The quickest and safest way to travel to Tijuana is to drive to the border, park your car on the US side, and walk across one of the pedestrian crossings. Unfortunately, the cost of parking at the Tijuana border is high. Most parking lots have a minimum charge of around $10 for daytime parking. Overnight parking can cost $20-40. Prices increase significantly on weekends and public holidays. That quickly adds up when you stay multiple days.
This guide describes your parking options at the Tijuana border. I'll explain two ways to avoid expensive parking fees and park for free at the Tijuana border. I also recommend a few of the cheaper and safer paid parking lots for those who don't mind paying to park. Finally, I'll give you a few more tips to keep your car safe during your visit to Tijuana.
I also made this video to outline the main points of the guide.
How to park for free at the Tijuana border
There are two free parking spaces at the border. Both options includetake the trolley. The best parking option depends on how long you plan to stay in Tijuana.
If you are staying in Tijuana for less than 24 hours
If you are only staying in Tijuana for a day, you can park your car at a trolley station in San Diego or in the lot of a Rapid Transit station and take the trolley to the border. You can park for free for up to 24 hours in these car parks.
There are a few dozen free park and ride locations in San Diego County. Cashthis listto find the most convenient for you. Not every station has a parking lot.
The only catch is that you have to take the tram to San Ysidro, where you cross the border on foot. Trolley tickets are $5 round trip for a regular adult ticket. This is cheaper than parking in a paid lot.
For most travelers, I recommend parking at the Palomar or Palm trolley station in Chula Vista. Both stations have large and secure car parks, where there is almost always enough parking space available. These properties are also easily accessible from the I5 motorway.
You should make sure you don't park in one of these free lots for more than 24 hours or you could end up with a parking ticket. Your car could also be towed. This would end up costing you a lot more than just paying for parking.
If you are staying in Tijuana for more than 24 hours
If you plan to stay in Tijuana longer than 24 hours, the best place to park is for free on a residential street near one of the tram stops. Many of the stations are within blocks of a residential area with free street parking.
You can park on the street in San Diego country for up to 72 hours without a ticket or towing as long as you're legally parking. Most likely you can park longer. The 72-hour limit is unlikely to be strictly enforced.
To find free street parking, search Google Maps for the nearest San Diego trolley stop. Switch to satellite view and look for residential areas near the train station. Drive around these areas and look for safe and legal parking. I parked my car on the street for up to a week with no problems.
When looking for a parking space, be sure to pay attention to the parking signs. Some neighborhoods have street sweeping days when parking is prohibited. Sometimes street parking is only allowed at certain times of the day. You may have to drive around a bit before finding a suitable parking space. If you park incorrectly or leave your car too long, it will be fined or towed away.
I had good luck parking near the Palomar trolley station in Chula Vista. After leaving the Autobahn, you can turn right at the first set of traffic lights. This is Industrial Blvd. Turn right again at the roundabout. You drive down a residential street where you can park for free. From here it is only a short walk to the tram stop. Free street parking is also available on residential streets near the Palm Trolley Station. Keep in mind that you still have to pay $5 for the round-trip trolley ride to San Ysidro. That's way better than $20-30 a day for parking.
This has some disadvantages. First you may have to walk a few blocks to the tram stop. There is also a risk of your car being broken into. The country of San Diego has a homeless problem. People will break into your car if you leave valuables in it. There is no security if you park on the street. You should be careful where you park and what you leave in your vehicle.
Parking in a metered lot on the Tijuana border
A number of metered parking spaces are located within a few blocks of each pedestrian crossing. Paid parking is available in San Ysidro near major pedestrian crossings (PedEast or PedWest) and in Otay Mesa.
To use one of these parking lots, simply drive in, take a ticket at the gate and park your car in an available space. When you're ready to go, drive your car to the gate, give the ticket to the parking attendant, and pay your parking fee. These are basic outdoor parking lots, not indoor parking. These lots are open 24 hours a day. You can arrive and depart whenever you like. Valet parking is not typically offered. Most Tijuana border parking lots offer 24-hour security to keep your car safe. They are also fenced and well lit.
