Living in Tijuana as an American

by wheretheroadforks

At this point, I have been living in Tijuana for over a year. Initially, I decided to move here to save on living expenses. With the average rent in Southern California over $2200 per month, the cost of living was just getting out of hand. By now, I feel like I have gotten to know the city well enough to write about living in Tijuana as an American. In this article, I discuss the best neighborhoods to live, finding an apartment, monthly costs, the visa, safety, money, and much more. I’ll also talk about the benefits and drawbacks of living in Tijuana as well as give some tips to help you get settled and comfortable in the city faster.

For the full, step-by-step guide, check out my eBook: The Complete Guide to Moving to Tijuana.

I’ve also made this short video to outline the main points of the article.

Table of Contents- Living in Tijuana as an American

The Visa: Living in Tijuana Legally

If you plan to stay in Tijuana for more than 7 days at a time, you’ll need to pay for a Forma Migratoria Múltiple (FMM visitors permit). This is basically a tourist visa for Mexico. The cost is 533 pesos (around $25). This document is valid for 180 days and allows you to live and travel anywhere in Mexico.

After living in Tijuana for 180 days, when your FMM visitors permit expires, you’ll have to leave Mexico and pay for a new visitors permit when you re-enter. This gives you a fresh 180 days. 

To get your FMM visitors permit, tell the immigration official who checks your passport that you plan to stay for longer than 7 days. They will send you to a cashier to pay. If you drive across the border, you will have to park on the Mexico side and walk into the immigration office and pay for the FMM. Generally, passports are not checked when driving into Mexico.

You could do without the FMM if you will be crossing at least once per week and not traveling outside of Tijuana. One befit of having the FMM is that you can walk through the Mexican citizens’ line when entering Mexico and just show the agent the card. This saves you time when entering Mexico. 

Tip: Don’t lose your receipt. If you exit Mexico from the southern border or fly out of the country, you’ll need to prove that you already paid or they will try to charge you again. This happened to me when I exited through the southern border to Guatemala.

For more info on the FMM visitors permit, check out my Mexico Visa Guide.

Long Term Visa for Living in Tijuana

If you plan to live in Tijuana long term, you can apply for a Temporary Resident Permit. This document allows you to stay in Mexico for up to 4 years. It is renewable. To apply for a Temporary Residence Permit, you’ll need to visit a Mexican consulate or embassy outside of Mexico. There is an income requirement to be eligible for this visa.  

Commuting Between Tijuana and the United States: Crossing the Border

line of cars to cross from Tijuana to San Ysidro

The line to cross back into the U.S.

There are 2 border crossings in Tijuana. The newer crossing, which was recently renovated, is located to the east and the old crossing is to the west. I prefer to use the west crossing because generally, the lines are shorter. This crossing is open from 6 am to 10 pm. The east crossing is always open. It is about an 8 minute walk from one crossing to the other.

The wait is usually pretty short when walking across the border into the U.S. You are able to use the ‘ready lane’ if you are traveling on a U.S. passport. You do need to plan ahead though. During the holidays I was routinely waiting in line for over an hour to cross.

If you are driving across, there is generally a longer wait. I rarely drive to Tijuana but I have waited around 1.5 hours on average. You can check the wait times on the US Customs and Border website here.

When crossing into Mexico the wait time is usually much shorter. When walking, you’ll simply flash your passport and FMM card to an immigration official. You’ll then pass through customs where you put your belongings through an x-ray scanner. The whole process usually takes 5-10 minutes. When you drive to Tijuana, there is usually no wait. You typically just drive across without stopping.

Sentri Pass

To speed up the process of crossing the border, a special card is available called SENTRI Pass which allows you to cross within minutes. SENTRI Pass holders have a special lane that puts them in the front of the line. Unfortunately, there is around a 3 month wait time to get the card. The process for getting a SENTRI Pass goes as follows:

  1. Create a Trusted Traveler Account through the US Customs and Border Protection website here. 
  2. Complete the application and upload your supporting documents. These include your passport, driver’s license, and permanent residents card if applicable.
  3. Pay service fees. At this time, the application fee is $25. The system cost fee is $82.75. Fingerprint fee is $14.
  4. After submitting everything above, your application will be reviewed. This takes between 1 and 3 months. During that time, Customs and Border Protection will perform a thorough background check through multiple criminal and immigration databases.
  5. If everything comes back clean, you can schedule an in-person interview at the SENTRI enrolment center. 

The SENTRI application process is actually fairly strict. I have a friend who was denied because she was unemployed at the time. She had just moved back to San Diego and wanted to get the application process going.

If you are planning to make this a long term move, the SENTRI pass would be well worth the time and cost. Commuting across the border is the worst part about living in Tijuana. It is just a hassle and you have to allow extra time in case there is a long line to cross. With the SENTRI Pass, you never have to wait more than a few minutes. 

Getting to San Diego from Tijuana

San Diego, California

San Diego, California

Most expats who live in Tijuana work in the San Diego area. Conveniently, the trolley runs from the east border crossing in San Ysidro to downtown San Diego. Tickets cost $2.50 for one way fare or $6 for a day pass. Trolleys leave about every 15 minutes during the day and it takes about 40 minutes to get from the border to San Diego.

I enjoy cycling. Often I will just ride my bike to the border, cross, then take my bike on the trolley to San Diego. Here is my post about traveling from Tijuana to San Diego by bicycle.

