Tijuana, Mexico Report of what it's like to live there

Personal Experiences from Tijuana, Mexico

Tijuana, Mexico 11/05/17

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No - others in the western hemisphere.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

West Coast - 8-10 hour drive. East Coast - 4-5 hour flights - many available from San Diego.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Two years.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Working for the U.S. Consulate General in Tijuana.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Houses are generally small with very limited outdoor space. Many families consider them small, especially compared to housing at other posts. Houses are generally spread out in the wealthier areas of TJ, and within 5-10 minutes drive of grocery stores and some restaurants, but not usually within walking distance considering the lack of decent sidewalks and very hilly neighborhoods. Commute time to the consulate is 20-25 minutes.



Apartments are generally nicely sized for an apartment and tend to house singles and couples. Most are on a lively street with tons of restaurants, cafes, shops, and entertainment. Most apartments face a country club with green space, but this is off limits as you must be a member of the club to enter. Noise on the street can be a nuisance at times, but most in apartments tend to like the location. Commute time to the consulate is 20-25 minutes.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Everything is available on both sides of the border, but prices differ. Food tends to be less expensive in Tijuana, while household supplies, electronics, clothing, etc. are less expensive in San Diego. WalMart and grocery stores are 10 minutes from the border, Target 15 minutes, and an outlet mall is right at the border in San Ysidro.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Nothing. Everything is available, and if you don't want to go to a store, Amazon Prime can ship to the P.O. box within 2 days. Family sometimes sends regional favorites not available in San Diego.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Tacos are king in TJ, but ceviche, tortas (sandwiches), pizza, ramen, etc. are available and at about 50% of San Diego restaurant prices. Many restaurants deliver, but Uber Eats is also in TJ. Food truck parks are popular and allow you to sample lots of different types of food in one place - they're also great for groups. No one I've talked to has complained about the food here.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Some houses have ants or cockroaches or termites or mice. It just depends.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Consulate personnel use a P.O. box and Postal Annex box for mail. I've had Amazon Prime orders in hand in 2 days (ordered Sunday, box opened on Tuesday).

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Household help is usually available. But there are lulls. Most families have a housekeeper a day or two each week, and some with kids have nannies.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Gyms like Total Fitness and World Gym are available but very expensive ($50+ per month). Smaller outfits have spin, barre, yoga, kickboxing, martial arts, etc. and are available for less and $10 per class or less if you buy a package of classes.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Credit and debit cards are widely accepted. Haven't had any issues the few times I've used mine in TJ, but most people use cash. People use the ATM in the consulate for pesos and ATMs in the U.S. for dollars.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Every major religion has a home in San Diego with English-language services.

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Very little. Obviously you should try, but being on the border many people speak some English. There aren't that many Spanish classes, most language programs offer English.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Yes - sidewalks are terrible and many places do not accommodate those with limitations south of the border.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Consulate community members can use Uber, but no other public transport is considered safe. Lyft is not yet in TJ. Uber rides are very affortable.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Any car would be fine, but a smaller SUV would be best because there are so many potholes, speed bumps, and speed dips and a higher clearance helps. Parts and mechanics are available on both sides. New cars can stay in warranty with U.S. dealer service.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes, internet is generally set up for consulate families.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

You can use your U.S. phone - just be careful and also use it a fair bit when you cross into the U.S. The consulate doesn't provide cell phones for EFMs anymore - only employees.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

There are many vets available and most are very good. No quarantine necessary for import to Mexico, just the standard vaccines and paperwork. You should have that, but generally no one checks going into Mexico or back into the U.S. Plenty of vets in the U.S. too if you prefer. Pet Clinic accepts Mexican vets' prescriptions for prescribed medicines or food unavailable or more expensive in Mexico.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

There are several jobs for EFMs at the consulate. Several EFMs commute to the U.S., a few others work from home. There are many options here. Salaries in TJ are generally too low to go to the trouble of getting a Mexican work permit, but it can be done.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Plenty of volunteer opportunities on both sides of the border.

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3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Dress in Tijuana and San Diego is casual. More shorts in SD than TJ, but overall pretty casual everywhere. Locals tend to dress up more than Americans for dinners out, but formal dress is reserved for very formal events. The consulate is also casual - ties are rare and suits rarer. Sandals and dressy casual dresses in summer are perfectly acceptable. DC-wear not needed but a couple times each year for major visits.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

At the moment, not more than any other city. Murders are the highest they've ever been in 2017, but it is generally focused among gang members.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

It's pretty dry most of the year... but nothing else really comes to mind. Medical is good in Tijuana, great in San Diego. Many Americans come down to TJ for dental and medical care.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Air quality is pretty good. It can get pretty dusty in the dry summer months, but I haven't heard of anyone having major issues because of it.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

There are many food options available, mostly in Sand Diego, but some in Tijuana too. Asthma sufferers may have more difficulties when it's dusty. Seasonal allergies are generally not too bad.

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5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?

No. Just the usual stuff for those who usually suffer.

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6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Generally around 70-80 most days. August is very hot, December and January are colder (60-65) and it sprinkles or rains a couple times per week. It can get cool at night and in the early morning, so jackets are recommended. But you don't really need coats unless you plan to ski or visit colder places.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

Schools in Tijuana are good for preschoolers and kids up to about third grade. After that the education officers recommends schools in the U.S. Consulate kids attend Coronado Public schools and a few private schools in San Diego.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

Local Tijuana schools can handle mild special needs. San Diego has a few schools that can handle moderate to severe needs.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

Preschools are available in Tijuana and are relatively inexpensive. School days are relatively short and few have full-day programs and before or after care.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Yes - lots of sports, music lessons, karate, dance, etc. Instruction is generally in Spanish within TJ, but some instructors speak some English.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

There are many dual nationals and in TJ proper not that many expats. The retirees live in Rosarito and further south in Baja. People love it here - it's the best of both worlds.

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2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Go across to the U.S. or hang out in Rosarito I suppose if you want American friends. Locals are everywhere, so just go out. There aren't expat or diplomat groups like in other posts. If you're religious or have a hobby you can find a group that way.

