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Tijuana Police Corruption: How to Avoid Paying Bribes

Tijuana police corruption has been a serious problem for decades. It is not uncommon for a Tijuana police officer to stop tourists and demand that they pay a bribe or ‘mordida’ in Spanish. This can happen while you’re driving around town or simply walking down the street.

In this guide, I outline Tijuana police corruption and explain how it works. I’ll also share some tips to help you avoid paying a bribe if you do get stopped by a corrupt police officer while visiting Tijuana. Finally, I’ll explain how you can reduce your chances of getting stopped in the first place.

Police officers in Mexico
Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure policy for details.

At this point, I have been living in Tijuana for about 2 years. I have been stopped by the police on a couple of occasions. On one occasion, I was able to get out of it. On another occasion, I had to pay. Luckily, I wasn’t carrying much cash. In this guide, I’ll share my experience.

You can’t completely avoid falling victim to corrupt police in Tijuana but you can reduce the risk by taking some simple precautions and knowing what to do if you get stopped. If you’re prepared and know what to expect and how to behave, the police interaction will go much smoother. You might save some money too. This guide focuses on Tijuana but much of the info applies to other parts of Mexico as well. Police corruption is an issue all over the country.

Table of Contents

The arch in downtown Tijuana

How Tijuana Police Corruption Works

Tijuana police corruption exists in a number of forms. As a tourist, the most common form of police corruption you’re likely to encounter is an officer stopping you and soliciting a bribe.

Basically, a corrupt officer will pull you over while driving or stop you on the street, accuse you of committing a crime, then tell you that you need to pay a fine (bribe) in cash. This can happen pretty much anywhere in the city at any time of day.

In this section, I’ll outline exactly what to expect during a police stop in Tijuana including how the police may stop you, reasons an officer might stop you, and what happens during a police stop.

Getting Stopped By the Police in Tijuana While Driving or Walking Around

The police interaction in Tijuana can begin in a number of ways. If you’re driving, the officer will perform a standard traffic stop. They will turn on the lights and possibly the siren on their cop car and pull you over, just like any other traffic stop.

Sometimes state police officers set up roadblocks and stop everyone who passes. Sometimes they perform random inspections. This is common on highways. Occasionally, an officer may stand by your parked car and wait until you return.

A police car in Tijuana

When you’re stopped, the officer usually asks to see your passport, FMM tourist permit or visa, car registration, and your driver’s license. They’ll also tell you why you were stopped.

If you’re walking down the street, the officer may approach you on foot and tell you to stop. If they’re driving, they could roll down their window and motion for you to come to talk to them.

Officers sometimes stand on a street corner and perform random searches. This happens in touristy areas such as Zona Centro and Zona Norte. A particularly bold officer may grab you by the arm and forcefully demand that you stop walking and follow them to their cop car.

After stopping you, the officer will tell you why you were stopped. They may demand to see your passport and visa or FMM visitor’s permit. They may also insist on patting you down or searching your pockets, backpack, purse, or wallet.

Reasons A Tijuana Police Officer Might Stop You

Tijuana police can pull you over for a wide range of reasons. You can get stopped by a corrupt officer even if you did absolutely nothing wrong. The officer will simply make up a reason for stopping you. They will usually tell you that that you committed a serious crime and that you’re in big trouble. Of course, you can also get stopped legitimately if you committed a violation.

If the officer pulled you over while driving, they will accuse you of committing a traffic violation. For example, they may claim that you were speeding, that you ran a red light, or that you made an illegal turn. They could tell you that you were driving without a seat belt or using your phone while driving. They could wait by your parked car and tell you that you parked illegally. In some cases, they could also accuse you of a more serious crime like driving under the influence. They may accuse you of carrying an illegal substance in your car and search your car for contraband.

If you’re stopped while walking down the street, the officer could accuse you of public intoxication. They could accuse you of jaywalking or trespassing. They could accuse you of possessing an illegal substance and insist on searching you. Alternatively, they could also accuse you of being in the country illegally and ask to see your passport and visa or visitor’s permit.

You could also be stopped simply because you’re a tourist. Corrupt Tijuana police officers tend to target tourists. They do this for several reasons. First, they know that tourists are more likely to be carrying large amounts of cash. It’s also easier for them to intimidate tourists because tourists don’t know the laws or their rights in Mexico. Many tourists don’t know the language either. All of this makes it easier for a corrupt police officer to take advantage of tourists than locals.

An officer could also stop you for a crime that you did commit, like a traffic violation. For example, maybe you were speeding or maybe you made an illegal u-turn. Maybe you were caught texting while driving. The police could take that as an opportunity to solicit a bribe from you.

An officer could also stop you while walking around intoxicated. Many tourists come to Tijuana and drink too much. After stopping you, the officer may tell you that you committed a major violation and that you need to pay a big fine.

Tijuana, Mexico

What Happens During a Police Stop in Tijuana?

The officer usually begins the interaction acting professionally. If you’re pulled over while driving, they’ll ask to see your driver’s license, registration, and possibly proof of Mexican auto insurance. If you’re stopped on foot, they may ask to see your passport and visa or FMM visitor’s permit. They will also tell you why they stopped you.

Oftentimes, the officer will tell you that the crime you committed is very serious. Even if you were stopped for something minor like running a stop sign, parking illegally, or jaywalking. This is done to scare you into believing that you’re really in trouble with the law.

At this point, the interaction can go a couple of different ways. If the officer is corrupt, they will imply that you can settle the matter there and then by paying a fine in cash. Some officers may just tell you an amount to pay to make the problem go away. In other words, they will ask you to pay a bribe.

Usually, the officer will be discreet about this. After all, they are committing a crime and risking their job by soliciting a bribe.

If you act hesitant, the officer may try to convince you that paying the fine in cash is legitimate. They could pretend to make a phone call to a superior or write your address down and tell you that you’ll receive a receipt in the mail. This is a lie.

A bold officer may simply demand that you hand over your wallet. They will take what they think is reasonable (usually most, but not all, of your cash).

If you refuse to pay the bribe, the officer will begin threatening you. They may tell you that you committed a serious crime and threaten you with a big fine (hundreds or thousands of dollars). They may tell you that you have to come down to the police station with them and threaten you with jail time. Sometimes they will tell you that you will have to spend the night in jail. If you were pulled over while driving, they may threaten to impound your car. They could also refuse to give you back your passport, driver’s license, or car registration. Basically, they will threaten to escalate the situation in order to scare you.

In most cases, the officer is bluffing to try to get you to pay. If there are two cops, they may do a good cop bad cop shtick. One will make threats and the other will try to convince you to pay to make things easier on yourself.

If you continue to refuse to pay a bribe, the officer will usually give you a written citation or simply let you go. This is the optimal outcome. They could also take you to the police station to pay your fine in person if you committed a crime.