Most parking spaces are within walking distance of the pedestrian crossings. Some of the plots are a little further away. If you park in one of these lots, you may need to take a shuttle or taxi to the border. These car parks usually offer a cheap or free shuttle service between the car park and the border.
To get to the Tijuana border parking lots in San Ysidro, take I5 or I805 south and get off at the Camino De La Plaza exit. This is the last exit before the border. Don't miss this exit or you're going to Mexico. There is no turning.
Once you are on the Camino De La Plaza you can either turn left or right. If you turn right you will find 3 border parking lots along the Camino De La Plaza. These are a little further from the border. You'll probably want to take a shuttle or taxi to the crosswalk if you're parking in one of these lots.
If you turn left off Camino De La Plaza, go straight until you come to San Ysidro Blvd and turn right. You will find 4 additional parking spaces directly across from the San Ysidro Trolley Station. These lots are located 1 block from the PedEast intersection. I'll outline some of the better lots in the next section.
To park and cross at the Otay Mesa intersection, take the 905 or 125 freeway. Exit the freeway at Siempre Viva Road. If you don't, you'll end up going to Mexico. You will find several border parking lots along this road.
Most people visiting Tijuana prefer to park in one of the San Ysidro lots because they get you closer to Tijuana's main tourist areas. These include Zona Centro (downtown), Zona Norte (the red light district), Zona Rio (the business district) and Playas de Tijuana (the beach district).
After parking your car, you can walk or take the shuttle to the pedestrian crossing at PedEast or PedWest. After crossing Mexico, you can take a Taxi, Taxi de Ruta or Uber anywhere you want. You can even walk into downtown Tijuana from the border if you wish.
If you're flying out of Tijuana Airport, you can also park in one of the Cross Border Xpress parking lots. You can read more about this inmy Cross Border Xpress guide.You can only park in one of these lots and use the Cross Border Xpress if you have a booked ticket from Tijuana.
Why park at the Tijuana border?
Many visitors prefer to park their car on the US side of the border and walk into Tijuana rather than drive across the border. Some reasons for this are:
- Convenience-Your car is right behind the border. You don't have to deal with the hassle of taking the bus or trolley. You can walk to Tijuana from your car.
- Driving in Tijuana is stressful-Tijuana tends to drive a little faster and closer together than California. Some drivers find this stressful. Driving in a foreign country where you don't know the traffic rules is no fun.
- Road conditions in Tijuana are bad.Potholes and speed bumps abound in Tijuana. These can damage your car.
- Corruption in the policeTijuana police regularly stop tourists and demand bribes. Many foreigners driving in Tijuana come across this. If you don't drive, your chance of being stopped by the police decreases significantly. See my guide to for more information Police corruption in Tijuana.
- More quickly-It's often quicker to get back to the United States at the crosswalk than to drive back. You can check the waiting times at the border for pedestrians and vehicleshere.
- You don't have to buy Mexican car insurance –This will save you around $20 a day.
Prices for parking lots at the Tijuana border
Parking fees at the Tijuana border vary depending on the day of the week. From Monday to Thursday the prices are lower. Prices go up on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. The prices are higherpublic holidaysalso. Overnight parking is also more expensive than daytime parking.
You can usually find parking for around $1 an hour on weekdays. The catch is that most lots have a $7-$10 minimum entry fee.
Most lots offer a deal of $7-$10 for 8-10 hours Monday-Thursday. On Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays they often charge $18-20 for 8-10 hours. Prices go up on public holidays. You pay $25+ for 8-10 hours.
Overnight parking is slightly more expensive. Expect to pay around $21-$25 for overnight parking on weekdays. Overnight parking is $25-$40 on Friday and Saturday nights. Overnight parking on public holidays can be even more expensive.
Parking in Otay Mesa is slightly cheaper than in San Ysidro. Most properties charge around $10-$12 per day during the weekdays and around $15 per day on the weekends.
