Flying out of Tijuana International Airport (TIJ) is a great way to save money on tickets to Mexico as well as the Caribbean, Central America, and South America. Thanks to the Cross Border Xpress (CBX) terminal, Tijuana airport is easily accessible from the U.S. side of the border. You don’t even have to enter the city. A sky bridge connects a terminal on the U.S. side with Tijuana Airport. You can pass through immigrations and customs for both countries here. This step-by-step guide explains how to fly out of Tijuana airport and use the Cross Border Xpress pedestrian bridge.
Over the years, I’ve flown out of Tijuana Airport 5 times. I’ve used the Cross Border Xpress on three occasions. It’s always a smooth and convenient process. In this guide, I’ll share my experience.
This short video outlines the main points of the article.
Key Takeaways- How to Use the Cross Border Xpress
Step 1: Drive, take the shuttle, take an Uber, or take public transport to the Cross Border Xpress terminal. Parking is available for around $15 per day.
Step 2: Buy a CBX ticket. You can buy tickets online, at a kiosk at the terminal, or from some airlines when you book your ticket. Tickets cost $38-$49 round trip.
Step 3: Check in for your flight at the Cross Border Xpress terminal.
Step 4: Gather your documents. You’ll need a passport, CBX ticket, boarding pass, and FMM immigration form. If you’re staying longer than 7 days, the FMM costs 687 pesos or $38.
Step 5: Walk across the pedestrian bridge and pass through immigration.
Step 6: Check your luggage and pass through airport security.
Step 7: Proceed to the gate to catch your flight.
If you want to save money, you can drive or take the San Diego Trolley Blue Line to the main Tijuana border crossing (the San Ysidro Port of Entry). After crossing, you can take a taxi or Uber to the Tijuana airport for around $7. Paid parking is available on the U.S. side of the border for $25-$40 per day.
How to Get to Tijuana Airport from San Diego
- Use the Cross Border Xpress (CBX)- The CBX terminal is located in Otay Mesa, just across the border from Tijuana airport. You can walk across the U.S.-Mexico border on a sky bridge. The connects the U.S. side of the border with Tijuana Airport. This is the most convenient way to get to Tijuana airport.
- Cross the border on foot and take an Uber or Taxi to the Tijuana airport- The easiest way to do this is to take the Blue Line trolley from San Diego to San Ysidro ($2.50). After walking across the U.S.-Mexico border, you can catch a taxi or Uber to the airport (about $7). To walk you through the border crossing, check out my guide: How to Walk Across the Border to Tijuana.
- Drive to Tijuana airport and park- If you’re comfortable driving in Tijuana, you can just across the border and park at one of the airport parking lots. Tijuana airport parking costs $12-$16 per day.
What is the Cross Border Xpress (CBX)?
The Cross Border Xpress is a special terminal at Tijuana International Airport. The CBX terminal has a 390-foot sky bridge crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. The CBX bridge connects the CBX terminal in Otay Mesa on the U.S. side of the border with the rest of Tijuana airport on the Mexican side of the border. It gives you direct access to Tijuana airport from the U.S. border.
Inside the terminal, you’ll find both Mexican and U.S. immigration booths that you pass through while crossing the international border. Before crossing the sky bridge, you’ll check in for your flight.
The Cross Border Xpress opened in 2015. It makes TIJ the world’s first binational airport.
How to Use the Cross Border Xpress to Fly Out of Tijuana Airport
The Cross Border Xpress was specifically designed to make flying out of Tijuana Airport easy and convenient for Americans. It allows U.S.-based travelers easy access to budget Mexican airlines and more affordable flights around Mexico and much of Latin America. It also allows you to avoid the hassle of crossing the busy San Ysidro border and traveling through the city. In this section, I’ll explain how to use the Cross Border Xpress, step-by-step.
Step 1: How to Get to the Cross Border Xpress
Cross Border Xpress is located in Otay Mesa about 20 minutes from downtown San Diego, just across the border from the airport. Here is a Google Maps link.
There are four ways to get to the CBX:
- Drive yourself- There are several parking areas at CBX. Long term parking is available in the nearby lot for $15 per day. A closer lot also exists which costs $18 per day.
- Take the shuttle- The Cross Border Xpress operates a shuttle service from San Diego ($11), San Ysidro ($6), Los Angeles ($25), San Bernardino, Sacramento, Las Vegas, El Paso, and Phoenix. Several stops are offered in each city. For a list of the available pickup and drop off locations and times, check this page. Some shuttles are offered infrequently. They are operated by different companies.