In rare cases, an officer could get physical. They could push you up against a wall or their police car and pat you down and search you or your vehicle. They could take your wallet from your pocket against your will. In some cases, they may handcuff you and put you in the police car. This is done to intimidate you.

If the officer is not corrupt and you were stopped for a legitimate reason, they will give you a written citation or ask you to pay your fine by credit card. They may just give you a warning if you’re lucky. I will outline how to pay a ticket in Tijuana later on in this guide.

How Much Money Does a Corrupt Tijuana Police Officer Demand for a Bribe?

a pile of Mexican pesos and U.S. dollars

The amount of the bribe varies. It depends on how corrupt the officer is and what crime you’re being accused of.

If the officer accused you of a minor crime, they usually ask for $100. That’s a pretty standard fine. Examples of minor crimes include failing to stop at a stop sign, jaywalking, or parking illegally. Oftentimes, you can negotiate these small bribes down to 500-1000 pesos (around $25-$50). More on negotiation later.

If you were accused of a more serious crime, like drunk driving, speeding, or having illegal drugs in your possession, the officer will ask for a larger bribe. In this case, they may demand that you pay $300-$500.

If you decide to pay the bribe and the officer sees that you’re carrying a lot of cash, the price can go up. For example, if the officer asks for $100 but sees that you have $500 in your wallet, they may demand more.

Some corrupt officers demand that you hand over your wallet and take what they want. In this case, they’ll take most of your cash. If you have $400 in your wallet, they may take $350. They may leave you with a bit of cash to get back across the border.

The officer usually won’t take all of your money. This is probably to leave some plausible deniability. If you still have some cash in your wallet, you can’t easily prove that a police officer robbed you. I imagine they also want you to have enough cash to get home safely. They don’t want tourists getting physically harmed in Tijuana. After all, that’s bad for business.

What if I Don’t Carry any Cash or Only Carry a Small Amount of Cash?

The officer could escort you to an ATM and demand that you withdraw money for them. This is rare but it is not unheard of. In this case, the officer may demand that you withdraw $300-$500. They could also take your debit card or credit card and demand that you give them your PIN so they can withdraw the money themselves. If you’re lucky, they’ll just let you go.

To prevent this, it’s a good idea to reduce your daily withdraw limit on your credit and debit cards when you visit Tijuana. You can do this by calling your credit card company or bank. For example, you may want to reduce the withdrawal limit from $1000 to $200. This prevents a corrupt officer from draining your account.

What to Do When You Get Pulled Over by Corrupt Police in Tijuana

If a police officer pulls you over in Tijuana, try your best to remain calm. While talking to the officer, speak as respectfully as you possibly can. Call the officer señor. Be polite. Never raise your voice or show any signs of aggression, frustration, or anger while talking to a police officer in Tijuana.

You want to avoid escalating the situation. Never give the officer a reason to arrest you or use force against you. Remember, the officer just wants money. They don’t want to fight with you. They also don’t want to arrest you and have to do a bunch of paperwork.

At the same time, it’s important to remember that the police officer has all of the power in this situation. You don’t have as many rights or freedoms in Mexico as you do back home. The officer can ruin your day if they want to.

While talking to the officer, try to take note of their badge number and their name. Also, try to note the number on their police car or the license plate number. You’ll also want to remember the time, date, and location of the stop. This information could come in handy later on if the situation escalates. More on that later.

During the stop, try to avoid handing the officer your passport. If they have your passport, they can try to extort money from you by refusing to give it back to you. If they ask for identification, hand them your driver’s license instead. Alternatively, try handing them a copy of your passport. This won’t always work. Sometimes they will insist on seeing your original passport. In this case, you’ll have to hand it over. They have the right to look at your passport.

While talking to the officer, be patient. Act like you have all of the time in the world. Never act like you’re in a hurry or tell the officer you have somewhere you need to be. If you behave like you’re in a rush and you’ll do anything to get out of there, the officer will be more likely to solicit a bribe. The price might also go up because they know you’ll be more likely to pay in order to get out of there.

In some cases, it can be helpful to stall as much as you can. For example, you could pull out a map and ask the officer for directions. If you’re a talkative person, you could start telling the officer about your trip and how much you love Tijuana. This can distract the officer. If you’re able to stall long enough, the officer may become bored or annoyed with you and let you go. If you get lucky and the officer is a somewhat decent person, they may even become friendly. You may be able to talk your way out of the situation.

Another useful tip is to play dumb. Pretend that you don’t speak any Spanish or that you understand very little Spanish. Ask the officer to repeat themselves multiple times. Use poor grammar while speaking. If the officer asks for money, pretend that you don’t understand what they’re talking about. If the officer can’t explain what they want, they may get frustrated with you and let you go.

These tips won’t work every time but there is no harm in trying them. Worst case, you waste some time and annoy the officer a bit.

Construction in Tijuana

What to Do if a Corrupt Tijuana Police Officer Insists That You Pay a Bribe

If a corrupt Tijuana police officer insists that you pay a bribe and won’t let you go, there are a number of ways to deal with the situation. Your best option depends on a number of factors including how the officer’s behavior, the crime you’re being accused of, your level of comfort with this type of situation, and how well you speak Spanish.

Some officers are more aggressive than others. Some people handle this type of situation better than others. Everyone also has a different philosophy about best how to handle police corruption and bribery. Some people prefer to pay and get it over with while others avoid paying bribes at all costs.

You should always at least try to get out of paying a bribe to a corrupt police officer, even if you’re uncomfortable with the situation. Paying a bribe supports a corrupt system and promotes future corruption.

In this section, I’ll outline three ways to respond when getting stopped by a corrupt police officer in Tijuana.

1. Insist that the officer issues you a written citation

If the officer is trying to make you pay a fine in cash, politely decline and insist that they give you a written citation instead. This way, you know that the fine is legitimate and that the money isn’t going into the officer’s pocket. It’s on the books. You also know that you’re paying the appropriate fine for the crime.

You may have to delay and ask several times before the officer agrees to issue you a paper ticket. In most cases, the officer will eventually give in.

Insisting on a written citation is always the safest and least expensive option when you encounter a corrupt police officer in Tijuana.

You can pay the fine in person at the police station or by mail. Sometimes you can pay the fine there and then with a credit card or debit card. I’ll explain exactly how to pay a ticket in Tijuana later on in this guide.

2. Insist that the officer takes you to the police station to pay the fine

If the officer refuses to give you a written citation and continues to demand that you pay a fine in cash, try telling the officer that you want to go to the police station to pay. If they agree, you will follow the officer to the police station in your car.

The officer won’t want to do this because it’s a hassle. Sometimes they don’t have time to drive you to the police station. At this point, they may let you go if you’re lucky. Alternatively, they could issue you a written citation instead. In some cases, they tell you to follow them to the police station, where you can pay the fine in person.

