Baja Border Crossings

Arguably the most intimidating part of planning your Baja camping adventure is figuring out how the border crossing works. 

Between the paperwork, waiting in lines and the inspections that invariably happen, it can be a bit overwhelming and we’ve known people who actually turned around and canceled their Baja plans last minute because of this!

However, we have crossed multiple times and have some tips and advice to help you plan your journey – starting at the border. 

We’ll cover each of these items in more detail below. But know that you will need to have the following paperwork when crossing into Mexico:

  • Forma Migratoria Múltiple (FMM)
  • Passport or Passport card
  • Vehicle Insurance
  • Vehicle Registration
  • Boat/Additional Vehicle Registration (if applicable)
  • Pet vaccination records (if applicable)

What Baja Border Crossings Are There (And Which One Is Best?)

There are 6 opportunities to cross the border into Baja. From west to east, these are the border crossings between the US and Baja, Mexico.

From west to east, these are the border crossings between the US and Baja, Mexico. 

  • San Ysidro (San Diego/Tijuana)
  • Otay Mesa (San Diego/Tijuana)
  • Tecate
  • Calexico West (Mexicali)
  • Calexico East (Mexicali)
  • Andrade (Los Algodones)

RV/Auto Insurance is mandatory when traveling for any amount of time in Baja. We always choose BAJA BOUND to provide us with the exact coverage that we need. Check them out for a quote and drive with confidence!

By far, our favorite border crossings are Tecate and Calexico West. Depending on which direction you are traveling from and where you intend to go in Baja, you may consider either a convenience.

Tecate is small and quiet. So depending on the time of day, this could work in your favor. Potrero County Park, on the US side, has a campground around 15 minutes from the border where many travelers will spend the night prior to making an early morning crossing. 

Although there are parking lots on the US side where you can park and walk your paperwork through both sides of the border, typically you can pull right up to the Mexican border and agents will assist you in completing all paperwork and inspections. 

Our other favorite border crossing is Calexico/Mexicali West. When we travel to Baja we typically come from Arizona and this is the first convenient crossing from the east. Although it can be congested at times, we have had nothing but positive experiences crossing here. 

Here you will be asked to park your vehicle and go inside to complete your paperwork. But we’ve not seen a line and the entire process and inspection is completed in a matter of a few minutes. 

If you are coming from San Diego and either do not want to drive east or are planning to follow the Pacific coastline as you head south, then either San Ysidro or Otay Mesa will put you in the heart of Tijuana. This can be a bit overwhelming at first as you need to work your way toward Mexican Federal Highway 1, which will then lead you south. 

If you are traveling from the east or have plans to visit San Felipe, then crossing at either Calexico/Mexicali crossing will be most convenient. 

A more indirect route, the Andrade crossing into Los Algodones will connect you to the easternmost edge of Baja which will then lead you toward Mexican Federal Highway 5 to continue your journey south. Most people who cross here do so for dental and medical tourism in Los Algodones as it is not a convenient crossing to explore the rest of Baja. 

Regardless of where you cross, we recommend that you download the BorderTraffic app on your mobile device to be able to check the wait times and plan the most efficient crossing. 

Border CrossingHoursAddressBanjercitoAccepts Sentri
San Ysidro (San Diego/Tijuana)24/7725 E San Ysidro Blvd, San Diego, CA 92173YESYES
Otay Mesa (San Diego/Tijuana)24/7Garita Internacional, 22430 Tijuana, Baja California, MexicoYESYES
Tecate6AM – 10PMPdte. Lázaro Cárdenas 190, Primera, 21400 Tecate, B.C., MexicoYESYES
Calexico West (Mexicali I)24/7Calz. de los Presidentes S/N, Río Nuevo, 21120 Mexicali, B.C., MexicoYESYES
Calexico East (Mexicali II)6AM – 10PMAvenida Abelardo L Rodriguez S/N, Alamitos, 21210 Mexicali, B.C., MexicoYESYES
Andrade (Los Algodones)6AM – 10PMCalle Mariano Lee 150, Vicente Guerrero, 21970 Vicente Guerrero, B.C., MexicoYESYES

Forma Migratoria Múltiple (FMM)

The Forma Migratoria Múltiple, more commonly referred to as the FMM, is your formal ticket into Mexico. Although it has been referred to as a “visa,” it is not in fact a formal visa. 

You will need a valid Passport or passport card to complete the FMM application and to present it at the Mexican Immigration Office (INM) upon crossing. 

Regardless of which border crossing you take, you will be required to pay for an FMM that will be valid for your entire stay for up to 180 days. If you plan to stay for 7 days or less you will not be charged for the FMM but you will still need to have one and present it at the INM.

You can complete your application for your FMM online or in person. We have done both and while completing the FMM online seems like it would be more convenient, you still have to stop and enter the Mexican Immigration office either way. 

Additionally, if you do complete the process online be sure to print BOTH the FMM AND the receipt. If you fail to present both to INM they will require you to complete the process and pay a second time. 

This reason alone makes it worthwhile just to complete the FMM in person at whichever border crossing you choose. 

Recently, FMMs cost around 600 pesos (around $30 USD) per person. You will want to keep it on hand at all times as you will be asked to present your passport and FMM at frequent military checkpoints throughout Baja. 

