By JUAN DE JESÚS BREENE
Most people can identify a Mexican city by its three-digit airport call letters: MEX, MTY, CUN or GDL.
But where in God’s name is CBX?
It sounds more like a pharmacy than a city.
Technically it is in nowhere land, smack on the border between Tijuana and San Diego. (Well, technically San Diego is about 20 minutes north of San Isidro or Otay-Mesa, the actual municipalities that border Tijuana.)
So if the airport code for Tijuana is TIJ, what is CBX?
CBX opened over nine years ago, but I am surprised how few people, on both sides of the border, know about it.
Flying to or from Tijuana, TIJ, and only available to air travelers in that airport, is an extra $21 ticket that you can tack on to walk over a pedestrian bridge to enter Mexico or the United States.
One side is inside the Tijuana airport and the other is on the U.S. side, called CBX, the Cross Border Express station, where you will meet customs and immigration, if entering or returning to the United States.
The walk takes about 10 minutes and involves no stairs.
The mere thought of navigating the city of Tijuana, with its 2.2 million population, in a car or taxi to get to the airport conjures up images of traffic jams, chaos and zebra-painted donkeys to Mexicans and non-Mexicans alike.
However, this border crossing is actually a 30-minute car ride from that “Tia-Juana” that many think of.
It is directly opposite the Tijuana airport, which actually backs up to the U.S. border.
That is the same Tijuana airport that flies to 29 Mexican destinations.
So a flight from San Diego to Mexico City will run about $194 for a one-way ticket.
There are no direct flights from San Diego to other Mexican destinations.
But a ticket on an economy Mexican airline will cost about $75 from Tijuana to Mexico City, plus the $21 to walk across the bridge, making this an ideal point of entry or departure and a true gateway for both countries.
For Mexicans traveling to San Diego, the immigration process is completed while still on the bridge and rental cars are available upon exit on the U.S. side.
Rather than arriving to the typically endless lines in an international airport, the CBX offers a hassle-free way of walking into the United States.
For a U.S. traveler, you can park in one of the 10,000 spaces at the CBX station or take a shuttle, using a Mexican airline to go to Mexico or beyond.
Tickets are pre-paid online for a single or round-trip rate.
Most of the process is automated, so the agent has all of your info when you actually exit.
CBX is an example of a win-win when both countries work together as partners.
Sadly, very few on either side of the border seem to know about it.