Tijuana, Mexico Report of what it's like to live there - 12/29/10

Personal Experiences from Tijuana, Mexico

Tijuana, Mexico 12/29/10

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

First expat experience

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Washington, D.C., most everyone flies out of San Diego, CA airport, many connections and prices for just about every budget. It is just as quick and efficient to get there, as opposed to going to Tijuana airport.

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3. How long have you lived here?

1 year

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Diplomat at U.S. Consulate General

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

A range of houses and apartments. Singles are placed in very nice (mostly luxury) apartments in one of the city's most upscale neighborhoods. Family housing are generally very large houses, some with small yards. There is not a lot of green space in Tijuana, so don't expect a lot when it comes to green space.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Almost identical to the U.S., but then again, a 15 minute drive will get you U.S. prices.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

You usual U.S. chains (McDonald's, Burger King, Carls Jr., Wendys, Subway) are here. Also, did I mention that San Diego, CA is nearby?

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5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?

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6. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Nothing to note.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Regular U.S. mail. We have a P.O. Box and physical mailing address on the U.S. side which is picked up for you daily and delivered to you at the consulate.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Genearly better than U.S. minimum wage. Most help is approx USD 7.00/hr. If you get a full-time housekeeper, you can negotiate that rate.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Yes. Price is very similar, if not a little more expensive than what you might find in U.S. New Consulate will have a very small gym.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

It is not recommended to use ATMs unless in a grocery store or very public place with good lighting. The consulate does have an ATM machine that works every now and again.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

30-50%. Most everyone speaks English here and in fact, you will find even native Spanish speakers seem to lose some of their skill because you hardly get to use the Spanish.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Tijuana is not a very friendly location for persons with handicaps. It is hard enough to walk around in the pot hole-laden streets, missing concrete slabs on sidewalks, etc., without some sort of handicap.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Some taxis are ok. No to buses. Bring a vehicle!

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Any. Most people seemed to invest in a small SUV of some time or station wagons. You are basically on your own for transporation as motor pool does not function like any other Mission in the world. Bring your car...you need it!

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes. Similiar to U.S. My telephone and internet bundle is about USD 40.00/month.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Keep you U.S. plan. You will pick up towers in U.S. and Mexico as they share service. AT&T and Verizon are both big and get great service here. You need to contact your cell phone company and see what sort of Nationwide + Mexico Plan they have.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

No.

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

Yes, lots of vets.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

No/Yes...if you consider San Diego, CA local economy, then yes.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Business casual.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Yes. All border posts were recently classified as danger posts which provides for danger pay and the coveted SLRP which is great to get those loans paid off. It is no worse than any other very crowded high crime city. RSO does a good job to prepare you and you must know what's going on around you and be smart.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Most everyone is taken by ambulance to border if something serious, where San Diego Fire then picks you up and takes you to San Diego hospital.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

It is Mexico, i.e. there is usually a nice gray cloud layer that hangs over the city, and no, we are not taking rain clouds. Then again, with the ocean breeze, there is some air flow.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Again, beautiful. Winter time does require some "warmer" clothes...it is not flip flops all year long, but pretty close to it.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

Most children go to school in San Diego, CA. Some of the families with kids who attend school in Tijuana are fairly pleased with the education given at the international school.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Very large.

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2. Morale among expats:

Good.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Great for all. Everyone is a short ride from San Diego, CA, and there is plenty to do there, while also a great night life in both Tijuana and San Diego for singles.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

While Tijuana is a little more "liberal" than other parts of Mexico, it is still Mexico and tends to lean more conservative.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Yes, as with many Latin American countries, darker skinned people tend to be treated differently.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Great weather and San Diego is a 15-30 minute ride away, depending on the border wait times.

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Tijuana and Baja California offering something for everyone. It is San Diego weather, in other words, 350 days of sun and clear skies, generally in 70s-80s, and winter can be in 50s-60s. Great beaches nearby, surfing, boating, fishing, atv'ing, what else could you want?

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11. Can you save money?

Yes/No. It is San Diego prices, can find some cheap tacos, but in all, you are shopping in U.S.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Winter jacket.

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3. But don't forget your:

Sunscreen, patience and willingness to make the best of a situation that can get a little hairy at time.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

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