If you have booked a flight from Tijuana Airport, you can park in one of the Cross Border Xpress lots. Parking here costs between $15 and $20 per day depending on which lot you use. Reserved parking is available for $25 per day and valet parking is available for $30 per day.
Recommendations for parking at the Tijuana border
There are approximately 7 border parking lots in San Ysidro and 5 in Otay Mesa. Most people visiting Tijuana are some of the better paying lots:
- International Parking (San Ysidro)-This is the cheapest lot. It is located behind the Jack in the Box opposite the Say Ysidro trolley station. They charge $7 for 8 hours, $14 for 8-16 hours, and $21 for 16-24 hours. Unfortunately, this place gets pretty bad reviews. You seem to have problems with security issues.
- Parking Lot Border Station (San Ysidro)-This is one of the more expensive lots but they seem to offer the best security. Parking at the border station has a 24-hour attendant and security cameras. This lot also gets the best reviews. Here the prices are a bit higher. They charge $9 for 10 hours Monday-Thursday and $18 for 10 hours Friday-Sunday. Parking for 24 hours is about $36. Prices are also higher on public holidays. This lot is also located about 2 blocks from the PedWest intersection. They have a tourist information center on site which is open from 9am to 5pm.
- Tello's Parking Lot (Otay Mesa)-This lot is located approximately 4 blocks from the intersection of Otay Mesa. The lot has surveillance cameras and an attendant. They offer 24-hour parking for $10-$15 depending on the day of the week. This lot also gets solid reviews.
I have no affiliation with these lots. I have a couple of friends who go to Tijuana regularly and recommended these lots to me. I parked in each of them and had no problems. If you find a better deal on parking, comment below!
After parking your car at the Tijuana border
After parking your vehicle, go to the pedestrian crossing. You will see signs showing the way. It is about a 3 block walk across the border from most parking lots.
At the border you will pass through the Mexican immigration and customs authorities. You will need to show your passport and fill out oneFMM-Formularbefore you can cross. If you stay more than 7 days, you have to pay a fee of 30 USD. For more information see mycomplete guide to hiking across the border into Tijuana.
After crossing Tijuana, you can take a taxi, Uber, or taxi de ruta to your destination. You can also walk downtown from the San Ysidro intersections. This is about a 1 mile walk. For safety reasons, you should only do this hike during the day.
Return to your vehicle
From Tijuana, you can take a taxi, Taxi de Ruta, or Uber back to the border. You could also walk. Remember which intersection you used so you know where to tell your driver to drop you off. There are two intersections in San Ysidro (PedWest and PedEast) and one intersection in Otay Mesa.
Once at the border, go through US Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Here you have to show your passport. The line back to the USA is often long. Expect a wait of 1-2 hours depending on the time of day and day of the week.
After exiting the border area, you can walk straight back to your vehicle, pay the parking fee, and drive off. From San Ysidro, you can easily return north on the I5 or I805 freeway.
Shuttle service to Tijuana
If you don't feel like walking across the border, you can pay for a shuttle service to drive you across. The shuttle can take you directly to downtown Tijuana or from San YsidroRosarito.
When you're ready to return to your vehicle, you can take a shuttle back across the border. This saves a lot of time because you don't have to queue. On the return trip, the shuttle will stop at the border where a US immigration officer will check your passport.
There are a few shuttle services. Probably the cheapest and most convenient option isSDTJ-Pass.They offer departures every half hour from 7am to 3pm from the San Ysidro border station. The shuttle will take you to Avenida Revolucion in downtown Tijuana. There are round-trip shuttles leaving downtown Tijuana every 2 hours from 11:00 AM to 7:00 PM. A one-way ticket costs $6 and a round-trip ticket costs $10.
Parks in Tijuana
Another inexpensive parking option is to drive across the border and park in Tijuana. These lots are slightly cheaper than the lots on the US side of the border. You can find lots near the border crossing, downtown, the airport and near the Otay Mesa intersection. If you're parking in Tijuana, consider getting Mexican car insurance.
