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First Timer: Northern Baja Roadtrip

Discuss culture, living, traveling, relocating, dating or anything related to Latin America, Mexico, or Central America.

Moderators: jamesbond, fschmidt

First Timer: Northern Baja Roadtrip

Postby Jester » Sun Jun 10, 2012 7:55 am

Feeling burnt out, thinking I would drive to Desert Hot Springs and stay at a spa resort.

Then I figured - hell, why not cross the border?

So - how about down to Rosarito, bypassing Tijuana. Not sure about Ensenada, only because of distance.

Planning to return via Tecate border crossing to reduce wait at border.

Goals:
(1) relaxing trip, relaxing places, nice people without spending a lot
(2) decide whether Mexico would be a good place to keep a local mistress and visit every couple weeks.

Not trying to meet girls on this trip, just look around.

I know several of you guys have spent time in Mexico. Any ideas?
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Re: First Timer: Northern Baja Roadtrip

Postby OutWest » Sun Jun 10, 2012 8:11 am

Jester wrote:Feeling burnt out, thinking I would drive to Desert Hot Springs and stay at a spa resort.

Then I figured - hell, why not cross the border?

So - how about down to Rosarito, bypassing Tijuana. Not sure about Ensenada, only because of distance.

Planning to return via Tecate border crossing to reduce wait at border.

Goals:
(1) relaxing trip, relaxing places, nice people without spending a lot
(2) decide whether Mexico would be a good place to keep a local mistress and visit every couple weeks.

Not trying to meet girls on this trip, just look around.

I know several of you guys have spent time in Mexico. Any ideas?


I dont know how far you are willing to go, but if you will venture down a ways, there is the best of Baja to be found.
Where the main highway 1 crosses over from the Pacific side to the gulf side, there are some treasures to be found.
Look up the town of San Ignacio- it is a fantastic oasis and really worth a trip...one of those great little secrets. You will
also find there a fantastic old Spanish mission, the southern-most in chain of missions that reached all the way up to northern
California, except this one is not surrounded by dumb-ass strip malls and the like, as you would see in California.
To experience Mexico you HAVE to get away from the border and beyond the Mexico "day trippers' " range.

Whether or not you speak Spanish makes a huge difference for travel in Mexico...if not...Spanish speaking friend?[/img]


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Border tips

Postby Falcon » Sun Jun 10, 2012 8:58 am

I would highly recommend not taking a car across the border, and just taking the bus in Mexico. The main reason is the driving any sort of vehicle across the border can be a major hassle - of course on the American side.

Other Americans will keep telling you about how dangerous Mexico is. The truth of the matter is, the worst part of the trip is almost always getting back across the U.S. border. Remember, every time you cross, it is technically called "applying for entry into the United States." CBP officers will "secondary" you for "looking nervous" (even if you are not nervous and are simply sleep-deprived, on caffeine, or it's just the way you normally talk), or if your itinerary or possessions look "suspicious." They are particularly paranoid about drug smugglers. If you cross at the smaller border crossings, they can sometimes give you a very hard time. Your 4th Amendment rights will be practically void because the Supreme Court has ruled on a "Border Search Exception."

When crossing by foot, a secondary inspection can include them taking everything out of your pockets and luggage, counting all your cash, asking you about your whole background, going through your camera/phone, K-9 dog sniff, and frisking (patting down) every part of your body, including your genitals. When crossing in a vehicle, it can include dismantling your gas tank, tires, and car body. Pretty much anything they deem to be "suspicious" or illegal, including electronics and food, can be confiscated indefinitely.

Note how I am talking about how to safely get across borders, instead of telling you how to avoid cartel crossfire (which is ridiculous paranoia thanks to our wonderful friend, the American propagandist media). I have crossed the US-Mexico border dozens of times, and have usually been waved through within several seconds, but there have occasionally been very unnerving experiences. I can list off a bunch of the CBP's favorite questions, which sometimes come with soft, rising intonation specifically to make you nervous:

- What were you doing in Mexico (one of their #1 favorites), who were you with, where did you go
- What are you bringing back from Mexico, do you have anything to declare, any fruits or vegetables
- Where are you going, how are you going to get there, where is your car parked at
- Where do you live, what do you do for a living

Any untruthful statement to an officer is a federal offense. Plus, you are pretty much passing a polygraph test too, since they are specifically looking for "signs of nervousness." You wouldn't want to hesitate and think about your answer - be prepared for those questions beforehand. This is not much different from a date with an American woman, since with both, superficial confidence and swagger will get you through. Some uncomfortable questions to prepare for, so they'll try to get you to look nervous:

- Why are you looking nervous (or, you're looking kind of nervous), do you have any drugs or weapons on you
- [Mean stare and long silence]

These federal officers love busting people for anything they can, so they can get promotions, raises, ego boosts, and other things.

