Tijuana is a city in Baja California, Mexico, just across the border from San Diego, California, USA. 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.
|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 dining.
|Zona Norte |
The red light district.
Tijuana has a population of over 1.6 million as of the 2015 census. 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, U.S. dollars are widely accepted everywhere in Tijuana and the entire state of Baja California, even though the peso/USD exchange rate changes daily. Baja California observes daylight savings time (DST) just as California does. Money changers on the US side may offer better rates when buying pesos and worse rates when selling pesos.
|Climate chart (explanation)|
Visitors can expect a warm climate for most of the year, with average temperatures during the daytime ranging from 68°F (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.
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.
Although Tijuana is 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 1980s), 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 1970s and 80s were more attracted to American television such as PBS, NBC, CBS and ABC, where they got their language skills.
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.
- 1 General Abelardo L. Rodríguez Airport (TIJ IATA Tijuana International Airport) (6 mi (8 km) east of downtown Tijuana (Zona Centro & Zona Rio), along the border; 2 mi (3 km) west of the Otay de Mesa border crossing (for trucks) and 22 mi (35 km) south of downtown San Diego). Non-stop air service is available from all regions of Mexico including flights from San Jose del Cabo, La Paz and Loreto Bay in the Baja California Peninsula
- Terminal Principal (Main Terminal)
- Cross Border Xpress Terminal (CBX) is the second terminal just over the international border, in the American side, and is connected to the main terminal by a 120-m-long pedestrian bridge. Passengers check in for fights, complete US immigration and customs inspections in the CBX Terminal, and Mexican immigration and customs inspections in the main terminal. This also allows for vehicular access (for those who are picking up and dropping off travelers) and parking at the Tijuana airport from San Diego without driving across the border and than a long wait to return to the U.S. There are car rental desks, taxis, rideshare (Uber & Lyft) and CBX shuttle available for onward transportation to San Diego from CBX. There is a US$16 one-way or US$30 return toll to walk across the bridge between the two terminals.
Los Angeles International Airport is the next nearest airport for a wider range of international flights to various cities around the world. If going towards the Los Angeles metropolitan area the bus, train (from downtown San Diego) or rental car is usually more economical than flying unless you are continuing to another destination from San Diego via Los Angeles on a single ticket. This airport serves as a transit point for travelers wishing to proceed further into Mexico from Southern California and from Las Vegas on a domestic flight.
Buses depart regularly from the airport to San Diego, Los Angeles, Mexicali, Tecate, Ensenada, Rosarito and the nearby areas in Baja California Norte and Southern California on both sides of the border. The airport bus station is next to the terminal building (right turn when coming out of the arrivals doors), behind an Oxxo store, and is served by ABC, Greyhound - Cruceros USA, Autobus ACN, Rapid Connections Llc and International Bus Lines. See By bus in the below for a list of additional bus companies (with links to their websites) serving Tijuana including the airport.
You can take an authorized taxi cab, sedan or van, at the airport with "Transportes Terrestres" and "Taxis TAAG" (☏ ). 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 M$200 (pesos) to Zona Rio (15-min ride), or M$250 to Zona Centro (25-min ride), or M$300 to the Grand Hotel (30-min ride). US dollars will be accepted.
You can take also public transportation from the Tijuana Airport to city downtown and the USA-Mexico border. A bus ride will cost you M$11, less than US$1. Go outside the airport and take the blue and white Mirador-Centro-Zona Rio-Aeropuerto-Otay bus, heading west from the other side of the marked intersection with the traffic lights. The bus passes through “Centro” (downtown) and “Plaza Rio” (shopping mall & surrounding areas) so be sure they are listed on or above the windshield in the list of places the bus passes through or ask the driver before getting on. US dollars will be accepted. From downtown (Av. Revolucion area), buses to the airport leave along 2nd street (Calle Benito Juarez). The trip to the airport takes under 30 minutes. These blue and white buses have 'Aeropuerto' written on the windshield. As in many Latin American cities, buses need to be 'flagged 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, no 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.
2 San Diego International Airport (SAN IATA) is 25 miles (41 km) 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 or the Tijuana airport and it will only cost you between US$12-26:
- 992 Bus To the Santa Fe Station/American Plaza in downtown San Diego. Buy a US$5 day pass which allows for transfer to another bus or trolley.