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

It seems like it's good for everyone. Singles can date freely if the choose or live freely with tons of social options on both sides. Couples have plenty of date options. Families have many options too, but most are in San Diego - there aren't many good playgrounds, parks, or kid-centric activities south of the border.

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4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

It seems to be. Everyone can date freely and I haven't heard about any couples being harassed or hate crimes being rampant.

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5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Not really.

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6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

The Valle de Guadalupe wine region is wonderful. Whale watching in spring is fabulous. Skiing in California is really fun. Driving through the desert is eye opening. There's really a lot to do - you could surf in the morning and ski in the afternoon.

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7. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

No TJ-specific handicrafts. But Mercado de Artesanias and Rosarito have a decent selection if you want to send something home. Better items are found elsewhere in Mexico. Wine from the Valle is a great gift.

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8. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Have both Tijuana and San Diego so close. There is something to do every single day.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

How much we'd cross into the U.S. It's at least twice each week for us, but some cross every day, and some go rarely.

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Absolutely. It is a great post. A nice break if you've served in a harder post previously.

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3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Snow boots and cold weather gear unless you plan to ski.

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4. But don't forget your:

Sunblock, hat, surf board, skis, snowboard, camping gear. But, really, everything is available even if you do forget or leave something in storage.

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Tijuana, Mexico 05/31/15

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Arizona. About an 8 hour drive.

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3. How long have you lived here?

2011 - 2013

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Foreign Service Officer

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Most consulate housing is about 20 minutes from the new consulate. Most families are in houses, most with very small to nonexistent yards. Others in high rise apartments on a golf course or nearby. The houses can't really walk to much, but the apartments are on a new trendy strip of restaurants and bars that are walkable.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Not less expensive than the U.S. Household items are more expensive and the quality is a lot worse. We bought most of that stuff on the other side.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Nada.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

All you can handle. From you classic chicken and pizza to really great fresh seafood tacos.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

We had some ant issues. Oh, and black widows.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

P.O. box in through consulate in San Diego.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Our maid was US$35 per day twice per week. Nanny was US$700, full time. No one lives in.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

They are available. There is one at the consulate, and then others vary by quality and cost. We didn't join any.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

You have to watch for fake card scanners. We used the ATM at the consulate and one at a nicer mall area. No issues.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Absolutely...In California.

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

lots of people speak some English.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Probably. This is not a pedestrian friendly city and not much accommodation is made for wheelchairs. Sidewalks are not well maintained, elevators don't always work...

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

nope.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Bring something that can take lots of big speedbumps and that you don't mind getting dinged in a parking lot. People drive everything there from luxury vehicles, to SUVs and compact cars.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes. Fairly fast. Maybe US$60-$70 per month.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

There is pretty good service. We used the consulate ones.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

No and Yes.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Not sure. Probably lots of opportunities in California.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Orphanages, churches, drug addicts, you name it.

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3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Business casual at work. Public is fairly casual.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

We never really felt really unsafe. We didn't expose ourselves either. Keep your head on a swivel in public places, look like you know where you're going, avoid certain parts of town after dark or always. We didn't run or bike in the streets during our time there, but as we were leaving we noticed more and more people doing so.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Good medical care, and California is right there.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Decent air quality. If it was bad, we didn't notice any health issues. They do burn a lot of trash sometimes, so that has an impact.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

There will be allergies.

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5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

So much sun and blue skies, you almost miss the rain (almost).

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

Most kids who are older than 2-3 grade go to school in San Diego. But there is a great little bilingual school that our child really liked. I think it goes through 8th grade. The teachers were wonderful and she was totally bilingual by the time we left. Some people left their kids there into grade school and it worked out, but others mentioned that in later posts their kids were behind in English reading, writing and math. Our daughter was only there for pre-K.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

no experience with that. I think that most kids with special needs take advantage of the proximity to San Diego schools.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

Nannies abound. Prices range depending on the education and experience level. Probably from US$350 - $700. Ours was great. She drove too, which is handy because TJ is NOT a walking city.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Not sure. Soccer through school (for boys), and cheerleading for girls.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Expat community is huge and dispersed. Morale varies.

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2. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

It is probably a good city for all three. Plenty of nice restaurants. The food scene is booming. There is an excellent children's museum in TJ. There are plenty of bars and night life on both sides of the border. There is a very nice VIP movie theatre. Wine country is an hour away, with nice places to stay and pretty good wine too.

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3. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

I think so. Friends we had who were gay seemed to enjoy it. But I can't speak directly to their experience.

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4. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

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5. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

We loved being so close to San Diego. The climate and food in TJ are amazing. People are friendly. Probably the best thing we did was a long road trip down the peninsula. Baja is amazing beautiful and diverse. So very much to see, eat and do.

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6. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

The whole peninsula: Ensenada, Valle de Guadalupe, La Paz, Loreto... A lot of people did the whale watching.

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7. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

not much in Tijuana. It's not known for its crafts. Further south in Mexico, there is a lot.

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8. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Great climate, 45 minutes from world class beaches in San Diego, good access to the U.S., excellent food, vineyards, touring Baja.

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9. Can you save money?

sure.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Expectations of the exotic expat life.

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3. But don't forget your:

Open mind. This place turned out to be a great place for us.

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Tijuana, Mexico 03/25/15

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No.

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2. How long have you lived here?

Three years.

