Downtown Tijuana is referred to as the Zona Centro. It includes Revolucion Avenue, which is the main tourist drag.
For about 8 blocks, Revolucion is lined with shops, bars, and restaurants, many aimed at tourists. This is what most day-trippers to Tijuana experience, and it should go without saying that Revolucion is not representative of Tijuana and certainly not of Mexico.
Constitucion Avenue, one block west of Revolucion, is a busy downtown street but with none of the touristy nonsense. It is probably worth walking along here just to get a more authentic picture of Tijuana. Visitors should be careful (or aware) of walking too far north on this street, best not to go below Juarez (Segunda) as it will abruptly lead you into the “red light” district.
From San Diego, cross the San Ysidro border, and to your right hand side, walk toward the arch all along the pedestrian street: The arch is located at Avenida Revolución and Calle Primera (First Street). It takes less than 15 minutes. There are enough signs to direct you: you can’t miss it! At the arch, go to your left, southbound, and enjoy your walk along the avenue.
Alternatively you can take a taxi:
- The traditional Yellow Cabs are just across the border, on their own commuter spot. Many cab drivers wearing a yellow & black uniform will be hosting you. Most of them speak English and take US dollars. Make sure to negotiate the fare before starting the ride. US$3 will be expected to “Avenida Revolución, Zona Centro”. You can arrange the same cab picks you up later with no extra charge.
- Street Cabs are outside the commuter spot. These are white cars with a red stripe and labeled as “Libre” (Cab). They usually park in line along the street and some of them have a dispatcher who has written rates. Usually, their rates are almost half of the yellow cabs´ and take US dollars as well. Make sure to confirm the fare before starting the ride and to have the exact amount as they carry no change.
In San Ysidro, catch the Mexicoach that will take you to the bus station in the Zona Centro in the middle of the Avenida Revolución, the heart of the Zona Centro District.
Take an afternoon walk to the park. Parque Guerrero is only half a mile from Revolucion. (follow Carillo Puerto) several blocks past Constitucion. Lovely clean park with friendly food vendors. On Sundays there are often entertainers.
There are some good shops along Revolucion but mostly they are little more than cheesy souvenir shops. There are a few "fixed price" shops as you walk south on Revolucion. "Precios fijos" no games. And the people are nice. The ladies in colorful native clothing with the little stands often have awesone painted ceramics. Just remember to haggle. The same ceramics on the "Avenida" in shops will cost at least twice as much.
Restaurants vary in quality. Tourist traps are usually easy to spot. These will be overpriced, but may serve good food.
- 1 Caesars Restaurant & Bar, Av. Revolución 1059 (NW corner of Av. Revolución & Calle Emiliano Zapata (Calle 5a)), ☏ . Reputedly the birthplace of the famous Caesar's salad, in 1924. It is still served there according to its original recipe, mixed and served at your table in accordance to tradition. It has been recently remodeled in October 2010 with all decoration still similar to the original of the 1930s.
- 2 Colectivo 9, Av. Revolución 1265. A high-end food court, bringing together great seafood, burgers and ramen.
- 3 Chiki Jai, Av. Revolución 1388 (NE corner Av Av. Revolución & Calle Galeana (calle 7a)), ☏ . Unpretentious, non-touristy quasi-Spanish taberna that has been open since 1947. Filled with bullfighting memorabilia, it is a slice of Spain in the heart of Tijuana. Their sangría and tapas have a good reputation.
The bars on Avenida Revolución are often packed with Americans. The drinking age in Tijuana is 18, compared to 21 in the US, so many young people visit Tijuana to party. The street is also lined with strip bars, it's not always obvious from the outside if it is a regular bar or a strip bar, so enter with caution. Scams are also quite common, especially with "2 for 1" bargains are advertised.
- 1 Dandy del Sur, Flores Magón 2030, ☏ . A staple of nightlife in Tijuana, having been around for more then thirty years.
- 2 La Mezcalera, Flores Magón 8267, ☏ . Catering to the younger, hipper crowd. Serves excellent mezcal.
- 3 Las Pulgas, Avenida Revolución 1127 (Netween 7th and 8th Street on Av. Revolución), ☏ . One of few Zona Centro dance bars that caters mainly to locals.
Although travel guides and taxi drivers insist that there is no cheap accommodation to be had in Tijuana, there is if you know where to look. Most of Tijuana's budget haunts are located along Calle 2a (Benito Juarez) & Calle 3a (Carillo Puerto) in Zona Centro, while the more outlying ones are less safe and may be more difficult to reach. The red light district north of Calle Benito Juarez (2a) in the adjacent Zona Norte tends to be less safer than Zona Centro. Some of the budget accommodations can only be renting rooms by the hour for "love making" or as a "motel" than as a place to stay for the night while others have an hourly, nightly and weekly rate depending on the need so ask.
- 1 Hotel Morelia, Calle 3a (Carillo Puerto) #8310 (3a (Carillo Puerto) & Negrete), ☏ . The Hotel Morelia offers spacious rooms with shared bathroom from M$125 in a safe location. A pleasant place to stay cheap in Tijuana, right in the midst of it all, but reasonably quiet. Only stay here if you need budget accommodations within the vicinity of Av Revolución and do not bring any valuables. Also note that the hotel does not require a deposit for the key, so if the clerk asks for a deposit, he is looking to pocket extra money from you. Do not bring any valuables, because the hotel clerk may steal it from you. starting at M$125 (pesos).
- More cheap hotels can be found within the turf of the drug vendors (around 5 de Mayo and Baja California) West of the red light district (Zona Norte) where you can stay for around M$100 per night (and it's surprisingly safe as long as you stay away from drugs, do note that it's a notorious place for getting pinned by police officers because of all the drugs in the area so make sure you don't carry any and avoid talking to anybody hanging around if all possible.
- 2 Hotel Nelson, Av Revolucion 721 (SW of the big arch at Av Revolucion & c/ 1a.), ☏ . The Hotel Nelson is reasonably-priced and clean, and has a bar as well as a restaurant downstairs. The major drawback would be traffic noise from the myriad bars and clubs along this tourist-oriented street.
- 3 Hotel Ticuan, Calle 8a #8190, Zona Centro (Along Calle 8a btwn Av Constitucion & Revolucion at north side of the street), ☏ . A newer hotel at the upper end of mid-range pricing, located on 8th Street just west of Ave. Revolucion. It has a very good restaurant and bar, comfortable rooms with plasma TVs and free WiFi, and free admission to the dance club "Las Pulgas" which is right around the corner. The staff is very polite and helpful, and most speak decent English. You can get a discount of M$100-150 per night on your room by booking online.
Do not give money to the tiny Indian women with lots of kids. They come to the city in groups, so when anyone asks you for money it is best to just ignore them or give them a curt "NO". If their children hand your children a bobble-head turtle or such, just give it back; if they let it hit the ground, they will tell you that you owe them. Tell them, "Quitate!" (Kee-tat-tay) for "Get away." If you start handing out money, they will want more, or more of them will crowd around you.