- Take Uber or Lyft- This is a convenient option. Depending on the duration of your trip, it could be cheaper than driving and parking.
- Take public transport- From downtown San Diego, you can catch the Blue Line trolley to Iris Avenue. From there, you can transfer to bus 909. This will drop you off on Siempre Viva Rd & Britannia Bl. From there, it’s about a 0.7 mile walk to the Cross Border Xpress. The ride costs about $6 in total. This journey takes about 1.5 hours but could take longer depending on the time of day. You can also take the bus 922 from San Diego airport to America Plaza then connect to the Blue Line trolley to Iiris Avenue. From there, you can continue on bus 909 as outlined above. For more info, check out the San Diego MTS.
Step 2: How to Buy Cross Border Xpress Tickets
Cross Border Xpress tickets can be purchased in three ways:
- Online in advance- You can purchase tickets on the CBX website here. You can pay by credit or debit card. This is the most convenient and affordable way to buy tickets. Be sure to print your ticket with the QR code so you can scan it at the entrance.
- At one of the kiosks in the terminal- Inside the terminal, you can purchase tickets with cash or by card at a CBX kiosk. The price is slightly higher if you wait to purchase your ticket here.
- From some airlines- Most airlines flying out of Tijuana’s airport offer you the option of buying a CBX ticket along with your air ticket during checkout. These include Aeromexico, Calafia, and Volaris. Usually, you just have to check a box and the the CBX ticket will be added to your flight ticket.
How Much Do Cross Border Xpress Tickets Cost?
The price of CBX tickets changes throughout the year. There is low season, regular season, and high season pricing. During busy periods, ticket prices increase. During low season, tickets are cheaper. The price also depends on the direction you’re traveling.
The prices for CBX tickets are as follows:
- Low season (January 17 through May 23 and September 5 through November 14): $37.95 for a round-trip ticket. $19.95 for a San Diego to TIJ ticket. $20.95 for a TIJ to San Diego ticket.
- Regular season (May 24 through September 4): $45.95 for a round-trip ticket. $23.95 for a San Diego to TIJ ticket. $26.95 for a TIJ to San Diego ticket.
- High season (November 15 through January 16): $49.95 for a round-trip ticket. $26.95 for a San Diego to TIJ ticket. $29.95 for a TIJ to San Diego ticket.
There are discounts for families if you buy 4,5, or 6 tickets. Discounted fairs are also available for commuters who use the CBX often as well as military members. Children under 2 years old don’t need a ticket to use the CBX. They can cross for free with their family.
Prices can change at any time. Before your trip, it’s a good idea to check the price on the CBX website here.
Step 3: Check-in for your flight
When using the Cross Border Xpress, you can check-in for your flight in the CBX terminal on the U.S. side of the border. At the terminal, you’ll find airline counters for all of the airlines including Aeromexico, and Volaris. The staff working in the Cross Border Xpress terminal all speak English. You need your boarding pass to use the CBX.
Step 4: Get Your Documents in Order
In order to cross the CBX sky bridge and enter Tijuana airport, you need four documents:
- Cross Border Xpress ticket
- Your valid Passport- Book or card style passports are accepted
- A completed Mexican Immigration Form (FMM)
- Your boarding pass
A Note about the FMM Immigration Form (Forma Migratoria Multiple)
Everyone who is not a Mexican citizen or resident needs to fill out an FMM form when entering Mexico. You can complete the FMM form at the CBX or online in advance. You can apply for the FMM here. The FMM isn’t considered a visa. It is a tourist permit.
The FMM form requires basic travel information such as your name, passport number, where you are going in Mexico, for how long, where you’re staying, etc. The FMM allows you to travel anywhere in Mexico for up to 180 days as a tourist.
There is a fee for the FMM. If you will be in Mexico for more than 7 days, you will have to pay a 687 peso (about $38) fee. If you will be in Mexico for less than 7 days, there is no fee but you will still have to fill out the form.
After you pay for your visitor’s permit, remember to save your receipt to prove that you paid your 687 pesos. If you exit the country through another crossing they may try to charge you again. This happened to me when I crossed from Mexico to Guatemala. I had lost my receipt and had no option but to pay again.
Mexico is currently phasing out the paper FMM form. In the future, you’ll simply receive a passport stamp. The entry requirements and fee still remain the same. Currently, you still need to obtain an FMM to use the CBX.
Step 5: Walk Across the Sky Bridge into the Airport
Before you enter the CBX sky bridge, you will pass through a security checkpoint. Here, you must scan your CBX ticket and your passport at an automated gate. You will also have to show your boarding pass. After everything is scanned and the gate opens, you can proceed across the bridge.