When it's your turn after waiting in line, move forward only when they motion you to do so with their hands - so remember to watch those blue latex gloves as you are approaching their booths. If you move ahead by yourself when not motioned to do so, they will see you as a threat. And while waiting in line, do not use your cell phone or camera (even if others in line are), or otherwise they could be confiscated.

Afterwards, they will scan your passport, and your file will pop up on their computer. They will look at it for a few seconds, then the questioning will start. Meanwhile, keep your hands out of your pockets and on the counter so they won't think you are concealing a weapon. Remember to maintain proper eye contact to avoid "looking nervous."

The Mexico part? You'll be fine. :P
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Re: First Timer: Northern Baja Roadtrip

Postby Jester » Sun Jun 10, 2012 7:25 pm

OutWest wrote:
I dont know how far you are willing to go, but if you will venture down a ways, there is the best of Baja to be found.
Where the main highway 1 crosses over from the Pacific side tothe gulf side, there are some treasures to be found.
Look up the town of San Ignacio- it is a fantastic oasis and really worth a trip...one of those great little secrets. You will
also find there a fantastic old Spanish mission, the southern-most in chain of missions that reached all the way up to northern
California, except this one is not surrounded by dumb-ass strip malls and the like, as you would see in California.
To experience Mexico you HAVE to get away from the border and beyond the Mexico "day trippers' " range.

Whether or not you speak Spanish makes a huge difference for travel in Mexico...if not...Spanish speaking friend?[/img]


Outwest


San Ignacio looks great. I am loving anything that is "Southernmost". Want to head South and never come back.

But.... I dont like to drive more than 5 hours a day, so that is too far for me. Probably want to stay only 2 nights in a motel on this trip. (Money is the issue.)

So I guess San Ignacio will have to wait for another trip. Also curious to see the real estate development at Loreto on that later trip - not to buy, but possibly to sell.

Seeing at least a little of the real Mexico is still what I hope to do, as much as is possible, within the constraints of this trip. Not strip bars, not expensive resorts, not quaint villages, but actual liveable towns and/or scenic vistas to relax. Or just an inexpensive resort with a hot mineral pool to soak in.

I dont mind running into gringos, but at this point I prefer the kind married to Mexican women, not the American couples.

I think Ensenada is probably the farthest I would go on this trip. Been to the beach there before, a resort, but too resort-y and gringo-y for me this time. Maybe the actual town of Ensenada, if it's worth the drive? Otherwise Rosarito, if it's just as good? Or even that Playa just West of TJ?

Basically I guess I like mountains, or water, or architecture, or art, to relax. I do like the ocean, but am very fair-skined, so I don't lay on the beach all day. (I will bring my Mexican cowboy hat!)
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Postby fschmidt » Sun Jun 10, 2012 7:26 pm

My personal opinion from the few times I have been in North Baja is that Rosarito is the worst area, full of Americans. Ensenada is okay. Tijuana is actually a fairly typical big Mexican city, not bad at all. And Tecate is a fairly typical small Mexican town. So my choice would be Tijuana and Tecate and maybe Ensenada if you have time. And I agree with Falcon about not bringing your car.
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Re: Border tips

Postby Jester » Sun Jun 10, 2012 7:51 pm

Falcon wrote:I would highly recommend not taking a car across the border, and just taking the bus in Mexico. The main reason is the driving any sort of vehicle across the border can be a major hassle - of course on the American side.

Other Americans will keep telling you about how dangerous Mexico is. The truth of the matter is, the worst part of the trip is almost always getting back across the U.S. border. Remember, every time you cross, it is technically called "applying for entry into the United States." CBP officers will "secondary" you for "looking nervous" (even if you are not nervous and are simply sleep-deprived, on caffeine, or it's just the way you normally talk), or if your itinerary or possessions look "suspicious." They are particularly paranoid about drug smugglers. If you cross at the smaller border crossings, they can sometimes give you a very hard time. Your 4th Amendment rights will be practically void because the Supreme Court has ruled on a "Border Search Exception."

When crossing by foot, a secondary inspection can include them taking everything out of your pockets and luggage, counting all your cash, asking you about your whole background, going through your camera/phone, K-9 dog sniff, and frisking (patting down) every part of your body, including your genitals. When crossing in a vehicle, it can include dismantling your gas tank, tires, and car body. Pretty much anything they deem to be "suspicious" or illegal, including electronics and food, can be confiscated indefinitely.

