San Ysidro Border Crossing: Must-Knows

You’re ready for your vacation to Mexico, bags are packed and your car is heavily laden with everything you need for your trip. You’ve planned where you’re crossing the border, at the San Ysidro Border of course! But are you sure you’ve thought of everything? Probably not, otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this blog…

As you most likely know, the San Ysidro Port of Entry is the largest land border crossing. According to the very reliable Wikipedia there are over 70,000 vehicles and 20,000 pedestrians crossing each day making it extremely busy. In fact, it is the busiest crossing in the world so make sure you’re prepared. Here’s what you need to know to make crossing the San Ysidro Border a breeze:

Before Crossing the San Ysidro Border

Pack the essentials, as they say in the Boy Scouts, BE PREPARED, here’s a list of the things you should have in your vehicle before your road trip to Mexico:

  • Passports
  • Mexican tourist cards, otherwise known as Forma Migratoria Multiple (FMM)
  • Medical Insurance Documents
  • Mexican Auto Insurance Documents
  • Mexico Vehicle Permit
  • Your Driver’s License
  • Proof of Car Ownership

And because you can never be too prepared…

  • Sun Screen
  • Bug Repellent
  • First Aid Kit


If you’re traveling with pets:

  • International Certificate of Good Health
  • Proof of Vaccination
  • Proof of Ownership

Once you have all of your documents in order and you’ve packed the essentials it’s time to start planning your trip. Plan your route to the San Ysidro border and find a time to get to the border crossing that suits you but also a time where the border is not at it’s busiest if possible. There are a handful of sites you can use to check border crossing waiting times, be mindful that crossing the San Ysidro border can sometimes take up to two hours. Check out the Customs and Border Patrol wait time app to find a time to cross that works best for you.

Remember: Your American vehicle insurance is not valid in Mexico, so you must buy Mexican Auto Insurance before your travel.

Crossing the San Ysidro Border

At the Border Crossing

You will be called forward and a border agent will check your documents and send you on your way! You will sometimes be asked questions or for further verification, but if you have the correct documents you should have no trouble at all.

Border agents do not always need to inspect every vehicle, so as you pass, if you get a green light you can continue on your way.


As we said earlier, it could take up to two hours to cross the San Ysidro border, so make sure you have plenty of in-vehicle activities planned for while you’re waiting at the crossing. If you’re traveling with children the license plate game is one of our favourites, it’s educational and keeps them quiet! Here’s how to play:

  • Print off a list of all the states for each child (and adults too if you fancy it!). Alternatively, you could print off a map and this will help the children to learn about where each state is and understand how far people have traveled.
  • Get the children to cross off each state when they identify it on a license plate
  • First one to get all 50 states wins!

Learning some basic Spanish during the journey to Mexico is another educational activity and will also prepare you for driving in Mexico when you arrive. Print off some flashcards so you can test each other. You can Google the signs, such as Alto meaning Stop or Curve Peligrosa meaning Dangerous Curve. Having this knowledge can be vital when driving in dangerous areas, you will be able to spot the signs and understand what they mean.


Make sure you have plenty to drink and eat so everyone is happy and well fed! There are places to eat near the crossing, you can go for a quick and easy McDonald’s (heads up this McDonald’s does not have its own restroom!). Alternatively, you could try Jack in the Box for a delicious milkshake. These two are probably the closest eateries to the San Ysidro crossing but if you’re willing to travel a little out your way there are plenty of places to grab a bite to eat before you join the crossing queue.

After Crossing the San Ysidro Border

Once you’ve passed the San Ysidro border agents you’re free to go explore Mexico. Make sure you’ve planned your trip well and know which roads you’ll be taking as some country; back roads can be unsafe. We recommend you stick to toll roads otherwise known as “Cuota” roads, these are generally much safer and faster. We also suggest that you do not drive at night, it’s much safer to drive in the daylight as it’s so much easier to see hazards on the road such as animals and pedestrians.

Topes, or speed bumps as we call them, are extremely hazardous in Mexico so make sure you watch out for them! If you see a yellow highway signs with a horizontal black line with circular bumps you need to slow right down as these signs indicate there are speed bumps ahead. They are particularly troublesome as they often vary in size and height so you never know what to expect.

You can read more safety tips for driving in Mexico here.


 As a top Mexican Auto Insurance provider, we really know our stuff about traveling to Mexico by car. If you haven’t yet bought your Mexican Auto Insurance, get a quote now using our quick and easy online form.

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