Otay Mesa, San Diego, California, USA to Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico | Customs and Immigration

Mexico

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Last Visited: over 1 year ago
GPS: 32.550332, -116.938365
Altitude: 1866.2 masl

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TIJUANA , Baja California , OTAY MESA open 24/7 The big city of Tijuana has 2 border crossings from San Diego County. San Ysidro to Tijuana city center and Otay Mesa. For day trippers to the northern end of Baja with little desire to see the actual city center in Tijuana, it makes little difference which crossing you use as long as you have your insurance in order or if you already have obtained all documents online. You may want to avoid the throngs of rush hour traffic at the San Ysidro crossing to city center Tijuana though. For people who intend to stay longer than 72 hours and therefor need a tourist card and who may want a Temporary Vehicle Import Permit, I recommend crossing at the Otay Mesa which is about 12 km east of the city center. This crossing is very easy to access via the USA side from the freeway and feeder freeways I-5 and I-805 and the 125 South Bay Expressway.

On the Mexican side the offices for TC and TVIP are very straight forward to find. After crossing it is fairly simple city driving to get to Mex 2 East or to ride into the heart of the city and find Mex 1 South.

For those who are still undecided if they will sail to mainland MExico, the TVIP can also be obtained at the Pichilingue / La Paz ferry terminal and no TVIP is required if you take the ferry from Santa Rosalia to Guaymas. If this applies to you, you could get only the Tourist Card here. If you are certain of a La Paz ferry trip then you might as well get he TVIP here while you are stopped anyway.

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All the current information on here is very helpful, although it is still easy to miss the parking lot to get your Visa. We just wanted to add that if your vehicle has been in a serious crash it will complicate things a little. They run a Carfax on the VIN and our van apparently has had frame damage at some point so we had to go to a different building to get our 'custom' TIP. We had no issues when we got to the second building (it was just a quarter mile away). There was no inspection of the vehicle, they just stated that it had had frame damage, I think for insurance/legality reasons. Cost was the same, $300 deposit, $52 permit.

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Easy border crossing.
keep right on the road and when you will be able to see the border you will have a building on your right. Park there and go to the first entrance to fill your tourist card.
Then go to the bank (same Building, just a few meter away) to paid the fee.
Come back to the first place to have your stamp and a copie of your passport.

If you need to have your bike or van temporary permits go back to the bank to fill the paper and pay everything.

And ready to go.

As I was there I was alone and it was fast and easy. They all speak English.
It was a bit longer than expected because my Swiss paper was unusuall ;)

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our experience at this border: so when I crossed the border with a camper van, there was no line and only a one minute check of our car and they asked where we are heading to, they didnt ask for any document. I asked a security person right after this check point where to get a stamp for my passport and the tourist card and they said they dont have it here and I would have to go to the airport to get one.
NOTE: after our crossing I read that you get the stamp still on the American side, I apparently missed that building and crossed without getting one. if you encounter this problem do as follows: I drove to the airport which is very close (follow signs towards aeropuerto, its the aeropuerto abelardo L. rodriguez), parked right in front of it on the shoulder where many cars were parked (didnt want to pay the airport parking) and went in. one of us waited in the car and I still got the stamps and tourist cards for both of us. there was no waiting line. we went back to the banjercito office at the border, which is on the iOverlander app and got our banjercito (TIP). no waiting line aswell.

I just wrote this post because although we read many posts about the border crossing, its not really self explainatory once you get there.

maybe helpful: there are many cheap copy shops near the banjercito office. we went to the one right next to it and the price for the copies was our choice.

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Easy border crossing, helpful people, Spanish and English speaking. We arrived at the border crossing early in the morning on a weekday. Was still really quiet.

