Tijuana, Mexico

tourist-scams-Tijuana-mexicoManu Chao sings: “Welcome to Tijuana. Tequila, sex, marihuana”. As most Americans cross the US-Mexican border near San Diego for exactly that reason, Tijuana doesn’t have a very positive image. Many tourist visiting Southern California still would like to cross the border into Mexico anyways, “since we are so close to it anyways”. The border between the US and Tijuana in Mexico is an experience in itself. A large fence comes out of the Pacific ocean and stretches as far as you can see, guarded by the US Military and police in armored vehicles. It’s almost like stepping into a war zone.Tijuana-mexico-tourist-rip_offs The official border crossing is one of the busiest in the world, yet passing from the US to Mexico is a relatively peaceful and smooth transition.

Tijuana is the largest city of Baja California and it is a must-see for tourists in Southern California. The contrast between the relatively wealthy San Diego and the rather poor Tijuana is striking to see. Although it is not a true tourist magnet, it does offer some interesting attractions, like the circular Centro Cultural Tijuana, which displays exhibitions on Mexican history. And at the end of spring, early summer, bullfights are held every Sunday in an arena in the city center.

Tijuana tourist scams

However, as in every tourist hotspot, tourists need to be aware of people trying to take advantage of the “all is well” holiday atmosphere which causes the traveler to be off guard when it comes to being tricked or scammed. The differences in culture and habits can be a bit confusing, even to the experienced traveler, and that gives those with dishonest intentions an advantage, especially with travelers who have just arrived after a long and exhausting flight.

  • Mexico is infamous for its corrupt police, especially towards foreigners, although the government seems to have acknowledged this is hurting tourism and is stepping down hard on this phenomenon.
  • If you’re not an expert in jewellery, be careful when buying silver jewellery from a street vendor, even if he looks legitimate with an official license and ID.
  • If you’re traveling to Tijuana by (rental) car, look carefully where you fill up with petrol, as some gas stations are known to manipulate their meters to charge more gallons than have been pumped.

Most of these scams are pretty harmless and won’t cost you more than a handful of Pesos, but they could still make you feel like an idiot as soon as you realize you’ve been tricked.

Tijuana-mexico-tourist-scamsBe on guard for these known scams and variations to them. If you happen to run into a new kind of scam, or if you have a story about how the swindlers work, make sure you tell us about it. That’s the best way to warn other travelers and to prevent them from falling into the same traps.

And most importantly: just enjoy your vacation. Don’t be discouraged by these stories, they don’t happen to everyone, and they don’t mean Tijuana is unsafe. On the contrary, most of the people are incredibly friendly, sincere and honest, especially away from the tourist hotspots, and it is the perfect city to enjoy the Mexican atmosphere not far from California.

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