a bank, you need a letter of permission from the lender.
You probably won’t be asked for these documents but you do need to have them to be legal. If you are involved in an accident and it is found that you shouldn’t have been driving the vehicle in Mexico, your insurance claim could be denied.
For more info, check out my guide to driving to Tijuana.
Flying to Tijuana
A valid passport is required to fly into Tijuana Airport (TIJ). Only passport books are accepted when flying to Mexico. Passport cards and alternative documents are not accepted for international air travel.
Everyone requires a passport when flying to Mexico. This includes children. There are no exceptions. After you arrive, the Mexican immigration authority will check your passport and stamp it. If you don’t have a valid passport, you won’t even be allowed to board your flight.
Your passport is the only document you need to bring with you when flying to Tijuana. To enter Mexico, you’ll also have to submit a completed FMM form (Forma Migratoria Multiple).
Usually, a flight attendant will hand this form to you on the plane. Alternatively, you can pick one up at the airport at immigration when you arrive in Mexico. Fill the form out before going through immigration. I’ll talk more in-depth about the FMM later on in this guide.
In addition, immigration authorities may ask to see some supporting documents about your trip. For example, they may ask to see proof that you have booked accommodation for the first night. You may need to show your hotel, hostel, or Airbnb reservation.
They may request proof of onward travel. This could be a confirmed flight or bus ticket out of Mexico. When you’re flying to Tijuana, you could tell the immigration agent that you plan to exit to the U.S. on foot. This is acceptable.
If you’re planning on staying long-term, they may ask to see proof of sufficient funds to support yourself during your trip. This could be a bank statement or credit card.
In most cases, you won’t be asked for any of these supporting documents. It’s best to be prepared in case you’re asked.
For most visitors, it’s cheaper and easier to fly to San Diego airport (SAN) and then travel to the border and cross into Tijuana on foot. You can easily travel to the border with the San Diego Trolley or in a rental car. The trolley drops you off a block from immigration. There is also border parking on the U.S. side.
Crossing Back into the United States from Tijuana
The requirements are similar for crossing back into the U.S. Most of the same documents are accepted. The exact documents you’ll need depends on your nationality.
There is usually a much longer wait at the border when crossing into the U.S. Be prepared to wait for an hour or two. Consider checking the border wait times here before making the trip.
What are valid travel documents for U.S. citizens entering the U.S.?
U.S. citizens entering the U.S. from Tijuana must show a valid:
Enhanced driver’s license or enhanced identification card
Permanent residents of the U.S. can show a Permanent Resident Card (green card).
These documents are accepted when crossing the border from Mexico by land or sea. For air travel, you need a valid passport book. There are no alternatives.
You cannot enter the U.S. with just a Global Entry card, Nexus card, or Fast card. You need to present a valid passport book or a passport card in addition to the trusted traveler card.
Crossing Back into the U.S. on Foot
There are three different pedestrian crossings between Tijuana and the U.S. The main crossing is officially known as the San Ysidro Port of Entry. This crossing is also known as El Chaparral.
There are two pedestrian crossings here. One is called PedEast and the other is PedWest. They are a 10 minute walk apart. You can use whichever one is closer. In most cases, PedEast will be more convenient. This is the larger crossing near the San Diego trolley station and most border parking lots.
There is another crossing located further to the east called Otay Mesa. This crossing is located just east of Tijuana Airport. This is a smaller crossing.
When crossing from Tijuana back into the U.S. on foot, you’ll find three lines. One line is for the general public, one is a ‘Ready Lane’ for those with a Ready Lane eligible card, and the other is a SENTRI lane for those with a Trusted Traveler Program card. The line you use depends on the travel document you’re using.
If you are using a regular passport book, you must use the general public lane.
To use the Ready Lane, you will need a card with Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology. If you have a passport card, enhanced driver’s license, enhanced tribal card, enhanced permanent resident card, or an enhanced border crossing card, you can use the Ready Lane. Using the Ready Lane can speed up the crossing time by a few minutes.
If you have a Trusted Traveler card such as a SENTRI card or a Global Entry card, you can use the lane marked SENTRI. This greatly speeds up the crossing time.
