Getting to Mexico depends a whole lot on where you start. For most parts of the country, it’s as simple as buying a ticket and catching a ride to your nearest international airport. From San Diego, California, you have a better option.
I will never fly out of the San Diego airport to get to Mexico. There is absolutely no reason not to fly from Tijuana. It all comes down to cost. A cheap flight to Mexico City from San Diego will cost you just over $600 per person (I’ll admit the cheapest I’ve ever found is around $420, but it’s not very common and it’s for bad fly times), while you can almost always find flights from Tijuana to Mexico City for under $200 per person…that’s you saving $400. Do you have any idea how far $400 will go in Mexico? Last month, Ana and I flew from Tijuana to Mexico City with her brother, and the three of us flew round trip for a grand total of $450 – that’s three round trip tickets for $150 each. In fact, the lowest I have found tickets for is $88 per person round trip for that same flight in January…Ana just couldn’t get the time off work because we had just had our honeymoon a month and a half earlier. The point is, once you are aware of the Tijuana airport, the door to Mexico is wide open for almost any budget.
Where is the best place to find cheap airline tickets you ask? Kayak.com is my favorite site to search for airfare. I have yet to find a site that offers cheaper tickets, and searching on Kayak is super easy and quick. I often browse Airfare Watchdog, but our schedules are hardly flexible enough to take advantage of most of those offers. We didn’t need a hotel on this trip, but my favorite hotel search site is Hotels.com by the way. I found a nice hotel for about $30 a night last time we traveled to Mexico.
So…what if you’ve never used the Tijuana airport? I know many people are apprehensive about the thought of flying from Tijuana, but it’s really not that scary.
Getting to the airport
You have several options to get to the airport.
- Drive yourself. There isn’t a hold up entering Mexico, and the Tijuana airport has a parking structure where you can leave your car. However, some people don’t like the idea of driving or leaving their car in Mexico for any extended period of time, which is understandable. Not to mention, depending on when you return, you may have a long wait to get back across.
- You can have a friend drop you off. This is obviously the most convenient for you, but it’s not always the best for your friends. This option is nice if your flight is really late or really early. We dropped my brother-in-law off at midnight once and there was no wait getting back across the border.
- Have your friend drop you off at the border and walk across yourself (this is a lot easier to ask of people). There are taxis waiting on the other side to take you to the airport. We usually pay about 200 pesos (about 12 dollars), but we never try to haggle. I prefer the Otay Mesa crossing, but the Tijuana crossing will work too.
The fastest and most secure option would be the Cross Border Xpress, a pedestrian bridge that takes you from the US straight into the Tijuana airport. It costs $12 per person and takes you through customs entering Mexico (which you won’t have if you just walk or drive across), but once you cross the bridge, you are already in the airport, which is great. The Cross Border Xpress also has a parking lot where you can leave your car for $15 per day, which makes driving yourself a doable option. This is the best option for getting back across though!
Get to the border yourself. If you don’t have any friends willing or able to drop you off, you still have a few options.
- Call a cab – A cab here will cost a lot more than $12 though 😉
- Get an Uber – You can even get an Uber in Mexico to take you to the airport…but I don’t think I’ll be trying that anytime soon.
- The trolley goes right to the Tijuana border crossing which wouldn’t be too bad of an option if you lived near a trolley stop (it could take a while though, and you would need to get a cab to the airport still).
Navigating the airport
The Tijuana airport is not that complicated. There is a kiosk where you can print out your boarding pass if you are flying certain airlines (AeroMexico and Interjet for sure) and VivaAerobus actually printed out our boarding passes when we checked in our baggage just using our name. You check in your baggage around the corner of the far end of the entrance hall by the way, you just have to locate the airline you’re flying with.
Once your bags have been checked in, you can go through security (which is impossible to miss), and then you simply follow the signs to find your gate. They make all their announcements in Spanish and English, so you should be fine even if you don’t speak Spanish…but why are you traveling to Mexico if you’re not going to try to pick up some of the language 😉
There is a lot more to say about our trip to Mexico obviously, so check back for more!
Still have questions about using the Tijuana airport? Let me know!