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How to Travel from Tijuana to Tecate

Traveling from Tijuana to Tecate is quick and easy. The two cities sit just 32 miles (51 km) apart. Travel time averages around 1 hour. This guide outlines how to travel from Tijuana to Tecate, step by step. 

There are four ways to make this trip. You can drive, take public transport, take a taxi, or take a bus. This guide covers cost, travel time, how to book tickets, departure times, safety, and more. Hopefully, this guide makes your trip to Tecate a bit smoother and easier.

Parque Miguel Hidalgo, Tecate, Baja California
Parque Miguel Hidalgo, Tecate
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About the Trip from Tijuana to Tecate

Tecate sits right on the border, 32 miles (51 km) east of Tijuana. The trip from Tijuana to Tecate takes 50 minutes to 1 hour and 20 minutes depending on the route you take, your mode of travel, and traffic.

Tijuana and Tecate are connected by two highways. Highway 2D is a toll road (cuota). Highway 2 is a free highway (via libre). Both roads are safe and well maintained. The toll to drive from Tijuana to Tecate is 127 pesos or about $6.40. 

It is also possible to drive directly to Tecate from the U.S. There is a small border crossing between Tecate, California and Tecate, Mexico. This is a good option if you’re starting your trip in San Diego.

Tecate is part of the San Diego-Tijuana metropolitan area. The city has a population of just over 100,000. Tecate is best known as being the home of one of Mexico’s most famous beers, Tecate. The beer is named after the town. Tecate is also one of Mexico’s Pueblos Magicos due to its cultural significance and architecture. The city features a traditional central plaza with a historic church and a beautiful city hall.

Table of Contents

This guide is divided into 4 sections. Each section outlines a different transportation option between Tijuana and Tecate.

The Tijuana arch

How to Drive from Tijuana to Tecate

You can easily drive your own vehicle between Tijuana and Tecate. Many travelers prefer this option because driving gives you more freedom. When you drive, you have your own transportation. You won’t have to rely on taxis or public transportation. With a car, you can explore on your own. 

Because Tijuana and Tecate sit right on the border, it is possible to drive between the two cities on the U.S. side or the Mexican side of the border. The optimal route depends on where you’re starting, the time of day you’re driving, and personal preference. Sometimes it’s faster or easier to drive on one side of the border than the other. 

Driving from Tijuana to Tecate on the Mexico Side of the Border

Tijuana and Tecate are connected by two roads: Highway 2D and Highway 2. Highway 2D is the toll road (cuota in Spanish) and Highway 2 is the free road (Via libre in Spanish).

Highway 2D is smooth, fast, and extremely well-maintained. Traffic is usually pretty light. The road also takes a direct route between the two cities. This is the fastest route between Tijuana and Tecate.

Highway 2 is also a good road but a bit slower. There are a couple of rough sections where you have to look out for potholes. Traffic is a bit heavier on this road. This road also passes through several towns where you’ll have to slow down for stop lights. It’s a bit longer as well. The road takes you southeast through Tijuana before turning northeast toward Tecate.

Both roads will take you to Tecate safely. You can easily get on either road from Tijuana. If you’re okay with paying a toll, I recommend taking Highway 2D. It’s a better and faster road.

To get on Highway 2D in Tijuana, you want to get on Avenida Vía Rápida Pte. South. This is the main highway going through Tijuana. It follows the Tijuana River. After crossing the border, merge right onto Avenida Vía Rápida. Follow this road until you reach a junction.

Here, you’ll merge onto Avenida Via Rápida Almar Sur. Continue following this road and you’ll come to a corner where you’ll make a left. The road is called Florido/Blvd. Lic. Héctor Terán Terán.

Continue driving straight and you’ll come to an onramp marked Tijuana-Exicali/Carrera de cuota/ Blvd. Alberto Limón Padilla. Merge to the right onto the highway going east.

Continue driving straight until your reach an interchange. Keep left and follow the signs for Mexicali Highway 2D. This road will take you directly to Tecate. 

Highway 2D passes by Tecate. When you reach the city, you’ll want to take one of the exits into town. Blvrd. Universidad will take you right into the center of Tecate.

If you want to take the free road (Highway 1), stay on Avenida Vía Rápida Pte. South. Take this road all the way through Tijuana. You’ll reach a large interchange. Here, you’ll merge right onto Avenida de los Insurgentes/ Tecate Highway 2. Stay on Highway 2 all the way to Tecate. This is the main road going through downtown. 

