Tijuana

Tijuana is a city in Baja California Norte, Mexico, just across the border from San Diego, California, USA. Visitors can expect an ideal climate for most of the year, with average temperatures during the daytime ranging from 68ºF (20°C) in January, to 86°F (30°C) in August. The rainy season is short (and tame, with yearly averages close to only 10 inches/ 254 millimeters of rainfall), and encompasses late winter to early spring. Tijuana has a population of around 1.3 million people according to the last census, including its surrounding suburbs 1.7 million. The city has grown from a small border town with a salacious reputation during the Prohibition Era in the United States into a large, modern city with a sizable middle class. Its proximity to the United States has made it a very popular tourist destination, especially for day-trippers from San Diego.

Districts

Districts of Tijuana
Zona Centro
Downtown Tijuana with the famous Avenida Revolución lined with souvenir shops, restaurants, dance clubs and bars appealing to day trippers or bar hoppers from San Diego.
Zona Rio
Second Downtown with more upscale shopping, banking, and eating is at.
Playas
Zona Norte
The red light district.


Understand

Street scene on Avenida Revolución

Tijuana and its U.S. neighbor San Diego form the largest metropolitan area on the U.S.-Mexico border, with a population of 4.5 million.

Economically, a growing middle class disposable income has fueled Tijuana's transformation into a modern city with a vibrant culture, a characteristic that has attracted many national and international businesses, which had largely shunned the city before. Aside from the middle class, in Tijuana you can reasonably expect to find areas filled with wealthier people. Tijuana is a transit point for undocumented immigration into the United States, as well as a common destination for any illegal Mexican immigrants deported from the West Coast of the United States. As such, some areas are swollen with poor people with no roots in the city, who inhabit shantytowns. Apart from these poor migrants, Tijuana is one of the wealthiest cities in Mexico. Some (mainly residential) areas of the city reflect the significant number of wealthy people who inhabit the city.

Tijuana's growing reputation as a cosmopolitan city is justified. Not only is the city home to many people who have migrated from within Mexico, including some native Mexican Indians, but it boasts an significant number of Asian residents, as well as Americans (mostly people from neighboring San Diego who have been drawn to Tijuana by cheaper housing), and South Americans from Argentina and Uruguay, among others.

Frequent English-speaking visitors to Tijuana use the term "gringo-friendly" for a shop, bar, or restaurant in which a non-Spanish speaking customer will be at ease. A place is gringo-friendly if the staff there is accustomed to dealing with American tourists, if they speak English and have English-language menus. Places that are not gringo-friendly may require use of Spanish, and patience. Just because a place is not gringo-friendly does not imply that the people there will not be friendly or that tourists will not be welcome.

While the Mexican peso is the legal currency, US dollars are widely accepted. Tijuana observes daylight savings time (DST) the same way as the USA does. Money changers on the US side may offer better rates when buying pesos and worse rates when selling pesos.

Talk

Spanish is the dominant language in Tijuana, as it is in much of Mexico. However, English is spoken by almost everybody in the city's tourist hot spots (such as Avenida Revolución), as well as by taxi drivers and the Americans who live in the city. Having someone with you who can speak Spanish will be helpful when going away from Avenida Revolución.

Despite the city of Tijuana being in Mexican territory, its cultural closeness to the United States, especially San Diego and Los Angeles, gives it an edge in the English language. This is because for many years (especially before the mid 80s), there were virtually no national TV stations except for a local channel (XEWT 12) which broadcast only local programming and some news; locals who grew up in the 70s and 80s were more attracted to American television such as PBS, NBC, CBS and ABC, where they got their language skills.

Get in

NOTE: As of August 19, 2015, non-Mexican citizens must show a passport at the border crossing, fill out a form, and (if staying more than a week) pay about $20 for a six-month visa.

Most tourists enter Tijuana through the border crossing at San Ysidro in California, which is reportedly the busiest border crossing in the world. The crossing can be made by car, bus, or on foot.

Every visitor who plans to return to the United States must have a passport. A passport card or SENTRI card will work too for U.S. citizens.

By plane

Tijuanas General Abelardo L. Rodtríguez International Airport (IATA: TIJ), is served by Mexican legacy carrier, Aeroméxico and the low cost carrier, VivaAerobus. It is also a hub for Volaris and Interjet who offer services similar to U.S.-style low cost carriers. International services were very limited until 2007, when Aeroméxico begin services to East Asia, adding Tijuana as a stop on its Mexico City-Tijuana-Tokyo (Narita) flagship route. In 2008, this route was augmented by a Mexico City–Tijuana–Shanghai (Pudong) flight. The flights link four of the world's most populous cities, and provide a connection for the significant East Asian-Mexican community in the northwestern areas of Mexico or for those transiting between East Asia and Mexico and other parts of Latin America without transiting through the United States (namely Los Angeles) as travellers must disembark in the U.S. and proceed through U.S. immigration & customs controls even if staying only the few hours necessary to transfer from one international flight to another. This means a passport and (maybe) a visa needed to enter the US which may not be convenient for everybody.

