Posted by Rafa Gonzalez on Julio 04, 2000
My name is Rafael Gonzalez, I currently live in San Diego, CA and Pili Trabado is my sister in law. By her request I will try to give you some information about Ensenada, Baja.
I lived there for a great part of my life and I still have property there and visit as often as I can. It will also be my first choice for my residence when I retire – something that is yet to come in about 5 years.
Ensenada is located just about an hour’s drive from the US border in San Diego. There are two roads that can be used, the “free” or non-toll, and the “cuota” one…. There are 3 tollbooths. One in Playas de Tijuana, one in Rosarito, and finally one in San Miguel, 15 minutes north of Ensenada. Most of the people that frequently make the trip to Ensenada bypass the one in Playas de Tijuana by taking the “libre” road from Tijuana to Rosarito. It is clearly marked and is a viable option. This will save $2 US, which is about the cost at each toll station.
The second section from Rosarito to Ensenada follows a parallel route along the seashore. Because of its view, and many places along its length, many people decide to drive it. Another couple of bucks of savings, if one wants to spend a bit more in time, security wise it is safe and the road is in good shape. Then, at what is “La Fonda,” roughly half way, the “free” road goes inland and it is recommended for those whose destination is Ensenada or south, to take the “Cuota,” no toll both at the entrance, at half way you pay as you exit in San Miguel. From there the divided road ends in Ensenada. Ensenada is a commercial port.
Founded in 1800’s or better said, developed then, it has kept the feeling of a modern yet provincial town. It’s close to the USA and is blessed with what is called a “Free Zone” for import purposes. There are two kinds of vehicles the locals have the option to own. “Nationals,” which can be taken to the interior of Mexico, and the “fronterizos” which can only be driven in the State of Baja and a small portion of Sonora. Yet, those vehicles can be imported temporarily to the interior via payment of a fee and a security deposit of a bond.
Ensenada has subsisted by its tourism, seasonal or permanent, by agriculture, fishing, mining, export and import of goods. It is also an international port with full customs facilities. The airport, located a few miles south of Ensenada has been denominated International but no major airlines service it. Yet many people fly from California and other parts in private planes. There are commuter flights to the rest of Baja.
Ensenada has good port facilities and major cruise lines make regular stops here. Occasionally there has been a shuttle, casino type ferry between San Diego and Ensenada, but not currently. Many top class marinas are within the bay. Hotel and motels are of all kinds and prices. From the 5 star Coral, 4 star Estero Beach and San Nicolas, and a few others, to many budget ones. Prices are posted in pesos and usually the exchange rate is posted too. One rule of thumb, ask prices and rates before you sign anything.
Everyone in the main businesses in town speaks English, and the people as a whole are very eager to help. The sport fishing is a major attraction to national and international tourism, yet you don’t get that overwhelming feeling of being in a “tourist plantation.” As I was saying, the sport fishing is very good. Many sport-fishing boats from California find the best catches in Ensenada waters. Prices for a full day go from close to $100 US to $20, depending on boat, size of party, and season. Prices can be found and some bargaining will allow one to make great deals.
Captured fish can be cleaned, iced, and taken across the US border, limits in Mexico are very generous, yet, keep in mind the US regulations about size and quantity. Fishing licenses are required and are inexpensive. The exchange rate is currently about $1 US to 10 Pesos. This allows one to live with about the same comfort as in California for about half as much money. Nevertheless, all US made products, (and you can find anything in the stores) are usually more expensive since they are imported. But most of everything can be found either made in Mexico or a very similar product at substantial savings over US brands.
I will attempt to describe some of the economical characteristics. Hotels: from $ 20 (all US$) to $200, most of the better hotels and motels accept phone reservations. House and apartments for rent, long term. A studio in town, non-tourist, unfurnished, $100- $150 monthly. One or two bedroom $200 +. Small house close to beach and downtown $400 +. A deposit, first and last, and a “fiador,” a cosigner of someone local that can be held responsible for the non-payment or damage to the property. There are ways to arrange this, usually with a larger deposit… so money talks.
Property purchases of land are not NOT………. N O T!!! permitted to foreigners. Lease, bank trusts are the only safe ways to have control of a piece of land or building. The practice of using a “Prestanombres,” buying in someone’s name is highly risky; there is no way to hold anyone to assure you the absolute ownership. You will be at their mercy at all times. I don’t care how many people have trusted their sisters, boyfriend, there are many, hundreds of properties that have become “expropriated” by the “prestanombres” to the dismay of the well-intended foreigner. If you plan to buy something, be sure that you get legal advise IN WRITING, by a reputable source. And CHECK, check it again. No reason to distrust everyone. Just be wise, as you must be anywhere else in the world. There are many, thousands of American people that either live permanently, for stretches of time, or visit periodically that have built or bought a piece of heaven. You can lease a lot, and bring your RV and park it there, or a larger mobile home. You can buy a large mobile home, already in Ensenada and rent a lot very close to the beach, if you like. Cost? From $3k up to $10K, plus another grand for installation. Again, you can get your dollars to stretch more if you have someone to bargain for you. Once installed, you can get all services and utilities in reasonable Mexican time. Again, same rule applies.
Phone service is easily available and its prices are comparable with California. One major difference is that “servicio medido,” the basic rate of about $20 monthly includes 200 minutes. Each additional minute costs about $.05. Long distance, depending on hour and place, goes from $ .50 per minute to California and up, way up… The same phone company provides Internet services; rates vary, for about $20 per month plus the phone service. The benign weather is pretty much like San Diego’s “America’s Finest.” No AC is required, fans and cool swamps do the trick in summer time, and in winter a gas heater is nice to have. Anyway … excuse the ranting… I hope I have given you a fair glimpse of Ensenada. Please feel free to contact me as you have questions. I hope I didn’t confuse you beyond repair. One last thought. So many permanent residents of Ensenada, from the US, can’t be wrong . . . Saludos, Rafa
Posted by Diane Roux on Julio 07, 2000
Many thanks for your very interesting posting re Ensenada. I have just returned from Ajijic but it will not be possible to run my small business of giftware manufacturing from there – I need somewhere closer to the border, so we are going to E. in December. It sounds great. One thing we would really miss is a library in English. Are there any groups of gringos in E. who have perhaps established a small lending library? Thanks for all the info. Diane
Posted by Rafa Gonzalez on Julio 07, 2000
I will be going again this weekend and I will try to obtain any pertinent info about any “English” library. I know that the American population is very large, and if there is no library, maybe it is a good thought to have one started…… wonderful concept. Rafa