A highway in Tijuana

How Much is the Toll Between Tijuana and Tecate?

The current toll to drive from Tijuana to Tecate on highway 2D is 127 pesos or about $6.40. There is a single toll booth between the two cities.

You can pay the toll in cash at the toll booth. Pesos and dollars are both accepted. You can’t mix currencies when paying. When paying the toll, be sure to keep your receipt. 

If you plan to make this drive frequently, you can get an IAVE pass (Identificacion Automatics Vehicular or Automatic Vehicle Identification). This pass allows you to use special fast lanes at the toll booths and pay automatically. For more info, check out this guide.  

The above-listed toll price is for a standard-sized car. If you’re driving a large vehicle such as a motorhome or riding a motorcycle, the price will be different. Of course, you can also avoid the toll completely by taking Highway 2 instead. 

Driving From San Diego Tecate

If you’re starting your trip in the San Diego area or further north, it might be more convenient to drive to Tecate on the U.S. side of the border and then cross into Mexico. There is a small port of entry between Tecate, California and Tecate, Mexico.

This way, you’ll cross directly into Tecate without having to drive through Tijuana. Many travelers prefer to skip Tijuana because it is a hassle to drive through. Traffic is heavy and the roads are confusing. It’s also quicker and easier to cross at Tecate most of the time. The border is much smaller. 

To drive to Tecate from the San Diego area, get on Highway 94 east. You’ll follow this road for about 38 miles until you reach a junction with Highway 188/ Campo Road. Turn south on highway 188. After about 23 miles, you’ll reach an intersection. Here, you’ll turn right on Tecate Road. This will take you directly to the border. This route does not have any tolls.

If you don’t feel comfortable driving in Mexico, you could cross the border from Tijuana and then drive to Tecate on the U.S. side as outlined above. It wouldn’t really make sense to do this because it’s a much further drive. This route would take you 20 miles out of the way. You’ll also have to cross the border two times, which is time-consuming.

If you want to visit Tecate but you don’t want to drive in Mexico, you can park your vehicle on the U.S. side of the border and walk across. There are a number of parking lots near the border where you can pay to park. Tecate sits right on the border. You can easily walk from the parking lot to the pedestrian crossing and then into Tecate’s historic center. This pedestrian crossing here is quick and easy.

How Long Does it Take to Drive from Tijuana to Tecate?

It takes around 1 hour to drive from Tijuana to Tecate. The exact travel time depends on which route you take and traffic. If you take highway 2D, you can make the drive in just under an hour if traffic is light. If you take highway 2, the trip takes about 1 hour 10 minutes.

Highway 2 takes a bit longer because the road is about 2 miles longer. It heads southeast through Tijuana then curves northeast toward Tecate. Highway 2 also has a bit more traffic in some sections. Highway 2D is a more direct route. It’s also a wider, smoother, and faster highway.

If you’re driving from San Diego to Tecate, the drive takes about 1 hour 5 minutes if you take Highway 94. If you make the drive during peak commuter hours, it will take you some time to get out of San Diego. Traffic can get heavy. 

How Far is the Drive from Tijuana to Tecate?

If you take highway 2D, the driving distance from downtown Tijuana to Tecate is 30.6 miles or 49.2 km. If you take highway 2, the distance from downtown Tijuana to Tecate is 32.5 miles or 52.2 km. 

The drive from San Diego to Tecate on is about 41 miles or 66 km. The drive from Tijuana to Tecate by crossing the border and driving on the U.S. side is about 61 miles or 98 km.

Is it Safe to Drive from Tijuana to Tecate?

Yes. This is a safe drive to make. Both highways 2 and 2D are frequently traveled, heavily policed, and well maintained. After all, these are the two main roads between the capital city (Mexicali) and the largest city (Tijuana) in the state of Baja California. They need to be safe and well-maintained. If you happen to break down, you’re never far from service. You’re unlikely to encounter any crime on the road.

If possible, it’s best to avoid making the drive between Tijuana and Tecate at night if you’ve never made the drive before. There are a few reasons for this. Parts of the road are not well lit. There are a couple of curvy sections that could get treacherous at night. Occasionally, pedestrians or animals may walk on the road. It’s hard to see them at night. It’s also easier to get lost at night. The signage isn’t very good. Particularly in Tijuana. It’s easy to make a wrong turn and end up in a bad neighborhood. Once you’re on the highway, navigation isn’t an issue. If you’re making this drive for the first time, try to go during the day. If you must drive at night, exercise caution.