The airport is located parallel to the USA-Mexico border line, 10km (6 mi) east of downtown Tijuana and the San Ysidro International Border Crossing, and one mile west of Otay International Border Crossing. The airport can now be accessed from the U.S. side through the second "Cross Border Xpress (CBX)"terminal with a pedestrian bridge that crosses over the border to the main terminal building. Arriving passengers can walk across into the second terminal to clear US immigration and customs inspection and be met by non-traveling friends and relatives coming to pick them up without them having to go through the border crossing hassles associated with driving and they offer long term parking. Plans are also underway to provide local public transportation services between CBX and the rest of San Diego. Currently, the nearest bus stop for SDMTS Rt#905 is at Airway Rd & Britannia Blvd which is 1.3mi/2km north of the terminal itself. Passengers crossing the border through the new CBX terminal can only cross within 24hrs of a departing flight from Tijuana; 4hrs within arrival into Tijuana and with proper travel documents going to the destination country which will be checked. Passengers are also required to purchase a US$12 o.w. toll ticket to walk across the bridge between the CBX terminal and the main terminal. If using public transportation and flying out with Volaris Airlines it would be more economical to use the direct Volaris shuttle bus between the downtown (San Diego) Santa Fe Station and the Tijuana airport for US$20-25 or by Greyhound from their downtown terminal to the airport for all other airlines. Coming to the U.S., buses & shuttles cross through the San Ysidro crossing and have a dedicated lane to get through a quicker than by private automobile.

You can take an authorized taxi cab, sedan or van, at the Airport. Buy a ticket in one of the booths at the exit of the airport. They have fixed and official rates; It will cost you about $200 Pesos to Zona Rio (15 min ride), or $250 Pesos to Zona Centro (25 min ride), or $300 pesos to the Grand Hotel (30 min ride). US Dollars will be accepted.

You can take also public transportation from the Tijuana airport all the way to city downtown and it will cost you $8.5 Pesos, less than US$1. Go outside the airport and take the blue and white bus, heading west from the other side of the marked intersection with the traffic lights. It has the legend: “Centro” or “Plaza Rio” above the windscreen. US Dollars will be accepted. From downtown (Av. Revolucion area), buses to the airport leave on the 2nd street (= Calle Benito Juarez). The trip to the airport takes under 30 minutes. These are blue buses that have 'aeropuerto' written on the windshield. As in many latin american cities, buses need to be 'flaged down' to stop. Take care - the local bus system in Tijuana can be confusing [when coming from the US - e.g. no posted route maps, schedules and sometimes the bus stop is not marked at all], and there's a lot of different bus lines leaving from this spot, so plan some extra time.

The airport has a domestic and international coach transportation station in the lot next to the terminal building (right turn when coming out of the arrivals doors) for Greyhound (to San Ysidro and downtown San Diego); Volaris Airlines Shuttle (to downtown San Diego and Ensenada on two separate routes); ABC (Autotransportes Baja California to Mexicali, Ensenada and other places nearby in the Mexican side) and Intercalifornias/Aeromexico shuttle (to San Ysidro just over the American border and multiple cities along the I-5/CA-99 corridor in California).

The Mexican peso is the official currency, but the US dollar is accepted everywhere in Tijuana and the whole Baja California state, even though the MXP/USD interchange rate changes daily.

