What California town borders Mexico?

Several states in the US share a border with Mexico, and California is one of them. While some of these borders are a large expanse of land, it’s always the case. The distance between the US and Mexico is just a few miles in California. So, which California town borders Mexico?

San Diego is the closest California town to Mexico. It’s only 20 miles away from Tijuana by car. You cross into Mexico from San Diego by walking, bus, driving, or flight. The fastest option is driving. Americans don’t need a visa to travel to Tijuana, and the weather is similar in both cities.

The proximity of Tijuana to San Diego has made it a great tourist attraction for Americans and other nationalities. Here, we discuss which California city borders Mexico and how to get to Mexico from there.

San Diego – Tijuana Border

The closest California city to Mexico is San Diego which is right next to Tijuana in Baja, California. The San Diego – Tijuana area is a very popular trans-border location and has the largest population of any trans-border area between the US and Mexico.

The distance between San Diego and Tijuana is only 17 miles by flight and 20 miles by road. With its proximity, over 100,000 people go over the border daily for activities such as work, medical reasons, school, grabbing food, and other ordinary reasons. This makes it one of the busiest border areas in the whole world.

If you’re a US citizen, getting across the border to Mexico is a piece of cake for you here in San Diego. The challenging part would be crossing back from Mexico to the US.


Ways to get to Mexico from San Diego

There are several ways to move from San Diego to Tijuana. They include:

1.      Walking

The most cost-effective way to cross the border is with a footbridge. You’ll have to use a trolley to get where you can cross the pedestrian bridge. This takes less than an hour. For pedestrians, there are three points in San Diego where you can cross the border into the Tijuana metro area. They are: 

  • Cross Border Express
  • Otay Mesa
  • PedEast near the San Ysidro Trolley stop

The fourth footbridge is PedWest and has been closed since October 2021.

You can easily get to the bridge using various options. These include driving to the bridge and parking in one of the commercial parking lots in your area. You can also get taxis or rideshare to take you to any of the bridges. But most people use public transit, i.e., the San Diego trolley. The light rail system ends at the San Ysidro crossing, where you can get on the footbridge. There’s also the option of using Metropolitan Transit System buses to convey you to the Otay Mesa border crossing.

2.      Driving

The fastest way to get to Tijuana from San Diego is by car. It takes about 30 minutes to cross with your car. There are two points of entry for those that are driving. These are Otay Mesa and El Chaparral (San Ysidro). Several companies offer chauffeur driver services to take you across the border. You can even use rideshare and taxis to cross to Mexico, but they can’t take you from Mexico to the US. Generally, if there’s light traffic on the freeways, driving is the best way to get across the border.

The law in Mexico requires that any driver should have proof of financial responsibility. This is in case of accidents, and it doesn’t matter whose fault the accident is. So, you can carry enough cash with you or buy temporary auto insurance in Mexico. You can buy it before crossing the border or do it online. If you travel over the border with your car, ensure you have all the requirements. The penalties for breaking the law or cutting corners can be serious. Driving into Tijuana has many advantages. It allows you to explore several parts of the city and be flexible.

3.      Flight

It’s also possible to fly to Tijuana from San Diego. But it’s mostly a waste of time and money because there’s no direct flight between the airports in the two cities. Most flights involve first flying to cities such as Atlanta, Guadalajara, and Las Vegas. Most of the flights will last about three times what It’ll take to even walk from the San Diego downturn to the Tijuana downturn. So unless you’re flying a personal plane from San Diego to Tijuana, it’s not worth it.

4.      Buses

There are also bus services from the San Diego bus station to Tijuana central bus station. This is cost-effective, especially for those working in either of the two cities.

What to know about San Diego and Tijuana Transborder?

Here are some of the things you should know if you’re planning to use the border anytime:


San Diego and Tijuana have a Mediterranean climate, making them perfect for visiting any time of the year. But summer is the best time overall to be in Tijuana. You’ll enjoy the beaches more during this season, and more cultural events happen in the summer and spring seasons. The likelihood of rain is also much lower during this period.


US citizens don’t need a visa to travel to Tijuana, but they’ll need to show their passports. Permanent residents of the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Japan, and any country part of the Pacific Alliance or in the Schengen area don’t require visas unless they plan to be there for over 180 days. Visitors must fill out the Forma Migratoria Múltiple (FMM) anytime they visit, even if only for a day.

Those planning to spend more than seven days in the city will have to buy the FMM 180-day permit. If you’re traveling to Tijuana to conduct business, you’ll have to get a business visitor visa and various rules you’ll have to follow.

Best Time to Cross the Border

The best time to cross the border is early morning or late evening when traffic is generally light, and you don’t have to spend hours stuck in the traffic. It’s advisable not to return on a Sunday or Monday as the wait time on these days is usually very long, with everyone going through customs.

What to do in Tijuana?

Tijuana is a tourist hotspot for Americans, and if you’re visiting here, you’ll be getting involved in a lot of touristy stuff. Things you can do in Tijuana include:

  • Visit the beaches in Tijuana or go a little farther to Rosarito
  • Explore the Valle de Guadalupe, which produces about 90% of Mexico wines
  • Go to Plaza Santa Cecilia
  • Check out Centro Cultural Tijuana
  • Walk the Avenida Revolución
  • Attend a Lucha libre match

In Conclusion

San Diego is the closest city in California to the Mexican border as it’s only 20 miles away from Tijuana. Every day, thousands of people move across the border for various activities, and the transborder area has a population of over 5 million.