Tijuana has a bad reputation in the press, but it’s actually safer today than it was 10 years ago. It’s an area that is heavily patrolled by border patrol, so if you stick to the right areas, you’ll be okay. Here are the best tips for traveling to Tijuana.
Traveling to Tijuana during COVID? Rules and regulations are changing constantly, so get the latest information on the Federal Register site. Type on “Traveling to Mexico” and you’ll get the most recent information.
Practice Common Sense
If you’re in New York City, would you open up your wallet and start counting money in the street? No. Don’t do it in Tijuana, either. In fact, don’t do it in any other large city. Be aware of your surroundings and use a bit of common sense. Cities are large, diverse places and it’s unrealistic to expect everyone there to behave appropriately.
If you’re really concerned, purchase an inexpensive money belt. It’s worn around the waist like a fanny pack, but it’s thin and tucks in under your pants/shirt. Put all your valuable documents there — from passport and ID to cash. Travel expert Rick Steves notes, “Those who travel with nothing worth stealing except for what’s in their money belt are virtually invulnerable. But money belts don’t work if they’re anywhere but under your clothes.”
Do Your Research
Before you go anywhere, research safe and unsafe neighborhoods — just like you would if visiting Los Angeles or New York. In Tijuana there are still competing gangs, so stay out of the area where gang members frequent, but visiting tourist-friendly places is smart.
The Travel Safe Abroad website notes that there is low risk of natural disasters or terrorist activity, but a medium risk of things you’d find in any more destination: pickpockets, scams, and muggings. Again, just be smart and you’ll be fine.
Take A Day Trip
Since Tijuana is just a short drive from San Diego, make it a day trip so you cut down on all the hotels and overnight stays. This way, you can enjoy this Mexican city in the daylight without having to worry about finding your way back to your hotel at night. There are great food and shopping areas that will fill your itinerary.
Tijuana is known for being a popular party spot at night — mostly for college kids looking for fun. You can certainly do that, but for our money it’s not worth the risk. Go in the day, enjoy the local flavors, and if you really want to go out clubbing visit any of the places in San Diego.
There are lots of cheaper and easier ways to get to Tijuana. If you drive, you’ll likely be stuck in border traffic for a very long time; we’re talking hours, in some cases. Plus, once you get to Tijuana, you can find yourself spending the day searching for parking. Take public transportation instead.
The most popular option is to take the San Diego Trolley down to San Ysidro, get off, and walk across the border. The ride is inexpensive, the cars are clean, and it removes the worry. Get more info here.
There was a time when you just needed a United States ID to cross the border in both directions, but that’s a really fluid situation changing constantly. So even though Mexico is right next to the US, it’s still considered international travel, and you need to bring the appropriate documents with you. That should be your passport (our top choice), a REAL ID, or your green card if you’re a permanent resident. Leaving identification at home will make any trip more difficult than it has to be.