For more information on driving to and around Tijuana, check out my step-by-step guide: How to drive to Tijuana.Here I discuss Mexican car insurance, border crossing, driving in Tijuana and more.
Risks of Tijuana Border Parking
Probably the greatest risk of parking your vehicle in one of these border car parks is damaging your vehicle. I've heard stories of people scratching cars while they're parked. Some of these lots are tight. They pack as many cars as possible. Accidents are not common, but they do happen.
If you park on the street or in a Park and Ride lot, there is a chance that your car will be broken into. This is unusual, but a possibility. When parking your car, make sure that no valuables are visible. Try to park in a safe and well-lit area.
Alternatives to parking at the Tijuana border
If you want to avoid parking altogether, you can take public transport to the border. The San Diego Trolley will take you to the San Ysidro Transit Center. From here you are only one block away from the PedEast intersection.
To get to the border by public transport, take the blue line tram southbound. Ride the trolley to the end of the line. If you are not near a tram stop, you can take a public bus and transfer to the tram. You can catch a public bus from pretty much anywhere in the country of San Diego, including the San Diego Airport. San Diego also offers public bus service to Otay Mesa if you prefer to cross over there. To help you plan your trip, check out the MTS maphere.
Another option is to take the Greyhound bus. The bus will take you to the San Ysidro trolley station, just a few steps from the PedEast border crossing. This is a great option if you're coming from Los Angeles or outside of Southern California. Check out my step-by-step guide for more information:How to Travel to Tijuana on the Greyhound Bus.
If you are planning to fly out of Tijuana Airport, you can take a shuttle service to the Cross Border Xpress and go directly to the airport via a sky bridge. The shuttle service can pick up in Los Angeles, San Diego, San Ysidro, Fresno, Sacramento, Riverside, and a number of cities in between. For more information, see my guide to the Cross Border Xpress.
One thing to keep in mind when visiting Tijuana is that your US health insurance will most likely not cover you while you are in Mexico. You may wish to purchase travel insurance for your trip. I likenomads of the world. They can cover you in the event of theft, injury, or a medical emergency. You can also look at mine Travel Insurance page.
Final Thoughts on Parking at the Tijuana Border
Parking on the US side of the border and crossing on foot is an excellent way to get to Tijuana. You don't have to deal with the hassles of driving in a foreign country and your vehicle stays much safer. It is comfortable.
If you fall in love with Tijuana and want to move there like me, check out my guide:Moving to Tijuana as an American.
Did you park at the border? Share your experiences in the comments below!
More Tijuana guides from Where The Road Forks
- Is Tijuana safe? Avoid frequent scams and crime
- The ultimate guide to visiting Tijuana
- At a bar in Tijuana during an armed robbery
- Healthcare in Mexico for Americans
- How to travel from Tijuana to Ensenada by bus
- 29 Incredible Things to Do in Tijuana
- Do I need a visa to visit Mexico? The FMM visitor permit explained
- Mit Uber in Tijuana
Where can I park my car to go to Tijuana? ›
For the best and safest place to park your car, go to Border Station Parking #(1) on the map at 4570 Camino de la Plaza (619-428-9477). To get there take the last exit before crossing the border from the freeway. The signs are clearly marked on the freeway announcing U.S. Last Exit Parking.Can you park at CBX without a reservation? ›
Reserve online to guarantee a parking spot for your vehicle. Reservations are not required but are highly recommended.Do I need to pay to drive in and out of Tijuana? ›
If you plan to stay in Mexico for less than 7 days, you don't need a visitors permit and there is no charge. When crossing Mexico's Northern border into Tijuana, the process is a bit different than when you fly into Mexico. You'll need to pay for your FMM when you enter Mexico rather than when you leave.Do you have to pay to cross the Tijuana border? ›
If you plan to stay in Mexico for less than 7 days, then you will not have to pay for an FMM Visitors Permit. If you plan to stay in Mexico between 7 and 180 days, then you will need to pay an FMM fee. The current FMM fee is 594 pesos or around $30.Where can I park my car to cross Tijuana border? ›
Parking in a Paid Tijuana Border Parking Lot. Within a couple of blocks of all of the pedestrian crossings, you'll find a number of paid parking lots. You'll find paid lots in San Ysidro near the main pedestrian crossings (PedEast or PedWest) and in Otay Mesa.Can I cross the Tijuana border with just my driver's license? ›
U.S. citizens must present a valid U.S. passport book or card, in addition to an entry permit (Forma Migratoria Multiple or FMM) issued by Instituto Nacional de Migración (INM). Travelers should be sure to enter Mexico with valid proof of automobile registration, even if remaining in the border zone.How does CBX parking work? ›
All parking passes are date and location specific and cannot be exchanged for another day or location. To use the CBX reserved parking service you must complete your reservation at least 6 hours prior to your arrival. Park anywhere in Premium Lot that does not say "Reserved".How long can I leave my car parked in CBX? ›
Parking at CBX
Well-lit and secure parking is available 24 hours a day.
