Living/Crossing Tijuana/San Diego

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Mexico Connect Forum Discussion Threads

Posted by alex in TJ on Mayo 02, 2000

HOUSING: There are two nice areas of Tijuana. Playas de Tijuana is the little strip between the Ensenada toll road and the ocean. The other is near the American Consulate north of Aguas Calientes and is more centrally located. Rents run $350 to $400 per month, so a US income is necessary to live comfortably, US style (a $60 per week job is considered very good in Tijuana, minimum wage is about $4.50 per DAY). You will probably have to rent some cheaper place first as the good rentals are not that common.

There are Infonavit apartments in the surrounding colonias that rent as cheap as $80 to $100 per month. These are government-built apartments that were subsidized to government employees who then sold their units to speculators who now rent them at a profit. The typical rental unit has no heat, no stove, no refrigerator, no water heater, or light fixtures. I know of a family that lives in a plywood shack in Colonia Guaycura, initially rent-free in exchange for taking care of the property. Over the past year they have installed interior walls and electricity so the landlord now charges them 600 pesos per month because the property is now “worth more.” Sharing a place with someone already established is also an option. Renting can be tough if you go through an agency as they require a confiador, that is, a co-signer that is a business owner that is willing to be financially responsible. Just another kink to work around.

CROSSING: It takes on the average 40 minutes to cross at San Ysidro at 5am. It varies greatly, some days you can zip through in 5 minutes, other days over an hour, it is unpredictable. It is 24 lanes wide at the crossing, so you can imagine the traffic. I work in the north part of San Diego county so have to cross early to avoid rush hour on the US side which gets heavy about 6:15 am. Inspection at the gate consists of answering a few questions: What is your citizenship? What are you bringing from Mexico? Is this your car? Sometimes they ask when you bought the car so I have committed to memory the month indicated on the license plate sticker which has always been the acceptable answer. When commuting you don’t have a car full of luggage so there is nothing to inspect.

RESIDENCY: As far as residency goes, I am in Mexico on a tourist visa, FMT, that I renew every 6 months, so technically I am not a resident. Try that for the first 6 months or year until you get used to what’s going on, then convert to FM3 status. Legalities can be “fuzzy” or loosely interpreted here at the border, use it to your advantage.

MAIL: You want to maintain a US address. I use a MailBoxes Etc. in Chula Vista because they let you put your box number as an apt # if you like. This is because your US employer-provided health insurance will require a US address. I use this address on my checking account.

BANKING: Maintain a US checking account with a US address so that you can take care of paying bills or other US obligations. Your can open a Mexican account in dollars, though you will have no need to ever write a check in Mexico. Everything including utilities are paid in cash.

CARS: You will need an older car, something that runs dependably, with US plates. You can get Mexican insurance for it for about $150 per year. This you will need in addition to your US insurance, which is invalid in Mexico. It doesn’t pay to have a nice car in Tijuana, the roads will beat the crap out of it and it will get banged up by other careless drivers. There is an expression for a beat up piece of crap car: ” Bien Tijuaneado.” A car isn’t absolutely necessary, one can walk across the border and take the trolley into San Diego, if you prefer, and there is adequate public transportation in Tijuana. You will feel like you are leading a double life for quite a while, it’s like Alice in Wonderland passing back and forth through the looking glass each day. At first the US side seems like the real one, after awhile both sides are equally real.


Posted by TJ-new on Mayo 02, 2000

What sort of an income do you need to retire in TJ, since TJ is much more expensive than other parts of Mexico?

Posted by alex in TJ on Mayo 03, 2000

As our esteemed contributor Stan Gotlieb says: “…to live in Mexico like you live in the US costs like the US.” If you want to do as the natives do, that’s a different story. My best estimate would be to budget your housing expense as 25% of your net income, work the numbers backward from there. This is because your choice of housing will reflect you lifestyle choice as well. “I spent most of my money on beer and women, the rest I wasted.” (author unknown)

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Published or Updated on: January 1, 2000
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