The CBX sky bridge is fully enclosed and is 390 feet long. About halfway through, you will see a bronze plaque indicating exactly where the US-Mexico border is located. The walk across takes about 3 minutes at an average pace. The terminal offers free baggage carts if you need help hauling your luggage across the bridge.
Step 6: Pass Through Mexican Immigration and Customs
Near the end of the bridge, you will come to the Mexican Immigration booth. The immigration official will ask to see your Passport, boarding pass, and FMM visitor permit form. The immigration process takes 10-15 minutes depending on how busy they are. You’ll also pass through Mexican customs here.
If you haven’t already paid, you’ll be asked to pay the 687 peso FMM fee if you are staying in Mexico for more than 7 days. If you’ve already obtained the FMM online, the official will simply stamp it. For those who are staying for less than 7 days, you won’t have to pay.
Step 7: Check Your Luggage
If you have a bag to check, you can do so before you exit the CBX facility. Aeromexico, Volaris, and Viva Aerobus have bag drop-off locations exclusively for CBX passengers here.
After passing through immigration, you’ll see a counter where an airline staff member will take your checked luggage. If you don’t have any luggage to check, simply exit the CBX terminal.
Step 8: Go Through Security
After exiting the CBX terminal, you pass through a door into the main terminal building of Tijuana Airport. At this point, you will pass through a security checkpoint that is exclusively for CBX passengers. This is a normal airport security checkpoint with a bag scanner and metal detector.
Step 9: Proceed to Your Gate and Catch Your Flight
After passing through security, you can continue into the main terminal as if you had arrived like everyone else. Head to your gate and wait for your flight to board.
How to Cross Back to The United States from Tijuana Airport Using the Cross Border Xpress
The return process is basically the same but in reverse.
- Collect your bags- After deboarding, follow the signs to the baggage claim in Tijuana airport and gather all of your luggage.
- Make your way to the Cross Border Xpress access gate- In the baggage claim area, you will see signs for the CBX. Follow the signs directing you there. Be careful not to leave the baggage claim area. If you do, you won’t be able to use the CBX.
- Get your documents ready- You’ll need your passport, CBX ticket, and your boarding pass from the flight you just arrived on. If you don’t already have a CBX ticket, you can buy one at the kiosk. If you need a visa or another type of travel document to enter the U.S., you’ll need that too.
- Walk across the CBX sky bridge- The bridge will take you back to the US border.
- Go to the U.S. Immigration and Customs desk- An immigration official will check your passport and travel documents. You will then be asked to place your luggage into a scanner for security. They may ask to inspect your luggage.
- Arrange transport to your destination- Pick up your car at the parking lot, call an Uber or Lyft, take the shuttle, or take a taxi to your destination.
Why Use the Cross Border Xpress?
The main reason to use the Cross Border Xpress is to save time on the border crossing when returning to the U.S. The Tijuana border crossing is one of the busiest border crossings in the world. Tijuana is the world’s most visited border city. Crossing back from Mexico to the U.S. can take hours. Even when crossing on foot. If you use the CBX, you’ll cross in minutes without having to wait in a long line.
The CBX is also convenient if you’re driving. The reason is that you don’t have to deal with shuttles and taxis and Ubers. You also don’t have to drive in Mexico. You can just drive there, park in the parking lot, walk across the sky bridge, and catch your flight.
Another benefit is that you don’t have to pass through the city of Tijuana. Some people are afraid to travel through Tijuana due the the high crime rate. It’s also simply a hassle having to pass through a busy border and travel through a crowded city. When you use the CBX, you avoid all of that.
Cross Border Xpress Facilities
Tijuana has a modern airport. At CBX, you’ll find:
- Food concessions- There are a couple of small restaurants and some vending machines, as well as Starbucks and Wetzel’s Pretzels.
- Rental cars- On the US side, there is a Hertz, Mex Rent a Car, and Budget Car Rental. There are also car rentals on the Mexican side.
- Currency exchange booth
- Duty-free shop
- Free WiFi
- Free carts for transporting your luggage
Once you’re inside the airport, you’ll find some additional amenities including airport lounges. There is a VIP lounge in the main concourse A.
For international arrivals, there is an immigration and customs checkpoint in Concourse B.
