We are in Rosarito Beach, just south of Tijuana, and we like it so far.
We’re here for a week, so we are in an AirBnB rental, not an apartment. AirBnB weekly rentals are more expensive than monthly rentals (some owners give monthly discounts) and they are more expensive than local apartments, but it won’t break our budget to rent places a week at a time now and then.
Our place is a couple of blocks from the beach and the main tourist drag. The beach is wide and the waves are huge compared to San Diego. Now I know why surfers come this way. The main street has everything anyone could need from restaurants and shops to beauty salons and a grocery store.
There are a lot of Americans here, of course. And, a lot of people speak English.
I’ve learned a lesson about border crossing at Tijuana. Awhile back, when I worked in San Diego, I thought you needed a passport to cross the border. I was wrong. As long as you enter by car, stay less than a week, and stay in the TJ “Free Zone” within 35 kilometers of the border, you don’t need to show any documents if you have nothing to declare.
That said, we entered by car, had nothing to declare, our rental is within 35 kilometers of the border, and we are staying in RB for a week. So, we didn’t stop to show any papers, we simply drove through the “Nothing to Declare” lane and started to drive south, with vistas of the wall separating Mexico and the U.S.
But, now we realize we do need our Forma Migratoria Multiple (FMM card), which is a tourist card.
We’ve had these cards before – on dozens of trips to Mexico over the years. When we came across this time, our acquaintances who drove us over insisted we need not worry – we didn’t need the card. And technically, we don’t. None of us were fully aware of the procedure for non-resident Americans who plan to stay within Mexico for travel, and not return after a quick TJ or RB vacation.
By air travel, the FMM price is included in your airfare. When you get off the plane, you are stamped into the country in your passport (or with the new passcard) and then immigration services give you the FMM tourist card, which you give back once you leave the country. The card is good for 180 days. The cost is about $22, and the Mexican government uses the fee to promote tourism.
By land, coming in from Belize last year, we were stamped in our books, and we paid roughly $20 each for the FMM card, because there was no airline to handle it for us. Months later when we left, we returned the card just like any other time we’ve visited.
If you lose the FMM card, it’s supposedly a bit of a hassle to get another one, and I’ve read where you have to pay a fine to get an FMM card once you are already in the country.
Since we are still technically legally here, we will have to make a trip back to the border to get this card in the coming days. Lucky for us, Tijuana was where we were headed anyway, before we start going further south in Mexico, and eventually into Central America.
Other Earth Vagabonds locations:
- Mexico City: 48 hours with some free activities
- Budget traveler’s activity guide to Porto, Portugal
- Rome: 6 ways to save time and money