Taking the hassle out of the U.S. and Mexico border crossing for airline passengers became a reality several years ago when the CBX, or Cross Border Xpress, became available. It allows passengers flying in or out of Tijuana an easy border crossing INSIDE the airport. For just under US$15 (you can book it with your airfare) you have access to a 390-foot-long pedestrian bridge that allows you to clear both Mexican and U.S. customs and immigration right in the airport facility.
I discovered CBX recently when a friend from Puerto Vallarta invited me to the last weekend of the fall racing season at the Del Mar Race Track – “Where the turf meets the surf” – in Del Mar, California, just north of San Diego. I jumped at the chance, knowing from experience that seeing a city with someone who knows it can be like seeing a different world.
My friend was born and raised in San Diego but began going to the Baja as a little girl. She has lived full-time in Mexico for the last 26 years, is bilingual and lives and works in Puerto Vallarta with her husband.
Instead of flying into San Diego, we decided to take advantage of a great airfare on Volaris and fly into Tijuana, cross with the CBX and then have a friend pick us up in San Diego. We landed in Tijuana, collected our bags, walked across the bridge (state of the art by the way), went through U.S. immigration and customs, walked out the door and, poof, we were in San Diego!
On the way back to Mexico, we were dropped off at the CBX facility in San Diego (where we had exited). They documented our bags and gave us boarding passes before we crossed over the bridge to Tijuana. We cleared Mexican immigration and customs in the airport and then went to our gate to depart.
When we landed in Puerto Vallarta, we were in the domestic arrivals section, so no long lines to go through immigration and customs. One important note, though. The Tijuana Airport (TIJ) is going through major improvements right now because visits to the wine country of Valle de Guadalupe have greatly increased the traffic flow through that airport. You should also know that the departure area is extremely limited as far as food and drink facilities (vending machines sold water but no bars were open when we were there). Food also was limited.
For expats in Mexico heading to Southern California, you could save yourself some money by flying into Tijuana. A quick check of airfares shows a pretty good savings if you do. And, it’s easy!