SAN DIEGO — Memorial Day weekend kicks off the summer travel season, and experts say this year could be busier than ever. Cross Border Express, or CBX, in Otay Mesa connects passengers to the Tijuana Airport in Mexico.
You can save hundreds of dollars and hours by traveling to Mexican destinations.
For the CBS 8 crew, it was an easy drive to Otay Mesa. Paid parking is available, and CBX says it's best to reserve your spot in advance.
CBX is a pedestrian bridge exclusively for passengers of the Tijuana International Airport. You can cross between the United States and Mexico without leaving the airport. But to cross the border using CBX, you first need a boarding pass that takes you in or out of the Tijuana International Airport, airport code TIJ.
"We are a unique scenario in the world. We are a terminal of the airport on the American side. This is Tijuana in Southern California. To pass the gates, you must have a boarding pass in hand and a CBX ticket, in addition to having the documentation to pass immigration. It is not to cross the border to go to Tijuana for lunch," said CBX Chief Operating Officer Edouard Piquet.
When the CBS 8 pulled up, the curb was full of San Diegans who had just traveled through CBX.
Aieta lives in Chula Vista. She and her friends had just returned from a girl's trip to Puerto Vallarta.
"It's easy. Piece of cake. I recommend it. Highly recommend it," Aieta said.
Their group said when they looked to buy tickets out of San Diego International to Puerto Vallarta, the cost was about $500.Their tickets out of TIJ were $120. Plus, a $40 roundtrip CBX ticket.
How to buy CBX tickets
- You can get tickets on the website in advance here.
- Or you can buy them at a kiosk once you get to CBX.
- You link your CBX ticket to your board pass. To get through the gates at CBX, you need your passport, a boarding pass, your CBX ticket attached to your boarding pass, and an immigration form.
- You can also fill out the immigration form(FMM form) online here.
- Pro tip: Buy the CBX ticket and fill out your FMM form online before you go. You can take care of both once you get to CBX also.
Special services are available for unaccompanied minors and people who need a wheelchair that will take them from the gates in Otay Mesa, across the bridge, to their entrance at the Tijuana International Airport.
Staff checks your passes and passports before you cross to ensure you have what you need. Once you pass through the gates and walk through the CBX doors, you first meet Customs and Border Patrol.
After that, it's a six-minute walk across the bridge to Mexican Immigration and Customs. Then the airlines where you can check bags, then airport security, you're at your gate.
"Tijuana has become the most connected airport in Mexico of all airports," Piquet said.
Why are ticket prices so much lower?
"Tijuana has all the Mexican airlines; you can go anywhere directly. And they're domestic flights to Mexican destinations. Being a domestic flight, you pay less taxes," he said.
And it's not just money you save. CBS 8 searched for tickets on Expedia from San Diego International to Puerto Vallarta next month.
The cheapest tickets were for 23 and 26 travel times with multiple connections.
Returning to the U.S.
When you land back at the Tijuana Airport and are ready to return to the United States?
Piquet says it's just as easy to navigate, and the Mexican side of CBX is marked. For example, he says there are signs for Tijuana and San Diego. If you buy a roundtrip CBX ticket, you walk back across or buy another one-way ticket on the Mexican side.
Once you're back at CBX in Otay Mesa, you can rent a car, take a CBX shuttle, catch a ride share, or pick up your vehicle from the lot.
COVID screenings and vaccinations are also available before people walk out the door.
WATCH RELATED: Cross Border Xpress opens to reduce airline passenger wait times to cross the U.S.-Mexico border (May 2022).