Crossing the Mexican Border

Mexico Customs Declaration

Crossing the border into Mexico is generally simple. Here in this pictoral we show you what to expect when crossing the border at San Ysidro, California at the El Chaparral border crossing. You can reach the El Chaparral border crossing from either the 5S or 805S. The Mexican Customs agents, unlike U.S. agents do not stop every car and talk to every person coming into the county. Wait times to cross southbound are generally reasonable. El Chaparral's wait is generally 20 minutes or less in rush hour.

mexico border
Do I need to declare items?
If you are only bringing personal items for vacation, generally you will not need to declare anything. Check out more information from Mexican Customs about declaring items. If you do need to declare anything, be vigilant of signs telling you where the declaration lanes are. At the El Chaparral port of entry, this lane is to the far right. If you do not need to declare anything, continue following the lanes that say Nada que declarar - Nothing to declare.
mexico border
Green Light and Red Light
As you cross the border into Mexico, authorities will not necessarily stop you. Your passing through the border will trigger either a red light or a green light. A red light means you will need to stop in the parking area for secondary inspection. The green light means you may continue without stopping. Sometimes even if you do get a green light, Mexican Customs agents will still want to inspect your car.
mexico border
The Secondary Inspection Process
The secondary inspection process requires that you park your vehicle in the appropriate area and wait for a Mexican Customs agent to approach you. They may ask you to open your trunk and your hood. Sometimes they ask to see your license and/or registration. Usually the inspection takes only a few minutes.
Tourist Cards from Mexican Immigration
Tourist cards are available at border crossings, usually just as you cross. At El Chaparral, the Mexican Immigration office is on the right in the SAT building. Read more on how to get a Mexican tourist card at El Chaparral.
Vehicle Permits
Baja has no vehicle permit requirment, however if you do need one, they are issued by Banjercito in Otay Mesa. There is no longer a Banjercito at this border crossing.
Other Information
The U.S. Government has set up concrete dividers between the lanes that hold seven (one for each lane) automated license plate readers that record when your vehicle enters Mexico.

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