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3. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Foreign Service.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Mixture of high rise apartments and singe family homes. Typical commute time is 15-20 minutes. Housing is great.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Fresh produce is cheaper in Mexico, while everything else is cheaper in the U.S. Officers tend to do the bulk of their grocery shopping on the U.S. side.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Nothing, everything is easily accessible in the U.S.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Tons and tons of great restaurants. Tijuana is a foodie haven. Baja med cuisine is to die for. Great roadside taco stands and cheap options as well.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

None that I have noticed.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

PO box in the U.S. and it's brought over by the mail guys daily.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

US$35 for 1/2 day of cleaning.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Yes and reasonably priced.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Generally safe and well known banks and establishments. Never use one at a gas station. Some dispense both pesos and US$.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Just the basics, most people speak some degree of English.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Yes. There are no requirements for buildings to be ADA compliant and side walks are often full of potholes or non existent.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Taxi libres are safe and fast as are the airport taxis. We are not allowed to take the red group taxis.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Sedans or SUVs are both fine. It very rarely rains but when it does the streets flood and low riding cars can get stuck. I would avoid any type of vehicle routinely used by narcos.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes, about US$30 per month.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Most people carry both a U.S. phone and a Mexican phone. Some Officers can pick up AT&T signals from their apartments.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

No.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Tons. Many orphanages and migrant shelters.

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3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

On the dressier side.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Narco violence but Americans are not targeted. Generally homicides happen in the impoverished neighborhoods and are gang and drug related. There are infrequent assassinations and assassination attempts within the vicinity of consulate housing.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

There are a few good private hospitals but most people seek medical treatment on the U.S. side.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

The air quality seems find although it is very dusty here

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

Haven't known anyone with allergies here.

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5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Perfect weather all the time, 72F degrees every day.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

Consulate staff tend to send older school age children to school in the U.S.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

Special needs kids tend to attend school in the U.S.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

Yes and reasonably priced.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Large but dispersed. Morale at post is generally good, most people love living in Tijuana.

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2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Museums, theater, opera, concerts, shopping, clubs, tequila bars.

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Good for everyone. Singles will find dating pretty easy on both sides of the border.

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4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

I'm not sure what the gay scene is like in Tijuana but I have also never heard of anyone who is gay feeling uncomfortable or targeted.

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5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Generally no. Mexican culture can be patriarchal at times.

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6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Valle de Guadalupe wine country. Guerreo Negro for whale watching. Traveling within Mexico and traveling within souther California, New Mexico and Nevada.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Over 100 wineries in the Valle de Guadalupe, about 2 hours south of Tijuana. Best whale watching in the world in Guerrero Negro, about 10 hours south of Tijuana. Easy flights to Cabo and La Paz.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Woodwork, art, pottery.

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9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Great travel options within Mexico and in southern California. The weather is 72F degrees everyday and can't be beat. Lots of culture on both sides of the border.

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10. Can you save money?

Yes but only if you have no desire to travel. The travel opportunities are so great that people don't tend to save a lot.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

It was much better than I was expecting.

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes

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3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Ideas about immigration.

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4. But don't forget your:

Patience and sense of humor.

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations episode on Tijuana. Border Wars on Natgeo. Sin Nombre (English Subtitled).

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6. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

The Tortilla Curtain,

The Bear and the Porcupine: The U.S. and Mexico.

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7. Do you have any other comments?

Tijuana is great and most people are happily surprised when they arrive. Many Officers extend their tours or wish they could stay longer.

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Tijuana, Mexico 04/30/14

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

West Coast so a day's drive away.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Over a year.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Work.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Houses are nice, yards are small. Neighborhood parties are NOISY. Apartments are also nice but friends have complained of shoddy construction work - bad plumbing, ceilings falling in. Apartments are pretty spacious compared to U.S. big city standards. It seems like it takes 15 minutes to get anywhere - obviously longer if there is traffic or an accident. Roads tend to be indirect to your destination.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

They seem more expensive - I just shop across the border as the organic selection and prices are better.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

None - Target is 35 minutes away. Tijuana also has good grocery stores, Home Depot, Walmart, and Costco.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Tacos plus drinks for two is about US$10. A bajamed cocina is approximately US$60 for two.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Ants and roaches, occasional Black Widow Spider sightings in yards.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

U.S. post across the border.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Full time is US$400 a month. Nannies can be approximately US$700 a month.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Yes, but they are expensive compared to the U.S. And reportedly, they have no childcare.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Don't. We use strictly cash here. I haven't had a bad experience but I do not trust the system given the reputation.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

I imagine anything - if you cannot find it in Tijuana, you can find it in San Diego.

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Spanish is helpful, more so than I thought.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Yes. There are few smooth sidewalks; but it hardly matters as you drive everywhere.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Just the white taxis I think. The buses are old school buses, which is quirky.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Nothing fancy - streets are rough, speed bumps are everywhere. Our sedan is fine but I feel more comfortable in our SUV.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes, approximately US$40 a month.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

I use a local one but retained my U.S. plan for when I am across the border. Telcel works okay but I think the data is expensive. The U.S. Mexico plans' data packages are ridiculous in practicality because the data costs are so high.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

Not sure - but yes, kennels and vets abound.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

I'm not sure.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

There are plenty of orphanages and migrant/immigrant groups to volunteer with.

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3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

I do not see ties on men ever. It's pretty casual overall.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Crime is concern - it can overshadow your sense of enjoyment in the city. If you exercise street smarts and common sense, you will be okay. We live in a nice neighborhood but with traffic speeding by and people always out and about, I do not feel comfortable walking by myself for exercise. I don't feel that safe here.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Allergies have been a pain but otherwise this would be a good place to go to if you have medical problems. Tijuana's health care system seems pretty good but you can get anything treated in San Diego too. Friends of mine are thankful they were here when serious illnesses were discovered and treated.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Overall, not bad. Allergies can be killer though as everything grows in this climate. Air quality at the border can be awful on long-wait days.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

The climate is fantastic unless you like the rain and snow. Shorter trees means there is a lack of shade so warmer days feel hot. In the winter, the dryness feels so cold and I dream of a day when I can step out of a shower and not instantly freeze from the lack of insulation.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

Parents seem happy with the private preschools and kindergarten. Most parents I know send their elementary school-age kids and older to schools across the border because of bullying or other difficult social situations and because the schools here do not seem to be amendable to working with expat parents.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

Few accommodations that I know of. All school buildings have stairs and no elevators for instance. I heard parents send their kids abroad if they have special considerations.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

Yes, although from what I understand, no full day options are available. Parents seem happy with the bilingual private preschools.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

I think there are a variety of programs available.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

It's hard to define and make a generalization. There are so so many dual citizens and American expats here. Some love it, some tolerate it. I think morale at the U.S. Consulate is low.