One risk to be aware of while driving in this region is police corruption. While driving, a corrupt officer could pull you over and solicit a bribe. The officer may accuse you of committing a crime or traffic violation and then tell you that you can pay there and then in cash. 

This is a crime. It’s best to avoid paying bribes if possible. In this situation, you can ask for a paper citation or request to go to the police station to pay the fine. This way, you know the fine is legitimate.

Sometimes you can’t get out of it. Some officers can get aggressive. If you must pay, usually you can negotiate the fine down to 500-1000 pesos ($50-$100). In some cases, the police will take whatever cash you have on you. For more info, check out my guide to police corruption in Tijuana and how to avoid paying bribes.

How to Return to Tijuana from Tecate

You can simply drive back the way you came on Highway 2 or Highway 2D. Remember, you’ll have to pay the toll again if you take highway 2D.

Alternatively, you could cross the border at the Tecate crossing and drive back on the U.S. side of the border.

the border crossing between Tijuana and San Ysidro
People waiting to cross from Tijuana into the U.S.

Traveling Onward into Mexico

If you’re continuing into Mexico, there are two highways you can catch from Tecate. If you continue on Highway 2 you’ll end up in Mexicali. This is a large desert city on the border. It is the capital of the state of Baja California. From there, you can continue driving east into the state of Sonora in mainland Mexico. 

If you take highway 3 from Tecate, you’ll end up in Ensenada. From there, you can continue down the Baja Peninsula on highway 1 or 3. Highway 3 also passes through the famous wine region Valle de Guadalupe.

Temporary Mexican Auto Insurance

If you plan to drive your own car in Mexico, it’s a good idea to buy temporary auto insurance before your trip. This way, you’ll be covered in case you’re involved in an accident in Mexico. Chances are your regular insurance doesn’t cover you in Mexico.

You can purchase Mexican auto insurance online or at a kiosk near the border crossing. Your regular insurance provider may also offer temporary insurance for Mexico. Insurance for driving in Mexico costs around $20-$30 per day depending on the kind of car you drive.

I recommend Baja Bound Mexican Insurance. They offer affordable rates and friendly service. Click the link to get a free quote in just a couple of minutes.

Toll Road Insurance

One major benefit of taking the toll road is that you’re insured while you’re driving on it. Insurance is included in the cost of the toll. Your receipt acts as proof that you’ve paid the toll. You’ll need your receipt in order to file a claim. Be sure to store it somewhere safe, such as in your pocket.

This insurance can cover damage to the road, medical bills, damage to other vehicles, and damage to your vehicle. Exactly what’s covered depends on who is at fault in the accident. If you’re at fault, only damage to the road, other vehicles, and other driver’s medical expenses. If you’re not at fault, the insurance covers your medical bills and damage to your vehicle. Paint chips and cracked window glass are only covered if the damage was caused by poor road maintenance.

You still need to buy temporary Mexican auto insurance, even if you’re taking the toll road. The toll road insurance only covers you while you’re driving on the toll road. It is also limited in what it covers. While you’re driving around in the cities, you still need to be insured. 

The Temporary Vehicle Import Permit (TIP)

You do not need a temporary import permit to drive from Tijuana to Tecate. If you plan to continue your trip further into Mexico and exit the Baja Peninsula or the Sonora Free Zone, you will need to get a temporary import permit before you cross the border into Mexico. 

The temporary import permit is a document that allows you to drive your foreign-plated vehicle anywhere in Mexico. You can’t get it in Mexico. You need to get it before you cross the border. It’s not possible to get a TIP in Mexico. For more info, check out my guide to the temporary import permit.

Renting a Car to Drive from Tijuana to Tecate

If you don’t want to drive your own car across the border, you can rent a car in Tijuana and drive it to Tecate. All of the major rental agencies have locations in Tijuana including Enterprise, Hertz, Budget, Dollar, Alamo, etc. Renting a car in Tijuana costs around $50 per day.

There are several benefits of renting a car rather than driving your own car. First, renting a car can save you a bit of time. It’s often faster to cross the border on foot than to drive across. You also won’t have to deal with buying temporary insurance. You can just buy your insurance from the rental agency. If you drive a nice vehicle, you won’t have to worry about damaging it while driving over potholes and speedbumps in Mexico. You’ll also have a car with local license plates. This can reduce your likelihood of getting pulled over by a corrupt police officer.