From San Diego Airport

San Diego International Airport (IATA: SAN) is 15 miles (24km) north of the international border and can be used as a transit point for travellers wishing to visit Tijuana or proceed further into Mexico. You can take public transportation from the San Diego airport all the way to downtown Tijuana and it will only cost you $10. Go outside the airport and take the airport express bus, which is route 992. Buy a $5 day pass from the bus driver, which will also cover the trolley. Take this bus to the first stop on Broadway. From here, you should see the American Plaza Trolley station. Walk over to the north side, and you will catch the Blue Line trolley to San Ysidro. The day pass you bought from the bus driver will work on the train, which could help you to catch a train that's just arriving at the American Plaza Trolley station. The San Ysidro station is the last stop on the Blue Line. Everyone will get off the train. Follow everyone to the side street (Rail Ave) on the left side of the trains between McDonald's & Mercado Internacional to the lot or cul de sac behind the buildings. Take a right turn and follow everyone up the hill along a sidewalk which goes past the old customs house and train station to a big gray gate with "MEXICO" marked above the gates. Go right up and cross through the one-way gate and follow the ramp down into the adjacent building which is the location of the Mexican immigration and customs office. This is where you will need purchase the FMN card and get your passport stamped if you are going further south from the border or to stay longer than 72hrs or if directed by the soldiers or police officers standing in the corridor. Come out from the side of the building at the same side of the freeway, into the line of people waiting to walk back into the United States (to the right). Go left to the arched bridge over the freeway and cross over the freeway that way. This will take you to the more expensive yellow taxis driven by taxi drivers in yellow shirts. The fare for these taxis is USD$5 to Revolution Avenue. Sometimes a taxi driver will ask you to pay USD$6, but you can always get these taxis for USD$5.

If you've been to Tijuana a few times before, go past the yellow taxi stands and the old pedestrian port of entry (where you used to walk in through from trolleys in San Ysidro) towards the left. This will take you to a small market along Av de la Amistad and here you can catch the lower-priced taxis which are orange and white and called either "Taxi Libre" or "Taxi Economico." These cost $3 USD to get downtown and the prices are all listed on various boards.

If it's during the day then you could walk to downtown. Follow the signs that say to Centro. You'll walk across a long bridge, and generally head toward the Revolution Arch.

The San Ysidro border crossing is under going through major changes to widen the northbound lanes into the southbound lanes thus adding more lanes going north and to change the US & Mexican border inspection stations which resulted in the removal of the old pedestrian bridge over the American inspection station for those walking from the trolley station to the other side of the freeway to walk into Mexico. If you're driving to Tijuana you go up to the border like you used to and make a sharp detour west (to the right) and then south (to the left) into the expansive Mexican customs & inspection station. Once past the inspection station there's an exit for direct access to Hwy 1D immediately to the right to continue west to the beaches and south towards Ensenada along Hwy 1/1D to bypass the local streets of Tijuana. Most rental cars rented from either side of the border cannot be driven across the international border without the written consent of the car rental company and usually for an extra charge IF they do allow their cars to be driven across the border.

If you're going continuing further south by plane from Tijuana, Volaris Airlines offers direct shuttles to the Tijuana General Abelardo L. Rodtríguez International Airport from the downtown Santa Fe Depot (Amtrak train station) next to the American Plaza mentioned in the above. Likewise Greyhound also run buses to Tijuana's Central Camionera (bus station) in Otay Mesa (10mi/16km) east of El centro and Zona Rio and to the airport on separate routes. All buses and shuttles cross through San Ysidro (I-5).

By car

While in the San Diego area, take I-5 or I-805 to south. Either park at the border and continue on foot or drive into Mexico. Driving from the US to Mexico often requires no stopping, but inspections driving south have become more frequent as authorities attempt to stop firearms trafficking into Mexico, resulting in long wait times during periods of heavy traffic. However, driving from Mexico to the United States will result in a long wait, even more so during evening rush hour or on holiday weekends.

If you are driving to Mexico, obtaining Mexican insurance with legal defense coverage is highly recommended, and can be bought immediately before crossing the border, or even online before your trip.

When coming into the US, the Otay Mesa and Tecate border crossings, also nearby, may sometimes be less congested. To get to the Otay crossing can be a little scary (not good for Gringos at night) and the border agents here don't seem as pleasant as the ones at the San Ysidro crossing.

If the pedestrian line returning to the US is long, it may be faster (in some cases) to take advantage of the numerous van and bus lines that cross the border. You will undoubtedly encounter agents for these services when approaching the pedestrian line back to the U.S., who will ask for $5 to $10 per person to let you board the vehicles which are already in line. Generally, the closer the vehicle is to the front of the line, the more they will charge.

Border wait times

From US to Mexico

Entering from the American side you should expect a wait of 15 minutes on a good day to more than one hour on a bad day. You may be singled out for an inspection or waved on.

From Mexico to US

Returning to the US from Tijuana is another story. Readers have stated times ranging from 30 minutes to over 5 hours in the normal lanes.

Fast Pass

Individuals travelling between the US and Mexico may utilize the Fast Pass. Businesses in Tijuana buy them to give to their customers. Mostly used for medical tourists, hence it mostly functions as a medical line. Make sure and take a taxi to figure out the driving route first. Tell him you want to see and learn the route to the fast pass gate. Get the drive down before you attempt it yourself. There is only one Fast-Pass entry and it's on a one way street. It is always wonderful to legally "cut the line" at the border

If you stay at a nice hotel or eat at a nice restaurant, ask the owner for one of these.

