Travel Information on Tijuana – Mexico

Tijuana is a border city on the Baja California Peninsula in Mexico. The land crossing to Tijuana at San Ysidro, California is one of the busiest in the world. Also known as TJ, the city was founded on July 11, 1889.

It is a modern financial, cultural and political hub of Mexico which has evolved over the years. Its proximity to San Diego makes it well-known among American tourists. With a population of 1.3 million people (as per the 2010 census), the city has grown from a small border town to a metropolitan in just a few years.

Quick Links

Getting There
Entry Requirements and Documents
Important Contact Numbers
Places to Visit
Fun Facts about TJ
Nightlife
Where to Stay
What to Eat
Language Tips
Travel and Safety Tips
 

 

How to Reach Tijuana?

 

Flying into San Diego Airport

The closest American airport to TJ is the San Diego International Airport (IATA: SAN) which is just about 15 miles north of the international border and one can reach the San Ysidro Port of Entry from there.

Hours of operation for San Ysidro Port of Entry:  24*7

Phone: (619) 690-8800

FREE Pick-up

TJ Dental Center provides free pick-up from the San Diego airport or any hotel close to the border (applicable on certain packages only; contact for more info).

From San Diego, you can opt for any of the following:

  • Bus: You will find a number of operators (such as Greyhound) running buses between San Diego and San Ysidro costing $5 - $9.
  • Trolley: Book your trolley ticket with MTS. The San Diego trolley costs $1 - $5 and takes about 30-40 minutes to reach the border. Click here for route-map.
  • Taxi: Many taxis are available at affordable costs to take you to the US-Mexico

Distance between TJ and Other Mexican Cities

By Car:

You can either park your car on the US side of the border, or take it along into Mexico.

If you prefer to drive into Mexico, obtaining a Mexican insurance is highly recommended. It should be bought before crossing the border or online when you plan your trip.


Distance between TJ and American cities

Flying into Tijuana

Though rare (as it may not be practical due to scanty connectivity with most North American cities), yet some individuals may also prefer flying directly to Tijuana. The border city is served by its own international airport (General Abelardo L. Rodríguez International Airport, IATA Code: TIJ).

The U.S. Department of State has issued a Traveler’s Checklist1 as well as Mexico Travel Warning2, some of which are listed below:

  • The Department of State urges US citizens living overseas or planning to travel abroad to enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).
  • When travelling outside the US, make sure you have the contact information of the nearest US Embassy. Address:Paseo de las Culturas s/n, Mesa de Otay Delegación Centenario C.P. 22425, Office Hours: Monday to Friday from 7:30 am to 4:15 pm,
    Telephone: (664) 977-2000
  • Make sure you have photocopies of all the travel documents including passport, airline tickets and driver’s license.
  • Be aware of your surroundings, especially in casinos and other gambling and adult entertainment establishments.
  • Exercise caution while driving in Mexico. There are indications that criminals target newer and larger vehicles. However, even drivers of old sedans and buses coming from the United States have been targeted.

View of Tijuana City, Mexico
To avoid being caught in drug cartel/gang warfare (tourists are not a target though) the Tijuana US Consulate has given some safety measures 4:

  • Be aware of your surroundings at all times.
  • Women travelling alone should be more cautious.
  • ATMs must be accessed during the business hours at large protected facilities.
  • Travelers should exercise caution at all times, avoid traveling at night, and should use toll (“cuota”) roads rather than the less secure “free” (“libre”) roads whenever possible.
  • Tourists should not accept rides from, or offer rides to, strangers anywhere in Mexico.

 

Entry Requirements for Mexico

  • All U.S. & Canadian citizens – including children -- must present a valid passport, book or card for entering Mexico by any means.
Entering TJ from San Ysidro - USA

San Ysidro Port of Entry - USA

  • US or Canadian citizens travelling by air must pay a fee to obtain tourist card known as FMM available at Mexican border crossing points, Mexican tourism offices, airports within the border zone and most airlines serving Mexico.

 

Re-entering the US/Canada

  • By land or sea:US and Canadian citizens re-entering the United States or Canada by land or sea are required to present a valid WHTI-compliant (Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative) document along with passport and passport card. In some cases it is recommended to carry the following:
  • Enhanced Driver's Licenses
  • Trusted Traveler Cards (Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI, or FAST)
  • By air:All citizens entering the U.S. by air must present a U.S. passport book, whereas, Canadian citizens must present a valid Canadian passport on returning back to Canada.

San Ysidro Port of Entry

Children under the age of 16 may enter the U.S./Canada with a certified birth certificate, consular report of birth abroad, citizenship certificate, or naturalization certificate. In case of children travelling alone or with a third party of legal age, a letter of authorization is required, signed by the other parent or both the parents, as the case may be.
 

