What You Need to Know About Border Crossing in California

What You Need to Know About Border Crossing in California

Written by Patrick Gensel on

Patrick Gensel is a world-roaming, visual storyteller with a special place in his heart for action sports and the natural world. No matter where Patrick is, you can always find him sharing his stories on his website and Twitter

What You Need to Know About Border Crossing in California

Need a weekend escape? Skip wine country and head south of the border for a quick road trip you won't forget.

When I travel, I go in search of adventure, culture, and fantastic food. Luckily for me, our neighbor to the South offers all three in abundance. The best thing about Mexico? It’s only a car ride or a quick flight away, as long as you are prepared to navigate the border crossing. Here are my tips for making your trip to Mexico a breeze, whether you’re only going for the night or staying a month.

Plan ahead

You should never visit a foreign country without making sure it is safe and open to visitors during the times you will be traveling. Check the Homeland Security website to learn more about what documents you’ll need to enter the country and what to expect once you arrive. If you prefer to plan ahead, be sure to look up the address for the local U.S. embassy in the region you are visiting. And to be honest, it’s always good to know where the Embassy is just in case you lose or damage your passport (getting trapped anywhere is a nightmare).

Prepare your documents

Make sure you have a valid passport, or other form of identification, before you leave the country. And check to make sure that the expiration date is still valid for the day you plan to re-enter the States. There are several forms of identification you can use to cross the border from the United States, see a list here. 

Explore your options

These days it seems like there are endless options when it comes to transportation. And those options are not limited to intra-national travel anymore.

  • With Uber Passport, you can cross the border into Mexico via the ride-sharing service, if you are equipped with all the necessary documents.
  • Buses—you can take a Greyhound from San Diego to Tijuana for as cheap as $7 (and save your cash for a few extra tacos).
  • The Cross Border Xpress, a skybridge that allows passengers to cross directly into the Tijuana airport by foot
  • Your own vehicle - Can’t imagine a trip to Rosarito without your van? Totally legit. Driving your own vehicle is always an option, just make sure you pick up the necessary insurance and be prepared for a bit of a wait coming back to the U.S. (But there are churros, so it’s probably worth it.) Hate waiting in lines? Consider registering for the SENTRI  program, which allows pre-approved, low-risk travelers to cross the border without having to wait. If you qualify, you’ll need to fill out the application online and register your vehicle at least 12 weeks prior to your departure date—then you’ll be good go.

Driving in Mexico

If you decide to take your own vehicle, or rent a car in Mexico, be prepared for a bit of a culture shock. Every country has its own rules of the road and its own way of enforcing them. Be aware of your surroundings and stick to main roads and a speed that matches the majority of the drivers around you. Read here for more information on driving in Mexico, so you (and your passengers) can make it to Papas & Beers in one piece.

Unless you have an international calling/texting plan, plan on losing your signal once you are in Mexico, or you’ll get the roaming note from your provider. That means no GPS. So, print out maps the old-school way, or get a plan. 

Related links (from the Eagle Creek blog):

Technology & Travel Apps For International Travel

How to Pack for a Girls’ Spring Break Trip to Mexico

Your Perfect Mexico Vacation