Follow the 905 until you can't go anymore cause of the border entrance gates. On your left side you see the immigration office of Mexico. Park your car here in the parking-lot and go inside. (Note: this is still on the American side white building looks fairly new)

Go to the office and the guys will show you where you can get your personal tourist visa. (6 months is the longest) fill in the form, walk to the bank, a little bit further to the left in the building and pay your fee; 28,- usd. Walk back to the first counter with your proof of payment and get your passport stamped. (Save all receipts)

Ask the officer behind the immigration counter or the bank where you can get your permit for the car. We asked the bank guy (kind Spanish speaking) and he straight away told us he could help us. He needs the copies of your drivers license, passport, insurance papers of the car, ownership papers of the car. He fills in the papers for the permit, highlights stuff on your copies and gives you your copy plus permit after you paid 59,97 usd. ( save receipt) this permit is valid for 10 years in Mexico! You're not allowed to 'import' another car in Mexico within those ten years. When you want to cancel your import you can do this at the border crossing, you have to go to the immigration office again. (He told me that it's not really necessary to cancel it while crossing)
Place the sticker permit on your windshield next to the mirror and your all set! (photo of sticker attached)

We had one small issue; back at the Canada/US border the officers attached a tourist visa paper to our passports and told us to return this to the US immigration office when leaving the US. If not we wouldn't be allowed to enter the US anymore! We couldn't do this on this side of the street so we had to walk into Mexico with our passports, cross the street behind the border and walk through the border into the US again (Take ready lane/ fast track lane to avoid waiting). At the US border there was no problem getting in again. So when we entered the US we asked an officer and showed him our passports and he ripped the paper out.
Afterwards we crossed the street again (take the staircase to your left) and finally - after crossing borders for the 3rd time that day :) - drove to Mexico!!

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From Mexico to USA (procedures for non-US, non Canadian, non-Mexican nationals):

Most visitors will need a visa (USD 160), if only for stays longer than 90 days. If you have one, take the „Ready Lane“ or „All Traffic“ lane. Waiting time was 1h on a work day around 15h. You will be rejected without a Mexican exit stamp. It is not available at the crossing but only nearby at a small immigration office right next to the Banjercito/vehicle exit facility (see separate iO spot).

Vehicle: It will pass through an x-ray scanner (you can drive yourself or have an officer drive it through) and will or will not be checked afterwards. I was not allowed to be present while or observe how my vehicle was being searched/checked (“Don’t you trust us? You can go back to Mexico!”), a highly unprofessional procedure. I was not issued any document for the vehicle and don’t know whether it was somehow registered or not or how long it may remain in the country.

Passport/immigration check: Fee USD 6, waiting time 2h, only two people (barely) working and hundreds waiting. Had to present proof of sufficient funds (~USD 2000/week of intended stay, which is ridiculous), work samples, a business card, my website, allow the officer access to my online banking, state the first address I wanted to go to (mentioned a workshop). The value of the vehicle did not matter. After an hour of questioning the annoyed officer granted me entry.

All in all, the general attitude was partly unprofessional, disrespectful and somewhat humiliating. One of the most unpleasant border experiences.

91 octane petrol was 7 US cents per litre cheaper in the US than in Mexico. In (sub-)urban southern California, overnight parking (sleeping in your vehicle) is prohibited on public streets. Liability insurance is mandatory, not available at the border and generally very hard to find for non-Mexican, non-US, non-Canadian-registered vehicles, especially if older than 19 years. Inquire well ahead.

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This the right place to enter Baja California if you need to complete temporary importation documents for your RV in order to drive later to Mazatlan ant others mexican states.

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This is a guest post from  Sjoerd Bakker [LINK: http://www.advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=752824]  for a summer 2013 border crossing.
TIJUANA , Baja California  ,  OTAY MESA      open 24/7

The big city of Tijuana has 2 border crossings from San Diego County. San Ysidro to Tijuana city center and Otay Mesa. 

For day trippers to the northern end of Baja with little desire to see the actual city center in Tijuana, it makes little difference which crossing you use as long as you have your insurance in order or if you already have obtained all documents online. You may want to avoid the throngs of rush hour traffic at the San Ysidro crossing to city center Tijuana though.
For people who intend to stay longer than 72 hours and therefor need a tourist card and who may want a Temporary Vehicle Import Permit, I recommend crossing at the Otay Mesa which is about 12 km east of the city center. This crossing is very easy to access via the USA side from the freeway and feeder freeways I-5 and I-805 and the 125 South Bay Expressway. On the Mexican side the offices for TC and TVIP are very straight forward to find. After crossing it is fairly simple city driving to get to Mex 2 East or to ride into the heart of the city and find Mex 1 South. 

