Day trip from San Diego to Tijuana
March 14, 2019 11:33 AM   Subscribe

I've lived in San Diego for a few years but have never been to Mexico. Friends are visiting who want to check out TJ. Please advise on logistics and what to see and do for a few hours south of the border!

The visiting friends include one Spanish speaker (I know zero Spanish), though I'm not sure how important that is. We like art and food and such and don't like long lines to get back into the country, crime, getting sick from bad water, etc. I'm fine with just going down there for a few hours. We are more day people than nightlife people anyway and not big drinkers. So in particular what I want to know is:

1. It looks like the best way to go is to take the trolley down to San Ysidro and then walk over. Agree/disagree? Any tips on this part?
2. What stuff on the Mexico side of the border is easily walkable and enjoyable?
3. Is it ok to eat food and drinks and such or are we going to get sick? (Sorry if this is a dumb question but we don't know anything about this...)
4. Any preference as far as day of the week we go? Choices are Sunday, Monday, or Tuesday.
5. Anything else we should know? I just need, like, a 101-level, explain-it-to-me-like-I'm-5 overview of everything to know about going from SD to TJ and back that's current for 2019.
posted by atruesock to Travel & Transportation around Tijuana, Mexico (4 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Haven't been down there in quite some time, but unless things have changed there isn't much to do right at the border after you cross. Take a cab to the Avenida de Revolucion, which is where the bars, restaurants, and shops are. Plus a Tijuana taxi ride is an experience in itself.

I never had any issue with food or drinks there, though it's not a bad idea to avoid tap water due to sanitation issues. But if it comes in a bottle you should be ok. I'd also avoid street food, restaurants are a better bet.

Mostly you get people shopping for bargains (I've gotten good leather goods there), people looking for a deal on steak and lobster, and SD kids 18-21 partying due to the lower drinking age. There's jai alai down at the end of the street, which is fun to watch and you can gamble on if you want. Avoid the strip clubs, they are profoundly depressing.

Sunday will have a lot of tourists there with you, but it will likely be slow on Monday or Tuesday.
posted by InfidelZombie at 12:17 PM on March 14, 2019 [1 favorite]

So long as you don't mind the Reddit cooties, this first post from r/tijuana is pretty good. The guy is the TJ mod and does TJ tours.

1. Trolley is fine but slow. If you want you can drive and park at the border. Both are fine.
1a. Blue line is what goes to San Ysidro. Generally you'll want to transfer at the 12th and Imperial stop if you're starting on one of the other lines. Look at the map.
2. I don't go down a ton, but have been accompanying a friend who needs a lot of dental work lately. If you just have a few hours, follow the guide in the Reddit post, walk to the arch, cruise down Revolution, pick a cool place to eat (r/tijuana has many suggestions), grab a cab/uber back to the border.
3. You're fine. The food is great.
4. I'd avoid Sunday.
5. They'll (probably) check your passports on the way into Mexico. They might try to make you pay for the visitor's visa, just tell them you're coming down to TJ for lunch and you don't need it. Everything is well-marked. Most people you'll encounter will speak English. Everywhere takes dollars. The major cell phone carriers work in Mexico, which makes Uber the easiest way to get around. Don't do anything you wouldn't do in East Village and you'll be fine.
posted by booooooze at 12:21 PM on March 14, 2019

The food is great, but don't drink tap water or get ice in your drink. Bottled water is fine!
posted by pazazygeek at 1:46 PM on March 14, 2019

It's been a while, but I used to go to TJ kind of a lot (I went to boot camp and Navy A-school in SD, so it was close). As InfidelZombie has pointed out, the Ave. de la Revolucion is the main commercial strip near the border, and is probably where you're going to want to spend much of your time. I never took a taxi in TJ, so I can't attest to the experience; I always walked to the AdlR, over a big ass bridge, stopping at a few places here and there to grab a beer or a taco.

I got Montezuma's revenge from a street taco in TJ once, and it was worth every excruciating, debilitating cramp I subsequently endured. Best taco I'd ever had - It was so good, in fact, that I got two tacos from the same cart the next time I went, and yes they made me just as sick, but it was worth it. I cannot suggest you do the same, but I am saying off-the-beaten-path TJ can be a hell of a mixed bag (some good, some bad - got arrested on a TJ side street once, too. Bribed the Federales to let me go. Here's to hiding mixed denominations of bills on various parts of your person).

That said, I did go down to TJ a few times in the early morning, before most anything was open. Mariachis sliding home from long nights, piping-hot street churros, scant crowds wandering the streets to start their days, breakfast joints serving busy people: a much more human and personable place than it eventually becomes in the full swing of the evening.

TJ is fun. Keep your wits about you, stay safe.
posted by Pecinpah at 6:20 PM on March 14, 2019 [1 favorite]

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