How to Get to Tijuana Airport Using the Regular Crossing (San Ysidro Port of Entry) Instead of the Cross Border Xpress
The Cross Border Xpress is convenient but it is also kind of expensive for what it is. If you want to save the $50 on the ticket, you can simply cross into Tijuana for free at the regular crossing and then travel to the airport. You’ll still have to pay the FMM visitors permit fee if you are staying in Mexico for more than 7 days.
Check out my guide to walking across the border for step-by-step directions.
After crossing the border, catch a taxi or take an Uber to the airport. The ride from the border to the airport takes about 10-15 minutes depending on traffic. One way taxi fare should cost about $6-$9. Uber will be slightly cheaper.
After exiting the Mexican immigration building, you can walk about a block to Frontera Street. This is the first street you’ll come to. Here, you can flag down a taxi or wait for your Uber. Taxi drivers will be driving by at all hours of the day and night waiting for passengers. You won’t have to wait long. The driver will drop you off at departures.
On the way back, you can catch a taxi from Tijuana airport to the border. The price is slightly higher for the airport taxis. Uber isn’t allowed to pick up passengers at the airport at this time.
Is it Safe to Fly out of Tijuana Airport?
Yes. It is perfectly safe to fly out of Tijuana Airport. Particularly if you use the Cross Border Xpress. In this case, you won’t even have to walk outside. The sky bridge leads you directly from the terminal on the US side of the border into the main terminal of Tijuana Airport. The airport itself is as safe as any other airport. There is no safety risk here.
If you decide to cross the border at the main Tijuana crossing and then take a taxi to the airport, you will have to travel through the city. While Tijuana is a dangerous city, statistically, this trip is low risk. The border area is safe. There are police and military patrolling this area at all times. The immigration officials are professionals. You don’t have to worry about bribes or anything like that. From the border, you can catch a taxi or Uber directly to the airport. You’ll spend all of 15 minutes in Tijuana.
I recommend Uber because you are less likely to get scammed or overcharged. If you decide to take a taxi, try to take one of the white ‘taxi libre’. They are cheaper and safer than the yellow cabs. Be sure to negotiate the fare before accepting the ride. The taxi drivers in Tijuana like to overcharge tourists.
For more general safety info, check out my guide to staying safe in Tijuana.
Tijuana Airport Bus Services
There is a bus terminal at the airport. Shuttle bus services connect the airport with several Mexican and U.S. cities. Grayhound offers connections from the San Diego and Los Angeles to Tijuana Airport. ABC Bus offers connections from Mexicali and Ensenada to Tijuana Airport. A new bus terminal is also planned.
Why Fly Out of Tijuana Airport?
Southern California offers plenty of airports to choose from. Los Angeles, Burbank, Orange County, Long Beach, San Diego, and Ontario all have airports. Why bother traveling all the way to Tijuana to catch a flight?
The biggest benefit is the money you can save on tickets. Particularly if you are flying to Mexico. Reasons flights are cheaper include:
- You can take advantage of Mexico’s budget airlines- Mexico has an excellent network of budget airlines. These include Viva Aerobus, Volaris, Avolar, Aeromexico, and several others. I’ve flown Viva Aerobus and Volaris. They were on time and professional. I can recommend them.
- Lower airport taxes- By flying domestically in Mexico, you avoid paying expensive U.S. airport taxes. Mexican airport taxes are much cheaper for domestic flights.
- Tijuana offers a lot of flights- As Mexico’s 6th most populous city, Tijuana offers tons of connections all over the country and beyond. There is a lot of competition which drives down prices. Many U.S. airports aren’t served by Mexican budget airlines so fewer flights are offered and prices are higher.
Commercial Airlines that Fly out of Tijuana Airport
- Viva Aerobús
- Calafia Airlines
Volaris offers the most flight options from Tijuana.
Popular Destinations in Mexico with Direct Flights from Tijuana International Airport
From Tijuana airport, you can catch direct flights to over 35 locations in Mexico including:
- Cabo San Lucas
- La Paz
- Los Mochis
- Mexico City
- Oaxaca City
- Puerto Escondido
- Puerto Vallarta
- San Jose del Cabo
- San Luis Potosí
- And more
From Tijuana, I have seen round-trip tickets to popular destinations like Cancun, Los Cabos, or Mexico City for between $100-$150. This is cheap enough to make a long weekend trip if you live in Southern California.
Taking International Flights from Tijuana Airport
Flying out of Tijuana airport is also a good way to save money on international flights to destinations such as the Caribbean, Central America, or South America. There are a number of budget airlines operating throughout Latin America that don’t serve the U.S. but offer plenty of flights from Mexico.
