Essential Tips for San Diegans Relocating to Tijuana

25 Things Every San Diegan Moving to Tijuana Needs To Know

Apr 11, 2023

Located just 20 miles from San Diego, Tijuana, Baja, Mexico is a drive of less than 45 minutes and a relatively short-distance move if you are looking to relocate. The San Ysidro border crossing is one of the busiest in the world, handling more than 100,000 crossings a day. Many people simply commute or visit Tijuana, but some make the transition permanent. If you are one of the San Diegans moving to Mexico, you should prepare for some major shifts in culture, despite Tijuana’s proximity. Here are 25 things to know to help you prepare.

Mexican currency is different from U.S. money

new bank notes of mexican peso background. 100, 200, 500, 1000 pesos

You may only be moving 20 miles away, but because Tijuana is in a different country, you should plan to deal with a brand-new currency. Tijuana uses the Mexican peso, which is currently equivalent to about 1/18 of the U.S. dollar. Expect to enjoy a very favorable exchange rate, and make sure to exchange at least some of your U.S. dollars before you cross the border. You will find it easier to obtain the things you need in those first few days after your move if you already have Mexican pesos on hand. 

Spanish is the official language

If you are one of the 25 percent of San Diegans who speaks Spanish fluently, you will have no trouble adjusting to Tijuana’s official language. If you primarily speak English, you can probably get away with speaking English in your new home, since the city’s proximity to the United States means many individuals there are comfortable with both Spanish and English.  However, if you are planning to relocate permanently to Mexico, you should learn as much Spanish as possible before you move. It will enable you to communicate easily throughout the city, or throughout Mexico, and help you feel more at home in your new location. 

The cost of living is (much) lower

TIJUANA, BAJA CALIFORNIA/MEXICO - JUNE 20, 2018: People walk along Avenida Revolucion, the city's main thoroughfare and a popular destination for Americans traveling south of the San Diego border.

Expenses for everything from housing to food are so much lower in Tijuana than in San Diego that some people choose to live over the border and commute to jobs in San Diego. Not only does the American dollar go further when converted into Mexican pesos, but the costs themselves are also lower. For example, dining at a restaurant could cost you half as much in Mexico as in San Diego, even after adjusting the Mexican pesos to American dollars. 

In general, expect to pay 3.1 times LESS in Tijuana than in San Diego. Savings will be particularly pronounced in the areas of transportation and housing – Making Tijuana an appealing option for cash-strapped San Diegans looking to move to a more affordable place. 

Transportation systems tend to be inefficient

Like San Diego, Tijuana’s extensive transportation systems are very affordable (Even more affordable than in its American sister city). Tickets can cost as little as $.80 American dollars. However, these systems also tend to be complicated and inefficient. Expect to take several buses or trains to get where you need to go. 

If you want to get around with a little less hassle, bring your car across the border with you, or buy one once you get there. Vehicles tend to be much less expensive to purchase and maintain in Mexico and you will have the freedom to go where you want, whenever you want. Just be aware that traffic in this Mexican city can get very congested, so you may need to plan extra time to get around. 

Research your healthcare

Tijuana is a popular spot for what is called “medical tourism,” the practice of crossing the border to get less expensive, but still quality, medical care. As a result, you can find good, reliable medical care in Tijuana – If you do your research. You can also find less qualified medical practices which may not provide you with the standard of care you expect. Make sure you look into insurance, medical facilities and providers to ensure you find places that are qualified, reliable and trustworthy. 

Expand your appreciation of delicious cuisine

birria tacos with broth for dipping, mexican food

If you love San Diego’s tacos, then you will be in heaven when you hit Tijuana. The city abounds with mouth-watering variations of this most delicious meal. In addition, discover in Tijuana an even broader selection of fresh, authentic food. Hit the food stands for street food. Explore a wide variety of fresh-from-the-ocean seafood. Indulge in international flavors, including Chinese, Asian, Arab and West African meals. 


Tijuana, unfortunately, has a reputation as being the most dangerous city in Mexico. Its high crime rate outstrips that of other Mexican cities, such as Cancun and Guadalajara, in violent crimes and homicides. 

When moving as a San Diegan to Tijuana, keep in mind that most of the violent crime occurs between crime groups and are not random. In addition, do your research to identify the safest parts of the city (and the parts to avoid) so you can settle down in an area that leaves you feeling secure. 

Obtain the appropriate immigration paperwork

Image of a persons hand holding a passport

If you plan to live in Mexico for longer than six months, you must obtain a Resident Visa and a Resident Card. Once you have lived in Mexico for an appropriate amount of time (usually 2 or 4 years),  you should pursue a Mexico Permanent Resident Card. This card will allow you to live and work in the country indefinitely and get free health insurance. You will also never need to renew this card, since it does not expire. 

Discover exciting places to shop

TIJUANA, BAJA CALIFORNIA/MEXICO - JUNE 20, 2018: People shop and dine at Plaza Santa Cecilia, a historic Mexican square with colorful hanging flags.

Due to the lower cost of living and the favorable exchange rate between the U.S. dollar and the peso, you are likely to have more disposable income to spend on shopping in your new home. Fortunately, Tijuana enjoys a thriving shopping scene. Discover boutique shops, handcrafted goods, shopping malls, clothing stores, jewelry stores and more. 

