Tijuana, Mexico Report of what it's like to live there - 02/15/14

Personal Experiences from Tijuana, Mexico

Tijuana, Mexico 02/15/14

Background:

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

No, I've lived in other places in Mexico and Asia.

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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?

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3. How long have you lived here?

15 months.

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

Work.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Large, concrete block style houses - no insulation makes for a miserable winter. My commute is 15 minutes - due to the changes in the oneway streets along the river and varying traffic patterns, you should expect to get anywhere in TJ in 35 minutes or less.

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

Groceries are 25% more than in the U.S. Prices for locally produced fruits and vegetables are cheaper than in U.S.

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

Nothing.

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

Taco places are good, ceviche is good, tamales, etc.

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

Ants in the house. Roaches in the summer.

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Daily Life:

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

Use a postal box in San Diego like everyone else in TJ.

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

About US$300-400 a month.

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

There are many gyms though I have heard they are more costly than comparable facilities in the U.S.

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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?

No issues. Give your bank notice you will be in Mexico so they don't freeze your cards.

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

I'm an atheist but locals have events for the Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, Jesus Christ, Santa Clause, and the mythical Cupacabra.

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

It helps of course, but most educated people and younger kids speak English.

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

Yes .

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Transportation:

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

No one I know has used public transport. Taxis that you call are okay, but do not waive them from the street if they are red. Red taxis are on a set route and collect random passengers along the way. White taxi libres are okay.

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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?

A normal sedN with stock ride height is fine. I would not drive anything lowered here or with low ground effects.

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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, 25% more expensive than in U.S. and slower too.

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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?

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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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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?

Not really. Why would you take a job here when the salary is 7 times higher 2 miles north?

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Lots for youth affiliated stuff, migrants.

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

Dress casual.

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Health & Safety:

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

Cartel violence is focused and not as indiscriminate as portrayed in the lame-stream media. Street level crime concerns me the most. Lots of muggings, car jackings, express kidnappings, property damage, etc. There are nicer neighborhoods like Agua Caliente and Chapultepec where you can walk and feel mostly safe.

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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?

None. Don't drink the water if you ever want to collect social security. Mexicans in general do not wash their hands. I've seen hundreds of rich and poor men use the bathroom and not wash their hands afterwards.

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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?

Good but rush hour city center traffic can decrease air quality.

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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?

The best weather in Mexico! Dry and sunny - not hot. The occasional Santa Anna winds can be hot and drying but they're rare.

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Schools & Children:

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

They are okay. I won't name any here, but if your kids have English as a native language, find a school whose purpose is NOT to teach solely English.

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

Depends on the school - the teachers and schools seem to care if they are not that enlightened on how to teach those kids. Most special needs kids go to schools in San Diego if they can.

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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?

Yes, preschools are expensive. We pay about US$2,800 a year for our toddler.

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

Yes, swimming, martial arts, music, soccer.

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Expat Life:

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

Big and good, half the city was born on Medicaid in the U.S.

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

Go out to eat, VIP movie theaters, dinners together.

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

It's okay, not the best. The biggest threat to your kids will be cars. People drive aggressively, even your neighbors will nearly mow you down at 50 mph in front of your home should you stray into the road. Patsies Morelos and Amistad are the two large, green spaces with bouncy castles, animals, bike trails, etc. Galerias has a bouncy castle and skating rink.

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

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

No idea. I think class matters here more than in the U.S. The rich folks here think they can get away with bullying the poor. I have seen some shameful examples of this.

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

El Valle de Guadalupe is the wine region. There is a Baja Med fusion food movement going on.

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

El Valle Guadalupe is the wine region; Mercado Hidalgo, the great restaurants, are in Zona Rio.

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

Tableware.

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

Proximity to a world-class city like San Diego.

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10. Can you save money?

Yes.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

How cold the winters are.

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

I guess.... Whatever, it's okay. It could be a lot better, but the city is poorly administered.


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

Guns, SUVs.

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4. But don't forget your:

Sunglasses Pepto Bismal, pepper spray for stray dogs and muggers.

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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

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