If you’re looking for flights to Central or South America, I recommend you check for flights from Mexico City. If you’re looking for flights to the Caribbean, I recommend you check flights from Cancun. You can book two separate flights and save a nice chunk of money.
For example, you could book a cheap domestic flight from Tijuana to Mexico City. From there, you can find budget international flights to popular destinations outside of Mexico like Colombia, Costa Rica, or Peru. If you’re willing to put in a bit more effort on the planning and booking side, as well as make the trip to Tijuana, you can save hundreds of dollars on your international airfare this way.
I used this trick when I went to Cuba. I took a cheap flight from Tijuana to Cancun on Viva Aerobus. This was convenient for me because I was already living in Tijuana at the time. I spent a couple of days enjoying Cancun on a stopover then booked a cheap flight to Havana on Interjet. This ended up being a really inexpensive vacation. I made a similar budget trip to Mexico City.
Recently, Aeromexico also began offering direct flights from Tijuana to two destinations in China, Beijing, and Shanghai.
Tijuana Airport and Cross Border Xpress Tips
- If you have the time, I highly recommend you spend a couple of days in Tijuana either before or after your trip- I’ve spent about a year living in the city and have absolutely fallen in love with it. For tips and recommendations, check out my Ultimate Guide to Visiting Tijuana. A couple of interesting things to do include taking a walk down Avenida Revolucion and visiting the Tijuana Cultural Center (CECUT).
- If you are on a tight budget, consider just walking across the regular border and taking a taxi or Uber to the airport- You’ll avoid the $30 fee for using Cross Border Xpress. The cab from the border to the airport will cost around $10-$15 round trip.
- Bring something to the airport for entertainment- It’s a pretty small airport with nothing really to do. You’ll want a book or a movie to pass the time.
- Bring some snacks- Again, the airport is pretty small. Food options are somewhat limited. I think there is a small food court with some restaurants, a coffee shop, and a small convenience store where you can buy snacks.
Some Info about Tijuana International Airport
Tijuana International Airport is also known as General Abelardo L. Rodriguez International Airport. The airport has a single runway with a parallel taxiway. The main Tijuana airport terminal has 23 gates. It was built in 1970. The old terminal now operates as an air base for the Mexican government.
Tijuana airport has become the 4th busiest airport in Mexico after Mexico City, Cancun, and Guadalajara airports. It is a fast growing airport. It is operated by Grupo Aeroportuario del Pacífico.
The Best Hotels and Hostels in Tijuana
If you end up needing to spend the night in Tijuana before or after your trip, consider these hotels.
- Hotel Ticuán- This historic mid-range hotel is located right in the middle of the city center on Avenida Revolución.
- Casita de Colores- This is one of the most affordable places to stay in Tijuana. It is located outside of the city center.
- Hotel Caesars- This is a highly rated and affordable hotel located in Zona Centro.
- Hotel Lucerna Tijuana- This is another more upscale option. It’s located in Zona Río.
Flying Out of Mexicali International Airport
The city of Mexicali also has an international airport. Mexicali is the capital of Baja California. The city sits about 180 km or 112 miles east of Tijuana. This can be a convenient option if you’re coming from the Phoenix area or other parts of Arizona.
Aeromexico, Viva Aerobus, Volaris, and TAR all fly out of here. This airport offers flights all over Mexico including Mexico City, Monterrey, Guadalajara, Oaxaca, Los Mochis, Chihuahua, Ciudad Juarez, Hermosillo, San Jose del Cabo, Queretaro, and more.
Final Thoughts on Flying Out of Tijuana Airport and Using the Cross Border Xpress
Flying out of Tijuana Airport is a great way to save money on flights to destinations across Mexico and all over Latin America. Since the CBX opened, accessing Tijuana Airport has been as easy as flying out of any of the other Southern California airports. In fact, if you live in the San Diego area, it’s easier to fly out of Tijuana than to travel all the way to LAX. Flying out of Tijuana is often cheaper than flying out of San Diego International Airport. When buying a ticket, it’s always a good idea to check the prices out of Tijuana. You might save a few bucks.
Have you flown out of Tijuana Airport or used the Cross Border Xpress? Share your experience in the comments below!
More Tijuana guides from Where the Road Forks
- How to Drive to Tijuana
- Is Mexico Safe? Avoiding Crime and Scams
- The Ultimate Guide to Visiting Tijuana
- Best Places to Retire in Mexico
- 29 Incredible Things to Do in Tijuana
- Inside a Tijuana Bar During an Armed Robbery
- Traveling to Mexico With a Dog
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.