When crossing back into the U.S. from Tijuana, there is no exit procedure for Mexico. You proceed straight to U.S. immigration.
The immigration official may ask you a few questions about your trip. For example, they may ask you what you were doing in Mexico and how long you were there. They could ask you if you know anyone in Mexico.
They will also ask if you’re bringing anything back with you. You should respond truthfully. They sometimes search your bags. If they find something that you didn’t declare, you could get yourself into trouble.
Driving Back into the U.S.
When driving back to the U.S. from Tijuana, everyone in the vehicle will need a passport book, passport card, or an alternative travel document. You may also need your vehicle’s registration and proof of insurance. The driver may also need to show their license. In most cases, you won’t be asked for these documents but it’s best to be prepared.
The immigration official will ask a few questions about your trip. They may ask you why you were in Mexico and where you went. They will also ask you if you’re bringing anything back with you.
Sometimes they will ask you to pop the trunk and they’ll take a quick look through your belongings before allowing you to cross.
If you drive across the main Tijuana border crossing (The San Ysidro Port of Entry), expect a long wait. The line is often 1.5-2 hours long. During holidays, it can get even longer. You can save time by crossing at an odd hour such as early in the morning or late at night. Before driving to the Mexican border, you can check the wait time here.
Flying from Tijuana to the U.S.
To fly from Tijuana to the U.S. you need a passport book. Passport cards and alternative documents aren’t accepted for international air travel.
If you’re not a U.S. citizen or resident, you may also need a visa to enter the United States unless you qualify to enter under the Visa Waiver program. For more info, check out this guide from the U.S. Department of State. Canadians usually don’t need a visa to enter the U.S. for tourism purposes. Citizens of a number of countries can enter under the visa waiver program.
For most travelers, it’s better to walk across the border and then take a shuttle, Uber, or the trolley to San Diego and fly out of San Diego airport. Flights to other parts of the U.S. are usually cheaper. There are far more flight options as well.
What happens if I go to Tijuana without a passport?
If you try to fly to Tijuana without a valid passport, you simply won’t be permitted to board your flight. The airline won’t issue you your boarding pass.
If you try to walk across the border to Tijuana without a valid passport or an alternative travel document, you will most likely be denied entry to Mexico. Immigration checks everyone’s documents to make sure they meet the entry requirements.
It is possible to travel to Mexico without a passport or any other form of ID. When you drive across the border to Tijuana, nobody stops you in most cases. You can simply drive across the border into Tijuana without stopping.
If you drive into Tijuana without a valid passport or alternative travel document, you can create several problems for yourself. Most importantly, you will have entered Mexico illegally. You won’t have a valid FMM visitor’s permit. If you get stopped at a military checkpoint or if a police officer pulls you over, you could be fined or deported.
You’ll also run into issues when you try to return to the United States. You won’t have a valid travel document. In this case, you’ll be sent to a secondary inspection area where you will be questioned. You will have to prove your citizenship or residency and your identity before you are allowed to re-enter the U.S.
Do Children Need a Passport to go to Tijuana?
Whether or not a child needs a passport to travel to Tijuana depends on a couple of factors including the mode of travel as well as their age. When traveling to Mexico by air, children need a passport book. Even infants. There are no exceptions.
Children under 16 can travel to Tijuana by land with just a birth certificate, certificate of citizenship, or a naturalization certificate. These documents are accepted for both entering Mexico as well as re-entering the United States. for those who are under 16 years of age.
Those under 19 can also travel to Tijuana with a birth certificate, certificate of citizenship, or naturalization certificate as long as they are traveling with an adult chaperoned organization such as a school group, sports team, religious organization, or a social or cultural organization. They can also re-enter the United States with the same document.
The Parent Authorization Letter for Minors Traveling to Mexico
When a single parent or legal guardian plans to travel to Mexico with their child, they must carry an original notarized consent letter from the other parent or any other person who has legal custody of the child.
This document will be required when re-entering the United States. This rule is in place to prevent child abduction and child trafficking. It ensures that both parents are aware that the child is traveling internationally. If both parents are traveling with the child together, no consent letter is necessary.
