Advantages Good shopping, bars and clubs
Disadvantages Can be sleazy
|Value for Money|
|Ease of getting around|
I spent the summer of 2003 working in California and during that time, I paid several visits across the border to Tijuana. When I told my work colleagues I was planning a trip, I was greeted with various, mostly negative reactions.
"I hope they let you back into the states"
"The police are corrupt, they'll arrest you for anything and take bribes".
* Passport/visa information *Americans do not require a passport to cross the mexican border, but should take id such as a current driving licence.
Visitors of other nationalities should take passport and/or visa, and be prepared for questioning at the border control when re-entering the usa. The US authorities are understandably, very security conscious. The border at Tijuana is said to be the busiest in the world, and illegal immigration is a big problem so be prepared for a wait!My experiences at the border was that when entering Mexico there are no controls whatsoever. When leaving Mexico, on one visit, we waited for 2 hours before we went through. At other times, which were very early mornings, we near enough walked through.
Immigration are likely to ask if you bought anything, may check your bags, and want to know your intentions in entering america.* tj- partying and shopping! *
tijuana is often referred to as "t-j", maybe english speakers are too lazy to use the spanish pronunciation. This border town is very popular with young americans because unlike the strictly enforced drinking age of 21 in the us, you can drink at 18 (and no doubt younger with some form of id) in Mexico. On weekends you will find the streets packed with young Mexicans and Americans hitting the many bars and clubs in search of a good time, which was also one of my main purposes in visiting. I had my 21st birthday during my stay in America and still visited Tijuana after I was legal in the US because I enjoyed the atmosphere so much.If you are not interested in night clubs and drinking, visit Tijuana in the day time.
* Getting there *You can drive to Tijuana, it takes about 1 hour from San Diego, and follows a main freeway which is signposted. The best thing to do is to park your car just before the border at one of the many parking lots, which will cost about $5 (approximately £3.50). The walk into the centre is only about 10 minutes, and a cab will cost you about $5-$7.
Going on public transport is easy too. The "Tijuana trolley" runs 24 hours a day from San Diego to San Ysidra (small town just on the US side of the border), and costs $5. Greyhound run services from Los Angeles and San Diego, the cost from San Diego is $11 for a roundtrip, and buses run all night.* Safety and other tips *
You should stick to the main streets when visiting Tijuana. Don't wander off. On my first visit with a friend, we were looking for the Mexican cultural centre (which is temporarily closed down, so don't bother!) and ended up quite a way from the centre. Some men who were working in a garage told us to go back to the main streets, it's not safe. Instantly upon entering Tijuana, you will see the vast differences in wealth between affluent Southern California. Tourists carrying lots of money and making themselves conspicuous are easy targets, so be aware of your surroundings.It's a good idea to go with a Spanish speaker if you don't know the basic yourself. Although most of the shop workers and waiters speak some basic English, it will make your trip a lot easier if you can speak the language to some extent!
The main street is called Avenida Revolucion. The start of the "tourist" area is marked with a huge arch structure.* Shopping *
You can get some great bargains on your visit. Alcohol is very cheap, especially Tequila. Silver jewellery is sold on stalls along the street, just be careful when parting with your money. My friend bought a "silver" bracelet which turned out to be brass.Clothes such as traditional heavy knitted sweaters in bright colours are very cheap, my friend bought one for $4.
Small souvenirs such as glasses, wooden animals and carved glass are available everywhere.Pharmacies selling all kinds of drugs which are prescription only in the US operate, many Americans cross the border to pick up cheap medicine.
** Partying **My number one reason for visiting the town of Tijuana. The Avenida Revolucion is lined with bars and clubs, all competing for your business. Here is some information about places I visited:
Club AnimaleThis bar/club/restaurant is open all day, serving food and drink. For $7 you can get 2 tequilas and 2 huge cocktails. The friendly waiters will make you delicious cocktails from fresh fruit which they mix in a blender. The music is dance and RnB, with a bit of traditional salsa music. At night an extra room opens with a live DJ and dance floor, on Saturdays they do a foam party.
Fat FrogYou can't miss this place, it has a yellow school bus sticking out of the side! You can go upstairs and sit in the bus seats while you enjoy a cheap beer, but watch out for the crazy Tequila men! They wander the bars and clubs, try to pour copious amounts of the crazy liquid down your throat, then extract money from you. I tried to run away..but failed as one of them picked me up, poured it in my mouth and then proceeded to spin me round and round. Very funny, ho ho ho. A warning- this place is steaming- wear the fewest clothes that you can without being arrested. Also watch out for sleazy men!
Safari ClubPlaying pop and RnB, this is one of several "one entry price" clubs in Tijuana. You pay a fixed price to enter (usually between $10 and $15), after which all drinks are free. My advice is to practice caution! You don't want to be steaming drunk in a country where you don't speak the language and don't know how to get home at 5 am.
** Restaurants **There are numerous places where you can eat authentic Mexican food, from fajitas to burritos to tacos, at cheap prices. Look for a sign in the window which says the establishment received an "A" grade in health inspections.
** Attractions **There are not a lot of things to visit, while in Tijuana. The old palace, at Northern Avenida Revolucion, is worth a look, to see the architecture and fountains. There is also a wax museum, and you could try the cultural centre when it reopens.
Warning-Some people find Tijuana sleazy and dirty. If you want to experience true Mexico, travel deep into the country. Tijuana is a town dedicated to taking money from wealthy young Americans and other tourists. It is not a hugely beautiful place, but it has its own individual appeal and and is worth experiencing. While the men selling their wares along the streets calling out to you can be annoying, and seeing small children ask you to buy gum or candy can be depressing, overall the people are friendly and welcoming.
Note on currency-You can use American dollars EVERYWHERE, it is not really necessary to change your money into Mexican pesos. If you want to there, there are plenty of money exchanges, offering a rate of approximately 10 pesos to the dollar.
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