- UC San Diego Blue Line transfer to the trolley at the Santa Fe Station or American Plaza (across the street) to the end of the line in San Ysidro. The fare is US$2.50, and you can get a round trip ticket to save time on your way back. Trip is about 45 minutes from the Santa Fe Station or American Plaza to San Ysidro station.
- Walk Across the border and take a taxi to the airport, Zona Rio, downtown Tijuana (Centro) or anywhere in Tijuana from the Mexican side of the border (See below under On foot). Cheaper to take the white & orange "Libre" taxis or the La Linea-Centro bus than the solid yellow taxis.
- CBX Shuttle Likewise take the CBX Shuttle from the Santa Fe Station in downtown San Diego to the CBX Terminal next to the Tijuana Airport for US$10 and another $16 to walk across the bridge into the Tijuana Airport. Going north, they also continue to San Diego Airport for drop off on demand. Only ticketed passengers flying into or out of Tijuana are allowed to cross through here.
From U.S. to Mexico
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 U.S., the Otay Mesa and Tecate border crossings, also nearby, may sometimes be less congested. Getting 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 U.S. 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 US$5-10 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.
The San Ysidro border crossing is undergoing major changes to expand northbound lanes into the southbound lanes. These changes, along with augmentations to U.S. & Mexican border inspection stations, resulted in the removal of a pedestrian bridge over the American inspection station for those entering Mexico by crossing the freeway from the trolley station. 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 towards the beaches and south to 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.
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 U.S.
Readers have stated times ranging from 30 minutes to over 5 hours in the normal lanes. These west-most lanes are the largest set, occupying the most lanes at the Port of Entry. Accessing many of the other lanes is often a complex procedure, and streets names are reportedly difficult to see.
The Secure Electronic Network for Travelers Rapid Inspection (SENTRI) lanes are the most exclusive means of entering the U.S. These are the east-most lanes at the Port of Entry, with access limited to Boulevard Padre Francisco Kino, which becomes the Linea Sentri.
Fast Pass Lane
People travelling between the U.S. and Mexico may use 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.
You can also use the Ready Lanes. These lanes are limited to the east side of the Port of Entry, between the Sentri and regular lanes. Entrance to the east side of the port of entry is limited to certain streets, Boulevard Alejandro von Humboldt being a common option, and are used for Returnees that have an RFID enabled travel card.
These cards include the U.S. Passport Card, the SENTRI card, newer iterations of the Legal Permanent Resident (Green) Card, newer iterations of US Visas, and newer iterations of the Border Crossing Card (BCC). At least a few of these cards are marked "Ready Lane" on the back.
You can also travel 30 minutes east to Tecate and try to cross there.
Many people drive to the border, park on the US side, and walk across. There are many lots available for this, which charge US$4-9 a day. Otherwise you can also walk from the light rail station.
As of the 2013 a bi-national effort between the United States & Mexico is underway to re-construct the border inspection stations on both sides in an effort to shorten wait times in crossing the border by widening and re-arranging the vehicular and pedestrian pathways. Therefore, everything in this section is in a state of flux and is subject to change:
From U.S. to Mexico
From the last light rail station follow everyone to the side street (Rail Ave) on the left side (east) of the trains between McDonald's & Mercado Internacional to the lot or cul de sac behind the buildings. Once 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. Go right up to the gate and cross through the one-way gate and into the building behind the gate. This is where you will need to purchase the FMN card and get your passport stamped if you are going further south from the border or staying longer than 72 hrs. Everyone must have passports ready as they are enforcing more closely than they used to in past. Once past immigration and customs inspections you go out the opposite side of the building where the sidewalk or pathway continues along the side of the building and up the hill towards a side street called La Frontera. Along the way you will pass a taxi stand of solid yellow taxis which are more expensive than the white with orange striped "Libre" taxis. Therefore, you want to continue along the sidewalk/pathway to the end at La Frontera where the taxis along the street are less expensive. Be sure to negotiate and agree on the fare with the taxi driver before getting into the car. That or take the frequent Centro-Linea bus into downtown.