If the child is a Temporary Resident, Temporary Student Resident, or Permanent Resident of Mexico, one parent must complete a form called a SAM (Formato de Salida de Menores). This is required by INM (Mexico’s immigration authority).
Can Canadian Citizens Go to Tijuana Without a Passport?
Generally, no. In most cases, Canadian citizens need a passport to go to Tijuana. If you’re flying from Canada to Tijuana, you will need a passport to board the flight. It would be possible for a Canadian Citizen to travel to Tijuana overland with a Sentri Card.
There aren’t really any other alternative travel documents. Canada doesn’t issue passport cards, as far as I know. In the past, Canada issued enhanced driver’s licenses but these have been discontinued.
Do You Need a Visa to go to Tijuana?
No. Most travelers don’t need to arrange a visa in advance to visit Tijuana. The FMM visitor’s permit works like a tourist visa. You can obtain an FMM tourist permit on arrival. All you need is your passport or an alternative travel document, as outlined above. This document allows you to enter Mexico without a visa.
To check to see if you are eligible to enter Mexico without applying for a visa in advance check to see if the country that issued your passport is on this list.
Some travelers need to arrange a visa in advance to travel to Mexico. For example, if you plan to stay in Mexico for more than 180 days, you’ll need to apply for a temporary resident visa. This visa allows you to live in Mexico for up to 1 year and can be renewed for 3 additional years. If you plan to work in Mexico, you will also need a work permit.
Some nationalities also need to apply for a visa in advance to travel to Mexico. If your passport was issued by one of these countries, you’ll need to apply for a Mexican visa at your nearest Mexican consulate or embassy before you can travel to Tijuana. In order to do this, you will need a valid passport.
Note: The FMM is slowly being phased out. At some points of entry, you no longer receive a paper FMM. You only get a passport stamp. The entry requirements are still exactly the same. The only difference is that the paper FMM is now a passport stamp.
For more info, check out my guide to Mexican entry requirements.
What are the Entry Requirements to Cross into Tijuana?
For most travelers, all you’ll need to enter Mexico is a valid passport or alternative travel document. Your travel document must remain valid for the duration of your trip. To visit Mexico, your passport does not need to have 6 months of validity remaining.
You must also comply with the country’s import and export regulations. These regulations prohibit the import of certain items, such as weapons and illegal drugs. You can read about what you are allowed to bring to Mexico here.
There are also duty-free import limits. If you try to import more than the legal limit, you’ll have to pay tax on the items you bring with you. You can read about Mexico’s duty-free limits here.
If you’re staying overnight in Tijuana, you may need proof of accommodation. If you’re flying into Tijuana from the U.S., you may also need proof of onward travel. When you’re planning to stay long term, like a month or more, you may need to show proof that you have sufficient funds to support yourself in Mexico.
If you’re only planning to cross into Tijuana for the day, you don’t need any supporting documentation.
Do I Need a Temporary Vehicle Import Permit (TIP) to Drive to Tijuana?
No. You don’t need a temporary vehicle import permit to drive to Tijuana. The states of Baja California and Baja California Sur are exempt. You can drive anywhere on the Baja Peninsula without a TIP. You can also drive to most of the state of Sonora without a TIP.
If you’re planning to drive outside of the Baja Peninsula or the Free Zone of Sonora, you will need a TIP for your vehicle. For example, maybe you’re planning to cross the border at Tijuana, drive down Baja, and then take the ferry to mainland Mexico. You’ll need a TIP for this trip.
You need to obtain the temporary import permit before entering Mexico. It is not available within Mexico. I’ll talk about the TIP more in-depth later on.
Do You Need a Passport to Fly Out of Tijuana Airport?
Yes. You need a passport to fly out of Tijuana airport. Your passport will be checked when you check in for your flight. You may also be asked for your passport at security and before boarding the flight.
It may be possible to fly out of Tijuana with just a driver’s license but it’s not worth the risk. Different airlines have different rules. If you’re asked for a passport and you can’t produce one, you may not be allowed to board.
You don’t need a passport to fly out of Tijuana airport if you are a Mexican citizen or resident. In this case, you can fly out of Tijuana with your Mexican government-issued photo ID or residence card.
