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Day Trip to Mexico From San Diego

By Kate Ruddell | Oct 11, 2018, 12:08 PM

Have you ever thought about crossing the border for a day? If you live in California or are visiting, a trip to Mexico is totally worth it. Whether you're headed down for the day or plan on spending the night, there are several important items to take care of prior to enjoying your quick Mexican vacation. Check out these tips to make sure you head over with a plan.

Getting to Mexico

You’ll likely start your trip by heading toward the San Ysidro port. San Ysidro is the busiest port of entry in the western hemisphere. Located 20 miles south of San Diego, San Ysidro is the final exit before you drive or walk across the border into Mexico. While Mexico is a quick drive down the road, remember that it’s a foreign country and certain protections may not carry over across the border. If you are planning on driving, you need to purchase Mexican auto insurance. Most U.S. policies do not extend into Mexico. If you get pulled over without insurance, expect a fine. If you get in an accident, there is a possibility of going to jail. If you forget to purchase insurance prior to your trip, there are several towns around the border area with insurance shops.

Travel Medical Insurance

You should also consider purchasing a travel medical plan before your trip. Even if your trip is less than 24 hours, you want to be prepared for the unexpected. If anything were to happen, you may be stuck at the border for several hours trying to get back into the States. Avoid the risk of being stuck while your condition declines by preparing ahead of time. Our plans can cover unexpected accidents or illness while you are traveling abroad—Check out our Patriot Travel Medical Insurance for more information.


If you choose to leave your car in the U.S. instead of driving, you have many parking lot options prior to the border that offer day parking passes. If you need to make any bathroom breaks or pit stops, try to accomplish these prior to parking. There are several fast food options and shops, but most of them require payment to use their facilities. Remember to leave your valuable belongings at home before parking. Use your best judgment.

If you prefer to avoid driving altogether, many folks take the San Diego Trolley to avoid paying for parking. The San Diego Trolley’s last top is in San Ysidro. You will have a short five-minute walk to the border.


Once you arrive at the border, you will need to have your documents ready to show identification. Be sure to bring your passport. Previously, Mexico custom agents would accept other forms of identification. Currently, passport books and passport cards are acceptable forms of identification. Bring your ID as a second form of safety. You will show your passport and identification to the customs officer. They will likely ask what your plans are for Mexico and how long you plan to stay. After they approve your entry, you follow the building around to an X-ray screening device for your bags. Getting into Mexico takes much less time than coming back, but you should still allow for plenty of time going both ways.

Where to Go

Once you exit the border building, several taxis will be lined up waiting. Stay clear of the yellow taxis; these are unregulated and often charge more to unsuspecting tourists. Keep an eye out for the white taxis, which are affiliated with the Taxi Libre company, which has set fares. If you bypass the taxi lines, you will continue along the pedestrian path. This path leads into Tijuana, where you can explore the famous Avenida Revolucion! Begin your journey towards the silver arch art installation; once you’ve arrived on the avenue you’ll be surrounded by shopping and dining options.


For those looking for sand between their toes and a nice ocean breeze, Rosarito is the closest beach from the border. Rosarito is only 20 miles from Tijuana. Whether you're driving or taking a taxi, try to take the scenic route, which allows for gorgeous coastal views. This is a toll road, so expect to pay the toll even if you are in a taxi. Don’t worry, the view is worth the charge. This beach town is loaded with activities ranging from zipline excursions, horseback beach rides, fresh food, scuba diving, and Papas y Beer. Papas y Beer is a popular party restaurant and club for college-aged students. There are several vendors who sell “all you can drink” wristbands outside of these restaurants. These wristbands are only valid for the drinking stands. Unless that's the scene you're looking for, save your money for an actual restaurant.

Head farther south down the coast to enjoy the world-known Puerto Nuevo lobsters. Puerto Nuevo Baja-style lobsters are flash fried to a crispy delight—the buttery lobster melts in your mouth. They are served with tortillas, butter, rice and beans. Several of these restaurants also offer breathtaking dining views overlooking the beach.


If you have extra time or plan on staying for a few days, look into going to Ensenada. Ensenada is about 50 miles from the border and is known for its beautiful underwater caves. La Bufadora is the top-rated activity on TripAdvisor for excursions in Ensenada. Take a tour of the large sea geyser, kayak with friends, and plan on plenty of photo opportunities. Dress to get wet!

For the foodies on your trip, take a trip to check out Hussong’s Cantina. Hussong’s Cantina is rumored to be home to the first-ever margarita. Over 100 years old, this cantina is enriched in history and stands out from the other bars in the area, and often has live mariachi music. This bar does not serve food, so plan on eating elsewhere on the strip.

Returning to the States

Coming back into the States can take twice as long as your coming in. Make sure you allow for plenty of time to wait in lines. There are multiple lines to regain entry, so pay close attention to ensure you enter the correct line, as you cannot transfer to another. You will be questioned and must declare any souvenirs that you purchased during your trip. If traveling with children, think about packing coloring books or iPads to keep them entertained during the waiting period. Try your best to be patient and keep moving.

A day trip to Mexico is extraordinary, and your friends and family will love the stories you bring home. Enjoy your trip!

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