Ready Lanes

You can also use the Ready-Lanes. These are entered from the right side of the Port of Entry and are used for those Returnees that have an RFID enabled entry card (various cards exist).

Alternate routes

You can also travel 30 minutes east to Tecate and try to cross there.

By foot

Many people drive to the border, park on the US side, and walk across. There are many lots available for this, which charge $4-$9 a day. While there are many taxis waiting to take you to Avenida Revolucion, it's only about a fifteen minute walk; follow the other tourists.

By bus

Mexicoach buses leave from the parking lots on the US side, cross into Mexico, and drop you off at the bus station on Revolucion Avenue in the middle of the downtown tourist district. These buses run during the day, every day, and costs $5 one way or $8 roundtrip. The parking lot at Mexicoach is about $7/day. The central de camiones for destinations in Mexico is reached by bus from Calle 3 or by taxi from the city centre and has direct coaches to most major cities in Mexico.

Get around

Cabs are abundant throughout the city. If you are walking into Tijuana via the San Ysidro border crossing, you will be immediately confronted with a massive array of yellow cabs waiting to take you into downtown. This group of cab drivers are conveniently located, but be sure to negotiate a price before jumping into a cab. You should pay no more than $5 in normal traffic to get from the border to the downtown area.

If you exit the border area by taking a right instead of going straight ahead to the taxi stand, then walk toward town after crossing the street, you will encounter the Taxi Libre taxi stand, which will generally cost half as much as a yellow cab would charge.

Throughout the city, cab drivers stand on the sidewalks and solicit customers. It is almost impossible to avoid them, so finding a cab should never be a problem. Yellow cabs do not have meters, so agree with your driver in advance what the cost will be. Taxi Libre, white with red stripe, cabs have meters and are cheaper than yellow cabs, though you might have to remind the driver to use the meter.

Be aware that when taking a Yellow Cab to a specific location, the drivers may tell you that the restaurant or bar you asked for is closed, and conveniently offer an alternative. This is almost always untrue, and the taxi driver is attempting to divert you to a business where he will receive a commission for delivering passengers. The driver may alternately tell you that "company rules" say that all rides to a given area can only take passengers to certain businesses, to achieve the same result. Taxi Libre drivers do not engage in this practice, as they are independent contractors, and do not have the commission structure that Yellow Cabs do.

See

Tijuana Cultural Center (CECUT)
Walk to USA sign in Tijuana

Do

Tijuana is on the ocean, but is not known for its beaches, for boating, or as a seaside resort. However, it is in cabbing distance of Rosarito - the trip will cost $20, while Mexicoach will bus you there for around $10. Ensenada is further down the coast but easily accessible by car or bus.

Buy

There are disappointingly few bargains to be had in Tijuana. Silver and leather products are allegedly cheaper than in the US. Souvenir shops abound. Many of the items sold in the souvenir shops are actually purchased in the San Diegan swap meets and brought into Mexico and resold to tourists.

Eat

Apart from the abundant, over-priced tourist traps, local cuisine ranges from world-class restaurants to locals-only eateries and street vendors selling tacos. Travellers' diarrhea is more of a risk at the cheaper establishments, but will probably not be a concern. In many sit down restaurants, musicians will wander in and play for tip. A good price for a song is $1 USD per musician per song, but most musicians will try to charge $2 USD per musician per song. For example, if there are five musicians in a band then a good price is $5 USD. Many non-mariachi musicians are untalented and some work with pickpockets, so keep an eye out.

If cuisine is an important factor in your visit to Mexico, be sure to check out the more locals filled taco shops, where you will be able to enjoy the best carne asada tacos in the world and for better price. Also delicious are Churros made by street vendors, and the "hot dog" imitations sold as well. Be sure to avoid vendors that are not being patronized by locals.

However, American establishments such as McDonald's, Burger King, KFC, and Carl's Jr. (As Carl's Jr., not Hardee's) are in many parts of the city. However there are some local chains, such as Cafe Sanborns, that prove to be more popular and interesting than the American ones.

Budget

Mid-range


Splurge

There are many other great restaurants in the city, ranging from mexican to asian food. The city is also full of sushi bars, something that has caught on in recent years. Another favorite is chinese food, and thanks to a large chinese population in Baja, the locals tend to say that it's the best chinese food in México or the region.