What Documents do you need to fly out of Tijuana airport?
To fly out of Tijuana airport, you’ll need:
FMM visitor’s permit
Can I Fly Domestically Within Mexico Without a Passport?
No. You need a passport to take a domestic flight within Mexico. Before boarding a domestic flight, you will need to present some form of photo ID as well as your boarding pass. If you are not a Mexican citizen or resident, most airlines will only accept a valid passport as ID. In addition, you may be asked to show your FMM permit.
There are some exceptions. You may be allowed to board a domestic flight with an alternative ID at some airports. Some airlines are more lenient than others. It’s probably not worth taking the risk. If you plan to take a domestic flight, bring your passport.
If you are a Mexican citizen or resident, you can fly domestically without a passport. You just a government-issued photo ID or residence card.
Do I Need a Passport to Use the Cross Border Xpress (CBX)?
The Cross Border Xpress is a special terminal of Tijuana airport that is located on the U.S. side of the border. The Cross Border Xpress connects the U.S. to Tijuana airport with a 390 foot sky bridge that crosses over the US-Mexico border. This allows you to fly in or out of Tijuana airport without ever having to go into the city.
If you use the Cross Border Xpress, you can check in for your flight on the U.S. side of the border, pass through Mexican immigration, and then walk across the skywalk directly into Tijuana airport where you can catch your flight. If you’re flying into Tijuana airport, you can pass through U.S. immigration and then walk across the sky bridge into the United States. This makes flying into and out of Tijuana airport incredibly convenient.
A passport book is required to use the Cross Border Xpress. In addition, you’ll need an FMM tourist permit (you can obtain this at the CBX), a boarding pass, and a Cross Border Xpress ticket. You can buy a CBX ticket online here.
For more info, check out my guide to using the Cross Border Xpress.
Can I Fly from Tijuana to Cancun without a passport?
Maybe. The flight from Tijuana to Cancun is a domestic flight. You may be allowed to board with just your driver’s license. People have done it. Check out this thread on Trip Advisor. Several travelers have reported that they were able to travel from Tijuana to Cancun without a passport.
Some airlines are more strict than others. They require that tourists show their passports and FMMs before they’re allowed to board. You may be able to fly from Tijuana to Cancun without a passport but it’s not worth the risk.
Can I Fly from Tijuana to Los Cabos without a Passport?
Maybe. On domestic flights, you may be allowed to board with just a photo ID. You will have trouble crossing the Mexican border without a passport or other alternative travel documents. You may be able to talk your way onto the flight. To be safe, you should bring a passport with you if you plan to fly in Mexico.
Can I Fly from Tijuana to Mexico City without a Passport?
Probably not. It may be possible to board a domestic flight to Mexico City without a passport but it’s not worth taking the risk. You could be denied boarding if you don’t have a passport. If you want to fly in Mexico, bring a passport book.
Information About the Various Travel Documents You May Need When Traveling to Tijuana
Depending on where you’re traveling in Mexico and how long you’re staying, there are some alternative or additional travel documents that you may need. In this section, I’ll outline all of the travel documents you may need to travel to Tijuana
What is a Passport Card?
A passport card is a wallet-friendly passport. It proves your U.S. citizenship and your identity, just like a passport book. It allows you to travel to Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, or Bermuda and re-enter the United States. A passport card contains the same information as a passport book including your name, photo, passport number, date of birth, place of birth, nationality, signature, etc.
The main benefit of a passport card is the size. It fits in your wallet. A passport card is the same size as a standard credit card. It is also $100 cheaper than a passport book. A passport card costs $65 while a passport book costs $165. A passport card is even cheaper if you buy it at the same time that you buy a new passport book.
Passport cards also feature radio frequency identification (RFID) technology. There is a chip inside that contains your information. The RFID chip is scanned when you arrive at a port of entry. This allows immigration officials to quickly and easily identify you. This technology allows you to use the ‘Ready Lane’ when crossing back from Tijuana to the U.S. This can save you a significant amount of time at the border.
