Tijuana, Mexico Report of what it's like to live there - 05/31/15

Personal Experiences from Tijuana, Mexico

Tijuana, Mexico 05/31/15

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. 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?

Arizona. About an 8 hour drive.

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3. How long have you lived here?

2011 - 2013

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

Foreign Service Officer

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Most consulate housing is about 20 minutes from the new consulate. Most families are in houses, most with very small to nonexistent yards. Others in high rise apartments on a golf course or nearby. The houses can't really walk to much, but the apartments are on a new trendy strip of restaurants and bars that are walkable.

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

Not less expensive than the U.S. Household items are more expensive and the quality is a lot worse. We bought most of that stuff on the other side.

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

Nada.

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

All you can handle. From you classic chicken and pizza to really great fresh seafood tacos.

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

We had some ant issues. Oh, and black widows.

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Daily Life:

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

P.O. box in through consulate in San Diego.

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

Our maid was US$35 per day twice per week. Nanny was US$700, full time. No one lives in.

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

They are available. There is one at the consulate, and then others vary by quality and cost. We didn't join any.

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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?

You have to watch for fake card scanners. We used the ATM at the consulate and one at a nicer mall area. No issues.

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

Absolutely...In California.

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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?

lots of people speak some English.

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

Probably. This is not a pedestrian friendly city and not much accommodation is made for wheelchairs. Sidewalks are not well maintained, elevators don't always work...

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Transportation:

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

nope.

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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?

Bring something that can take lots of big speedbumps and that you don't mind getting dinged in a parking lot. People drive everything there from luxury vehicles, to SUVs and compact cars.

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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. Fairly fast. Maybe US$60-$70 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?

There is pretty good service. We used the consulate ones.

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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 and Yes.

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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 sure. Probably lots of opportunities in California.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Orphanages, churches, drug addicts, you name it.

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

Business casual at work. Public is fairly casual.

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Health & Safety:

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

We never really felt really unsafe. We didn't expose ourselves either. Keep your head on a swivel in public places, look like you know where you're going, avoid certain parts of town after dark or always. We didn't run or bike in the streets during our time there, but as we were leaving we noticed more and more people doing so.

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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?

Good medical care, and California is right there.

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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?

Decent air quality. If it was bad, we didn't notice any health issues. They do burn a lot of trash sometimes, so that has an impact.

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

There will be allergies.

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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?

So much sun and blue skies, you almost miss the rain (almost).

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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 kids who are older than 2-3 grade go to school in San Diego. But there is a great little bilingual school that our child really liked. I think it goes through 8th grade. The teachers were wonderful and she was totally bilingual by the time we left. Some people left their kids there into grade school and it worked out, but others mentioned that in later posts their kids were behind in English reading, writing and math. Our daughter was only there for pre-K.

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

no experience with that. I think that most kids with special needs take advantage of the proximity to San Diego schools.

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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?

Nannies abound. Prices range depending on the education and experience level. Probably from US$350 - $700. Ours was great. She drove too, which is handy because TJ is NOT a walking city.

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

Not sure. Soccer through school (for boys), and cheerleading for girls.

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Expat Life:

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

Expat community is huge and dispersed. Morale varies.

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

It is probably a good city for all three. Plenty of nice restaurants. The food scene is booming. There is an excellent children's museum in TJ. There are plenty of bars and night life on both sides of the border. There is a very nice VIP movie theatre. Wine country is an hour away, with nice places to stay and pretty good wine too.

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

I think so. Friends we had who were gay seemed to enjoy it. But I can't speak directly to their experience.

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

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

We loved being so close to San Diego. The climate and food in TJ are amazing. People are friendly. Probably the best thing we did was a long road trip down the peninsula. Baja is amazing beautiful and diverse. So very much to see, eat and do.

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

The whole peninsula: Ensenada, Valle de Guadalupe, La Paz, Loreto... A lot of people did the whale watching.

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

not much in Tijuana. It's not known for its crafts. Further south in Mexico, there is a lot.

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

Great climate, 45 minutes from world class beaches in San Diego, good access to the U.S., excellent food, vineyards, touring Baja.

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9. Can you save money?

sure.

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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:

Expectations of the exotic expat life.

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3. But don't forget your:

Open mind. This place turned out to be a great place for us.

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