Guide to Tijuana – Part 1… unedited

Located just under 30kms (16 Miles) from San Diego – Tijuana, Mexico was once the “worlds most visited city”. However the city almost seems deserted with western travellers who once helped strengthen the countries poor economy. While USA is very beautiful in parts – it’s not that much different to Australia. If you want to get a bit of a culture shock without breaking your bank account then drive down to Mexico, even if it’s just for the day. The US dollar is widely accepted but I like using Pesos just because 1000 pesos sounds cooler than 100 bucks.

If anyone is keen to edit this for me I’d appreciate that! :)

Getting there

I was lucky enough to meet a person who worked in San Diego and lived in Tijuana. Once he finished work I met up with him and drove through the border. Getting through the border was quiet easy and the Mexican Federale (Federal Police) only randomly stops cars every so often. Our car just drove straight through. The other side of the road, getting through American Customs, was a different story; cars were lined up for miles, and street vendors, hustlers and window wipers walk through the traffic trying to get anything they can from the people entering USA. If you’re not lucky enough to get a lift to TJ the quickest way would be to catch a Red Trolley (Tram) from San Diego to the border and simply walk over. I wasn’t asked for a passport or questioned when entering by car, however traveling by plane or foot would be a lot different.

Accommodation

I am probably doing things a lot differently than you have time for. I went on Craigslist and found a share apartment advertised for $220 a month including all bills. This included high-speed internet and cable TV. The apartment is quite modern and is located at Playas Di Tijuana. ‘Playas’ means beach, so my part of Mexico is simply “beach at Tijuana”. From what I could tell there aren’t many Hostels/backpackers, but a lot of Hotels. Most of the hotels in town seem to be for prostitutes and their lucky man, but to stay safe I’ve heard that Hotel Catalina is the safest and best location.  You’d be looking at around $40 – $60 a night for a decent pad. Hong Kong Club also has accommodation but is marketed towards prostitutes; something that’s hard to escape in certain parts of TJ.

My Street

Public Transport

Mexico has a lot better public transport than California and most of America. New York’s subway and the BART in San Francisco is very reliable, but outside of these two cities I found trains and buses to be quite confusing and not well thought out. I’ve only been to about 5 states (Hawaii, California, Nevada, New York & Georgia) so I probably can’t comment or compare too much. Let’s just say that most of California has bad public transport.

Thankfully Mexico is different, and very safe. The easiest and most convenient way is to just take a taxi to your location. For a 10 – 15 minute drive it shouldn’t cost any more than $10. As some of you know I’ve had a bad experience with a cab driver in the past and have learnt from my lesson. Here’s what happened – I had 100 pesos left from drinking (roughly $8 – $10) and I thought that would be enough to get home. About 5 minutes into the trip the taxi driver pulled over and said that it wasn’t enough, so he pointed to my phone and basically said he wouldn’t take me home unless I gave him the phone. I won’t get into that story too much because it paints a bad light for the rest of the hardworking Mexican taxi-drivers.

My favourite way to travel from Playas is to take a minivan. They’re like Australia’s version of a Maxi-Taxi but it only has one route. It runs 24 hours, 7 days a week and can pick you up in any location along that route; simply wave it down! During the day it’s only $1 for the trip, and at night it’s only $1.50. That’s a fucking bargain! They are very safe, frequent, comfortable and affordable so I highly recommend this option.

Time To Party?

Now that you have options to get to your chosen accommodation it’s time to do what we all love doing – Partying. This guide is written by someone who came here by himself so it may be different than coming here with a group.

Having first entered Tijuana you’ll probably be overwhelmed and stressed about where to go and what to do. Walk 10 metres in any direction and you’ll immediately get hassled by the groups of bar workers at the front of their establishment trying to get you in. It’s so fucking hard to just say no because they’re always so nice. I try and walk on the very side of the walkway so they can’t hassle me too much, but no matter, you’ll get hassled. There are a few options, depending on what you like doing.

Dive Bars:  “A well-worn, unglamorous bar, often serving a cheap, simple selection of drinks to a regular clientele.” – Urban Dictionary.

As some of you may know I am a people person. My idea of getting to know a place is from locals and stories. It’s a little bit harder in TJ because not many people speak English, but as days go by I find myself being able to understand more and more. It’s not the easiest language to pick up but it is a fun one to learn. The best spot in TJ to meet local characters and have a cheap beer is La Sexta, or The 6th. When walking up the main drag of Revolucion it pretty much acts as a grid. Just look for the number of the cross street until you get to the corner of Revolucion and 6th (La Sexta). I guess you could compare it to The Valley in Brisbane, minus the abundance of wankers. It has some dive bars mixed with some standard clubs – ie Porky’s. Almost every Dive Bar on this strip is worth checking out. Beer can be as cheap as $3 for 1L, and it’s not bad. Tecate, Corona and Dos Equis (means Double X) is usually your cheapest option at $1.50 – $2.50 per beer, and most places will throw in free tequila shots for your troubles.  If anyone is dressed up, blowing a whistle and trying to pour tequila down your throat – don’t take it. It’s not free and is usually watered down, cheap tequila.