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2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Eat at restaurants and drink. Family is big here, and expats seem to either cross or have bbqs, etc.

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Yes, although families lack free things to do. The children's museum is really nice, as well as the cultural museum. The beaches are a bit dirty and crowded though and crime has grown in Rosarito. There are few parks without dogs or idlers, and many seem to lack playgrounds. Those that do look worn out. Most people seem to cross the border or entertain in their homes. Singles and couples seem to do the same. You better like being in your car if you are going to live here.

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4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

I think so.

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5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Not that I am aware of.

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6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

The food is amazing and visiting the Valle de Guadalupe or Puerto Nuevo is a perfect weekend activity.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

The Valle de Guadalupe is amazing. It is so fun to pack a picnic or splurge and eat at one of the farm-to-table restaurants. The food and wine are delicious as is the craft brewery scene here and across the border.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Mercado Hildago has standard Mexican gifts and food.

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9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Proximity to San Diego, which is an amazing city. There is great camping, hiking, running and bike riding across the border. Some of the more adventurous types would say the same about baja norte too.

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10. Can you save money?

No - it all goes to the gas you expend waiting to cross the border. Even with sentri - the wait can sometimes be 20-30 minutes.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

It is really a transit city. There isn't a lot of culture in its appearance - no plaza or old missions or anything. It is not a place you think of being a tourist in unless you plan to visit the restaurant scene.

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

No. I would try to go elsewhere in Mexico - D.F., Guad, even Monterrey. I hear morale is really low at the U.S. Consulate and I found that its hard to make friends. Family seems to bind people to Tijuana - and for many - they live here because it is cheaper and work across the border. So finding community is difficult. San Diego is a fantastic world class city but crossing the border gets so, so, so old and expensive. People are really nice and I love the artisan food culture but that's about it.

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3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Wool sweaters and desire to walk to coffee or anything (unless you live in an apartment).

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4. But don't forget your:

Common sense and security awareness! And appetite.

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

The Labyrinth of Solitude: The Other Mexico, Return to the Labyrinth of Solitude, Mexico and the United States, the Philanthropic Ogre, New Yorker articles on Tijuana and the Sinaloa Cartel.

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Tijuana, Mexico 02/15/14

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No, I've lived in other places in Mexico and Asia.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

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3. How long have you lived here?

15 months.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Work.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Large, concrete block style houses - no insulation makes for a miserable winter. My commute is 15 minutes - due to the changes in the oneway streets along the river and varying traffic patterns, you should expect to get anywhere in TJ in 35 minutes or less.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Groceries are 25% more than in the U.S. Prices for locally produced fruits and vegetables are cheaper than in U.S.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Nothing.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Taco places are good, ceviche is good, tamales, etc.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Ants in the house. Roaches in the summer.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Use a postal box in San Diego like everyone else in TJ.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

About US$300-400 a month.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

There are many gyms though I have heard they are more costly than comparable facilities in the U.S.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

No issues. Give your bank notice you will be in Mexico so they don't freeze your cards.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

I'm an atheist but locals have events for the Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, Jesus Christ, Santa Clause, and the mythical Cupacabra.

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

It helps of course, but most educated people and younger kids speak English.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Yes .

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

No one I know has used public transport. Taxis that you call are okay, but do not waive them from the street if they are red. Red taxis are on a set route and collect random passengers along the way. White taxi libres are okay.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

A normal sedN with stock ride height is fine. I would not drive anything lowered here or with low ground effects.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes, 25% more expensive than in U.S. and slower too.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

No.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Not really. Why would you take a job here when the salary is 7 times higher 2 miles north?

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Lots for youth affiliated stuff, migrants.

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3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Dress casual.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Cartel violence is focused and not as indiscriminate as portrayed in the lame-stream media. Street level crime concerns me the most. Lots of muggings, car jackings, express kidnappings, property damage, etc. There are nicer neighborhoods like Agua Caliente and Chapultepec where you can walk and feel mostly safe.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

None. Don't drink the water if you ever want to collect social security. Mexicans in general do not wash their hands. I've seen hundreds of rich and poor men use the bathroom and not wash their hands afterwards.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Good but rush hour city center traffic can decrease air quality.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

The best weather in Mexico! Dry and sunny - not hot. The occasional Santa Anna winds can be hot and drying but they're rare.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

They are okay. I won't name any here, but if your kids have English as a native language, find a school whose purpose is NOT to teach solely English.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

Depends on the school - the teachers and schools seem to care if they are not that enlightened on how to teach those kids. Most special needs kids go to schools in San Diego if they can.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

Yes, preschools are expensive. We pay about US$2,800 a year for our toddler.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Yes, swimming, martial arts, music, soccer.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Big and good, half the city was born on Medicaid in the U.S.

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2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Go out to eat, VIP movie theaters, dinners together.

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

It's okay, not the best. The biggest threat to your kids will be cars. People drive aggressively, even your neighbors will nearly mow you down at 50 mph in front of your home should you stray into the road. Patsies Morelos and Amistad are the two large, green spaces with bouncy castles, animals, bike trails, etc. Galerias has a bouncy castle and skating rink.

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4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

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5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

No idea. I think class matters here more than in the U.S. The rich folks here think they can get away with bullying the poor. I have seen some shameful examples of this.

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6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

El Valle de Guadalupe is the wine region. There is a Baja Med fusion food movement going on.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

El Valle Guadalupe is the wine region; Mercado Hidalgo, the great restaurants, are in Zona Rio.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Tableware.

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9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Proximity to a world-class city like San Diego.

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10. Can you save money?

Yes.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

How cold the winters are.

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

I guess.... Whatever, it's okay. It could be a lot better, but the city is poorly administered.


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3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Guns, SUVs.

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4. But don't forget your:

Sunglasses Pepto Bismal, pepper spray for stray dogs and muggers.