If you want to drive a rental car to Tecate, you will have to rent the car in Mexico. Most U.S. car rental agencies don’t allow you to take their cars across the border. If you drive a U.S. rental car to Mexico, you may not be covered if you’re involved in an accident. Some companies will allow you to take their cars abroad if you pay an additional deposit.

For more info, check out my guide to renting a car in Mexico.

Tip: When you rent a car in Mexico, make sure you are aware of all of the costs involved. Ask to see the final price before signing the rental contract. Some rental agencies in Mexico like to advertise extremely low prices and then surprise you with a big bill when you return the car. This is a common scam all over Mexico. If you rent from a reputable agency, you usually don’t have to worry about this.

How to Take a Taxi from Tjuana to Tecate

A taxi driving on the highway in Baja California

From anywhere in Tijuana, you can catch a taxi to Tecate. A taxi ride from Tijuana to Tecate will cost $40-$60 (around 800-1200 pesos). The exact fare depends on the driver, traffic, the time of day, and your negotiating skills. When traffic is heavy, the fare costs more. If you’re a good negotiator, you might be able to bargain yourself a lower rate.

The taxi ride from Tijuana to Tecate takes around 50 minutes to 1 hour 20 minutes. The exact travel time depends on where you’re starting your journey in Tijuana and traffic. Tijuana traffic can get pretty heavy during peak commuter hours. Some taxi drivers also drive faster than others. 

There are two types of taxis in Tijuana, white taxis (taxis libres) and yellow taxis (taxis económicos). If you have the option, try to take a white Taxi Libre. They tend to offer better service and lower rates. The vehicles are usually in good condition and they have meters. Yellow taxis are often in poor condition. They also have set fare instead of meters. Prices are higher.  

When you take a taxi from Tijuana to Tecate, ask the driver if he’ll use the meter. This will get you the absolute lowest rate. If the taxi doesn’t have a meter or if the driver refuses to use the meter, you’ll have to negotiate the fare. Ask the driver how much it will cost to take you to Tecate and negotiate from there. 

Always negotiate the fare before you get in the taxi or accept the ride. Some drivers like to overcharge tourists. If you don’t negotiate the fare and the driver doesn’t use the meter, you will be overcharged. If the driver won’t use the meter or give you a reasonable price, simply find another taxi. They are plentiful in Tijuana.

If you’re in a tourist area like downtown, Zona Norte, Zona Rio, or Playas de Tijuana, you’ll see taxis pass by regularly. You’ll also see plenty of taxis near the border. There are also taxi stands located throughout the city. When you’re ready to travel, simply flag down a cab. You don’t have to call ahead.

Most taxi drivers will be happy to take you to Tecate. They want the fare. Some may not want to make the drive. In this case, just find another cab. 

Taking a taxi is probably the easiest and most convenient transportation option between Tijuana and Tecate because you don’t have to drive and you can stay in the same vehicle all the way to your destination. Your driver will drop you off outside of your hotel in Tecate. You don’t have to make transfers or walk.

Taking a taxi is particularly convenient if you’re walking across the border to Tijuana. You can catch a cab from the border and travel directly to Tecate. After crossing, continue walking down the path until you reach the first street with traffic.

If you cross at PedEast, this will be Frontera Street. If you cross at PedWest, this will be José María Larroque. From these streets, you’ll see taxis pass by regularly. Just flag one down and negotiate a price.

When you’re ready to return to Tijuana, you can simply catch another taxi in Tecate and negotiate the fare. You’ll find plenty of taxis in Tecate.

Taking an Uber from Tijuana to Tecate

You can order an Uber from anywhere in Tijuana and take it all the way to your destination in Tecate. Uber operates in both cities. The Uber ride from Tijuana to Tecate costs around $30-$50 (600-1000 pesos) depending on traffic and the time of day that you make the trip. The ride takes anywhere from 0:50 to 1:20 depending on traffic and where you start the trip.

Uber in Tijuana works just like it does anywhere else. One additional payment option you have in Mexico is to pay in cash. You can change your payment setting from credit card to cash in the app. You’ll pay the driver directly in cash at the end of your ride. This is a nice option if your credit card company charges a foreign transaction fee. You should bring exact change if you do this. Most Uber drivers don’t carry change. 

