Thinking about a day trip to Tijuana, Mexico? What do you think of when I say the word Tijuana? Mexican zebras, cultural statues, jewellery markets and Mariachi bands? No? Well, let me see if I can change your perspective. Here’s everything you need to know about planning a day trip to Tijuana Mexico with kids!
Is Tijuana Safe for a Day Trip?
Before we went I had a lot of questions about planning a day trip to Tijuana, Mexico. Was it safe? Is it easy? Was it practical or even ethical to take kids? What would the border crossing be like?
I had done very little research about going over to Tijuana for a day trip from San Diego. So I was a little apprehensive about the whole thing really.
We were staying in San Diego having driven half our American road trip from LAX. The second half was to drive back up to Los Angeles and eventually fly home back to the UK. While in San Diego we were staying near to Do Beach and we asked some of the locals about going to Tijuana to see if we could get some tips on the best way to do it. Overwhelmingly, the answer we got was, ‘ooooo I’m not sure about that’. The answer seemed to have a double meaning. They clearly didn’t know how to do it because they had never even thought about doing it themselves and also they weren’t sure it was a good idea.
Even though we found the general outlook on a day trip to Tijuana from San Diego to be quite pessimistic, I’m so glad it didn’t deter us from going. We had the most fabulous time, kids included!
How to Get to Tijuana and Parking
If you are heading down from San Diego, as we did, you need to make your way to the border crossing Ysidro on the I5
If you want to park your car and go over on foot you will need to come off the I5 on the exit that says LAST USA EXIT PARKING
After this follow the road signs and pick a car park. We parked in one of the first ones we saw and it cost $9 for 12 hours, which gave us plenty of time.
Border Crossing in day trip to Tijuana
From here the border crossing is less than 10 minutes walk past the outlet shopping. If your unsure where to go, head for the silver arch, which is actually Tijuana’s clock tower!
Once you get to the border buildings walk through the door under the sign that says Mexico. It is through here that you will need to fill in your visa.
There are toilets, banks and ATMs available as you park up in the outlet shopping mall. You can also find these amenities inside the border crossing.
Things to do in Downtown Tijuana
Once you are through into Mexico, you can catch a taxi to downtown Tijuana. My top tip here is arrange the price beforehand. We paid $5 each way, but be aware and don’t get ripped off. You could probably walk to downtown Tijuana via the footbridge, but with the children and buggy I opted for an easy taxi ride.
The taxi dropped us off at Mariachi Square, Mariachi by name and Mariachi by nature as it turns out, and it was here and Revolution Street where we spent most our time.
However, if you explore the streets to the left and right of Revolution Street the shops are a little more traditional and they have more of a South American feel. On the right of Mariachi Square you can also find and visit the cathedral.
What is Tijuana really like?
The people in Tijuana were very generous and extremely friendly. One man taught our little girl how to say unicorn in Spanish, which was a lesson we all enjoyed, and a jewellery vendor in the most gorgeous little side street market gave her a kids dress-up ring with a bear on it. At this point I was a little bit embarrassed about how apprehensive I had been about coming to Tijuana. What part had I been so worried about? The people giving away free kids’ jewellery or the delightful street markets?
We stopped at a 7/11 type place and got a hotdog and a coffee with the few Pesos we had left. Our nine month old had a little sleep in the buggy and we sat and listened to a table of people singing Mexican songs and playing the guitar. This was one of my favourite moments of the whole day. Coffee? check. Sleeping child? Check? Singing and a guitar? Check check! The whole thing was brilliantly unexpected.
On our travels we also came across the Mexican Zebra, the statues that line Revolution Street and lots of amazing street art.
We felt completely safe and spent around 5 hours wandering around Tijuana before we caught a taxi on Revolution street (very easy to do) and headed back to the US border.
When you travel anywhere in the world, ensure you don’t go to places that make you feel uncomfortable. Trust your instincts. Keep the basics in mind and you’ll have a great experience.
