Tijuana, Mexico is called the "most visited city in the world" and that's no hollow boast, there are some 300,000 border crossings between Tijuana and its U.S. sister city, San Diego, every day! Tijuana has always had a special mystique in American culture as a naughty party town and the place to go to do what's not quite legal a stone's throw to the north. To be sure, Tijuana has been a party town dating back to the days of prohibition in the U.S. and even before. Today, however, Tijuana is so much more. It is a buzzing metropolis, industrial center, and the fourth largest city in México (after Mexico City, Guadalajara, and Monterrey). In as much, Tijuana offers a whole lot to visitors from shopping deals, cultural activities, authentic Mexican cuisine, discount rates on all sorts of goods and services from auto repair to dental work not to mention the fantastic beaches to the south and Tijuana's first-rate nightlife.
Crossing the Border into Tijuana
Visitors to Tijuana Mexico or Ensenada only need to walk (or drive) across the border. Since Tijuana Mexico really thrives on tourism (being the most touristed city in the world), the authorities in Tijuana try to make entering Mexico as quick and easy as possible. There are no declarations to make, and no questions will be asked. If you want to visit Tijuana, just come on in. If, however, you are planning on staying for more than 72 hours or travel further south, you will need to get a tourist card on your way in (ask for directions at the border).
Crossing the Border into the United States
When crossing the border from Tijuana into the United States, you will need a valid passport and visa you are not a US citizen. If you are a US citizen, you will need ID and possibly very soon a passport as the U.S. is getting ever more restrictive about who enters the country.
Prohibited Items - Things you cannot take across the U.S. border include lottery tickets, illegal drugs, obscene articles and publications, seditious and treasonable materials, hazardous articles (e.g., fireworks, dangerous toys, toxic and poisonous substances), switch blade knives, drug paraphernalia, and many meats & fruits (see customs for a complete list).
Prescription Drugs - may only be imported from Tijuana if you have a prescription from a US doctor (90 day supply only). Prescriptions written by doctors in Tijuana or other cities in Mexico are no longer considered valid so forget about going to TJ to get a bottle of Valium or similar.
A trip to Tijuana Mexico can be a great time for everyone if you bear in mind that Tijuana Mexico is the busiest border crossing in the world, and a party crowd that big is bound to have its share of rabble rousers. You will find the Tijuana Police Officers to be very friendly, helpful, and generally much more laid back than their U.S. counterparts. But they do have a job to do and there are lines that can be crossed, so here are a few tips to make sure that your visit to Tijuana is pleasant and safe.
If you choose to drive across the border make sure that you get Mexican auto insurance before you do. It is not required (by Mexican law), but if you get into an accident and you cannot show proof of Mexican auto insurance, you will be held in jail until blame can be accessed and damages are paid in full. Y ou can obtain Mexican auto insurance (which may be purchased by the day at a very reasonable rate) but we highly suggest that you get some before driving across the boarder.
The "NO SYMBOL" over an "E" is the same as the "NO SYMBOL" over a "P" in America; it means NO PARKING. If you park in a no parking zone, don't be surprised to return to your car and find that it has been towed away. If your car has been towed you will need to go to the Police Station (8th & Constitution) and pay your fine before the vehicle can be released.
The Tijuana police advise tourists not to travel below Third Street on foot after dark. So if you walked across the border and are planning on returning after dark, you are advised to take a taxi and avoid the risk.
Carrying a knife in Tijuana with a blade of 4" or more on your person is considered carrying a concealed weapon. Knives in shopping bags, however, are OK.
Drinking on the street or carrying an open container in Tijuana may be considered public intoxication. Such activity is technically not legal, and the police will use their discretion to try to keep the tourist areas safe for everyone, so don't be ignorant and count on the notion that Mexican cops do nothing.
Prostitution is something that can be found in most any large city, only much, much more so in Tijuana. Where there is prostitution there also tends to be drugs, disease, thugs, thieves, narcos, and all the associated problems. In addition, the red light district is located precisely in the area where it is advised NOT to walk after dark so be very wary.