A Note on Driving in Tijuana

Having your own car is convenient but also comes with a few hassles and expenses. First, you need to make sure that you are insured for driving in Mexico. Before crossing the border, call your insurance company to add a Mexico policy or purchase daily insurance from one of the booths in San Ysidro. Insurance will protect you if you are involved in an accident in Mexico. For more information, check out my guide: How to Drive to Tijuana.

You’ll also need somewhere to park your car. Most apartment complexes have parking spots available for around $50 per month. Parking on the US side of the border is expensive. Most border lots charge around $20 per day or more. You can park for free at the trolley stations but you must move your car every 24 hours. For a bit more info, check out my guide: How to Park for Free at the Tijuana Border.

Where Should I Live? The Best and Safest Neighborhoods for Living in Tijuana

In this section, I outline each of the most popular Tijuana neighborhoods for expats including downtown, Zona Rio, and Playas de Tijuana. I’ll also outline a few cheaper alternative neighborhoods outside of the city center like soler, 5y10, and Libertad. These areas are affordable and safe for expats as well. 

CECUT Cultural Center of Tijuana

CECUT Cultural Center of Tijuana

Downtown Tijuana

Downtown or Zona Centro is my favorite place to live in Tijuana. Unfortunately, it is also the most expensive so I only spent about a month there. Expect to pay about $500-600 for a small apartment or $250-300 for a room Downtown. The biggest benefit to living downtown is that it is only about a 20 minute walk to the border or 10 minutes in a shared taxi that only costs 10 pesos.

The whole downtown Tijuana area is walkable. Another benefit to living downtown is that it is full of restaurants and clubs and bars to explore as well as delicious street food stands on almost every corner. A supermarket or convenience store is always s just a short walk away. There is also a big police presence in downtown at all hours of the day and night so it is a relatively safe area to live.

Zona Rio

The next area I lived in was Zona Rio. This is a very modern and safe part of the city. It is considered the business district. Here you will find office buildings, hospitals, and expensive hotels. Expect to pay about $500 for a small apartment or $200-300 for a room to live here.

Zona Rio is a bit more spread out so you may want a vehicle or bicycle if you live here but it is still walkable if you like to walk as I do. If you are driving, it is a straight shot to the border from this part of the city. There are also buses that will take you to the border from here.

If you like to eat out, Zona Rio has the best restaurants in the city. Prices are reasonable as well. There are big supermarkets with better prices than downtown. There is also a Costco. All of the American fast food chains such as McDonald’s, Burger King, Carl’s Jr, Little Caesars, and Domino’s are all available. Another popular activity is going to the movies. Tickets cost just 40 pesos during the day and 60 pesos at night. This is a good bargain. Zona Rio feels the most like an American city.

Zona Rio, Tijuana

Zona Rio, Tijuana

Playas de Tijuana

This is the beach town part of Tijuana. Here you will find the boardwalk, some laid back bars, and some of the nicest apartments in the city. Playas is one of the nicer neighborhoods in Tijuana. It is also the most popular part of the city for expats. If you’re looking to find a place with American roommates, check out this neighborhood. 

The only drawback to living here is the fact that it is located a bit far from the border for my taste. Commuting from Playas de Tijuana into San Diego every day would get pretty exhausting unless you have a car. If you want to live near the beach, but can’t afford the astronomical rent prices in California, Playas de Tijuana is for you.

Playas de Tijuana

Playas de Tijuana

5y10

5y10 is the area that I am currently living in. This neighborhood is probably about 6 miles from the border. It takes about 20-30 minutes in a taxi to get downtown from here. The taxi costs 15 pesos. The main benefit of living here is that rent is cheaper. Expect to pay around $300 for an apartment here or $100-250 for a room.

This neighborhood is more middle class. You won’t see many tourists around but it is safe and everyone is friendly. It is a bit noisier because there are some busy streets running through this part of town. All of the same amenities are available here including fast food, supermarkets, and restaurants. I enjoy living here.

Mineral De Santa Fe

I didn’t live here but I looked at an apartment here. It was only $100 per month and was very clean but when I asked the woman who showed me the apartment if it was safe, her face immediately gave me the answer before she even spoke. I just didn’t feel safe in the neighborhood even though everyone I met seemed nice enough.

When I got home, I researched the neighborhood and found that crime rates were high. Also, it was far from any restaurants and stores. The reason I’m including this neighborhood in the list is to show that you can live in Tijuana on a very low budget. Of course, you have to be cautious because some neighborhoods are not safe. If you are on a very tight budget, it may be worth looking into this neighborhood because it is conveniently located in the city. 

Soler

Another popular neighborhood for expats. I haven’t spent much time here but it’s located conveniently fairly near the border and seems like a decent place to live. Next time I move, I’ll probably look into this neighborhood.

Libertad

This neighborhood lies right across the border to the east of the Tijuana River. It is a convenient location for those who plan to cross the border often. Particularly if you want to walk across. It’s not the most beautiful place to live but it is convenient. 

How Much is the Rent in Tijuana?

Most likely, the main reason you’re considering moving to Tijuana is to save on rent. Currently, the average rent in San Diego is an astronomical $2200 per month! That’s unaffordable on an average income. The average rent in Tijuana is less 1/7th of that at around $300 per month for a one-bedroom or studio in a decent neighborhood like Soler, Mineral de Santa Fe, or Libertad.