From Mexico to U.S.
There are two pedestrian entrances to the U.S. on both sides of the freeway. A walkway and inspection station on the west side of the freeway connects Plaza Viva in Tijuana to Virginia St next to the Las Americas Outlet Mall in San Ysidro.
The other sidewalk is along the east side of the freeway. To get there go up alongside La Frontera from the big roundabout with La Amistad (there's a bunch of Pharmacies and doctors/dentists clinics around there) and after crossing over the freeway there's a pedestrian walkway winding down into the side of the freeway where the line forms (or used to) to walk into the U.S. Once past the one way gate across the border the line snakes to the right into the old customs house (built in 1933) where pedestrians complete U.S. immigrations and customs inspection. From the old customs house there's another trail that goes alongside a construction site, where the larger inspection station used to be. This trail leads into the front of the retail buildings facing the San Ysidro trolley station.
The other pathway begins in a smaller plaza and parking lot from behind (north of) the expansive Plaza Viva at Calle Larroque and Pastor Ramos. This pathway ramps up to a bridge which goes alongside the El Chaparral inspection station (for vehicles crossing into Mexico) and then ramps down in circular structure on the other end. Pedestrians walk across the gate and into the building on the other side for U.S. immigration and customs inspection. Upon completion of the inspection you come out to the Virginia Ave Transit Center where you can catch a bus, taxi or be picked up by a private vehicle. From here, the 906 bus goes north to the Iris Ave trolley station while the 907 bus goes east to the San Ysidro trolley station. The bus fare is US$2.25 for a single ride or $5 for a day ticket which allows you to transfer to the trolley or another bus. Likewise you can go right along the main road (Camino de la Plaza) which crosses over the freeway towards San Ysidro Blvd (0.6 mi or 1 km). Before the road crosses over the freeway there's another pedestrian walkway to the right that crosses over the freeway on a separate bridge and directly into the San Ysidro Transit Center for the trolley ride up to San Diego.
From behind the McDonald's building facing the San Ysidro trolley station there is an intercity bus station for an onward bus north to Los Angeles, Huntington Beach, El Monte, Bakersfield, Fresno, Stockton, Sacramento and anywhere in between in the San Joaquins. From the east side of the trolley station follow everyone to the side street (Rail Ave) between McDonald's & Mercado Internacional to the lot or cul de sac behind the buildings. Everyone will be going right to cross back to Mexico, but once behind the buildings the bus loading platforms are immediately to the left.
Buses from here go as far north as Sacramento (via San Ysidro, Santa Ana, Huntington Park, Los Angeles, Bakersfield, Fresno, Stockton etc along Hwy 99/I-5) and Salt Lake City (via San Bernardino, Riverside, Las Vegas along I-15) and as far east as El Paso (via Yuma, Phoenix, Tucson, Las Cruces) in the U.S. and as far south as Mexico City (via Mexicali, Hermosillo, Culiacán, Mazatlan, Guadalajara, Tepic, etc along Hwy 2 & 15) and as far east as Monterrey in Mexico. They're most ideal for travel in the surrounding regions of southern California and the northwestern Mexican states of Baja California Norte and Sonora. Anywhere beyond in Mexico and the U.S., it will become more economical to fly from San Diego to the U.S. and from Tijuana to Mexico instead. Buses cross the border through San Ysidro/El Chaparral (I-5/MX Hwy 1/1D) and have their own lanes to bypass the long (vehicular) lines in both directions:
- 3 Terminal Central de Autobuses de Tijuana (Central Camionera or Central Bus Station), Calzada Lázaro Cárdenas 15751, Fraccionamiento Chapultepec Alamar, Delegacion Mesa de Otay (SE of the airport, 9 km SE of downtown), ☏ . This is the main central bus station with most buses departing to Mexicali, Puerto Penasco and other points east into the Mexican mainland towards the Hwy 15 corridor. There are other buses going south towards La Paz along the Baja California Peninsula and north into the U.S. state of California from here too. It is served by the following:
- ABC (Autotransportes de Baja California), Central Camionera, Plaza Viva, Aeropuerto. Major bus line for the Baja California Peninsula from Tijuana down to Los Cabos and down to Pto Penasco. They also operate the Peninsula Ejecutivo, Mexicoach (Tijuana-Rosarito) and the Suburbaja (Tijuana-Tecate) brands. The Mexicoach shuttle between San Ysidro and Zona Centro/Zona Rio is now operated by Tourismo Express See below:
- Grupo Estrella Blanca (White Star), Central Camionera, Aeropuerto, ☏ , toll-free: 01 800-507-5500. They operate the Aguacaliente, Elite, TNS (Transportes Norte de Sonora), Chihuahuanese, Pacifico, TF (Transporte Frontera) and the Estrella Blanca bus lines. As the largest bus company they serve much of the northern & northwestern part of the country such as Aguascaliente, Baja California Norte, Coahuila, Chihuahua, Durango, Distrito Federal (DF), Guanajuato, Guerrero, Hidalgo, Jalisco, Mexico, Michoacan, Morelos, Nayarit, Queretaro, San Luis Potosi, Sinaloa, Sonora and Zacatecas states, up to the US border.
