Border Crossing – USA to Baja, Mexico
After our tour around the USA we knew we wanted to travel down the Baja Peninsula. Originally, we had planned to cross at the San Ysidro border crossing in Tijuana however after researching we decided Tecate seemed like the better option.
We chose Tecate because it is a smaller border crossing and supposedly easier to navigate. Also, by going through Tecate you drive through the Routa del Vino (Baja’s wine region) which seemed like a great way to start our journey through Mexico!
Border Crossing Steps
While somewhat roundabout and not super-efficient our border crossing went smoothly. Here are the steps you have to take to cross at the Tecate border. We picked up our FMM (Forma Migratoria Múltiple) tourist visas and TIP (temporary import permit) for our vehicle as we plan to take the ferry to mainland Mexico. You do not need to import your vehicle if you only plan to stay in Baja.
- We drove up to the Mexico customs/inspection area where we were flagged over to a parking spot where your vehicle is inspected. This only took approximately 5 minutes as they simply wanted to look in the cab and back of our truck. Then we were on our way.
- We knew that there was supposed to be the Immigration Office on the right when you drive through however we missed it the first time and ended up doing a little loop around in town trying to figure out where to park. We eventually went back very close to the border and discovered a road with parking spaces. This road is a right turn immediately after you cross the inspection area, don’t miss it! We thought this road was a one-way but it wasn’t and there was a security guard that actually waved to us and moved pylons so we could park (see images below).
- Once we managed to find parking we asked the security guard by our parking spot where the immigration office was and he gave us directions. When facing back towards the USA there is a walkway on the right-hand side of the road that you can use to go back to the immigration office. You are basically doing a loop back across the border to get to the immigration office. The immigration office in on the right-hand side when you are driving through the inspection area.
- At the immigration office we filled out a form in order to get our FMM, which is also known as a tourist visa. Once you fill out the form you take the paperwork outside of the immigration office and go to the banqometer boothwhich is where you will pay for the tourist visa. The booth is to the left when you exit the immigration office (back towards the US side). They accept cash or credit card. The tourist visa cost $25 USD/person and get you a temporary visa valid for 180 days.
- Once you have paid for your tourist visa you return to the immigration office with your proof of purchase and they stamp your visa. This is a little piece of paper you do not want to lose as you will need to turn in in when you exit the country.
- If we weren’t planning to visit the mainland this would have been the final step! However, we plan to take the ferry from Baja to mainland Mexico so we also need to get a TIP for our truck. If you plan to only stay on Baja the import permit is not required. In order to get the TIP you need your FMM so you must do the above process first.
- In order to get your TIP you need copies of the following:
- Vehicle Registration (or Title) – In Canada we don’t have a vehicle title so you use your provincial registration form.
- Your recently acquired FMM
- We had copies of all other documents except our FMM since we just got it. There are a few places nearby that will easily make a copy of your FMM. We went to the Farmacia that is immediately to the left when you cross the border.
- With copies of all needed documents in hand you then return to the banqometer again where you can pay for your TIP. We had a small hang-up as apparently the license plate number that came up when you searched our vehicle VIN didn’t match our plate, however after some back and forth we were given the extra stamp we needed to cross. We aren’t sure why the VIN number wouldn’t show our license plate and our best guess the info they had on file is out-dated as we just purchased the vehicle in May 2018.
- Our TIP Cost: Total cost was $9,545.94 pesos. $8,316 mx of which is a refundable deposit that we will get back when you exit the country and cancel your TIP and it is based on the year of the vehicle. Our vehicle is a 2012 Toyota Tundra.
- All steps are complete, you have your FMM and TIP!
As you can tell by the steps above there was a lot of back and forth and it wasn’t a very streamlined process but overall it was easy! Everyone we spoke with truly seemed like they wanted to help. Hopefully this helps give some clarity if you are planning to cross at Tecate!