If you were stopped on foot and the officer won’t give you a written citation, you can insist on going to the police station. In this case, the officer will probably put you in the back of the police car or pickup truck and drive you there.

You’ll want to avoid this situation. Getting put into a police car and getting driven to the police station in Tijuana would be a pretty intimidating experience. Nobody wants to ride in the back of a police car. Especially in a foreign country.

Also, keep in mind that going to the police station is a hassle. You’ll have to go out of your way and waste time waiting around to pay the fine. You’ll want to avoid this if possible. Of course, going to the police station is better than giving money to a corrupt police officer.

3. Negotiate and Pay the Bribe

Mexican pesos

If you get stopped for a minor infraction such as parking illegally or not wearing your seat belt, the officer may tell you that they will let you go for $100. This is a common amount for a bribe in Tijuana. You can often negotiate down to 500-1000 pesos ($25-$50). Once you come to an agreement, you can pay the officer and they’ll send you on your way.

When you pay, try not to let the officer see how much cash you have on you. They could ask for more if they see that you have hundreds of dollars in your wallet.

Paying the bribe is the fastest and easiest solution because it is the officer’s desired outcome. The only thing a corrupt police officer really wants from you is money. If you’re willing to pay, the interaction will go smoothly and quickly.

Many tourists feel intimidated by the Tijuana police, which is understandable. These guys are aggressive, authoritative, and sometimes scary. Tourists often pay the bribe to get the whole ordeal over with.

By paying the bribe, you avoid any escalation. The officer won’t get aggressive. They won’t threaten to take you to the police station or detain you. They won’t threaten to impound your car. In some cases, paying the bribe is the safest option as well. A particularly corrupt and angry officer could get violent.

There are a couple of major drawbacks to paying a bribe. First, it supports a corrupt system. If everyone pays, the corruption will continue. Paying a bribe also increases your chances of getting stopped again by another corrupt officer. These officers often communicate with one another. I’ll talk more about this later. Of course, there is also the principal of the matter. Nobody wants to be forced to pay a bribe.

4. Call to Report the Corrupt Police Officer

If the officer refuses to give you a written citation or take you to the police station and you refuse to pay a bribe, you may be able to call for help. Ideally, you’ll want to speak to someone in the office of the Sindicatura Del Gobierno Municipal. This is the internal affairs department of the Tijuana police.

You can contact the Sindicatura by calling Tijuana’s Citizen Attention Line at 072. Alternatively, you can also call the office of the Sindicatura directly at 664-973-7065. You can also email the office at

The office of the Sindicatura is located at Blvd. Independencia 1350, Zona Urbana Rio Tijuana, 22320 Tijuana, B.C.

Alternatively, you could report the corrupt officer to the State Secretariat of Tourism of Baja California. To do this, call Tijuana’s Tourist Assistance Hotline at 078.

This number will connect you to an English-speaking person. You could also email your complaint to the tourist assistance email at

Some travelers recommend that you tell the officer that you’re going to call the Sindicatura and file a complaint if they won’t let you go. This may deter the officer from forcing you to pay a bribe. Instead, they may give you a written citation. If you’re lucky, the officer will just let you go.

The problem with making a call during a police stop or threatening to file a complaint after is that it will anger the officer. By calling the Citizen Attention Line, Tourist Assistance Hotline, or Sindicatura, you’re basically telling the officer that they’re not doing a good job and that you’re going to tell their boss and get them in trouble.

As you could imagine, this can be risky. It will anger the officer. They may decide to double down and take their anger out on you. Whether or not calling to report the officer or threatening to is an appropriate response really depends on the circumstances and how the officer is behaving. In some situations, the officer may tell you not to make any calls. They could even demand that you hand over your phone.

In most cases, you’re better off waiting until the interaction is over before calling to report the incident. When you call, make sure you have some information about the officer such as their name, badge number, or the license plate or identification number of the car they were driving. You’ll also want to take note of the time, date, and location of the incident.

If you ended up having to pay a bribe, chances are you won’t get your money back when you call to report a corrupt officer. You should still call. Tijuana is trying to crack down on police corruption. If they receive enough reports about the same officer, they may be disciplined or let go.

Tip: Consider taping the Sindicatura’s phone number to your driver’s license or car dashboard

Some frequent Tijuana travelers recommend that you write the words ‘Sindicatura Del Gobierno Municipal’ along with their phone number on a piece of paper and tape it to your driver’s license or in a visible place on the dashboard of your vehicle.

The idea is that the officer will see that you know who to call if they try anything illegal, like asking for a bribe. The hope is that the officer will either let you go or give you a written citation instead of trying to solicit a bribe or committing any other crime.

I have read about this method on two Baja travel forums but have never tried it. Some travelers report success with this method but others warn against it.

Personally, I recommend against this because it could anger the officer and put you in a worse position. The officer could see the note and take it as a threat. You can read more about this method here.

Why You Should Never Pay a Bribe a Corrupt Police Officer in Tijuana

It may seem easier to simply give the officer what they want. For most travelers, an extra $50-$100 isn’t a big deal. By paying a bribe, you lower your risk by avoiding confrontation with the officer. You don’t risk angering the officer or making the officer escalate the situation. Paying a bribe saves time too. You don’t have to disrupt your day by going to the police station and waiting around.

There are a number of drawbacks to paying a bribe. Most importantly, paying a bribe supports a corrupt system. If you pay, you are partially responsible for perpetuating corruption. If the officer is able to get money out of one tourist, they’ll surely try it again and again. The system will continue to be corrupt forever. Future tourists will continue to get stopped and hassled for no reason by corrupt officers. You might fall victim again during a future trip. Nothing will change.

Another drawback to paying a bribe is that it can make you a target for more corruption. After you pay a bribe, the corrupt office may call their corrupt friend and tell them that you pay bribes. After paying a bribe, it’s not uncommon to get stopped again 10 minutes later by another corrupt officer. This is common on roads with multiple police checkpoints. One officer radios down to the next and you end up getting hassled at every stop along the way.

There is also the principal of the matter. Nobody wants to be forced to pay a bribe. It makes you feel weak and helpless. Paying a bribe to a corrupt officer means you fell victim to a crime. Fighting a corrupt system and winning feels great.

Technically, paying a bribe is also illegal. In theory, you could be charged for committing the crime of bribery. This is highly unlikely to happen if the officer was the one who asked for the bribe but it is possible. You should never offer to pay a bribe for this reason.

Where Are You Most Likely to Experience Police Corruption in Tijuana?

You’re most likely to experience police corruption in Tijuana’s touristy areas. The main tourist zones in Tijuana include Zona Centro (downtown), Zona Norte (the red light district), Zona Rio (the business district), and Playas de Tijuana (the neighborhood by the beach). Each of these tourist zones has a main street with a large police presence.

