Tijuana in Mexico is a short drive from San Diego, less than 20 miles from the border. The lively Mexican town on the Baja Peninsula makes for a great daytrip from California. The main drag, a crowded street called Avenida Revolución, has tons of restaurants, bars and shops, offering a taste of Mexican culture close to home. Most tourists drive across the border to Tijuana and return the same day. It's important to be prepared when passing through immigrations and customs at the border, particularly when returning to the U.S.
U.S. Border Crossing
There is tight security at the U.S. border between California and Mexico. Known as the San Diego Sector, the region is heavily patrolled and closely guarded to prevent illegal immigration and smuggling. The main border crossing is located in San Ysidro, the busiest port of entry into the U.S. You'll pass through the Imperial Beach Station when you return to California from Tijuana.
There are several ways to cross into Mexico through the border station. Drive your personal vehicle in one of 24 lanes. Buses with more than 21 passengers have separate designated lanes. Pedestrians can walk through a pedestrian booth at PedWest, a section of San Ysidro. The crossing is open 24 hours a day and can be quite busy, especially on the weekends or on Friday afternoons, so allow enough time to wait. Always be patient and polite when crossing the border and follow all instructions.
What to Bring
Have your passport or a valid photo ID ready when entering the border crossing. U.S. citizens must have a valid, unexpired passport or an Enhanced Driver's License to come back into the U.S. Resident aliens must have a valid green card. Children under the age of 16 can show an original or certified copy of a birth certificate when arriving into the U.S. via land. However, a passport is always the best option when traveling in and out of the U.S. Be sure your passport is valid for at least one month past your travel date and have a blank page for any stamps.
What Not to Bring
Everything acquired while in Mexico must be declared to customs when returning to the U.S. There are several things that are not permitted, including Cuban cigars, illegal drugs or medications, switchblade knives and most fruits. Declare any gifts or personal items over $800. Alcohol is allowed, but there are specific limits – you're restricted to one liter of an alcoholic beverage every 30 days as long as you're over 21. Be prepared to have your vehicle searched and don't bring anything that's restricted back into the U.S. from Tijuana. Check with a border patrol officer if you have any concerns or questions about what's allowed.