Last updated: 02:30 PM ET, Thu January 14 2016

How You Can Save Money on Airfare (By Walking to Mexico)

Features & Advice | Josh Lew | January 14, 2016

How You Can Save Money on Airfare (By Walking to Mexico)

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Many Southern Californians head across the border with Mexico to find shopping bargains in Tijuana. They face a potentially long wait at customs and immigration when they return to the U.S., but, for many, the bargains (and perhaps the excitement of going to a different country) are worth it. 

It is not just goods, but also services that draw people south of the border. Tijuana’s spas, beauty salons and even dentists offices can give Americans similar treatment for lower prices. 

Walking across the border for cheaper airfares

Savvy travelers are finding that this same cross-border savings could even work for airfares. This has always been a viable option for budget-minded travelers, but many people balked at the idea of having to cross the border with all their luggage. The San Ysidro crossing between Tijuana and San Diego is known for being one of the world’s busiest land border crossings. 

READ MORE: What's the Best Day To Book Your Airfare?

A project called the Cross Border Xpress (CBX) actually connects California-based fliers directly with Tijuana Airport without requiring them to contend with the crowds at San Ysidro. All fliers have to do is park their car at a dedicated lot in Otay Mesa ($10 per day) and then take a pedestrian bridge across the border directly into Tijuana’s General Rodriguez International Airport. The bridge opened last month and has already proven popular with budget-minded fliers. 

Only for fliers

There are a few rules. First, there are standard customs and immigration procedures that passengers have to complete before they enter the 390-foot-long bridge. However, since only people with tickets for flights departing from Tijuana within 24 hours are allowed to use the passageway, fliers will never encounter long lines at these checkpoints. A boarding pass is required for everyone as proof of travel. 

Fliers have four hours after their flight lands to return to the U.S. via the bridge. If they don’t, they have to use the standard border crossing. Fliers also have to purchase a seperate ticket to use the CBX. Entry from either side costs $12 ($24 for a round trip). The passes can be bought online or at kiosks near the bridge.  

READ MORE: 5 Reasons Mexico Can Be Better Outside of A Resort

Significant savings south of the border

Despite the extra $24 plus parking fees, fliers are warming to the idea of using Tijuana because of its cheaper flights. The CBX, which was privately funded for $120 million, makes it very easy to access these lower-priced flights. 

International fares are especially attractive. For example, Aeromexico offers significantly cheaper service to places like Paris from Tijuana (compared to fares that U.S. legacy carriers offer to the same destinations from San Diego or LAX). Flights within Latin America - for example, Tijuana-Sao Paulo - can be as much as half-the-price of similar services from Southern California. 

A new airline agreement between the U.S. and Mexico could make it easier for Americans to access cheaper flights in Mexico in general, but those in Southern California don’t have to plan connecting flights, they can simply walk across the bridge.   

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