The areas around the border crossings are also heavily policed because they are frequented by tourists who are entering and leaving Mexico. Over 50 million people cross the border between Tijuana and San Diego per year. This leaves plenty of opportunity for police corruption.

Police Corruption in Zona Centro

Zona Centro, Tijuana
The Arch in Zona Centro

In Zona Centro, the main street is Avenida Revolucion. This is Tijuana’s most famous tourist street. Here, you’ll find dozens of bars, clubs, breweries, restaurants, and souvenir shops. This area is heavily policed. You are likely to encounter police corruption here.

Police Corruption in Zona Norte (the red light district)

The main tourist street in Zona Norte is Calle Coahuila. Here, you’ll find a number of bars and strip clubs. This area probably has the highest police presence of any area in the city. This is due to the seedy nature of the area. Lots of crime happens here. This is the area that you are most likely to encounter a corrupt officer.

Police Corruption in Zona Rio

Zona Rio
Zona Rio, Tijuana

The main tourist street in Zona Rio is called Paseo de los Héroes. Along this street, you’ll find Tijuana’s largest shopping plaza, Plaza Rio, the Tijuana Cultural Center (CECUT) as well as a number of hospitals, banks, skyscrapers, and residential buildings. This is an upscale area with fewer tourists. Police corruption exists here but it’s less common. You’re more likely to be pulled over while driving here than getting stopped on foot.

Police Corruption in Playas de Tijuana

Border wall going into the ocean in Playas de Tijuana
The border wall in Playas de Tijuana

The main street in Playas de Tijuana is called Paseo Ensenada. Here, you’ll find the beach, a boardwalk, the Monumental Bullring, Plaza Coronado, and many residential buildings and hotels. This area is more laid back. Police corruption is less common here.

Police Corruption a the Border

Cars waiting in line to cross the border from Tijuana back to San Diego
The line at the border to cross from Tijuana back into the U.S.

The areas surrounding the border crossings also have a heavy police presence. Especially during the day when there are lots of tourists entering and leaving. Police patrol these areas looking for traffic violations and tourists they can target. Fake police scams are known to happen here as well. More on that later.

You won’t encounter any corruption at the actual border crossing. The immigration and customs officials are honest.

Why is Police Corruption More Common in Tourist Areas of Tijuana?

Tijuana Cultural Center in Zona Rio
CECUT Cultural Center of Tijuana in Zona Rio

There are two reasons that police corruption is more common in Tijuana’s tourist areas. The first reason is that there is simply a higher concentration of municipal police officers in these areas. You’re more likely to have a police encounter in areas where there are more police. These officers are stationed in these areas to deter violent crime and to keep tourists safe. Unfortunately, they sometimes hassle tourists for bribes.

While walking down Avenida Revolucion in Zona Centro or Calle Coahuila in Zona Norte, you’ll see a constant stream of police cars driving by. You’ll also encounter officers standing on street corners patrolling the city’s streets.

You can’t walk a block without seeing police in these parts of the city. You’re more likely to get stopped by a corrupt officer in these places because there are so many police around. If you wander around enough in Tijuana, a corrupt officer will find you.

The second reason that you’re more likely to experience police corruption in the tourist areas is because corrupt Tijuana police target tourists. Corrupt officers go to these areas to find an easy target to solicit a bribe from.

They know that tourists are more likely to be carrying large amounts of cash. This makes tourists more profitable targets. They also know that tourists don’t know the local laws or their rights. Tourists often don’t speak Spanish or don’t speak it as well so they can’t easily talk their way out of these situations. All of this makes it easier for corrupt police to get away with soliciting bribes.

While driving, a corrupt police officer could pull you over pretty much anywhere in the city. You’re probably more likely to be pulled over while driving through one of the touristy zones because there are more police patrolling.

Outside of the tourist areas, police seem to be few and far between. There are only around 2500 police officers working in Tijuana, which is about half as many as there should be for a city the size of Tijuana. For this reason, you’re less likely to encounter police when you’re outside of the main tourist areas.

You’re also more likely to be pulled over if you’re driving a vehicle with a U.S. license plate. This indicates to the officer that you’re a tourist. Again, corrupt police seem to target tourists in Tijuana. Police may also be more likely to pull you over if you’re driving a new or high-end vehicle. This signals to the officer that you have money.

How to Avoid Getting Pulled Over by the Police While Driving in Tijuana

The best way to avoid getting pulled over in Tijuana is to obey all traffic laws while you’re driving. You’re less likely to get pulled over if you follow the rules of the road. You don’t want to give a corrupt officer any reason to pull you over.

While driving in Tijuana, always wear your seatbelt. Use your turn signals. Obey traffic signs. Don’t speed. Never use your phone while driving. Don’t make illegal U-turns. Make sure you’re carrying all of your documents including your driver’s license, proof of insurance, and registration. Even though people drive a bit differently in Mexico, the driving laws are basically the same as in the United States

Probably the best way to avoid getting pulled over is to drive a vehicle with Baja California license plates. Corrupt officers target vehicles with U.S. or Canadian plates because they know a tourist is driving. They can pull you over for the smallest infraction or for no reason at all.

For example, I met an ex-pat who was living in Mexico on a temporary import permit and took his car with him when he moved to Mexico. In the first 4 years, he said he was pulled over 8 times.

He then became a permanent resident and imported his car to Mexico. After getting Mexican license plates for his car, he hadn’t been pulled over since. This is just one guy’s story but I do believe that Tijuana police target foreign plated vehicles.

If you’re moving to Tijuana on a temporary resident visa, you may be better off buying a vehicle that is registered in Mexico. For most tourists, the only way to drive a car with Mexican plates is to rent a car in Tijuana. For some trips, this is a good option. Some officers may keep an eye out for rental cars because they know a tourist is driving.

As mentioned earlier, police may also be more likely to pull you over if you’re driving a nice car. If you have the option, drive a beater car to Tijuana and leave your nice car at home. If you decide to rent a car, choose a basic compact car instead of a luxury vehicle. The police will be more likely to leave you alone.

For more info, check out my guide to driving to Tijuana. Here, I cover the border crossing, Mexican auto insurance, driving tips, and more.

Consider Leaving Your Car at Home

To eliminate your risk of getting pulled over by a corrupt officer while driving, simply don’t drive in Tijuana. Walk across the border on foot and take taxis, minibusses, and Ubers around instead.

You can park your car on the U.S. side of the border in San Ysidro or Otay Mesa. you can also take the trolley to the border from downtown San Deigo. If you’re traveling from further away, you can also take the greyhound bus to the border. Once you’re at the border, it’s easy to cross on foot.