The Otay Mesa crossing is situated in a zone of industrial development on the USA side and in Baja a short distance east of the Tijuana International Airport which is snug to the border line. 
Otay Mesa crossing was intended to be the designated border crossing for all trucks and commercial traffic but tourists are welcome. Traffic flow is steady but well arranged. The Google map, when enlarged to maximum, does not quite shoe enough detail to resolve exactly where the offices are which you must visit. 

When entering Mexico at Otay Mesa, you will ride south through the Mexican terminal but you can not stop there to get the tourist card and TVIP. that is handled at the office very nearby to the west, on the west side of the trucks-only lanes. 

To reach that office you need to drive straight ahead about 200m to where the border exit lanes deliver you to the east-to-west street Bellas Artes, and turn west, then drive west past the first intersection to the north (trucks-only) which faces a Pemex station. Then turn north at the second intersection and a second Pemex. Proceed north past several intersections and when almost back at the border line you will see to the east (your right) the offices for the Migracion, Aduana and Banjercito where you can get the TC and TVIP.
This office can also sever you, if when returning to the USA you wish to cancel these documents and get the refund for the TVIP security deposit. Note, for those who are still undecided if they will sail to mainland MExico, the TVIP can also be obtained at the Pichilingue / La Paz ferry terminal and no TVIP is required if you take the ferry from Santa Rosalia to Guaymas. If this applies to you, you could get only the Tourist Card here. If you are certain of a La Paz ferry trip then you might as well get he TVIP here while you are stopped anyway. 
Click here for a hand drawn map.  [LINK: https://scontent-a-sjc.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ash3/923012_10101865662703883_765479640_n.jpg]

http://i1161.photobucket.com/albums/q517/Sjoerd16/GEDC0145_zpsc2b0fcc9.jpg
This is   the  actual  border crossing as  you  will  see when  stopped  in the  Mexican  side of the Otay Mesa  Terminal.
 You  do not  need  to  do  anything other  than  perhaps  stop and  push the  random  select button for RED/GREEN   light  for a p[ossible  short inspection if  you get red.
With a GREEN light you are free to  go  anywhere  in Baja , but if  you want to get your  Tourist Card (FMM) and  the  TVIP  you need  to  go to the   offices  a  block  west as  described in the earliuer possting .

 There  you neeed  to stop  at  the office   with the  tall sign as  shown in the next photo.
http://s1161.photobucket.com/user/Sjoerd16/media/GEDC0146_zps0659367d.jpg.html
 After  that   ,supplied  with your  documents  you may travel anywhere in  all of Mexico, take the  ferry from Baja  to the mainland  or  ride   east on Mex  2  through every other  state  you come to.

IF  you are  ending  your  trip here at Tijuana   and  you wish  to cancel  the  FMM  and the TVIP  and  get  your  Security Deposit REFUND   then  you also  need  to  go  to  that  very same office of the  previous  phot ( see little  map) and there
you FIRST  must  go to  the  smallk  kiosk of BANJERCITO   to  begin  the  processs  of  cancelling the TVIP. Driuve up and  hold  your  TVIP  sticker  with embedded  RFID  chip  at a distance in  front of the RFID   reader.

http://s1161.photobucket.com/user/Sjoerd16/media/GEDC0147_zpsa69c8f69.jpg.html
 The official  will come  out  and   hand  you a  cnacellation  slip and  take your  TVIP document AND  the sticker. 
Park elswhere  and take  your  new   cancellation slip inside  and get  everything finalised and recieive  your  cancellatioin  proof  after  they  take  a picture of the  VIN on the bike or  car.
  You are  done, and  may  go  home  or spend more  time in Baja

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