For $500, you can find a studio or one-bedroom in a nice, centrally located neighborhood like Downtown or Zona Rio. Prices are similar in Playas de Tijuana. This is less than 1/4th of the price of rent of a similar apartment in the San Diego area.

Rent prices in Tijuana vary depending on the neighborhood, amenities, and whether the apartment is furnished or not. With a budget of around $800-1000 per month, you can find a nicely furnished apartment in an expensive neighborhood with a pool, gym, and 24-hour security. 

Average rental prices to expect in Tijuana include:

  • Rent for a room in an apartment in Tijuana– If you don’t mind having roommates, you can find a room in a decent area for $100-$150 per month. If you’d prefer to live in a central area like downtown or Zona Rio, expect to pay $150-$200 per month for a room. 
  • Rent for a studio or one-bedroom apartment in Tijuana- If you’d prefer to have your own place, expect to spend $250-$300 per month in a normal area outside of the city center. In a nicer area, expect to spend $400-$700 per month for a studio or one-bedroom. On this budget, you could live in Zona Rio, downtown, or Playas de Tijuana. 
  • Rent for a 2-3 bedroom apartment or house- In a normal area outside of the city center, expect to spend $400-$600 for a large apart or home. In a nice area, expect to spend around $1000 per month for a 2-3 bedroom home. 

How to Find an Apartment in Tijuana

  • Facebook- This is the best place I have found to look for an apartment in Tijuana. There are several active Facebook groups where people advertise and search for apartments. The biggest one is called ‘renta de casas y departamentos en Tijuana.’ This is where you will find the cheapest apartments being offered online. You can also use this page to find roommates.
  • Walking around a residential neighborhood that you would like to live in and looking for ‘for rent’ signs- This is another good option. Many apartments are not advertised online so this is a good way to find a cheap place to rent. You’ll need to speak some Spanish to do this or have someone call for you if you don’t. Also, if you can, it is best to view the property with a local that knows the rental rates. The landlord may try to overcharge for rent because you are a foreigner. 
  • Craigslist- This is another good place to look for apartments. Craigslist isn’t as popular in Tijuana as in the U.S. so choices here are limited. These are also slightly more expensive in general but it is definitely worth taking a look.
  • Word of mouth- Another good option. Ask your friends and people you meet if they know of any rooms for rent. Maybe their neighbor just moved out or their friend is looking for a roommate.

Monthly Cost of Living in Tijuana

$800-$1000 per month would be a comfortable budget for a single person. With that budget, you’ll be living an average middle-class lifestyle. You’ll have a decent apartment in a good area. You could afford to eat at restaurants and enjoy nights out on occasion. You’ll mostly use shared transportation but could afford the occasional taxi or Uber ride. 

With a budget of around $2500 per month, you’ll live an upper middle-class lifestyle. You could afford to live in a large furnished apartment with a pool and gym. You could afford to pay for private transport and, a cleaning service, and even a cook if you wanted. 

If you’re on a tight budget, you could survive in Tijuana on as little as $300-$500 per month. In this case, you’ll have roommates and cook most of your own meals. You could afford to go to a movie or have a couple of drinks a couple of times per month. You’ll use shared transportation to get around. 

Monthly Cost of Living in Tijuana Breaks Down as Follows

  • Accommodation- $100-$300 per month for a room in an apartment. $400-$500 per month for a decent studio or one bedroom. $1000 for a multi-bedroom home. 
  • Food- If you cook most of my own meals, you can maintain a healthy diet for $100-150 per month. If you like to eat out, you’ll probably spend around $300 per month per person. A couple of tacos and a drink makes for a decent lunch. That will cost you $3-$5. 
  • Transportation- If you don’t have a car, transportation will cost about $30-50 per month to the border with public transport (shared van). A San Diego monthly transit pass costs $72. This allows you unlimited rides on the trolley and non-premium buses. If you take a taxi or uber, expect to spend $5-$10 for a one-way ride across the city. 
  • Entertainment- Tijuana is a great city for going out. Between the incredible craft breweries, nightclubs, and restaurants, there is always something new to try. This expense really depends on your preference. I’ll usually spend about $100 per month going out for a few beers with friends or a nice dinner once in a while.
The U.S. - Mexico border

The U.S. – Mexico border

Temporary Accommodation: Try living in Tijuana Before you Move

Before committing to the move, I recommend you spend some time in the city so you can get an idea of what living in Tijuana is like. After just a week or two, you can get to know the city pretty well and develop a routine.

Temporary accommodation also gives you time for apartment hunting. I always recommend everyone book an Airbnb for a couple of weeks when moving to Tijuana. There are some nice rooms and full apartments available that will be much cheaper than staying in a hotel while you get situated in your new city. You could even stay long term for a discount at many properties.

Another option is to stay in a cheap hotel while searching for an apartment. There are 2 hotels downtown that I recommend.

  • Hotel Suiza- This place is located at Calle Niños Heroes 924, Zona Centro, 22000 Tijuana, B.C. It is a clean, simple hotel. They charge 250 pesos during the week and 300 pesos on weekends for a basic single room.
  • Hotel Colonial- This place is slightly nicer and is located just around the corner from Hotel Suiza. Hotel Colonial is located at Calle Sexta, 1812, Zona Centro, 22000 Tijuana, B.C. I think this place costs about 50 pesos more than Hotel Suiza.