Uber is commonly used in Tijuana and Tecate. You shouldn’t have any trouble finding a driver. Particularly when you’re in one of the touristy areas or near the border. In the past, it was a bit dangerous to take Uber in Tijuana because Taxi drivers were angry that they were taking some of their business. Several attacks occurred. These days, taking an Uber is safe.

For more info, check out my guide to taking taxis and Ubers in Tijuana.

How to Take the Bus from Tijuana to Tecate

If you don’t want to drive or pay for a taxi, you can take the bus from Tijuana to Tecate. Several bus companies offer bus service including ACN, Autotravel, Elite bus, and Chihuahuanses. I recommend you avoid Autotravel because their prices are high. Their station is also less conveniently located.

Tijuana to Tecate Bus Departure Times

ACN and Autotravel both offer bus service 1-3 times per day from Tijuana to Tecate. ACN buses leave at 9:40, 10:00, and 11:00 AM. Autotravel buses leave at 9:00 and 10:00 AM. Elite and Chihuhenses offer service multiple times per day from 6:00 AM to 11:30 PM. There is a bus leaving Tijuana for Tecate every couple of hours. The schedules change slightly on the weekends.

Departure times and frequencies can change without notice. Before heading to the station, it’s a good idea to check the schedule. You can check the schedule on the bus company websites here:

Tijuana to Tecate Bus Ticket Prices

The price for a one-way bus ticket from Tijuana to Tecate costs about $5-$7 (100-145 pesos). Most companies charge about the same. The cheapest ticket I have found is on ACN bus. They charge 100 pesos for the ticket.

Autotravel is more expensive. They charge 400 pesos (around $20) for a one-way ticket. They charge more because they supposedly run more premium buses. For such a short trip, the quality of the bus doesn’t really matter for most travelers. 

The bus ticket prices can change at any time. You can check prices online before heading to the station on the bus company websites linked above. 

Bus Travel Times from Tijuana to Tecate

The bus trip from Tijuana to Tecate takes around 45 minutes to 1 hour. The exact travel time depends on traffic. Bus travel time is slightly shorter than the average drive time because Tijuana’s central bus station is located right next to highway 2 in the eastern half of the city.

You can check the travel time on the bus company’s website. The buses usually operate on time, in my experience. Sometimes they arrive a few minutes late.

How to Buy a Bus Ticket from Tijuana to Tecate

You can buy a ticket from Tijuana to Tecate either online or in person. You must buy your ticket before you board the bus.

For this trip, you usually don’t need to buy your ticket in advance. You can just show up 15-20 minutes before your desired departure time and buy a ticket for the next bus. Buses on this route usually don’t fill up. There are almost always seats available.

When you arrive at the station, look for the ticket sales kiosk for the bus companies listed above. They will have departure times and prices posted. You can pay for your ticket in cash with pesos. Most companies also accept credit cards and debit cards.

Some buses may fill up during holidays. If you’re traveling during a busy time of year, it’s a good idea to check availability online. The bus companies show you how many seats are available on their website. If you see that seats are selling out on your desired bus, consider buying a ticket in advance.

You can book your ticket online if you prefer. You can pay with a credit card or debit card. The only drawback to buying your ticket online is that some companies require that you print your ticket. You can’t just show the ticket on your phone. When you’re traveling, you may not have access to a printer. It’s a hassle to find a print shop. This policy varies by company. Some are more modern and offer e-tickets. I have also had trouble with my foreign credit card being declined when trying to buy bus tickets online. Some companies only accept Mexican cards for online ticket purchases.

How to get to the bus station in Tijuana

Tecate-bound buses operated by ACN, Elite, and Chihuhenses depart from Tijuana central bus station (Central de Autobuses de Tijuana). The station is located here. Buses operated by Autotravel depart from Pinos. Their station is located here.

Tijuana Central Bus Station is not centrally located within the city. If you’re starting your trip near the border or in one of the touristy areas such as Zona Centro or Zona Rio, you’ll have to take a taxi, Uber, or public transport to the station. It’s too far to walk. 

You can catch a taxi or Uber to the bus station from anywhere in the city. It’s about a 6.5 mile (9 km) ride from the border or downtown to the bus station. The ride takes about 15 minutes depending on traffic.

If you’re taking a taxi, tell the driver that you want to go to ‘el central de autobuses’. Every driver knows where it is. The taxi ride should cost around 250-300 pesos ($12-$14). Be sure to negotiate the rate before you get in the taxi so you don’t get overcharged. If possible, try to take a white ‘taxi libre’ rather than a yellow cab. The white taxis have meters and are cheaper. 

