When flying from the U.S. to Mexico, your airfare will include a Tourism Tax, which is approximately $30 USD per ticket. For those who live near the southern border, there is a way to avoid this tax when visiting Mexico for a week or less, even when flying to beach resorts in southern Mexico.
Cross the Border by Land and Fly from Mexico’s Border Airports
While you may not have considered it before, flying from one of Mexico’s airports near the U.S. border to destinations throughout Mexico is an excellent way to save money on airfare since domestic flights within Mexico tend to be much cheaper than flights departing from the U.S. where hefty international taxes are imposed.
Plus, if you’re visiting Mexico for seven days or less, U.S. citizens don’t need to pay Mexico’s Tourist Tax when entering via a land border crossing.
Which Major Airports in Mexico Are Near the U.S. Border?
- Tijuana International Airport (near San Diego, CA)
- Mexicali International Airport (near El Centro / Calexico, CA)
- Ciudad Juárez International Airport (near El Paso, TX)
There are a few other commercial airports near the border, but these are the largest border airports that offer several more nonstop flight options around Mexico compared to nearby airports in the U.S. You’ll save both time and money when flying from these airports to destinations throughout Mexico.
How to Get to Tijuana Airport from the U.S.
Cross Border Express (CBX)
Tijuana’s International Airport is so close to the U.S. border, you can literally walk across a bridge (over the wall) directly from the U.S. into the terminal. By far, the easiest way to get to the airport in Tijuana from the U.S. is to use the Cross Border Xpress (CBX) bridge, which is about 20 miles southeast of downtown San Diego.
You’ll need a boarding pass to use this crossing, which you’ll be able to get from airline agents on the U.S. side of the crossing and you may only use the bridge within 24 hours of your flight’s departure. Tickets to use the CBX pedestrian bridge start from $16.
You’ll also need to fill out an immigration form or tourist card called a Forma Migratoria Multiple (FMM) when crossing at the CBX. You’ll need to present this form to the officials once you cross into Mexico. They will ask how long you are staying in Mexico. If it is seven days or less, you won’t have to pay the tourism tax. If you’re staying longer than seven days, you’ll be directed to a window where you can pay this tax, which is approximately $30 USD and allows you to stay in Mexico up to 180 days.
San Ysidro Crossing
Another way to get to Tijuana’s airport, which may be easier for those utilizing public transportation, is to cross at San Ysidro. You can take San Diego’s trolley all the way to the border and then walk across, where an Uber to the airport is only around $5 USD (taxis will try to charge $20). If you cross at San Ysidro and intend to go to the airport, it is important to remember to ask the immigration officials for the FMM tourist card form.
The only way to avoid paying the tourism tax for short visits of seven days or less is if you get your FMM tourist card when you actually cross the border. Since there is a “free zone” within about 12 miles of the border where this document generally isn’t required, it is not standard practice to receive this form when crossing any other land border other than the CBX. You can also fill it out online ahead of time, but you will still need to have it stamped by an official at your point of entry.
If you cross at San Ysidro and show up at the airport without this document, you’ve technically left the “free zone” and you’ll need to get the form from an official at the airport where they will charge you the tourism tax regardless of how long you plan to visit.
How to Get to Mexicali or Ciudad Juárez Airports from the U.S.
Mexicali’s airport is about 10 miles from the East Calexico border crossing and 20 miles from the West Calexico crossing. The airport in Ciudad Juárez is about 13 miles south of downtown El Paso, where there are multiple bridges to cross by land.
While these airports aren’t directly on the other side of the border, as is the case in Tijuana, you’ll usually be able to reach these airports from the border in 30-40 minutes or less by Uber, taxi, or Didi.
I haven’t personally flown from either of these airports, but the same rule of a free tourist card for stays of seven days or less should still apply. Just make sure to get a form from an immigration official immediately when you cross the border into Mexico.
Is the U.S.-Mexico Land Border Still Closed?
When crossing by land from the U.S. to Mexico, there are no longer any restrictions. Depending on where you cross, you may be required to fill out a health questionnaire, but Mexico is allowing U.S. citizens to enter by land for tourism.
As far as crossing the border from Mexico back to the U.S., the land border is still closed for non-essential travel through at least July 21, 2021. However, essential travel is allowed and U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents returning to the United States is defined as an “essential crossing”. Therefore, if you have a U.S. passport or are a permanent resident, you’ll be able to cross the U.S.-Mexico land border in both directions without any issues.
Is A Negative COVID-19 Test Required When Returning to the U.S. from Mexico by Land?
No. Although the U.S. currently requires all international arrivals by air to submit a negative Covid-19 test before boarding their U.S.-bound flight, if you fly into a Mexican airport near the border and then cross the border by land, you will NOT be required to take a test. This includes the Cross Border Xpress (CBX) crossing at the Tijuana Airport as well.