DO I NEED A PASSORT AND VISA TO VISIT BAJA CALIFORNIA?
All foreigners with a valid passport – regardless of age – may stay in Tijuana and the surrounding border region for up one week at no cost but must register with Mexico immigration authorities just after crossing from San Diego to Tijuana to obtain a day visa. Stays lasting longer than a week will require a fee of 332 pesos (approximately $23 US).
As of August 2015, current and valid passports are now mandatory for all non-Mexico citizens entering the country via its pedestrian border crossings.
When reentering the United States, all persons regardless of nationality must present a valid passport or SENTRI/Global Entry card when returning to the U.S. from Mexico. 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.
CROSSING THE BORDER
Because our bus for group tours is licensed for operation in Mexico only, we cross 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.
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 remember: 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 15 pesos to the dollar; most establishments accept it at 14 or 14.50. 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. For groups of seven or more, a $200 nonrefundable deposit is required to reserve your 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.
Because our public tours often sell out, we're unable to provide refunds regardless of notice. Tickets are transferrable from person to person, however. Private tour cancellations for groups of six or fewer people made within 24 hours beforehand require a 30 percent service charge of the total cost of your tour or $150 US, whichever is greater. Private tours valued at $150 US or less are non-refundable regardless of notice.
ANYTHING WE MISSED?