You asked for it and I'm delivering . . . my first pass at a Checklist for your Baja vacation! This blog post will be updated periodically with refinements. Be sure to share your comments! Click here or the image below to download your PDF.
When most of us think of crossing the border of Mexico by land from California, we think of San Ysidro which is more specifically, the El Chaparral port of entry. Did you know that this San Ysidro is just one of THREE ports of entry that will take you from SoCal into Baja California, the northern part of the state?
Did you know?
San Ysidro, officially El Chaparral, is one of three ports of entry from San Diego county to Baja, California. It is the world's busiest land border with over 106-million individual crossings per year into Tijuana, Mexico. Commercial traffic is prohibited from using this port of entry. Access via Rt 5 or 805 from San Diego on the US side.
Otay Mesa (pronounced OH-tie) also crosses into Tijuana; specifically, the Otay Centenario borough of the city and is close in proximity (just over 4 miles) to the San Ysidro port. It is easy to accidentally stumble upon this port of entry if you get lost or diverted while trying to make your way to the San Ysidro crossing (guess how many times I've done this). The crossing opened in 1983 to accommodate commercial traffic from the busy San Ysidro port. It is the third busiest commercial port servicing Mexico and the US. Access from the US is via Rt 905.
Tecate is the port of entry furthest east connecting Tecate, California with its sister city Tecate, Mexico. It's only two lanes and, unlike San Ysidro and Otay Mesa with 24 x 7 access, Tecate (as of this post) is open 6 AM - 10 PM. Check in with "Border Wait Times" for up-to-date information about this crossing.
Do you have a preferred crossing?
Leave a comment below and be sure to share your experiences.
Open 24 x 7
Open 24 x 7
Open 6 AM - 10 PM
Border Wait Times at https://bwt.cbp.gov
Apply for one of the Trusted Traveler programs, Global Entry or Sentri (US-Mexico land crossing only), for faster MX-US crossings. There will be another blog to compare features and cost of these two options. Be sure to use the .gov websites and avoid extra fees.
SmartBorderCoalition.com is another good resource for border information.
Most of the expats or visitors from the US use their stateside cell phones when in Mexico. Before you leave the US, be sure to contact your cell provider to arrange for coverage during your travels. Longterm or for frequent travelers, it would make sense to purchase an "international calling plan."
The following is a cheat sheet to help make dialing easy and painless.
Call MX from US #
1. Mobile no. dial +52 then the 10-digit no.
2. Landline no. dial +52, 2-3 digit no., dial the 7-8 digit no.
Call US # from MX
When calling a US phone number while you're south of the border, dial 001, then the 10-digit phone number.
Call US toll-free #s
The secret to being able to call US toll-free numbers from Mexico is that you have to dial a different prefix.
Use the following combinations to refer to US toll-free nos. from Mexico:
1-800 number, replace it with 001 880
1-888 number, replace it with 001 881
1-877 number, replace it with 001 882
1-866 number, replace it with 001 883
1-855 number, replace it with 001 884
1-844 number, replace it with 001 885
1-833 number, replace it with 001 886
Then, dial the rest of the number as it is. You may get a recording that will inform you that "dialing this type of number will result in international calling rates" that you should disregard--rest assured, you won’t incur an extra charge on your bill. Again, it's best to check with your cell carrier to be sure your plan will give you access to US toll-free nos.
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san diego, santa fe, baja california