Tijuana is easy and affordable to get around without a car. The main tourist areas are walkable. You can even walk from the border to downtown. For more info on getting around Tijuana without a car, check out my guide to taking taxis and Ubers in Tijuana.

Simply not driving in Tijuana greatly reduces your chances of getting stopped by a corrupt police officer. Most instances of police corruption occur during a traffic stop. Getting stopped on foot is slightly less common.

There are other benefits to not driving. For example, you won’t have to buy Mexican auto insurance. You don’t have to deal with the hassles of driving in a foreign country such as poor road quality and crazy traffic. If you intend to travel to mainland Mexico, you won’t have to deal with getting a temporary import permit if you don’t drive.

If you still want to drive, check out my guide to driving in Tijuana.

Driving back to the border after a heavy rain in Tijuana

How to Avoid Getting Stopped By the Police While Walking in Tijuana

The touristy areas of Tijuana are all pretty walkable. While vising, chances are you’ll at least take a stroll down Avenida Revolucion in Zona Centro or along Calle Coahuila in Zona Norte. The following tips will help you avoid getting stopped while walking around.

1. Never walk around while intoxicated

The best way to avoid getting hassled by the police is to never walk around while intoxicated. Especially in Zona Norte and Zona Centro. Police and other criminals target tourists who have been drinking. They will even go as far as to stand outside of bars and watch people as they exit. If you look tipsy, you become a potential target for a bribe.

If you want to move to another bar or club after you’ve been drinking, call a taxi or Uber. Wait in the bar until your ride pulls up. Don’t stand on the street and wait. Never walk around when you’re feeling a bit tipsy. If you’re just walking down the street to the next bar, try to blend in as best you can. Avoid drawing any attention to yourself.

Corrupt police officers regularly stop drunk tourists and shake them down for bribes. When this happens, the officer may accuse you of carrying illegal substances and insist on searching you. Oftentimes, they will demand that you hand over your wallet and take what they want.

I have a friend who fell victim to this while bar-hopping in Tijuana. The officer ended up taking all of his cash. Luckily, he had hidden some cash in his phone case.

2. Know where you’re going

It’s a good idea to always know where you’re going while walking around in Tijuana. Before you leave a restaurant, shop, bar, or hotel, look up your destination on Google Maps or ask someone for directions. Choose a direct route through busy areas. This limits your exposure.

When walking around, you want to avoid looking like you’re lost or don’t know where you’re going. This can make you a target because it indicates that you’re a tourist. If you get lost, walk into a store or restaurant to look at the map. Avoid pulling your phone out to look for directions while you’re walking around on the street. Your phone is a target for pickpockets and muggers.

3. Don’t go exploring in unfamiliar areas

If you’re unfamiliar with the city, it’s best not to go exploring. Particularly at night. You could easily wander into a dangerous area. Stick to the more crowded touristy areas. While you’re out and about sightseeing, try not to loiter or lollygag too much. Walk with purpose like you know where you’re going.

4. Avoid police officers when possible

It can also help to avoid crossing paths with police officers. If you see a group of bored-looking cops standing around on the street, consider crossing the street or walking around the block or taking another route to avoid having to walk by them. Of course, you don’t want to change your course blatantly or you’ll look suspicious.

It can also help to avoid making eye contact with the police. When you walk by an officer on the street, just walk by normally and quickly. Don’t dilly dally or loiter around. Keep on walking like you have someplace to be.

You don’t want to stand out or give the officer any reason to stop you and hassle you. Some travelers have a different philosophy and prefer to nod or say hello to police as they walk by. I tend to disagree with this.

5. Never carry anything illegal on your person

While walking around Tijuana, never carry anything illegal. This includes drugs and weapons. These are highly illegal in Tijuana. An officer could stop you and search you at any moment.

If they find something illegal, you could end up with a seriously big fine (thousands of dollars) or jail time. You don’t want to give them any reason to arrest you or demand a big bribe.

6. Try to blend in

You should also try to blend in the best you can while walking around Tijuana. Never wear fancy jewelry or flashy clothes. Instead, dress down. Wear older clothes and dirty shoes. Leave your jewelry at home. This helps even if you don’t look like a local. You don’t want to look wealthy.

It can also help to avoid talking loudly while you’re out walking around. If the police hear you speaking English or another foreign language, they’ll know you’re a tourist. A corrupt cop could target you as a result. You want to avoid drawing unnecessary attention to yourself. You don’t want the police or other criminals to notice you.

7. Travel in a group

Traveling in a group can also help. A corrupt officer is less likely to stop and hassle a group of people than an individual. They can’t as easily intimidate or control a group of people. It’s also harder for them to trick a group of people into paying a bribe.

Traveling with a local also helps greatly. A corrupt officer may be less likely to hassle you if you’re with someone who knows the city and speaks Spanish fluently. A local knows the local laws and their rights.

8. Learn a bit of Spanish

Knowing some Spanish will also come in handy. With basic Spanish, you’ll be able to communicate with the officer that you want a written citation. With more advanced Spanish, you may be able to talk your way out of paying a bribe or negotiate a lower rate.

9. Take a taxi or Uber instead of walking

You can greatly reduce your risk of encountering a corrupt officer by taking a taxi, colectivo, or Uber everywhere you go instead of walking. This limits your exposure. The less time you spend walking on the street, the less likely you are to get stopped by a corrupt officer. A taxi or Uber being driven by a local is unlikely to get pulled over.

Uber is a safe, affordable, and convenient way to get around Tijuana. The app works just like it does back home. In Mexico, you can set the app so you pay in cash if you prefer not to use your card.

If you decide to take a taxi, take a white ‘taxi libre’. These are more regulated than the yellow cabs and they have a meter. If the driver won’t use the meter, negotiate the price before you get in the cab.

Another great way to get around Tijuana is by taxi de ruta. These are shared minibusses that travel on set routes around the city. The price is fixed. Most fares cost $10-$20 pesos. You can hop on and off wherever you like along the route.

For more info, check out my guide to taking taxis and Ubers in Tijuana.

A taxi

How to Cut Your Losses

Avoid carrying large amounts of cash while walking or driving in Tijuana. This limits your loss if you end up being forced to pay a bribe. In most cases, the officer will only take what you have on you.

In rare cases, an officer could demand you to get more money from an ATM. They could also demand that you hand over your credit card or debit card and tell them your PIN so they can withdraw money themselves. To prevent this, lower your daily withdrawal limit so they can’t drain your account.

Another good tip is to divide your cash up and store it in two places. Don’t carry all of your money in one pocket or your wallet. Keep some emergency cash stashed away.

This way, if you end up having to pay a bribe, the officer won’t see and take all of the money you have on you. You’ll have some backup cash just in case. I like to stash away around $50-$100 this is enough for a hotel room, food, and a ride to the border if worst comes to worst.

While you’re walking around, some good places to hide cash are in your phone case behind your phone or in your shoe under the inserts.