Note how I am talking about how to safely get across borders, instead of telling you how to avoid cartel crossfire (which is ridiculous paranoia thanks to our wonderful friend, the American propagandist media). I have crossed the US-Mexico border dozens of times, and have usually been waved through within several seconds, but there have occasionally been very unnerving experiences. I can list off a bunch of the CBP's favorite questions, which sometimes come with soft, rising intonation specifically to make you nervous:

- What were you doing in Mexico (one of their #1 favorites), who were you with, where did you go
- What are you bringing back from Mexico, do you have anything to declare, any fruits or vegetables
- Where are you going, how are you going to get there, where is your car parked at
- Where do you live, what do you do for a living

Any untruthful statement to an officer is a federal offense. Plus, you are pretty much passing a polygraph test too, since they are specifically looking for "signs of nervousness." You wouldn't want to hesitate and think about your answer - be prepared for those questions beforehand. This is not much different from a date with an American woman, since with both, superficial confidence and swagger will get you through. Some uncomfortable questions to prepare for, so they'll try to get you to look nervous:

- Why are you looking nervous (or, you're looking kind of nervous), do you have any drugs or weapons on you
- [Mean stare and long silence]

These federal officers love busting people for anything they can, so they can get promotions, raises, ego boosts, and other things.

When it's your turn after waiting in line, move forward only when they motion you to do so with their hands - so remember to watch those blue latex gloves as you are approaching their booths. If you move ahead by yourself when not motioned to do so, they will see you as a threat. And while waiting in line, do not use your cell phone or camera (even if others in line are), or otherwise they could be confiscated.

Afterwards, they will scan your passport, and your file will pop up on their computer. They will look at it for a few seconds, then the questioning will start. Meanwhile, keep your hands out of your pockets and on the counter so they won't think you are concealing a weapon. Remember to maintain proper eye contact to avoid "looking nervous."

The Mexico part? You'll be fine. :P


Wow.

I really had no idea of much of this. Sad to hear. I had thought I was avoiding police-state attitudes by driving.

Driving across, then flying from TJ to GDL (Guadalajara) or elsewhere via MEX was part of my plan to continue living in U.S. at present while avoiding TSA airport radiation scanners and police-state attitude.

OK, so no laptop, and get the pics, that my gf sent me, out of my phone!

Also sorry to hear that crossing at Tecate may be nastier. Opposite seems to be true at U.S. airports - e.g. Long Beach is nicer and more humane than LAX. But anyway, not doubting what you say.

But based on your post, I'm not sure why you say driving is harder?
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Postby Jester » Sun Jun 10, 2012 7:58 pm

fschmidt wrote:My personal opinion from the few times I have been in North Baja is that Rosarito is the worst area, full of Americans. Ensenada is okay. Tijuana is actually a fairly typical big Mexican city, not bad at all. And Tecate is a fairly typical small Mexican town. So my choice would be Tijuana and Tecate and maybe Ensenada if you have time. And I agree with Falcon about not bringing your car.


Thanks, this is the kind of info I am looking for.

Re the car - is it because of the border-crap, or theft in Mexico, or what?

Should I buy a backpack for underwear, clothes, shaving, etc?

Forgive me for saying so, but this seems a little weird. Huge numbers of folks drive over daily, no?
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Postby fschmidt » Sun Jun 10, 2012 8:22 pm

Jester wrote:Re the car - is it because of the border-crap, or theft in Mexico, or what?

Should I buy a backpack for underwear, clothes, shaving, etc?

Forgive me for saying so, but this seems a little weird. Huge numbers of folks drive over daily, no?

The main reason not to bring a car is the hassle. Crossing the border back to America by car is a big hassle. It is also a hassle to drive and park in Mexico. Unlike America, Mexico is set up to make it easy to get around without a car. Taxis are cheap and buses are extremely cheap and both are widely available. Another point is that cars are designed to isolate you from other people. In America this is a good thing because Americans are intolerable. But in Mexico you may want exposure to people.

A regular suitcase is fine, ideally one with sturdy wheels to roll across the border.
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Postby MrPeabody » Sun Jun 10, 2012 9:38 pm

Highway 1 isn't too bad, and it's a toll road, but getting onto it from the border crossing at San Ysidro is a little trickie, you have 1950s style roads where there is no on ramp to the main highway so you have to really pay attention to not have an accident. You absolutely need Mexican Auto Insurance. You can buy it at places close to the border. If you get in an accident in Mexico without insurance and someone is injured you are automatically arrested and put in jail and you need your insurance company to bail you out. I had a fender bender at the border once, and the insurance adjuster came out and the whole thing was taken care of in about an hour. American auto insurance will not work in Mexico. You may want to tour Fox Studies which is located somewhere between Rosarito and Ensenada.
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Postby Falcon » Sun Jun 10, 2012 9:47 pm

San Felipe and Los Algodones are also full of Americans and Canadians. Mexicali is a really wonderful city that the gringos always bypass. It's also culturally rich, since it's the capital of Baja California and hosts the biggest university in the state.
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Postby Jester » Thu Jun 14, 2012 7:24 am

Thanks for all the suggestions. Just got back tonight, it was a great trip.