Tijuana also has a couple of hostels that would be a good place to stay temporarily:

  • Lifestyle Hostel- This place is located in Playas de Tijuana. It’s probably the best-rated hostel in the city.
  • Mi Casita de Colores- Another well-rated hostel. Unfortunately, the location isn’t great. 

You can find more information about Tijuana neighborhoods and apartment hunting in my eBook: The Complete Guide to Moving to Tijuana.

How to Move Your Belongings Across the Border to Tijuana

At this point, you’re ready to move your things into your new home so you can start settling in. When crossing the border into Tijuana with all of your things, you will most likely be stopped by customs. They will require you to declare a value of all of your belongings and charge you an import tax on them. The amount you have to pay depends on what you bring with you. New items are taxed at the highest rate. 

There two ways to go about moving your belongings to Tijuana. You can:

Hire a Moving Company to Transport your Belongings to Tijuana

This is the easiest but most expensive option. Moving companies exist in both the San Diego and Tijuana area that specialize in cross border moving services. They will load your belongings into their moving truck and drive them across the border to your new address in Tijuana.

If you have a lot of stuff to move, hiring movers is the best option. The reason is that these guys can help you with the customs paperwork and figuring out import duties. They have experience with this as they do it every day. If you don’t know what you’re doing, you could end up overpaying if you try to do this yourself. 

The best way to find these movers is through Craigslist. They advertise in the moving services section. I recommend this option form most moves. 

Move Your Belongings By Yourself

This is the cheaper method but requires more work on your part. Simply pack up your own vehicle and drive your stuff across the border to your new place.

If you choose to move yourself, you’ll have to deal with customs by yourself. This means that you’ll have to determine the value of your belongings when you cross so you can pay the proper taxes. This sounds easy but can turn into a headache if you don’t know what you’re doing. 

If you don’t have much stuff, you may be able to reduce the amount that you have to pay by making multiple trips. When you cross with just a couple of bags, you’ll just look like a tourist and won’t be charged or even stopped. 

If you’re not moving any furnature or large items, you can just pack a couple of suitcases and walk across the border like any other tourist. That’s what I did. 

Staying Safe While Living in Tijuana

Overall, Tijuana is a fairly safe place to live as long as you aren’t involved in the drug trade and you take a few precautions when walking about. In this section, I give a brief summary of safety in Tijuana. For more info, check out my article: Is Tijuana Safe? Avoiding Common Scams and Crime.

Tijuana River

Tijuana River

Mugging

This is the violent crime that you’re most likely to fall victim to while living in Tijuana. The best way to avoid getting mugged is to take normal precautions like avoiding walking around too much after dark and trying not to flash money, jewelry, or valuables while out and about. 

Another piece of advice that I can give is to avoid walking between the border and downtown after dark. It is safe in daylight but I have heard of muggings happening on bridges that cross over the river and freeway at night. There is heavy police presence all over the city but they can’t see what is going on on the top of a pedestrian bridge. Walking around within the three neighborhoods that I have lived in at night is generally safe.

Pickpocketing

Another crime that you’ll have to be careful of is pickpocketing. I fell victim to this crime one night while walking home alone from a bar after having a few too many drinks. After leaving the bar at about 3 am, a prostitute approached me. I told her that I wasn’t interested and tried to walk away. Somehow, she got her hand into my pocket and snatched my phone while I was trying to get away from her. Luckily, I was able to get my phone back. To find out how, read about my Tijuana pickpocketing experience here.

Tip: Use a money belt to hide your cash, cards, and passport from muggers and pickpockets- This reduces your loss if you do fall victim to a crime. I have the Eagle Creek Silk money belt. I’ve used the same one for the past 8 years and really like it. Check out my full review here.

Many travelers carry a decoy wallet while using a money belt. Just fill it with a few dollars and a couple of old credit cards. Muggers will think it’s all you have and leave you alone. If a pickpocket gets it, you haven’t lost much. 

Violent Crime in Tijuana

2019 is turning out to be one of the most violent years in Tijuana history. While living in Tijuana witnessed one violent crime. You can read my story about being inside a Tijuana bar during an armed robbery here. Tourists are not targets for violent crime in Tijuana but it is possible to be caught in the crossfire.

For more information, check out my full article on safety: Is Tijuana Safe? Avoiding Common Scams and Crime.

Getting Around Within Tijuana

If you choose not to drive in the city, there is an extensive network of shared taxis and buses that can get you anywhere in the city. One way fare generally costs about 10-15 pesos depending on where you are going.

Uber is also available. It costs about 100-150 pesos to get all the way across the city or 40-50 pesos from the border to Zona Rio.

The city is also quite walkable so when you just want to get groceries or go to a movie or restaurant, you most likely can get there for free by simply walking.

Another option is to cycle around the city. Traffic can be heavy so I don’t really like to bike in Tijuana too much but it is an option. Drivers generally move over for cyclists, not passing too close but rough roads and pollution make riding less pleasurable.

For more info on transportation within Tijuana check out my Ultimate Guide to Visiting Tijuana

Money while Living in Tijuana

One hassle of living in Tijuana is having to carry 2 currencies. Dollars are accepted pretty much everywhere in Tijuana but it is generally cheaper to use pesos.

Getting pesos is easy. There are ATMs and currency exchanges on nearly every corner. If you are making a bigger purchase it is best to ask the price in dollars as well. Depending on the exchange rate, it may be cheaper or more expensive. It doesn’t hurt to ask.