Important Contact Numbers

Infographic - Important Phone Numbers in TJ
 

Places to Visit

Tijuana is a flourishing metropolitan city with a diverse culture. Its delectable cuisine will leave you wanting for more. Here are a few places to visit:

Places of Interest in Tijuana, Mexico

Avenida Revolucion: A day trip to Avenida Revolucion tops the priority list with some astounding shopping arcades, bars and restaurants.

It feels like a mini carnival with busy streets and hawkers selling their wares and taco carts across the street selling authentic Mexican street food.

Avenida Revolucion and Signboard to Ensenada

Centro Cultural Tijuana (CECUT): CECUT is easy to locate because of its exceptional shape on the Avenue of the Heroes (Paseo de los Héroes). It is a five minute drive from the border and is located in one of the most urban areas of the city. It was built to meet the artistic and cultural needs of the locals.

With an exceptional infrastructure, the main building includes the Museo de las Californias, a multipurpose room and children’s area called CECUTi, a botanical garden, an aquarium, the International Gallery the Cube, the Documentation Center for the Arts, an esplanade, a coffee shop, a book store, a souvenir shop, among other venues. It also has a theater, IMAX Dome and a video room.

Website: http://www.cecut.gob.mx/

Hours: Monday to Sunday, 09:00 - 21:00 hrs

CECUT

L.A. Cetto Wine Cellar: Known as Baja’s largest winery, LA Cetto has an underground vault and bottling area as well. You can taste some amazing red and white wine here, take a tour, and learn about the fermentation process and how it is stored. When you visit the winery don’t forget to admire the innovative architecture of the building.

The banquet room has a seating capacity of 100-150 guests. Many events and music concerts are held here throughout the year. You can also purchase chocolates and other gift items from their souvenir shop.

L.A. Cetto Wine Cellar is in the west of Tijuana International Airport. You can either take a taxi or bus to the cellar. Enjoy the tour of the complex free of cost! The cellar operates Statue of Abraham Lincoln in TJfrom morning until early evening.

Website: http://www.cettowines.com/

Hours: Open Mon. - Sun. 10am - 5pm


Zona Rio:
The place around the Avenue of the Heroes (Avenida Paseo de los Heroes) is called Zona Rio. It is a busy street with one of the largest shopping malls, Plaza Rio, and countless restaurants.

It includes a big farmer’s market, Mercado Hidalgo, selling locally produced vegetables and crafts. Paseo de los Héroes is also noted for its many monuments and sculptures including the Abraham Lincoln statue and the Ignacio Zaragoza statue.

Statue of Last Aztec Emperor - CuauhtémocEl Trompo Interactive Museum: The futuristic architecture of the Museum makes it stand out with tourists as well as locals.

The dome-shaped structure provides fun filled activities for the kids introducing them to science and technology. The museum is divided into six areas with different themes.

Website: http://www.eltrompo.org/es/

Hours: 9:00 am - 18:00 pm

Parque Morelos: Hosting several activities and events, it is the city’s largest park. It is abode to many other places including a zoo, a theater, a botanical garden and a pool. Children of all ages can enjoy in the park.

Take a trip around the zoo and watch jaguars, parrots and other creatures. There is no entrance fee to the park and it is open to public from morning until late afternoon.

Rosarito: It is a coastal city in Baja California located 10 miles off the US border. Its beaches and dance clubs are very popular among the US tourists. Rosarito’s ideal location makes it a romantic seaside getaway with superb restaurants offering authentic Mexican food and Baja produced wine.

A must-try is the “Puerto-Nuevo style” lobster which is sourced locally and pan fried. There are plenty of recreational activities including water surfing, horseback riding and beach volleyball.

Plaza Monumental de Tijuana: Many bullfights are held here all through the year. It is also known as Bullring by the Sea. Located near the border, it has a seating capacity of more than 20,000 spectators. For more information, visit their website.

This traditional sport is not for the fainthearted and some people may not enjoy it as the bull is killed in the end.

Address: Av. Del Pacífico 4, Sección Monumental Playas de Tijuana, 22504 Tijuana, B.C., Mexico

Phone: +52 656 613 1182

Boardwalk in Playas de Tijuana Playas de Tijuana, Mexico

 

Fun Facts about Tijuana

TIjuana Fun Facts

*Taken from My Living Hope
 

Nightlife

Tijuana is known for its nightlife with many night clubs and discotheques offering incredible deals on food and drinks. Some hotspots of the city are:

  • Avenida Revolucion: Many night clubs can be found here with young people enjoying and having a good time. The main street Centro has numerous clubs and bars and is jam-packed on weekends.
  • Zona Rio: Most of the hotels have lounges which are open to public. Once inside you will find some great deals on food and drinks.
  • Zona Norte: It is also known as Tijuana’s red light district and lies north of Zona Centro and South of the San Diego border. Do not wander alone here as safety is a huge concern in this area.