You are free to cross back and forth multiple times with one FMM as long as the FMM is valid. And you will likely not be asked to return it upon crossing back into the US. 

Passport or Passport Card

It should not be a surprise that you will be required to present your passport at the border. Be sure to keep this handy along with your FMM as you will be asked to present it at virtually every military checkpoint throughout the peninsula. 

We fold our FMM into our passport and tuck them away in a basic passport holder that we hide away in a special place. We only retrieve the passports during travels when we know we are approaching a military checkpoint.  

EXPERT TIP: We make copies of our passports and laminate them prior to entering Mexico. Although we have never had any issues with police, military or immigration officers retaining our passports, we like to have a “backup” in the event our original passports are lost or stolen. Of course, if lost or stolen, you should file a police report and/or report this immediately to the nearest Consulate office, which would be located in either Tijuana or San Jose del Cabo.

Vehicle/Auto Insurance

RV/Auto Insurance is mandatory when traveling for any amount of time in Baja. We always choose BAJA BOUND to provide us with the exact coverage that we need. Check them out for a quote and drive with confidence!

Although auto/RV insurance is mandatory when driving in Mexico, you will likely not be asked to present proof of insurance when crossing the border. However, you will want to ensure that you have adequate insurance in the event of an accident as the Mexican government takes automobile accidents incredibly seriously. 

Although the Mexican government only requires you to carry liability insurance to cover any damage or injury to other drivers, it is not much more expensive to have full comprehensive coverage.

Insurance is not terribly expensive and becomes even more affordable the longer your policy is in effect. We typically purchase a 6-month policy even if we only plan to stay 4-5 months because it is cheaper to purchase the 6-month policy. 

There are several insurance brokers that will allow you to purchase Mexican auto/RV insurance prior to your arrival at the border. These are the largest and most well-known:

  • Baja Bound (Our preferred and ONLY insurance broker!)
  • MexPro
  • Baja Auto Insurance
  • Discover Baja Travel Club

You can purchase insurance when crossing the border. However, this can be a complicated process and is typically more expensive. We recommend purchasing insurance prior to crossing the border which gives you the ability to print your documents as well. 

Also, be sure that you have insurance on each vehicle you bring with you – whether tow vehicle, ATV, boat, motorcycle, etc. You can often bundle insurance with your primary vehicle/RV/van and your additional vehicles when you purchase Mexican auto insurance.

We have used Baja Bound each time we have traveled to Baja and have had nothing but wonderful things to say about the company, rates and customer service. 

Although we have fortunately not been involved in any accidents, we have called their customer service on several occasions to gain a better understanding of our policy under certain circumstances. 

They find the most competitive rates for the leading Mexican auto insurance companies and will talk you through each part of your policy to make the best decision about how much coverage you may or may not need. 

EXPERT TIP – Before purchasing Mexican auto insurance, check with your US or Canadian insurance company to determine the inclusions and limits of your specific policy. For example, our US policy will cover any theft or damage to our RV while in Baja so we always purchase Mexican “liability only” policies for our time in Baja.

Vehicle Registration

Upon arriving at the INM office, or when pulling up to the border itself, you will be asked to present your documentation. One of the items that will likely be checked is your vehicle registration. 

Be sure to have a copy of your current vehicle registration and ensure that it does not expire before the date on your FMM. You must have a valid registration for every day you plan to spend in Mexico, whether only in Baja or in the mainland.

Boat/Additional Vehicle Registration

In addition to having adequate insurance for each additional motorized vehicle or boat, you will also want to make sure you have a valid title and registration for each. This includes towed vehicles, motorcycles/mopeds, dirt bikes and ATVs. 

We recommend keeping a notebook with all relevant documentation easily accessible in the event you are asked to present it at military or police checkpoints. 

Note that any boat over 14 feet in length is required to have a Temporary Boat Importation permit. Also know that every person present in a boat with fishing tackle is required to have a fishing license as well. 

Traveling with Pets

Baja is a great place to travel with your pets. It’s an even better place to find a pet to take home with you, and it’s likely you’ll come across many people with black mutts named “Baja” or one of the local beaches because there are so many strays. 

When entering Mexico you will need to provide a current rabies vaccine record for each animal you are bringing with you. As with your vehicle registration, this record should show that the vaccine will be valid during the dates you list on your FMM for travel in Mexico. 

Upon return to the US – with your original pet, or with any you may pick up along the way – you will again be asked to show rabies vaccination records. 

Note that we have not been asked to show vaccine records when entering Mexico. But every US Customs and Border Patrol agent has asked for our paperwork upon returning to the US.

Drugs, Guns and other illegal items

It should go without saying, but do not consider bringing drugs, guns or other illegal items into Mexico. 

You should plan on having your vehicle thoroughly inspected upon arriving at INM at the border. And know that you will go through multiple military checkpoints as you travel through Baja and each one offers the opportunity for inspection. 

Be aware that bullets, shell casings and even large knives will bring up more scrutiny than it is worth. And while the debate rages over whether marijuana is or is not legal within Mexico’s border, it is not legal to carry it with you across the border.