San Diego’s Imperial Beach is the southernmost city in the state of California, bordering the country of Mexico. Crossing between the municipality of Tijuana, Mexico, and the county of San Diego, California is quite easy.

A big part of this ease of travel has to do with something called the Cross Border Xpress, often referred to as the CBX. It may also be called the Tijuana Cross-border Terminal, or the Puerta de las Californias, depending on who is discussing it. This border crossing is reserved for those with tickets to the Tijuana airport, and a valid passport.

Using the CBX is simple but may feel overwhelming if it is not familiar to you. So, we’ll dive into what exactly this border crossing is, how to use it, who it serves, and anything else travelers may want to know about the Cross Border Xpress.

What is the San Diego Cross Border Xpress (CBX)?

The San Diego Cross Border Xpress is a pedestrian bridge that connects Mexico and the United States for those who are passengers at the Tijuana International Airport. The Tijuana airport has an entry point on the United States side so that travelers can easily access it and pass through to Mexico in a quick, simple, safe way.

One of the main objectives of this port of entry is to make it easier for passengers to cross the border as a part of their travel into and out of San Diego, California. This is a faster alternative than taking the busier Otay Mesa and San Ysidro border crossings. You can essentially think of this border crossing as a ‘Fast Lane Pass’ between San Diego and Tijuana because it is only open to people with boarding passes for flights through Tijuana’s airport.

Taking the Cross Border Express at Tijuana International Airport

The CBX is a way to make binational travel so much easier, but it’s important to know that you need tickets to use it and that you’ll need to cross through within certain time frames before or after your flights.

San Diego to Tijuana (U.S. to Mexico)

You can only use the CBX bridge within 24 hours of your flight’s departure from the Tijuana International Airport. You’ll need the proper documentation that you would for any other border crossing, such as a valid passport, INE credential, birth certificate, consular card, or Mexican nationality certificate for Mexican nationals.

All foreigners will need a valid passport book or card, an FMM form, and payment of migratory rights depending on your visit length. Everyone will need their boarding passes and a CBX ticket along with their documentation to enter Mexico, as well.

Tijuana to San Diego Mexico to U.S.)

When you land and want to come through to the United States, you can use the CBX crossing within 2 hours of landing. Instead of leaving baggage claim and entering Tijuana, you’ll head to the CBX entrance to San Diego. U.S. citizens will need their valid passport or permanent resident card to enter, along with their boarding passes and CBX ticket.

Non-U.S. citizens should be prepared to show a valid passport, visa, and I-94 permit if needed, along with a boarding pass and CBX ticket, of course.

Traveling Through Tijuana Airport

Many people that are flying to or from somewhere in Mexico, or in Latin America, will opt to fly through the Tijuana International Airport as opposed to the San Diego International Airport because it is a cheaper, sometimes easier option. The Tijuana airport directly connects travelers with 4 commercial Mexican airlines which can get travelers access to over 30 Mexican locations for up to half the price of airfare from southern California airports.

As the CBX allows pedestrians to cross between a San Diego service terminal and the main portion of the Tijuana airport, it is an easy way to speed up the border crossing process. This is also an extremely safe option, as travelers never leave the airport, even during their crossing, thanks to the fact that there are terminals that connect both sides of the border.

Using the San Ysidro Port of Entry

If you aren’t traveling through the Tijuana airport, you’ll need to use one of the other 2 main border crossings that connect San Diego with Tijuana. The San Ysidro border crossing is certainly the most popular of the 3, thanks to its accessible location. In fact, it is one of the busiest land border crossings in the entire world.

While it is still quite efficient for having this superlative, the San Ysidro Port of Entry might have you waiting an hour or more to cross via car or by foot. On holidays and Sunday afternoons, you can expect quite a long wait time at the border crossing as natives of the area travel back and forth, tourists head out for trips, and families spend time together.

Using the Otay Mesa Passenger Terminal

For a faster border crossing, and one that does not require tickets through the Tijuana International Airport, Otay Mesa’s Port of Entry can be used to get between Mexico and the United States in the area. San Diego’s Otay Mesa neighborhood is connected to the Otay Centenario borough of Tijuana, Mexico via the Otay Mesa Port of Entry. This is one of three ports of entry between the cities of San Diego, California, and Tijuana, Mexico.

The Otay Mesa Port of Entry could be the right option for you if you’re looking to avoid some of the potential lines at the most popular San Ysidro border crossing area.

Know Before You Go

If you aren’t familiar with the Tijuana International Airport, the international border crossing areas, or traveling to Mexico in general, you’ll have some questions about the whole process. So, some things to know before you go:

Does it Cost Money to Use the CBX?

The CBX requires tickets to be purchased ahead of the crossing. These can either be one-way, or round-trip, or you can buy them in a ‘season pass’ bundle of 10, 20, or 30 trips.

As with many tourism-based models, prices change depending on whether you are traveling during the low season, regular season, or high season. The only costs that stay the same are the bundles of 10, 20, or 30 crossings. If you are a frequent flier between the U.S. and Mexico, this is the best choice. For single tickets, expect to pay between $20 and $30 USD each, while round-trip tickets offer a slightly better deal of $38 to $50 USD depending on the season.

Where Can I Buy CBX Tickets?

CBX tickets can be purchased online or through the CBX app. You can also purchase tickets at the kiosks located in the baggage claim area of Tijuana International Airport if you’re concerned that potential flight delays could impact your ability to estimate a time to cross into San Diego.

The CBX partner airlines, Aeromexico, Viva Aerobus, and Volaris also have CBX tickets for purchase on their sites.

Do I Need a Valid Passport to Use the CBX?

Yes, you need a valid passport or another applicable form of ID. Requirements can be found on the CBX site.

Happy Travels!

We wish you the best as you travel between San Diego and Tijuana, and hope that this article helped you prepare for your border crossing experience via the Cross Border Xpress at the Tijuana International Airport.


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