(For those who don’t speak any Spanish, this post is called “To Mexico” in Spanish. Not “A Mexico”)
To Mexico or not to Mexico, that was the question. As we headed to San Diego, we knew we were only a short distance from the border. Should we cross the border or not? Cons: risk of insurance issues, possibility of border crossing issues, not knowing what to actually do when we got there, miscellaneous inherent risks of going to Mexico. Pros: Adding not just another state but a whole new country to our trip tally, and satisfying a bit of our curiosity.
We decided to go. To eliminate some risks and many potential hassles, we parked on the US side of the border. That way we wouldn’t need international insurance on the car/camper, and we didn’t have to try to explain to border officials why the car and the camper were registered in two different names, neither of which matches our passports. So we found parking and walked across the border. It was farther than we expected, not just to the border itself but to the “city center” of Tijuana once we had crossed the border, and a bit hot for mid-October. Somehow the weary sticky sweaty feeling added to the experience and made our visit to Mexico seem that much more authentic.
Crossing into Mexico was probably the quickest, simplest and least secure border crossing we’ve ever witnessed. The gate is about the same as the one leaving the zoo where they don’t want anyone to be able to come back in through the exit. Just add a couple of armed border patrol guards who are mostly standing and talking to each other. Welcome to Mexico. No passport check (or ID of any kind for that matter), no x-ray machines or baggage scans. Nothing.
Once in Mexico, we walked. And walked, and walked. We followed arrows pointing to the city center that seemed to lead in circles. I guess the middle of the day on a Tuesday in mid-October was not the height of tourist season, because we saw almost no other tourists anywhere. Which essentially pasted giant dollar-sign bulls-eyes on us and every restaurant owner, shop keeper, or panhandler in town was trying to get our business. Not so fun. And we’re guessing that a lot of the shops are only open seasonally because the market area was really disappointing. There’s also a really good chance that we didn’t find the main market. In all our travels we have seldom seen a more confusing place that also lacked access to any visitor information or maps (strange in a border town).
So we walked around a little bit, disappointed all the restaurant owners by sitting on a bench and eating packed lunches, then walked all the way back toward the border. We stopped to get some ice cream, then began the process of re-entering the United States, which was slightly more involved than entering Mexico was. The intimidating line stretched for blocks, but in all we were in line less than 90 minutes. (An excellent time and place, by the way, for your 3 year old to desperately need a bathroom!) Our passports were checked and our bags scanned just as we’ve come to expect from border crossings. They might have been a bit suspicious that we didn’t buy anything. Everyone in front of us in line seemed to be carrying bags of medication, which I guess explains why more than half the shops in Tijuana were pharmacies. But we can’t be the only people who crossed the border just to cross the border, right? We were readmitted to the US without any problems, walked back to our car, and headed back into San Diego to find a campground.
Family self-portrait in Mexico, post-ice cream
It was a tiring day with little to show for it. But at least we can all say we’ve been to Mexico now!