DO I NEED A PASSPORT TO VISIT BAJA CALIFORNIA?
To enter Mexico by car or foot, technically no. Tijuana falls within a visa-free zone that stretches 25 miles south of the border, as far as Rosarito. Foreigners may stay for up to 72 hours without purchasing a tourist visa. A state ID card, usually a driver's license, is a sufficient form of identification when traveling within the immediate border region.
But to reenter the United States, yes. As of January 2008, all persons regardless of nationality must present a valid passport or SENTRI card when returning to the U.S. from Mexico. So no, you don’t need a passport to get into Tijuana. Just to get out. More info on the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative at getyouhome.gov.
GETTING TO THE BORDER
We strongly recommend taking the San Diego trolley, as parking is often costly -- some charge up to $20US per day -- and difficult to find on the weekends. On weekends the last downtown-bound trolley departs San Ysidro at 12:58 a.m. More info at sdmts.com.
If driving, take either Interstate 5 or the 805 south and get off at the last exit, but be careful not to miss that last exit and actually cross into Mexico. The signs say "last USA exit" so just watch for those. Park at any of the lots -- we recommend the ones next to the Jack in the Box, a left at the exit and a right at the next light -- but give yourself 20-30 minutes because lots are often full.
WHERE'S MY TICKET?
Your PayPal receipt serves as your ticket. Please be prepared to present it, whether on paper or on your phone, when meeting your guide at the border.
MEETING YOUR GUIDE
Please know that your guide will be crossing the border from Tijuana on foot to meet the group on the U.S. side of the border. If he happens to be a few minutes late, no need to panic. Rest assured he's queued up mere feet away waiting his turn with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, whose pace is essentially impossible to predict.
CROSSING THE BORDER
Because our bus is licensed for operation in Mexico only, the group meets on the U.S. side of the border and crosses in and out of Mexico via the pedestrian lanes. This often makes for a faster return to the U.S., too.
WHAT IF I'M ALREADY IN MEXICO?
If you happen to be joining a Turista Libre tour but you're already in Tijuana, you're welcome to meet us at the bus. Just let us know ahead of time. Look for the yellow and white bus, usually No. 187 or 166, a block south of McDonald's in Colonia Federal. MAP.
Our trips usually last between six and eight hours, and we stick to the schedule as best as possible. If you need to be back in the U.S. by a certain time please let us know as soon as possible; we'll do our best to accommodate your return journey if we happen to be running a bit behind. Otherwise, sit back, relax and enjoy the ride a la mexicano. The journey is the destination.
SHOULD I BRING PESOS, DOLLARS OR PLASTIC?
U.S. dollars are fine but small bills -- $20 and under -- are a must; making change in Tijuana can sometimes be an ordeal. The exchange rate fluctuates daily but tends to average between 12 and 13 pesos to the dollar; most establishments accept it at 12 or 12.50. Credit cards are becoming increasingly acceptable among businesses in Mexico and ATMs are readily available but it's best to stick to cash just to be safe.
NORTHBOUND BORDER WAITS
While entering Mexico is as quick and simple as stepping through a set of revolving doors (literally), returning to the U.S. is a different story. Northbound border waits can range from less than two minutes to more than two hours, and there is essentially no way to predict the length of the pedestrian line. We are able to check wait times throughout the day by telephone, so if you're curious just ask. But just as Disneyland has no way of controlling traffic on the 5, we have no way of ensuring how long it will be before you're back in the U.S. The wait on weekend evenings, when our treks usually conclude, often tends to be minimal however.
PRIVATE GROUP TOURS
For private group tours of seven people or more we ask that total payment be made in one sum rather than each person paying for his or her individual spot, as we do for our outings that are open to the general public. A $200 nonrefundable deposit is required to reserve the bus and tour date, which can later be applied to the total balance depending on the final headcount. Final payment must be made in total within 24 hours of your tour.
For public tours we'll gladly provide a refund with at least a 24-hour notice. For private tours a $25 cancellation fee per person applies regardless of advance notice.
ANYTHING WE MISSED?
Ask us here.