You could also hide cash in a money belt. I recommend the Eagle Creek Undercover Silk Money Belt. You can keep your passport, credit cards, and cash safely hidden out of sight. If you wear your money belt properly, an officer won’t be able to feel it while patting you down. You can read my full review of this money belt here.

While you’re driving, find a hidden place in your car to stash some cash. Under your seat covers is a good option.

If a corrupt police officer searches you or your vehicle, they won’t search too thoroughly, unless they actually suspect you of carrying something illegal.

If you end up having to pay a bribe, you can just pull out your wallet and pay from there. You’ll still have your backup money.

The U.S. Mexico Border

What to do if you Encounter an Intimidating or Violent Police Officer in Tijuana

There are some bad police officers who will try to intimidate you if you refuse to pay a bribe. There are a number of ways that the officer could try to intimidate you. They could put you in handcuffs and make you sit in the back of their police car. They could search you or your vehicle. Before searching you, they could physically grab you and push you up against a wall or their police car.

In these cases, the officer could just take money from your wallet. You may not have any choice in the matter. This type of interaction isn’t common but it can happen.

This old article outlines an aggressive police encounter that a man experienced in Tijuana. The officer took a credit card out of the man’s wallet, asked for his pin, and withdrew $400 from an ATM. Afterward, they drove the man to the border and dropped him off. This type of encounter isn’t common but it has happened.

If you start to act aggressive or fight back, the officer could get violent. Police abuse of power is a problem in Tijuana. The officer could take you down to the ground, put you in a headlock, or use a number of other techniques to detain you.

Once you’re detained, they could throw you in jail. This could happen even if you did nothing wrong in the first place. This type of thing isn’t common but it could happen if you were to lose your temper. Keep calm while interacting with the police in Tijuana. If you’re naturally hot-headed, you’ll want to watch your temper and be careful while visiting Tijuana.

Police brutality also exists in Tijuana. There are a number of cases of officers using excessive force. For example, in May of 2020, an unruly man died after a police officer put his foot on the man’s neck in order to detain him. To read more about police abuse of power in Tijuana, check out this article.

When dealing with the police in Tijuana, you never want to show any signs of aggression. It’s best to obey the officer and remain calm. If you encounter a particularly corrupt officer, you might be forced to pay a bribe to get out of the situation. That’s okay. You don’t want to end up injured or in jail over a couple of hundred dollars. It’s not worth it.

How Much Do Traffic Tickets Cost in Tijuana?

An officer could pull you over for committing a legitimate traffic violation. The rules of the road are a bit different in Tijuana than they are back home. The streets are also kind of confusing. The signage is also different because Mexico uses the metric system. It’s easy to speed or make, illegal turn, or get lost. If you end up committing a traffic violation, you should expect to pay a traffic fine or multa in Spanish.

Traffic ticket prices recently increased significantly in Tijuana. In the past, most fines cost only $20-$50. These days, almost every violation costs well over $100. More serious violations like speeding and drunk driving cost several hundred dollars. Fines were increased in an attempt to reduce traffic crime.

In the state of Baja, traffic tickets are divided into four levels of severity. The more severe the crime, the higher the fine. Lower level crimes, like failing to stop at a stop sign, have the smallest fine. Higher-level fines, like driving under the influence, or speeding have much higher fines.

A few common traffic tickets you could receive in Tijuana and their costs include:

  • Not wearing a seat belt: around 2600 pesos (around 130 dollars)
  • Using your phone while driving: around 3900 pesos (around 190 dollars)
  • Speeding: around 8700 pesos (around 400 dollars)
  • Driving while intoxicated: around 5650 pesos (around 284 dollars)
  • Parking illegally: around 1700 pesos (around 85 dollars)
  • Failing to stop at a stop sign: around 1700 pesos (around 85 dollars)
  • Making an illegal U-turn: around 2600 pesos (around 130 dollars)
  • Driving without a license or other documents: around 2600 pesos (around 130 dollars)
  • Parking in a handicapped zone: around 7800 pesos (around 400 dollars)
  • Running a red light: around 2600 pesos (around 130 dollars)

As you can see, ticket prices are high. Some of these fines cost around the same in Tijuana as they would for committing the same crime in San Diego. Some fines are a bit cheaper. Regardless, you’ll want to drive carefully while visiting Tijuana to avoid getting a ticket. Keep in mind that the prices listed above aren’t exact. They can change at any time.

Locals are not happy with the traffic fine increase because the new fines are simply unaffordable. A $400 speeding ticket could cost a month’s salary for an average person living in Tijuana. For more info, check out this article about the recent increase in traffic fine prices in Tijuana.

Important: If you are stopped for committing a traffic violation or any other kind of crime, never attempt to bribe an officer to get out of a fine. It’s illegal.

If you attempt to bribe an honest officer, you could end up with a bigger fine or even jail time. If you get a ticket for a legitimate reason, just pay it. For those who are worried about getting one of these tickets in Tijuana, consider visiting without a car.

How to Pay a Traffic Ticket in Tijuana

If a police officer pulls you over and issues you a written citation, you can pay the fine either in person at the police station or by mail. When you pay at the police station, you will receive a receipt. If you pay by mail, you’ll have to send in a check or money order.

If you’re paying in person, the most convenient option is to pay at Tijuana’s City hall. It is located on Blvd. Independencia 1350 Zona Urbana Rio, Tijuana 2232.

If you prefer to pay by mail, you’ll find the mailing address on the ticket. There are Mexican and U.S. mailing addresses. You don’t have to worry about paying international postage if you decide to wait until you return home before paying your ticket.

It’s important to note that Tijuana, Rosarito, and Ensenada each have their own mailing address in the U.S. You’ll want to make sure you mail your check to the correct address.

To pay a fine, you can make out your check or money order and send it to:

  • Tickets issued in Tijuana- H. Ayuntamiento de Tijuana, 416 West San Ysidro Blvd. Suite “L”, No. 725, San Ysidro, CA 92143.
  • Tickets issued in Rosarito- H. Ayuntamiento de Rosarito, P.O. Box 439060 San Diego, CA 92143-9060
  • Tickets issued in Ensenada- Municipio de Ensenada, PMB 147 P.O. Box 189003 Coronado, CA, 92178-9003

keep in mind that the above-listed addresses could change. You’ll want to double-check the mailing address before you send in your check or money order. The address should be printed on the ticket.

Paying a Fine by Credit Card or Debit Card

Recently, Tijuana started offering the option to pay some traffic fines on the spot with a credit card or debit card. The officer carries a credit card machine in their car. They swipe your card and charge you right there and then.

The machine prints you out a receipt for your payment of the fine. The receipt includes your license plate number, car make, the vehicle owner’s name, your name, the name and number of the officer who issued the fine, the reason for the infraction, and more.

