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It’s a common misconception among our clients that crossing the Mexican border is hard and sometimes dangerous. Although we don’t deny that certain unfortunate situations can happen in the area, they are very rare, because the area where you cross into Mexico is the Zona Federal, where there is a very high police presence to insure security and safety at the border for everyone.
Car traffic can be one of the potential problems for our U.S. patients. Over the years, there are strong efforts to decongest the border lanes and make passing through quicker and more efficient. There’s even a dedicated pedestrian lanes, which remain to be some of the fastest methods of crossing over.
Driving into Mexico is not a problem, but the return trip back into the US is what can sometimes take longer than it should. Fortunately, the Mexican government has created a Medical Lane for cars, and has authorized certified dental clinics to issue a Fast Pass. As its name suggests, what it does is to further speed up crossing the border when you’re onboard your vehicle, as the lane allows you to bypass the long lines, and allows you to cut to the head of the line going into US Customs. It’s a specially controlled lane that’s dedicated to anyone who goes to Mexico for any health- or medical-related causes, and driving a car with US plates. So far, only a few clinics are issuing the pass, and we’re one of them.
If you want to use the Fast Pass, inform us ahead of time, before your arrival or crossing over the border. This way, we can already get you the pass when you come to Tijuana, and we can give you instructions to guide you to the clinic.
How to Get to Tijuana and the Clinic
This page contains updated maps, which you can also download or see through Google Maps. Use it as your reference when trying to find a clinic. But just a heads-up, you can take the 805 or 5 Freeway that takes you to the Mexican border from the United States. After you enter Mexico, the lane takes you to the right until you can reach the Customs section. Choose your preferred lane and look at which light is turned on. If it’s green, you can continue with your journey. If it’s red, it means you’re being flagged. You then have to go to the station of a customs official who will ask to see in the trunk, and perhaps to see your car registration. You will then be allowed to continue to Tijuana.
As you finally exit the Customs area, you will see 4 different lanes. Drive to the one on the farthest left, passing the ramp that leads to Ensenada. Go straight, and eventually you will go up a ramp that says Zona Rio. Once you merge with the other lanes, keep to the right. Continue on Paseo de los Heroes, going past the Costco. Continue straight, and you will pass three different traffic circles, with statues in the middle. (The first circle has a statue that looks like a giant pair of scissors, after a few blocks is the second circle with a statue of an Indian chief, and a few blocks later is a traffic circle with Abraham Lincoln). When you reach the third circle with Abraham Lincoln, our building will be on your right, just before the Office Depot. It is a 9 story building, and has the name “NEXTEL” up at the top. There is also a “BANAMEX” bank on the ground floor. You can then look for your parking space or go into the parking garage at the back of the building which is paid parking. Our clinic is #106, and is on Floor one. Go up the elevator one floor, or take the stairs one flight.
Meeting and Guiding You
A lot of our clients prefer to drive toward Mexico but like us to meet and guide them to the clinic. If you wish us to personally meet and guide you to Sam Dental, you can follow these directions:
First, make sure you call us before you enter Mexico so we can know to send our driver to meet you. Pass through the bridge from the Customs Area while staying on the right side. Continue staying on the bridge until you reach different lanes merging toward a street. Keep right until you will see Costco. From there, turn right and under right until you reach the store’s parking area. You can now choose to park close to the street entrance to the parking lot and wait for our staff to come over to you. He should introduce himself as part of our clinic and that he is driving a white van with the name “Sam Dental” on the door. You can then follow him to the clinic.
New Border Crossing Regulations:
1.- You must now have a US passport to cross the border:
Just like the US Government requires everyone crossing the border into the US to have passports, the Mexican Government also now requires all persons crossing into Mexico to have a passport. Things have historically been a little lax, but now they are tightening up on the regulations. Make sure you get your passport before crossing into Mexico, to avoid any delays or hassle, by the US Customs, as well as Mexican Customs.
If you haven’t yet gotten a US Passport, we strongly recommend that you get the “Passport Card”, rather than the “Passport Book”. You can actually apply for both, or either one. But the reason the Passport Card works better than the Book, is because it has the RFID electronic chip, which qualifies you to use the faster moving “Ready Lanes” either as a pedestrian or riding in a car. Here is a link to the government website: http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/passports/apply.html
2.- You will need to get a Tourist Visa at the border:
Pedestrian Crossing: If leave your car parked at the border, and are walking into Mexico, you will need to present your US passport, and fill out a tourist permit form. It will just take 5 minutes. However, make sure you keep your tourist permit on your person. In case you are stopped in Mexico for any reason, you will now have proof that you entered into the country legally. The cost of a tourist permit, to visit Tijuana for a week, is free. But, if you plan to stay for more than a week, plan to return for a second trip, or are thinking of going on to Rosarito or Ensenada, you will need to get the 180 day permit, costing $25.
Crossing the border by car: If you are stopped in Tijuana, you will need to show that you have legally crossed the border. So, even though you could just drive through Mexican Customs, and they don’t ask you for any documents, don’t neglect to first stop and get your tourist permit. The process will just take a few minutes.
When you first cross into Mexico, do NOT get into the lines of cars that are going through the lanes through for inspection. Rather, keep to the right, and go straight ahead to the area for Voluntary Declaration. Most of the cars going in here, and parking, are stopping to declare products that they purchased in the US, so they can pay the “Importation Tax”. But this is the same area where you will find the “Immigration” office, in order to get your tourist permit. Just park your car next to the others, and go into the building. Inside you will find the Immigration office, and tell them you want a tourist permit. It will be easiest if you just tell them you are coming to visit and shop, otherwise they will ask you for the exact address of the clinic, and hotel address where you are staying. Just a little less hassle.