Tips on Renting a Car in Tijuana Near the Mexico / California Border

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Instead of driving our car into Mexico like we normally do, on our most recent trip to whale watch in Guerrero Negro, we decided to park our car at a parking lot on the San Diego side to avoid having to drive back through the border which consist of a long 3-5 hour border wait.  To arrive to this parking lot, be sure to take the very last freeway exit, Camino de la Plaza.  I would advise googling the lot's address: 4570 Camino De La Plaza, San Ysidro, CA 92173 Once you take this exit, the parking lot will literally be right around the corner.   You can then ask the attendant to direct you on where to walk to get through the border.

 Last California Freeway Exit Before Mexican Border

Laz Parking Lot at the last San Diego freeway exit before crossing over to Mexico

Once we walked our luggage for about 20 minutes from the lot over to the Tijuana side, we then Ubered to the nearest Hertz branch which was about a 10 minute ride.  Despite having already reserved a vehicle using the Hertz website, we still had to wait about 45 minutes to be issued one on arrival.  If you plan on renting a vehicle, we highly recommend reserving one to minimize your wait time.

When dealing with the rental agency, things to consider are 1.) expect to be charged an additional $5-10 per additional driver.  2.)  the rate of the rental typically covers the required Liability insurance.  I don't believe they will rent the vehicle to you otherwise  3.) they'll likely kindly scare you into taking on the additional Damage Waiver insurance which protects the rented vehicle.  I had opted out of that because I had purchased the same insurance from my American Express Platinum card which covers up to 42 days of rental for one small flat fee; this insurance qualifies for rentals in the USA, Mexico, Canada and many other countries.  The rental companies normally charge a per-day rate of $8-15 for the damage waiver and in Mexico, it was about $14 per day.  I believe this cool service is available to all AMEX Cardholders but you might wanna confirm that by clicking here.  You're only required to sign up one time and everytime you rent a car then forward, it'll automatically charge your card for the small fee to which then activates the insurance.  If you're not already an AMEX card member and would like to sign up for either a Gold or Platinum Amex card, you can click here to be directed to our blog post for a signup bonus.

After declining several up-sell attempts, we were finally given the keys to a white Dodge Journey, which is a Standard Size SUV one size bigger than the crossover size that we had reserved.  Getting a bigger SUV we felt was unnecessary due to the bigger size and the higher gas consumption but being that it was the only option they had at the time, we went with it. 

Renting a Car (SUV) from Hertz at the Tijuana Mexico Border.

Fortunately, the SUV didn't seem to be overly gas demanding and the ride was quite comfortable.  However, we did run into a couple of hiccups: First, our tire was punctured with a very sharp 3-inch nail-like metal object which rendered an immediate flat.  With a spare, we were able to change it with ease and had the tire repair and the nearest llantera (tire shop). 

Change tires in Hemp Socks

Tire problems in Baja Mexico
the culprit that caused 0 to 100 flat real quick.

Ghetoo Tire Shop (llantera) in Baja, Mexico
despite being quite ghetto, this llantera is operated by kind hard workin' folks.

The llantera workshop next to the car port.
the workshop at the llantera.  the supplies are stored inside the bus.


2ndly, being that the vehicle wasn't an all-wheel-drive like we had originally desired, having taken some muddy roads in San Quintin around sunset, one of our tire got stuck which stressed us a bit but thanks to the help of a kind Canadian man at a nearby RV campsite, we were able to free the vehicle within 30 minutes.  As you can see in the picture below, after wiping himself down and stripping off the muddy overalls he was wearing, there's still mud all over his face.  Fortunately, I somehow only got an itty bit of mud on jacket.


Car Stuck in the Mud in Baja Mexico
Stuart, the Canadian angel that came to our aid.  <3

The cost for the 5-day midsize SUV rental was $154 which includes the required Mexican Liability Insurance which protect the other driver & vehicle should you be at fault.  5-day parking on the San Diego side costed us $135 and the additional AMEX Damage Waiver insurance to protect the rental vehicle was only $18, all in all totaling $308usd.  For the same rental size vehicle from Long Beach (instead of renting on the Mexico side) + Liability Insurance for 5 days totals up to about $5-600 but because we didn't care to wait the at the border for up to 5 hours on our trip back, this option was not ideal for us.

Gas for your Rental  Petro, short for petroleum, costs roughly the same in Baja as it does in the US now that the mexican government no longer monopolizes the sell of gas to the public.  When approaching every operating gas station, you'll be greeted and served by an attendant without exceptions.  At most gas stations, they'll give you 2 options, a standard GREEN option or a premium Red option.  They'll simply ask you "?Verde o Roja?" which stand for Green or Red, respectively.  Then you'll be asked how much gas you'd like.  Either you give them a dollar amount or you can say "lleno (pronunciation: Yen + Owe)," which is Spanish for full. Most stations will only accept cash so be sure to stock up on some and before they start the machine, they'll likely ask you to look at the gas meter to ensure that it's starting at zero.  =) 

Gas mexico

Welp, that's all the info we can think of at the moment to help you navigate the rental experience through Baja or any parts of Mexico rather.  If there are any information you feel like others can benefit from, please comment below or ask us so that we can include it for others.   Thanks for reading and hope you'll have a lovely trip to Mexico; one of our favorite countries away from home!


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