To avoid ATM withdrawal fees and currency exchange fees, you can read my guide on the best debit card and credit card to use internationally.

Healthcare While Living in Tijuana

Another benefit to living in Tijuana is access to affordable, quality healthcare. If you get sick, you can visit a clinic for just 60 pesos. A dental check-up costs less than half of what it would in the US.

To read more about healthcare in Tijuana, check out my step-by-step guide: Healthcare in Mexico for Americans: Visiting a Clinic, Going to the Dentist, and Buying Prescriptions in Tijuana.

Insurance While Living in Tijuana

Speaking of healthcare, another thing to consider while living in Tijuana is that your US health insurance most likely won’t cover you while you’re in Mexico. Even though healthcare is much cheaper in Mexico, you may want to consider purchasing travel insurance so you are covered in case of a catastrophe.

I have always used World Nomads and have had good luck with them. They can cover you in the event of injury, medical emergency, or even theft. They even have plans for Americans living abroad. For more information and a free quote, you can check out my travel insurance page.

Do You Need to Speak Spanish to Live in Tijuana?

No, you don’t need to speak any Spanish to live here but it will certainly come in handy. My Spanish is better than the average gringo but I still have trouble understanding some people. I am able to get my point across in most situations just fine though. Many people living in Tijuana speak English or have lived in the U.S. so you can get along without Spanish.

To help you get started learning, I would recommend you work your way through the free apps Duolingo and Memrise. I also like to use the program Anki to make flashcards of new words that I learn every day. I like watching movies in Spanish with Subtitles to practice. Reading books in Spanish is also good practice. You could also simply take Spanish lessons if you have the budget. 

My Thoughts on Living in Tijuana

Tijuana a great city. Unfortunately, most people think of it as a dusty, crime-filled border town. It is so much more than that. After all, Tijuana is the 6th largest city in Mexico with well over a million people living in it.

Personally, I’ve fallen in love with Tijuana. People here are friendly, the nightlife is good, and there are some excellent restaurants. In the time that I’ve lived here, the city has really improved with nice new bars and restaurants opening up everywhere.

Most importantly, Tijuana is close enough to the U.S. that you can cross the border every day to work if you work in the greater San Diego area. Overall, I have enjoyed my time living in Tijuana.

If you have found this guide helpful, consider purchasing my eBook-The The Complete Guide to Moving to Tijuana. It includes 50 pages of information covering everything you need to know about making the move to Tijuana. 

Have you already made the move? Let me know about your experience in the comments!

More Tijuana Guides from Where The Road Forks
Disclosure: Please note that some of the links in this post are affiliate links, including links from the Amazon Serivices LLC Associates Program. At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you make a purchase through these links. I only recommend products and services that I use and know. Thank you for reading!

49 comments

Ashley August 27, 2018 - 9:05 pm

Wow, Im so happy I found this. Im moving next month and although I’ve already made the decision to move its nice to hear success stories. This will be very new for me but exciting.

Reply
wheretheroadforks August 29, 2018 - 3:57 am

Good luck with the move Ashley!

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DBG August 28, 2018 - 6:31 pm

Many thanks for this article. I am living in the US and have decided to move to TJ and am concerned with safety. I do go alot and feel safe but I always hear horrible stories.

Reading this puts me a bit more at ease.

Reply
wheretheroadforks August 29, 2018 - 3:47 am

Yeah, there are a lot of horrible things in the news but I feel perfectly safe here. If you haven’t already, you an read my article about safety in TJ here

Reply
Jocelyn Andrade September 5, 2018 - 2:09 am

I’m making this big move soon,.
But I’m a bit concerned about employment searching in the US. How do you let your employer know about your residency?

Reply
wheretheroadforks September 5, 2018 - 6:45 am

Good question! It would depend on the type of job but in general I’d say just use a P.O. box or a friend’s or family’s address. I wouldn’t tell them that you are living in Mexico.

Reply
Kim October 3, 2018 - 10:21 pm

Thank you for this!

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ce November 16, 2018 - 6:12 pm

How interesting! I’d always heard it is not a good place. I’m glad to get another opinion.

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wheretheroadforks November 16, 2018 - 10:02 pm

Yeah, Tijuana is really turning itself around. It’s turning into a really pleasant city.

Reply
Iwanna Knowmore December 25, 2018 - 1:39 pm

Hi, just came across your website. I’m curious, your story about the pickpocket/prostitute. You mentioned a few times about the heavy police presence in TJ, which implies it being safer. But in your pickpocket story you said the woman wanted to call the police and you later learned that this was a scam that would have cost you more had she been able to involve the police.

Are the police corrupt there? If so, how does having a “heavy police presences” in TJ make it safer if the local police are corrupt? Thank you.

Reply
wheretheroadforks December 25, 2018 - 2:37 pm

Hi there, great question. In my mind, crime can be divided into two categories: violent and non-violent. Tijuana police won’t be too helpful with a non-violent crime like a pickpocketing or petty theft, for example. Where they will be helpful is with violent crime. They will do their best to protect the people from muggings and shootings, etc. That is where having a heavy police presence makes the city safer, I believe.

There is corruption in the Tijuana police force but not like there used to be. I don’t have much experience in dealing with the police. I have friends who have been searched and stopped for bribes but I think this is much less common than it once was.

