Entering Baja for up to 72 hours and exploring as far south as the seaport city of Ensenada requires no visa or other paperwork for U.S. citizens. Simply drive or walk across the border (as more than 186,000 people do each day) and enjoy the unusual foods, music, festivities and fabulous crafts of Mexico - without the bureaucratic hassles usually inherent in foreign travel.

Whether you stay the day, the night or the weekend, you can return to San Diego just as easily. US citizens need only proof of citizenship -- such as a driver's license, passport or birth certificate -- to re-enter California. Non-U.S. citizens must present a passport and visa for entry to the United States.

For Baja stays beyond 72 hours or to travel beyond Ensenada, a tourist card and fee is required (at this writing, about 195 Mexican Pesos or $20 US). The tourism board suggests paying the fee at any bank in Baja before traveling beyond Ensenada. Visitors can pay just across the border at the Bilbao Vizcaya Bank (open 24 hours daily), next to the Mexican Immigration Office. For payment later (within 72 hours), obtain a form from the Mexican Consulate in San Diego or the Mexican Immigration Office just across the border from San Ysidro. Proof of nationality is required --current passport, official ID or birth certificate.

And if you're coming in via airplane, note that all international airlines authorized to travel to Mexico will include the fee in the total cost of the ticket (ask for details at time of purchase).


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