Tijuana, Mexico Report of what it's like to live there - 03/05/11
Personal Experiences from Tijuana, Mexico
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
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?
3. How long have you lived here?
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Working for the U.S. Consulate
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
The consulate provides stunning luxury apartments to singles and nice, large homes to families. We have very good housing. For non consulate people, the housing is not expensive and a lot of it is at U.S. standards.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Groceries are comparable to the U.S. Depending on what I am looking for, I split my shopping between the Supermarkets here (Calimax and Soriana) and the grocery stores in the U.S. Produce is cheaper in Mexico and the quality is generally good.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
if you didn't bring it, you can buy it here or in San Diego.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Fast food here is a taco stand or a torta (Mexican sandwich). You can't go wrong with food here. It is amazing and costs about 30% less than in San Diego.
5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?
6. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Some cockroaches and flies, but hardly anything too big or scarey.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
The consulate has a U.S. PO Box that we get daily delivery from.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
A housekeeper will generally charge between $5-$7.50 per hour. Good help isn't too hard to find.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Yes, they seem to have similar prices to U.S. Gyms and equipment are comparable.
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?
Inside a well-lit store or bank only!
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?
7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
You can get by with English, everyone seems to speak it. However, the locals will like you a lot more, and your time will be more enjoyable, if you attempt to at least learn a little Spanglish.
8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
I just got off of crutches and it was a nightmare. You need a car. Walking more than a few blocks is impossible and possibly dangerous.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
I would stay away from buses. Some of the taxis are safe, but don't flag one down, call ahead.
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?
I have a mid-sized SUV. Don't bring anything too flashy or you won't have it long. And be prepared to get a few dings; the drivers here are insane!
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
I pay $30 for DSL and my home phone. The speed isn't too bad.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
I get a U.S. signal in my apartment and I have a pay-as you go Mexican cell phone.
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?
2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?
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?
They can commute to San Diego. A lot of spouses do this. Commute times are between 30-90 minutes each way.
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Business casual at work. Jeans and t-shirt are fine on the weekends. Dress to impress if you are going out or to a party.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Tijuana is a high-crime city. If you stay away from the bad neighborhoods and pay attention to your surroundings you will probably be fine. Most of the crime is criminal on criminal, but carjackings and robberies are common enough.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
San Diego is just 30 minutes away and there are world-class facilities like Scripps Healthcare.
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's moderate. The excessive dust can be a pain, especially if you have asthma.
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Mostly sunny and warm. In the 50s and 60s in the winter. Very few cloudy or rainy days.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
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?
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
If they don't have it in TJ, they will in San Diego.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Large, but a lot of them have strong ties to Mexico or were born in the U.S. but grew up in Mexico. The consulate staff are pretty tight-knit.
2. Morale among expats:
At the consulate it has gotten alot better in the past 8 months. The weather is awesome and the food is delicious. If you hate it in TJ you can always spend your time on the U.S. side. Crime is a concern for everyone.
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?
There are lots of activities to do, you can have a very full social life here and in San Diego.
4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
I am married and with no kids. I think it is a great place for couples, singles, or people with kids. The awesome housing really helps.
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
Tijuana has its gay community but it not as "out". It would probably not be considered ok to have a public display of affection in Tijuana between a gay couple. San Diego is definitely gay friendly.
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
Darker-skinned people don't seem to be treated as well as lighter-skinned people, but it is subtle.
7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Exploring Tijuana restaurants, San Diego neighborhoods, enjoying the wonderful weather, and improving my Spanish with the friendly local population.
8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
The restaurants, the big public park, the beach, San Diego, Ensenada, wine tasting in Guadalupe Valley, Hidalgo Market.
9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
cervezas, tacos, pinatas.
10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
The best weather in the world, with an average temperature of 70F, sunny skies, and no humidity! Tijuana is a little known, but world class culinary destination and San Diego is just World Class and 30 minutes away.
11. Can you save money?
It's hard when San Diego is so close.
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Yes. TJ is a bit of a hidden gem and San Diego is wonderful too. If you work in the consulate, the work-load and type of work is tough but fairly rewarding.
2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
3. But don't forget your:
appetite for tacos. This is seriously an under rated city for culinary delights. Not just the street food, but some very innovative, cutting edge restaurants.
4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:
6. Do you have any other comments?
It is easier than you might think to live a cross-border existence. Getting a SENTRI border crossing card is a must.