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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Tijuana, Mexico 04/04/11

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

First long-term expat experience (previously 4 months in Thailand in 2005).

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

4-5 hrs from San Diego Airport

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3. How long have you lived here?

Two years; I recently left.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Foreign Service posting.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Centrally located apartments for most single officers, with a 10-20 minute commute (depending on if you're at the annex or the consulate). Commute times slightly higher for families who live in gated communities.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

You can get anything in San Diego. Tijuana doesn't offer as much variety and as good quality as what you can get in San Diego, though for standard stuff you need in a pinch, you don't need to cross the border.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Everything is available in San Diego.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Tijuana has lots of options for street tacos, mid-range dining, and nice restaurants, all at comparably cheaper prices than in San Diego.

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5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?

Soy chorizo is the only meat substitute I saw in Tijuana, though everything and anything is available in San Diego. There are two good, decently priced (though with odd hours and not easily found), vegetarian restaurants in Tijuana.

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6. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Not really.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

The U.S.Consulate has a PO Box address in San Ysidro. It works great.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

US$5 an hour for someone to come once a week.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

There are mediocre gyms are low cost in Tijuana. The only American-quality gym that isn't extremely overcrowded is very expensive, though some officers use it.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

For ATMs, stick to banks and well-lit grocery stores. You get a better rate withdrawing pesos than withdrawing dollars in the US and converting it to pesos at an exchange house.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

San Diego Union Tribune has many articles about Tijuana and the border region.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

In the touristy parts, you can get by with English, but having some basic Spanish is key to being able to interact with most of the locals in Tijuana, and parts of San Ysidro and Chula Vista too!

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Not at all a walkable city.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Taxi libres are moderately safe if one stays aware of their surroundings. The shared taxis and buses less so. Generally, it is easier just to drive where you want to go, except for when going out at night.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Road quality is poor, you do not want to bring a flashy car. Expect to get some scratches and bumps; the traffic is chaotic here.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

US$40-50/month for high speed internet+phone.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Somewhat of a headache; roaming charges are expensive if you use your American phone in Mexico on the Telcel network, and US service is very inconsistent. Many people keep a US phone and a Mexican phone on them.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

No quarantine. No questions are asked and no documents are checked when you enter Tijuana through the land crossing.

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

Vets are available on both sides of the border. Kennels are cheaper in Tijuana, but the quality is not as high.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

San Diego, if you're willing to do the commute.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Business casual.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Yes, while getting randomly shot by narcos isn't that much of a problem, street crime is common. I try to confine my driving to specific areas of the city, in the more affluent parts. I rarely walk in the street anywhere that takes more than 10 minutes to get to.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Most medical issues can be taken care of in San Diego.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Pollution never was a major problem, though it varies day to day.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

The vast majority of days are sunny with pleasant temperatures (60-80 degrees).

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

View All Answers


2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

View All Answers


3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

View All Answers


4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Hard to judge. Tons of Americans (including Mexican Americans, who blend in more) live in Tijuana and work in the US. Rosarito has a large retirement community.

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2. Morale among expats:

There is less of an expat scene. Many officers have family in California, which boosts morale.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Some house parties, restaurant gatherings. Again, good nightlife options on both sides of the border.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Male single officers have dated Tijuanenses; it seems female single officers tend to date more often in San Diego. There is a decent amount of nightlife options on both sides of the border. However, the few places to go out in TJ where you feel safe start to get old after awhile. San Diego has a much more dynamic nightlife, but clubs close early and you must drive there, so you have to have a designated driver to avoid a DWI. Vegas and LA aren't too far away, at least. Outside of nightlife, TJ has very few activities in which to meet people. San Diego is more diverse, but it can get to be a hassle to commute to San Diego for weekly meetup groups and activities. For those looking to date, Tijuana definitely is divided by class, so expect some attitude from the old money. Recent immigrants are not as well off, but much more open to meeting new people. In summary, for the single male, Tijuana is not going to be the heaven that many expat posts are because the US passport isn't a big deal. However, there aren't cultural barriers to dating foreigners, so it shouldn't be an issue.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Tijuana isn't as liberal as Mexico City, but there are some gay clubs. San Diego has many options.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Tijuana still holds many chauvinistic attitudes, but rarely will there be any outright harassment. Racism exists, the lighter skinned tend to be more dominant in the city. Don't be shocked if you are called "negro,"(black) or "moreno,"(brown). There is much less political correctness here.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Traveling around California and the Western United States, traveling around Baja, outdoor activities, varied nightlife.

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Going out at night, outdoor activities in San Diego, going to the beach.

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Pictures with donkeys, Tequila shots accompanied by whistle blowing, souvenirs imported from the center of Mexico.

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

The ability to experience three cultures: American/North San Diego culture, Mexican culture, and the border culture.

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11. Can you save money?

Slightly more than you would be able to living in a mid-sized American city.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes, it was an interesting two years, but I really miss being able to walk the streets. It's such a shame that people spend so much time in their cars (on both sides of the border) given the beautiful weather.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Love of public transportation; Tijuana and SoCal are all car country. Cold weather gear (unless you plan to go skiing in San Bernardino).

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3. But don't forget your:

Sports and camping equiptment.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Traffic
; Sleep Dealer

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6. Do you have any other comments?

This is not a cosmopolitan big city atmosphere; nor is it a boring sleepy town. It's neither Mexican, nor American. Tijuana is it's own unique beast, which merits a tour.

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Tijuana, Mexico 03/05/11

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

Yes

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

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3. How long have you lived here?

10 months

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Working for the U.S. Consulate

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

The consulate provides stunning luxury apartments to singles and nice, large homes to families. We have very good housing. For non consulate people, the housing is not expensive and a lot of it is at U.S. standards.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Groceries are comparable to the U.S. Depending on what I am looking for, I split my shopping between the Supermarkets here (Calimax and Soriana) and the grocery stores in the U.S. Produce is cheaper in Mexico and the quality is generally good.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

if you didn't bring it, you can buy it here or in San Diego.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Fast food here is a taco stand or a torta (Mexican sandwich). You can't go wrong with food here. It is amazing and costs about 30% less than in San Diego.