- ETN (Enlances Terrestre Nacionales), Turistar Lujo, Central Camionera. They offer a 'deluxe' or 'executive' class seating with 2 seats on one side of the aisle and one on the opposite side with more leg room and an ability to recline into a lying position. They go to Aguascaliente, Baja California Norte, Coahuila, Chihuahua, Durango, Guanajuato, Guerrero, Hidalgo, Jalisco, Mexico, Mexico City DF, Michocoan, Morelos, Nayrit, Nuevo Leon, Oaxaca (coast), Queretaro, San Luis Potosi, Sinaloa, Sonora, Veracruz (Poza Rica, Tuxpan) and Zacatecas states
- Greyhound & Cruceros-USA, Aeropuerto, Central Camionera, 731 E San Ysidro Blvd in San Ysidro, ☏ , toll-free: 1 800 231-2222 (US). Greyhound goes from Tijuana to Los Angeles via San Diego & San Ysidro. Passengers transfer buses in Los Angeles or San Diego to get to additional cities in the U.S.
- International Bus Lines, Central Bus Station on Calzada Lazaro Cardenas 15751, Delegacion La Mesa. They also have additional stops at the central bus station (central camionera) and the airport (Between two hospitals/clinics Frontera and Av de la Amistad), ☏ (US), (MX), toll-free: (US). Connects Tijuana, San Ysidro (just over the border), Santa Ana, Los Angeles, San Fernando, Bakersfield, Fresno, and San Jose/Stockton (route splits/joins in Madero) and several other places in between. Prices vary depending on your destination.
- TAP, Central Camionera, Modulo Insurgente, ☏ , , toll-free: 0800-0011-827. Operates bus more or less along the Hwy 15 corridor between Tijuana and Mexico City via Mexicali, Hermosillo, Cualican, Mazatlan, Tepic, Guadalajara, etc along Hwy 15 through Baja California Norte, Guerrero, Jalisco, Michoacan, Nayarit, Sinaloa, Sonora, Estado de Mexico and Mexico DF. They also operate the TAP Royal bus lines from Tijuana to Stockton, CA via Huntington Park (Los Angeles), Bakersfield and Fresno and to Phoenix, Las Vegas and Tucson from Los Angeles and from Nogales. They also have another stop at Blvd Insurgente 17512, Fraccionamiento El Lago.
- 4 Central de Autobuses Linea Internacional (Plaza Viva), Via de la Juventud Ote 8800, Plaza Viva; Col Centro, ☏ . Most buses are going south to Ensenada via Rosarito and north towards Los Angeles via San Ysidro, Huntington Beach and Sana Ana.