If you are taking an Uber, input ‘central de autobuses’ as your destination. The ride will cost a bit less than the taxi fare. Probably around 200 pesos ($9.50).

It is also possible to take public transport to the bus station. You can catch a minibus to Tijuana’s central bus station on the corner of 2nd or 3rd street and Avenida Constitución in downtown Tijuana. You’ll see minibusses lined up on the street around here.

If you have trouble finding the correct bus, ask one of the drivers or attendants which bus is going to el central de autobuses. I don’t know the exact fare. I believe it’s around 20 pesos (around $1). The ride from downtown to the bus station will take around 20-30 minutes depending on the number of stops the bus makes.

Tijuana’s central bus station is large, organized, clean, and safe. There is plenty of seating inside. Restrooms are available for a fee of around 6 pesos. There are a couple of shops where you can buy snacks and drinks. There is also a paid parking lot at the station if you want to drive to Tijuana, park, and take the bus.

Luggage on the Bus

A woman with her luggage

Included in the price of your ticket is a luggage allowance of one small carry-on bag, one personal item, and one large checked bag. If you have more luggage or if your luggage is oversized or overweight, you may have to pay an additional fee.

For most companies, the carry-on can weigh a maximum of 5 kg (about 11 lbs) and the checked bag can weigh a maximum of 25 kg (about 55 lbs).

Size-wise, the carry-on must fit either in the overhead luggage area or between your legs on the floor. Checked luggage size usually doesn’t matter unless it’s clearly oversized.

Some companies have slightly smaller baggage allowances. If you’re traveling with a lot of luggage or a bulky item such as a bicycle or surfboard, you might want to check the allowance before you purchase a ticket.

If you’re traveling with a large piece of luggage, such as a big backpack or suitcase, a luggage handler will tag your bag and hand you a luggage tag. They will load your luggage onto the bus for you. You can tip the luggage handler if you choose.

In my experience, luggage typically isn’t weighed. If your bag is particularly heavy, an attendant could weigh it and charge you an extra fee. In this case, you’ll be charged based on the number of kilograms your bag weighs over the weight limit.

Tip: When packing for your bus trip, try to pack all of your fragile items and valuables in your carry-on bag. This way, you’re the only one handling your fragile gear. Your valuable items are less likely to get stolen when they are in your possession on the bus. Luggage handlers sometimes toss or stack bags. It’s easy for fragile gear to get broken in your checked bag. Luggage theft isn’t common but is possible.

Seating on the Bus

You will be assigned a seat when you purchase your bus ticket. You can request a specific seat when you purchase your ticket. The safest seats are aisle seats in the center of the bus on the right side. This way, you aren’t facing oncoming traffic. 

Personally, I prefer window seats while riding the bus because I enjoy looking out at the scenery. The trip from Tijuana to Tecate isn’t all that scenic but it’s nice to get a view of the cities as you drive through.

About the Bus

The buses that operate between Tijuana and Tecate are modern and well-maintained. Most have restrooms and reclining seats. Some have electrical outlets. They are also heated and air-conditioned. Some buses are nicer than others. Autotravel seems to run the most modern buses.

I recommend you bring a sweatshirt with you for the bus trip. Some drivers keep the bus kind of chilly

Arriving in Tecate by Bus

Most buses drop you off at El Central de Autobuses Tecate (Tecate central bus station). The station is located at Avenida Benito Juárez 400, Tecate Centro. This is a convenient location in the city center, just a couple of blocks from the main square and Miguel Hidalgo Park. The Tecate bus station is a small regional station. There is some seating inside. There is also a paid restroom. 

Once you arrive in Tecate, you can take a taxi or Uber, or take a public bus to your destination. You’ll find taxis and local buses waiting outside of the station. Because the station is so centrally located, you can also walk to your hotel if you’re staying near the city center. Central Tecate is pretty walkable.

How to Return from Tecate to Tijuana by Bus

You can buy a ticket back to Tijuana at the Tecate central bus station. If you know your return date, you could buy your ticket while you’re at the station. Otherwise, you’ll want to arrive 15-30 minutes early on your departure day to buy a ticket.

It is usually unnecessary to buy a ticket in advance unless you’re traveling during a holiday. The buses rarely fill up. There is a bus departing Tecate for Tijuana every 2-3 hours. Consider checking the schedule before you leave the station.