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5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?

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6. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Some cockroaches and flies, but hardly anything too big or scarey.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

The consulate has a U.S. PO Box that we get daily delivery from.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

A housekeeper will generally charge between $5-$7.50 per hour. Good help isn't too hard to find.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Yes, they seem to have similar prices to U.S. Gyms and equipment are comparable.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Inside a well-lit store or bank only!

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

You can get by with English, everyone seems to speak it. However, the locals will like you a lot more, and your time will be more enjoyable, if you attempt to at least learn a little Spanglish.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

I just got off of crutches and it was a nightmare. You need a car. Walking more than a few blocks is impossible and possibly dangerous.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

I would stay away from buses. Some of the taxis are safe, but don't flag one down, call ahead.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

I have a mid-sized SUV. Don't bring anything too flashy or you won't have it long. And be prepared to get a few dings; the drivers here are insane!

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

I pay $30 for DSL and my home phone. The speed isn't too bad.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

I get a U.S. signal in my apartment and I have a pay-as you go Mexican cell phone.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

No.

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

They can commute to San Diego. A lot of spouses do this. Commute times are between 30-90 minutes each way.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Business casual at work. Jeans and t-shirt are fine on the weekends. Dress to impress if you are going out or to a party.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Tijuana is a high-crime city. If you stay away from the bad neighborhoods and pay attention to your surroundings you will probably be fine. Most of the crime is criminal on criminal, but carjackings and robberies are common enough.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

San Diego is just 30 minutes away and there are world-class facilities like Scripps Healthcare.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

It's moderate. The excessive dust can be a pain, especially if you have asthma.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Mostly sunny and warm. In the 50s and 60s in the winter. Very few cloudy or rainy days.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

If they don't have it in TJ, they will in San Diego.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Large, but a lot of them have strong ties to Mexico or were born in the U.S. but grew up in Mexico. The consulate staff are pretty tight-knit.

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2. Morale among expats:

At the consulate it has gotten alot better in the past 8 months. The weather is awesome and the food is delicious. If you hate it in TJ you can always spend your time on the U.S. side. Crime is a concern for everyone.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

There are lots of activities to do, you can have a very full social life here and in San Diego.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

I am married and with no kids. I think it is a great place for couples, singles, or people with kids. The awesome housing really helps.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Tijuana has its gay community but it not as "out". It would probably not be considered ok to have a public display of affection in Tijuana between a gay couple. San Diego is definitely gay friendly.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Darker-skinned people don't seem to be treated as well as lighter-skinned people, but it is subtle.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Exploring Tijuana restaurants, San Diego neighborhoods, enjoying the wonderful weather, and improving my Spanish with the friendly local population.

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

The restaurants, the big public park, the beach, San Diego, Ensenada, wine tasting in Guadalupe Valley, Hidalgo Market.

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

cervezas, tacos, pinatas.

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

The best weather in the world, with an average temperature of 70F, sunny skies, and no humidity! Tijuana is a little known, but world class culinary destination and San Diego is just World Class and 30 minutes away.

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11. Can you save money?

It's hard when San Diego is so close.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes. TJ is a bit of a hidden gem and San Diego is wonderful too. If you work in the consulate, the work-load and type of work is tough but fairly rewarding.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

winter coat.

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3. But don't forget your:

appetite for tacos. This is seriously an under rated city for culinary delights. Not just the street food, but some very innovative, cutting edge restaurants.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Traffic.

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6. Do you have any other comments?

It is easier than you might think to live a cross-border existence. Getting a SENTRI border crossing card is a must.

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Tijuana, Mexico 12/29/10

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

First expat experience

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Washington, D.C., most everyone flies out of San Diego, CA airport, many connections and prices for just about every budget. It is just as quick and efficient to get there, as opposed to going to Tijuana airport.

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3. How long have you lived here?

1 year

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Diplomat at U.S. Consulate General

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

A range of houses and apartments. Singles are placed in very nice (mostly luxury) apartments in one of the city's most upscale neighborhoods. Family housing are generally very large houses, some with small yards. There is not a lot of green space in Tijuana, so don't expect a lot when it comes to green space.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Almost identical to the U.S., but then again, a 15 minute drive will get you U.S. prices.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

You usual U.S. chains (McDonald's, Burger King, Carls Jr., Wendys, Subway) are here. Also, did I mention that San Diego, CA is nearby?

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5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?

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6. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Nothing to note.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Regular U.S. mail. We have a P.O. Box and physical mailing address on the U.S. side which is picked up for you daily and delivered to you at the consulate.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Genearly better than U.S. minimum wage. Most help is approx USD 7.00/hr. If you get a full-time housekeeper, you can negotiate that rate.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Yes. Price is very similar, if not a little more expensive than what you might find in U.S. New Consulate will have a very small gym.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

It is not recommended to use ATMs unless in a grocery store or very public place with good lighting. The consulate does have an ATM machine that works every now and again.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

30-50%. Most everyone speaks English here and in fact, you will find even native Spanish speakers seem to lose some of their skill because you hardly get to use the Spanish.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Tijuana is not a very friendly location for persons with handicaps. It is hard enough to walk around in the pot hole-laden streets, missing concrete slabs on sidewalks, etc., without some sort of handicap.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Some taxis are ok. No to buses. Bring a vehicle!

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Any. Most people seemed to invest in a small SUV of some time or station wagons. You are basically on your own for transporation as motor pool does not function like any other Mission in the world. Bring your car...you need it!

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes. Similiar to U.S. My telephone and internet bundle is about USD 40.00/month.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Keep you U.S. plan. You will pick up towers in U.S. and Mexico as they share service. AT&T and Verizon are both big and get great service here. You need to contact your cell phone company and see what sort of Nationwide + Mexico Plan they have.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

No.

