Earlier this week, I spent one night and two days in Tijuana, Mexico. It has been almost been a decade since I last visited Tijuana when my friend drove me and I was underage. I vaguely remember the trip 10 years ago, but have been longing to head south of the border since it’s only a two hour drive from Los Angeles. Here are ten things I learned from my recent trip to Tijuana, Mexico:
1. Dollars are widely accepted everywhere in Tijuana and most of Baja Mexico including Rosarito and Ensenada. This past summer I went to Cabo San Lucas and they actually preferred dollars. I carried dollars and Mexican pesos to get the best quoted prices. I generally got a better deal paying in pesos with most vendors and restaurants.
2. You really need Mexican car insurance in Tijuana when you’re driving even if you have full coverage because your insurance policy most likely isn’t covered in Mexico. I have full coverage and made sure to call my insurance to see if it would cover Mexico. Sadly it did not. I used mexbound.com and was quoted $25 a day which isn’t too bad. You don’t need to show your car insurance papers to anyone but the Mexican police just in case you get into an accident. In Mexico, all parties involved in a car accident are assumed guilty until the police can sort out whose fault it was. The Mexican police will ask you for your insurance policy and if you don’t show proof of Mexican insurance, you will spend a night in Mexican Jail. It’s better to be safe than sorry when taking your vehicle into Mexico.
3. The cost of food and souvenirs are substantially higher in Tijuana than Mexico City. I couldn’t find any place where you can get a taco for less than $1 USD. Shot glasses started at $3 even with bargaining. In Mexico City, I got 2 tacos for $2 USD and many souvenirs started at 5 pesos.
4. The roads aren’t too bad in Tijuana. Sure, there are some potholes, but it’s like driving in LA full of potholes.
5. You need to drive defensively when in Tijuana. Always be alert and aware of your surroundings. If you’re used to LA driving, then Tijuana is just like the same. People will cut you off and many drivers make unsafe lane changes.
6. There is life beyond the first 6 streets in Ave. Revolution (tourist district near the US/Mexico border). There are many others neighborhoods that are full of life. I am planning to explore more of Tijuana next year.
7. Cops drive with their lights on during the night. I thought it was only in Mexico City when I saw this, but I guess it’s part of the norm. I was driving late at night in Tijuana and a cop behind me had his lights on while I was on a stoplight. I remained calm and kept driving as normal.
8. You don’t need a US passport to enter back into California if you’re driving. If you have an enchanced Driver’s license with an RFID chip, that’s all you need. My cousin brought his expired baby passport just in case and we went through fine.
9. The signage to get back to the USA is really bad. Even after following the signs, it must have took me 30 minutes driving around a < 0.5 mile radius just to find the right entrance. There are multiple entrances: regular lanes, fast pass, ready lanes, and SENTRI. It would have helped if I had watched videos on YouTube beforehand!
10. Buy fresh tasty churros from a vendor while waiting in the car. Don’t eat churros in the car or else they will get everywhere in your car.