Passport cards can only be used for land and sea travel. They are not valid if you’re flying. So if you’re planning to fly to into or out of Tijuana, stick with the passport book.
What is an Enhanced Driver’s License?
An enhanced driver’s license or EDL is a special type of driver’s license that allows the holder to cross into the United States from Canada, Mexico, or the Caribbean without a passport.
In order to get an EDL, you must provide proof of your U.S. citizenship, identity, and residency. An enhanced license can be renewed just like a regular license. It remains valid for 4-8 years depending on the state of issue.
EDLs are available to U.S. citizens who live in the states of Washington, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, and Vermont. An EDL typically costs around $30-$40 more than a standard license.
If you don’t have a driver’s license, you can also get an EDL in a standard ID card that doesn’t allow you to drive.
What is a Trusted Traveler Card (SENTRI, NEXUS, FAST, and Global Entry)?
Trusted Traveler Cards are identification cards that are issued by the United States government to low-risk travelers. These cards allow the holder to use expedited border crossings through special lanes at both airports and land borders.
There are four types of Trusted Traveler Cards available:
SENTRI: SENTRI cards are for air, land, and sea travel between the United States and Mexico.
NEXUS: NEXUS cards are for air, land, and sea travel between the United States and Canada.
FAST: FAST cards are for trucks transporting goods between the United States and Canada or Mexico
Global Entry: Global Entry cards are for air travel into the United States from any foreign country.
The fast lanes at the Tijuana border are labeled as SENTRI lanes. You can use any of the above cards in the SENTRI lanes when traveling from Tijuana back to the United States except FAST cards.
If you’re planning to travel between Tijuana and the U.S. frequently, the SENTRI card is the best option. For example, maybe you live in Tijuana and commute across the border to work in the U.S. You will need a SENTRI card to speed up your commute. Global Entry is a good alternative if you don’t qualify for SENTRI for whatever reason.
When applying for a SENTRI card, you must complete an online application, undergo a background check, and attend a brief in-person interview. If you are approved, you will be issued a SENTRI card. This allows you to access dedicated lanes at select border crossings. SENTRI cards are valid for five years. After that, you must reapply for the program.
SENTRI cards are not available to all applicants. Those with certain criminal convictions or who pose a security risk may be ineligible for the program. SENTRI stands for Secure Electronic Network for Travelers Rapid Inspection.
Having a SENTRI card can significantly expedite the border crossing process. For example, in the regular line to cross from Tijuana back to the U.S. you might have to wait for an hour and a half. With a SENTRI card, you could cross in less than 5-10 minutes, even during peak periods. If you need to cross between the U.S. and Mexico frequently, a SENTRI card is a necessity.
What is an FMM Tourist Permit (Forma Migratoria Multiple)?
The FMM form or Forma Migratoria Multiple is a travel document that allows citizens of most countries to travel to Mexico without having to apply for a visa in advance. It is available to citizens of the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, European Schengen Area countries, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and many other countries. Check out this list of countries to see if you are eligible for an FMM Mexico tourist card.
The FMM permit allows you to stay in Mexico for a period of up to 180 days. During that time, you can participate in tourism, do business, transit, study, or volunteer. You are not allowed to work in Mexico while traveling on an FMM permit.
You can obtain an FMM entry permit on arrival or online in advance. The FMM is available at land crossings, sea ports, and international airports. It takes just a few minutes to fill the form out.
To get an FMM tourist permit, you simply fill out a paper form. The form asks for basic information such as your name, date of birth, passport number, nationality, the purpose of your trip, etc.
There is also an FMM fee. If you’re staying in Mexico for less than 7 days, the FMM is free. If you’re staying for more than 7 days, it costs 687 pesos (about $38).
At the Tijuana crossing, an immigration official will usually fill the form out for you. They just copy your information from your passport and ask you some questions about your trip. In some cases, you may have to fill the form out yourself. It is printed in both English and Spanish.
You may not be eligible for an FMM permit if you come from one of these countries. In this case, you will have to apply for a Mexican visa in advance from your nearest Mexican consulate or embassy before you can travel to Tijuana.
For more info, check out my guide to the FMM Tourist Permit.