Reply
Tommy December 30, 2018 - 10:10 am

Hey, I really appreciate your articles. They’re informative and anxiety easing.

I would like to hear about the/your actual process of physically moving your stuff from San Diego to Tijuana. How did you go about it?

Reply
wheretheroadforks December 30, 2018 - 11:46 pm

Hi Tommy, good question! I answer this more in-depth in my eBook but I’ll sum it up here. You have several options for moving your things. There are moving companies in San Diego that specialize in cross-border moves. They have a truck that they drive across the border with your belongings. If you have access to a vehicle, you can just load it up, drive across, and move it yourself or with friends. I, personally, don’t have a lot of belongings. I just loaded up my backpack and a suitcase and walked across. Hope that helps. Thanks for reading my articles. I’m glad you find the info useful.

Reply
Bonifacio March 4, 2019 - 11:11 am

I am a permanent resident in Mexico and wonder if I can come back to Mexico by walking without my passport. Does the INM check my passport or passport card other than my Mexican resident card when I walk through the border into Mexico?

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wheretheroadforks March 4, 2019 - 12:11 pm

I’m not 100% sure. When you go to cross, there are 2 lines. One for residents and one for non-residents. When you walk through the residents line, they usually don’t check documents. You just walk right through. Occasionally they’ll stop someone if they look suspicious. I believe they’d let you cross no problem with your Mexican resident card but I’m not positive. You will have trouble crossing back to the US without a passport or passport card though. Hope that helps.

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Cesar Toscano July 17, 2019 - 7:09 am

Do you know if the area where la rioja and bonaterra is safe?

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wheretheroadforks July 17, 2019 - 11:17 am

I just looked up the area on the map. I’m not really familiar with it so I can’t say for sure.

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David Elsen July 28, 2019 - 4:44 pm

Where is the zona 5 y 10 ? You mentioned you liked that neighborhd. Does the Mex. police, as in American cities, publish crime incidence maps? Am guessing a big no on this one. Was trying to determine safety of your above named neighborhood plus the Otay area at the east crossing.

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wheretheroadforks July 28, 2019 - 5:15 pm

5y10 is a plaza located here. I’m not aware of any crime incidence maps for Tijuana. 5y10 is kind of a working class neighbohood. I’m not too familiar with the Otay area. I believe it’s pretty popular with expats though.

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Paty August 3, 2019 - 9:34 am

Hi, I have a question. I recently made this move from Utah, and I’ve been having a bit of trouble finding employment. What is your advise on this, and what areas are typically the best in the San Diego area?

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wheretheroadforks August 3, 2019 - 6:19 pm

Good question. The answer really depends on your field, experience, and level of education. I would recommend looking for something as close as possible to one of the border crossings to make your commute shorter and easier. Working within walking distance of the trolley would be convenient if you don’t plan to drive. Because you can get by on such little money in Tijuana, you could even live on a part-time income.

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Eugenio August 18, 2019 - 4:25 am

Hi, do you currently work in Tijuana? My wife and I are thinking of moving there (I’m mexican, she’s american) while we process my green card since she could work in San Diego. I would be working in Tijuana though, probably for myself but if you have any advice on coworking spaces, and the job scene in Tijuana I’d love to hear it!

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wheretheroadforks August 18, 2019 - 9:16 am

Hi there, I don’t work in Tijuana. I’m in Mexico on an FMM visitors permit. It only allows me to live here, not work. I’m not too familiar with the Tijuana job market. I work in the San Diego area a few days per week. The only other work I do is on this website which I do mostly in my apartment. I know there are a few coworking spaces in the city but I haven’t tried any of them out.

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Eugenio August 18, 2019 - 9:48 am

Got it, thanks for explaining that! And for all the other info on your site, it’s very helpful

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bob September 10, 2019 - 3:03 pm

hi, I have a question. I know you can get temporary visa FM# to live in Mexico, but can I use tourist visa for180 days. and repeat it continuously? I would go back to US say at 170 days and then come back and buy a tourist visa for another 180 days. is that allowed? Because if I can do that then I can stay in Mexico for more than 180 allowed the first time, Because then I can live in Tijuana for a year or two if I wanted to.

Also, in that way, I could lease an apartment for first 180 days in Tijuana, and then can come back after 180 days and continue to live until my lease is up. and then repeat it if wanted to.

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wheretheroadforks September 10, 2019 - 6:48 pm

Good question. Yes, you can continue buying a new FMM visitors permit every 180 days. Every time you get a new FMM, you’ll pay the 533 peso fee. Plenty of expats live in Mexico long term and just make a visa run every 6 months to extend their stay. Alternatively, you can go to the nearest Mexican embassy or consulate and apply for a temporary residency visa. This allows you to stay in Mexico for up to 4 years. This visa has a few requirements you must meet including an income requirement. For most people, just renewing the FMM every 180 days is the best option.

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Bob October 1, 2019 - 10:57 pm

Hi do you know if La Mesa is safe and livable area? Isn’t it close to 5y10. I read there that many Chinese people live here, is that true. Is there is Chinatown also?

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wheretheroadforks October 2, 2019 - 12:06 pm

I just looked it up on the map. La Mesa is right across the street from 5y10. I’ve walked by that area and it seems like it would be a decent neighborhood. It’s near a major street called Blvrd Federico Benítez López where you can catch easily catch a minibus to downtown or other parts of the city. The only problem I can think of that you may have there is road noise. La Mesa is near two big boulevards.

