Despite recent events that have occurred at the San Ysidro Border Crossing – the world’s busiest land border crossing – travelling through here remains a relatively straightforward experience for travellers. While many visitors who wish to travel from San Diego to Ensenada will opt to drive through the border crossing, it can actually be an easier and quicker experience to opt for public transport between these two cities and to leave your car at home!
Wondering how to do this? This article will break out every step for how to travel by bus from San Diego to Ensenada to ensure you have a pleasant and hassle-free journey that will allow you to be enjoying fresh ceviche and fish tacos in no time!
Driving from San Diego to Ensenada
While taking the bus is our preferred method for travelling between the two cities, there are some advantages to driving to Ensenada rather than taking the bus from San Diego, particularly if you would like to visit some attractions located outside of the city centre such as La Bufadora or wineries in Valle de Guadalupe.
The distance on the drive from San Diego to Ensenada is about 84 miles (134 kilometres) and while it should only take about 2 hours non-stop in a car without traffic, it will likely take longer due to waiting times at the border, particularly when coming back from Ensenada.
The main thing you should be aware of is that the wait times at San Ysidro can get extremely long and you should pay attention to the expected delays online. If driving to Ensenada it is often a better choice to take one of the alternative border crossings such as at Tecate or Otay Mesa, particularly when coming back into the USA!
How to Travel By Bus from San Diego to Ensenada
1. San Diego to San Ysidro Border Crossing
The first step for travelling by bus from San Diego to Ensenada is to make your way to the San Ysidro border crossing from the centre of San Diego. While there is plenty of car parking available on the US side of the border, it can be quite expensive to park your car, particularly as prices tend to rise on weekends and during the holiday season.
The best way to get to the San Ysidro border crossing while saving money and staying out of traffic is to take the Blue Line Trolley that goes directly to the border. The Blue Line starts in San Diego Downtown with stops including the American Plaza, Civic Center, City College and 12th & Imperial.
From Downtown, the Blue Line will take approximately 45 minutes to get to San Ysidro. You can buy tickets for the Trolley at the station with prices costing $2.50 for a one-way ticket on the trolley only or $5 for an all-day pass that covers all of San Diego’s public transport network. If you’re from outside of San Diego then you’ll also need to purchase a Compass Card (San Diego’s public transport tap-on card) for $2.
Trolleys come every 15 minutes and will drop you off right at the San Ysidro border. You can view real-time schedules on the San Diego MTS website.
2. San Ysidro Border Crossing on Foot to Tijuana
Once you arrive at the San Ysidro Border Crossing it’s a fairly straightforward experience to cross from San Diego to Tijuana. I recommend that you exchange some US dollars for Mexican pesos on the USA side of the border as there are a number of currency exchange outlets that offer reasonable exchange rates.
We didn’t spot any places to convert money once we crossed the border and it’s always a good idea to ensure you have some local currency when you first arrive in a new country! If you do forget to exchange currency, a lot of places will let you pay with US dollars however the exchange rate will be unfavourable.
Once you’re ready to cross, simply follow the signs to Mexico! There is no US immigration to clear so you will head straight for the Mexican immigration queue.
There are two lines at the Mexican immigration kiosk – one for local residents and one for foreigners. The line for local residents doesn’t have anybody checking passports so if you’re not Mexican then head to the foreigner’s line to get your passport stamped.
The immigration officers didn’t speak English when we arrived so be prepared to practice your Spanish as soon as you arrive! However, the officers will fill in your Mexican entry card for you so even if you don’t speak Spanish you should be able to get through without any problems.
Once you’re done, you have officially entered Mexico and arrived in Tijuana!
3. Tijuana to Ensenada by Bus
Once you cross the San Ysidro Border Crossing on foot, then you’ll need to take a short 8-10 minute walk to the ABC Tijuana Line Terminal where you can get a bus from Tijuana to Ensenada.
Keep an eye out for the large ‘ABC Ensenada’ sign as you walk along Frontera Street. The bus station will be there just as you cross the large intersection. As is the case in many countries around the world, ignore any taxi drivers telling you that you’re going the wrong way who are just trying to lure you into their overpriced taxis!
The bus from Tijuana to Ensenada leaves every 45 minutes and you must buy tickets from the kiosk before boarding the bus. Tickets cost 200 pesos per person (approximately $10 USD). If you’re travelling with large bags then the driver will give you a tag when he takes your bag and puts it into the luggage hold. You might notice some locals tipping the driver but this isn’t required if you don’t have any change. You will also be allocated a specific seat on your ticket but these aren’t strictly adhered to.
The bus ride from Tijuana to Ensenada takes approximately 1.5 hours and follows a beautiful coastal road – I highly recommend trying to snag a window seat on the right side of the bus so you can enjoy the views! The buses are very modern and some even have TVs on the back of your seat as well as USB and electrical chargers.
Once the bus arrives in Ensenada it will make a couple of stops within the city. The most popular stop to get off at is Centro which is located on 6th Street in Ensenada. The main bus station is a bit further outside of the centre so if you’re staying near the harbour then Centro stop is likely your best option.
You can also use the same bus if you’re travelling from San Diego to Rosarito, just make sure to remember to get off earlier!
Travelling back from Ensenada to San Diego by Bus
If you’re only visiting Ensenada for a short trip from San Diego then you can also easily travel by bus from Ensenada to San Diego.
You can buy tickets for the bus to Tijuana from the same place that you get dropped off at when you first arrive. The bus picks you up from around the corner of the kiosk (follow the crowds if you get confused!) and drops you off at the PedWest crossing at San Ysidro.
It’s about a 500-metre walk until you reach the US border guards and it’s fairly straightforward crossing if you have all the right paperwork. On occasion, there can be delays at the border crossing however it is a lot less compared to the driving lanes! You can get real-time updates on any expected delays on the US Customs and Border Protection website.
Once you cross back into the USA, you will find that you are actually about one kilometre from the trolley station where you initially arrived. Luckily, bus number 907 will take you back to the trolley station and it is covered with an all-day pass on your Compass card
When crossing back, make sure to exchange all your peso coins in Mexico as the currency exchange outlets in the USA won’t accept them. I also recommend making sure to not switch back on your data roaming until you’re far away from the border if your mobile plan has expensive roaming charges in Mexico. Some SIM cards will pick up Mexican cell coverage near the border which can result in expensive fees – we learned this the hard way!
Where to Stay in Ensenada
Hotel Cortez – Located just a few minutes walk from the harbour, this boutique hotel is a great option if travelling as a couple. All rooms are air-conditioned, there is an onsite pool and gym and a restaurant on site. Click here to see their latest prices
Ensenada Backpacker – one of the best options in Ensenada if you’re travelling on a budget and are after a social atmosphere. This hostel organises tours around Ensenada and breakfast is included in the daily rate. Click here to see their latest prices
Travelling by bus from San Diego to Ensenada is a relatively straightforward journey that means you can easily leave the car at home when travelling between the USA and Mexico!
When visiting Mexico, it’s always a good idea to make sure you have a travel insurance policy so you’re covered for any unfortunate events! We like WorldNomads and always use them for our trips – click here to get a quote from WorldNomads
Are you planning on taking the bus from San Diego to Ensenada? Or have you recently taken this trip yourself? Let us know in the comments below!