- 5 Central de Autobuses Aeropuerto (Tijuana Airport Bus Station) (Airport) (next to the main airport terminal, outside the exit doors, behind Oxxo). Buses from the airport go to San Diego, Los Angeles, Mexicali, Tecate, Ensenada, Rosarito and other surrounding areas in Baja California Norte and southern California in the US
The below are some of the bus companies operating out of their own terminals next to the main bus station along Ing. Juan Ojeda Robles west of Carretera Tijuana-Tecate (Hwy 2) in Col. Guadalupe Victoria in the SE part of town. Some of the same companies also operate buses from the airport bus station. Others are located in Zona Rio or Zona Centro. Buses crossing the border cross at San Ysidro/El Chaparral with an extra stop in San Ysidro going north, behind the adjacent building northeast of the border inspection station to wait for people continuing north as they complete immigration & customs inspections and to pick up new passengers. See the addresses in the below listings and in their websites as to where they go to in Tijuana:
- 6 SDTJ Passport (operated by Ticketon, formerly Mexicoach), (bus station) Av Revolucion 1020-B, Col Centro, ☏ . Daily 07:00-18:00. SDTJ Passport is an economical shuttle in Tijuana and the best way to get from San Ysidro CA to Tijuana and Rosarito
- 7 Autobus Coordinados de Nayrit (ACN), (Depot) Blvd. Mariano Matamoros Hermenegildo Galeana 10997, Fracc. Mariano Matamoros; They also have another stop at the airport (NW corner of Blvd Lazaro Cardenas (Hwy 2) & Ing. Juan Ojeda Robles, across street from Estrellas del Pacifico bus station), ☏ , toll-free: 01800 026-73-73. They serve mainly in the western and northwestern states of Baja California Norte, Jalisco, Michocoan, Nayrit, Sinaloa and Sonora in Mexico and multiple cities in California (historically 'Alta California') in the U.S. They also have another stop at the airport.
- 8 Autobus Costa de Oro (Gold Coast Bus), (Depot) Priv. de Durazo No 17, Col Guadalajara (Priva. de Durazo, off of Lib. Salvador Rosa Magallan), ☏ , toll-free: 01 800 614-04-21. Serve several states of the Mexican west coast from Baja California Norte down to Oaxaca and also towards Vizcaino in Baja California Sur
- 9 Estrellas del Pacifico, (depot) Calle Ing. Juan Ojeda Robles 1140, Chapultepec Alamar (SW corner of Blvd Lazaro Cardenas (Hwy 2) & Ing. Juan Ojeda Robles, across from ACN bus station), ☏ . They also have another stop at the Plaza Viva station near the boder.
- 10 Guasave, (depot) Ingeniero Juan Ojeda Robles 15419, Col Buena Vista, Chapultepec Alamar, ☏ . Goes down towards Guadalajara along Hwy 2 an 15 via Mexicali, Los Mochis, Cualican, Guasave, Guamuchil, Mazatlan, etc.
- 11 Rapid Connection, (Depot) Ingeniero Juan Ojeda Robles 15419, Col Buena Vista, Chapultepec Alamar, ☏ . Buses from Sacramento via Lodi, Madera, Stockton, Modesto, Fresno, Bakersfield, San Fernando, Los Angeles, Santa Ana, San Ysidro and several other places along SR-99/I-5. They also have additional stops at the airport and in San Ysidro
- 12 TIM Sinaloa, (Depot) Calzada Juan Ojeda Robles #1715A, Col Buena Vista, ☏ , toll-free: 0800 702-3055. Tijuana, Tecate, Mexicali and San Luis Rio Colorado.
- 13 Tufesa, (Depot) Avenida de los Insurgentes 16779, Rio Tijuana 3ra. Etapa, Guadalajara, ☏ , toll-free: 01 800 737 8883 (MX). They serve mainly in the western and northwestern states of Baja California Norte, Jalisco, Michocoan, Nayrit, Sinaloa and Sonora in Mexico and California and Arizona in the U.S.
- CBX Shuttle, bus stop at the CBX Terminal in the opposite side of the international border from the main airport terminal, toll-free: . The CBX shuttles goes from the CBX Terminal to the Santa Fe Depot at 1050 Kettner Blvd in downtown San Diego on one route and the last trolley station in San Ysidro. US$10 to/from downtown San Diego and $5 to San Ysidro. Another US$16 to walk across the bridge each way or $55 for a group or family of up to four people or $75 for six people..
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. Be sure to negotiate a price before jumping into a cab. You should pay no more than US$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.
