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Tips for crossing quickly back into the US from Tijuana:

The main objection many people have about going into Tijuana is the long line for going back across the border to the US. With all the construction of the new Customs facility, there are delays that will continue until they are finished. However, there are some ways to facilitate crossing back into the US more quickly. Below are a couple of tips that will make things to go much more smoothly. Although we can pick you up at the border, and will take you back to the line, we can’t take you back across to the US side. Logistics won’t permit that we transport everyone back to the US, so we can only plan, for those who have flown into San Diego, back to the airport.

1.- Most Important – Make sure you have a US Passport or Passport card.  With out these documents, you cannot enter Mexico. Also, if you have these documents, crossing back into the US is faster, as you can use the Ready Lane, which is faster, either for pedestrians, or driving across the border.  With a US Passport Card, rather than a Passport book, you can use the Ready Lane. The passport card is an I.D. with an RFID chip, (radio frequency identification). It allows the Customs agents to automatically scan the card, and have your information on the computer screen, before you get to the counter. US Customs has created special lanes for persons with this type of I.D., and only those with one of these cards can get in that line. If you have a passport card, you do not have to wait in the regular line, but can walk past everyone, and go in the gate that says “Ready Lane”. The average wait in the Ready Lane is between 30 to 45 minutes. To get a Passport Card costs $40, and you get it at the same place you would get you passport book. It takes about 3 weeks to arrive, unless you pay a little extra, to get it expedited in about a week.

2.- If you drive into Tijuana we can get you a Fast Pass, to return using the Medical Fast Lane to the US. There Mexican authorities have created a special driving lane, to help Medical/dental tourism. You will need a pass, which we can print for you, to be able to gain access to the Fast Lane. It is simple to get to get to drive to our clinic, and the patient coordinator will give you clear instructions when you make the appointment. He will also show you how to return, via the Medical Fast Lane. There is secure parking near the clinic, and of course your car will be safe at any hotel we would recommend for you. Please write down your license plate number and bring it with you when you come to the clinic, so we can print out your pass.

3.- Alternative means of transportation. If you are not willing to drive into Tijuana, and cannot walk the distance through the pedestrian walkway, there are some alternatives, mainly, return to the US in a van or bus. They will charge you $10 each, and you will get to sit, rather than stand in the line. Sometimes it is a lot faster than walking, especially if the line is very long. However, it will take much longer than the Ready Lane. Our patient coordinator will explain how it works when he takes you back to the line and drops you off.

4.- If you drive into Tijuana, the Customs Officials are NOT Immigration. They will not ask you for a passport, so by driving in you could enter without a US Passport.  However, to return by car, you will still need proper identification. The proper documents are a US Passport Card, a US Passport Book, or an expired US Passport. (An expired US Passport is considered a valid form of identification at US Customs, because it proves you are a legal resident of the US, and it is still registered in the US National Database). If you do not have a US Passport, you will still be allowed to re-enter the US, but they will have to screen you more carefully, which could cause you some delay. If you don’t have a passport, at least bring your state driver’s license or I.D. card, and a second I.D., like your birth certificate.

5.- Consider putting the app for Uber on your cellphone. This is a safe and reliable way to get around from your hotel and visit the sites in Tijuana. If you are staying for a few days, there are a lot of things to do in Tijuana, and  places to see. Your patient coordinator can give you some ideas. But Uber is the easiest way to get around.

Crossing the Border to Tijuana

Coming Up to the Border

Entering Mexican Customs

Entering Tijuana

Crossing the Border to the USA

Border Crossing

Medical Fast Lane

Ready Lane

New Border Crossing Regulations:

1.- You must now have a US passport to cross the border:  

Just like the US Government requires everyone crossing the border into the US to have passports, the Mexican Government also now requires all persons crossing into Mexico to have a passport. Things have historically been a little lax, but now they are tightening up on the regulations. Make sure you get your passport before crossing into Mexico, to avoid any delays or hassle, by the US Customs, as well as Mexican Customs.

If you haven’t yet gotten a US Passport, we strongly recommend that you get the “Passport Card”, rather than the “Passport Book”. You can actually apply for both, or either one. But the reason the Passport Card works better than the Book, is because it has the RFID electronic chip, which qualifies you to use the faster moving “Ready Lanes” either as a pedestrian or riding in a car. Here is a link to the government website:


2.- You will need to get a Tourist Visa at the border:  

Pedestrian Crossing: If leave your car parked at the border, and are walking into Mexico, you will need to present your US passport, and fill out a tourist permit form. It will just take 5 minutes. However, make sure you keep your tourist permit on your person. In case you are stopped in Mexico for any reason, you will now have proof that you entered into the country legally. The cost of a tourist permit, to visit Tijuana for a week, is free. But, if you plan to stay for more than a week, plan to return for a second trip, or are thinking of going on to Rosarito or Ensenada, you will need to get the 180 day permit, costing $25.   

Crossing the border by car: If you are stopped in Tijuana, you will need to show that you have legally crossed the border. So, even though you could just drive through Mexican Customs, and they don’t ask you for any documents, don’t neglect to first stop and get your tourist permit. The process will just take a few minutes.

When you first cross into Mexico, do NOT get into the lines of cars that are going through the lanes through for inspection. Rather, keep to the right, and go straight ahead to the area for Voluntary Declaration. Most of the cars going in here, and parking, are stopping to declare products that they purchased in the US, so they can pay the “Importation Tax”. But this is the same area where you will find the “Immigration” office, in order to get your tourist permit. Just park your car next to the others, and go into the building. Inside you will find the Immigration office, and tell them you want a tourist permit. It will be easiest if you just tell them you are coming to visit and shop, otherwise they will ask you for the exact address of the clinic, and hotel address where you are staying. Just a little less hassle.