When you arrive back at the El Central de Autobuses de Tijuana, you’ll have to take a taxi, Uber, or taxi de ruta back to your destination in Tijuana or to the border.

How to Travel from Tijuana Tecate by Public Transport

a minibus

Public transportation is the most affordable way to travel between Tijuana and Tecate. Tijuana’s public transport system is a network of shared minibusses called taxis de ruta. These buses operate on set routes throughout the city. You can hop on and hop off anywhere you like along the route.

The buses depart when they’re full. You pay a set price regardless of where you hop on or off or how far you travel. The price is usually printed on the window. 

I don’t know the exact cost of this trip. It should be somewhere around 60-80 pesos (around $3-$4.) You pay your fare directly to the driver. Try to pay with exact change or small bills. The drivers don’t carry change to break large bills.

I don’t believe there is a direct taxi de ruta from Tijuana to Tecate. If you know of one, comment below. You can take a taxi de ruta from Tijuana to Villa del Campo then transfer to another taxi de ruta that will take you on to Tecate. Villa del Campo is a neighborhood on the outskirts of Tijuana, just east of the city. It sits around halfway between Tijuana and Tecate.

You can catch the first taxi in downtown Tijuana on Calle 4 between Avenida Revolucion and Avenida Consitucion. You’ll see taxis lined up on the street. Ask one of the drivers or attendants where to catch the taxi to Tecate and they’ll point you in the right direction. The buses often have the destination printed on a sign in the window.

When you board the bus, you can sit wherever you like. There is no assigned seating. Luggage space is often limited on taxis de ruta. There is often some space behind the rear seats. You can also store your luggage on your lap or on the floor between your feet. If you have a lot of luggage, you may need to pay for an extra seat for luggage storage. In this case, you’re probably better off taking the bus.

This ride will take around an hour and a half. It takes a bit longer than other modes of transport because the bus stops frequently to drop people off and pick others up. The route also isn’t as direct. You’ll also have to factor in the time you’ll have to wait for the taxi to fill up. This could take 30 minutes or more. If you factor in the wait time, the trip will probably take over 2 hours.

The taxi de ruta will drop you off at the center of Tecate on the main street. There is one main street in Tecate. That is highway 2 or Avenida Benito Juárez.  If you pass by your destination, you can ask the driver to let you off. Just say ‘pare aqui, por favor’ (stop here please).

If your hotel is not located along the main street, you can walk, transfer to a local taxi, or transfer to another taxi de ruta to reach your final destination. Tecate is a small town. It won’t take you long to get to where you’re going.

When you’re ready to return to Tijuana, you can hop on another taxi in Tecate that’s returning to Villa del Campo. From there, you can catch another taxi de ruta back to Tijuana. They’ll drop you off downtown.

Tip: While riding a taxi de ruta, be sure to secure all of your belongings. The buses are usually packed full. It’s easy for someone to reach into your pocket or luggage. Pickpockets sometimes operate on these buses. To avoid getting pickpocketed, store your passport, cash, and cards in a money belt. Store your phone in a pocket that zips or buttons. Lock your luggage if possible. These simple precautions can greatly reduce your chance of falling victim to a thief. For more info, check out my guide: How to avoid getting pickpocketed while traveling.

Public Transport to Tecate on the U.S. Side of the Broder

It is also possible to take public transportation to Tecate on the U.S. side of the border. Bus 894 travels from El Cajon, California to Tecate, California. From there, you can walk across the border to Tecate, Mexico. This bus is operated by the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System (MTS). This trip costs around $15 one way.

The bus starts at Parkway Plaza Transit Center and makes several stops on the way to Tecate. To take this bus, you’ll have to make your way to El Cajon. If you’re starting your trip in downtown San Diego or San Ysidro, you can take the Orange Line or Green Line trolley and transfer to the 894 bus at the El Cajon transit center or Parkway Plaza transit center. The trolley ticket costs $2.50 one way.

The 894 bus only runs 3 times per day. You’ll have to plan your trip carefully so you don’t miss it. The trolleys run every 15 minutes for most of the day. The bus ride from El Cajon to Tecate takes just over an hour. The whole trip from downtown San Diego to Tecate, California takes just over 2 hours if you time it correctly.