Tijuana:
Went all over the Zona Central with a guy I met on the Amtrak going down, He talked me into visiting HongKong and Alidita's (?) which I enjoyed but just chilled and fended off girls while he did his thing. One who latched onto me was a 9/10 and educated. Really amazing to country-boy me that beautiful girls get into the biz too!

Hated the symbolically difficult and absurd overpass and the bridge of doom entering TJ.
Loved TJ's hustle and walkability and good taxis.
Liked the prices.
Best tacos al carbon in the history of the planet, $1 outside Alidita's in Zona Rojo.

Made friends from cab drivers, bus drivers, bus passenger, bartender, expat couple at bar. Yes leaving my car behind was a brilliant move.

Visited:
-- Zona Central with new buddy (no name has a sensitive job).
--All around all the nice areas of TJ by taxi (hunting for neighborhoods)
--Playas de Tijuana (found great deals right on beach in secluded neighborhod)
--Stayed at Hotel Quinta $25.
--saw the whole Costa de Oro on the way down - liked San Antonio the best. Saw an Armenian flag painted on a house! YES!
-- Near Puerto Nuevo - Oscar the bartender said that next month 72 year old gringo will marry twenty-smething Mexicana at his reaaurant's pavilion. OH yeah. I almost want to crash the wedding.
-- Stayed at Motel de Colon in Ensenada. $27. Enjoyed talking to Manuel the manager.

Got a little homesick or lonely this AM and decided to head back, Took all damn day. Bus, van across border, long wait at border despite the van, another van from San Ysidro to downtown L.A. Then when I got there van couldn't get to Greyhound to drop me off, because street was blocked off due to police action. Someone had tried to jump of a building. Drama was over but 50 cops were milling around for qite a wile. A least they were in a good mood - just saved a life instead of something else. Anyway bottom line is Mexico has no visible crime or narcos or problems other than one miitary checkpoint, but approach the U.S. and the insanity begins. Border drama, nosy questions, police swarming, blockd off streets. Nothing that bad, but knew i was back in the USSR.

TJ too busy and pushy and aggressive for me to raise a family in.
Going South, must check out San Antonio, Rosarito, Puerto Nuevo from a aneighborhoods standpoint next time. from a second home standpoint the area looks perfect. But probably little for a guy to do except socialized with retired expats.

Ensenada - hipsterville. Coolest city in Mexico so far. teens playing French jazz at open air mall near the Malecon. Not many speak english but very gringo-friendly. Teahouse, wine bar, karioke, kiddie gym, beautiful huge groomed civic center and gardens. City has money and it cares. No crime whatsoever. Safe like Utah. Weirdly cool, but very humid. You do sweat despite cool temperature when walking.

Word is that no city in Mexico is as safe and peaceful as Ensenada, except Los Cabos.

Didnt make it to Mexicali or Tecate on this trip.

Overall - Mexico checks out.

Well traveled expat couple suggest Costa Rica for someone like me or my sons who want to do business. Uruguay too for both safety and for arts.

On the right track here, but lots more to learn.

Juries not in about latinas yet - some real lookers, no problem there. Still not sure if I can really connect at a deep level. Though that may not be as important to me as it once was. Overall a simple people, not overly complex. Oh and jeez they are hardworking. They hustle.
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Postby Falcon » Thu Jun 14, 2012 9:50 am

Congratulations on your first trip! Glad to see you've had a lot of fun.

Just a note that they hustle the obvious touristy-looking gringos and tend to leave the others alone. I am now able to avoid being hustled. :D Further down south, hustling is rare. And just so you know, the Rio Tijuana ditch under the bridge leading into downtown is home to crowds of homeless heroin addicts.

I would not recommend Hong Kong Club and Adelita's Bar for picking up women. The paraditas (women standing out on the street corners) can be much more friendly and down-to-earth, but most speak only Spanish. It's also a lot better to ask a taxi to drop you off at the pedestrian crossing back to the U.S. border rather than to cross by van due to the very long wait. First get to the Tijuana tourist bus station, and either walk across to the border crossing or take a taxi if you don't know the directions or if it's nighttime.