The goal of this new system is to make tickets easier to pay. You no longer have to go to the station to pay a fine or mail in a check. This system is also designed to reduce corruption and bribes. For more info, check out this article.

There are two benefits to paying a Tijuana traffic ticket by card. First, you’ll receive a small discount. You also won’t have to deal with the hassle of going to a police station or mailing your ticket in. This saves you a bit of time and money.

Paying with your credit card or debit card is optional. You can request a paper ticket and pay in person or by mail as outlined above if you don’t have a card or if you don’t feel comfortable giving your card to the officer.

This is a new system. Not all officers have these credit card machines in their cars yet.

A corrupt officer may refuse to use the credit card machine. Instead, they may tell you that the machine is broken and that you can pay in cash. This is a lie. It’s just an attempt to collect cash off the books. If the officer refuses to take your card, you should request a paper ticket instead.

What to Do if You Think a Ticket is Unfair or Wrong

If you refuse to pay a bribe, an officer could issue you a bogus ticket out of spite or to save face. For example, they could easily claim that you weren’t wearing your seat belt or that you were texting while driving. An officer could also pull you over for a legitimate reason and issue you a ticket that you simply don’t agree with. Maybe they claim that you were speeding but you disagree.

If you think that the fine is unfair and wish to contest the ticket, you can. To do this, you’ll need to file an appeal or ‘recurso de inconformidad’ in Spanish. You can do this either in person or in writing. A municipal judge will hear your side of the story and make a judgment.

After receiving a written citation, you can immediately go to the nearest police station and speak to a municipal judge if you choose. It’s your right. The judge can dismiss the ticket, reduce it, or uphold it. Realistically, you probably won’t win. If you’re lucky, you may be able to get the fine reduced.

If you decide to contest a ticket, you’ll need some information about the incident. Be sure to take note of the time and location that you received the ticket as well as the name or badge number of the officer or the identification number of the police car he was driving.

For more information on filing an appeal, you can call the Tourist Assistance Hotline at 078. An English-speaking agent will walk you through the process.

What if You Need Help from the Police While Visiting Tijuana?

The Tijuana police department is not known for being too helpful to tourists. They do try to keep the peace and protect tourists from violent crime. For example, while visiting Tijuana, I was in a bar that was robbed by two armed men. After the robbery, the police went after the criminals immediately. The crime was taken very seriously. You can read the whole story about the armed robbery here.

The police don’t want tourists getting injured or killed while visiting the city. After all, Tijuana makes a large portion of its revenue from tourism. The city already has a poor reputation when it comes to crime and safety. They don’t want a worse reputation. If you’re involved in a violent situation, the police will try to help.

In the case of petty theft or a mugging, you’re pretty much on your own. The police won’t help you try to retrieve a stolen wallet or phone. They simply don’t have the manpower to follow up on small crimes. As mentioned earlier, there are 2,500 police in Tijuana. The city needs 5,000 police. It’s almost impossible to get your belongings back if they’re stolen.

If you do try to seek help from the police to retrieve your stolen items, they may ask for a bribe for their help. If they do manage to get your belongings back, they may ask for a bribe before they hand over your items. This is another form of corruption that you could encounter.

Police Scams in Tijuana

Two Mexican police officers walking

There are also a couple of scams that Tijuana police officers can be involved in. Most commonly, a drug dealer or con man may have an agreement with a corrupt police officer.

In this scam, the dealer sells drugs to a tourist. After the sale, the dealer tells their corrupt police officer accomplice. The officer approaches the buyer, searches them, and forces them to pay a bribe or fine or threatens them with jail time.

This scam is easy to avoid. Never buy, carry, or use illegal drugs in Tijuana. If someone approaches you offering to sell you drugs, simply say no thanks and walk away. Don’t even talk to dealers or you risk making yourself a target for corrupt police.

The police can also work with pickpockets and thieves. After a pickpocket steals something from you, they give the item to the corrupt police officer that they’re working with. An accomplice may approach you and offer to help you get your stolen belongings back. They take you to the police who are magically able to recover your belonging. The problem is that you have to pay a bribe to get your stuff back. The thief and accomplice receive a commission after you pay the officer.

I encountered this scam when my phone was pickpocketed one night while walking home from a bar. I caught the pickpocket and she insisted on going to the police. This sounded fishy to me. Why would she want to go to the police? I knew she was the criminal, after all. I didn’t want to deal with a corrupt police officer.

Instead of involving the police, I offered her 200 pesos for my phone (around $10). She took the offer and I got my phone back. You can read the full story about how I was pickpocketed in Tijuana here.

To avoid this scam, keep a close eye on your phone, camera, and all of your belongings while you’re out and about. Consider carrying your valuables in an anti-theft bag.

Don’t carry any valuables on your person that you don’t absolutely need. Instead, leave them at home or lock them up in your hotel room safe.

Fake Police in Tijuana

Fake police officers are also a problem in Tijuana. They will stop tourists and solicit a bribe, just like the real police. Because fake police officers don’t have to worry about losing their job, they can be even more aggressive.

According to this article from the San Diego Tribune, fake police in Tijuana are often former officers who lost their job. Criminals have also been known to get their hands on real police badges, jackets, and hats and pose as police officers.

Organizations have also created their own illegal security firms. They issue themselves fake documents, badges, and uniforms. They call themselves ‘auxiliary police.’ These illegal security firms stop tourists for bribes and sometimes charge local businesses for protection.

Fake officers have been found operating in many touristy areas around the city as well as several of the main plazas around the city including Plaza Rio, Plaza Fiesta, and Plaza del Zapato.

When a fake police officer stops a tourist, they usually aggressively demand money. They aim to overwhelm and intimidate you. When you’re intimidated, you’re less likely to notice that they aren’t real cops. If you question their legitimacy, they may threaten to arrest you and take you to jail. If their uniform is genuine, it’s almost impossible to tell the difference between a real and fake police officer.

Fake police officers have also been found operating in the lines of cars where people wait to cross the border. They approach your vehicle, tell you that you committed a crime, and demand a bribe. In this case, it’s difficult to avoid paying because you can’t drive away when you’re in line at the border. For more info, check out this news article.

Fake police scams were more common a few years back. I believe the problem has been mostly solved. The city really cracked down on this. Still, this is a crime that exists and you should be aware of it.

The best way to avoid getting hassled by fake police in Tijuana is by traveling in a group or with a local. A fake officer is less likely to target a group because it’s harder to trick multiple people. Someone will notice the scam and call them out. A local may be able to tell the difference between a real and fake cop

Also, try your best to blend in. These fake cops tend to target tourists. To avoid encountering fake police at the border, consider walking across instead of driving.

Why Are the Police Corrupt in Tijuana?