I-94 permits cost 6 dollars per person. Prepay it and complete your provisional I-94 permit here before crossing through CBX or you can do it directly through the CBP One App . Since the I-94 permit is now processed electronically you will require a credit or debit card to make the payment.How much does it cost to cross into Tijuana? ›
The route typically takes a little more than an hour, requires a border stop, and usually costs between $13 and $25. The price depends on the day of the week, time of the day, the season, and whether you chose an economy, economy extra, or flexible class ticket.
Can I cross my car from Tijuana to San Diego with no insurance? ›
You will need at least a liability-only Mexican auto insurance policy to fulfill the legal requirement in the case of an accident. You can get a free insurance quote from Discover Baja.Can I cross the border with my ID? ›
U.S. citizens may present a valid U.S. passport; Passport Card; enhanced driver's license; Trusted Traveler Program card (SENTRI or Global Entry); U.S. military identification card when traveling on official orders; U.S. Merchant Mariner document when traveling in conjunction with official maritime business; or Form I- ...Can you cross the border for free? ›
There's no entry fee at the border that you have to pay simply to be allowed into the United States or Canada. Traveling across the border is free – but the items you bring back with you are a different story. You may need to pay duties, a special kind of taxes, on some goods you bring across the border.Can a US citizen be denied entry? ›
U.S. citizens cannot be denied entry to the United States for refusing to provide passwords or unlocking devices. Refusal to do so might lead to delay, additional questioning, and/or officers seizing your device for further inspection.Can I walk to Tijuana without a passport? ›
Pedestrians crossing into Tijuana at the San Ysidro crossing need to complete a Mexico Visitor's Permit (FMM ‒ FREE if the trip is 7 days or less and you cross by land) and present a passport. This form will be provided by the airline or at the port of entry.Can I take my car to Mexico and leave it there? ›
Mexico states that any vehicle in Mexico for more than 180 days must be legally imported and registered in the state of your residence. Mexico has full discretion over which vehicles it lets Americans and Canadians import.What should I do if I get pulled over in Tijuana? ›
If you get pulled over while driving in Mexico, remain calm and show your proof of insurance to the police officer, just like you would in the U.S. If you get a ticket, politely request a written citation that can be paid by mail or at the police station.What is the fastest way to cross the Tijuana border? ›
The Fast Pass Lane, offcially called FastLane, is a designated lane for tourists (vacationers, business people and medical tourism) who have visited certain establishments in Baja. The Fast Pass Lane is open at the Tijuana/San Ysidro border crossing.Can I use my REAL ID to go to Tijuana? ›
When you enter the border crossing, the travelers must carry their passport for Tijuana or a valid picture I.D. with them even if they are traveling by car. To re-enter the United States, U.S. citizens must have a good, unexpired passport or an Enhanced Driver's License.Can I use my REAL ID to come back from Mexico? ›
No. REAL ID cards cannot be used for border crossings into Canada, Mexico or other international travel.