Ensenada is a favorite vacation spot for upper and middle-class Mexicans. It is also home to a big gay clubbing scene. :P

How good is your Spanish anyways? The better it is, the deeper you can get into the culture and the more people you can get to know.
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Postby Jester » Fri Jun 15, 2012 6:44 am

Falcon wrote:Congratulations on your first trip! Glad to see you've had a lot of fun.

Thanks!

Falcon wrote:the Rio Tijuana ditch under the bridge leading into downtown is home to crowds of homeless heroin addicts.

Thought it was The Living Dead. Like Skid Row in L.A. Glad I had a buddy to walk with. Mexican gobierno should clean it up.


Falcon wrote:I would not recommend Hong Kong Club and Adelita's Bar for picking up women. The paraditas (women standing out on the street corners) can be much more friendly and down-to-earth, but most speak only Spanish.

You're absolutely right. Street girls in schoolgirl outfits etc were smiling, friendly. Girls inside the two clubs mentioned were competitive, avaricious, attractive.

But I don't do p4p - not just morals, also dont like sheathed swordsmanship. Just went there with buddy to look, and talk. Made for a fun first day in TJ/Mexico - glad I did it. Saw a side I would have otherwise missed.

Learned a lot from one girl. Tall beauty from Morelia. She told me nice areas of TJ, and tips on how to get a young gg mistress.



Falcon wrote:It's also a lot better to ask a taxi to drop you off at the pedestrian crossing back to the U.S. border rather than to cross by van due to the very long wait. First get to the Tijuana tourist bus station, and either walk across to the border crossing or take a taxi if you don't know the directions or if it's nighttime.

Does taking a cab get you past the border backup? I.e. do they have their own line or lane?


Falcon wrote:Ensenada is a favorite vacation spot for upper and middle-class Mexicans. It is also home to a big gay clubbing scene. :P

Yes I saw a prissy gay waiter in coffeehuse - great service too. (COFFEE service I mean) :wink:
Not like Mexicans I see in L.A. - more like Italians or Spaniards. Lots of boys in skinny jeans. Noone threatening.


Falcon wrote:How good is your Spanish anyways? The better it is, the deeper you can get into the culture and the more people you can get to know.

Did okay to get around except I kept asking for "camaron" instead of "camion".
:lol:
Never studied Spanish, just what I've picked up. Accent generally good, I fooled a couple of people into thinking I was a native speaker, but after just a few more words they of course realize.

Don't know enough to make friends with strangers... unless they are a captive audience like a cabbie. My vocabulary is kind of like the Frankenstein monster or an Indian in a Hollywood Western. Can usually (not always) get a point across but it ain't pretty.

Learned a little more being down there. Like now I know "abierto" instead of having to say "no cerrado".....
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Postby Falcon » Sat Jun 16, 2012 5:32 am

The cabs drop you off at a loading zone, and you walk directly off to the big, brown U.S. customs building. The wait usually takes 15-30 minutes, but can take much longer during rush hour and holidays. Watch out for the street hustlers who try to open your cab door and then demand a tip from you. Aggressively shoo them away with your hand if they're coming.

Right in between the San Ysidro crossing and the Tijuana airport is the poor Libertad neighborhood. That area is notorious for "rockings," where angry youths throw large boulders and blocks of cement at Border Patrol agents just over the fence. The agents have shot some of those Mexican rock throwers to death, prompting angry protests. Fatal cross-border shootings also happen in and around Israel all the time.

One of the first songs my gf had sung with me over the phone was "Contrabando y Traición."

Salieron de San Isidro,
procedentes de Tijuana
traían las llantas del carro
repletas de hierba mala
eran Emilio Varela,
y Camelia, la Texana

They went out of San Ysidro
Coming from Tijuana
Bringing car tires
Filled with marijuana
They were Emilio Varela
And Camelia, the Texan


[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xSNYaZXQud8[/youtube]

Most Mexicans in the U.S. are extremely familiar with these songs, but few have anything to do with their content. :wink: Same goes for Tupac fans.

Plus, the two girls who play with Los Potros de Tijuana at the plaza by the Revolution Arch are from the same town that my gf is from (They have that same phenotype too). So is the guy who works at a Pemex further to the east. Small world - even when considering that Michoacan has one of Mexico's highest emigration rates.
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Postby Jester » Sun Jun 17, 2012 7:42 am

Falcon wrote:The cabs drop you off at a loading zone, and you walk directly off to the big, brown U.S. customs building. The wait usually takes 15-30 minutes, but can take much longer during rush hour and holidays.


So are you bypassing the long line of people standing in line for blocks?

Is it better than a van?
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