I’m that guy who’s sitting at the bar by himself until a curious regular sparks up a conversation. I’ve met many cool people this way and have no problem going anywhere by myself.  I know this isn’t for everyone though, but I highly recommend it. You could learn a lot, including their language.

Getting Laid for $20.

I have been very honest with this blog so believe me when I say that I’ve never had to pay for a prostitute in Mexico. Honestly I don’t need to, and even if I wanted to I couldn’t because I’m too broke. But if you’re a white male walking down the street you’re going to get offered a lot of different women. The Taxi Drivers, Shop Keepers, Security Guards and general public will try and get you to go with a certain girl. One security guard wouldn’t leave me alone. He said that I could have my pick of women, at what looked like a normal bar, for $35 including the room. Apparently the girls on the street are $20 + $5 for the room for 15 minutes. This is located at Zona Norte (North Zone) and is the only place in TJ where prostitution is legal. The girls need to have licenses and regular check-ups just in case you’re worried. If you’re going to the main area to party you pretty much have to walk in this area. The girls do this weird chirping noise when you walk past, trying to get you to go upstairs with them. Just keep walking past and they won’t hassle you. Most of them are fat and dirty looking. If you’re keen to check out a “standard” strip-club then I recommend going to Hong Kong Club, as the girls and staff will leave you alone and the clientele is very international. I’m not sure on how much private lap dances cost. One of the grossest things I’ve ever seen though is at this club. On weekends they have two girls wrestling in shaving cream. When a guy tips them $1 they’re allowed to touch them…anywhere! Seeing an old Mexican man fingering a girl covered in shaving cream is not my idea of a Friday night; and it might not be yours either. Apart from the shave cream and fingering there are some REALLY hot chicks here and they don’t hassle you. The entry is $4 and that includes a beer. Drinks are reasonably priced too.

If you have no interest in strip clubs you should stick with La Sexta. If you’re feeling like going to a group of clubs than the best way is to get a taxi to Plaza Rio, which shouldn’t cost more than $10. Here you’ll find all the standard clubs that locals go to.  Every bar has different specials on drinks, and different themes. You’ll find live music, dance, top-40 or just irish themed bars. It’s a very safe location in TJ and Friday’s/Saturday’s are usually very packed. There’s plenty of secure parking spots too if you’re driving.

Eating Food.

Much like Bangkok and Kuala Lumper you can find some of the best food on the streets. If there’s one thing I’ve noticed about Mexicans, it’s their hygiene. They are actually a lot cleaner than I thought they would be. Everyone washes their hands and they use gloves if handling food. On the streets of TJ you can find some of the best Hot Dogs in the world for $1. They have mayonnaise, salsa, tomato sauce and mustard. The sausage is covered in a thin layer of bacon and the buns are steamed and melt in your mouth. These hotdog venders are everywhere if you’re into a western style meal. I don’t recommend eating the hotdogs all the time simply because Tacos are too delicious. I’m sorry to say but Australia doesn’t have any authentic Mexican food. Hard-Shell tacos are almost nowhere to be found in Mexico. The common taco is a fresh Tortilla wrap thrown onto a grill, then add the ingredients. It’s soft and delicious and a perfect snack in-between drinks. Hard tacos are almost as bullshit as burgers with hard buns, or burgers that are too big to fit in your mouth. I don’t want to start talking about burgers, but if you can’t have every single taste and ingredient in one bite than it’s not a burger. It’s pretentious. And when did really hard bread start becoming so popular? Wankers.

Keeping Out Of Trouble

If you look for trouble it will find you, and in Mexico you don’t have to look very hard. Downtown TJ you will not be able to walk around any corner without seeing a cop. There are three different types of police:

  1. Regular Police Officer – Or Policia. They’re just like any standard cop found in most cities. El Policia is a male copper, and La Policia is a female copper.
  2. Municipal Tijuana officers. These guys wear light brown pants, carry guns and are mostly on the lookout for narcotics. They also look after the different zones and traffic. They walk around on foot.
  3. Very Scary Cops. They drive around in pick-up trucks, carrying AK-47’s and M16’s. They often wear masks that make them even scarier. I don’t know the technical name for them, but trust my description.