- Avenida Revolucion in the Zona Centro - the main tourist area
- Bullfights - Tijuana has one bullring, which is open during the summer months, and has bullfights most Sundays. It is in the Playas de Tijuana, adjacent to the US border. It is the only seaside bullring in the world. The older and more historic bullring near the city center has been partially demolished by the owner of the property in the past year, citing failed business practices of the bullring. However, there is a strong movement within the city to designate this site a historical monument, rebuild the bullring and have it serve as a municipal arena. Official bullring schedules and pricing are available at plazamonumental.com.
- Tijuana Cultural Center (CECUT)
- El Popo Market
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 US$20, while Mexicoach will bus you there for around US$10. Ensenada is further down the coast but easily accessible by car or bus.
- Visitors to Rosarito and Ensenada should note that the main road is a toll road, with small sedans and trucks being tolled at M$38-340 or US$2.18-$2.41. Either currency is accepted generally and the toll stations are cash only.
- Visit the historical centers such as the Preparatoria Federal Lazaro Cardenas which is famous for being the central base of liquor contraband during the Al Capone days.
- Visit the world-famous Zona Norte "Red Light District". Tourists, American Military, and locals alike have been venturing to this area for decades. Be aware that this is a dangerous area, relatively speaking, but this is compensated for by a large police presence. Visitors should take caution just as they would visiting any high-crime area of a major city.
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.
- Cuban cigars are mostly fake, with the majority being of Mexican origin with a "Cohiba" or "Montecristo" brand name added. However, La Casa Del Habano on Avenida Revolucion is a licensed dealer that sells genuine Cubans.
- Silver bracelets and necklaces are common, but may be fake. Don't pay more than four dollars for fake jewelry.
- Vanilla is a bargain. Good place to buy is in plaza on revolucion
- Spanish music cassettes for only about US$0.50 available in plaza on Revolucion .
- Mexican groceries try stores like Calimax or Comercial Mexicana and see numerous Mexican products not found in other places or Mexicanized version of American products.
- Hand made crafts and colorful blankets you can find in the small "mercados" or public markets spread along Ave. Revolucion. Be sure and bargain for good prices and deals.
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 US$1 per musician per song, but most musicians will try to charge US$2 per musician per song. For example, if there are five musicians in a band then a good price is US$5. 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 local 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.
- Café La Especial, Av. Revolucion 718, in the heart of the tourist district. Down the stairs in a pedestrian alley. This inexpensive restaurant is the opposite of the noisy, over-priced tourist traps that line Revolución. Standard Mexican dishes served in a very relaxed, quiet environment. Gringo-friendly, though very popular with locals.
- Bol Corona , Any cab driver can direct you to one of the many franchises of this Tijuana establishment near the city centre. Bol Corona was founded in the 1930s and popularized the then little known "burrito" among the American tourists seeking haven from prohibition laws in the United States. Featuring inexpensive yet high quality Mexican cuisine, Bol Corona is a must. Several franchises have opened on the San Diego side of the border as well.
- Birriería Guadalajara Pues Avenida Constitución, between Calle Primera (First Street) and Callejón Coahuila (Coahuila Alley), Zona Norte. This restaurant serves awesome birria de chivo. Birria is a dish made from roasted goat with consomme poured over the meat, and is accompanied by onion, cilantro, limes and tortillas.
- Taquería "El Takerito" It is an authentic "taquería" (taco shop) on Díaz Ordaz Blvd., and located on one of the most crowded intersections of the city (5 y 10). It is not close to the border but any cab driver knows how to get to 5 y 10. They claim to have the best tacos in town at a very cheap price. Expect to pay around US$0.60 per taco.
- Taco Bell Art 123 Fuente Mexico, on the walk to the Arch from the border. There appears to be 2 adjacent places with this name, which is not part of the well known chain of the same name, but one doesn't look very open as of early 2010. Offers US$1 beers (Corona, Pacifico, Tecate) and 3 tacos for US$1 (various flavors). English in menus, mostly populated by locals.
- El Mazateño on Avenida Tecnológico a few blocks away from Instituto Tecnológico de Tijuana and right across the street of Unidad Deportiva Reforma. You will find a wide variety of sea food and fish tacos at an excellent price. Expect to pay around US$2 for fish tacos to US$10 for a dish.