The legal drinking age in Tijuana is 18 years and drug and firearm laws are strict in Mexico. One should always exercise caution and avoid any unruly behavior.
 

Where to Stay

There are some amazing hotels where one can stay in TJ. Some of our recommendations are:

 

What to Eat

Relish some yummy food and delight your gastronomic senses. Tijuana’s proximity to California is often reflected in its food. It has taken culinary inspiration from California and mixed it with its own ingredients. Tijuana’s cuisine is a fusion of Mexican and Mediterranean food and it relies heavily on local produce. Two things you cannot miss eating in TJ are:

Fish Taco: A traditional Mexican dish comprising of a corn or wheat tortilla folded around a filling. Almost every street in Tijuana sells fish taco, giving it a unique twist. One can find street carts, food trucks and restaurants selling this local favorite. Mariscos Titos is one of the best places to savor fish tacos. You can also visit their website here.

Fish Tacos and Caesars Salad

Caesar Salad: This delectable salad made of romaine, parmesan cheese, croutons, olive oil and eggs is named after Caesar Cardini, the Italian-born restaurateur who invented it in 1924 right here in TJ. Many variations of the salad are now available and can be savored at a number of restaurants in Tijuana. Enjoy other foods like Guacamole, Chilaquiles, Tostadas, Chilesennogada, Elote, Enchiladas while your stay here.

Caesars Hotel on Avenida Revolucion in TJ
 

Travel Smart

A few smart steps that can help you enjoy the trip include:

  • Smart Phone Apps: Download weather applications to know about the weather of the place of travel. Other applications such as Google Maps can help you get around the city without getting lost. Currency converters can also come in handy when shopping (however, US dollars are widely accepted in Mexico)
  • Language: Spanish is the dominant language in Tijuana, as it is in the rest of Mexico. English is spoken by almost everybody including locals, taxi drivers and expat Americans who live there. Know more about Tijuana’s local language and learn a few common words as given below to avoid any language barriers:
English Spanish Pronunciation
Hello Hola Oh-lah
Bye Adios Ah-dee-ohs
Food Comida Ko-mee-dah
Fish Taco Taco de pescado Talk-o day piskado
Water Agua Agh-wah
Time Hora Oh-rah
Yes Si See
No No Noh
Please Por favor pohr fah-bohr
I don’t understand. No entiendo. Noh ayn-tea-ayn-doh
How much does it cost? ¿cuánto cuesta? Kwahn-toh kway-stah
Can you help me? ¿Puede ayudarme? Pway-day ah-yoo-Dahr-may
Excuse me. Discúlpeme Dees-cool-pay-may
Where is/are…? ¿Donde está/están…? Dohn-day ace-tah  / ace-tahn

Alternatively, you can also use Google Translate and other translation apps.

  • Itinerary: A well etched itinerary helps travelers to stay organized and plan according to the schedule.
  • Time: Tijuana follows Pacific Standard Time (PST)

Streetview - TJ, Mexico
 

Travel and Safety Tips

The U.S. Department of State has issued a Traveler’s Checklist1 as well as Mexico Travel Warning2, some of which are listed below:

  • The Department of State urges US citizens living overseas or planning to travel abroad to enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).
  • When travelling outside the US, make sure you have the contact information of the nearest US Embassy. Address:Paseo de las Culturas s/n, Mesa de Otay Delegación Centenario C.P. 22425, Office Hours: Monday to Friday from 7:30 am to 4:15 pm,
    Telephone: (664) 977-2000
  • Make sure you have photocopies of all the travel documents including passport, airline tickets and driver’s license.
  • Be aware of your surroundings, especially in casinos and other gambling and adult entertainment establishments.
  • Exercise caution while driving in Mexico. There are indications that criminals target newer and larger vehicles. However, even drivers of old sedans and buses coming from the United States have been targeted.

View of Tijuana City, Mexico
To avoid being caught in drug cartel/gang warfare (tourists are not a target though) the Tijuana US Consulate has given some safety measures 4:

  • Be aware of your surroundings at all times.
  • Women travelling alone should be more cautious.
  • ATMs must be accessed during the business hours at large protected facilities.
  • Travelers should exercise caution at all times, avoid traveling at night, and should use toll (“cuota”) roads rather than the less secure “free” (“libre”) roads whenever possible.
  • Tourists should not accept rides from, or offer rides to, strangers anywhere in Mexico.

References:

  1. Traveler’s Checklist
  2. Mexico Travel Warning
  3. Entry Requirements for Mexico
  4. How to Avoid Being a Victim of Crime in Baja