Police corruption has been a problem in Tijuana for decades. Part of the reason is that the pay for Tijuana municipal police officers is very low. According to this article from the San Diego Tribune, most officers earn around $166 per week working 48 hours. That’s around $3.44 per hour or around 66 pesos.

That’s not a lot of money to live on, even in Tijuana. Especially when you take into consideration the dangers involved in the job. After all, these guys put their lives on the line trying to keep the peace in one of the world’s most violent cities. They deal with some of the most violent and drug cartels in Mexico. For example, in recent years, the Sinaloa Cartel and the Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generación have been fighting a turf war in Tijuana over trafficking routes into the United States. Police officers are routinely killed in Tijuana. For example, check out this article from Border Report explaining how the cartel recently threatened Tijuana’s police chief with an assassination attempt.

Worse yet, according to this article from CBS8, “the meager officer’s salary ends up having them buy their own police vehicle, paint for the car and their own gun and bullets to use for work.” These expenses add up quickly. Tijuana’s police department is extremely underfunded.

The low pay and high risk make the officers more inclined to accept bribes or to involve themselves in organized crime groups. It’s not surprising that they try to earn a bit extra on the side. Collecting a $200 bribe from a tourist could earn them more than their weekly salary. Officers are also known to accept bribes from the cartels. The money is just too tempting.

Tijuana also has a long history of crime, corruption, violence, and vice. During prohibition, Tijuana became a popular destination for legal drinking and gambling. In later years, Tijuana became one of the most strategically important border cities in Mexico for the cartels for drug shipment across the border. The drug trade has brought a massive amount of crime and money to the city. This is a perfect recipe for police corruption.

Paseo de los Heroes, Zona Rio, Tijuana

Is it Worth Visiting Tijuana?

Yes. Tijuana is absolutely worth visiting. It is one of Mexico’s most significant cities both culturally and economically. After all, it is the 5th largest city in all of Mexico. Tijuana is also a great city for entertainment. It’s been a major tourist destination for Americans for over 100 years. There is lots to see and do. A visit to Tijuana makes for an excellent day or weekend trip from Southern California.

Over the past 15 years, Tijuana developed a reputation for being a dangerous border town due to cartel activity. During the late 2000s through the 2010s, tourism greatly declined. Even though crime rates are still high and the city is still a bit dangerous, it’s well worth a visit if you’re in the region.

Tijuana is evolving. Trendy restaurants, bars, clubs, cafes, food trucks, and craft breweries are opening up all over the city. Tijuana is becoming a foodie and nightlife destination. For example, the best tacos I’ve ever eaten came from a street food stand in Tijuana. The city is worth a visit for the food alone. There is lots to see and do in Tijuana. For some ideas, check out my guide to 35 things to do in Tijuana.

Final Thoughts

Getting pulled over by a police officer in a foreign country is a stressful situation. You don’t know the laws and you don’t know your rights. You may not even speak the language. The officer has all of the power in the situation. If they really want to, they can ruin your day or your whole trip. For example, they can threaten to take you to jail or impound your car. All of this adds to the stress.

If you spend enough time in Tijuana, you will encounter a corrupt police officer who stops you and asks you to pay a bribe. There is no avoiding it. The best response when getting stopped is to stay calm, speak respectfully, be patient, and play dumb. In most cases, you can either talk your way out of the situation or settle for a written citation. In some cases, you may have to go to the police station with the officer.

Some corrupt police officers can become aggressive and threatening. Some won’t take no for an answer. If you encounter one of these bad eggs, you may end up having to pay a bribe. Sometimes there is no other peaceful way out of the situation. In this case, negotiate the best you can and pay.

If you end up having to pay a bribe, you’ll get away for $50-$100 (500-1000 pesos) in most cases. If you happen to be carrying a lot of cash, you may be out much more. I have heard stories of tourists losing $300-$500 to a corrupt police officer while visiting Tijuana. You can’t control every situation. Sometimes it’s out of your hands.

Police corruption exists in Tijuana. The risk of being forced to pay a bribe can be greatly reduced by knowing what to expect, how to behave, and by taking some simple precautions. By following all of the rules and not driving in Tijuana, you can greatly reduce your chances of encountering corruption. I hope this guide helps you avoid becoming a victim of police corruption in Tijuana.

Of course, corruption isn’t the only crime that exists in the Mexican border city of Tijuana. Violent crime, robbery, pickpocketing, and other scams all exist in the city. For more info, check out my guide to staying safe while visiting Tijuana.

Have you gotten pulled over by a corrupt police officer in Tijuana? Share your tips and experience in the comments below! You could help another traveler avoid the same situation.

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Wednesday 26th of July 2023

For the record, I was robbed of $2,200 US dollars by two TJ police officers while exiting el chaparral pedestrian bridge into the plaza in July 2023 about 10:00 a.m. They stopped me and demanded to search me for no reason whatever. One officer searched my backpack behind my back while the other patted me down aggressively and wouldn't let me turn around to witness the theft. I contacted several Mexican lawyers recommended by the US consulate and they didn't even return my call. Sorry to say, the TJ police are more corrupt than ever. I am now in fear of the Mexican police bandits and will never go to Mexico again without a trusted and knowledgeable local guide.

CC Coleman

Thursday 15th of June 2023

I am in an AIRBNB around Zone Rio right now. I have been routinely stopped by the TJ police if I walk at night (out to get a coke or cigarettes). No cash has been taken as of yet. ID Checked. They rolled up on me with lights and in a sudden fashion like they were rolling up on a person committing a crime to rattle me. The TJ Cops will destroy their tourist industry if they don't watch it. Word gets out. This happened 15 years ago when they had to put Federal Troops on the streets to protect Tourists and Visitors from the TJ Police. They had a Federal Officer on every corner with a Machine Gun to keep the TJ THIEVING COPS IN CHECK! You know it is getting bad when you gather at the AIRBNB and other residents to share stories of getting stopped in the same night.


Friday 16th of June 2023

That's interesting. I haven't been to Tijuana in a while. It sounds like the situation is getting worse with the police.


Sunday 26th of February 2023

Or El Chapparal ?


Sunday 26th of February 2023

Hello, thank you for this great blog, I found a lot of informations. We will be arriving from San Diego with the trolley. I would like to do the electronic FMM, but I don't know the name of the pedestrian entry point in Tijuana, is it Mesa Otay ? Thank you.


Wednesday 1st of March 2023

El Chaparral is the main crossing. If you'll be arriving on the trolley, you'll use El Chaparral.


Sunday 16th of October 2022

I’ve just read 5 of your stories. Great stuff. I subscribed to your newsletter. What experience have you had with the water in Tijuana?


Monday 17th of October 2022

I have drunk the tap water a couple of times but I don't think it's a good idea. I usually just buy bottled water. I also wrote a whole article about water in Mexico.

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