- Nelson Restaurante on Ave. Revolucion 721 with a beautiful view of the famous Tijuana Arch. Offers budget friendly authentic Mexican dishes, drinks, cafe de olla, and a very rare tequila with a rattlesnake put into a big jar, supposedly a medicinal tequila.
- Sushi House, Zona Rio, right by the Office Depot on Paseo de los Heroes.
- La Cantina de los Remedios, Zona Rio, northeast corner of the Abraham Lincoln traffic circle on Paseo de los Heroes. Vast liquor selection, all of which is visible on the immense shelving along the wall behind the bar. Great menu of traditional and modern Mexican cuisine. Two features are of special interest - first are the quotations and pithy sayings in Spanish along all the ceiling beams. The second is the extensive use of Loteria cards to decorate the ceilings as well as the backs of the menus. Both are great for practicing Spanish while enjoying your meal.
- Negro Durazo, Seafood - Located near the Zona Rio. Owned by members of the Sinaloa drug cartel; many of the regular customers are in the business and carry weapons.
- Los Arcos - Popular local place with tasty lobster, mussels and fish platters. No English menu, but if you ask for Cesar, he can help you order. Owned by other members of the Sinaloa drug cartel but more mainstream than Negro Durazo.
- Albahaca - Restaurant inside Hotel Ticuan. Good mix of continental and traditional Mexican cuisine. Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner 7 days a week. The omelets are great at breakfast, and at dinner the "Filet with Three Sauces" is excellent.
- Cien Años, Zona Rio, on a side street off Paseo de los Heroes, across from the big Pockets billiards bar (another place to visit). Open for lunch and dinner. Very famous. Supposedly every recipe on the menu is over 100 years old (hence the name "Cien Años", one hundred years). Some recipes supposedly date back to Aztec times. Menu includes a number of items such as corn fungus, and bone marrow soup. Gringo-friendly but Spanish is useful. Restaurant is small, with beautiful decor, and a relaxing atmosphere. Prices range from moderate to expensive.
- La Diferencia, Blvd. Sánchez Taboada No.10611-A Zona Río, between Blvd. Abelardo L. Rodríguez & Escuadrón 201. Excellent and innovative Mexican dishes, and great tamarindo margaritas. Moderately expensive by Tijuana standards but well worth it (~US$95 for 2 people, incl. margaritas, wine, appetizer, entree & dessert). Highly recommended.
- Villa Marina - Seafood, in Zona Rio
- Italianissimo - , Blvd. Agua Caliente No. 10556-9AR, Centro. Com. Rocasa. Italian cuisine, a classic restaurant in Tijuana. Dishes from all regions of Italy. Moderate to expensive.
- Villa Saverios - Escuadrón 201 3151, on the corner of Blvd. Sanchez Taboada" ☏ . Open daily 13:00-02:00. US$5-20 meals. Owned by the same founder of the other Italian restaurant chain in Tijuana, Guisseppis, this Tuscany style mansion/restaurant has excellent Italian food and atmosphere, aimed at middle and high class customers. It's also a favorite because of its unique menu which blends both Baja and Mediterranean flavors in its food and wine selection. It is in the so-called restaurant district on Blvd. Sanchez Taboada, right besides La Espadaña, T.G.I. Fridays, La Diferencia and Cheripan. There are two other Saverios in the city; both are smaller café-style ones.
There are many other great restaurants in the city, ranging from Mexican to Asian food. The city is also full of sushi bars. 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.
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.
- 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 travellers 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. 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 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.
- Ejercito de Salvacion (men only), Aquiles Serdán 11585, Libertad, ☏ .
- Casa del Migrante (men and women), Avenida Hidalgo Int. 401, Colonia Centro, ☏ .
- Casa del Migrante en Tijuana (men only), ☏ . Calle Galileo 239 Col. Postal.
- Casa Beato Juan Diego (men only), ☏ . Boulevard Lazaro Cardenas, Fraccionamiento Murua, near bus terminal.
- Casa Madre Asunta (women and children), Calle Galileo 2305, Col. Postal, ☏ .
- Casa YMCA ((children only)), Blvd. M. Contreras #9844, Jardines de la Mesa, ☏ , .
