The fastest and safest way to travel to Tijuana is to drive to the border, park your car on the U.S. side, and walk across one of the pedestrian crossings. Unfortunately, the cost of Tijuana border parking is high. Most lots have a minimum charge of around $10 for day parking. Overnight parking can cost $20-40. Prices increase significantly during weekends and holidays. This adds up quickly if you’re staying multiple days.
This guide outlines your Tijuana border parking options. I’ll explain two ways to avoid the expensive pay lots and park for free at the Tijuana border. I’ll also recommend a couple of the cheaper and secure paid lots for those who don’t mind paying for parking. Finally, I’ll share a few tips to help keep your car safe while you visit Tijuana.
How to Park for Free at the Tijuana Border
There are two free border parking options. Both options involve taking the trolley. The best parking option depends on how long you plan to stay in Tijuana.
If You are Staying in Tijuana for Less than 24 Hours
If you’re just staying in Tijuana for the day, you can park your car at a San Diego trolley station or a Rapid transit station parking lot and ride the trolley to the border. You can park in these lots for free for up to 24 hours.
There are a couple of dozen free park and ride lots in San Diego county. Check out this list to find the most convenient one for you. Not every station has a parking lot.
The only catch is that you will have to take the trolley to San Ysidro where you will walk across the border. Trolley tickets cost $5 round trip for a regular adult ticket. This is cheaper than parking in a paid lot.
For most travelers, I recommend parking at Palomar or Palm trolley station in Chula Vista. Both stations have big and secure lots that almost always have plenty of parking spaces available. These lots are easy to get to from the I5 freeway as well.
You’ll want to make sure you don’t park for more than 24 hours in one of these free lots or you could end up with a parking ticket. Your car could also get towed. This would end up costing you much more than just paying for parking.
If You are Staying in Tijuana for More Than 24 Hours
If you plan to stay in Tijuana for more than 24 hours, the best free parking option is to park on a residential street near one of the trolley stations. Many of the stations are located within a few blocks of a residential neighborhood with free street parking.
To find free street parking, look at your nearest San Diego trolley station on Google Maps. Switch to satellite view and look for residential areas near the station. Drive around these areas and look for a secure and legal place to park. I have parked my car on the street for up to a week without any issues.
When searching for a parking space, you’ll want to be sure to check for parking signs. Some neighborhoods have street sweeping days when it’s illegal to park. Sometimes street parking is only permitted at certain times per day. You may have to drive around a bit before you find a suitable place to park. If you park illegally or leave your car too long, it will get ticketed or towed.
I have had good luck parking near the Palomar trolley station in Chula Vista. After exiting the freeway, you can take a right at the first light. This is Industrial Blvd. Take another right at the roundabout. You’ll drive down a residential street where you can park for free. From here it is just a short walk to the trolley station. You can also find free street parking on residential streets near the Palm trolley station. Keep in mind that you’ll still have to pay $5 round trip for the trolley to San Ysidro. This is a lot better than $20-30 per day paying for parking.
There are a couple of drawbacks to this. First, you may have to walk a few blocks to the trolley station. There is also a risk that your car gets broken into. There is no security when you park on the street. You’ll want to be careful about where you park.
Tijuana Border Parking Pay Lot Recommendations
The main reason to park in a pay lot is convenience. Your car is right across the border and you don’t have to deal with the hassle of taking the trolley. You can usually find parking for around $1 per hour during the day. The catch is the lots have a minimum of $9-$10. Of course, you’ll pay significantly more for overnight, weekend, or holiday border parking. A couple of the better pay lots include:
- International Parking- This is the cheapest lot. It’s located behind the Jack in the Box across the street from the Say Ysidro Trolley station. They charge $7 for 8 hours, $14 for 8-16 hours, and $21 for 16-24 hours. Unfortunately, this place gets pretty bad reviews. They seem to have problems with security issues.
- Border Station Parking- This lot costs a bit more but seems to offer better security. It also gets decent reviews. They charge $9 for 10 hours Monday-Thursday and $18 for 10 hours Friday-Sunday. They also offer shuttle service to Tijuana.
I don’t have any affiliation with either of these lots. I have a couple of friends who drive to Tijuana regularly and recommended these lots to me. If you find a better deal, comment below!
Parking in Tijuana
One other inexpensive parking option is to drive across the border and park in Tijuana. For more info on driving to and around Tijuana, check out my step-by-step guide: How to Drive to Tijuana. Here, I discuss Mexican auto insurance, the border crossing, driving in Tijuana, and more.
Alternatives to Tijuana Border Parking
If you want to avoid parking altogether, you can always take the Greyhound bus. The bus drops you off at the San Ysidro transit center just steps from the PedEast border crossing. For more info, check out my step-by-step guide: How to Travel to Tijuana by Greyhound Bus.
One thing to remember when visiting Tijuana is that your US health insurance most likely won’t cover you while you’re in Mexico. You may want to consider purchasing travel insurance for your trip. I like World Nomads. They can cover you in the event of theft, injury, or medical emergency. You can also check out my travel insurance page.
If you end up falling in love with Tijuana and want to move there like I did, check out my guide: Moving to Tijuana as an American.
More Tijuana guides from Where The Road Forks
- Is Tijuana Safe? Avoiding Common Scams and Crime
- The Ultimate Guide to Visiting Tijuana
- Inside a Tijuana Bar During an Armed Robbery
- Healthcare in Mexico for Americans: Visiting a Clinic, Going to the Dentist, and Buying Prescriptions in Tijuana
- How to Walk Across the Border to Tijuana
- 29 Incredible Things to do in Tijuana
- Do I Need a Visa to Visit Mexico? The FMM Visitors Permit Explained
- Using Uber in Tijuana