Despite what you hear it seems like these cops don’t target tourists. They target anyone that looks suspicious.  There’s a scam they do to make money – If someone sells you cocaine they then alert the police officer, the police officer will shake you down and demand money from you or take you to jail. Obviously most people opt for giving the officer the money. After he gets the money he splits if with the guy who sold you the drugs, and gives him back the bag of coke so he can do it again. I’m pretty sure this scam goes on everywhere in the world, but I honestly don’t think it’s worth risking a coke binge in Mexico. Sure you might find amazing coke that will keep you up chatting for hours, but you might find yourself in a Mexican prison getting molested by inmates who love a bit of Vanilla Gringo. I’ve looked at my arse in the mirror, and if you squint your eyes it kind of looks like a chicks arse, so I wouldn’t trust anyone if I was locked up in a dark cell for a few nights. My point is, don’t bother. Go to San Diego for your coke binge.

If you find yourself having to do Meth it’s best to do it in a toilet. There are several security guards and bar tenders who carry pipes with them. Simply follow them into the toilet and do your thing. Never carry! By the way, that’s a tip I got from a friend Meth-Addict, I don’t know from experience.

And to wrap it up…

I highly recommend people visiting Tijuana, even if it’s just overnight. The people are mostly lovely, everything is cheap and the locals really need foreigners to visit and spend money. USA has given Tijuana a bad name over the last two years and the lack of Gringos and tourists is very noticeable. I honestly think the American’s have blown this way out of proportion, but at the same time I don’t want to test the boundaries. At the end of the day Mexican’s are very family orientated and generally have a smile on their face. I can’t comment on other parts of Mexico but Tijuana is the most notorious, and I’ve been here for 3 weeks now roaming the streets by myself – so I think I’m entitled to some opinion.

If you’re already heading to LA then you may as well take the 2.5 hour drive south to see a whole other world. I don’t want to say it’s 100% safe, but so far I’ve kept out of trouble and to myself. Common sense is key, so use it.

Cheers Mate!!

9 comments

  1. Anthony Wright

    I really like what you wrote. Im from San Diego originally and just moved to Tijuana in may . Dont know too many people yet and I would love to do what you do and just go out by myself, but i would feel that people would look at me and take pity or something. lol. I was just over in your neck of the woods “playas” and just loved it! had a blast. I was even tempted to move there from downtown where im at now but being close to the san diego border is important to me too.

  2. Rafael

    Gleen, just read your TJ article,….Great!….If you need to expand on the different types of law enforcement I can help or most any other TJ topic, exept politics…..Im a Tijuana resident, attendedn U.S. schools,lived on both sides of the border….seen A LOT here!…..

  3. Gene

    Hi Anthony..my name is Gene. I recently moved to Playas about 4 months ago. I read your article. I also am trying to get to know people here too. If you ever have the time and would like to meet up and check out the town let me know. I am fluent in spanish and know of some spots but not too many.

  4. pete krunch

    Wow. . . times have changed since 1958 when “cardboard sheds” served as places for “conducting business.” The self appointed “badges” that worked the streets had a snub nose 38 strapped to their side. They would makeup a violation. Put the squeeze on you. If u didn’t come up with the “coins” it was off to jail. Yup, you guessed it. We spent 5 hrs. in the lockup. One inch of water on the floor. No place to sit. Red X-mas light in upper corner. Dug out trench in concrete for urination. Around 0530 hrs. they released one of us to retrieve sum $’s from our vehicle. The turned us loose.

    Thru the border check point. Back to the far end of Harbor Drive, Pt. Loma, Fleet Sonar School, jumped into formation just before 0800 hrs. when “muster” is taken. Safe. No restrictions for us! O Happy Days!

  5. marcu

    my name is marcus and will be moving to tj next month. Im a 36 year old black male please tell me the dos and dont.

  6. peter

    hey Gene,You still in Tijuana ?Please drop me a mail if you still in TJ as i am looking for some one who know Spanish and English.Please drop me a mail.

  7. david

    about the prostitutes and not paying them! how can this be achieved?? lol. im a marine, dont speak much spanish but im a taller/good looking. your help/advice would be greatly appreciated! read that youve never had to pay for a TJ hooker lol

  8. Brazil Travel Center

    Marcu, check out http://www.amazon.com/dp/B009JWTQAA
    This is a guide to travel and living in Mexico, Brazil, and the Dominican Republic for the black male. It is also valuable for most guys but deals with race in each country to help out people who may be unawares. But again it is good for most men.

    Glenn, thanks for this useful post. Check out my blog too.

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