Tijuana has a reputation for crime. Drug violence has erupted in Tijuana due to an 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).
Be very careful of buying anything that would draw 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. The police are known to rob and harass foreigners, and there is not much you can do about this.
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.
- Theft - Pickpockets can be found in certain heavy tourist areas. You are generally safe in areas such as the Zona Río, Playas de Tijuana, El Hipódromo, and many others; just make sure to always be cautious when visiting alone. The best targets for theft are those who speak no Spanish, wander alone (especially at night), are intoxicated, and travel to the Avenida Revolución. If you find yourself being swarmed by small children who say they want to sell you something, be aware that they could be trying to pick your pockets.
- Drug-dealer informants - In many bars and on the street, it is common to be offered illegal narcotic drugs for sale. Some of these peddlers work with the police. They sell someone the drugs, then tell the police that person is carrying. The police shake the person down for cash, and confiscate the drugs, which they presumably return to the original peddler, who goes looking for another victim.
- Strip clubs - There are a numerous clubs on Revolución that offer nude dance shows. As you walk down the street, barkers will try to entice you to come in; if you are not interested, simply smile and walk on. If you do walk into one, most likely you will soon be approached by one or several ladies who will ask you to buy them a drink. Keep in mind that their "mixed drinks" are often nothing but soda or juice, but you will be expected to pay a ladies' drink price, whether they ask for beer, real mixed drinks, or non-alcoholic drinks. These drinks will typically cost you US$8-10, and the ladies get a commission for each drink you purchase for them.
- Prescription drugs - Though your prescription drugs may be much cheaper here, carrying large quantities or carrying them without your prescription can land you many years in a Mexican prison. Some foreign prescriptions may not be valid in Mexico. If you break the law, you will be dealt with accordingly. However, this does not include medications which often change in status in the USA from prescription to over-the-counter. Such medications are readily available without a prescription in Mexico. Police are mainly concerned about prescription drugs which have the potential to be abused.
- Food and alcohol imports - at the border, U.S. Customs will confiscate any fruits, vegetables, and live or raw meat products in an effort to combat certain diseases or bugs from entering the U.S. food supply. Meat products confiscated can include pork rinds. Alcohol can be brought across the border if for 'personal use' with a limit of 1L duty and tax free. Importing more than 1L for personal use can be challenging - the amount you are allowed to import depends on whether not you live in California and if you are crossing on foot, in a private vehicle, or on a bus. For details, refer to the California ABC - and don't forget to declare your alcohol to Customs. Another note is the importation of abalone or conch meat, which are endangered species and not for sale in the US.
- Contraband items - Can be confiscated by U.S. Customs, they include weapons, drugs (illegal or without prescription), Cuban cigars, and live animals.
- Canada, Germán Gedovius 10411-101, Condominio del Parque, Zona Río, ☏ , fax: . M-F 09:30-12:30.
- China, Av. Lomas del Monte 1614, Fracc. Lomas de Agua Caliente, ☏ , fax: .
- Guatemala, Misión San Ignacio 10680, Zona del Río, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. M-F 08:00-13:00 & 14:00-16:00.
- Honduras (Honorary), Av. Mutualismo 920, entre calles 3a y 4a, Zona Centro, ☏ , fax: .
- Japan (Honorary) (Japon), Paseo de Héroes 9911B, Zona Urbana, Río, ☏ .
- Korea, Republic of (Republica de Corea), Germán Gedovius 10411 Desp. 305, Zona Rio, ☏ , , fax: .
- United States (Estados Unidos), Paseo de las Culturas s/n, Col. Mesa de Otay, Delegación Centenario, ☏ , ✉ ACSTijuana@state.gov, TijuanaInfo@state.gov.
Tijuana offers several bus routes further into Mexico. 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 destinations include La Paz (Mexico), San Jose del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas at the southern tip of the Baja peninsula. 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 M$60. Tijuana -> Guerrero Negro: M$945
|Routes through Tijuana|
|San Diego ← San Ysidro ← becomes ← ←||N S||→ Playas de Rosarito → Ensenada|
|END ←||W E||→ Tecate → Mexicali|