It’s important to note that the FMM is being phased out. At some crossings, you simply receive a stamp in your passport. The entry requirements are all the same.
What is a Temporary Vehicle Import Permit (TIP)?
(If you’re only going to Tijuana, you don’t need a TIP. You can skip this section.)
The Temporary Vehicle Importation Permit or TIP is a document that allows you to drive a foreign-plated vehicle in Mexico for a predefined period of time. The TIP is available for all types of vehicles including cars, motorhomes, boats, motorcycles, etc.
You only need a TIP if you plan to drive outside of the free zones. The free zones include the entire Baja Peninsula, most of the state of Sonora, and the border zones (20-25km or 12-15 miles from any land border). If you’re just driving to Tijuana, you do not need a TIP.
Only those traveling in Mexico on an FMM tourist permit, those with a Temporary Resident Visa, and Mexican citizens who live abroad are eligible for a TIP. Permanent residents are not eligible. The TIP remains valid as long as your immigration document (up to 180 days if you’re traveling on an FMM permit).
To apply for a TIP, you will need a valid passport book or card and an FMM tourist permit. You will also need your vehicle’s registration and proof of temporary Mexican auto insurance.
The TIP is issued by Banjercito (a Mexican government bank). You can apply for the TIP on their website and at Bajercito locations at most Mexican border crossings as well as some Mexican consulates in the U.S. If you apply online, you must apply 7-60 days before your trip. If you get your TIP in person, you can apply right before you cross. I highly recommend you apply online deposit if possible.
There is a fee of around $50 for the TIP. You’ll also have to pay a deposit of $200-$400. This is refunded when you export your car from Mexico. You must cancel your TIP when you exit Mexico. If you don’t cancel it, you won’t be able to get another TIP and you’ll lose your deposit.
If you’re traveling in an area where a TIP is not required, such as Tijuana, or if you don’t plan to leave the border zone, you still need your vehicle’s registration. Your vehicle could be impounded if you can’t prove ownership. You will also need temporary Mexican auto insurance. You can buy insurance at a kiosk near the border before you cross or online before your trip. I recommend Baja Bound Mexican Insurance.
For more in-depth info, check out my guide to the temporary import permit.
What is the Best Way To Travel to Tijuana?
For most visitors, the best way to travel to Tijuana is to cross the border on foot. You can easily travel from San Diego to the border with the San Diego Trolley. Alternatively, you can drive to the border and park in one of the border parking lots. It’s also easy to take an Uber, Lyft, or a taxi.
If you’re traveling from further away, such as San Francisco or Phoenix, you can fly into San Diego airport and then take a city bus and the trolley or an Uber to the border. Alternatively, you can take a Greyhound bus to the border. The bus drops you off at the trolley station.
From the trolley station or border parking lot in San Ysidro, you can easily walk to Tijuana. Mexican immigration is just a couple of blocks away.
After crossing into Tijuana, you can take a taxi, take an Uber, or take a shared minibus (colectivo) to your destination in Tijuana. You can also walk downtown.
If you want to have your own transportation in Tijuana, driving across the border is also a good option. Driving in Tijuana is pretty easy. Just be aware of the occasional pothole and speed bump. People generally drive safely.
It’s important to note that police corruption is an issue in Tijuana. Police have been known to stop drivers and solicit bribes. Check out my guide to police corruption in Tijuana for more info.
FAQ About Traveling to Tijuana
How Long Does My Passport Need to be Valid to Go to Tijuana?
Your passport must be valid for the duration of your trip in order to enter Mexico. If you’re planning to stay in Mexico for two weeks, your passport needs to be valid for two weeks. If you’re planning a lengthy stay in Tijuana, you’ll need to make sure your passport will still remain valid when you return home.
It’s generally a good idea to have at least six months of validity on your passport when traveling abroad. In fact, for most countries, this is a requirement. If your passport is expiring within 6 months, you won’t be allowed to enter.
Mexico doesn’t enforce this rule. If you’re planning to go to Tijuana for a week and your passport is only valid for a week, they will still let you in.
Can I Travel to Tijuana With an Expired passport?