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

Yes, lots of vets.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

No/Yes...if you consider San Diego, CA local economy, then yes.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Business casual.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Yes. All border posts were recently classified as danger posts which provides for danger pay and the coveted SLRP which is great to get those loans paid off. It is no worse than any other very crowded high crime city. RSO does a good job to prepare you and you must know what's going on around you and be smart.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Most everyone is taken by ambulance to border if something serious, where San Diego Fire then picks you up and takes you to San Diego hospital.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

It is Mexico, i.e. there is usually a nice gray cloud layer that hangs over the city, and no, we are not taking rain clouds. Then again, with the ocean breeze, there is some air flow.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Again, beautiful. Winter time does require some "warmer" clothes...it is not flip flops all year long, but pretty close to it.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

Most children go to school in San Diego, CA. Some of the families with kids who attend school in Tijuana are fairly pleased with the education given at the international school.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Very large.

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2. Morale among expats:

Good.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Great for all. Everyone is a short ride from San Diego, CA, and there is plenty to do there, while also a great night life in both Tijuana and San Diego for singles.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

While Tijuana is a little more "liberal" than other parts of Mexico, it is still Mexico and tends to lean more conservative.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Yes, as with many Latin American countries, darker skinned people tend to be treated differently.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Great weather and San Diego is a 15-30 minute ride away, depending on the border wait times.

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Tijuana and Baja California offering something for everyone. It is San Diego weather, in other words, 350 days of sun and clear skies, generally in 70s-80s, and winter can be in 50s-60s. Great beaches nearby, surfing, boating, fishing, atv'ing, what else could you want?

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11. Can you save money?

Yes/No. It is San Diego prices, can find some cheap tacos, but in all, you are shopping in U.S.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Winter jacket.

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3. But don't forget your:

Sunscreen, patience and willingness to make the best of a situation that can get a little hairy at time.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

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Tijuana, Mexico 08/11/10

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

3rd time overseas: Asia, Europe.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

United States, 45 minute drive to San Diego depending on traffic- 5 minute walk to San Ysidro.

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3. How long have you lived here?

1 year.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Diplomatic spouse.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Every house in Tijuana is unique and full of charicter. Those assigned to the US Consulate have nice houses or apartments within 15 minute drive of the two offices at some point a new consulate will open and the commute will be 20-30 minutes.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

The top-quality produce is shipped north, so you have to go to San Diego to get good Mexican strawberries. Costco and Walmart are both here and are slightly cheaper than in the US, with some difference in selection.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Nothing, its all here.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

EVERYTHING! The cost is slightly cheaper than the US.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

The occasional fly or cockroach, but never bad.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Those working at the consulate can use the San Diego PO Box. Many people drive across the border to local post offices in the US.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Almost US wages for good help, but read the fine print on contracts for what the termination/severance will be.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

They tend to be a little small and crowded. The more serious folks cross to San Diego to run or hike.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

You can use credit cards and dollars almost everywhere without a problem. Once you find out which neighborhoods are safe, you can use the ATMs and local banks as well.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Not on this side.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

I have an antenna on the house that gets all of the San Diego TV stations, and every little radio gets San Diego radio stations.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

You can live with none, but a month or two of classes will really help.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

This is a car town and the sidewalks can be in bad condition and ramps are few and far between.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

The yellow and white taxis are safe and affordable, the red taxis and buses are pretty sketchy.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

They say we cannot bring cars more than 10 years old, but I don't know if it is enforced. I would suggest a car with some clearance, as potholes and speed bumps are everywhere (and boy do they like to build some serious speed bumps). If you are careful about what neighborhood you are in, and the time of day, carjackings should not be a problem.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes. Cost depends on the bandwidth you want.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

You have every choice under the sun. Most major carriers offer a Mexico plan, and you may be able to pick up the US signal. Many Mexicans use Nextel, but Americans use all sorts.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

No.

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

Acceptable. Most pet owners I know cross to San Diego for most things.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

No. Most family members work in the consulate or in San Diego.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Business casual at work, more formal if meeting with Mexican officials or business contacts.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Yes, this place is completely unpredictable. I have not seen a single problem ,but 99% of the crime goes unpunished. So it is just luck that criminals are only shooting each other.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

It is hard to verify the quality control of anything in this town. The Red Cross is well practiced at getting Americans to the border to hand you off to waiting ambulances.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Moderate, it seems healthy but dust is everywhere.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Sunny and 72, cooler in the evenings. OK, it does get a little cooler in the winter and warmer in the summer, especially inland. But the weather is great.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

Most families send their kids to school in San Diego, with the consulate providing a shuttle to select public schools. Expect at least an hour commute each way (with SENTRI passes) with the ever present chance of cars being held up in secondary. In Tijuana, Reina Isabel and British American provide classes in Spanish with up to half of the day in English. Neither one is equipped to teach Spanish as a second language or communicate with parents in anything but Spanish. That said they both offer relatively good pre-K programs and acceptable lower elementary programs. Having experienced schools on both sides I found the public schools in Chula Vista to be excellent and the schools in Tijuana to be vastly different in standards and culture.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

The Chula Vista Schools offer accommodations for all mild to moderate special needs and can work with severe needs in select schools.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

Again, Reina Isabel and British American both offer relatively good pre-K programs, with Reina Isabel offering a more flexible Catholic program and BA offering a conservative secular program,and if you are up for the drive San Diego offers every type of preschool imaginable. I do not have personal experience at this age but I know parents in both programs that are satisfied.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Reina Isabel and a community center have some.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

40,000? There is no diplomatic community, and some expats are completely part of the local community.

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2. Morale among expats:

Fair. At the moment we feel like "the good border post"

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

People do not entertain very often, but many single people are out at bars on either side until all hours of the night.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

If you are the kind of person that can look past the crime threat and corruption then you will find plenty to do. And, if not, just drive to San Diego and do your thing.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

I believe so, and again - San Diego has a very diverse population.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Not that I am aware of. Men will definitely look at the women, but it does not seem to enter the workplace.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

The variety: every kind of food in the world, every kind of sporting event (bullfighting included), every kind of art…

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

You name it: bars, clubs, golf, surfing, fishing, eating out, cooking classes, movies, museums, dancing…and of course you have the San Diego tourism industry right at your doorstep.

