Tijuana, Mexico Report of what it's like to live there - 03/25/15

Personal Experiences from Tijuana, Mexico

Tijuana, Mexico 03/25/15

Background:

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

No.

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2. How long have you lived here?

Three years.

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

Foreign Service.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Mixture of high rise apartments and singe family homes. Typical commute time is 15-20 minutes. Housing is great.

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

Fresh produce is cheaper in Mexico, while everything else is cheaper in the U.S. Officers tend to do the bulk of their grocery shopping on the U.S. side.

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

Nothing, everything is easily accessible in the U.S.

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

Tons and tons of great restaurants. Tijuana is a foodie haven. Baja med cuisine is to die for. Great roadside taco stands and cheap options as well.

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

None that I have noticed.

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Daily Life:

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

PO box in the U.S. and it's brought over by the mail guys daily.

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

US$35 for 1/2 day of cleaning.

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

Yes and reasonably priced.

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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?

Generally safe and well known banks and establishments. Never use one at a gas station. Some dispense both pesos and US$.

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

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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?

Just the basics, most people speak some degree of English.

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

Yes. There are no requirements for buildings to be ADA compliant and side walks are often full of potholes or non existent.

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Transportation:

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

Taxi libres are safe and fast as are the airport taxis. We are not allowed to take the red group taxis.

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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?

Sedans or SUVs are both fine. It very rarely rains but when it does the streets flood and low riding cars can get stuck. I would avoid any type of vehicle routinely used by narcos.

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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, about US$30 per 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?

Most people carry both a U.S. phone and a Mexican phone. Some Officers can pick up AT&T signals from their apartments.

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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?

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Tons. Many orphanages and migrant shelters.

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

On the dressier side.

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Health & Safety:

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

Narco violence but Americans are not targeted. Generally homicides happen in the impoverished neighborhoods and are gang and drug related. There are infrequent assassinations and assassination attempts within the vicinity of consulate housing.

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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?

There are a few good private hospitals but most people seek medical treatment on the U.S. side.

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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?

The air quality seems find although it is very dusty here

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

Haven't known anyone with allergies here.

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

Perfect weather all the time, 72F degrees every day.

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Schools & Children:

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

Consulate staff tend to send older school age children to school in the U.S.

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

Special needs kids tend to attend school in the U.S.

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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 and reasonably priced.

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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?

Large but dispersed. Morale at post is generally good, most people love living in Tijuana.

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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?

Museums, theater, opera, concerts, shopping, clubs, tequila bars.

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

Good for everyone. Singles will find dating pretty easy on both sides of the border.

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

I'm not sure what the gay scene is like in Tijuana but I have also never heard of anyone who is gay feeling uncomfortable or targeted.

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

Generally no. Mexican culture can be patriarchal at times.

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

Valle de Guadalupe wine country. Guerreo Negro for whale watching. Traveling within Mexico and traveling within souther California, New Mexico and Nevada.

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

Over 100 wineries in the Valle de Guadalupe, about 2 hours south of Tijuana. Best whale watching in the world in Guerrero Negro, about 10 hours south of Tijuana. Easy flights to Cabo and La Paz.

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

Woodwork, art, pottery.

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

Great travel options within Mexico and in southern California. The weather is 72F degrees everyday and can't be beat. Lots of culture on both sides of the border.

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10. Can you save money?

Yes but only if you have no desire to travel. The travel opportunities are so great that people don't tend to save a lot.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

It was much better than I was expecting.

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

Yes

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

Ideas about immigration.

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4. But don't forget your:

Patience and sense of humor.

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations episode on Tijuana. Border Wars on Natgeo. Sin Nombre (English Subtitled).

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

The Tortilla Curtain,

The Bear and the Porcupine: The U.S. and Mexico.

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7. Do you have any other comments?

Tijuana is great and most people are happily surprised when they arrive. Many Officers extend their tours or wish they could stay longer.

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