A visit to Tijuana makes for an excellent day trip or weekend getaway from anywhere in Southern California. Before moving to Tijuana, I used to visit the city every couple of months just to enjoy Mexico and get away from work and normal life. After driving a few times I started to get sick of dealing with the expensive parking on the border and Southern California traffic. The bus offers a great alternative. This article explains step-by-step how to take the Greyhound bus from Los Angeles to Tijuana.
How to Buy a Bus Ticket Between Los Angeles and Tijuana
When you buy your bus ticket, you aren’t actually buying a ticket to Tijuana. The bus doesn’t cross the border. You are buying a ticket to San Ysidro. The bus drops you off about a block from the border on the US side. From San Ysidro, you can easily cross the border on foot. For more info on the crossing, check out my step-by-step guide: How To Walk Across the Tijuana Border.
At this time, Greyhound seems to be the only company operating the bus route from Los Angeles to San Ysidro. There are 2 ways to buy tickets for this trip:
- Online- The best way to buy your ticket is online through Greyhound’s website. You can pay by credit card. After purchasing your ticket, you can use an eTicket on your phone to board the bus or you can pick up a paper ticket at will call on the day of travel. There is no extra charge for either service.
- In person- You can just show up at the bus station and buy your ticket in cash or by credit card. I recommend booking at least a day in advance.
A lot of people don’t like Greyhound. I’ve ridden with them quite a few times over the years and have overall had good experiences. Having said that, I feel that their prices are pretty high for what they offer. Many of the buses are in pretty rough condition. Sometimes they run a bit late. If I found a cheaper service, I would definitely take it. I’m not affiliated with Greyhound in any way. They are just the only option in this case, unfortunately.
How Much Do Los Angeles to Tijuana Bus Tickets Cost?
The price depends on how far in advance you book and the season. During holidays, for example, they jack up the price a bit because demand is higher. As tickets sell out, the price increases. Prices for the lowest cost economy fare are:
- One way tickets between Los Angeles and Tijuana- usually cost between $15-$25.
- Round trip tickets- are just double the cost. Usually between $30-$50.
As you can see, there is a pretty large range in pricing. I recommend you always book in as far in advance as possible to get the best price and to be sure that you get a seat. Occasionally, these buses fill up.
Other Greyhound Fees
- There is a $2.50 ‘processing fee’ for each ticket purchase. This is annoying but there is no way around it.
- Greyhound charges an $18 fee to buy a ticket for someone else. I find this one almost insulting. It’s a clear money grab with no purpose. I’ve never seen anything like this anywhere else in the world. Luckily, there is a way around it though. If you want to buy a ticket for someone else, you can simply buy a ticket in your name and pick up the paper ticket at will call. Then just give the paper ticket to the person that you bought the ticket for. Greyhound doesn’t check ID’s upon check-in. They just scan the ticket and you board the bus. Of course, if you do this enough, you’ll get caught at some point probably.
Bus Departure Times Between Los Angeles and Tijuana
Buses leave all day every hour or two going in both directions.
- Los Angeles to San Ysidro- 2:24, 4:15, 5:30, 7:00, 8:00, 9:15, 10:00, 11:00, 12:01, 13:10, 14:00, 16:00, 17:15, 18:15, 19:20, 23:15.
- San Ysidro to Los Angeles- 4:40, 5:40, 7:35, 8:25, 9:15, 10:25, 11:25, 11:50, 12:25, 13:10, 14:25, 15:30, 17:25, 16:40, 20:00, 21:40.
Bus Travel Time Between Los Angeles and Tijuana
There are two types of bus services operating this route.
- The express bus travels non stop and takes about 3 hours-3.5 hours depending on traffic. It makes a 10 minute stop in San Diego.
- The regular service takes 3.5-4 hours and makes stops in Santa Ana and San Diego.
After you arrive in San Ysidro, the crossing usually goes pretty quickly. There is about a 3-minute walk to the border from where the bus drops you off. Once you arrive you must go through immigration and customs to enter Mexico. This takes between 5 and 30 minutes depending on how long the line is. On average, the crossing takes around 10-15 minutes.
How to get to the Los Angeles Bus Station
Getting there can be a hassle. The Los Angeles Greyhound Bus station is located at 1716 E 7th St. Depending on where your journey starts, you can get there by:
- Greyhound bus- If you live in a nearby city, you may have to take another Greyhound bus and make a transfer in LA.
- LA Public Transit- Several city buses go to the station including the number 60 from downtown.
- Rideshare- Uber and Lyft can both take you there though it can be expensive depending on how far the ride is.
Greyhound’s luggage policy is pretty similar to most airlines. You can bring a small bag and a personal item on board with you. They aren’t too strict with carry-ons. They generally don’t weigh or measure these items unless they are obviously too large. The overhead storage bins are pretty small though so you may have to store larger bags by your feet or on your lap. I usually bring my 44-liter backpack and laptop bag and don’t check any luggage.
One checked bag is included in the economy fare. This bag can be up to 50 pounds (about 22.5 kilos) and 62 linear inches (about 157cm). In my experience, they do weigh every bag but they don’t measure the size unless it is obviously too large. If your bag is overweight, they charge $15. If you want to bring a second bag, the charge is $15. Oversized items cost $35.
Greyhound seems to handle luggage pretty well. Theft isn’t really an issue. If you get out of the bus to walk around a bit during a break, you may want to bring your carry-on bag with you just in case. I’ve never had anything stolen, but you never know what other passengers will do.
