Tijuana, Mexico Report of what it's like to live there - 04/30/14

Personal Experiences from Tijuana, Mexico

Tijuana, Mexico 04/30/14


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


View All Answers

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?

West Coast so a day's drive away.

View All Answers

3. How long have you lived here?

Over a year.

View All Answers

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


View All Answers

Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Houses are nice, yards are small. Neighborhood parties are NOISY. Apartments are also nice but friends have complained of shoddy construction work - bad plumbing, ceilings falling in. Apartments are pretty spacious compared to U.S. big city standards. It seems like it takes 15 minutes to get anywhere - obviously longer if there is traffic or an accident. Roads tend to be indirect to your destination.

View All Answers

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

They seem more expensive - I just shop across the border as the organic selection and prices are better.

View All Answers

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

None - Target is 35 minutes away. Tijuana also has good grocery stores, Home Depot, Walmart, and Costco.

View All Answers

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

Tacos plus drinks for two is about US$10. A bajamed cocina is approximately US$60 for two.

View All Answers

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

Ants and roaches, occasional Black Widow Spider sightings in yards.

View All Answers

Daily Life:

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

U.S. post across the border.

View All Answers

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

Full time is US$400 a month. Nannies can be approximately US$700 a month.

View All Answers

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

Yes, but they are expensive compared to the U.S. And reportedly, they have no childcare.

View All Answers

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?

Don't. We use strictly cash here. I haven't had a bad experience but I do not trust the system given the reputation.

View All Answers

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

I imagine anything - if you cannot find it in Tijuana, you can find it in San Diego.

View All Answers

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

Spanish is helpful, more so than I thought.

View All Answers

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

Yes. There are few smooth sidewalks; but it hardly matters as you drive everywhere.

View All Answers


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

Just the white taxis I think. The buses are old school buses, which is quirky.

View All Answers

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?

Nothing fancy - streets are rough, speed bumps are everywhere. Our sedan is fine but I feel more comfortable in our SUV.

View All Answers

Phone & Internet:

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

Yes, approximately US$40 a month.

View All Answers

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

I use a local one but retained my U.S. plan for when I am across the border. Telcel works okay but I think the data is expensive. The U.S. Mexico plans' data packages are ridiculous in practicality because the data costs are so high.

View All Answers


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?

Not sure - but yes, kennels and vets abound.

View All Answers

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?

I'm not sure.

View All Answers

2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

There are plenty of orphanages and migrant/immigrant groups to volunteer with.

View All Answers

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

I do not see ties on men ever. It's pretty casual overall.

View All Answers

Health & Safety:

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

Crime is concern - it can overshadow your sense of enjoyment in the city. If you exercise street smarts and common sense, you will be okay. We live in a nice neighborhood but with traffic speeding by and people always out and about, I do not feel comfortable walking by myself for exercise. I don't feel that safe here.

View All Answers

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

Allergies have been a pain but otherwise this would be a good place to go to if you have medical problems. Tijuana's health care system seems pretty good but you can get anything treated in San Diego too. Friends of mine are thankful they were here when serious illnesses were discovered and treated.

View All Answers

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?

Overall, not bad. Allergies can be killer though as everything grows in this climate. Air quality at the border can be awful on long-wait days.

View All Answers

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

The climate is fantastic unless you like the rain and snow. Shorter trees means there is a lack of shade so warmer days feel hot. In the winter, the dryness feels so cold and I dream of a day when I can step out of a shower and not instantly freeze from the lack of insulation.

View All Answers

Schools & Children:

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

Parents seem happy with the private preschools and kindergarten. Most parents I know send their elementary school-age kids and older to schools across the border because of bullying or other difficult social situations and because the schools here do not seem to be amendable to working with expat parents.

View All Answers

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

Few accommodations that I know of. All school buildings have stairs and no elevators for instance. I heard parents send their kids abroad if they have special considerations.

View All Answers

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, although from what I understand, no full day options are available. Parents seem happy with the bilingual private preschools.

View All Answers

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

I think there are a variety of programs available.

View All Answers

Expat Life:

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

It's hard to define and make a generalization. There are so so many dual citizens and American expats here. Some love it, some tolerate it. I think morale at the U.S. Consulate is low.

View All Answers

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?

Eat at restaurants and drink. Family is big here, and expats seem to either cross or have bbqs, etc.

View All Answers

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

Yes, although families lack free things to do. The children's museum is really nice, as well as the cultural museum. The beaches are a bit dirty and crowded though and crime has grown in Rosarito. There are few parks without dogs or idlers, and many seem to lack playgrounds. Those that do look worn out. Most people seem to cross the border or entertain in their homes. Singles and couples seem to do the same. You better like being in your car if you are going to live here.

View All Answers

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

I think so.

View All Answers

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

Not that I am aware of.

View All Answers

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

The food is amazing and visiting the Valle de Guadalupe or Puerto Nuevo is a perfect weekend activity.

View All Answers

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

The Valle de Guadalupe is amazing. It is so fun to pack a picnic or splurge and eat at one of the farm-to-table restaurants. The food and wine are delicious as is the craft brewery scene here and across the border.

View All Answers

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

Mercado Hildago has standard Mexican gifts and food.

View All Answers

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

Proximity to San Diego, which is an amazing city. There is great camping, hiking, running and bike riding across the border. Some of the more adventurous types would say the same about baja norte too.

View All Answers

10. Can you save money?

No - it all goes to the gas you expend waiting to cross the border. Even with sentri - the wait can sometimes be 20-30 minutes.

View All Answers

Words of Wisdom:

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

It is really a transit city. There isn't a lot of culture in its appearance - no plaza or old missions or anything. It is not a place you think of being a tourist in unless you plan to visit the restaurant scene.

View All Answers

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

No. I would try to go elsewhere in Mexico - D.F., Guad, even Monterrey. I hear morale is really low at the U.S. Consulate and I found that its hard to make friends. Family seems to bind people to Tijuana - and for many - they live here because it is cheaper and work across the border. So finding community is difficult. San Diego is a fantastic world class city but crossing the border gets so, so, so old and expensive. People are really nice and I love the artisan food culture but that's about it.

View All Answers

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

Wool sweaters and desire to walk to coffee or anything (unless you live in an apartment).

View All Answers

4. But don't forget your:

Common sense and security awareness! And appetite.

View All Answers

5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

View All Answers

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

The Labyrinth of Solitude: The Other Mexico, Return to the Labyrinth of Solitude, Mexico and the United States, the Philanthropic Ogre, New Yorker articles on Tijuana and the Sinaloa Cartel.

View All Answers

Subscribe to our newsletter

New book from Talesmag! Honest and courageous stories of life abroad with special needs.

Read More