Explore beautiful beaches

Playas de Tijuana / Tijuana beach

San Diegans moving to Mexico need not worry about giving up their laid back beach life. Tijuana is also a coastal city with easy access to numerous stunning waterside destinations. Here are some of the best beaches to explore in your new home:

  • Playas de Tijuana
  • Rosarito
  • Coronado Central Beach
  • Dolphin Beach
  • Imperial Beach Pier
  • Ocean Beach
  • Pacific Beach
  • And more

Search for good schools

Tijuana may not have the reputation for top-notch education held by San Diego. However, if you look, you can find several academically strong educational institutions for yourself or your children. One place to look could be international schools that accept expat children.

Explore your many banking options

Tijuana is home to several banks that offer services for expats like yourself. You may need to bring proof of residency, your passport, and other documents to open an account. Some banks that cater to expats include Citibank, Wells Fargo, Chase and BBVA Bancomer. 

Expect reliable Internet

For almost everyone, reliable and speedy Internet access is essential, particularly if remote work is part of their daily life. You should have few problems finding the connectivity you require in Tijuana. Just make sure you opt for modern solutions, such as fiber, to avoid ending up with much slower alternatives, such as DSL. 

Enjoy the weather you love

California weather is traditionally exceptional. San Diegans moving to Tijuana should expect to find that same sunny, warm weather, thanks to the two cities’ proximity to each other. Expect year-round warmth, hot summers, ample sunshine, and generally dry weather. 

Enjoy a fun-loving culture

As a tourist destination, Tijuana is packed with fun things to do. Visit Avenida Revolucion for shopping and dining. Discover the city’s many irresistible beaches. Explore stunning street art and walk around outdoor markets. You can also investigate many of the city’s cultural attractions and learn about the area’s history. There are endless things to do, explore and learn in this beautiful city. 

Discover a vibrant nightlife

One of the things that Tijuana is best known for is its active nightlife. When moving to this Mexican city, expect to find bars, clubs, live music and other entertainment accessible almost any night of the week. Plus, with a drinking age of 18, the city makes it easier for even young people to indulge. 

Attend a number of exciting festivals

Tijuana is home to a number of festivals throughout the year. These events celebrate art, culture, beer, music, dancing and more. Here are some of the ones to check out when you move: 

  • Tijuana Cultural Art Fiesta
  • Baja Beer Fest
  • Tijuana Jazz & Blues Festival
  • Expo Tequila Tijuana 
  • And more

Watch professional sports

While you won’t find NFL or MLB games over the border, you can enjoy watching a number of professional sports teams play. Baseball and soccer are particularly popular in the city, and Tijuana has generated a number of players for MLB teams. Watch Club Tijuana, one of the country’s top professional soccer teams and even enjoy basketball from one of the city’s two teams. 

Prepare for variations in infrastructure

Mexican church at tijuana mexico

As a resident of San Diego, you are probably accustomed to reliable infrastructure for electricity and public transportation. In Tijuana, you may find that there are interruptions to these services or less reliability than you are accustomed to in the United States. These changes may require some adaptation on your part, but should not affect your overall quality of life or experience in this vibrant Mexican locale. 

Get auto insurance in Mexico

If you choose to own a car in Tijuana, you cannot expect your American insurance to extend past the border. Instead, plan to purchase Mexican auto insurance when you arrive (or even before you leave). Auto insurance is required by law in the country and can significantly reduce your financial burden in the event of an accident. 

You should also prepare for a slightly different driving style in Mexico. Faster driving, riskier behavior and even illegal turns are common practices on Tijuana’s roads. You will need to get used to this looser interpretation of the rules of the road, and possibly even adopt some of them for yourself. 

Get professional help with taxes

As a resident of Mexico, you will be subject to the country’s and the city’s tax laws. Because these laws are different from those in San Diego, you should plan to consult with a tax professional. You want to make sure you are handling your taxes correctly and paying what you owe in order to get your life in the city off to the best possible start. 

Prepare ahead of time for the border crossing

One of the biggest steps for San Diegans moving to Tijuana is to cross the busy border. While the process itself is usually straightforward, there is some preparation you need to do ahead of time to ensure you have the appropriate documentation to complete your trip. Here are some of the things you should consider: 

  • Bring your passport. 
  • Obtain a temporary import permit for your car.
  • Bring any visas or permits you have. 
  • Pass through the Ready Lane to save time. 
  • Make sure you do not have any contraband materials in your vehicle or on your person. 
  • Prepare to declare any money over $10,000 U.S.
  • Give yourself time to cross. 

Expect a warm welcome

Culturally, Mexico is a warm and welcoming place that is willing to embrace newcomers. You may be reminded of San Diego’s laid back and generally happy environment as Tijuana’s residents will greet you, assist you and help you get settled in your new location. Move to Tijuana and discover new levels of friendliness and warmth that will make the city feel like home more quickly. 

Don’t forget to budget for utilities

Utilities in Tijuana, as with most other essentials, will cost you significantly less than in San Diego. However, make sure not to overlook these expenses when you are budgeting for your new life in Mexico. Make sure you understand the rate, how much you use, and about how much you can expect to spend per month in your new home. Proper budgeting will help you stay on track financially and ensure that you understand exactly how much money you can spend per month on things like housing and groceries. 

Look for expat-friendly neighborhoods

If you want a taste of America in your new Mexican life, look for expat-friendly neighborhoods in Tijuana. Because of its proximity to California, you can expect to find a number of communities that are heavily populated by expats and ready to welcome you. For example, try settling down in Playas, Soler, and Libertad.

Are you ready to relocate to Mexico? Choose the mover who can make the process easy and stress-free. Oakley Relocation has been providing professional moving services since 2008. As a premier mover in the San Diego area, we are women-owned, full-service, and equipped to make your move easier, no matter where you plan to go! Contact us today for a quote!

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