Drink

Beer drinkers are well-advised to visit the "Cerveceria Tijuana," the Tijuana Brewery, and its brewpub. It is on Blvd. Fundadores, a few minutes by taxi south of the Ave. Revolucion shopping district. Not only do they brew and serve six different Eastern European-style lager beers, but they also have a reasonably-priced food menu. The brewpub is especially impressive because it is designed to look just like a European pub, with dark wood paneling, stained glass, and hardwood floors. One area even has a large window looking into the brewery floor, where you can see the workers busy at their brewing. Be aware that flagging down a taxi in this area is often difficult, especially at night, so for your return trip consider arranging transportation ahead of time or having the phone numbers of taxi services available to call when you finish your meal.

Of course, beers, margaritas and tequila are also available at numerous establishments.

Sleep

Individual listings can be found in Tijuana's district articles

Tijuana offers a wide range of accommodations and a wide range of price levels. If one doesn't mind splurging, there are a number luxury highrise hotels in Zona Rio which has become a "second downtown" and is the location for the Central Business District, upscale shopping, country club and city hall (palacio municipal).

For travelers with a smaller budget, Tijuana also has a few downtown hotels in a more seedier Zona Centro and the adjacent Zona Norte north of Calle 2a (Benito Juarez) which is Tijuana's red light district and even sketchier especially at night. Keep in mind that some of these may only offer room rates by the hour as a "love making" hotel or a "motel" for couples looking for a quick (seedy) rendezvous than a place to stay for the night. Others may also offer a weekly, nightly and hourly rate depending on the need so ask. Security in some of these places are not the greatest and pilfering of personal items left in guest rooms and valuables left with front desk by hotel staff are common.

Migrant Houses

Migrant houses offer free or very cheap accommodation for anyone regarded as a migrant. They are more geared towards migrants from poorer regions working in Tijuana or continuing north to the U.S. than for the backpacking tourists. Some are said to also accept backpackers.

Stay safe

Tijuana has a reputation for crime. In recent years, drug violence has erupted in Tijuana due to intense crackdown by the Mexican government and Mexican drug cartels turning on each other. However, joint action between the government and The Police deleted the Cartel and their leader, and now all that's left is the remnants of an uncontrolled group of renegades. The east side of Tijuana is particularly dangerous and prone to drug violence. Zona Norte can also be very dangerous if you are walking alone. Much of Tijuana's drug violence happens in these two parts of the city. Most of the drug violence is not targeted at tourists, but rather at competing drug cartels as well as Mexican police. However, tourists can get caught in the crossfire, so it is best to stay alert. Most tourist sections (for the most part) are generally safe, such as Avenida Revolucion, Playas de Tijuana, Zona Rio, and Tijuana's red light district in Zona Norte. As with any large city, use common-sense and street smarts when walking the street; especially in the red light district of the "Zona Norte" (North Zone).

It is advisable to be very careful of buying anything that would alert suspicion from Mexican police. This would include any type of prescription medicine (with potential for abuse, or perhaps low overdose/extreme side effects), pornography, and weapons. The police will use anything against you if they do stop you, so the less they have to go on the better. Laws differ from those in the USA.

Park in well marked parking lots with security guards. Police enforce the laws on foreigners who commit crimes such as pedophilia or buying illegal drugs. Corruption still exists among the Tijuana Police Department as it does in many Mexican cities (the Mexican Federal Police on the other hand is trustworthy), so beware. But this is usually done when you are alone after a night on the town, are slightly intoxicated, and your actions make you a potential victim. When speaking to an officer, stay calm and respectful. Typically, if you have done nothing wrong, stand your ground and they will eventually let you go. You can insist on seeing a judge, and explain what happened. If you do this, most likely the officer will try and save face, and give you a warning and send you on your way. In any case, made-up charges are usually only a small fine, most likely less than the bribe you would offer, and you do not go to jail.

For traffic infractions, you are entitled to a written ticket, and you can pay the fine by mail. Illegal drugs and drunk driving are taken seriously in Mexico, as they are elsewhere.

Cope

Consulates

Go next

Tijuana offers several bus routes into Mexico. Updated Tijuana bus routes are available online here. From Tijuana you can easily go to Ensenada, or further south to Guerrero Negro, which is a very popular destination for whale watching. It is a 12 hour bus ride to Guerrero Negro but well worth it. Other bus routes locations include La Paz (Mexico), San Jose del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas at the southern tip of Baja. Local buses are available to the nearby city of Tecate, about 40 miles to the east.

Taxis from Ave. Revolucion to the Central Camionera cost about 60 pesos. Tijuana -> Guerrero Negro: $945

Routes through Tijuana

San Diego San Ysidro ← becomes  N  S  Playas de Rosarito Ensenada
END  W  E  Tecate Mexicali



This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Saturday, April 02, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.