I don’t know about the Chinese population. There are quite a few Chinese people living in Tijuana. Maybe they live in La Mesa. There are a lot of Chinese restaurants and businesses around the city but there’s not really a Chinatown that I know of in Tijuana. I believe Mexicali has a small Chinatown. I haven’t been there yet but I hope to visit soon.

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Roger Reed November 29, 2019 - 1:07 am

I absolutely loved this piece by you. Thank you. I have been going to Tijuana regularly since before the 2016 election and was there on Election Day wondering if I should even go back home or just set up shop there. LOL. Plan to retire there but I still have another 8 years to go. Made quite a few friends and even met the love of my life down there. Watching that movie Miss Bala was like watching memories of my own like Playas near the bullring for excellent deep fried lobster, Revolucion Ave and the Cultural Center. One of my favorite things is the body shops. I hooked up with the 101 body shop and have had 5 cars painted by them. It is a long drive from Sacramento but the work done at that price makes it worth it. Cheap bus rides to Ensenada on the weekend are nice. We took a trip to Tecate and stayed at santuario diegueno hotel and was treated like royalty. Locally in Tijuana I love Hotel Caesar. My main place but now a little pricey. No sweat, Hotel Catalina is a block away, owned by the same people and very clean and cheap for a room. $35. I asked my GF about the area you mentioned you live in and she said it the carrousel. The same area as Sabor de Mole. I have eaten there twice. The buffet is the BOMB!!!!

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wheretheroadforks November 30, 2019 - 4:55 pm

Thanks for reading. The Tijuana body shops are great. My dad’s van was damaged in a fender bender a few years back. He drove it down and had had the body work done in Tijuana for a fraction of the price that he was quoted in California. I’ll have to try out Sabor del Mole. I love a good buffet.

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mark January 7, 2020 - 5:42 pm

I live in north county San Diego, and I’ve been to TJ for dental work and was satisfied. I’ve been googling around trying to find a forum where I can ask about other services that are worth going to TJ for. In particular, I’d like to have some clothes tailored. Any recommendations on websites or forums for these kinds of questions? Any english language facebook groups that cover cross border topics? Thanks

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wheretheroadforks January 7, 2020 - 6:06 pm

Good question but I don’t know of any. A forum like that would be helpful though. My only suggestion would be to use Google translate to read reviews of tailors in Tijuana.

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Mark January 8, 2020 - 1:34 pm

I checked TJ yelp, and took down a few recommendations. There is a need for some kind of ex-pat forum for these kinds of questions. The one or two I’ve found on the web aren’t very active. Do you have any thoughts on other types of services that are worth crossing the border to save some $? I’ve heard people mention having auto repair and body work done in TJ for the savings. I’ve also thought about getting a cheap (legitimate) massage next time I’m down there. Thanks!

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wheretheroadforks January 8, 2020 - 3:49 pm

Yes, you can get some good deals on auto repair. My dad had some body work done on his work van. He saved a lot of money but the work was just ok. He probably didn’t do much research before picking a shop. He also got a great deal on new tires.

People also travel to Tijuana for dental and healthcare. I visited a clinic when I had an infection around my eye and got some antibiotics for just a few dollars. If you take any medications, you can often save money by buying them at a Tijuana pharmacy. Tijuana is also a popular place to go for cosmetic surgery.

You can also bring back some alcohol and tobacco products duty-free. I think you can bring 1 liter of alcohol and 200 cigarettes. You can get some great buys on tequila and rum. Some foods are permitted as well. If you’re into fishing, you can take a sportfishing trip from Ensenada much cheaper than from San Diego.

I think massages and tailoring are good ideas as well. I’m sure you’ll save some money. This is a great question. I’m going to try to think of more goods and services that are cheaper in Tijuana and put together an article about it.

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Gary January 24, 2020 - 8:04 am

This is awesome. It is one of the most comprehensive blogs I have read. I live and work in downtown San Diego, but have been dating someone who lives in Tijuana. I only have to go into work 3 days a week on average (can do most work from home) so I have been getting ready to make the move to la playa area. I am just trying to figure out the best means of commuting. I am thinking the trolley to downtown is probably best vs. driving.

Thank you for the great information

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Gary January 24, 2020 - 8:13 am

This is the most comprehensive blog I have ever seen on this topic. Thank you so much for the info. I live and work in downtown San Diego. I have been dating a Mexican from the Tijuana for quite some time. We are planning on moving in together, and thinking the best situation would be la playa area. I do have the ability to do most of my work from home, so that I only need to commute to downtown San Diego 2 to 3 days a week on average. Do you think for that I would be best off using the trolley from San Yesidro?

Thank you again for the great info.

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wheretheroadforks January 24, 2020 - 3:08 pm

Thanks for reading! Glad you found the info useful. I think the trolley would be a good choice but there are some pros and cons. On the positive side, you won’t have to deal with the hassle of driving in Mexico. Taking the trolley is cheaper than driving as well. The only problem is that Playas de Tijuana is kind of far from the border. I think it’s a little less than 10 miles. With traffic, it will add a decent amount of time to your commute. You’ll have to take a bus or taxi on the Mexico side, cross the border on foot, then take the trolley into downtown San Diego. Driving would probably be more convenient. Having said that, I think taking the trolley would be manageable if you’re commuting just 2-3 days per week. Living somewhere closer to the border like Zona Rio or downtown would be more convenient but not as pleasant as living near the beach. Hope this helps!

