Where and When to Cross the Border When Driving to Mexico
If you are planning a drive into Mexico from the U.S., it pays to plan. After all, you are leaving your country and traveling into a foreign land. Having all your ducks in a row will help to make your trip smoother and much more stress free.
One major part of driving to and from Mexico is crossing the border checkpoints. Some of them are busier than others, some of them are only open certain days and hours and some have other restrictions. Depending on where you are going in Mexico, you may be looking at a specific crossing station.
There are sources on the Internet that show the different crossings and include historical data about best times to cross in both directions. Keep reading to find out which crossing to use depending on your final destination in Mexico.
If you plan to travel past the FREE ZONE, you’ll need to acquire a temporary importation permit (TIP). Regardless of where you travel, you’ll also need a tourist visa (FMM). Both of these can be purchased online prior to your trip or in person when you arrive at the border. Make sure all the information on both documents matches exactly and is correct. Don’t forget to turn your TIP in when you cross back into the U.S. from Mexico. Failure to do so will result in forfeiting your deposit, as well as losing the ability to drive into Mexico again.
Before you leave, make sure you have the right car insurance. Your U.S. car insurance is not legal in Mexico. Buying your Mexican car insurance ahead of time is just one less thing you have to worry about before embarking on your journey. Check with Sanborn’s Mexican Car Insurance to find affordable Mexico car insurance online, plus tips and suggestions for making your trip simple and stress free.
Where Do You Want to Cross the Border into Mexico?
Where you are going once you cross the U.S.-Mexico border will determine which border crossing to use. There are plenty of them at the borders in California, Arizona, Texas and New Mexico. Even though some may look like the shortest route, there may be reasons to choose a different one, including hours open and the situation on the Mexican side as it pertains to roads and routes to your destination.
If possible, traveling a little further inside the U.S. border is preferable to beginning in a spot in Mexico where the infrastructure may not be as good.
Here are some choices for driving into Mexico based on destination. Keep in mind that crossings back into the U.S. are typically busier on Sundays.
Veracruz from Texas
Veracruz is a top destination for Americans looking for fun, surf and sun. Driving from the checkpoint at Pharr, TX will take about 12 hours and the roads are good. There are places along the way to stop and visit, or you can branch off and go to La Pesca, a smaller, less “touristy” beach location. Tampico also lies on this route and is a great place to visit. There are three border crossings here that all lead to Reynosa (the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge on the Rise is for commercial traffic).
McAllen-Hidalgo International Bridge: A mix of commercial, buses and private traffic use this bridge. It is open 24 hours a day and remains somewhat busy all day, although early in the morning (1-3 a.m.) is quiet.
Anzalduas International Bridge: The Hidalgo/Pharr crossing can get busy at typical rush hour times, but it’s not too bad. This crossing is only open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. and if you cross here, you end up on the western side of Reynosa. This crossing is not for commercial traffic, although buses use it.
Rocky Point from Arizona
Sometimes called Arizona’s beach, Rocky Point is a popular destination for Arizonans looking for some warm, fiesta-filled days and nights. The drive to Rocky Point is only 215 miles from Phoenix, so a little over six hours if you cross at San Luis Port of Entry and a little more than five hours if you cross at Lukeville. However, this is one of those times when it may be better to drive a little further on the U.S. side.
San Luis Port of Entry: Open 24 hours, this crossing point averages a wait time of 37 minutes. After crossing, most travelers will take Mexico 8 straight to Rocky Point.
Lukeville: Many people driving from Arizona to Rocky Point enter at the Lukeville border crossing, but it’s hard to know these days if it will be open or not. Due to a surge of pedestrian traffic by migrants attempting to cross into the U.S., the Lukeville crossing may be closed, so it’s best to check before heading there. When it is open, the hours are 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Baja from California
There’s no doubt that Baja is one of the most tourist-friendly travel destinations in Mexico. With a huge variety of spots to choose from, visitors can visit Mexico’s wine country at Valle de Guadalupe or simply hang out at a wide array of warm beaches. And there’s a bonus – traveling here does not require the Temporary Vehicle Importation Permit (TIP).
There are numerous crossing points from California into Baja, including San Ysidro (Tijuana), Otay, Tecate, Mexicali West and Mexicali East. The three most popular crossings are San Ysidro, Tecate and Mexicali East.
San Ysidro (Tijuana): By far the most common, it’s also much more hectic due to congestion and empties into the bustling city of Tijuana. It’s open 24 hours a day, but the average wait time is 106 minutes. Choosing to cross very early in the morning or late at night will get you the fastest crossing, but unless you are well familiar with the streets and routes, driving in the dark can be confusing and stressful.
Tecate: Tecate is open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day and has an average wait time of 43 minutes, which is not bad. That wait time is consistent throughout the day.
Mexicali East: This entry point is open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. and has an average wait time of 66 minutes. This will put you on the desert side of Mexicali, but some seasoned travelers say the east crossing is quicker.
Take an Experienced Friend When You Drive into Mexico
Wherever you decide to travel to inside the borders of our southern neighbor, it never hurts to have an experienced friend along for the trip. The professionals at Sanborn’s Mexican Car Insurance have been helping Americans plan their stress-free drive into Mexico for 75 years. Check their website for tips and suggestions and give them a call at (800) 222-0158. You can purchase the necessary car insurance at their website, as well. And, of course, you are always welcome to stop by one of their many convenient locations long the U.S./Mexico border for a friendly chat.