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Travel from San Diego to San Felipe via Tecate

First, prepare yourself with a good lunch! When looking for a great place to eat in San Diego, all roads lead to restaurants like Eden in Hillcrest whose mouth-watering menu and great ambience make it one of the best new dining spots in town. While I am at it, it is also worth noting that the nightclub scene in San Diego has really taken off, partly as a result of more people from the Tijuana arts and music scene coming north for an evening or long weekend. The San Diego night life is now one of the most vibrant in the entire United States, with clubs and bars that cater to just about every partying preference.

Coming from San Diego it is a delightful drive to take Interstate 8 or Route 52 East to 125 south and then get on 94 East.

The general layout of the route is shown in this Google Map and you can zoom in to whatever level of detail you want. Use the satellite view in Google to see the details of the streets in Tecate.

Get gas after you have turned south on 94 where there is the Rancho San Diego Shopping Center. There is a 7/11 with gas 2-3 miles south of this junction and an ARCO station a little further on at the junction of Proctor Valley Road in Jamul.

Head to Tecate and just outside Tecate (California) you may encounter a long line of trucks that are stopped and waiting to clear customs. Carefully overtake these trucks. You will notice a little convenience center on left hand side of road. Get car insurance there. Also there is a little store for food and drinks and a bank with an ATM.

Here is a detail satellite map of Tecate border crossing:

After you have overtaken the trucks and got insurance, cross the border. If you get the red light, the customs man will poke his head in your car and look but there will be no problems. Just tell him you are going to San Felipe for the weekend. Drive on and turn left (east) at the second traffic light. The city park (Zocalo) will be on the south (right) side of the road. If you are hungry, there are restaurants and internet cafes in the one or two blocks either side of the Zocalo. Just hunt for a parking space and remember that you will want to get back to this main road to Mexicali at some point. Tecate is famous for its bread so look to see what the bakeries have today.

Pemex gasoline/diesel stations are available in Tecate. There are no other stations on the direct road once you leave Tecate so get fuel for the next 4 hour (200 mile) drive.

Now drive straight on and follow the curves of the road for a couple of miles and you will come to the toll road. There will be signs for Mexicali Libre (free road) to the left and Mexicali Cuota (toll road) to right. Take the toll road - it is well worth the $12 to San Felipe. Here is the satellite map that shows where the junction with the toll road is in lower right corner. Once on the toll road you have absolutely clear driving to the point south of Mexicali where the toll road crosses Mexico route 5 and you exit to San Felipe.


You will drive for around 1 hour from Tecate (there will be a toll booth half way about $5) and descend the famous twisty road down La Rumorosa (toll booth 14 pesos). Beware, the turns are sharp but the views are dramatic. There are viewpoints where you can stop and take in the views - highly recommended. Stop at the second viewpoint from the toll booth and you will get a great vista. If you need to get food or drink before proceeding across the desert, pull off the toll road at La Rumorosa and backtrack a half mile on the old free road to little restaurants and cafes. You can easily resume your journey by going back east to where the toll booth is at the top of La Rumorosa. There are no more services until you reach the Mexicali area.

As you are crossing the low desert towards Mexicali, you will see signs "Libramiento" for San Felipe and Sonora. Take this branch off to the south and continue for another half hour to the junction with Mexico Route 5 to San Felipe. Note that this is only a single carrigeway in each direction but the traffic is light and you can easily cruise at 80 mph. Just before the exit you will go through a toll booth (50 pesos)

Travel south on Mexico 5. Check our "road conditions" page for the status of highway construction and diversions.

Total time from Tecate to San Felipe is 4 hours.

San Felipe, Baja California, Mexico
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update January 2011