How to Travel on Greyhound with a Bicycle
An excellent way to get to and around Tijuana is by bicycle. By cycling, you save money on transportation and you’ll get to see parts of the city that you otherwise wouldn’t get to see.
If you want to bring your bike on the Greyhound bus, you’ll have to pack it in a box or bag. Greyhound doesn’t allow bikes without any protection or packaging. For step-by-step instructions on how best to pack your bike, check out my guide: How to Box a Bike for a Flight.
Unfortunately, Greyhound charges a $35 fee to bring a bike because it is an oversized item. I’m thinking about buying a folding bike to avoid the fee.
For information on crossing the border with a bike, check out my guide: How to Travel from San Diego to Tijuana by Bicycle.
The Bus Ride: Comfort and Features
Some Greyhound buses are better than others. I’ve been on a few that look like they’ve been in service for 20 years with ripped up seats and broken down padding. If you get lucky and the bus is new, it’s actually pretty comfortable. The seats recline a bit and include a footrest.
When traveling South toward Tijuana, I recommend you sit on the right side of the bus so you can enjoy a view of the ocean during the ride. On the trip back, sit on the left to enjoy the same view.
Wifi on the Bus
The Greyhound buses are equipped with Wifi. Unfortunately, they recently started charging for it. You get a measly 100mb free then have to pay. I’d say about 25% of the time, the Wifi is down.
Each seat is equipped with a USB outlet for charging your phone and electronics. Sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t. When I board the bus, the first thing I do is to test the outlet. If it doesn’t work, I switch to another seat. Sometimes the whole system is off or down and none of the outlets work.
Bathroom on the Bus
Each bus has a bathroom in the back. Some are cleaner than others. Most smell. I like to sit toward the front of the bus to get away from the odor.
The LA bus station has a free bathroom in the waiting area. The San Ysidro bus station doesn’t have a bathroom. If you need to go, you can pay to use the bathroom in the McDonald’s which is located at the station.
Food and Drink During the Ride
Because the bus doesn’t make any stops along the way, I recommend you at least pack a bottle of water and a few snacks for the ride. Both bus stations have a couple of food options.
- The LA Greyhound station has a small cafeteria where you can get hot sandwiches and other simple foods. The station also has a few vending machines with drinks, chips, and candy. Within walking distance of the station is a McDonalds.
- The San Ysidro Greyhound station is at the trolley station right on the border. Here, you can find McDonalds and Jack in the Box as well as a few vending machines.
The ride only lasts 3-4 hours so I usually just pack a couple of snacks. That way, I’m always hungry for a few street tacos once I cross into Mexico.
A Note About Alcohol on the Greyhound Bus
Greyhound has a strict no alcohol policy. You can’t even have a bottle in your luggage under the bus according to their policy. If you decide to bring back a bottle of alcohol from Mexico, just don’t mention it to Greyhound if they ask. They don’t x-ray bags so they have no way of catching you anyway.
I find this policy pretty ridiculous. I understand that they don’t want people getting drunk on the bus, but not allowing you to store a bottle in your checked luggage under the bus is far too strict.
While catching a bus in Seattle a couple of years ago, the ticketing lady asked the guy in line in front of me if he had any alcohol on him. He admitted that he had a bottle of wine in his suitcase. The ticketing woman demanded that he hand over the bottle. At this point, the guy just laughed thinking she was making a joke about wanting a drink. She explained the policy and had security come over. The guy ended up handing over the bottle and the security guy went to the bathroom to dump it out. What a waste.
Is Riding the Bus to Tijuana Safe?
Yes. Greyhound is pretty professional and their drivers all seem to be well trained. I’ve never felt in any danger on the bus. Sure, some of the passengers are a bit strange, but I’m probably a bit strange too.
Both the station in LA and San Ysidro have security around at all times. The stations are safe. Having said that, neither station is in the best neighborhood. I wouldn’t want to go wandering around outside the LA bus station late at night. It’s probably fine, but why risk it.
Arriving in San Ysidro and Crossing to Tijuana
The bus drops you off at the San Ysidro trolley station. From here, simply follow the signs toward the border. A footpath leads you to Mexican immigration where you’ll go through passport control and customs. From where the bus drops you off to immigration is probably about a block. For more info on the process, check out my guide: How to Walk Across the Border to Tijuana.
A Note About Catching the Bus Back to Los Angeles from San Ysidro
There is really no bus station in San Ysidro. Greyhound just has a small kiosk next to the trolley tracks. The bus picks you up in a different location than the drop-off. I almost missed my bus by waiting in the wrong location on my first trip.
To catch your bus, wait by the roundabout. You can see it from the trolley station. It’s located just across the street. Unfortunately, there is no seating or anything. It’s a pretty bad setup they have in my opinion.
Final Thoughts on Taking the Greyhound Bus Between Los Angeles and Tijuana
Although Greyhound isn’t perfect, I much prefer taking the bus to driving. On the bus, you get to relax and enjoy the scenery instead of stressing out while sitting in traffic. You also don’t have to worry about your car getting damaged or broken into while you’re enjoying Tijuana.
The bus is cheaper as well. You can pick up a round trip ticket for $30-$40. Parking on the border alone costs around $20 per day. After you factor in gas, you’re spending significantly more to drive to Tijuana.
If you’d prefer to drive anyway, check out my guide: How to Drive to Tijuana. Here, I discuss insurance, border crossings, driving in Tijuana, parking, and more.
If you end up falling in love with Tijuana as I did, check out my guide: Living in Tijuana as an American.