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Angelica May 16, 2020 - 5:50 am

Hello! I noticed this type of living is best for singles. Any advice for a family with two little ones? I would like for my children to continue going to school in US. I know I can use employment for school zone. Also, My husband and I have duo citizenship, US and MX. Do we still need visiting visa?

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wheretheroadforks May 16, 2020 - 2:30 pm

Good question! I agree that living in Tijuana probably works better for singles or couples without kids. Having said that I think you could make it work with kids. The biggest problem would be getting them to school and picking them up every day. They couldn’t just walk or take the school bus. You’d probably have to drive them yourself. If you’re crossing to go to work anyway, it might not be that big of a deal. Maybe when they’re older they could make the trip themselves with public transport but I’m not sure if it’s possible for people under 18 to cross the border without a parent.

As for the visa, you won’t need to worry about it if you have Mexican citizenship. Your passport or ID card is all you’ll need. If you decide to make the move, let me know how it goes. I’d be interested to hear about your experience living in Tijuana with kids and working in the US.

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Ayanna June 28, 2020 - 8:55 pm

Hi, your blog is really helpful. I will be renting an AirBnB in Tijuana for 14-30 days. I’m traveling by Uber from N.County San Diego. Aside from my passport and drivers license is there anything more you recommend? Can my Uber driver take me straight to my accommodations? Do I have to do any paperwork upon arrival.
Thanks for all the information.

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wheretheroadforks June 29, 2020 - 11:40 pm

Your San Diego Uber driver won’t be able to drive you across the border. I believe that service was available in the past was discontinued. You can take an Uber to the border, cross on foot, then get another Uber once you get to Tijuana.

All you need to cross is your passport. Upon arrival, you’ll have to fill out a short form called the FMM. This is like a tourist card. It asks for your name, date of birth, how long you’re staying, and some other general info. You get the form at immigration. Since you’re staying longer than 7 days, you’ll be asked to pay a 500 peso fee for the FMM. This is all handled in the immigration building. The official will send you to a window to pay then you’ll go back and get your passport stamped. The whole process takes only around 10 minutes.

After you exit the immigration building in Tijuana, you’ll follow a path for about a block or two until you arrive at a street. There you can arrange another Uber to pick you up or you can catch a taxi. From there, the driver can take you directly to your Airbnb. Hope this helps.

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translate August 6, 2020 - 10:45 pm

Great post.

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wheretheroadforks August 7, 2020 - 1:12 pm

Thanks

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KatDaddi August 12, 2020 - 11:31 am

LOVE THIS POST!!!!!!! Here in TJ now, the they way things have changed with all of the new construction happening, we have never felt safer! The neighborhood breakdown and recommendations are extremely helpful! I have been coming back to back during COVID for overdue dental work (Dr. De La Vega), and veterinary services for my pooch (Dra Lourdes at El Club de Nana is AMAZING BTW), between these two services I have saved upwards of $7K-10K. Since things will probably be closed a lot longer definitely looking at coming here for the next 6 months or longer. Although YELP isn’t as popular here, Google Maps has been my savior and has allowed me to create reviews for stellar businesses that people aren’t aware of! Appreciate you taking your time out to create free content like this for us! Hopefully you can create a EXPAT meetup soon! :.)

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wheretheroadforks August 15, 2020 - 7:38 am

Thanks for reading. Glad you found the info useful. I agree that the city definitely feels safer than it used to. I’ve been coming to TJ since I was a kid and the city has really improved over the past few years. An expat meetup is a great idea. Hopefully we can put something like that together in the future when things get back to normal

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RJ September 10, 2020 - 7:20 pm

I was looking into getting the Temporary Resident Visa, and apparently there are 3 types: Work Visa, Student Visa, and Family Visa. If I am working in the US rather than MX, not a student, and no family in TJ, does that mean I cannot apply for a Temporary Resident Visa? Isn’t this what many people do – move to TJ to save on rent but work in US? Do you have any info on passing the Interview? Thanks for this resource!

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wheretheroadforks September 13, 2020 - 8:52 pm

Most Americans living in TJ enter on a visitor’s permit, which is like a tourist visa. These cost 500 pesos and are valid for 180 days. It allows you to stay in Mexico but not work in Mexico. You can enter and leave as you like. When the 180 days is up, you can just buy a new one. If Mexico decides to crack down on this, then you’ll need a temporary residence permit.

If you’re not eligible for a work, student, or family visa, there is another option where you show a certain amount of income or savings. I don’t know exactly how much they want to see. I think it’s around $1400 per month income from outside of Mexico or $23000 in savings. This is how many retirees stay in Mexico long term.

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RJ September 10, 2020 - 7:30 pm

Would it make sense to first apply for the Temporary Resident Visa before finding an apartment in TJ, then once approved, find and lease an apartment in TJ, and then after obtaining a TJ address, bring it in to turn into a Temporary Resident Card?

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wheretheroadforks September 13, 2020 - 8:55 pm

I would recommend you get a visitors permit on arrival and stay for a few months before applying for the temporary resident visa. That way, you’ll know if you enjoy living in Tijuana. If you decide that you like it and you want to make the move more pertinent, you can then apply for the temporary residency permit. This way, you don’t waste too much time on the visa if you decide that you don’t enjoy living in TJ.

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