Our day trip to Tijuana in Mexico was brilliant. It was something I never thought I would do, let alone do it with kids in tow! And in the midst of all the worry and insecurities about the visit, I managed to learn something. It feels good to push yourself to do something different. It feels good to be proven wrong by a place and by the people in it and it feels good to make your own mind up about something rather than letting other people do it for you.
Let me know if you found this article useful or if you have planned a day trip to Tijuana yourself in the comments below!
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This Post Has 24 Comments
Great advice – whether travelling with kids or not, you should always trust your instincts and leave anywhere you feel uncomfortable!
I love this post – It would have never occurred to me to take a day trip like this if we were in the area. Saving it in my favorites:) Love the fun pictures too!
It’s really a great and helpful piece of information. I am glad that you shared this useful information with us. Please keep us up to date like this. Thanks for sharing.
I agree! As long as you are aware of your surroundings, you can pretty much travel to most places – even a day trip to Tijuana Mexico! Looks like fun.
This is totally inspiring to me!! I always wanted to visit Tijuana when in san diego, but it has such a bad reputation…. next time I am doing it!! Did you get any good mexican food!!
Great idea. We plan to go to southern CA as a family in the next couple years and this is something I think would be fun
Great ideas! I wish we had done a day trip here while we still lived in Southern CA, but we go back often so we can still make it happen! I love the street art!
This is a great guide, really useful tips. It’s not a way I would have considered visiting Mexico before!
It’s so cool that you guys can just drive into another country for a fun day. Thanks for the super helpful tips! It’s a shame though that for those with Third World passports (like mine), I probably won’t opt for a land crossing as it gets complicated too quickly. But would love to visit Tijuana in any case!
I did a day trip to Tijuana when I was visiting San Diego a long time ago now but I loved it, it was a great way to get a taste of Mexican culture. It looks like you had a lovely time there. thanks for sharing these wonderful tips and advice, especially helpful for those traveling with children!
Tijuana looks nice, clean and with lots of sights to explore. I’d go there for the food alone! Glad you guys had fun.
I’ve been wanting to visit Tijuana! I was bummed that I didn’t get to visit last time I was in San Diego. I will need to make it happen next time I’m over there!
Thanks for this post! We’re looking at doing this with our kids when we are in San Diego this summer!
I went to school in New Mexico and it was great to be able to drive to Mexico within a few hours. I had some friends who went to school down south In Las Cruces, NM I could stay with them and we would often go hang out in Juarez (when it was safer) I am glad there are still parts of Mexico where you can drive over to spend the day.
You are so lucky to have lots of lovely childhood memories of visiting Mexico.
I heard Tijuana for the first time it looks so nice, clean and with lots of sights to explore. I would definitely like to visit this place
It looks like a cool place to visit with kids. And you seemed to had a great fun time there all together. Would love to explore with my little one someday.
Looks like you guys had a lovely holiday at Tijuana. Your daughter seems to have really enjoyed the cross border experience given her lovely dance at the Mariachi Square 😉 I would like to visit the neoclassical Jai Alai Frontón palace and the modern cultural complex of Centro Cultural Tijuana. I have also heard of lucha libre (wrestling) matches in Tijuana. Quite intriguing!!
I’ll be saving this post for sure! The dancing in the square photo is so adorable. I also love the shadow of the flags from the sun. Great post very imformative
Wonderful post. I almost visited Tijuana too when I was in San Diego last year but changed my mind last minute cause there was some security issue on the border. Can’t wait to plan a trip there!
Aww! I travel solo and don’t have a family yet but looking at your pictures, I felt maybe it is a different and more human experience to travel with a child. SOmeday I guess!
I’m glad you had an awesome time! I’ve never been to Tijuana, but my brother went and ran over his own leg with an ATV … so I can see why people worried about your kids. It’s more about people behaving sillily themselves.
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