This article is from the May 1996 The Mexico File
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Crossing into Baja
Border Crossings :
Tijuana : This entry to Mexico, open 24 hours a day, has been called the busiest border crossing in the world. This is the most direct way to Mexico 1, the Baja transpeninsular highway. Going south there is rarely any kind of wait. Returning north can be an hour or two at the busiest times, but it is difficult to predict just when the traffic might back up. The far right (Gingrich?) lanes seem to go the fastest.
Otay Mesa : A few miles east of the main Tijuana gate, this crossing is open from 6:00am to 10:00pm. There is no real advantage to entering here and it takes longer to get to Mexico 1. However, there is usually a shorter wait if you are coming north.
Tecate : Thirty-five miles east of Tijuana/San Diego, this crossing is open from 6:00am to midnight. From here Highway 3 will connect with Mexico 1 at the port town of Ensenada. This a fairly scenic 1.5 hour drive, but in choosing this route you will miss some spectacular ocean scenery between Tijuana and Ensenada.
Mexicali : This is 120 miles east of the coast and it is open 24 hours a day. This is the entry to get you to San Felipe, 125 miles south on the Sea of Cortez. From there you either make the brutal drive further south until you connect with Mexico 1 or you can head northwest, over the mountains, to Ensenada where you pick up Mexico 1.
Permits : If you are going to be in Mexico fewer than 72 hours and no further south than a few kilometers below Ensenada, all you need is identification. Otherwise you will need a tourist card, available free at the border, Mexican tourist offices, a consulate, or travel agencies. These need to be stamped at the border, and you will need proof of citizenship (birth certificate, passport, voter registration card).
Car Papers : None required, as long as you stay in Baja. If you plan to go to the mainland, either driving or on the ferry, you will need a car permit, which is available at the border. This goes for anything you are trailering as well.
Insurance : Mandatory! Don't even consider the alternative of driving without insurance. I usually just get liability coverage to satisfy Mexican law. If I ever had damage to my car, which I haven't, I would work it out with my US carrier. There are numerous insurance offices near the border on the US side. Or you might try Sanborn's at 1-800-222-0158.