Can a US citizen enter the US without a passport? ›
While dual citizens may be able to travel abroad with alternative documentation, all U.S. citizens are required to present a U.S. passport in order to re-enter the United States.Is Tijuana and CBX the same? ›
Cross Border Xpress (CBX), historically also called the Tijuana Cross-border Terminal and the Puerta de las Californias, is an airport terminal located in the Otay Mesa area of southern San Diego, California, United States, with an access bridge connecting it to the Tijuana International Airport in Tijuana, Baja ...How early should you get to CBX crossing? ›
You must arrive at CBX counters 60 minutes before your flight with the documents indicated in the following table. In case of crossing CBX from Mexico to the United States, you must do it within two hours of your arrival to the Tijuana International Airport.Can I buy CBX ticket in Tijuana airport? ›
In one of the kiosks at the terminal. You can buy CBX tickets with a credit or debit card at a CBX kiosk inside the terminal.Can I leave my car at Tijuana airport for a week? ›
Parking space at Tijuana Airport is provided at two locations i.e. in Building E of the Main Terminal and at the Old Airport Terminal. There are two types of long term parking services at the airport – covered parking and uncovered parking. The former will cost you $16/day while the latter costs $12/day.Does Uber go to CBX? ›
Ridesharing. Enjoy the convenience of Lyft or Uber. Download the apps and request a ride from CBX terminal in San Diego.How long does it take to cross the border at CBX? ›
The CBX bridge is 390ft, times vary...but the average person gets to their boarding gate in 30-40 minutes. Have a safe trip!Where can I leave my car in Tijuana? ›
- All "Parking" results in Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico. Showing 1-80 of 426.
- Gateway Parking. 3.1 mi. ...
- Lion Parking. 6.4 mi. ...
- Route 125 Parking Storage. 3.8 mi. ...
- Border Station Parking. 3.3 mi. ...
- Siempre Parking. 4.2 mi. ...
- Estacionamiento Súper 8. 2.7 mi. ...
- Luna Travel Chofer. 3.6 mi.
If you abandon your foreign-plated car in Mexico, you'll have to pay Aduana (Mexican Customs) 40% tax on the car's value. This rule was brought-in some while ago to discourage foreigners from abandoning or selling their foreign-plated cars and telling Mexican Customs they were lost or stolen.Is it safe to park car at Tijuana airport? ›
Regardless of the option you go with, parking at either designation is very okay and there is hardly anything else that distinguishes them except the rate of course. The Tijuana Airport car parking policy is that in the event of your car's total theft you will be compensated in full.
Is my US car insurance valid in Mexico? ›
Does Your Car Insurance Cover You In Mexico? Most typical U.S. auto insurance policies will not cover Mexico. So, if you're heading south of the border, you'll need additional coverage for the family wagon. GEICO, for example, has partners that offer Mexico-specific policies for cars, RVs and motorcycles.What happens if I don't bring my car back from Mexico? ›
If you don't drive the vehicle out of Mexico before the TIP's expiry date, the vehicle will become illegal in Mexico and: the insurance coverage will become invalid; your vehicle may be confiscated and impounded; and. you will lose the deposit you paid to Banjercito.Does the Mexico border search your car? ›
Law enforcement officers at the border can search your vehicle or your baggage without any reasonable suspicion or your permission provided the searches are routine. If your property contains contraband or evidence of a crime, the law enforcement officers at the border can take that property away.Can you leave Tijuana without a passport? ›
US citizens must present a passport card as secondary documentation if they do not have a passport available. An entry permit issued by the National Migration Institute (INM) is also required. Citizens must present a valid vehicle registration voucher.Do you need car insurance to drive to Tijuana? ›
Do I need insurance to drive to Mexico? If you are driving to Tijuana from San Diego, having the appropriate auto insurance is absolutely critical. In Mexico, an auto insurance policy for accident liability is absolutely required, as in many areas, getting into an accident is treated as a felony.What is the safest part of Tijuana? ›
The main tourist areas of Zona Centro, Zona Norte, Zona Rio, and Playas de Tijuana are particularly safe because they are heavily policed. If you're concerned about getting robbed, you should stick to these neighborhoods.