How to Travel from San Diego to Tijuana

The San Diego skyline
San Diego, California

If you’re starting your trip in San Diego, first you’ll need to make your way to the border and cross into Tijuana. From there, you can travel to Tecate using one of the methods outlined above. A few ways to travel from San Diego to the border include:

  • Drive to the border and park- You can drive to San Ysidro and park in one of the paid border parking lots then cross the border on foot. From there, you can arrange your transport to Tecate. For more info, check out my guide to Tijuana border parking.
  • Take the San Diego Trolley- The blue line trolley will take you all the way to San Ysidro. It drops you off just steps from the PedEast pedestrian crossing. From there, you can walk across the border and arrange your transport to Tecate. For step-by-step instructions, check out my guide to walking across the border to Tijuana.
  • Take the Greyhound bus- This is a great option if you’re starting your trip outside of San Diego. The bus drops you off in San Ysidro, near the trolley station. You can walk across the border from there and continue to Tecate. For more info, check out my guide to taking the Greyhound bus to Tijuana.
  • Drive- You can drive across the border to Tijuana then catch highway 2 or 2D to Tecate. Alternatively, you can drive directly to Tecate, California and cross into Mexico there.

Crossing the Border into Tijuana or Tecate

The US-Mexico border
Living and Travel in Tijuana

If you’re starting your trip in the United States, you’ll have to cross into Mexico. The process of crossing the border depends on whether you’re walking or driving across.

If you’re crossing on foot, follow the signs to Mexican immigration. The path is well marked. There is no exit procedure for the U.S. Proceed straight to Mexican immigration.

At immigration, you’ll find two lines: one for Mexican citizens and residents and one for foreign visitors. Wait in the appropriate line.

Once you reach the front of the line, a Mexican immigration official will also check your passport. You do need a passport for this trip. Both book and card-style passports are accepted. The immigration official will also ask you some questions about your trip. For example, they may ask where you’re going, how long you’re staying, where you’re staying, why you’re traveling, etc. 

The FMM Visitor’s Permit

You will also be asked to fill out an FMM visitor’s permit form. The FMM visitor’s permit (Forma Migratoria Multiple) is a travel document that allows citizens of most countries to enter Mexico without a visa. It is available to passport holders from the US, Canada, European Schengen Area countries, Australia, Japan, and a number of other countries. Check this list of countries to see if you’re eligible. 

If you’re not eligible for an FMM permit, you’ll have to apply for a visa in advance from your nearest Mexican embassy or Mexican consulate. For more info, check out my in-depth guide to the FMM visitor’s permit.

If you’re staying in Tecate for more than a week, you’ll have to pay the FMM fee. The current fee is 595 pesos (around $30). If you’re staying less than 7 days, there is no fee. You have to stop and fill out the form, even if you’re only staying in Tecate for a few hours. Every visitor needs an FMM.

If you’re driving to Tecate, you’ll have to stop and park at the border, go into the immigration building, and get your FMM permit. When driving across, follow the signs to the declaration area. You’ll find parking there. From there, you can walk to immigration to get our FMM.

It is also possible to apply for and pay for your FMM online. If you applied for your FMM online, you still have to stop at the border to get your passport stamped. Either way, you have to stop. 

Crossing Back into the U.S. After Visiting Tecate

When returning to the U.S. from Tecate, there will be a wait at the border. You can check the border wait times between San Ysidro and Tijuana and Tecate, Mexico and Tecate, California on the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website here.

The wait time depends on the time of day you cross, the border you use, and whether you walk or drive across. On average, the wait in Tijuana is around 1-2 hours. The wait time at the Tecate border is usually a bit shorter. Generally, the wait to cross on foot is a bit shorter than the wait to drive across.

To reduce the wait time, consider crossing at an odd time such as in the middle of the night or very early in the morning. Avoid peak commuter hours such as 7-9 am and 5-8 pm. Also, avoid crossing on weekends. The wait is usually shorter during the week. 

CECUT museum Tijuana
CECUT cultural center of Tijuana

Final Thoughts About Traveling from Tijuana to Tecate

A trip to Tecate makes for an excellent day trip or weekend getaway. This trip is easy to make. From Tijuana, you can easily drive, catch an Uber, or take a bus to Tecate. The 32 mile trip between the two cities takes 1-1.5 hours to make depending on the route you take, the mode of transport, and traffic.

For most travelers, driving or taking a taxi is the most convenient transport option. The bus is a great choice for those on a budget. If you’re up for an adventure, you might consider taking public transport. Whichever transport option you choose, I hope this guide makes your trip go a bit smoother.

Have you traveled between Tijuana and Tecate lately? Share your experience in the comments below!

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