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Fish tacos.

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

You get to experience the border culture -- all that two countries have to offer. And, it is the best weather in the world.

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11. Can you save money?

Not really.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Consumables shipment.

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3. But don't forget your:

sun glasses and always bring your sweater.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

The Bear and the Porcupine.

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Weeds, I Witness, Project Tijuana, (not realy Mexico but...) In The Loop

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6. Do you have any other comments?

It is like a magic dial. You can make it as Mexican or as American as you want.

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Tijuana, Mexico 03/11/08

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

This is my first adult expat experience; I lived in the Philippines as a toddler.

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2. How long have you lived here?

1 year and 2 months.

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3. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

It's a 30-minute drive from the San Diego airport.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

My husband works at the U.S. Consulate.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Consulate housing includes apartments and single-family homes with yards. These are all within a few miles of the Consulate and the Consular Annex. However, the new Consulate is supposed to be on the other side of town. I hear they're also going to build consular housing near it, but obviously I don't know what it will be like. Single family homes tend to be cold in the winter since they're often built with marble floors, no insulation (i.e., concrete), and no central heating. Fortunately, heating and air conditioning units in bedrooms can make up for it.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

About the same as DC and San Diego. Many Mexicans travel north to do shopping but Super Gigante comes across nicely (and clean).

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Nothing. It's all available here.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

All you want both in TJ and north of the border.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

The Consulate has a San Diego address... very helpful.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Domestic help seems to be readily available and is probably cheaper than comparable services in the U.S.

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3. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

I haven't heard of many problems but most people at the Consulate either use the consulate's ATM, ATMs in San Diego, or a nearby bank.

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4. What English-language religious services are available locally?

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5. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

The San Diego Union-Tribune is readily available. We get just broadcast TV (free) and can pick up all the San Diego channels (e.g., NBC, CBS, ABC, PBS, WB, UPN). Cablemás has some English channels, like Comedy Central, but you'll have to check their website for specifics on their packages.

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Even though most Mexicans have varying degress English, it's appreciated when you make the effort to speak in Spanish.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Tijuana is not really set up for people with disabilities.

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Transportation:

1. Do you drive on the right hand side of the road or the left?

Right-hand side.

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2. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Buses and street taxis are generally not considered safe but often people can get word-of-mouth recommendation for a taxi and call that person.

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3. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

With all the speed bumps in TJ's residential areas, something with low clearance is nice. Any vehicle common in the U.S. could be serviced in the area.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Our high speed internet is through the phone company, Telnor. Sometimes we have reliability issues but no one else we've spoken to has had those problems.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Cell phone which allows both U.S. and Mexican calls (although our reception through Verizon's plan is ANNOYING in the border area - we lose calls all the time when coverage switches between U.S. and Mexican carriers while at our house).

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3. What is the best way to make phone calls back home?

Some people use Skype or Vonage at home. We rely mostly on our cell phones.

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Pets:

1. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

Dr. Alexander, with two locations, seems to be a popular veterinarian, since many vehicles sport stickers from that practice. We have not taken our dog there but another consular officer spoke highly of it when they needed to board their small dog.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Same as in the U.S.

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

Good-moderate.

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2. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Most Americans not involved in illicit activities aren't going to be affected by the more violent crimes, like murders and kidnapping. More likely is local police looking to shake down foreigners for bribes after minor traffic accidents.

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3. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Most people go to the U.S. for medical needs. Even though medical tourism in Baja is a growing industry.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Like San Diego.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

Most families with school-age children (elementary and up) send their kids to schools in San Diego. The Consulate provides shuttle service and it seems that school choice is fairly flexible; it just needs to be within a certain distance of the border. There are some English/Spanish schools such as the British-American School (which seems to be mainly preschool and elementary) and Reina Isabel (which includes daycare through high school). People seem pretty satisfied with these schools, although I have no direct experience.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

I don't know anyone currently with special-needs children but I assume that schools in San Diego can make whatever accomodations are necessary, educational and otherwise.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

There are a variety of daycare/preschool places. The daycare that my 2-year-old daughter attends is near the current Consulate. The teacher/student ratio is more than what you'd find in the U.S. but the staff seems genuinely concerned about the well-being and development of all the children.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Fairly large.

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2. Morale among expats:

Seems positive enough. Although, with San Diego so accessible, there isn't a sense of a definitive expat community.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

San Diego seems to be the entertainment/social life of choice for many expats

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

I do think Tijuana has something for everyone although for families with young children in search of outdoor playgrounds, San Diego is really the place to look. Tijuana seems to have a lot of good quality restaurants. If we didn't have such young kids, I think I would have spent more time experimenting with restaurants and other cultural fare, like theater, movies, art exhibitions, etc.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

I really can't say about Tijuana but San Diego has a pretty thriving gay scene, I'm given to understand.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

I haven't encountered any prejudice of these sorts; the Mexicans I've encountered seem rather friendly and tolerant.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

San Diego. If you want to, you can pretty much treat Tijuana as a suburb of San Diego and make use of all the marvels (Seaworld, Zoo, Seaport Village, Old Town, Padres, hiking, surfing, swimming, museums, shopping) north of the border. With young kids we certainly do that. But the Baja norte region and TJ have some nice sites as well. Mundo divertido - a theme park in a shopping center, excellent dining options, the surreal border fence disappearing into the waters at Playas de Tijuana, bullfighting (never been), and a decent cultural center all are part of TJ.Outside of town, Ensenada and Tecate are fun day trips (Rosarito if you like to 1) Shop for condos playing on Americans' dream of owning by the sea; or 2) Drink like an underage teenager)

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Fish tacos.

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9. Can you save money?

You can, but Mexico/Tijuana is not as cheap as people think. Goods are priced about the same but services are cheaper.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Definitely.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

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3. But don't forget your:

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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7. Do you have any other comments?

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