No. If your passport has expired, you will not be able to travel to Tijuana. An expired passport is not a valid form of identification, and Mexican authorities will not allow you to enter the country without a valid passport. Your passport must remain valid for the duration of your trip. It cannot expire while you’re in Mexico.
If your passport has expired, you will need to renew it before you can travel to Tijuana. You can renew your passport by mail or in person at a passport office. Once you have renewed your passport, you will be able to travel to Tijuana. You can read about how to renew a U.S. passport here.
Why do I need a passport to visit Mexico?
A passport is a document used for international travel. It is issued by a country’s government and serves as proof of citizenship as well as a form of identification. A passport is an internationally recognized document. The passport allows travelers to enter and exit the country and prove their identity and citizenship when re-entering their home country. It is a required travel document almost everywhere.
What if I Lose My Passport While in Tijuana?
If your passport is lost, destroyed, or stolen while you’re in Tijuana, the first thing you should do is call your country’s consulate.
If you’re a U.S. citizen, contact the U.S. Consulate. Their number is +52 664 977 2000. They are located at Paseo de las Culturas S/N, Otay Mesa, 22425 Tijuana, B.C., Mexico. Their hours are 7:30 am to 4:15 pm Monday-Friday.
You will need to prove your identity. To do this, you could use your driver’s license, birth certificate, or some other government-issued ID. You will also need a new passport photo. The consular agent will then issue you a temporary passport. This passport can be used for travel back home.
If you’re a U.S. citizen, you could just go to the border and explain that your passport was lost. They have to let you in if you’re a citizen. You will be questioned and held at the border until the agents are able to verify your identity. This will probably be faster and easier than getting a temporary passport.
When you return home, you should begin the process of applying for a replacement passport. For more information, please visit the website of the U.S. State Department.
What Can I Bring Back With Me From Tijuana?
To avoid any issues with customs, it’s important to declare anything you bring back with you from Mexico. There are limits as to what you can bring back from Mexico. There are also some prohibited items.
You can bring:
$200 worth of gifts or personal items you bought in Mexico.
One liter of alcoholic beverage if you’re over 21.
Prescription drugs if you have a prescription from a U.S. physician.
Fish you caught in Mexico.
You can’t bring:
Any illegal drugs.
Most fresh fruits.
Products that are made from endangered species.
Most weapons including guns and switchblade knives.
These are just some common items. For more in-depth info, check out this article about what you are and are not allowed to bring back with you from Mexico in this guide from U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
Whether or not you need a passport to go to Tijuana depends on your mode of travel and your nationality. If you’re planning on flying to Tijuana, you will need a passport book. If you’re planning on driving or walking across the border, you don’t need a passport. you can use one of three alternatives: a passport card, a SENTRI card, or an enhanced ID. These are the only alternative documents that are acceptable.
Even though you may not need a passport for this trip, it’s always a good idea to have one handy in case of an emergency. If you need to fly home unexpectedly, you will need a passport.
If you travel between Mexico and the United States often, and you want to breeze through the land border crossings check with ease (and avoid long lines), look into getting a Trusted Traveler Card, like a SENTRI card. It will save you a good amount of time.
Whichever travel document you use, I hope this guide makes your trip to Tijuana a little smoother and easier!
Have you visited Tijuana lately? Share your experience crossing the border in the comments below!
More from Where The Road Forks
- Is Tijuana Safe? Avoiding Crime and Scams
- Traveling to Mexico With a Dog or Cat
- Medical Tourism in Tijuana
- Living in Mexico as an Expat: Pros and Cons
- How to Travel From Tijuana to Rosarito
- How to Ride a Bicycle to Tijuana
Zachary Friedman is an accomplished travel writer and professional blogger. Since 2011, he has traveled to 66 countries and 6 continents. He founded ‘Where The Road Forks’ in 2017 to provide readers with information and incites based on his travel and outdoor recreation experience and expertise. Zachary is also an avid cyclist and hiker. Living as a digital nomad, Zachary balances his professional life with his passions for hiking, camping, cycling, and worldwide exploration. For a deeper dive into his journey and background, visit the About page. For inquiries and collaborations, please reach out through the Contact page. You can also follow him on Facebook.